The Rose Garden: there was a time when “thousands” visited

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Wednesday’s Bethlehem Press had an interesting article relative to the Rose Garden that Gadfly cannot find online to which to link for you.

Title: “Valley Rose Society ‘reblossoms.”

Gadfly will link to it later if it shows up online.

The article details the “blossoming” after 22 years of the Lehigh Valley Rose Society triggered by interim president Nate Fisher.

Fisher describes scrolling through Facebook and seeing a message about clean-up at the Rose Garden.

You’ve seen Adam Waldron’s posts here about that.

So, the “LV Rose Society members joined forces with the Mount Airy Neighborhood Association and other community volunteers to start weeding the garden beds.”

Far out — for word had reached Gadfly from several sources that the garden was run down and wondering why the City wasn’t maintaining it.

Perhaps gardening problem now solved.

You know Gadfly is interested in Bethlehem history.

And while browsing the Lehigh Valley Rose Society web site, he found some interesting material on the origin of the Rose Garden.

Such as the May 20, 1956 article from the Morning Call tracing the Society history from the founding in 1947.

Rose Garden 1

Morning Call, June 30, 1931

And a short sketch of the 1931 origin of the Rose Garden itself, it’s hey-day (“The exquisite beauty of the blooms enhanced with the sparkling background of loveliness that the city park affords has sent the many spectators away with bubbling stories of admiration which consequently have reached other ears and brought them to this garden scene of splendor”), and it’s slide down to its present fallen state.

Here’s the goal of the Society:

“It is the goal of the Lehigh Valley Rose Society (LVRS) for the Bethlehem Rose Garden to not just be a garden of beautiful roses, but a place the community can be proud of again. A place where we (LVRS) can host free, public educational demonstrations about roses (identifying, planting, fertilizing, pruning, cutting/arranging, disease/pest identification & management, etc.) for interested gardeners. A space to encourage people to get outdoors where they can walk along the paths, have picnics, and take photos amongst the flowers to mark special occasions. But also, to serve as a crucially needed habitat for pollinating insects.”

Fantastic.

But “Funds are needed to purchase roses, additional plants (native pollinator plants and wildflowers are being discussed), organic fertilizer, and organic sprays (such as copper fungicide and neem oil), etc.”

Funds are needed.

Gadfly hopes that followers familiar with this endeavor will provide information about how to donate.

We look forward to new beginnings at the Rose Garden!

Allentown Councilwoman Gerlach: “this needed to come up . . . we could not do nothing”

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Allentown City Council meeting July 29, 2020, video
mins. 3:04:08 – 3:09:05

After a lengthy procedural discussion about the next step — looks like another special meeting August 12 — both Councilpeople Gerlach and Siegel made concluding statements — and things got more fiery.

We’ll take Councilwoman Gerlach first.

Gadfly always suggests that you go to the primary sources. Hear the voices for yourself.

Councilwoman Gerlach:

I just want to thank everyone. If there are still folks alive outside on both sides, Back the Blue people, the Black Lives Matter folks, I haven’t read anything, anything went down, so it’s great to see that two sides can come, do their thing, advocate, make your voice heard, and then go home and hopefully relax. And I would like to thank my fellow members of Council for entertaining this for discussing this, and thank the Chief, thank the Mayor, the Solicitor, thank everyone because we couldn’t be silenced.  Even thoughGerlach 1 this may have caused a lot of division, this needed to come up. We cannot during this time of national outrage, when buildings are burning, rubber bullets are flying, riot gear is in full force, we could not do nothing. So that’s why this came about. And what passes is what passes. But at least we’re having the conversation. And I’m hoping that at some point we can get beyond this divisive you’re either anti-cop if you want reform, or you are a hard-core KKK member if you don’t want reform. There’s gotta be a way that we can start having these conversations in a civil way without pigeon-holing people. Calling people scumbags, saying that we need hoses placed on us. Ridiculous, ridiculous. That doesn’t get us anywhere. We’ve got to be able to have comfortable, direct conversations about tough topics without resorting to disrespectful name-calling, threats, towards either Black Lives Matter, protestors, calling people thugs, that’s a racist term, to call someone a thug. We’ve got to stop that, it breaks down conversations when you start using those terminologies. And I just hope that as we continue to dive into these bullet points, these issues, that we can do some internal soul-searching. I have biases, we all do, we have to start thinking how my world view, how I grew up, makes the skin I’m in, how it affects how I view these situations, because it is easy for some folks to say that it’s not my problem but maybe someone with a different life-path, a different skin tone, a different sexuality, maybe for them it is. Thank you for having this tough conversation. It’s going to get tougher when we actually have to pass things. But I needed to say that, and I don’t know who is still out there at this point, but we gotta stop using racist language. There has been racist language used toward people of color in this town and towards me, and I’m sick of it. If you want to back the blue, back the blue, go all out, buy a big flag, do what you gotta do, but there is no room for racism. There is no room, not in Allentown, that crosses the line. So that’s it. Thank you . . . . Never said that. . . . Well, I didn’t make those remarks, so please don’t accuse me of doing that.

Councilman Siegel’s response next . . .

Allentown Council discusses the resolution regarding the police department (2): divestment and defunding

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Allentown City Council meeting July 29, 2020, video
Mins. 2:24:40 – 2:40:20

Now we get to the heart of the matter.

Councilpeople Gerlach and Siegel are the ones behind the resolution.

No one else on Council supported the divestment and defunding proposed in the last clause of the resolution.

No one.

The Mayor said the City “needs help” from the county in regard to some of the services to which the “defunders” would like to see money reallocated. The county must “step up to the plate.”

Social workers aren’t going to respond to the call of a man barricaded with a gun.

No way hospital personnel were going to respond to the man, given the state he was in, in the recent Sacred Heart Hospital episode.

There was a recent major fire in Allentown — the police responded first.

Fire fighters say they depend on the police for their very lives and plead that the police not be cut.

The Police are out there disregarding their own safety during this pandemic.

“Our lives depend on the police department.”

Defunding “is going to turn into a disaster.”

Domestic violence calls are among the most dangerous calls there are — and not for social workers.

The police department had 242 officers in 2003, 216 now. It is not now adequately staffed.

“Our city is not shrinking,” we need more police not less.

Social service agencies already exist, with lots of money.

What we should do if we are going to do it right, is do research, partner with someone and study what’s right for our community. Such models as Eugene, Oregon, and St. Petersburg not transferable.

Need data-driven approach.

To cut the department now would be to cut (seniority basis) the most diverse part of the department — would make no sense.

What can’t the police department do without? Training. You wouldn’t want to cut that.

The department budget has been cut but even so it is now running under even the diminished budget. We’re running a good ship. Good stewards of our resources.

I support Black Lives Matter, and I support the Police Department.

Nobody supported divestment or defunding.

Say again, nobody supported divestment or defunding.

How did the proposers of the resolution respond? See next.

Allentown Council discusses the resolution regarding the police department (1)

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Allentown City Council meeting July 29, 2020, video
mins. 56:00 – 1:06:00 and 1:17:25 – 2:24:40

Bethlehem has now formally announced the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting, and we are taking advantage of the fact that Allentown is in a sense a step ahead of us —  their City Council having had a meeting this week with the Police Chief — to see how they are handling a resolution regarding the department.

The Allentown meeting Wednesday night (and on the video you can hear protestors banging on the exterior of the building) was a Committee of the Whole meeting to discuss a Gerlach/Siegel resolution at which no vote was taken.

Find the resolution here.

We have posted about the public comment before the meeting here.

Now we are ready to listen to the discussion among the Councilors and the Police Chief.

We’ll break that listening into two posts, holding off focus on the defunding part of the resolution to the next post.

First, let Gadfly say that the discussion, while robust, was — except for the defunding section that we’ll look at in the next post — was low-key and cordial.

Councilwoman Gerlach started discussion of the resolution by saying that it was not anti-cop, that, though the final clause about divesting and defunding was surely to captivate attention (and we’ll get to that in the next post), the resolution was 90% about accountability and transparency (mins 56:00 – 1:08:30).

She broke the several bullets/clauses in the resolution into 4 parts:

  • reporting: communication between the police, council, and the public
  • the use of force
  • transparency, community participation
  • divestment and defunding

The Mayor and the Police Chief then took about 10 minutes for general context and background (mins. 1:06:00 – 1:17:25) before the Council president gradually settled into the format of working in order down the list of bullets/clauses in the resolution to get an idea which ones might be disposed of and which would need further discussion (mins. 1:17:25 – 2:24:40). So if you are interested in discussion on a particular item, use the bullets in the resolution as a chronological table of contents, and you should be able to find it easily in this section of the video.

Gadfly can give you the highlights:

Overall, we learned that much in the resolution was already being done or couldn’t be done (more on that below).

The Chief readily agreed that resolution requests for reports/statistics can be accommodated.

The Chief agreed with the first bullet about mandating body cam use.

The stop and frisk bullet (e. g. racial profiling) got extended discussion.

The Councilwoman looked for stronger language (in effect, certain immediately fire-able offenses) and more explicitness (racism, sexism, etc.) in directives on discipline, which occasioned discussion of officer rights.

The Chief saw difficulties with a civilian review board but was open to a citizen advisory group.

Several bullets (for instance, removing exceptions for choke holds) ran into the wall of state regulations. The local level is limited and cannot supersede state regulations. Discussion on this issue of jurisdiction resulted in a desire by the proposers to keep these items in the resolution but to use the resolution as the opportunity to advocate for change at the state level.

Overall, the discussion seemed to establish which items in the resolution needed more thinking than others before and at the next meeting.

Gadfly certainly encourages you to listen in here not only for discussion of topics that we will probably take up as well but also for the positive general tone and demeanor of all the Council members and the Chief.

Now on to the toughest nut of all in the next post: divestment and defunding.

City announcement and instructions for the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting

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The City of Bethlehem announces:

The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

This meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube at “City of Bethlehem Council” YouTube channel at the following website address: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw.

PUBLIC COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS.

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, general access to Town Hall is currently closed.  If you would like to speak during the virtual meeting, you can preregister to participate on a device through a webinar application or use your phone. If you use the webinar application, you should be able to see shared documents discussed at the meeting.

You can preregister at: 
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2923328048332531216
.

After entering your name and email address, you will receive an email confirmation with a link to join the meeting on the scheduled date and time. You will be able to speak using your device microphone (if installed and enabled) or via phone using a phone number in your registration confirmation email. Prior to the meeting, it is recommended that you click the link “check system requirements” in the registration email to confirm your device compatibility.

If you would like to sign up to make public comments by phone, please email the City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 3:00 PM on August 11, 2020 or call (610) 997-7963 when the Public Safety Committee Chairperson announces he will take public comment calls. Phone calls will only be accepted during the designated public comment period. Please note, a five minute time limit will apply to all public comments.

MEETING DOCUMENTS. The August 11, 2020 Public Safety Committee meeting documents are located at: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/getattachment/59e73201-f04a-4adf-9f6f-08772c882834/COBCalendar_Agenda.aspx

Bethlehem writer Joyce Hinnefeld

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“A Better Law of Gravity”

“A Better Law of Gravity,” collected in The Beauty of Their Youth (2020), began as a kind of playful experiment: I wanted to try to imagine the life of Frankie, the 12-year-old girl at the center of Carson McCullers’ 1946 novel The Member of the Wedding, as a disaffected 18-year-old. I changed a few other things along the way; Frankie is now called FJ, and the story has been moved to a later time—probably the 1970s or early 1980s. Though it began playfully, the story turned more serious as I wrote it, eventually pulling in themes of gender identity, social isolation, and sexual violence that are all there (though some are more immediately apparent than others) in the original novel.

Joyce Hinnefeld

Joyce reads “A Better Law of Gravity” here on The Other Stories podcast, where she is interviewed by Ilana Masad.

Excerpt from “A Better Law of Gravity” :

Gradually [FJ] realized that Janice had begun to cry.

“What is it, Janice?” she asked her then. “Are you okay?” And she patted the hand that held her own.

But Janice yanked her hand free then and slapped the air where FJ’s hand had been, “No, I’m not all right, I’m loose as a goose, I’m a firecracker ready to go off, a loose cannon aimed at the outer zones of the universe. If I can just get there, if I can just fly a little farther out, I’ll be off their screens for good. You’ll see, kiddo, I’ll fly right off the map and then they’ll never get me back.”

“Who?” FJ asked, even though she knew Janice had to mean Jarvis. And for FJ there was her father, Aunt Pet. Everyone who seemed to like her best when she was quiet and out of the way. And hadn’t she once talked about a similar feeling with Berenice and John Henry, seated around the kitchen table with the playing cards spread out in front of them? Everybody feels caught, she had said that day (and she winced, remembering Berenice’s reply—“I’m caught worse than you is”). But to her it seemed more like everyone—and most of all she herself—was coming loose.

“All of them, the psychiatrists, your brother, my parents, the whole bloody shebang,” Janice said as she grabbed her open handbag off the floor. For another cigarette FJ assumed, but instead she pulled out a bottle of pills.

“It’s these, squirt. Watch out for these things.” She shook the brown bottle, rattling it in FJ’s face. “They’ll pin you down with these.” She threw the bottle in FJ’s lap.

“It’s this they’re after,” Janice went on, pointing at her right temple. “It’s the top that’s spinning up here, spinning so hot and fast they can’t get a hold on it, but not because they aren’t trying, oh no. I’m spinning right out of their grip but they’re desperate to get to that hot spot at the middle. The tropical zone. The psycho-tropics.”

Janice giggled then, pleased with her pun, and FJ laughed, too. “The psycho-tropics,” FJ repeated. “That’s clever.” She put the bottle of pills in her shorts pocket and said, “I hate to tell you this, Janice, but I have to pee.”

This was true, she did in fact have to pee, but besides that, FJ was getting very nervous. The more Janice talked about her spinning top of a mind the faster she drove. Yes, FJ did remember feeling loose, too, when she was a kid. But right now the fact remained that at the line about the psycho-tropics, FJ looked over to see the speedometer needle coursing well beyond the speed limit, to sixty, seventy, eighty, and beyond. And at that point she looked closely at Janice and admitted to herself that yes, in fact, she felt afraid of being as loose as that.

But by this time Janice was mumbling to herself—more about not stopping, about what might happen if she did—and it was clear she’d forgotten FJ was even in the car.

“Not this time!” she hissed as ashes from the cigarette at the corner of her mouth drifted onto her skin-tight T-shirt and the bare, downy skin of her arm.

“Not. This. Time.” By now her voice was barely above a whisper, but she pounded the steering wheel furiously with each word.

And even though Janice had taken her foot off the accelerator now and the speedometer needle was on its way back down, FJ knew that all she could do was close her eyes and brace herself, grit her teeth and hope for the best, because like it or not, Janice was flying somewhere else right then and it didn’t matter whose car it was or who was in it. So that when they rolled off the highway and finally smacked into a tree, the only thing that surprised FJ was the silence afterwards.

Joyce Hinnefeld is the author of two short story collections, Tell Me Everything (1998) and The Beauty of Their Youth (2020), and the novels In Hovering Flight (2008) Hinnefeld photoand Stranger Here Below (2010). Tell Me Everything received the 1997 Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference Bakeless Prize in Fiction, Stranger Here Below was a finalist for the 2006 Bellwether Prize in Fiction, and In Hovering Flight was the Booksense/Indie Next #1 Book for September 2008. Hinnefeld has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (in both Virginia and Le Moulin à Nef, France) and received a Christopher Isherwood Foundation Fellowship in 2010. She is Professor of English and the former Cohen Chair in English and Literature at Moravian College, where she founded and directs the Moravian College Writers’ Conference. The Beauty of Their Youth, in which “A Better Law of Gravity” appears, is available from Wolfson Press.     

Learn more about Joyce at www.joycehinnefeld.com or https://www.facebook.com/jhinnefeld.

Allentown residents comment on the Allentown resolution

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Allentown City Council meeting July 29, 2020, video
min. 7- 50

Allentown 3

Let’s focus on Allentown resident commentary on the resolution regarding police operations we just posted (min. 7-50).

There was no live or call-in public comment like we might have in Bethlehem. Residents were invited to send written comments, which were then read into the record by the City Clerk.

That took about 40 minutes.

Gadfly would say that there were in the range of 40-45 written comments read into the record.

Gadfly invites you to browse through the comments through the link above.

Citizen participation in action.

Gadfly would say the number of residents in favor of the resolution outnumbered the number of residents opposed, but only by a very slight margin.

The striking characteristic of the comments by those in favor was their similarity. Many of the favorable comments followed — exactly — the same “script.” This caused agreement among Council members to consider these comments a “ditto,” and they were not read in full.

On the other hand, comments by those opposed to the resolution were characterized by individualized personal specificity.

Gadfly leaves it to you to determine whether this difference in rhetorical approach means anything.

But Gadfly loves citizen voices, and he encourages you to listen in on the commentary that this resolution generated.

And what we’re doing is trying to open ourselves up to all the info and thinking that we’ll need to bring to bear on our own upcoming Bethlehem discussions.

to be continued . . .

The full Allentown resolution

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This resolution was discussed but not voted on last night at the Allentown City Council meeting. Gadfly will encourage you in subsequent posts to follow discussion at the meeting by breaking it down into parts for easier focus. There’s a lot we can learn and think about. Gadfly would assume that, though we haven’t had an incident like Allentown had in the Sacred Heart Hospital episode, that the basic issues regarding the operation of the Police Department will be basically the same. And viewing the dynamics of the Allentown Council in handling this matter can be valuable to us as well.

Allentown 1

Allentown 2

to be continued in next post . . .

The debate outside Allentown Council chambers: “Black lives matter”/“All lives matter” . . .“Things need to change”/“Defunded police are less effective police”

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Paying attention to what’s happening in neighbor Allentown. Citizens debate outside while Council members debate inside.

from Andrew Scott, “Black Lives Matter, Back the Blue protests face off outside Allentown City Council hearing on police funding. Morning Call, July 30, 2020.

Two groups of protesters, one calling for police reform and the other supporting police, held separate rallies Wednesday outside Allentown City Hall, at one point facing off against each other, as City Council members discussed police reform proposals.

Raising their fists and carrying signs, protesters with Black Lives Matter to the Lehigh Valley chanted “Black lives matter” while the pro-police Back The Blue group chanted “All lives matter” and “USA.” Members in both groups yelled at each other while some on both sides got between them to keep the groups separated.

“We’re not here to counter-protest,” Parker said. “We’re here to peacefully express our support of the proposed resolution.”

“We’re not against the police,” Black Lives Matter protester Latarsha Brown of Allentown said. “I have many officers that I know in Allentown. I’ve always had a great relationship with them. When you don’t have proper information, it’s easy to assume someone is against you.” Brown said she and others on the Black Lives Matter side don’t want a completely defunded police department, but simply a portion of the funding reallocated to parts of the community that need it most. She said they also want to see police officers held accountable for using unnecessary force and abusing their authority in other ways.

“Growing up in Allentown, I’d hang out with friends and watch police harass them but leave me alone,” fellow protester Jay Bickford of Allentown said. “Things need to change.”

Those on the Back The Blue side said the issue isn’t one of race, but of police going after those breaking the law, regardless of skin color.

“Defunded police are less effective police,” Back The Blue rally organizer Danielle Scott of Allentown said. “We feel there’s a little bit of an anti-cop rhetoric. We want to show that we don’t support that either. We do have a good rapport with our local law enforcement. We want them to be well-funded and resourced to do their jobs.”

Protesters on the Back The Blue side waved balloons and American flags and carried signs with pro-police messages. Joining them with banners displayed were members of America Needs Fatima, a Catholic nonprofit organization supporting the police, which prayed aloud and sang “Ave Maria.” Also present was a pro-police motorcycle club.

“By defunding the police, you’re not going to help anybody because now their response times are going to be even slower,” motorcycle club member Ski Bischof said.

Brendan Schoepflin of Allentown, who said he was a former Maryland police officer, said, “Police need as much funding as possible for upgraded vehicles and equipment so they can be more effective in serving and protecting us.”

to be continued in the next post . . .

Allentown City Council debates police reforms

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We should be paying attention to what’s happening in Allentown.

from Andrew Wagaman, “Allentown City Council debates police reform proposals, including reallocation of funds.” Morning Call, July 29, 2020.

A package of proposed police reforms, including cuts to the department’s budget, roused lively debate between Allentown City Council members Wednesday night and solicited passionate letters from the city’s police supporters and community activists demanding change.

Council’s meetings remain closed to the public, so it spent another hour listening to some of the 200-plus comments on a resolution emailed by Wednesday afternoon. Council then spent two more hours reviewing proposals point-by-point with city Police Chief Glenn Granitz, Mayor Ray O’Connell and other administrators.

The resolution calls for a number of police reforms, including:

    • the creation of a citizens review board to look at cases of alleged excessive force, among other things;
    • reallocating some of the police department’s funding to departments or nonprofits that can “more appropriately address” mental health issues, drug and alcohol treatment, housing and social services, among other things;
    • requiring officers to intervene to stop any excessive use of force;
    • calling for the state attorney general to investigate allegations of excessive use of force;
    • making body camera footage available to the public;
    • removing any exceptions for chokeholds and neck restraints from the use-of-force policy.

Ahead of Wednesday’s meeting, Lehigh Valley Stands Up, which is among the organizations keeping reform at the forefront, asked council to pass the resolution as written and to develop a plan for shifting $25 million from the police department to other forms of public safety and community support. The city police budget is about $40 million, and 95% of that is personnel costs.

Allentown’s public unions and some business owners were among those who adamantly objected police budget cuts.

Jeremy Warmkessel, president of the Allentown firefighters union, called the defunding proposals “short-sighted and dangerous” and if passed would jeopardize the security and safety of firefighters and other first responders, among other unintended ripple effects. “I along with my membership have a right to be protected, and it’s this council’s responsibility to ensure that protection,” he said.

Nicos Elias, a city funeral home owner and former city 911 dispatcher, said knee-jerk reactions to recent disturbing incidents would lead to a “sharp rise in crime and lawless behavior.” “This police department needs more funding, not less,” he wrote, adding, “We have a very good police chief and a department to be proud of.”

Resident Jadyn Sharber argued that Allentown needs to increase funding of nonpolice community safety resources for the benefit of residents and police officers. “It has become undeniably clear that expecting police officers to fill the roles of domestic violence specialists, drug crisis specialists, mental health experts, student support staff, social workers, and soldiers simultaneously is unreasonable, unrealistic, and unsafe for our communities,” she wrote.

Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. said he agreed that systematic reform of policing is needed, but the primary way to go about it is statewide legislation that supports, among other things, more training.

Granitz indicated that some of the proposed reforms, such as removing all exceptions for use of neck restraints, making body camera footage public and demanding investigations by the attorney general, runs afoul of state law and is not in the city’s authority to change.

The police chief also urged council members to next time take up his offer to participate in a use-a-force simulator offered this year before the protests. The police chief said he “saw moments like this coming,” and that to prepare for such moments, “we owe it to ourselves to educate ourselves.”

After listening to City Clerk Mike Hanlon read public comments Wednesday night, Gerlach said she was disappointed the final sentence about reallocating a portion of the department’s budget crowded out more discussion on the numerous proposed accountability and transparency measures. She asked her colleagues to think long-term and embrace policies that remain effective regardless of the capabilities of future police leaders, and may in fact act as safeguards against bad leadership. She also reiterated her conviction that it’s not radical to suggest the city rethink how it deals with mental health, substance abuse and homelessness issues, among other things.

O’Connell suggested the city needs the county government to “step up to the plate more” to address deficiencies in those service areas, and Council President Daryl Hendricks pointed out that the pandemic forced police officers to take on more responsibilities of furloughed social workers rather than the other way around.

Hendricks also pushed back against the contention that social workers can handle domestic disturbance calls (which statistically prove more dangerous than most) or mental health situations similar to the one that unfolded outside St. Luke’s-Sacred Heart last month. “There’s no way a social worker was going to confront that gentleman in the condition he was in,” he said.

Granitz reiterated that more resources rather than less would help him enact community policing measures he believes will rebuild trust between the most marginalized communities and officers. He also noted that divestment would set back efforts to increase the force’s diversity given the success of recruitment efforts in more recent years.

The conversation concluded with a few council members addressing some of their loudest critics. Gerlach lamented the number of commenters whom she felt were trafficking in divisive language in order to dismiss reformers and shut down debate, and specifically called out those calling protesters “thugs” or using other racist caricatures.

Councilwoman Candida Affa said Gerlach should also call out those chanting “F*** the police,” chanting derogatory remarks about Hendricks at previous protests or “calling up the mayor in the middle of the night” — a jab at Siegel, who shared the mayor’s personal cell phone number with protesters.

Siegel apologized to the mayor but also pushed back against drawing what he considers false equivalencies between chants of protesters representing marginalized communities that have “faced 400 years of structural oppression and death and violence” and the “racism and vitriol” he perceived in many of the letters opposing police reforms.

“We can both praise the cops for doing good work while re-imagining public safety in this country and looking for ways to spend our money better,” he said. “…Change and real leadership is about confronting institutions and having uncomfortable conversations, not doing something we all agree on.”

to be continued in next post . . .

Gadfly muses about meetings

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Gadfly has run his share of biggish meetings over the years. He muses while he waits to hear the promised announcement of what the Public Safety Committee has in store for us August 11.

Will you muse along? Gadfly has often asked you to role play Council or the Mayor. It’s fun.

  • We need a statement about the specific purpose/goal of the August 11 meeting. Not just an announcement of a meeting. What do we hope to achieve at the meeting? What will we have at the end of it?
  • A series of meetings has been promised. What is the specific purpose/goal of the series? How does this meeting fit in to that plan? What will the next meeting take up? What is the time frame of the series? How are we marching toward an “end.”
  • To save precious time for discussion, could the police department presentation be filmed and made available beforehand? The presentation at the Community Advisory Board may already have been filmed or recorded. (If not, why not?)
  • To establish a foundation of facts, to provide the broadest base for discussion, and to eliminate time wasted just answering basic questions, could all relevant police reports be grouped for easy access before the meeting? In other words, help us prepare for meaningful discussion. In fact, expect the public to prepare.
  • Gadfly feels a few documents should be custom-made and provided beforehand. For instance, 1) a document that links (or not) each of the “8 can’t wait” points to specific language in the police directives; 2) a definition of “defunding the police,” a phrase /idea about which there is much confusion as the Nextdoor blog commentary shows; 3) a definition of “systemic racism,” which, again, is a phrase/idea at which many people simply go blank. Needs examples too. We might be able to think of more such terms, others. In other words, establish a common meaning about some key terms around which discussion is likely to revolve.
  • And then could we have an “Ask-the Mayor/Chief” process, as we did for the pandemic? The public submits questions, the City/Council assembles and winnows them, and answers them before the meeting. Again, clearing away as much as possible that can be cleared away in order to save precious time for valuable discussion. Don’t be afraid to ask the public to prepare for discussion. Help them cut away noise and focus on key concepts.
  • Gadfly understands the need for the public to just talk — let off steam, feel recognized — and for elected officials to just listen, but, frankly, he is impatient with that, foresees a round and round like we see on the Neighborhood blog. This sounds like Gadfly talking against himself, but, for instance, if budget is the deadline, he feels the need to get “on with it.” More on this later.
  • If this first meeting is just open talk and listening, all you need is an affable and intelligent emcee like Bob Novatnack was for the Nitschmann Martin Tower meeting. But Gadfly likes the idea of the Mayor and all Council members seen in a   visibly active role.
  • But in more focused meetings trying to move toward consensus, skilled management is needed. Like the Bethlehem-based group that did the police/community summits in Detroit. Gadfly fears floundering.
  • Gadfly, as he said, wishes the first meeting was not just open talk. If not the first meeting, he wishes the next meeting was more directive, more focused. What are the questions we need to answer if there is to be something productive that comes from all the sound and fury. Gadfly can think of some such questions on which he would focus and ask the public to focus. Do we have a beef with the police department? Has trust between the police department and the community broken down? If we were to think concretely about defunding the police, what would we cut? Are there other options for achieving/funding the laudable goals that the defunders want? Must the police department be defunded to achieve them? And so on and so on. We could give residents a place to answer these specific questions before a meeting, and ask them to focus their answers to such specific questions at a meeting. The Mayor and Council would need to get beyond generalized rhetoric to work in the trenches. Get resident ideas.

Lunch time, my good followers, would anyone like to take up the Muse?

Do we have a beef with the police department?

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Nextdoor blog comments on Reynolds-Crampsie Smith resolution

Yesterday Gadfly transcribed 14 pages of comments of discussion on the Nextdoor blog triggered by the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution.

And suggested that it might be seen as a microcosm of community views.

And thus that we ought to engage with the commentary as we approach the August 11 Public Safety meeting.

And that it would be a good exercise for each of us to pull 10 comments from the discussion (not necessarily comments that we like or don’t) for even further discussion.

What does Nextdoor reveal about our next steps?

What does Nextdoor reveal about the pulse of the community?

Did you make a list? Would you share?

Here is Gadfly’s first of what might be several such lists:

1) In my opinion [the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution] was very much an anti Police statement. . . . To me the language seemed very one sided.

2) Reform is unnecessary. I’m going on 65 years in the town of Bethlehem that has unquestionably the best Police Department.

3) Defund the police…are you delusional???

4) Not broken …no need to fix. Hats off to the men n women in blue.

5) I’ve lived here for over 20 years and never had a problem-

6) he wants to totally get rid of the police lol

7) God Bless the Police who protect us, Black, Brown, white and all other Colors.

8) God bless our police department. Without them we would be another Portland and Seattle. Thank God we have a common sense Mayor (Bob Donches)

9) Thank you to the men and women in Blue helping to keep Bethlehem safe and prosperous

10) Back the blue. Blue lives matter

Way long ago, Gadfly asked, “How would you characterize the relationship between our police and our community?”

Relatively long ago (well, June 23), Gadfly asked what the prompt for a first community meeting on the police should be.

And then, characteristically, stirred by commentary by Gov. Cuomo, he answered his own question the next day: “Is the trust between community and police broken in Bethlehem?”

On a roll, Gadfly asked for data, that is, testimony, with your answer to that question.

And he got some testimony. And maybe more coming. But by no means enough.

For you see, here’s what Gadfly is struggling with:

Do “we” as a City have a beef with the police department? Is there sentiment, more importantly, is there evidence that the police department needs radical (or even moderate) change?

Or is the national conversation occasioned by the murder of George Floyd to which no police department is immune and to which we are joining in the Public Safety Committee meeting August 11 simply a time to do a healthy review of the department and to Negronconsider beneficent changes that will only enhance the superior quality of department performance and to enable the city to address genuine problems that need attention?

In regard to a beef, followers need to listen to Councilwoman Negron at the end of the July 21 City Council meeting talking about the reluctance in the Latino community to speak up because of fear of reprisal and thus the need for a “safe space” for those voices to be heard.

We need to hear those voices more, for Gadfly thinks that the Nextdoor blog shows that there is a “silent majority” in the community who have no idea why there should even be any conversation at all about our police department policies and practices.

They may see problems elsewhere, but their default position is that we’re ok.

If there is a problem with, if there is a beef with the police department, Gadfly thinks there is a strong wall of resistance that will need to be softened, need to be persuaded that even commencing  a review is necessary.

“I truly believe that the city needs some serious help at least with communication and Public Relations”

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Mr. Gadfly, thanks for your engagement.

I continue to remind myself that city council positions are voluntary, and I try to remain cognizant that only the mayor is paid for his leadership. Having said that, I am disappointed in the council’s and the Mayor’s leadership and communication in response to the ongoing BLM/Police Violence protests. (And that which fuels them.)

June 3, I sent the mayor a still unanswered email (copying council) with seven questions in response to his “comments on Minneapolis” in which he neither named George Floyd or blacks, specifically. (To be fair, he referred to the “affected” inclusively, though that is insufficient.) As a result of this failure to communicate, and my fortuitous awareness of the Community “Engagement” Initiative, I have commented by phone at each of the last three council meetings.

Regarding the Initiative, it’s about time, especially since we broached the subject about two years ago in a public council meeting after the disturbing death back then of ANOTHER black person at the hands of police. (By the way, not a single public caller during the July 7 council meeting voiced an opinion in favor of the resolution as it stood, while many specifically asked for the vote to be stayed. And only Olga Negron called for postponing voting on it until more thorough public input was had.)

As it has been roughly two years since that meeting, I will not give the Mayor credit for “get[ting] out in front” of the events surrounding George Floyds’ murder (especially as he refused even to identify Mr. Floyd or black people in his comments). We are no farther ahead – as far as the public is aware – than two years ago, at least as far as I can tell. One of the questions I asked the mayor in my June 3 email was “What has been done by the city since then?” (Crickets.)

Now, I support the call of BLM and others for ACTION. It is 2020 and just now our council is calling for discussion. And, are they really? Good faith is required. Suddenly voting on a resolution not presented WITH the minority members of council – or even after THEIR consideration – and without the opportunity for public input is tone deaf at best and a noticeable, inexcusable – if understandable – pattern. Insert Michael Colon’s . . . uninspired words here – “I truly believe that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we’re not going to be the ones to change the world, to change the country.” (My father and his friends would never have let that comment represent Bethlehem without a loud rebuttal, and I certainly won’t.)

I truly believe that the city needs some serious help at least with communication and Public Relations. I’d like to see efforts expanded to dialog more effectively WITH the community, not speak AT it like currently takes place through nested digital postings accessible through the city’s narrow web portal or announcements via digital news outlets. Perhaps a new hire is called for or the expansion of the job description for an existing position to include communication outreach. (Think of callers’ unanswered questions. Don’t most hang in the air forever, as if rhetorical, unless the CALLERS follow up?)

How can we improve communication? (Well, certainly work and resources are required.) Imagine various communication inequities and failures being overcome by committing the financial and volunteer resources to REGULAR, socially distanced, FACE-TO-FACE communication at city schools with staff and families AS WELL AS via electronic message boards positioned strategically around the city. (Did you know that the high schools, at least, have invested in a number of large flat-screen monitors positioned around the school to communicate continually to the school community?)

And imagine all caller questions – and emails – being answered. It’s not rocket science that a good marketing campaign includes multiple formats. I’d like our city to be proud enough of its words and deeds to market them adequately. And dialogue requires response.

So let’s actually discuss improving the release and availability of information by the City to be sure truly include all. And commit to OPEN public discussion on important community relations matters.

I would like to be part of “momentous.” I believe we can change our country . . . and the world. Maybe just a little, maybe a lot. But neither without effort  . . . and an attitude adjustment.

Greg Zahm

Required reading in preparation for the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting

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Nextdoor blog comments on Reynolds-Crampsie Smith resolution

Silly Gadfly.

Stupid Gadfly.

Be-careful-what-you-ask for Gadfly.

Yesterday Gadfly flippantly wondered if anybody beyond the 24 people who virtually attended the last City Council meeting  was paying attention to the upcoming Public Safety Committee meeting and the Community Engagement Initiative.

A resident calling in to Council that July 21 about quality of life issues in the City discovered the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution and posted it yesterday on the Nextdoor blog under title of “Bethlehem City Council New Resolution to Limit Police and Change the World.”

Great title.

And the result as of 8am this morning is what you can find on the attached document, all 14 pages of it (and no doubt exponentially growing in the time it took Gadfly to transcribe it.)

Community Engagement is already happening.

Democracies are noisy, rambunctious.

Blogs are no doubt more raucous than resident comment will be at a public meeting, even online, but this “conversation” will give us a taste of what we might expect August 11.

Public Safety Committee chair Colon might at this very moment be checking the bus schedules out of town.

Gadfly suggests we all engage with this engagement.

And perhaps pick 10 comments out of the several hundred that you think we should consider — not necessarily that you like or don’t like, but ones that deserve to be highlighted.

He’d like to receive your lists.

Useful to think about this incident near Dorney Park as we approach the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting

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An “old” case in the news today. You no doubt remember it well. A Lehigh Valley police officer killed a mentally disturbed man near Dorney Park two years ago. The allegation in the suit is that the officer was poorly trained. Gadfly is by no means suggesting that the Bethlehem police officers are poorly trained. But this case is a useful reminder of the kinds of issues now discussed nationally in the wake of the George Floyd event and that surely will be discussed here locally at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting and beyond in whatever form the Community Engagement Initiative takes. For instance, might the tragic outcome have been different if a mental health specialist had answered this call or accompanied the police officer on it? Gadfly remembers much sincere perplexity at the time surrounding the handling of this matter.

from Peter Hall, “Estate of man shot and killed by former South Whitehall cop sues in federal court.” Morning Call, July 27, 2020.

The former fiancee and children of a man killed by a police officer near Dorney Park two years ago are suing South Whitehall Township and former officer Jonathan Roselle in federal court.

The lawsuit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Allentown alleges Roselle’s actions were the foreseeable result of South Whitehall’s practice of putting inexperienced officers into service without testing or training in real-world scenarios.

The suit alleges Roselle violated Joseph Santos’ constitutional rights by using excessive force to stop him and by failing to provide medical assistance after shooting him.

Santos, 44, of Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, died July 28, 2018, after Roselle shot him five times on Hamilton Boulevard. Roselle was informed by a passing motorist of a man interfering with traffic and encountered Santos, who banged on the windows and climbed on the hood of Roselle’s police car, the suit says.

Although Roselle told dispatchers that he would wait for backup to deal with Santos, he got out of his cruiser and shot Santos, who was walking toward the officer with his hands raised. Roselle’s admissions to another officer who arrived shortly after the shooting that he had “f—ed up,” and that he “didn’t know what to do” were captured on Roselle’s police body camera, which he believed was switched off, the suit says.

Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin found Roselle’s use of deadly force was not justified and charged him with criminal homicide. At Roselle’s trial in March, a state police expert in use of force testified that Santos was not charging and appeared lethargic when Roselle shot, and that Roselle had ample time to switch from his gun to a less-lethal option. Cpl. Kevin Selverian also testified he had “never heard such a definitive admission of mistake” as Roselle’s after the shooting, the suit noted.

Roselle was found not guilty at the end of the two-week trial in Lehigh County Court where jurors saw video of the incident and heard Roselle testify that he feared Santos would disarm him.

“That’s my report, Mr. President”

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We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.
Anna Smith

Gadfly is lonely.

He misses Stephen Antalics. Gadfly hasn’t heard the sometimes gruff voice, hasn’t witnessed the sometimes steely stare of Gadfly #1 since City Council went into pandemic mode. Stephen just might not be comfortable with the call-in format. Face-to-face is his métier. This Gadfly hopes Stephen is well. We missed celebrating his birthday in June. Alas. Lost in the shuffle.

Gadfly misses at this complex cultural moment an old-fashioned Bethlehem beat journalist with dog-whistle ears, claws for digging, a snout for “the” story, and a penchant for analysis. Like a Paul Carpenter or a Bill White. Controversial even. A lightning-rod journalist. Have we ever had one? Strohmeyer? Maybe Kate Laepple when the Morning Call had a Bethlehem bureau. We need to be stirred, we need to be thinking.

Gadfly misses the voice of the Mayor. At Council last week, Gadfly listened for the Mayor’s voice on matters of urgent concern. He gave hopeful COVID-19 facts, announced the purchase of 100 parklets to help our small businesses in these “challenging times,” and recognized the positive efforts of the recreation department and the Health Bureau on playground events.

Good.

But that was it: “That’s my report, Mr. President.”

Nothing on the meeting of the Community Advisory Board?

Nothing on the resolution on the Community Engagement Initiative he received from Council the previous meeting that holds such promise?

Gadfly says again, is he the only one that finds this silence odd?

Anna Smith’s rousing words play continuously in Gadfly’s head: “We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.”

Gadfly agrees and was hanging expectantly on words from our leader.

We are a City with 30% Latino and 10% African American — those are big People of Color numbers.

“We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.”

Gadfly has said that in his experience the Mayor is a man of few words. Which is a good thing. He is not one of those “wind demon” elected officials who self-servingly hog the mic. I wouldn’t want him any other way most times. And he did get out in front with his early response to the murder of George Floyd. But since then nothing. Nothing that Gadfly can see. Nothing that the public can see. His report to Council took two minutes.

“We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.”

Gadfly hopes the City can rise to the momentous. But he doesn’t feel anything going on.

The momentous will be controversial.

But there were only two voices July 21 countering the advocates for change July 7 — and those two voices were from the same street, maybe even the same house.

Only about 24 people attended the live-streamed July 21 Council meeting. It’s as if people didn’t expect anything to happen. (Since then there have been 148 views as of this moment, which is good, but if that counts repeat visits subtract the 10 or so times Gadfly has returned to watch parts of the video).

Are people paying attention to what is going on? To what could go on?

Shouldn’t somebody be beating the drum? Keeping the momentum toward the momentous going?

Like the Mayor?

But Council is not absolved either. Gadfly has wondered in the past about Public Safety Committee chair Colon’s resolve in such comments as “I truly believe that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we’re not going to be the ones to change the world, to change the country.”

Contrast that to “We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.”

Gadfly would like Bethlehem to be a leader.

Gadfly would like to give the momentous a shot.

“The forest fire is surrounding us”

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See “Thode with some Covid-19 facts” in this morning’s Lehigh Valley Ramblings

So we’re going to try it. Send the kids back to school, that is. Albeit hybridly.

All the news Gadfly listens to links the success of such an endeavor to containing the spread of the virus in our local community.

Which makes Councilwoman Van Wirt’s plea for a commitment to sensibility, a commitment to safety during last week’s City Council meeting even more urgent.

Councilwoman Van Wirt is, we know, Doctor Van Wirt, whose care is specifically devoted to senior care facilities.

She needs to be listened to.

  • We are like firefighters standing in a field, and the forest fire is surrounding us.
  • Please don’t take this for granted.
  • It is not time to sit down and pull out our desk chairs.
  • It is time to start digging the fire ditches deeper. Van Wirt 1
  • We have a chance of keeping this out of our community by practicing all the guidelines as stringently and as frequently as we can.
  • I am so deeply concerned if we don’t do these things right now, things are going to get worse.
  • So while I fully understand the pain this has caused our local businesses, if we don’t get it right, right now, it’s going to be worse in the future.
  • I still have grave and deep concerns.
  • This virus has decimated my personal community where I practice.
  • The death rate in nursing homes is at least 25%.
  • . . . not relaxing our guard.

Let’s not screw this up. The Gadfly’s life you save may be your own.

Bethlehem schools hybrid, Allentown virtual

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 “Lehigh Valley has highest number of new cases”
Morning Call, July 26

Find full Bethlehem reopening info and a good video by Dr. Roy here

from Jacqueline Palochko, “Bethlehem schools looking to reopen with both in-person and online classes.” Morning Call, July 24, 2020.

Bethlehem’s full “Back to School Plan and Summary” can be
found in this article.

Bethlehem Area schools will likely reopen next month using a hybrid approach that allows for both in-person instruction and online learning.

The plan, which was announced Friday afternoon and will be voted on by the school board on Aug. 10, calls for students with last names beginning with A-L to attend school on Tuesdays and Thursdays, while others learn online. Those with M-Z last names will go on Wednesdays and Fridays as the others do virtual classes. All students will learn online on Mondays.

Elementary class sizes will average 10 students per day. Middle and high school classes sizes will have about 15 students per day.

Parents who prefer to have their children do virtual classes full time can enroll them in either the BASD Cyber Academy for the entire first marking period or the BASD e-classroom, which is a new program and allows students to transfer to physical classrooms by October. The e-classroom program will be taught by district teachers, some of whom cannot return to the classroom because of conditions that put them at higher risk of serious complications from the coronavirus. Registration for both ends Aug. 5.

If an individual tests positive for the coronavirus, families and students will be notified, but the district does not intend to shut down any schools or classrooms.

All students and teachers will wear masks in Bethlehem schools, following the state’s requirement. Parents are expected to provide face coverings, hand sanitizer and disposable cleaning wipes for their children. Tape on floor and signs in English and Spanish will remind students and staff to stay 6 feet apart.

Desks must be 6 feet from each other, when possible, and all facing the same direction.

Children who have different last names but live in the same household can attend school on the same day using the last name of the oldest child. Buses and bathrooms will be cleaned twice a day. At lunchtime, students will be seated in staggered arrangements to avoid sitting close to each other.

from Jacqueline Palochko, “Allentown School District to reopen schools virtually with hope of in-person classes later in fall.” Morning Call, July 24, 2020.

“The reality behind COVID is that it is taking lives,” [Superintendent Parker] said, during a virtual meeting that drew a large audience.

The board unanimously approved the plan for virtual learning, making Allentown the first Lehigh Valley district to keep school online when it resumes on Sept. 8. It’s a move that comforts parents worried about the virus but concerns those with children who need extra academic help.

Classes will start on schedule, Sept. 8, and the district hopes it can have in-person classes by November. Parker said it wasn’t an easy decision to recommend virtual learning for the area’s biggest school district, but he felt there were too many unknowns to allow the district’s 17,000 students, as well as staff, back in classrooms.

When the Allentown district surveyed parents this month, 60% said they were not comfortable sending their children back to school. Before the board voted Thursday, a number of parents spoke about the plan during two hours of public comment.

The district promised that online learning in the fall would be more robust and comprehensive than it was in the spring. It will expand the use of technology, including creating a model that will allow every student to receive a device. It will also develop external partnerships to support digital access for all students.

Even though it seems as if the area is in a better situation with the virus than it was in the spring, Allentown is still not in a good place, Allentown Health Bureau Director Vicky Kistler said at the meeting. There have been cases after day cares and public places such as restaurants and bars reopened, she said. “We have not yet learned to live with this virus,” she said.

For districts like Allentown, which has a number of crowded, old buildings, those guidelines are hard to follow because of limited space.

“When I hear Malcolm X talk, I feel electrified”

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“We need to decolonize the school curriculum.”
Lehigh Valley student, July 2020

Person. Woman. Man. Camera. TV.

Gadfly will never forget “Autherine Lucy.”

He first heard the phrase in 1956.

Autherine Lucy was the first Black student to attend the University of Alabama. For all of three days, that is, before the riots totally broke out. And she was suspended, later expelled. But she did it. She broke the barrier.

Gadfly was 16 in 1956, and he associates Autherine Lucy with the end of his childhood, with the end of his innocence.

Childhood and innocence ended not with sexual initiation but when he said to himself, “That’s not right. That’s not fair.”

After such awareness you can never go home again.

You are forever changed.

The scene repeated in 1960. Autherine Lucy was 26, seeking additional education. But Ruby Bridges was just 6, going to first grade, escorted by U.S. Marshalls as white parents pulled their kids from the school lest they be contaminated.

A scene that shattered even the idyllic consciousness of Gadfly’s Norman Rockwell, whose Look magazine centerfold titled Ruby with the word we dare not now name in a painting that would hang in the White House during the Obama years.

What happened to Ruby, “That’s not right. That’s not fair.”

After such awareness you never want to go home again.

And eventually our culture put this kind of disgraceful horror behind us.

Nobody is keeping Black children from school any more.

But what’s happening to them in school?

“We need to decolonize the school curriculum,” said a local Black high school student during the recent forum arranged by Allentown City Councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach following the murder of George Floyd that Gadfly has covered over several posts lately.

“Decolonize.”

That verb struck Gadfly — who is admittedly old and not in the educational trenches any more — as decidedly odd. Where would that student get that phrase, he thought? What high schooler talks like that? What did the word signify to him?

He was saying that these students had been admitted to school but only as part of a subjugated race and taught only what the colonizers felt what was best for the colonizers — that is, for instance, taught about Martin Luther King, Jr., and the “end” of racism, taught something glaringly at odds with their everyday felt reality.

Listen to the students in that part of the forum.

Where is knowledge of Angela Davis, Bayard Rustin, Sally Hemings, Nat Turner, the Black Panthers, and Malcolm X, they ask?

“When I hear Malcolm X talk, I feel electrified,” one student said orgasmically.***

And where is knowledge of Africa, of the great Kings and Queens in Africa?

Gadfly fears getting too nerdy. But in pitching the “Bethlehem Moment” series to you he has said “history is our cultural memory,” and if you’ll just think of someone in your ken with Alzheimer’s/dementia, you will realize that life is not livable above the vegetable level without memory.

It holds for a culture as well as a person.

Gadfly gets it. Gets what the students are saying.

The Black history “we” teach may be well-intentioned, but for some students it is evidently not doing the job.

And it might be called an example of systemic racism, a phrase that in some circles dare not be named.

Gadfly knows something about tight curricula. If the Dr. Roys of this world decide they need to present Black history more comprehensively, they have their work cut out for them. And in the midst of a pandemic too.

Speaking of which you are invited to the next post.

***And which white folk can readily understand if they simply saw Spike Lee’s amazing 1992 “Malcolm X” on TCM Saturday afternoon. Gadfly had worked on this film with white students in his Reel American History project and knew it well but was nevertheless transfixed again for 3 1/2 hours.

Let it go, Gadfly, let it go

logo The Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sort logo

Martin Tower site looking south from Eaton Ave.

005

Gadfly’s camera can’t match the magic of the Grubb and Yoshida lenses. Somehow this picture doesn’t adequately capture the glandular response he registered as the South Mountain horizon opened up to him coming up the hill toward 8th Avenue last night. Such a feeling of delightfully open space filled his lungs. Thinking he was as he impulsively stopped the car how awesome it would be if this site were a park or other kind of recreation area sweeping down on the left to the Monocacy from whence you can trail and trail and trail. But, instead, 548 apartments, medical buildings, a gas station — and much, much imperviosity. Another paradise paved.

Grumpy ol’ Gadfly.

The pandemic blues?

Underfunded districts educate over half of Pennsylvania students and the vast majority of Black and Hispanic students

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from Karen Beck Pooley, “Your View: Pa. school funding far from fair.” Morning Call, July 22, 2020.

On June 21, a Your View appeared in The Morning Call written by Pennsylvania Secretary of Education Pedro Rivera in which he noted “Our education system is not without fault in perpetuating the systemic inequities and institutional bias that many of our communities have accepted as normal. Education is an institution rife with historic inequities in resourcing, inequities in discipline, and inequities in opportunity. These structures must be dismantled.”

He discussed important work underway: equipping schools to prevent or address racist incidents, training teachers and administrators to recognize inherent biases, recruiting more nonwhite teachers. But he made clear that much remains to be done to dismantle black and Hispanic students’ barriers to opportunity. And he tasked all of us with pressing “our elected officials to equitably resource our schools.”

Here’s how far we are from equitably resourced schools:

Pennsylvania currently ranks 47th (out of all 50 states) in terms of its share of public schools funding. . . . According to data from the education-focused Research for Action, several districts in our area receive even less of their budgets from the state: roughly 30% in Easton and Whitehall-Coplay, roughly 25% in Bethlehem, East Penn and Nazareth, and roughly 20% in Parkland, Salisbury and Saucon Valley.

This pushes more of the burden for funding public schools onto local communities, which, in Pennsylvania, cover 62% of the cost. And this means that disparities between communities become disparities between schools.

Given these dismal disparities, it is shocking that the resources the commonwealth distributes to local school districts are still not allocated in an equitable way despite careful study by the bipartisan Basic Education Funding Commission and the passage of its recommended Fair Funding Formula into law in 2016. The formula works like this: It considers several “student-based factors” (such as how many children are enrolled in a district and what portion are in poverty or are English Language Learners) as well as several “school district-based factors” (such as low densities in rural districts that might increase costs, as well as how districts’ local taxing effort and local taxing capacity (the market value of local real estate and residents’ combined personal income) compare to state averages). Taken together, these factors were meant to determine what portion of state funding each district should receive.

Standing in the way of allocating money to districts according to the Fair formula, though, is “hold harmless,” or Pennsylvania’s practice of ensuring that school districts receive no fewer state dollars in one year than they did the prior year.

The commission acknowledged these “changes in enrollment … bring additional funding challenges” for growing districts, forcing many to “absorb increasing educational expenditures with local revenue” as their state allocations fail to keep up. But the Basic Education Funding Commission and state Legislature ultimately showed a greater concern for those districts with declining enrollments, currently receiving more basic education funding than the fair funding formula suggests. Redistributing resources, the commission argued in its final report, “would have a significant negative impact on many school districts” and so proposed only distributing “new money” using the fair funding formula.

This “new money,” or the increase in basic education funding since 2016, accounts for just a fraction (roughly 10%) of all basic education dollars.

So while “hold harmless” sounds benign, it glosses over the fact that many districts are “held harmed.” These underfunded districts educate over half of Pennsylvania students and the vast majority of Black (78%) and Hispanic (82%) students. Most Black (51%) and Hispanic (52%) students are in districts that are underfunded by at least $10 million annually.

As Secretary Rivera stressed, “we need to use this moment, this outrage, this commitment to move forward.” Multiple bills that could be a start are currently sitting with both the Senate and House Education Committees: House Bill 961 would implement fair funding in full immediately; Senate Bill 362 and House Bill 1313 would do so over the next four years. It is long past time legislators focused on those “held harmed” by our methods for funding public schools in Pennsylvania.

Gadfly doesn’t cover education matters as much as he should — and appreciates the calling of this article to his attention.

“Black Lives Matter . . . it’s an awakening”

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“Our Voices Matter! Students from Allentown, Emmaus and
Parkland School District speak their truths!”

Do you think the Black Lives Matter movement is just a trend, and what are you as youth leaders going to do to insure that this work continues?
(min. 1:05:05)

  • I’m a black woman in America, and I have to face all these problems and injustices on a daily basis.
  • I make sure I’m always vigorous in educating and holding people accountable for what they are saying.
  • We’re the future, we have to have our heads on straight.
  • Use your voice.
  • Address the things that you hear but maybe usually don’t talk about.
  • I’ve been very timid in the past . . . because of the backlash.
  • People fall into performative activism and get on the moral high ground . . . and the feel like I did so much.
  • I am actually in the process of starting a podcast . . . for girls my age who deal with micro-aggressions.
  • . . . clout-chasing off of our lives, our struggle, and it’s not a joke.
  • We’re not going to stop fighting . . .
  • When it comes to protecting us . . . y’all have a problem.
  • Just because you do black people things doesn’t mean you’re not racist.
  • I will go to every protest, to every town hall or zoom . . .
  • This is what I do for my people, and until there is change, I won’t stop doing it.
  • Black Lives Matter . . . it’s an awakening.
  • Racism . . . I live it every day.
  • It’s just hard to go through life knowing you have a target on your back every single day, the way you were born, the way God created you to be.
  • I find it disturbing that racism is being treated like some new revelation.
  • Why did it have to reach this point, why did so many people have to die?
  • Because you put a commercial on tv . . . that’s going to make things better? No.
  • If we got out of that mentality, and we actually came together . . . do you realize how many things we would change?
  • [the video ends with a student recounting a bad experience with a teacher and with another directing remarks to the Allentown police chief].

Tip o’ the hat to Ce-Ce Gerlach for arranging this gathering.

“We encourage Council not to proceed recklessly”

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation.
Glen Ragni

I haven’t heard a lot of nuanced conversation.
Carrie Fitzgibbons

Gadfly knows nine uses of the comma, but he also knows that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The strongest and starkest negative and cautionary comments about the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution at the July 7 City Council meeting came from the members of activist groups who came in person to the meeting. You might want to go back and refresh yourselves on that commentary.

So, at the July 21 City Council meeting we had the pushback.

Good conversation builds community.

The callers oppose defunding of the police and see the humanity and value of the police, but what Gadfly hears, over all, is a call for good, wide-ranging, multi-perspective’d conversation.

Please listen to the voices of your fellow residents here. Don’t just skim and scan Gadfly’s notes. Always go to the primary sources

Glen Ragni

  • I’m calling today out of concern about the quality and diversity of the recent public statements made about defunding, disbanding, and abolishing the Bethlehem Police Department.
  • During the Bethlehem City Council’s last meeting all of the speakers repeated almost exactly the same demands and were affiliated with the same few political organizations.
  • They do not represent our entire community.
  • Many of the speakers insisted that the time for conversation was over, that they’ve already had the relevant conversations amongst themselves, that they have their own initiative and they don’t want any more input from any members of our community, or even the involvement of the democratically elected Mayor or the police . . . we just want your money.
  • Another speaker . . . we don’t need to hear from any more whites.
  • Appallingly, several members of Council seemed extremely tolerant of these demands and even agreed with most of what was said, that centered around the abolition of the entire police department.
  • Over the past several months we have initiated conversations with hundreds of residents and stakeholders in our community. . . . The majority of those we have spoken with have expressed strong reservations about defunding . . . the police.
  • . . . abolishing the police department represents reckless public policy . . . experimented with this path . . . and the results have been deadly.
  • We encourage Council not to proceed recklessly . . . we encourage everyone in our community not to proceed recklessly.
  • Our community is diverse in our makeup, but we are one community.
  • We must learn to either live together respectfully as brothers and sisters, or we will surely perish together as fools.
  • Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation.
  • It’s troubling to hear that some community members say they have no interest in the exchange of ideas.
  • How are we going to proceed when the police have reached out in solidarity, the Mayor has reached out in solidarity, the Council has reached out?
  • Where does that leave the other 75,000 members of the Bethlehem community whose concerns haven’t even been heard yet?
  • How do we proceed when only one side wants to have a conversation. and the other side is only issuing demands?
  • That attitude doesn’t come from a sense of respect for the community.
  • . . . that all community members listen to their own hearts and characters . . . the quest for peace and mutual understanding.
  • That quest for mutual understanding begins by genuinely listening and truly hearing each other’s troubles and concerns, so that we can better search for balanced solutions and choose policies that respect our common humanity.

Carrie Fitzgibbons

  • I’m still trying to gather and process information from many points of view, and I imagine you are as well.  Clearly this is a complex issue that requires such nuanced thinking and much research.
  • And my concern is that I haven’t heard a lot of nuanced conversation around this topic. Instead, what I’ve heard doesn’t qualify as conversation at all if conversation is a free exchange of ideas from multiple perspectives building toward some workable solutions that can be tried and tracked to see how really effective they are.
  • In public debate thus far we’ve only heard how one group of people view policing, and their perspectives deserve to be heard.
  • Some very broad, absolute statements have been made, and we would humbly ask Council to actively reach out to everyone in the community to seek out as many perspectives as possible. There will be many different constituencies that will be affected differently by any changes that are made.
  • And we would also ask before public policy is set that rigorous research is conducted  backed by statistical evidence.
  • Some people say the police shouldn’t have a voice in this process. I disagree. . . . their unique perspective of what could possibly improve our system.
  • This report [the recently published 2019 police report] . . . . If we have to go through all those [65,000] calls . . . to better understand what the police do for us, so be it.
  • So far we haven’t discussed any real statistics . . . unbiased understanding of the value our police department contributes to our daily lives.
  • I also feel it is important to realize that our police officers are human. Police have been referred to of late in any number of insulting and threatening ways. At the last Council meeting they were called an “evil machine” and when we start referring to groups with demeaning names, you make it easier to treat them as less than human, and you invite in hatred and violence.
  • Police risk their lives every day balancing [our] rights . . . and they are legitimate members of our community.
  • I find it sadly ironic that groups who are combating their own marginalization would attempt to marginalize other groups who are a legitimate part of our community.
  • If people truly want a conversation, they must welcome the contributions others make. Otherwise, this movement begins to feel it’s less about justice and more about revenge.
  • Some are not interested in balancing their rights with the rights of others.
  • We are all human, and we all have flaws, and everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions.
  • In any relationship, both parties bring 50% to the interaction. . . .Perhaps part of that education should be to teach citizens how to respectfully respond to the legitimate requests of police officers.
  • We only achieve compassion for each other by understanding the other side’s perspective.
  • We can separate the truth from the errors that are part of everybody’s belief system.
  • If there is genuine dialog . . . we can truly hear others, and to truly hear others is to value what other persons say. Not just talk at each other but really listen.

Bruce Haines

  • I was compelled to call in because of [residents Ragni and Fitzgibbons above]. I thought both of them eloquently spoke to the need for real dialog and not one-way demands.
  • I have no demands tonight. I simply want to compliment them on the quality of thought that went into their presentations, and I support what they had to say completely.
  • I moved here to Bethlehem, made an investment, live in the downtown. I moved here because of the safety and quality of life in Bethlehem, and I have experienced the Bethlehem police on multiple occasions . . .
  • I have the utmost respect for the Bethlehem police department and what they do and also the Bethlehem Fire Department. I think we have two of the finest public safety departments anywhere in the state, and I encourage you not to jump to any conclusions, especially in regard to defunding.

Bethlehem Moment: First Lehigh Valley Gay organization forms

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Bethlehem Moment 25
City Council
July 21, 2020

Mary Foltz, Lehigh University
Susan Falciani Maldonado, Muhlenberg College
Kristen Leipert, Muhlenberg College

audio

Bethlehem Moment: June 22, 1969

Le-Hi-Ho, the first organized group for gays in the Lehigh Valley,
held its first meeting

As the Lehigh Valley concludes the celebration of Pride month and looks forward to Allentown’s Pride Festival in August, the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive has engaged with uncovering the deep history of LGBT organizing in our region. While many will know about activism at Stonewall in New York City, few in our region will recall 1960s LGBT organizations that paved the way for social change in Pennsylvania and the larger nation. We are grateful for this opportunity to share a short narrative about one such organization that originated in the months prior to the Stonewall uprising. It is our hope that this story will give residents of Bethlehem and the larger Lehigh Valley a glimpse of the vibrant contributions of LGBT leaders to our region. And we affirm here that the Lehigh Valley has important stories to tell about LGBT history from the 1960s into the present.

In the early months of 1969, a group of friends tuned into activist groups in major urban centers envisioned bringing the energy of the Homophile Movement to the Valley. The Homophile Movement gained support in the U.S. in the 1950s and continued to make progress through the 1960s; its primary aims were to fight for equal rights for gay and lesbian people, to counter discrimination in housing and employment, and to counter negative medical, educational, and social understandings of homosexuality. As LGBT people in the Valley faced rampant discrimination, this group of friends believed that a local homophile organization could help to make civic change that greatly would impact our community.

gay 1

LeHiHo members summer 2019 with student archivists

Their dream became a reality six days before the raid at the Stonewall Inn, which served as a catalyst for the gay liberation movement.  On June 22, 1969, a gathering of twenty-seven individuals met “on the north slope of the blue mountains” in Bloomsburg, PA to form a “homophile movement” in the Lehigh Valley. The meeting drew participants from a sixty-mile radius, and fifteen charter members pledged dues, time, and energy to foster the new organization. Leaders of the burgeoning organization included Ron Seeds, Joseph Burns, and others from the city of Bethlehem.

One of the primary decisions the members faced was whether or not to become an affiliate of the nationally-networked Mattachine Society, one of the earliest gay rights groups in the United States. Ultimately, the Lehigh Valley’s relative distance from New York City and Philadelphia, which presented challenges for attending meetings and events, prompted the founders to lean towards an independent organization, and the Homophile Movement of the Lehigh Valley was born. Nicknamed “Le-Hi-Ho,” the organization wanted to secure a more central location for their meetings so that many in the Lehigh Valley could attend. During the summer of 1969, Le-Hi-Ho approached the Unitarian Church of Bethlehem about holding its meetings in their building, and, after a review of the organization’s bylaws, the Church approved meetings beginning in 1970.

From its first month, Le-Hi-Ho became a hub for information about national gay liberation struggles and their regional counterparts. For example, they published their first newsletter in June 1969 and continued to offer relevant reportage about protests and activist efforts in our region and NYC and Philadelphia as well as needed discussion of social events. Even as they provided rich resources for the LGBT community, Le-Hi-Ho leaders sought to protect members from discrimination by securing mailing lists and the names and addresses of those who received newsletters. As gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people could be fired or lose housing because of their sexual or gender identities, leaders needed to ensure the privacy of members. All communication and correspondence was conducted through a Bethlehem post office box in the name of Ron Seeds, a manager at Bethlehem Steel who was the founding director of Le-Hi-Ho. Ron Seeds was the only keeper of the Le-Hi-Ho mailing list, thereby ensuring that names of members were not revealed. The August ‘69 newsletter stressed the importance of discretion, recommending best practices for not revealing too much about other members of the organization.

According to Joseph Burns, the original editor of the newsletter, Le-Hi-Ho was primarily a social organization even as their members were invested in politics. Monthly meetings often featured an invited speaker, such as “Dr. Bob” in September ‘69, who spoke about health concerns of LGBT people, or Dick Leitsch of the Mattachine Society, who visited in January 1970. Still, the most anticipated part of the meetings was the social hour that followed the conclusion of the official agenda. Le-Hi-Ho provided an alternative to the bar scene, according to Burns, as many LGBT people wanted the opportunity to meet outside of noisy taprooms and dance halls.

While social events continued to be a huge draw for members, political organizing became the focus for others. Le-Hi-Ho members, like Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, LeHiHo 1were involved in starting the Lambda Center in Allentown, the first LGBT community center in our region. Others were involved with the regional chapter of N.O.W. and participated in the important fight for an anti-discrimination ordinance in Allentown. The political activity of Le-Hi-Ho members shows the value of social organizations for fostering spaces in which to build community, to dream of social change, and to create relationships that fuel the difficult work for social justice.

In the late 1990s, Le-Hi-Ho’s membership began to decline as other LGBT organizations took the lead in the Valley, building on the foundation created by our earlier organizers. Still, their work on behalf of our community is an important part of Lehigh Valley history, which we are proud to celebrate.

We are fortunate to have insight into the early days of this (necessarily) private organization thanks to archivally-minded members of the group, Frank Whelan and Bob Wittman, who deposited the records of Le-Hi-Ho at the Allentown Public Library, where they are available for researchers. The collection contents can be viewed by visiting the Lehigh Valley LGBT Community Archive at http://trexler.muhlenberg.edu/library/specialcollections/

“Without a shared history, we are not a true community.”

Public Safety meeting August 11

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video City Council meeting July 21, 2020

We know that the public comment on the Community Engagement Initiative at the July 7 City Council meeting was, as the newspaper report characterized it, “lukewarm at best.” There was, for instance, a series of what we might call “activist” comments in favor of various ways of what we might call defunding the police — the need for radical change.

A balance of a sort was struck at last night’s City Council meeting when we at last heard several calls from the “other side,” indicating that those comments at the previous meeting did not speak for the whole community, counseling Council to go slowly, and to have broader dialog.

Gadfly will get to that later today, focusing on that “other side.”

Go to the City Council video of last night’s proceedings if you can’t wait for Gadfly to get his life in order today. Start about min. 15:00.

But let me jump to the big news, the long anticipated big news.

Chair Colon announced that the Public Safety Committee will be held in three weeks, August 11 at 6PM (video min. 1:15:15).

It will be a virtual meeting.

An announcement with instructions and details will be forthcoming “soon.”

The agenda for the meeting, said Councilman Colon, will be “Policing, to go over the use of force policy that the city released, The Mayor, and we’ll talk further before the meeting, but the presentation that has been presented at different meetings by the police department I think would be good, for members of Council to see that presentation about the use of force, and then also have the discussion about the Community Engagement Initiative and that resolution that was passed. . . . I encourage anyone to reach out prior to a Public Safety Committee meeting, after a Public Safety Committee meeting. . . . As we move forward through the process and as we tackle different meetings, and this Public Safety Committee meeting is going to be the first of what would be many since the goal isn’t to have a bunch of Public Safety Committee meetings but to move forward that Community Engagement Initiative which I expressed last time will be something that will be gaining shape and something that’s going to be dynamic moving forward.”

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, sensing confusion that, frankly, Gadfly feels, followed Councilman Colon in an attempt to bring clarity (min. 1:21:50): “There seems to be still a lot of confusion about the Community Engagement Initiative. . . . I feel like some of the callers . . . are not feeling what I’m feeling about what it’s going to look like. The Community Engagement Initiative is really to allow another avenue for public input beyond City Council meetings or a Public Safety Committee meeting. And from there to provide some framework to the City and the Council and the police to move forward to address systemic racism as well as build bridges and build better relationships within the community and with our police department. I’m going to read what the resolution states . . . time to create a consistent public space for the long-term discussion of issues surrounding systemic racism, discrimination. . . . A community-wide coalition. . . . People need to feel validated and that they matter, and I hope this Community Engagement can help to meet that goal at least partially. . . . A way to engage all members of the community.”

Gadfly, again, frankly, is still in a bit of a muddle.

We have the Mayor participating in an NAACP “Community Advisory Board.” Gadfly expected a report on a major meeting of that Board last week with a presentation by the Police. Now this is not the Mayor’s Board, so maybe he feels that it’s up to the NAACP to make commentary. But no mention at all? Gadfly is still confused about where this CAB fits in. And the Mayor didn’t say anything about anything regarding this whole ball of systemic racism wax and the City’s response to it. Is Gadfly the only one who feels this is odd? What is our leader thinking, doing?

We have the Public Safety Committee. We now have a date for a meeting. And details will follow. Gadfly assumes that Chair Colon is in charge. But, to Gadfly anyway, he felt so tentative. He will talk “further” with the Mayor about the format of the meeting but “thinks” a reprise of the police presentation would be a good thing. We know Gadfly is impatient, but it doesn’t sound like there’s a clear idea of an agenda. And there’s been plenty of time to think. And Gadfly feels vague focus — the meeting will be about policing, the use of force directive, ok, but also about the Community Engagement Initiative? What role does the Public Safety Committee have regarding the CEI? Does the Public Safety Committee meet once, then it morphs into the CEI? Wasn’t the CEI turned over to the Mayor to create? Policing . . . Community Engagement initiative — two huge issues. Gadfly is not a young man anymore. He has to pee every time he stands up. But to him these two topics feel much too big for a single meeting.

And then there’s the Community Engagement Initiative. Councilwoman Crampsie Smith certainly sensed Gadfly’s confusion, but, frankly, her attempt at clarity failed him. She repeated the rhetoric of the resolution. Gadfly gets it, gets the concept, and loves it. But he can’t “see” the CEI yet. And he’s not sure who is in charge of its creation. Yes, Gadfly gets the concept. He’s heard it over and over. Now he’s looking for the road map to that goal and wants to hear from the driver. It’s time to be on the road. Didn’t the Council resolution “urge” the Mayor to set up the CEI? And yet aren’t both Councilman Colon and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith talking and acting as if Council is in control?

Gadfly feels precious time passing and doesn’t feel firm direction.

I know, I know, poor Gadfly.