More voting info

from Senator Casey bulletin

Explaining secrecy envelopes, and other information you need to vote safely this fall

Tuesday, November 3 is the day of the general election, but voting has already begun in Pennsylvania. Voting is a pillar of our democracy and part of our civic duty as American citizens, so I want to make sure you have the resources you need to vote, vote early and vote safely. No matter who you plan to vote for, you can help PA elections run smoothly and make sure your voice is heard by making a plan right now for how you’re going to vote.
Register to vote: You can register to vote online, by mail, in person at your county voter registration office or at PennDOT and select other government agencies. If you’re not sure if you’ve already registered, check your registration status today. The deadline to register to vote for the current election cycle is Monday, October 19.
Voting in person: You can vote in person at an assigned polling place near where you live, open 7 AM to 8 PM on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3. If your name is not in the voter roster, you may have the right to vote on a provisional ballot. Poll workers will be available to assist with any questions or concerns on Election Day.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for safely voting in-person during COVID-19, including: wash your hands before and after, bring and use hand sanitizer, wear a mask, continue social distancing, bring your own blue/black ink pen and vote at off-peak hours such as mid-morning.

Voting by mail: Voting by mail is a safe, secure and legal way for Americans to practice their constitutional right to vote. Any qualified voter may apply for a mail-in ballot. Tuesday, October 27 is the deadline to request your mail-in or absentee ballotTo ensure your ballot is counted, don’t wait to send your ballot in, as ballots must be postmarked by 8 PM on Tuesday, November 3 and received by your county election office by 5 PM on Friday, November 6. If you are concerned about USPS delays in delivering mail-in or absentee ballots, you can drop off your ballot at your county election office.

  • IMPORTANT: Be sure to double-check all deadlines at to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information. You also must carefully follow the directions on your mail-in or absentee ballot, or your vote will not be counted. This includes marking your ballot in blue or black pen, sealing your ballot in the inner secrecy envelope that says “official ballot” and then placing it in the outer return envelope, sealing it and signing it.

No matter who you plan to vote for, your vote matters. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact my office online or call your local office in Pennsylvania, and we will respond as quickly as possible. For additional resources, visit or call 1-877-VOTESPA.

Homecoming @ Touchstone Friday

Latest in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre


Festival UnBound – Homecoming

A continuation of last year’s celebration of the history, struggles, and successes in the Black community of the Lehigh Valley, recognizing exceptional talent, drive, and leadership. In this year of the Black Lives Matter movement, protests, civil discourse and loss of great civil rights icons – a year where the names of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd are raised in voices across every state – we claim space and call for justice, recognizing that our history informs the present.


321 E. 4th St.


Where are the Republicans?

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Or Independents?

Gadfly is jogged to ask by this post in Bernie O’Hare’s “Lehigh Valley Ramblings” the other day about the “Bethlehem Democratic Party Machine.”

Hoping to provide a beneficial public service, Gadfly plans to help people be the best informed voters they can be by providing info on all the candidates in next spring’s election.

He’s hoping there will be several Democratic candidates for Mayor, and scuttlebutt indicates there will be.

But where are the Republicans in this town? And Independents? And African Americans? And Latinx? And women? And LGBTQ?

Gadfly hopes for competition, for choice.

That’s the kind of thing we gadflies live for.

Especially as he plans to retire Election Day +1.

Wants to go out with some drama!

Growth in development and green space should go hand in hand

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Maclaine Oskin is a senior at Moravian Academy who hopes to major in environmental science or geology in college. Maclaine presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. Her interest in the environment was partially inspired by her enjoyment of science in school as well as summer family trips to National Parks when she was younger. You can view Maclaine reading her work here at min. 57:40.

Land Conservation

Maclaine Oskin

Development and construction through the years have overtaken our land with asphalt and concrete, making commercial districts and office buildings abundant while the number of trees and open space dwindles. The Lehigh Valley, with an ever-growing population and robust mixed economy, continues to develop. As a result, it becomes even more critical to protect the natural environment that has preceded us through conservation to balance growth and expansion. Conservation of green space is vital to preserving the local ecosystem, increasing environmental resilience, and is advantageous to the local economic and social health of the community.

Land conservation is paramount in maintaining the well-being of the local ecosystem and safeguarding clean water, air, and soil. For example, sheltering land that hosts waterways decreases the quantity of harmful chemicals, litter, and particulate matter by up to 45%, preventing pollution and the hampering of the cleanliness of local water sources. By protecting the environment, it gives back to the community through ecosystem services, in which humans benefit from organic processes that occur in nature. Vegetation and forestry aids in stormwater runoff and water regulation through drainage, thereby decreasing flooding. Soil and trees absorb and sequester carbon dioxide, reducing carbon emissions contributing to the greenhouse gas effect, making them pivotal players in the fight against climate change. More locally, this ecosystem service offsets local air pollution and cleans the air by reducing emissions. Each of these services has the ability to reduce costs of damage and improve personal health, acting as preventive measures for infrastructure and reducing health care costs long term.

Furthermore, conservation is a preventative solution to get ahead of the curve of a changing climate with increasingly harsh and unpredictable weather. The increase of natural spaces lends itself to a new form of benefit, that of environmental resilience. Resilience can be gained easily by having open habitat and green space as it has a greater ability to adapt and change to such external forces as climate change than set infrastructure. It is an economically beneficial option in the long run as it decreases risk and damage from natural forces and, in turn, saves taxpayer money since they bear the brunt of costs of rebuilding and updating local infrastructure.

Not only environmentally significant, green space is advantageous to the economic and social health of communities. Green space as recreational areas promotes physical and mental well-being as an outlet for stress and overwork. It provides a prospect for social interaction and community building as an area for social gatherings. Economically, it is beneficial since it attracts businesses and residents to communities. The preservation of such resources as parks, forests, farms, and waterways increases the value of houses and the number of residents, which, in turn, increases the tax base and revenue to support local businesses. It decreases government spending through natural provisions of ecosystem services. For example, by protecting water sources, it keeps them cleaner, so there is less cost on the back end to filter or clean that water, additionally saving on health care costs as it is safer for human consumption. Furthermore, land conservation has the potential to save more money than land development and commercialization because often large lot sizes that are heavily built up increase the cost of water and sewage services since they struggle with stormwater runoff related problems.

In providing these green spaces, it is necessary to implement them equally and fairly throughout the community since environmental health burdens disproportionately affect people of color and the lower income classes. Upholding equitability through conservation is key to uplifting all members of our community and giving equal opportunity through the benefits of green space that provides clean living space, clean air, mental health benefits, as well as recreational and educational opportunities.

To maximize the effectiveness of conservation efforts, key parcels of land that are adjacent to preexisting conserved land or provide greenways, connection routes that travel between critical habitats, must be prioritized, along with solutions to prohibit high impact zoning next to green spaces to minimize disturbance of wildlife and only allowing low environmental impact activities with land restrictions to protect native wildlife and forest growth. For example, choosing forested areas or native meadows with only grass, gravel, or mulched trails over pavement permits local residents full access to the health benefits of the area, while maintaining the environmental benefits of natural, native growth.

In order to achieve these goals of greater environmental protection and stewardship, votership for environmental legislation and policy as well as donation of funds and time to local organizations is required. It is necessary to acknowledge and support such community agencies as Wildlands Conservancy, the D&L Heritage Corridor, and the local government’s Environmental Advisory Councils as premier organizations of land conservation. Balance in a community is essential to it thriving. Focusing on growing both its development and green space hand in hand will make for a more resilient, adaptable, and sustainable future within the Lehigh Valley.

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Need for long-term bias training . . . Citizen Academies . . . Community Academies

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Knowing that Bethlehem, like virtually every city in the country after the murder of George Floyd, is scrutinizing the policies and practices of its police department, and knowing that Gadfly has been trying to open himself up to all information relevant to such inquiry, a follower called Gadfly’s attention to a pertinent August 10 anti-bias program by the National Law Enforcement Museum with a half-dozen experts on the subject, one of whom was Bethlehem’s own Guillermo Lopez. Over a series of posts, Gadfly will isolate short sections of the program and share them with you so that we can more knowledgeably participate, if only from a distance, in the local discussion here.


We didn’t get enough detailed information about training at the August 11 Public Safety meeting. Gadfly couldn’t tell if training was sometimes a one-time check-the-box kind of thing or not. He remembers being struck by a reference by now (well, officially soon) Chief Kott about doing training at roll calls. Yuck. It seemed that one of the things that some Council members were considering was how to provide more time for training. This section of the program begins with Bethlehem’s Guillermo Lopez explaining the apparently well respected bias program that he directs. But interestingly it moves on to Citizen Academies and Community Academies. We have a Citizen Academy here — Gadfly thinks that at least three Council members have attended (as well as several Gadfly followers). It seems good training for a Council member actually. The Mayor once had recommended to the past Chief that I attend and the Chief and I communicated twice about it, but I never got a call. Sigh. We don’t have anything like a formal Community Academy, I don’t believe, but I seem to remember that the Hispanic Center has run some programs to involve police with the community. I may be wrong about that. Expanding both these Academies might be a good thing. The discussion on this topic ends going to the wider range of areas in which systemic racism operates and for which the police often serve as whipping boy — the kind of big picture look that Councilman Reynolds has articulated for us in laying out the Community Engagement Initiative.

How would you structure long-term bias training to move away from one-and-done training?

  • Chief Brooks and I [Guillermo Lopez] use a 4-layered program: . . . needs assessment . . . trust building within the department . . . skills building . . . sustainable partnership . . . It’s a long process.
  • You just don’t unpack this stuff. It’s not like opening up a suitcase and emptying it.
  • The real work is teaching how to communicate in a way that you want to work together.
  • And then the work continues with a sustainable partnership that they [the officers] continue the work . . . so that they can do it for themselves . . . becomes sustainable.
  • This is not a box that you check.
  • But the key component . . . would be a public involvement part . . . Citizen’s Academies.
  • Citizen’s Academies do two things; they teach what we do and the complexities of law enforcement that most people don’t take the time to consider when they pass judgment on the actions of officers, any time we can empower people with more information is going to be beneficial, but the other side is that it creates two-way communication.
  • It is that inter-action in a non-threatening setting where we can have meaningful interaction . . . calibrate our belief systems.
  • Citizen Academies . . . bringing people in to understand what we do . . . flip that . . . Community Academies
  • Community Academies . . . where the folks [officers] that live and work in those precincts go to the community and learn the history of that community.
  • Must be aware that communities have new generations of folks that don’t communicate in the same way as the older folk.
  • Having me come to you to learn what you are going to do to me is not ideal, is not what I call learning.
  • We are going to have to re-think how we present . . .
  • Part of the larger conversation about sustainability  is the question what is the role of policing now.
  • We’re shifting now, and we’re really questioning what is the role of police and public safety.
  • We also have to look at the systems that produce these folks . . . look inside an organization . . . organizational environment.
  • We seem to be the only lever people are pulling right now . . . housing . . . transportation . . . health . . . talk about pulling one lever, you gotta pull them all . . . things stop at the feet of police and that can no longer happen.

The importance of a functioning early warning system

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder

Gadfly keeping in front of us worse case scenarios. This case just settled for $20m. Not about race this time. But violence. It’s a cautionary tale of not only the need for early warning systems to flag troubled officers but effective functioning of them: “Those involved with the case said the hefty settlement was driven largely by the unprecedented details of the shooting, previously reported by The Washington Post, including red flags the department missed related to Owen’s history of using force and claims seeking workers’ compensation for psychological difficulties.”

The officer here was required to take “judgment enhancement shooting training.” Gadfly would like to see the syllabus for that.

Click through to the article below to see a disturbing video of a previous arrest by this officer.

selections from Steve Thompson, “After red flags, a fatal police shooting.” Washington Post, September 8, 2020.

Months before Cpl. Michael A. Owen Jr. fatally shot a man in handcuffs, the Prince George’s County Police Department’s early-warning system flagged him as an officer who might be headed for trouble.

Owen triggered the system by using force twice in quick succession last summer. But his supervisors weren’t formally notified until January. And they had not taken action by Jan. 27, when Owen killed William Green in the front seat of his police cruiser, sparking outrage in Maryland that was amplified by the national reaction to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody.

With law enforcement agencies across the country under pressure to improve officer training and oversight, Owen’s case is a cautionary tale of missed opportunities, the limits of early-warning systems and the danger of relying on police officers to report for themselves when they are stressed or struggling.

Owen’s supervisors were unaware he had sought workers’ compensation for psychological difficulties stemming from a fatal shooting early in his career, department officials say, even though Owen was supposed to notify them. Over the next decade, Owen used force against civilians at least nine times, according to a Washington Post examination of his career. Twice last year, videos taken as Owen was arresting people show him with his hands on their necks. Criminal charges against some of the people Owen arrested over the years were dropped because he didn’t show up in court.

Department officials say Owen, who was fired after the Green shooting, has not been found at fault in any of the cases identified by The Post.

Owen’s lawyer, Thomas Mooney, said he has not examined previous uses of force by Owen closely enough to comment on specific instances. But he said such interactions can be routine.

“Being a police officer is a tough job, and they deal with people who act erratically and unusually and aggressively all the time,” Mooney said. “So he finds himself the subject of an investigation because somebody’s complaining — that’s every police officer in the county that’s on the streets.”

Experts agree that for an officer to accumulate use-of-force encounters, and even complaints, over the years does not necessarily indicate bad behavior. But they say an officer’s repeated failure to appear in court can be a sign of trouble.

They also say the sluggish pace of the early-warning system is a significant problem that jeopardizes both officers and civilians on the streets.

It is not publicly known how many other times Owen used force, because the Prince George’s police department does not disclose the reports that such incidents generate. The Post’s review relied primarily on searching for arrests by Owen in court records. One incident occurred less than a month before Green was killed. Again, the civilian was in handcuffs.

Nearly a year earlier, Owen wrapped his hands around a man’s neck during an altercation that followed a traffic stop. Jonathan Harris, 27, was driving a car with no tags. He was on probation, records show, after pleading guilty to theft and second-degree assault in a 2014 case.

Video of the Jan. 3, 2019, arrest, taken by Harris and obtained by The Post, shows officers pulling Harris out of his car and Owen pinning Harris to the pavement, his hands around Harris’s neck.

The incidents that triggered the department’s “early identification system” happened last summer.

On July 13, 2019, Owen was dispatched to a Temple Hills home where Devonne Gaillard Jr., 29, was arguing with his girlfriend.

“He wanted to talk to me, and I didn’t want to talk to him no more, so I walked away,” Gaillard said. “When I turned my back, he grabbed me and slammed me on my neck.”

On July 31, officers pursued a man on a suspected stolen motorcycle, who crashed and fled. Owen found him, and there was a brief struggle, according to a police report. Owen had drawn his gun. As he tried to re-holster it, he accidentally fired. No one was hit.

It took the early-warning system, which relied on information being compiled by hand and entered into a database, months to create the flag, police officials say.

Owen’s supervisors weren’t notified until January. Their deadline to meet with Owen and decide whether counseling, training or other actions were warranted was Feb. 29 — a month after Owen shot Green.

After firing his gun in July 2019, Owen was required to complete “judgment enhancement shooting training” and meet with a department psychologist, all of which happened within a week, department officials say.

The history of Bethlehem’s streets, West Bethlehem into Hanover Township

logo Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem History logo

Part 4 of Jason’s history:

“The starting point for this edition of Streets of Bethlehem is Club Avenue. From there we’ll travel east on Eaton Avenue, cut through Kaywin, and then head north into Hanover Township. Enjoy the ride.”

Jason Rehm, “The Streets of Bethlehem #4.” Bethlehem Press, September 22, 2020.

Club Avenue

Fenchel Street

Rosemont Drive

Fireside Drive

Eaton Avenue

Kelchner Road

Kaywin Avenue

Rudolph Drive

Schoenersville Road

Jacksonville Road

Illick’s Mill Road

Stoke Park Road

Hanoverville Road

Weaversville Road

Gadfly closes in on a Columbus decision

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

“The (his)stories we tell shape the lives that we lead”

In our role playing exercise, we have mentally taken two options off the Mayor’s list of ways to respond to the resident petition to remove the Columbus monument in the Rose Garden.

  • deny the request, allow the monument to stand.
  • issue a formal statement agreeing with the negative view of Columbus, disavowing his actions relative the Native Americans, but letting the monument stand as is.
  • add additional “educational” information about Columbus and his legacy at the monument site.
  • add a monument celebrating Indigenous people to the monument site as balance of perspective on 1492.
  • replace the monument with a new one representing the complex nature of Columbus’s legacy.
  • replace the monument with a monument to an Italian of less ambiguous heroic stature.
  • move the monument to private property.
  • remove the monument.

Let’s move on and dispose of two more.

Gadfly thinks it is important that we tell the Columbus story, the whole story.

He believes “the (his)stories we tell shape the lives that we lead,” a soundbite slogan he used in his classes to remind students of the present importance of the past. Gadfly never saw history as dead facts about the past.

To Gadfly, for the one monument in Bethlehem relative to Columbus to portray him only as a great sailor ignores the purpose to which that skill was applied, the end to which that means served. We now recognize that the principal legacy of Columbus was the “destruction of the Indies” — I borrow the title of a frightening book written by a witness whose early life overlapped Columbus’s.

For that reason — if he were mayor — Gadfly would not consider these two options:

  • replace the monument with a monument to an Italian of less ambiguous heroic stature.
  • move the monument to private property.

For these options skirt the issue, they dodge the need to tell the whole Columbus story.

Though they are politic.

Gadfly perhaps shows here why he would never be a good politician. Too idealistic.

The Mayor could breathe a sigh of relief if UNICO or the Bethlehem Italian American community would willingly fund another statue or find a new place for this one. One would guess that overwhelming opinion would be that the former option is impractical financially even if it were otherwise palatable, but the latter option is appealing because now the controversial monument is on public land. Move it to private property and the petitioners would be satisfied. Ha! he boldly thinks!

But Gadfly prefers not to be politic.

So he would take two more options off his list of actions, though he can certainly see the Mayor using his power of persuasion with the Italian American representatives and his considerable influence with city property owners to find an alternate site for the monument.

Accountability the key to addressing the perception that police are racist

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Knowing that Bethlehem, like virtually every city in the country after the murder of George Floyd, is scrutinizing the policies and practices of its police department, and knowing that Gadfly has been trying to open himself up to all information relevant to such inquiry, a follower called Gadfly’s attention to a pertinent August 10 anti-bias program by the National Law Enforcement Museum with a half-dozen experts on the subject, one of whom was Bethlehem’s own Guillermo Lopez. Over a series of posts, Gadfly will isolate short sections of the program and share them with you so that we can more knowledgeably participate, if only from a distance, in the local discussion here.


Another illuminating short section. The question cuts to the core of the issue. Why do so many people feel cops are racist? And the answer comes right back: accountability. Plain and simple. As we talk locally about the functioning of our police department, accountability deserves a high priority. Gadfly’s one encounter with a police issue — the so-called Hayes St. traffic stop incident — was marred by mystery, silence, confusion, obfuscation, unanswered questions. Can be no trust in a situation like that. Interestingly, the conversation here moves to systemic racism and Bethlehem’s Guillermo Lopez sounding, as Gadfly has remarked in the past, in tune with Councilman Reynolds on the importance of this bigger issue beyond the police.

“How is it that we address this perception that all law enforcement behavior is racist?”

  • Not all people have that perception.
  • The majority of the people even in the Black community think that the police have a purpose.
  • Part of how we get rid of this perception that all cops are racists is how we hold ourselves accountable.
  • Not everybody in the Black community thinks all white officers are racist.
  • There are more people right now that think we are not holding police officers accountable for their conduct, and I think accountability is just something that we can’t lose sight of.
  • The problem is that there are some people in this space and time that don’t want harmony, that don’t want dialog, and they do everything they can to stop it.
  • This is greater than just law enforcement, there are a lot of issues here that are challenging, that are causing a lot of issues in our community, and if we don’t take them all head on and have realistic conversations about them, we are going to find ourselves here again having the same conversation down the road.
  • When people are oppressed, and when they are oppressed enough to push back, when they look up to see who’s holding them down, and right now when they look up they see the police.
  • Police are being used as middle agents in our society, and it’s not fair.
  • I think they other thing that has to happen is that we have to learn in law enforcement and leadership to understand that when people are bringing up the issue of systemic racism to not take it so personal, that systemic racism is centuries old . . . [we understand the damage it does] and we are saying more than anything that this systemic thing has to stop.
  • Unfortunately, many people who don’t understand the history of it are taking it personal.

Residents chatter about a traffic stop video around Gadfly’s water cooler

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder

Vinnie Politan Court TV
click here

Gadfly caught this part of a conversation between two of his followers:

“Hey, thanks for sending me that Court TV video. Thanks, I think. That was hard to watch. That woman screaming. It was ringing in my ears long after I was finished. I don’t know how the cops kept their cool. My temples were pounding just watching the video!”

“We’ve all seen some very disturbing videos this year, the most horrifying being the George Floyd video. God rest his soul. This Connecticut video shows a woman freaking out when police stop her for a stolen car stop. It’s amazing how well behaved the police are, despite the screaming, the foul ‘cock-sucker’ language, and the ‘cameras in the face’ from by-standers with no tolerance for any police activity. How do any police tolerate this behavior?”

“We’ve heard a lot about bias training lately, there must be ‘Cool’ training. The cops sure showed that. One cop even tried to calm her down by showing the stolen car report. But the screaming was one thing but trying to move the car was another. Now that was a dangerous move — what was she thinking? — and her daughter is in the car. I wonder how old. I wonder if she could be aware of what’s going on. One thing I especially noted, though — did you hear it? — when she starts to shout ‘I can’t breathe.’ It scares me that Floyd’s tragic words will be misused to inflame situations now.”

“I did hear her say ‘I can’t  breathe’ and called for an ambulance. Agree, serious call for help is now a slogan. Am I an old coot because I am so offended by the foul language? How did we get here? What happens to a police person when they have to deal with that stuff all the time. Police techniques for de-escalation didn’t work. At what point would reasonable people agree with restraint?”

Such good questions. If somebody calls you a cock-sucker, that’s got to be fighting words. What does it do to you long-term to swallow that abuse without response in kind. Can’t be good. Frankly, I thought violence was going to explode any minute. I fully expected it. But did you see the cops employing de-escalation techniques? I’m not sure I did. The woman was hysterical, out of her mind. What’s the technique for dealing with that? With my kids I would just walk away. But I guess cops can’t do that. What do you do when someone is incapable of listening? Damn. There was a Black cop there — no help. Some by-stander was asking for a woman cop. Would that have helped?

Well, I would sa . . .

Police behavior is much under discussion these days. Would you want to continue the conversation on this episode?

BAPL “courageous conversation” on racism Tuesday

Latest in a series of posts responding to the Jacob Blake shooting

BAPL continues its relevant and pertinent programming.
Join in as the City reckons with race.

This is what seems to Gadfly the 3rd or 4th major BAPL program on the African American experience and on racism. BAPL is making a very valuable contribution to the national reckoning with race triggered by the murder of George Floyd. Gadfly is reading the Kendi book now, the first section of which will be discussed Tuesday night. Gadfly taught the early history and literature of America in his other life, but he is still learning much from this major new work of scholarship. Join in and see the construction of, the manufacture of the racist view of African Americans. You won’t be the same.

register here at BAPL

register here at BAPL

Gadfly’s train of thought on the Columbus issue productively interrupted

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

Gadfly goes slow, showing you the process of his thinking.

Which invites you to think along.

And which allows you to interrupt that process.

Gadfly’s flow of thinking on the Columbus issue was productively interrupted yesterday by comments on his posts by Peter Crownfield (here) and Bud Hackett (here).

Let me explain before moving on.

Peter’s comment:

In a previous post Gadfly made a point of saying that he read so-called banned books like Mein Kamp and was glad to have the opportunity, the freedom to do so, was glad that they had not been “removed” from his consideration. He was using the analogy of a library where you had access to information for explication, for balance, for perspective, for context, for refutation of the bad books. But Peter made me think about the difference between an offensive book quietly closed on a library shelf that you have to seek out and an offensive statue in public — perhaps in a very public place, maybe an unavoidable public place — and therefore whose disturbing presence and aggravating effect is out of your control, a continual irritant, because it’s literally in your face. That difference hadn’t registered with me till Peter called attention to it. But having done so that new awareness of the difference between book and statue triggered a nagging doubt that you saw Gadfly express yesterday about the secluded nature of our Columbus monument. It is not in anybody’s face. Most definitely. Put this together with a point made by Anthony Kronman (in the book noted below that Bud recommended) about keeping a “sense of proportion” in raising issues so as not to waste your capital with potential allies. Are the petitioners wasting their capital on a monument not in the public eye? In a practical sense, is this Bethlehem issue, for instance, on a par, say, with the 18-20ft. Columbus statue on busy Riverside Drive in Easton?

Bud’s comment:

Bud asked us to read Anthony Kronman’s The Assault on American Excellence (2019). By the magic of Amazon one-day delivery, Gadfly was able to get the book yesterday. Kronman’s chapter on “Memory” is provocative. Now it’s important to note that he is talking about offensive statues (and building names, etc.) on college campuses not in cities, and he’s talking about the responsibility of college presidents to the students entrusted to them for the kind of education a democratic society requires not the responsibility of a mayor whose job is to provide public safety and pave streets, etc. for city residents — utilitarian services. But Kronman articulates better what I was trying to get at in arguing that the Columbus statue shouldn’t be removed (except in extreme circumstance) because it is a teachable moment. Kronman’s counter-intuitive, suggesting you can do more good by leaving such displays alone. He suggests, for instance, that removing a monument like the Columbus one is counter-productive. By masking the past, removing a monument obscures the legacy of oppression rather than addressing it, and retaining such a monument continually forces us to confront what human beings just like us are capable of and what we might do again — fostering humble recognition of our own human weakness and a resolve not to repeat that or similar activity. Removing a statue, he suggests, erasing a visible representation of past evil, may, like removing a thorn from your side, give you temporary comfort, but, he goes on, facing the past rather than running from it produces strength, “a community with the courage to live with its past.”

Tip o’ the hat to Peter and to Bud for the mental exercise.

Peaceful disagreement is not an oxymoron

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder

selections from Bill Seaman, “Your View: I agree both that Black Lives Matter and that we need to support our local police.” Morning Call, September 27, 2020.
The headline in the print version of the paper was “Peaceful disagreement is not an oxymoron.”

Most of us like to have a way of expressing ourselves and our opinions publicly. We do it through bumper stickers, some of which are wallpapered across the entire back of our car. We do it through a letter to the editor, and an occasional few of us will rent sky banners towed by a small plane to express our love to someone we may be trying to impress.

But the medium of public expression as we lead up to the election is yard signs.

What caught my eye the other day was a “Black Lives Matter” sign immediately across the street from one that proclaimed “Support Your Local Police.” With the number of Black men who have been the victims of quick-triggering or choke holds, many concerned folks are agonizing as to if and how and why racism in our country has permeated even our law enforcement officers.

I recall that an integrated neighborhood in one of our larger cities had BLM signs on every yard or sidewalk up and down the street, and Washington, D.C., has included the slogan on Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the other hand, families of police officers and many others recognize the valor of individual officers and the chaos that would result if a law enforcement component was not present. Another sign calling on us to “Defund the Police” has been prevalent, an unfortunate choice of words generally meant to encourage municipalities to develop alternatives to the unnecessary use of force in situations of domestic unrest.

I would like to put up a two-faced sign, perpendicular to the street that says “Black Lives Matter” on one side and “Support Your Local Police” on the other. I would like to do that because I fervently believe that both need to be said.

Several years ago, I participated in the civilian police training course offered by the city of Allentown. It enabled me to understand much better, not only the training and the commitment of law enforcement officers, but also the real threats they face. They deserve the support of citizens, even while we deserve accountability of individual officers who often face not only disrespect but physical threat.

But I have also come to understand the role that white privilege plays not only in our society, but in my life as well. I enjoy, in some unmeasurable way, a better situation in life, because of slavery and its lingering aftermath that has not allowed for equal valuing of Black lives, Black lives that do really matter.

Is that a “two faced” accommodation, my imaginary back-to-back sign in my front yard? Maybe. But too often in our political, religious and social life today, we find ourselves with an “either-or” mentality, when what is called for is a “both-and” approach. We assume the thoughts of some of us are always right, while those of others are always wrong.

We hear that Democrats want to destroy America, while being told that Republicans really want a dictator. Many of us regard the beliefs of other religious traditions as heretical or, worse yet, fabricate misunderstandings of them that feed into our hatred. We refuse to consider that someone of a different ethnic background or political persuasion or religious conviction may have an insight that we need to hear.

A long time ago, there was a teacher from a dusty town called Nazareth who spoke of loving our neighbors as much as we care about ourselves. Even if that neighbor puts out a yard sign that contradicts our yard sign.

Ideas and beliefs are not necessarily contradictory. Justice and mercy can co-exist. Peaceful disagreement is not an oxymoron. Respect for an individual who holds even fervently an opinion that differs from our own belief can lead to conversations that can be mutually enriching.

All lives matter. But there have been times such as our own in which some lives more than others need to be lifted up because they suffered much abuse. That was true at the time when a Fuhrer in Nazi Germany tried to unify hatred against Jewish people, and it was true in our beloved country when the first residents were labeled as “savages” and treated accordingly.

It is true now, when the demographics of injustice are indisputable to any person willing to think. So Black Lives Matter.

But there is also no question as to the need to “Support Your Local Police.”

Gadfly a step closer toward taking a position on the Columbus monument issue

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

Gadfly enjoys role playing. And enjoys encouraging you to do so.

He thinks we learn a lot. Standing in the other person’s shoes.

So Gadfly cannot imagine the Mayor doing nothing in response to the request from 120+ residents to remove the Columbus monument from city space, the Rose Garden.

Rather, more specifically, he can’t imagine the Mayor justifying doing nothing.

He can’t imagine himself — role playing as Mayor — sitting across the table from a deputation from those residents (some, no doubt, people of color), can’t imagine stepping up to a microphone, can’t imagine looking into a tv camera and justifying doing nothing.

Can you? Try it. Get a mirror, and take your best shot.

Though Gadfly must admit that, looking back on the reasons he gave in yesterday’s post, the one bullet he’s wavering on is the one about the location. The monument is truly unobtrusive, small in scale, and little regarded. Perhaps a case for leaving it alone could be made on that basis. Perhaps.

In any event, let’s take that first option for mayoral action off the table:

  • deny the request, allow the monument to stand.
  • issue a formal statement agreeing with the negative view of Columbus, disavowing his actions relative the Native Americans, but letting the monument stand as is.
  • add additional “educational” information about Columbus and his legacy at the monument site.
  • add a monument celebrating Indigenous people to the monument site as balance of perspective on 1492.
  • replace the monument with a new one representing the complex nature of Columbus’s legacy.
  • replace the monument with a monument to an Italian of less ambiguous heroic stature.
  • move the monument to private property.
  • remove the monument.

What to do? What next? What are the other options?

Let’s go to the bottom of the list and consider the polar option of removing the monument.

This, of course, is literally what the petitioners request:

“This letter written in solidarity with protests across the country calls for removal of the Christopher Columbus monument located in the Bethlehem Rose Garden. The monument was installed in 1992 by the now-defunct Bethlehem chapter of Unico, an Italian-American service organization. It was commissioned, as stated on the inscription, ‘to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America’.”

(This is a good spot to bring in — as follower John has been nudging Gadfly — the fact that Leif Erikson is credited as the first European to touch down on North America, a full 500 years before Columbus, There you go, John!)

While recognizing Italian American reverence for Columbus, the petitioner letter essentially gives three reasons for removal: the monument conveys misinformation about the discovery of America, Columbus is not a hero, and the monument is incompatible with a city that celebrates diversity.

Should the Mayor, without adieu, accede to the petitioner argument and remove the monument from city property? If you were Mayor, would you agree with the petitioners and remove the monument?

Still have that mirror? Imagine denying those three reasons.

Gadfly couldn’t, wouldn’t.

While agreeing substantially with the petitioners, however, Gadfly would look for an option short of that we might call the “nuclear option” of removal.

Gadfly is not a fan of “cancel culture” (see Bud Hackett’s comment on yesterday’s post). News images of crowds tearing down statues of Confederate figures in the South distresses him greatly. Too much like book burnings. Gives him the shivers.

Gadfly is an historian.

History is history. The good and bad. The beautiful and the ugly. What you agree with and what you don’t.

Gadfly is an educator.

History is an endless collection of teachable moments.

That America needed a hero in the 1870s, that Italian Americans were discriminated against and needed a hero at the turn of the 20th century, that Italians in Easton needed self-affirmation and pooled their hard-earned money to erect a monument in the 1930s, that Italians in Bethlehem did the same in the 1990s are indelible facts of history and need to be understood.

And if there is something wrong, something to be criticized, something to be rued, knowledge is the antidote. Except in circumstances extraordinarily extreme.

Idealistic Gadfly would hope that with proper knowledge a monument to Columbus that does not tell the full story, that portrays only a half-truth would not have been built in the first place.

But it is important that we recognize (not forget, not deny the very existence of) the fact that at a certain time in our cultural development the curators of the public history of our beginnings as a nation tended to render indigenous peoples invisible, tended to render the injustices “we” committed against them as invisible.

Of course, Gadfly would hope you would agree that many of those actions would now be deemed injustices.

So history should not be erased. History is not a palimpsest,

Gadfly can sit on the bench next to the Columbus monument in the Rose Garden, recognize its intention, and, most importantly, recognize its shortcomings, and reflect on how as a culture we have progressed in our understanding of the past that is crucial to our understanding of the present.

He can bring his knowledge to bear on the monument.

Here’s what comes to Gadfly’s mind when he thinks of removing the monument.

Gadfly has read the bad books, the banned books.

He has read Mein Kampf. He has read Mao Tse-Tung’s Little Red Book. He has read Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer. He has read the Marquis de Sade.

Gadfly has read the bad books, the banned books.

And would have it no other way.

For next to these books on his library shelves were other books to provide balance and perspective. And he read them too.

He understands the world better for having everything available.

For this reason Gadfly is not a fan of “cancel culture,” would not favor a bare removal of that fairly secluded Columbus monument in the Rose Garden.

Now that’s a pretty elite view. Many people will not have Gadfly’s “library” advantage.

And it’s a “white” view.

So, still the question is what to do.

Let’s continue to think about the other options. Gadfly the slow man.

“We all need to be aware of what can and will taint our water supply”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Freedom High School Junior Somak Roy presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. You can view Somak reading his work here at min. 34:12.


I first became interested in water availability and its sustainability when I joined the Freedom High School Robotics team in 2017 and worked on addressing hydrodynamics problems as part of our project. How we find water, transport, use, or dispose of it was the theme of the 2017 FIRST Lego League. At that time, I learned by researching on the internet that I am fortunate to be part of Bethlehem where the water quality is much better than other parts of Northeastern America. We visited the local recycling plant to learn how wastewater is recycled. Recently I got the opportunity to research more on Bethlehem’s drinking water quality. I received some valuable information from Ed Boscola, Director of the Bethlehem Department of Water and have tried documenting it through this paper. Thank you to Ms. Elisabeth Cichonski and Professor Gallagher for guiding me in every step of the way, and to my AP U.S. History teacher, Mrs. Roman, for making this possible.

Water Quality and Sustainable Development of Bethlehem

Somak Roy

This paper is meant to raise awareness on the many potential threats to our water supply. The main points of concern are with such contaminants as trihalomethanes and lead, and the largest concern of all, the potential impacts of the expanding shale gas industry in Pennsylvania and, in particular, the chemicals used in fracking.

The City of Bethlehem’s water comes entirely from surface sources, namely the Wild Creek Reservoir and the Penn Forest Reservoir in a watershed that covers 17 square miles. This primary water supply is located 22 miles north of the City. The Tunkhannock Creek and Monroe County provide a supplemental supply of water to the Penn Forest Reservoir.

The sources of drinking water (both tap water and bottled water) include rivers, lakes, streams, ponds, reservoirs, springs, and wells. As water travels over the surface of the land or through the ground, it dissolves naturally occurring minerals and, in some cases, radioactive material, and can pick up substances resulting from the presence of animals or from human activity.

Contaminants that may be present in source water before the city treats it include Organic chemical contaminants, including synthetic and volatile organic chemicals, which are by-products of industrial processes, and can also come from gas stations, stormwater runoff, and septic systems.


From 2015 to 2019, chromium, hexavalent chromium, and strontium levels have been consistently on the lower end of the allowable spectrum, as shown in the consumer reports. However, trihalomethane levels have been on the high end, and the acceptable ranges set by the EPA are constantly changing. Trihalomethanes are a chemical group that are a byproduct of mixing chlorine and organic matter and are related to fracking wastewater. Wastewater generated by hydraulic fracking is known to have high amounts of trihalomethanes that are still present even after the water treatment process. This chemical has been proven to have such negative health effects as various forms of cancer. Bromodichloromethane is part of the family of the chemicals known as trihalomethanes which are regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection and are monitored and included in the Consumer Confidence reports. It is important to ask why the allowable range of trihalomethanes is changing every year. Could this range be changing to accommodate increases in concentrations in source water?


In 1991, EPA published a regulation to control lead and copper in drinking water. This regulation is known as the Lead and Copper Rule (also referred to as the LCR). [2] Until 2019, when lead jumped from 2.0 -7.0 ppb, the level of lead and copper in Bethlehem was relatively constant and had been since 2013. [Table 2] Although the levels are still significantly below the Recommended Exposure Limit established by the National Institute of Occupational Health and Safety (NIOSH), it’s important to ask what happened in 2019. Why did the level of lead increase and how do these fluctuations reflect human behavior?

The treatment technique for the EPA rule requires systems to monitor drinking water at customer taps. If lead concentrations exceed an action level of 15 ppb or copper concentrations exceed an action level of 1.3 ppm in more than 10% of customer taps sampled, the system must undertake several additional actions to control corrosion. If present, elevated levels of lead can cause serious health problems, especially for pregnant women and young children.

Hydraulic Fracturing or Fracking

In 2012, Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett signed Act 13, which permits most oil and gas operations in all the state’s zoning districts, including ones with schools, parks, and hospitals. President Barack Obama authorized the creation of a high-level federal agency to coordinate shale gas production, a rapidly growing industry likened to a 21st-century gold rush. Over the next two decades more than 50,000 fracking wells are expected to open in Pennsylvania alone. Bethlehem will surely be affected by this; however, extensive studies have not yet been done so that we can accurately predict the impacts on our water quality.

Hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, is the method being used to extract natural gas from Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale geological formation. It injects water, sand, and chemicals deep underground to break up the shale and allow the gas to be collected. The process also creates wastewater, known as flowback, that contains chemicals used in the fracking mixture, as well as salts, metals, radionuclides, and hydrocarbons from the target rock formation.

Fracking is controversial and is banned in  New York, as well as places like Vermont and some European countries. The Pennsylvania natural gas industry has also given rise to proposals such as the PennEast Pipeline (gas pipeline between Martin’s Creek and Philadelphia), which is designed to expand the domestic market for fossil fuels, which have alarmed environmentalists.

Dozens of children and young adults have been diagnosed with Ewing sarcoma and other forms of cancer in a four-county area outside Pittsburgh where energy companies have drilled more than 3,500 wells since 2008. Yet a 2015 study of Northeastern Pennsylvania published by the Environmental Protection Agency indicated that there was no evidence of fracking fluids contaminating wells and springs. These results are dated and may not accurately reflect some of the latent effects of the gas industry on local water sources. We need new studies with existing sample location data points and with new location data points.

Awareness is important, in particular, wider public awareness and better understanding of these impacts. Some positive steps are already being taken to keep our water safe. In November 2019, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf said his administration will spend $3 million on a pair of studies to explore the potential health effects of the natural gas industry. At the water recycling plant in Lycoming County, for instance, a facility where wastewater is efficiently treated and studied, some shale gas producers are trying to protect the environment by collecting the fracking fluid and sending it to actual waste facilities.

Recycling and reusing shale-produced water as initiated by the Marcellus shale industry is now the standard practice of Pennsylvania shale companies in order to lessen the environmental impact of the shale industry. However, it is baffling to see how few studies are done with the 600 chemicals used in fracking and their effect in drinking water. Given this information, one can not conclude that fracking will have no impact on the Bethlehem water supply in the future.

Just like for the 600 chemicals used at fracking sites, more research must be done on chemicals such as trihalomethanes to fully understand their potentially harmful impacts to the human body. Sudden increases in contaminant levels, such as the elevated concentration of lead, should become a top priority. Our water may be safe for now, but in order to ensure that this remains true, we all need to be aware of what can and will taint our water supply.

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7




Following 3 tables are all generated using data provided in consumer confidence report of water-sewerage in Bethlehem, PA [1]


Range: 0.16 –  0.33 µg/L

Chromium Hexavalent

Range:0.050 – 0.080 µg/L


Range: 10.8 – 15.4 µg/L




(range of detection)

2019 0.24 0.064 11.18 56 18-66
2018 0.27 0.066 12.25 57 27-59
2017 0.27 0.066 12.25 58 21-70
2016 0.27 0.066 12.25 60 28-82
2015 0.27 0.066 12.25 44.6 16.7-62.5
2014 NA NA NA 38.3 16.7-44.3

Table 1: Chromium, Chromium 6, Strontium, Trihalomethanes presence in water due to corrosion of household plumbing


Lead (ppb) Copper (ppm)
2019 7.0 0.093
2018 2.0 0.107
2017 2.0 0.107
2016 2.0 0.107
2015 2.0 0.100
2014 2.0 0.100
2013 2.0 0.100

Table 2: Lead and Copper in Drinking Water in Bethlehem, PA

Turbidity NTU (detected level)
2019 0.045
2018 0.044
2017 0.058
2016 0.35
2015 0.289
2014 0.290
2013 0.383

Table 3: Turbidity of Drinking Water in Bethlehem, PA

Anti-racism on the move in Parkland curriculum

Latest in a series of posts on Education

Gadfly has his antennae up for responses to the George Floyd murder in our area. Gadfly knows from experience that curriculum change is complex in the best of times and tips his hat to such activities during the pandemic. Dr Roy has made strong statements about similar changes in the BASD curriculum (see here and here). “We need to educate for anti-racism,” he said with definitive clarity. Taking on these activities during these trying times is sharp testimony to the impact of the Floyd murder.


selections from Kayla Dwyer, “Parkland sets racial equity plan into motion, including curriculum review and discussions on race.” Morning Call, September 23, 2020.

This school year, the Parkland School District will launch a curriculum review, staff training, a community committee and a slew of other initiatives around racial equity and inclusion, as outlined in an Equity and Inclusion Action Plan the school board unanimously approved Tuesday night.

A team of administrators has been collecting ideas for the plan for nearly two years, curriculum director Kelly Rosario told the board. They put pen to paper over the summer, shortly after the school board approved a resolution supporting an “anti-racist school climate,” declared in response to the national racial reckoning following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

The plan centers on student and diverse voices in three spheres: culture, curriculum and community. Though the goals have tentative timelines extending through August 2021, Rosario said the document is meant to be thought of as “living and breathing.”


  • Train staff on the effects of trauma on students and coping strategies.
  • Implement “class chats” on race and resiliency.
  • For new students, develop a new student club, peer buddy system and assign a teacher “adviser.”
  • Survey all students about school climate.
  • Form a staff/student committee to address student concerns.
  • Have an “Equity and Diversity Day” across schools.
  • Build a diverse employee pipeline, beginning with promoting the education field at the high school’s job fair and attending job fairs at colleges with diverse student populations.


  • Complete an audit of K-12 curriculum by October.
  • Develop a teacher committee to brainstorm what contemporary events should be added to social studies curriculum; collect feedback from students and parents.
  • Develop a plan for curricular changes that include multicultural perspectives to present to the school board in May 2021.
  • Review English curriculum in tandem, proposing modern novels that add multicultural perspectives.
  • Develop staff training on inclusive practices to roll out in February 2021.


  • Launch an Equity and Inclusion Community Committee in November, meeting quarterly.
  • Host a broader community event with guest speaker in April 2021.
  • Translate districtwide communications into Spanish.

What if your house was ground zero for the virus?

Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus

Gadfly’s barber resists wearing a mask. Sees no risk around here. This might be an interesting way to dramatize the spread.

from the Washington Post:

The novel coronavirus has killed more than 200,000 people in the United States, and if you’re like us [Washington Post], you probably have trouble visualizing that catastrophe. Our graphics team has published a new interactive to help you do soIt maps every U.S. death as if they had all been your neighbors. You can simply type in your address, then watch covid-19 proliferate across your community and likely wipe it off the map.

Gadfly works toward taking a position on the Columbus monument issue

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

Gadfly is a slow man. Long-time followers can testify to that. Some of you have even complained. Dilatory Gadfly — how could he ever be an administrator?

But when faced with a question or a problem, Gadfly likes to take his time (if conditions permit). He likes to research. He likes to consider all perspectives. He likes to listen. When he comes to conclusion, he likes to be able to justify it. And even when he comes to conclusion, he is open to new argument, new data — open to change.

And as a card-carrying gadfly, he likes to give his followers the information and the time to form their own opinions.

Gadfly has now posted over a dozen times on the Columbus monument issue, inviting you to think along with him, inviting you to see that though it may seem a trivial issue, that this issue is related to the painful national reckoning with race we are once again undergoing as a result of the murder of George Floyd.

The Mayor’s Task Force on the Columbus monument issue has not reached conclusion, is still doing its work. Gadfly wishes he were privy to the discussion there. He hopes it is a good one.

But it’s time for Gadfly to move toward taking a position on the Columbus monument.

Think along with him, wouldya?

In his last post on this topic, Gadfly tried to frame the pros and cons of the request to remove the monument, and he floated several options for the Task Force recommendation to the Mayor (did he miss an option?):

  • deny the request, allow the monument to stand.
  • issue a formal statement agreeing with the negative view of Columbus, disavowing his actions relative the Native Americans, but letting the monument stand as is.
  • add additional “educational” information about Columbus and his legacy at the monument site.
  • add a monument celebrating Indigenous people to the monument site as balance of perspective on 1492.
  • replace the monument with a new one representing the complex nature of Columbus’s legacy.
  • replace the monument with a monument to an Italian of less ambiguous heroic stature.
  • move the monument to private property.
  • remove the monument.

Gadfly does not feel the Mayor can simply deny the request for removal, allowing the monument to stand as is:

  • to say that Columbus had “flaws” or was an “imperfect” man like many of our “heroes” is to fail to recognize the level of horrors in which he was personally involved (e.g., ordering arms cut off on Natives who didn’t bring in enough gold) or the scale of devastation that he initiated and unleashed (whole cultures wiped out/hundreds of thousands, millions dead).
  • to compare him to cultural icons like Jefferson, for instance, is to fail to recognize that Jefferson self-consciously agonized over the race question, unsuccessfully trying to find a solution, and that the tenders of his legacy — e.g., at Monticello — have evolved (unlike the the Italian American organization UNICO which sponsored the monument) to embrace the need to include slavery and even Jefferson’s long-time relation with concubine Sally Hemings in their representation of the man.
  • to say as the UNICO sponsors of the monument did in 1992 that “we can thank people like Columbus and the people who followed him for giving us the opportunity to voice our opinions” is patently absurd, for no dots can be drawn from Columbus to our First Amendment, and City Councilors in 1992 should have known that.
  • to say as the current UNICO organization does — to pick just one claim on its web site — that Columbus is “emblematic of the millions of immigrants and their pursuit of economic opportunity, religious freedom, and hope for a better life” is, if true, to falsely wrap Columbus in American Dream and Statue of Liberty rhetoric that has no relation to Columbus’s own motives, and, if true, would sanction personal greed and uncontrolled exploitation of those less powerful than you as motives for immigration.
  • to focus on Columbus’s skill as a navigator to the exclusion of or as a balance to the magnitude of the negativity surrounding Columbus is a herculean task of mental and moral compartmentalization that Gadfly is simply not capable of.
  • to say that removing or revising the monument would be an offense to our Italian Americans and divide our community is to fail to recognize that the presence of the monument might be seen as an offense to people of color in our community, for instance the nearly 30% of our community who are Latinx (“Porto Rico” was one of the islands quickly devastated by the Spanish).
  • to say that the monument should quietly remain or remain as is because it is in an innocuous location makes Gadfly wonder, then, if it has any value for the Italian American community.
  • to focus on the dangers and rigors of the Columbus voyage and to celebrate its successful, triumphant conclusion is to enshadow the “Middle Passage” where two to four million Africans died on their forced voyages to America.
  • to focus on Columbus as navigator is to forego the opportunity to learn from history, to learn lessons from the botched “first contact” situation that might be important in our desire to achieve racial harmony.

Gadfly could go on and on.

Bottom line: Gadfly does not feel that the Mayor can simply deny the request for removal of the Columbus monument, the Mayor can not allow the monument to remain as is.

But what to do?

Let’s think about that next. Gadfly the slow man.

Any response to Gadfly so far?

Lay offs at Wind Creek

Latest post in a series about Wind Creek Casino

This bad news gives occasion to wonder about how the City is doing. The Mayor has not reported on the budget recently at City Council. Budget season is approaching. The budget meetings began November 12 last year. One can imagine the City departments are well into formulating budgets by this point. And one can assume some tightening, some tough decisions. Singing the Pandemic blues.

selections from Andrew Scott, “Wind Creek Bethlehem lays off about 450 people due to coronavirus impact.” Morning Call, September 24, 2020.

Wind Creek Bethlehem is laying off 20% of its staff — about 450 people — because of the coronavirus pandemic’s impact on business, a casino official said Thursday.

The casino notified furloughed employees they will not be asked to return to work, and eliminated some jobs, spokeswoman Julia Corwin said.

Corwin said “significantly lower business volumes” prompted the casino’s decision.

She said she couldn’t get into further specifics on employee or revenue loss counts.

“We closed Emeril’s Fish House permanently today,” Corwin said, referring to the restaurant connected to celebrity chef Emeril Lagasse.

“As far as what’s still available, we continue to follow the Wind Creek standard, which outlines our commitment to our guests’ safety,” she said. “We find that our guests are still enjoying their favorite slot and table games, dining at our restaurants and staying at our hotel.”

Wind Creek Bethlehem temporarily closed March 15, four days before confirming one of its employees tested positive for the coronavirus. Two more employees tested positive by March 27.

The casino paid its roughly 2,400 employees through the end of May but furloughed 2,095 of them June 1, as the downturn entered its third month.

When it reopened June 29, more than three months later, statewide safety measures dictated casinos operate at no more than 50% normal occupancy. Wind Creek Bethlehem had less than 50% occupancy, with just 1,200 of its 3,045 slots operating and limitations on the number of players at its tables.

The casino called back about 1,400 of its employees at the time. It planned to recall more as it increased its capacity.

In August, its first full month since reopening, Wind Creek logged gambling revenue of $28 million in July, the lowest full month of gambling revenue recorded in nine years.

“We believe that our reduction in workforce will in the long term positively affect our future success,” Corwin said. “We continue to move forward in our process to expand our current footprint at Wind Creek Bethlehem.”

Touchstone’s Festival UnBound does it again — Aloud — Saturday 8PM

Latest in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre


Bethlehem — are you paying attention!! LGBTQIA+ — Is anybody doing the kinds of things Touchstone is!!

Festival UnBound — Aloud


321 E. 4th St.


“I ask for you to close your eyes and imagine. Imagine a curriculum . . .”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Audrey Dai is a senior at Moravian Academy and thinking about pursuing law or the behavioral sciences after graduation. Audrey presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. She first became interested in sustainability, specifically recycling, when she moved back to the states after living a few years overseas, joining Moravian Academy’s Green Team/Environmental Club in order to learn more about how an individual can help our climate. You can view Audrey reading her work here at min. 18:45.

Climate justice

Audrey Dai

These two simple words are probably not as familiar as the now politically infused “climate change.” Instead, these words emphasize how environmental changes are an issue of civil rights and how these changes will disproportionately affect each of us living on this planet, just some more than others. And this is regardless of your political standing. In the words of Mary Robinson, the first woman President of Ireland and former UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, climate justice “insists on a shift from a discourse on greenhouse gases and melting ice caps into a civil rights movement with the people and communities most vulnerable to climate impacts at its heart.”

The importance of involving younger generations in matters pertaining to climate change is slowly gaining momentum. On a global level, steps are already being taken to do so through the establishment of the Youth Climate Summit by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in 2019.

But for youth to raise their voices, they must first be properly educated on the effects of climate change. However, the quality of education a child receives is largely linked to socioeconomic status. Those who live in poverty are most likely to be the ones without adequate resources, education, and support, while those who live in luxury or comfortability are most likely to be the ones with sufficient resources, higher education, and the ability to provide or receive support. In the Lehigh Valley alone, approximately 13% of our 841,000+ population live in poverty. This means that around 109,000 people are living without necessary resources or opportunities. Paying attention to these areas and focusing on bettering the lives of those who live there will lead to overall progress for everyone. I understand that this is not just an issue the Lehigh Valley faces. It’s more than a local issue, but everything has to start from somewhere, and we can do that. Together. We can build a foundation, give the next generation sufficient resources and high quality education for them to raise their voices about these injustices, and to call for justice to be served. We need to invest in our children, our future generations, because, as stated by Mary Robinson, “Youth are the majority. Youth have to have their voice, their perspective, and their urgency included.”

This is why we need a curriculum that integrates environmental science and advocacy into our local school system.

Here’s an example of why we need this curriculum. When I started to get into sustainability, I was super into recycling, but here’s the thing . . . I wasn’t even recycling the proper way. “Recycling” for me consisted of me just putting unwashed plastic right into the recycling bin and calling it a day. It wasn’t until my mom caught me by chance and told me I had to rinse out plastics that I actually started to recycle.

I realized that by wanting to protect the environment, I had inadvertently contributed more harm than good. But I feel that this could have been easily prevented if we had been provided with the proper education.

Now I ask for you to close your eyes and imagine. Imagine a curriculum that integrates climate education and environmental advocacy that surpasses the traditional classroom setting, emphasizing hands-on service learning. Imagine the impact we can make together, not just now, but, most importantly, for our future generations as well.

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Avoid analysis paralysis, listen to the stories

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Knowing that Bethlehem, like virtually every city in the country after the murder of George Floyd, is scrutinizing the policies and practices of its police department, and knowing that Gadfly has been trying to open himself up to all information relevant to such inquiry, a follower called Gadfly’s attention to a pertinent August 10 anti-bias program by the National Law Enforcement Museum with a half-dozen experts on the subject, one of whom was Bethlehem’s own Guillermo Lopez. Over a series of posts, Gadfly will isolate short sections of the program and share them with you so that we can more knowledgeably participate, if only from a distance, in the local discussion here.


Gadfly finds this very short segment of the discussion very interesting. We have seen on the blog that people who defend or support the police readily quote the kinds of statistics referenced here. And we have seen here, for instance, Lehigh’s Prof Ochs point out that Southside residents are significantly under-represented in statistics about complaints to the police department. That statistics don’t tell the whole story. Gadfly is a literature guy. He leans toward the stories over the statistics to get a keener sense of reality. He has suggested here community meetings on the Southside run by local organizations in which residents might feel more comfortable talking about what’s happening “on the ground” with the police rather than having to make the intimidating trip to City Hall to make a complaint. Note also the last bullet, where the speaker points us to the overarching problems of systemic racism where Councilman Reynolds has taken aim.

“How do we address the conflict between the perception of racist behavior by police and the statistics that officers shot Black subjects at a rate lower than Black suspects shot at officers and less than the rate of violent acts against their own communities?”

  • I want to speak more to not just perception but lived experience.
  • As a scientist I am all for science, but there is one thing that you cannot ignore and that is the lived experience.
  • Sometimes we do an over-reliance on science and let science do the talking for us.
  • True work has to happen on the ground between the police department and the community.
  • Lived experience in stories are truth.
  • That is the crux of the conversation, what’s really happening, what’s really not happening.
  • This where we get stuck.
  • Analysis paralysis.
  • Broaden your understanding and learning . . . talk to the people who are closest to the problem.
  • They will more than likely tell you what you need . . . to make course adjustments.
  • Science can only get you so far.
  • You have to broaden and have a better understanding of the lived experience.
  • People are not in the street for no reason . . . 75 days of protesting, peacefully, they are there for a reason .
  • That’s what you need to start understanding — why?
  • Try not to be distracted by the knuckleheads . . . try to understand why people are still in the streets.
  • And it’s not just about policing.

Seattle re-imagines policing

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder

Still keeping an eye on what’s happening elsewhere. The Breonna Taylor ruling yesterday precipitated not only protests but violence, as well as renewed calls to “defund” the police, to “divest and re-invest,” to “reimagine” how public safety is done.

Now that it looks like leadership of the police department is being re-established, perhaps we will have discussion of such matters that is visible to the public.

The Seattle Council proposed changes in August, the Mayor vetoed the legislation, now Council has overridden the veto.

We are not Seattle, of course, but Gadfly believes we are not without suitable imagination.


selections from Hanna Scott, “Seattle City Council approves historic cuts to police department budget.” MyNorthwest, August 10, 2020.

Seattle City Councilmembers have officially approved legislation enacting sizable cuts to the police department’s budget.

Pushback against the proposal from the other side of the aisle has come from Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan, Police Chief Carmen Best, police unions and pro-police community members, who have all cited concerns over public safety should the department be forced to reduce its number of sworn officers.

Last month, seven of nine councilmembers pledged support for defunding SPD by 50% in 2020 and reinvesting that money into communities of color as demanded by King County Equity Now and Decriminalize Seattle, which encompass dozens of community groups, non-profits, and other BIPOC-focused organizations.

The highlights of the 2020 package approved by councilmembers Monday include:

    • Eliminating up to 100 sworn officer positions across various teams via layoffs and attrition (including 32 patrol officers), beginning in November 2020
    • Capping command staff pay at $150,000 (not including Chief Best’s salary, which was reduced to $275,000).
    • Ending the Navigation Team (14 of the 100 officers mentioned above)

The package also cuts or reduces a variety of SPD’s specialized units, including the Harbor Patrol Unit, SWAT team, Public Affairs unit, and school resource officers, and cuts $800,000 of SPD’s retention and recruitment budget.

The goal from councilmembers is a re-imagining of policing, right-sizing what the council feels is an inflated police department and budget that is not necessary and instead finding alternatives to sending armed officers to respond to calls that someone else, such as a social worker, might be better equipped to handle and avoid an unnecessary risk of escalation.

Exactly what this re-tooled version of policing and public safety will look like in practice remains to be seen, and likely won’t come into full view until next year, but the council says it will be a community led effort as has been demanded by Decriminalize Seattle and King County Equity Now, the groups that will taking part in the participatory budget process with the council on the 2021 public safety budget.

The blueprint Decriminalize Seattle has provided as a path forward includes city-funded research done by BIPOC communities to provide, and among other things, “a plan on what health and safety actually means, including (but not limited to) alternatives to policing.”

“Instead of buying bullets, violence and intimidation, we are choosing — the city council is choosing — to invest in peace and restoration in a community that has been ravaged by generations of racism,” Council President Lorena Gonzales said as she explained the vision for future policing in Seattle.

Chief Best has repeatedly urged caution, explaining that she and Durkan support a re-envisioned SPD, but that these changes cannot happen overnight without risking public safety. Last week, Best also released her own vision and accountability website for making such changes.


selections from MyNorthwest staff, “Seattle City Council votes to override mayor’s veto of cuts to police budget.” MyNorthwest, September 23, 2020.

City council voted to override Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan’s recent veto of cuts to the police department’s remaining 2020 budget by a 7-2 vote, with the mayor issuing a statement after the fact indicating she might not adhere to all of the provisos laid out in the council’s proposal.

“We cannot look away from this and we can no longer accept the status quo if we truly believe that Black lives matter,” said Council President Lorena Gonzalez after expressing that she would be voting to override the mayor’s veto.

Kott: “There’s no denying this is a critical time in law enforcement”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem mayor asks council to approve first female police chief.” Morning Call, September 23, 2020.

Mayor Robert Donchez has recommended Capt. Michelle Kott as Bethlehem’s new police chief.

Council will vote on the recommendation next month, though five of seven council members who could be contacted Wednesday evening said they are pleased with Donchez’s choice. If approved, Kott — who also was the department’s first female captain — will become the first woman to lead Bethlehem’s police department. The base salary for the position is $106,000.

“Capt. Kott will no doubt bring a new perspective and energy to the department,” Donchez said Wednesday during a news conference to announce his choice. “She’s a strong advocate of community policing, partnerships, and she has additional training in the areas of mental health, cultural awareness, de-escalation tactics, implicit bias training and crisis intervention.”

Kott, 38, graduated from DeSales University in 2004 with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. She received her master’s degree in criminal justice from Saint Joseph’s University in Philadelphia in 2010.

Last May, she was among the first group of students to earn a doctorate in criminal justice from California University of Pennsylvania.

She has been with the department for 16 years, serving in various roles including patrol officer, crime scene detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, detective lieutenant and captain. She is also a member of the department’s professional standards division and is a team leader for the city’s crisis negotiation team.

“There’s no denying this is a critical time in law enforcement, one that calls for strong leadership, coupled with empathy, compassion, respect and responsibility,” Kott said Wednesday. “I believe I am more than up to the task and I look forward to taking on the challenges and working together with the men and women of the Bethlehem Police Department and the community.”

Kott also thanked her family — wife Kristin Snyder, with whom she just celebrated 10 years of marriage, and children Noah, 6 and Allie, 2.

A hiring committee that included Cichocki, Donchez, city solicitor William Leeson, business administrator Eric Evans, and retired Upper Macungie police Chief Edgardo Colon conducted interviews last week.

Reached after the news conference, several City Council members, who will vote on Kott’s appointment at their Oct. 6 meeting, said they were pleased with the recommendation.

“I think it’s a great choice and a historic choice for the city of Bethlehem and our police department,” Councilman J. William Reynolds said.

“I think in every conversation I’ve had with her, she understands the value of trust between a community and police department, and I think she understands that a police department needs to listen to the community and be an institution people feel they can trust,” Reynolds said.

Councilwoman Paige Van Wirt said she was impressed with Kott’s answers when Kott presented a recent report on the department’s use of force to City Council.

“She was calm, insightful and her training was evident. She is someone who will help Bethlehem’s police department become the finest it can be,” Van Wirt said.

Other council members reached for comment, including Michael Colon, Grace Crampsie Smith and Council President Adam Waldron, also praised Kott.

selections from Sarah Cassi, “Meet the choice for Bethlehem’s new police chief. She would be the 1st woman to lead the department in city history.”, September 23, 2020.

After furor over a Facebook post led Bethlehem’s police chief to retire, the city’s new chief will make department history.

Capt. Michelle Kott, who serves in the professional standards division and leads the department’s crisis negotiation team, was nominated as chief on Wednesday. If approved, she would be the first female chief in the department’s history.

“I’m very humbled. I look forward to the challenge, and leading the men and women of this department, and hoping to inspire other girls that may be interested in pursuing a career in law enforcement,” she said.

The 38-year-old Kott has been with the department since 2004 and started as a patrol officer, before rising through the ranks of crime scene detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, and then a detective lieutenant. She was most recently promoted to captain in February 2019.

Kott noted it is a critical time for law enforcement, and that it calls “for strong leadership coupled with empathy, compassion, respect and responsibility.”

“I believe I am more than up to the task and I look forward to taking on the challenges in working together with the men and women of the Bethlehem Police Department and the community,” she said.

Kott and her wife, Kristin, who celebrated their 10-year anniversary on Wednesday, live in Macungie with their 6-year-old son, Noah, and 2-year-old daughter, Allie.

“They’ve all stood by me throughout my career and they’re my ‘why,’ for who I am and what I do,” Kott said.