“The incident left many of us feeling uneasy, angry, and ashamed”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 4

n the summer of 2020, several highly publicized cases of police brutality ending in the death of unarmed black citizens led to mass protests around the world. I attended several peaceful protests in the Lehigh Valley. During one of these protests, I witnessed the police attempt to detain a young black male for being disruptive. Representatives from the local chapter of the NAACP stepped in and were able to prevent an arrest from occurring, but the incident left many of us feeling uneasy, angry, and ashamed.

I am 20 years old, and I have just moved out of my father’s house in the suburbs of Macungie and into a townhouse in downtown Bethlehem with my boyfriend and two of his friends. I am awoken in the middle of the night by my boyfriend tossing and turning violently. I shake him awake and ask what’s wrong. He has tears in his eyes as he explains that he was having a nightmare about his time in jail, specifically the week he spent in solitary confinement after a corrections officer found Seroquel in the cell he shared with three other inmates. For a moment, he believed he was back in solitary confinement and that he would never again be free. He explains that he has nightmares like this often and smokes marijuana in order to sleep through the night. As the years pass, I learn more and more about his time in jail and how it has negatively affected his mental and physical health. This man spent several months in jail and an additional year and a half on parole after a police officer searched his vehicle and found half an ounce of marijuana, a few plastic bags, and a scale. This search was conducted because the officer claimed he could smell marijuana.

fourth part in a series . . .

George Floyd’s America (4): “The Texas prison system’s mission was to end the type of recurrent incarceration that Floyd experienced by rehabilitating inmates and returning them to society with skills”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“A young kid should expect to grow up in a good family, go to high school, go to college, have a good paying job, but there’s a lot of hurdles placed in front of certain kids, and they can’t get over those hurdles. You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds], we had hurdles, but we were able to get over them.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago yesterday. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day this week,

———–

“Profiting from prisoners: Communities and companies made money off George Floyd’s imprisonment. Inside, Floyd withered”

BARTLETT, Tex. — The prison transport to this tiny city north of Austin took George Floyd past ranch land and cotton fields — worlds away from his home in Houston. But for the then-36-year-old Floyd, the spring of 2009 was another turn through a cycle of incarceration that would be both familiar and futile.

Floyd had been through stints in jail for drug possession since his 20s, spending up to several months at a time behind bars. But Bartlett State Jail was his first taste of extended time. He was sentenced there after pleading guilty to an armed robbery in Houston in 2007 and would spend nearly two years at the 1,049-bed facility.

He was one of several men accused of holding a woman at gunpoint and ransacking her home for money and drugs until they realized they had the wrong house and hustled away — but not before pistol-whipping the woman in front of her children. Floyd was arrested months later, driving what witnesses had identified as the getaway car. He is the only person who has served time for the incident, records show. The victim says she remembers Floyd’s face, and a police report states that she “tentatively” identified him in a lineup — though the photo lineup techniques investigators used are no longer approved.

At Bartlett State Jail, Floyd bunked with childhood friend Cal Wayne, who said Floyd long contended that he was innocent of that crime but took a plea deal out of concern that a jury would unfairly judge a man with previous felonies. He accepted a five-year sentence rather than risk decades in prison. He paroled out in four.

The Texas prison system’s mission was to end the type of recurrent incarceration that Floyd experienced by rehabilitating inmates and returning them to society with skills that would help them live law-abiding lives. But Floyd’s time in Bartlett State Jail only furthered his downward spiral. Behind its walls, Floyd found few opportunities to better himself, friends and relatives said, and the experience only exacerbated his depression, drug dependency and claustrophobia — the very issues that would play a role in the final moments of his life nearly a decade later.

continue . . .

———–

the fourth part in a 6-part series

“I am hopeful that this might be a turning point in the United States”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 3

According to the most recent data from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Statistical Briefing Book, 41% of juveniles in correctional facilities are black (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, 2017).

It is the summer of 2014, and I have just turned 19 years old. Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager who was around my age, was recently shot to death by a police officer in the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, and protests are being met with a militarized police force. I am watching the chaos unfold on the TV at my father’s house. I am disgusted and appalled, and I can’t help remembering the way my friend Trevor was treated by an officer all those years ago. I am hopeful that this might be a turning point in the United States. That society might awaken to systemic racism and police brutality. This is the summer I begin to conduct my own research regarding mass incarceration and the racial and ethnic disparities present in the criminal justice system. In this moment, I am determined to do what I can to educate myself and help expose others to the oppression and violence people of a different skin color and from different socioeconomic backgrounds face at the hands of law enforcement and the larger criminal justice system. I am still ignorant and naive. I have much more to learn.

third part in a series . . .

The pandemic makes sense trying a CSA

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Alison Steele is a Liberty High School alum who traveled the world looking for adventure and purpose before finding it in Pittsburgh.  She has made it her mission to help others make more informed decisions around how they interact with people and the planet.

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 1

I’ve done it again. Every few years I think “oh, I’ll sign up for a CSA. It will be fun. I’ll cook with fresh, local, and in-season produce, all while supporting local farmers.” While I completely agree with Community Supported Agriculture in concept, I have only signed up for a CSA twice in the past 12 years, and I have been sorely disappointed in myself (not the subscription) both times.

No matter how small a box I order, no matter how infrequent the deliveries I request, my default dinner usually involves going out or ordering in, rather than cooking. Consequently, I never seem to make use of my fresh, local veggies before they go bad, and the result is very expensive compost.

It made sense to try it again this year because Christian and I have gone out together for food exactly twice since the shutdown began in mid-March. On top of that, almost all takeout and delivery options near our house (except pizza) include some kind of plastic packaging, reducing my desire to order food. Could this third time could be the charm? . . .

continue on Alison’s blog

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 1

Callahan not bursting the bridge’s balloon, just blowing it up slower

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

Bruce Haines is a Lehigh graduate who returned to Bethlehem after a 35-year career at USSteel. He put together a 12-member Partnership to rescue the Hotel Bethlehem from bankruptcy in 1998 and lives in the historic district.

Gadfly:

I think Councilman Callahan made a valid point about the timing of funding this [pedestrian/bicycle bridge] project.

He was clear that he generally supported this project, but at this point there were likely more urgent needs for the $40,000.

He also pointed out that the matching funds would likely still be there next year as well so that this project could be funded when times are better.

Businesses are deferring expenditures & reallocating scarce funding during this period.

Government should also be doing the same thing.

In this particular case, I think Mr. Callahan was not being unreasonable.

He was not bursting the balloon for the bridge but only blowing it up a little slower than originally planned to address more critical needs.

I don’t think he got a fair hearing quite frankly from his fellow council members.

Bruce

Pedestrian bridge politics

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

ref: The budget dance (3): the pedestrian/bicycle bridge

Gadfly:

It is all about who is pandering to which constituency.

It would appear that Mr. Reynolds is looking for votes from the liberal democrats that want the City to give them a free $4-5 million bike and walk bridge across the river.

Who doesn’t want a “free bridge”?

Just look at the list of people and organizations sending letters of support for the project. A treasure trove of progressive voters.

Mr. Callahan seems to want to distinguish himself as a democrat from Mr. Reynolds and seems to be more aligned with “working class” moderate Dems that may feel the bridge is more for tourists and a benefit for the Southside at the expense of the taxpayers north of the river.

Politics is not about doing what’s best,

it’s about doing what best for the politicians.

Yes, we all want “free stuff” paid for by others.

We are currently in crises financially.

Aren’t we taxed enough already?

No need to be dreaming up new ways to spend the taxpayer’s money.

Bud

George Floyd’s America (3): “How do you get a George Floyd to think beyond the walls of that housing project?”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds] had one path in life, and we got to where we are because of that path. There’s other people who don’t have that path, don’t have those opportunities.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago today. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day this week,

———–

“Segregated from opportunity: Nearly three decades after George Floyd first left Cuney Homes, another generation tries to make it out of Houston’s oldest housing project”

HOUSTON — The last time Kimberly Gibson made a cake for her son was on his first birthday. But she knows 18 is a milestone, especially for a young man on his way out of the projects, destined to play college football.

So on a September afternoon, Gibson dumped two boxes of Betty Crocker vanilla cake mix into a bowl, added eggs, water and oil, and stirred the lumpy batter in her cramped galley kitchen.

Baking hadn’t been an option for birthdays past, when she was exhausted by the daily tasks required to simply keep her son out of trouble and alive in a neighborhood ridden with violence. In this part of Third Ward, where Black men are referred to as an “endangered species,” each untimely death is memorialized on the orange brick wall of the corner store. The “ghetto angels,” as they are collectively known.

The most prominent of those is now George Floyd, the former Cuney Homes kid who has become the embodiment of police brutality and systemic racial inequality in America.

For Gibson, Floyd’s death has been more personal, an unsettling reminder that the future for her son Daniel Hunt remains precarious. His goal of making it out of Houston’s oldest public housing project on a football scholarship echoes Floyd’s journey nearly three decades ago. She knew Floyd as a “gentle giant,” and his face, now emblazoned on neighborhood murals, serves as a solemn warning of the obstacles ahead for Daniel.

“Sports was supposed to have saved him,” Gibson said of Floyd. “I told my son: ‘That is you. That is you all day, every day.’”

Daniel had been accepted to a historically Black Christian college a three-hour drive away in Tyler, Tex., on the prospect of an athletic scholarship. But the novel coronavirus halted those plans. With college turning to virtual classes until at least January and the football season canceled, so, too, was his chance to escape a neighborhood that, by design, remains segregated from opportunity.

Decades of government-sanctioned housing discrimination reverberate through this city. In one of the nation’s most diverse metropolises, much of the housing occupied by low-income Black families is segregated into the shape of a backward “C” around the city center, pierced by wealthier, Whiter neighborhoods to the west that form the shape of an arrow.

The pattern, formed by Jim Crow-era policies dictating where African Americans could live, is cemented today by state law allowing landlords to discriminate against Section 8 voucher holders, weak enforcement of federal civil rights laws promoting integration and White residents’ objections to the construction of affordable housing in affluent communities.

continue . . .

———–

the third part in a 6-part series

“Instead of driving me to the police station, the officer opts to call an ambulance”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

part 2

Ava DuVernay’s 2016 documentary 13th provides important historical context and contemporary commentary on the use of mass incarceration as a new form of slavery, segregation, and discrimination used against people of color in the United States (DuVernay, 2016). According to the Prison Policy Initiative, Black Americans make up 40% of the nation’s prison population (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020).

I am 15 years old, and in the midst of my rebellious phase. I bought marijuana for the first time at school earlier in the day and was smoking behind the church in town with some people I had just met. I begin to feel odd, my heart racing and my vision blurring. The group I am with announces they are going back to the concert we had been attending earlier in the night. I attempt to follow them across the street but suddenly I am frozen in fear. I cannot cross and can no longer move my feet. The group leaves me behind, and a police cruiser stops in front of me. The officer exits his vehicle and begins to question me. I cannot understand what he is saying, and I recite my mother’s phone number over and over again. He pats me down and finds paraphernalia and a bag with marijuana in my purse. I am handcuffed and led into the back of the cruiser. Instead of driving me to the police station, the officer opts to call an ambulance. I spend the night in a hospital room with the understanding that I’ll have to face legal consequences eventually. The next day, my father drives me to the station. I meet with the police chief, a woman who ran the DARE program when I was in elementary school, and she informs me that I will be enrolled in the Impact Program which is offered to co-operative minors charged with misdemeanor offenses. Pending the successful completion of this program, all charges will be dropped against me and I will face no further legal consequences.

In the decade since this incident, I have met countless people charged with similar offenses as juveniles. Not one of them had even heard of the Impact Program, and many faced crippling legal consequences which directly affected their ability to successfully graduate from high school and pursue higher education. A few had even spent time in juvenile detention for less serious offenses than those I faced. The main difference between these people and me? They were not raised in the suburbs and most of them were not white.

second part in a series . . .

Bridge process: a model of democratic citizen engagement plus an equally vigorous response from city government

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

Doug Roysdon is a member of the Bethlehem Pedestrian-Biking Bridge Committee.

Dear Gadfly :

There has been some unfortunate controversy raised over the proposed feasibility study of the pedestrian/biking bridge. After a resounding 6-1 affirmation of the proposal last week, it seems that this decision is still being tested.

So, perhaps it’s time to put the bridge aside for a moment . . .

Let’s address a subject quite unrelated to economic, transportational, and social issues. That is, the remarkable, possibly unprecedented, democratic process that yielded the feasibility study in the first place.  The public record of that citizen-lead process stands on its own:

Six public meetings at the IceHouse and City Hall.

A citizen financed Vision Statement facilitated by national consultancy firm Neighbours Inc.

A twenty-five page report documenting our community conversation on the bridge.

Two Lehigh University architecture courses exploring the design of the bridge.

Thirty endorsements including the City Health Bureau, The Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce, ArtsQuest, and Discover Lehigh Valley.

These citizen-initiated actions were met with an exemplary response by Bethlehem city government and the Mayor. The city’s contribution to the study includes voting almost unanimously two times in support of the feasibility study, generously following and supporting the process by the City Planning Department, and engaging in four interviews with nationally recognized design firms.

In short, a model of democratic citizen engagement was met with an equally vigorous response from city government. Together, this dual response to a possible pedestrian/biking bridge marks a progressive means of addressing new ideas and public decision-making. In many ways, this is more important than the bridge itself!

Thanks, Doug

The debate over the pedestrian/bicycle bridge

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

City Council, November 17, 2020 video
begin min. 2:06:01

Budget Hearing, November 19, 2020 video
begin min. 36:40

Pedestrian/bicycle bridge feasibility study
Funding sources: DCNR grant $40,000; Northampton County grant $60,000; City funds $40,000 = $140,000

ref: The budget dance (3): the pedestrian/bicycle bridge

As promised, here is the back and forth between Councilman Callahan and Councilman Reynolds.

At City Council the debate opens with longish comments by both parties, then 3 instances of sparring.

At the Budget Hearing, Councilman Callahan probes Mr. Alkhal for items that the City is behind on, and 6-7 minutes in to the conversation he hits on ADA ramps which look like will be the subject of his budget amendment transferring the $40,000 from the pedestrian bridge line item.

The clips are longish but worth listening to.

We can learn a lot about each Councilman.

The narrative is like a short story developing.

Gadfly likes to lay these things out for you first.

What are you thinking?

ADA ramps (be sure to listen to Mr. Alkhal’s description) or a pedestrian bridge study?

City Council, November 17

Callahan 1 (7 mins.)

Reynolds 1 (7 Mins.)

 

Callahan 2 (3 mins.)

Reynolds 2 (3 mins.)

 

Callahan 3 (6 mins.)

Reynolds 3 (1 min.)

 

Callahan 4 (2 mins.)

Reynolds 4 (4 mins.)

 

Budget Hearing November 19

Callahan 5 (13 mins.)

The budget dance (3): the pedestrian/bicycle bridge

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

City Council, November 17, 2020 video
begin min. 2:06:01

Budget Hearing, November 19, 2020 video
begin min. 36:40

Pedestrian/bicycle bridge feasibility study
Funding sources: DCNR grant $40,000; Northampton County grant $60,000; City funds $40,000 = $140,000

The third element in the budget dance so far this year is $40,000 to fund a feasibility study for a pedestrian/bicycle bridge across the Lehigh River. (Click “pedestrian bridge” under Topics on the sidebar)

The idea for this pedestrian/bicycle bridge germinated several years ago and the process marked a key moment a year or two ago when $40,000 of City money was approved to join with state and county grants as indicated above to fund a feasibility study.

The City’s $40,000 was approved by Council in last year’s budget, and it came before Council last Tuesday night November 17 in what normally would be a routine approval of a contract with the firm selected by a City committee to do the study.

However, Councilman Callahan strongly objected to approving these funds, which led to as vigorous a Council interchange as Gadfly has witnessed in recent months between especially Councilman Callahan and Councilman Reynolds.

In brief, Councilman Callahan — reminding us that he was for the bridge project and voted for the study in better financial times — argued that this “bridge to nowhere” was a “luxury” when we already had ample and, in fact, underused pedestrian/bicycle access across the river, when we are in the midst of a pandemic, when businesses are suffering, when citizens are scrambling financially, when City revenue is down, when the City faces increased pension contributions, when we couldn’t afford the cost of a bridge anyway, and, perhaps most significantly, when we are cutting crucial City personnel (e.g., firefighters) and when we are raising taxes.

Other Councilpersons but especially Councilman Reynolds argued, among other things, that the bridge is an economic engine, that this is a different vision for the city, something to make us special, another brand for the City, one like others in which functionality is not the key element, something that has been in process for years, something in which a large number of residents have been creatively proactive and whose dedication needs to be affirmed, a project that has attracted state and county support, that has generated huge support from private citizens, City organizations, and the business community itself, a project, which if pursued after the feasibility study would not be paid for with City funds, a project whose funding was in the Capital part of the budget not the General fund, so that the money could not be used for salaries to save positions as Councilman Callahan would want.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith — liking the project but feeling the pain of the pandemic — made a motion to table the proposal, but that failed 5-2.

Councilmen Callahan and Reynolds went back and forth, like two rams with locked horns.

It got testy. Councilman Callahan asking how often Councilman Reynolds voted to raise taxes. Councilman Reynolds asking that the record show that he was laughing at Councilman Callahan.

Councilman Callahan climactically turning, in effect, to the audience asking all who supported his view to send their comments to the City Clerk.

Council eventually voted 6-1 to approve the contract for the feasibility study.

Councilman Callahan was not deterred, however.

Learning that the $40,000 could be transferred to other uses in the Capital budget, at the November 19 budget hearing he quizzed Public Works director Alkhal about other possible uses for the money, seeming to settle on the fact that $40,000 would pay for ADA disability ramps at two intersections.

And will propose an amendment to that effect at the final budget deliberations.

That’s where we stand right now.

Followers will remember that one of the goals of the Gadfly project is to help you know your elected officials as well as possible so that you can make the most informed choices possible next time you vote.

Councilman Callahan is up for Council again in the May primary. And ’tis said that both Councilmen Callahan and Reynolds may run for Mayor.

So Gadfly is putting together some audio clips for you to hear. In the meantime, there are links to the meeting videos at the top of the page.

The budget dance (2): the police department

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Budget Hearing November 9 video
public comment, begin min. 3:53:49

“When I was in [a depressed state], the presence of law enforcement . . . made my anxiety spiral out of control.”

“You must make meaningful cuts to the police budget.”

“Implicit bias training and one part-time social worker — it’s insulting, seriously.”

“My ask tonight would be to make a cut to the police department personnel and to put that money to the Health Bureau for mental health services and crisis response and community health services.”

———–

ref: “Defunders” criticize the proposed police budget

Gadfly finishing off what he started a week ago.

Capturing the voices of those who called in at the tail end of the 4+ hour first budget hearing on November 9 to comment on the police budget.

In all, there were 8 comments, all asking for cuts in the police budget and reallocation of those funds elsewhere in the mental health area.

Gadfly captured 4 of those “defunder” voices in the previous post, now the final 4.

There were no “defender” voices at that meeting.

Once you use a metaphor, it’s hard to shake.

So Gadfly continues describing to you what he calls the “budget dance.”

These dancers are not responding so much to the economic issues triggered by the pandemic but to the moral issues set on fire by the murder of George Floyd.

And it’s not clear yet whether these dancers have any partners on Council.

They may be dancing alone.

At least two Council members have said that they would not “defund” the police, but several have spoken as if they would.

No specific plans to do so have been floated by Council members.

And, as a wise Gadfly follower has noted, that’s a problem.

It is one thing to say “defund,” but it does not seem at all likely to even get a hearing unless someone has a very detailed plan of where diverted funds would go and for what purpose.

And, in addition, that it was made very clear and that there was consensus about how fears of diminished community safety because of reduction of police funding were addressed.

It is hard for Gadfly to see that such a complex idea can be presented at this late date with any chance of approval.

In addition, the City/Police Department has advanced a pilot program involving a social worker without “defunding” and at no additional cost, though callers are not satisfied with that program.

Early on Councilman Reynolds foresaw that discussions about any change in public safety would need to start early on if any major changes in the police budget for 2021 would have a chance.

That’s one reason why Gadfly has been so impatient over the past weeks.

But maybe some ideas by Councilfolk are percolating but not yet visible to Gadfly.

In any event, Gadfly encourages you to listen to the voices of your fellows in order to understand the “defunding” impulse. The text here is just quick and dirty highlights.

If you find Gadfly’s audio muffled, follow the link to the meeting video.

Glenn Nelson (3 mins.) (4:13:59)

In Philadelphia Walter Wallace was shot within one minute of police arrival, and he was shot in front of his mother, leaving a wife and unborn child. That is what we want to stop happening here, and mental stress is in no short supply. There seems to be a willingness to allow mental health to languish. As a depressed person, I make up one of five in the population. I have been lucky enough to find voluntary treatment. When I was in that state the presence of law enforcement was not helpful to me. It made my anxiety spiral out of control. The answer to mental health, you can’t have that being a cop. We don’t need a mental health cop that is on the police force. We need other services that already exist. The police aren’t trained for that job, and they shouldn’t be. It is not fiscally responsible to have other departments on skeleton crews. A budget shows what a city values.

Jackie (2 mins.) (4:17:18)

Residents are facing simultaneous public health and economic crises. Police budget could be better directed to help. Lack of comparable cuts to other departments is frankly unacceptable. Council members previously promised LV Stands Up members cuts to the police. If we have 154 members of the police department next year, we have failed. I will not mince my words, your police budget by your own words is a failure. You must make meaningful cuts to the police budget. Free up funds to put back in the community to help manage the crises. It is the city’s responsibility to be proactive to protect citizens in the months ahead. Cops won’t protect us against the virus, joblessness, etc. Investment in other things will. Make the difficult but necessary cuts to the police budget in order to give the residents a fighting chance in the year ahead.

Cherokee St. resident (5 mins.) (4:19:35)

I live in the low to moderate income area. We don’t want more police here, whether they are on horseback, bicycles, etc. Policing does not make our community safer. Our demands have been to defund . . . abolish. Chief, you’re giving us inches when we are asking for miles. Clearly you are listening, you know we want social workers to respond. You clearly recognize that there’s a problem with racism. But you need to take it 500 steps further. There’s no amount of training, or reform, or money that you can throw at the problem of police brutality. Murder of black and brown. Don’t act as if that is not a problem here. Police brutality is a serious issue here. Can’t be glossed over. Won’t just go away. Wallace was murdered by police. We need to be accurate. It is a living, breathing problem in the corrupt institution of policing in our country. Everywhere in America. Budgets are moral documents. We saw Chief DiLuzio spew his morals on Facebook. The residents have clearly spoken. I implore you to listen and do better. Implicit bias training and one part-time social worker — it’s insulting, seriously. Police departments are not equipped to handle the problem of police brutality. Need 3rd party. You need someone else’s viewpoint. The community that I live in do not want you. Safety is not police– we’ve told you over and over again.

Southside resident (3 mins.) (4:24:30)

Very concerned about the budget proposed tonight. We’ve already expressed what we want very clearly. We want fewer police officers. We don’t want or need community engagement. We don’t want community policing. We have asked to divest money from the police into the community, and what we are offered instead is cuts to other departments. Once again, we’re not being listened to. My ask tonight would be to make a cut to the police department personnel. We don’t want armed police officers responding to a mental health crisis. We’ve seen people like Walter Wallace being murdered. More community engagement will not solve this. Social workers not going out on calls won’t solve this. Training won’t solve this. Only divesting funds into mental health services will solve this. This isn’t meant to be a punishment. This is meant to be a helping hand to the community.

The TIF — a “big deal” — ends

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Selected from Christina Tatu, “The tax incentive that gave rise to much of SteelStacks is set to expire.” Morning Call, November 19, 2020.

The taxing district that transformed the former Bethlehem Steel plant into the multimillion-dollar SteelStacks campus is ending this month.

The Tax Incremental Financing District, which Bethlehem created 20 years ago to jump-start redevelopment of the industrial land, expired Sunday.

Over the past two decades, real estate taxes derived from development in the TIF — namely the casino owned by Wind Creek — were diverted to build infrastructure and public amenities such as the Bethlehem Landing visitors center, Hoover-Mason Trestle and the plazas at the SteelStacks campus.

The money also contributed to site remediation at Five 10 Flats, an apartment and commercial project on East Third Street.

“The TIF is a big deal. In the end it provided great amenities and infrastructure for the city,” said Eric Evans, the city’s business administrator. “Even now, looking at the crystal ball, there’s so much opportunity for that property. We are all really pleased with where we’ve gotten in 20 years.”

Now the city’s Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the TIF, is allocating the remaining $1.2 million from the program. The latest projects won’t be as flashy as those that transformed the former blast furnaces into a tourist destination, but they will maintain the SteelStacks campus that sees 1 million visitors a year, said the authority’s executive director, Tony Hanna.

Over the past two decades, real estate taxes derived from development in the TIF — namely the casino owned by Wind Creek — were diverted to build infrastructure and public amenities such as the Bethlehem Landing visitors center, Hoover-Mason Trestle and the plazas at the SteelStacks campus.

The money also contributed to site remediation at Five 10 Flats, an apartment and commercial project on East Third Street.

“The TIF is a big deal. In the end it provided great amenities and infrastructure for the city,” said Eric Evans, the city’s business administrator. “Even now, looking at the crystal ball, there’s so much opportunity for that property. We are all really pleased with where we’ve gotten in 20 years.”

Now the city’s Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the TIF, is allocating the remaining $1.2 million from the program. The latest projects won’t be as flashy as those that transformed the former blast furnaces into a tourist destination, but they will maintain the SteelStacks campus that sees 1 million visitors a year, said the authority’s executive director, Tony Hanna.

The final allocation includes money to replace LED streetlights for the SteelStacks campus; road improvements and new brick paving on First Street and Founders Way around the Levitt Pavilion, ArtsQuest Center and PBS 39; maintenance to the Hoover-Mason Trestle, new landscaping in the median at Founders Way and money for the new plaza at the National Museum of Industrial History.

The authority is also using the money to make repairs to the Visitor Center at SteelStacks. The former stock house, which dates to 1863 and once held supplies for the blast furnaces, needs repairs to the roof, brick exterior and some windows. Water has been seeping in for the past 10 years and offices on the upper level were damaged, Hanna said. The repairs will cost $131,500.

Another significant portion of the money — $500,000 — will offset costs the Bethlehem Parking Authority incurred for the purchase of a parking lot that will be used for the Polk Street Parking Garage, although that project is on hold.

The TIF has raised more than $100 million for public improvements to the 125-acre section of the former Bethlehem Steel plant, roughly between the Fahy and Minsi Trail bridges.

Could Bethlehem renew the TIF? Maybe.

City officials are weighing their options for the area, but it likely won’t be another TIF, said Alicia Miller Karner, director of community and economic development.

George Floyd’s America (2): “Floyd had long seen sports as his path out of the poverty, crime and drugs of Houston’s Third Ward”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds] had one path in life, and we got to where we are because of that path. There’s other people who don’t have that path, don’t have those opportunities. Ok, that’s part of the problem, that goes back to housing, poverty, education, medical assistance in this country and a lot of other different issues. . . . This is something you talk about, the systemic racism, which is part of the problem in this country, and it’s embedded in criminal justice, housing, and a lot of other things. . . . And I do have to agree with you, I’m not disagreeing with you . . . but what you’re saying is exactly what the Captain has said, the Deputy has said, we talk among ourselves. It may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system. And that’s what we need to go after. And I understand the anger of people out there. I understand the anger of people of color out there. They have the feeling they are not getting their part of the American Dream. And that’s what it is. A young kid should expect to grow up in a good family, go to high school, go to college, have a good paying job, but there’s a lot of hurdles placed in front of certain kids, and they can’t get over those hurdles. You and me, we had hurdles, but we were able to get over them. But everybody doesn’t go that same route. I’m in agreement with what you’re saying. I don’t know how we change that whole system.”

Mark DiLuzio
Bethlehem Chief of Police
2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. The reporting explores the institutional and societal roadblocks Floyd encountered as a Black man from his birth in 1973 until his death. The series is based on a review of thousands of documents and more than 150 interviews with Floyd’s friends, colleagues, public officials, and scholars.

Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day, using as your frame the remarkable statement above about the reality of systemic racism by retired Chief Mark DiLuzio at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting as part of a conversation with current Chief Michelle Kott and Councilman Willie Reynolds. The entire 6-minute exchange is worth listening to.

Disputes over the reality of systemic racism disrupt and divide us nationally and locally, but our officers and our councilman agree that systemic racism not only lives but it haunts us.

———–

“Looking for his ticket out: At Jack Yates High, No. 88 pinned his dreams on sports”

HOUSTON — Shortly before the kickoff of the 1992 state championship game, George Floyd, the starting tight end for mighty Jack Yates High School, stepped onto the field at the University of Texas.

As he took in the stadium, packed then with nearly 78,000 seats, Floyd bumped into Ralph Cooper, a sports radio personality who had had him on his show a few times. Over the years, he had gently pressed the basketball and football star to take the school part of school more seriously.

There, surrounded by the state’s flagship university and all it had to offer, Floyd wondered aloud whether he should have listened. “Now I see what some of you all were talking about in regards to making that extra effort in the classroom,” Cooper recalled Floyd telling him.

At that moment, Floyd’s future was already in jeopardy. He had tried and failed at least twice to pass a mandatory state exam. If he couldn’t pass it, he wouldn’t graduate. A big-time college scholarship would be out of the question.

Floyd had long seen sports as his path out of the poverty, crime and drugs of Houston’s Third Ward. At 6 feet 6 inches, he excelled at basketball and then football, and his talents repeatedly gave him a shot at a different life. But, just as often, Floyd’s shaky education stood in his way.

Jack Yates High School has long been a source of identity, pride and affection in Houston’s Black community. Founded in 1926, it was named for a formerly enslaved man who became an influential minister. Graduates include city leaders and national figures such as broadcaster Roland Martin, actress Phylicia Rashad and her sister, the choreographer Debbie Allen. It has thrived in sports, producing, in 1985, what some say is the best high school team in Texas football history.

But for decades Yates has struggled in its central mission to educate students, a victim of a U.S. educational system that concentrates the poorest, highest-need children together, setting them up for failure.

continue . . .

———–

the second part in a 6-part series

Third budget meeting Tuesday 6PM

Latest in a series of posts on the City Budget

View the Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget

Third Budget Meeting

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

6:00 PM

TOPICS:  PAGES IN BUDGET BOOK                                                                                                      

  1. Golf Course Enterprise Fund   253
  2. Administration                         29
  3. Council                                     12
  4. Mayor                                       16
  5. Treasurer                                   24
  6. Controller                                  20
  7. Law Bureau                               26
  8. General Fund Revenue               7
  9. General Expenses                   167
  10. Civic Expenses                        171
  11. Debt Service                           175

DUE TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, TOWN HALL ACCESS IS CURRENTLY RESTRICTED. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PHONE COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.

PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS
REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during this Budget Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 2:00 PM on the date of the meeting (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963.

NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

“I wonder, for the first time, if the police really do exist to protect everyone”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Kimberly Schwartz is a student studying Sociology & Anthropology at Moravian College. She is passionate about criminal justice reform, equal rights, feminism, and climate change. This piece was originally written for a course at Moravian titled Writing as Activism, taught by Dr. Joyce Hinnefeld, in which students are encouraged to consider topics such as mass incarceration, migration, and how to  change the world through writing.

What I Know, Right Now, About Incarceration in The United States:
A History of Learning Through Experiences and Exposure

I am 12 years old, and my aunt Edith is telling me the story of how she was arrested for smuggling drugs from Jamaica into the United States. She explains that her husband at the time was a citizen of Jamaica who helped run an illegal marijuana smuggling operation and that, as his white and American wife, her job was to discreetly move packages across the border. She tells me that she spent a significant amount of time incarcerated in a women’s federal prison, but she does not go into detail about her experiences there, only telling me that she met a lot of good people. The detached manner of speaking she adopts while recounting some of her experience tells me not to ask any further questions. Several years later, when I arrive home from school high, my aunt returns the favor with a knowing look. She asks me no questions and leaves me to scavenge for snacks in the pantry before my father comes home.

I now know from my Crime, Law, and Justice course that the majority of convicted inmates in federal prisons and jails are inside because of drug charges (Sawyer & Wagner, 2020).

I am 13 years old and attending the neighboring high school’s Friday night football game with my twin sister and our friend Caitlin. We meet up with a few older guys and walk over to the neighboring Burger King after the game for some food. While there, a group of white kids begin picking on one of our friends, Trevor, who happens to be the only black kid in the group. The incident results in a tussle, and someone claims another group is on their way with guns. We immediately leave the scene and wait for our ride home, with Trevor accompanying us. We are all on edge, believing there is a group of people with guns on their way. As we huddle together in the emptying parking lot, a police officer slows to a stop in front of us. He gets out of his vehicle and begins to question Trevor. He asks him what he is doing with three young (white) girls and who we are waiting for. We chime in, informing the police officer that we are waiting for Caitlin’s mother to pick us up and that Trevor is merely waiting with us because we heard there were people with guns in the area. The police officer smirks, turns back to Trevor, and asks if he needs to check him for weapons. We look at the officer in confusion, and Trevor stares straight ahead defiantly, uttering a “no sir,” his voice barely above a whisper. At this moment, our ride pulls up, and Caitlin’s mother asks the officer what the problem is. He tells her that he was simply checking up on us and wishes us all a good night. Caitlin’s mother asks Trevor if he is okay and offers him a ride home. We spend the entire car ride home in silence, and I wonder, for the first time, if the police really do exist to protect everyone.

first part in a series . . .

Good news from Councilwomen Crampsie Smith and Negron

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

 

Two great developments announced at the November 17 City Council meeting:

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (2 mins.)

  • The Councilwoman is focused on homelessness and the housing crisis and has been meeting with people throughout the state, Alan Jennings, and Alicia Karner and announced the first meeting of the Bethlehem Affordable Housing Task Force (members include people from non-profits, financial institutions, city government, developers, etc.) to address the issue of lack of affordable housing and rental properties within the City with a goal of bringing ideas “to the table” by April. Fantastic!

Councilwoman Negron (2 mins.)

  • The Councilwoman has facilitated a meeting with the Mayor and Chief Kott with Pinebrook Family Services that has been doing work with the Allentown Police Department — with the goal of perhaps working together relative to the new plan by the Police and the Health Bureau to link a social worker to Police activities. Fantastic!

Your tax dollars at work!

The budget dance (1): the Fire Department and the Department of Community and Economic Development

Latest in a series of posts on the City Budget

Mayor Robert Donchez 2021 Budget Address

View the Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget

Let’s think about the budget, all 300 pages and hundreds of line items of it.

City Council members are part-timers. Gadfly still runs in to people who don’t realize that.

They are part-timers with important responsibilities.

The chief of which, arguably, is approving the City budget.

This is a tough budget year, a gut-punching one the Mayor called it.

The Mayor is proposing a total budget $87.4m (it was $80.2m last year) and a 5% tax increase, which translates into an increase to the average homeowner of $46.

The most highly visible budget proposal so far is the Mayor’s proposal to cut 4 firefighter and 2 service center positions.

The Mayor proposes, Council disposes.

Council will hold probably 4 budget hearings altogether, then approve the 2021 budget at the December 15 City Council meeting.

The interplay between Council and Administration that Gadfly witnessed last year was pretty benign, but this year it promises to be much more serious business because of pandemic-induced circumstances affecting revenue and a big jump in pension contributions required by law. (See “budget” under Topics on the sidebar for previous posts.)

Thus, there looks to be this year what Gadfly will call the “budget dance,” which is not only serious business but quite interesting to watch.

Specific budget proposals will not surface till the last budget hearing, but already interesting dancing has gone on, especially involving Councilman Callahan.

Councilman Callahan probed Fire Chief Achey and Business Administrator Evans for almost 8 minutes about specific financial details concerning the proposed personnel cuts in the Fire department. And then he made clear that he is not in favor of those cuts, which means he would look elsewhere in the budget to save some money.

Listen (6 mins.):

So, where elsewhere in the budget would Councilman Callahan look to make cuts? He has a specific proposal in mind regarding the Department of Community and Economic Development.

Councilman Callahan — specifically referencing a desire to save the cuts in the Fire Department — suggests a “no-brainer,” “win-win” plan to enable DCED to cut building inspectors, thus saving taxpayer money, and improving efficiency of inspections by outsourcing inspections to companies the City would choose and the builders would pay for.

Listen (18 mins.), if too long for you, do the last 3-4 mins. as the Councilman wraps up, making his pitch:

The dance between the Councilman and Director Alicia Karner is not a smooth one and gives us the opportunity to see the tension inherent in hard choices.

Now the other Councilfolk will no doubt join the dance in upcoming meetings.

In fact, Councilman Callahan did get them to put on their dancing shoes at the last City Council meeting about funding for the pedestrian/bike bridge feasibility study.

And Gadfly will soon detail that interesting interplay for you as well.

George Floyd’s America (1): “Born with two strikes: How systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and hobbled his ambition”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“You and me [speaking to Councilman Reynolds] had one path in life, and we got to where we are because of that path. There’s other people who don’t have that path, don’t have those opportunities. Ok, that’s part of the problem, that goes back to housing, poverty, education, medical assistance in this country and a lot of other different issues. . . . This is something you talk about, the systemic racism, which is part of the problem in this country, and it’s embedded in criminal justice, housing, and a lot of other things. . . . And I do have to agree with you, I’m not disagreeing with you . . . but what you’re saying is exactly what the Captain has said, the Deputy has said, we talk among ourselves. It may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system. And that’s what we need to go after. And I understand the anger of people out there. I understand the anger of people of color out there. They have the feeling they are not getting their part of the American Dream. And that’s what it is. A young kid should expect to grow up in a good family, go to high school, go to college, have a good paying job, but there’s a lot of hurdles placed in front of certain kids, and they can’t get over those hurdles. You and me, we had hurdles, but we were able to get over them. But everybody doesn’t go that same route. I’m in agreement with what you’re saying. I don’t know how we change that whole system.”

Mark DiLuzio
Bethlehem Chief of Police
2014-2020

———–

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. The reporting explores the institutional and societal roadblocks Floyd encountered as a Black man from his birth in 1973 until his death. The series is based on a review of thousands of documents and more than 150 interviews with Floyd’s friends, colleagues, public officials, and scholars.

Gadfly would like you to join with him in reading one part of that remarkable series each day for the next six days, using as your frame the remarkable statement above about the reality of systemic racism by retired Chief Mark DiLuzio at the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting as part of a conversation with current Chief Michelle Kott and Councilman Willie Reynolds. The entire 6-minute exchange is worth listening to.

Disputes over the reality of systemic racism disrupt and divide us nationally and locally, but our officers and our councilman agree that systemic racism not only lives but it haunts us.

———–

“Born with two strikes: How systemic racism shaped Floyd’s life and hobbled his ambition”

His life began as the last embers of the civil rights movement were flickering out. Its horrific, videotaped end ignited the largest anti-racism movement since, with demonstrators the world over marching for racial justice in his name.

During the 46 years in between, George Perry Floyd came of age as the strictures of Jim Crow discrimination in America gave way to an insidious form of systemic racism, one that continually undercut his ambitions.

Early in life, he wanted to be a Supreme Court justice. Then, a pro athlete. At the end, he just longed for a little stability, training to be a commercial truck driver.

All were bigger dreams than he was able to achieve in his version of America. While his death was the catalyst for global protests against racial inequality, the nearly eight minutes Floyd spent suffocating under the knee of a White police officer were hardly the first time he faced oppression.

Throughout his lifetime, Floyd’s identity as a Black man exposed him to a gantlet of injustices that derailed, diminished and ultimately destroyed him, according to an extensive review of his life based on hundreds of documents and interviews with more than 150 people, including his siblings, extended family members, friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars.

The picture that emerges is one that underscores how systemic racism has calcified within many of America’s institutions, creating sharply disparate outcomes in housing, education, the economy, law enforcement and health care.

continue . . .

———–

the first part in a 6-part series

Touchstone Theatre’s Christmas City Follies

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

Christmas City Follies

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
November 17, 2020
Contact: Lisa Jordan
610-349-8583
lisa@touchstone.org

21st Edition of Christmas City Follies Goes Online

Touchstone Theatre’s quirky holiday classic comes to YouTube

BETHLEHEM, PA – Touchstone Theatre announces Christmas City Follies XXI, the theatre’s annual holiday-themed variety show, to be presented online for 2020. Follies will premiere on YouTube on December 20, 2020 at 7pm with a watch party and then be available to view through January 2, 2021.

A favorite of Lehigh Valley residents past and present, many locals and tourists alike have come to count Christmas City Follies as part of their holiday tradition, coming out to Touchstone’s cozy black box theatre for an evening of original sketches, characters, songs, and more. The show traditionally ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous, with subject matter that has included family stories, dancing hippos, snow camels, holiday yoga, and kazoo-playing Christmas trees.

In the midst of an unusual year and an unusual season, Touchstone has elected to forego an in-person performance in favor of shooting this year’s Follies as a movie; the company will continue to create and perform material for its eclectic cast of characters, filmed as scenes on Touchstone’s property and around Bethlehem, using the Christmas City as its backdrop. The show will feature returning Touchstone favorites like the Old Guy, Little Red, the Better Not Shout Network, and the Shopping Cart Ballet, as well as a host of new music, personalities, sketches, and stories.

“Santa brought us all the gift of reinvention this year with our 21st edition of  Follies,” says artistic director Jp Jordan. “It’s exhilarating to be able to take on this work from a completely new perspective.”

The Touchstone company will also be performing an in-person “mini Follies” at outdoor holiday events across Bethlehem between Saturday, November 28th and Sunday, December 6th, featuring clownish characters delivering classic Christmas carols to shoppers. Locations include the Historic Bethlehem Museum and Sites new Christmas in the Quarter, the Sun Inn Courtyard’s Wintergarten, and the South Side Arts District’s New St. Christmas Tree.

Christmas City Follies is sponsored by Peoples Security Bank and Trust; the show receives additional support from the County of Northampton. Touchstone’s season is supported locally by season sponsor RCN. WDIY provides media sponsorship, and Working Dog Press provides print sponsorship.

Christmas City Follies XXI premieres with a watch party on December 20, 2020 at 7pm and will remain available online through January 2, 2021. Tickets are: $12 for individuals and $35 for households. Touchstone typically also offers a Pay-What-You-Will at the door ticket and instead will be offering a reduced $5 ticket for those who would benefit from a discounted admission. This year, tickets are a link that audience members will use to view the show online. Tickets go on sale November 20th and may be purchased at 610.867.1689 or online at www.touchstone.org

SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL ARTISTS AND ARTS INSTITUTIONS

George Floyd’s America

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

George Floyd died 6 months ago this week. Gadfly’s been worried that the impact of that dramatic event and the subsequent national reckoning with race is ebbing on the local level.

There may be some relevant public safety discussion in upcoming budget hearings, a Public Safety Committee hearing is promised for early in the new year, but Gadfly is not aware of any movement on the Community Engagement Initiative yet.

There is nationally as well as locally conflict over whether such a thing as “systemic racism” exists.

This 6-part Washington Post series ran in October.

Gadfly is going to suggest that you follow him as he reads one part of the series each day beginning tomorrow to keep both George Floyd and the idea of systemic racism on our front burner.

———–

Washington Post staff, “George Floyd’s America:
Examining systemic racism and racial injustice in the post-civil rights era”

The Washington Post’s six-part series, “George Floyd’s America,” examines the role systemic racism played throughout Floyd’s 46-year life. The reporting explores the institutional and societal roadblocks Floyd encountered as a Black man from his birth in 1973 until his death. The series is based on a review of thousands of documents and more than 150 interviews with Floyd’s friends, colleagues, public officials and scholars.

———–

Keeping an eye on the George Floyd case

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

Gadfly keeping an eye on criminal proceedings against the main police officer in the George Floyd incident.

Recognizing the speed of the news cycle and the shortness of the media attention span, Gadfly has been afraid that the moment to ask questions about how we do public safety locally in Bethlehem may pass.

There may be some relevant public safety discussion in upcoming budget hearings, and a Public Safety Committee hearing is promised for early in the new year.

Gadfly is especially interested here in the fact that there is “history” of charges of excessive use of force against the offending officer, charges that were dismissed by the police department internal review.

Gadfly thinks we should know more about how we handle police conduct cases here.

Do we have a situation in which an officer charged with excessive use of force on multiple occasions but cleared can continue to serve without some adjustments such as an early warning system or a citizen review board?

Gadfly implies no failures by our police department. These are simply questions that need to be asked. This is simply information that needs to be discussed.

Selections from Holly Bailey, “Former Minneapolis police officer charged in George Floyd’s death seeks to bar evidence of past neck and body restraints.” Washington Post, November 17, 2020.

Derek Chauvin, the former Minneapolis police officer who held his knee at George Floyd’s neck for more than nine minutes and is now charged with his murder, has asked the judge in his case to block prosecutors from introducing evidence of his allegedly having used similar neck and body restraints on other suspects. Chauvin’s lawyer argues in new court documents that his “use of force” in those cases was legal and cleared by police supervisors.

Prosecutors have said they want to cite eight incidents from Chauvin’s 19-year career as a Minneapolis police officer to show a pattern of excessive force and behavior similar to the Memorial Day encounter that left Floyd dead. Prosecutors want to include four cases from 2014 to 2019 in which they claim Chauvin restrained suspects “beyond the point when such force was needed.”

In a court filing Monday, Eric Nelson, Chauvin’s attorney, asked Hennepin County District Judge Peter A. Cahill, who is overseeing the case, to block that proposed evidence, arguing that his client had used approved force and, after routine investigations, had been essentially “acquitted by MPD supervisors of applying force in a manner that was either unreasonable or unauthorized.”

“The state attempts to characterize Mr. Chauvin’s use of force as ‘unreasonable’ or ‘beyond what was needed,’ ” Nelson wrote, noting that Chauvin had reported his use of force in each of the incidents. “And in every single one, it was determined by a supervisor that Mr. Chauvin’s use of force was reasonable in the circumstances and authorized by law and MPD policy.”

One of the cases prosecutors have sought to mention at Chauvin’s trial is a July 2019 domestic disturbance incident in which a caller reported that a man had poured gasoline throughout a house and was armed with a knife. In seeking to subdue the suspect and keep him from reaching for scissors on a nearby table, Chauvin allegedly “delivered a single kick” to the man’s midsection and then applied a neck restraint, causing the man to lose consciousness.

Chauvin later told a supervisor that he realized the man had passed out and placed him in a “recovery position” until he “came to,” prosecutors said, something they say the officer did not do when Floyd complained of struggling to breathe.

In what appears to be a new defense argument, Nelson repeatedly claimed Chauvin did not use a neck restraint on Floyd but rather what he called “body weight control techniques.”

That is a shift from previous defense motions, in which Nelson defended how Chauvin handled Floyd by arguing that he used an approved neck restraint. In an August motion to dismiss charges, Nelson filed exhibits that included past department training materials with photos demonstrating the knee-on-neck hold similar to the one Chauvin used on Floyd and argued that his client “did exactly as he was trained to do.”

Prosecutors said in a filing Monday that they want to show the jury body-camera video of one of the incidents: a September 2017 encounter where Chauvin allegedly hit a 14-year-old boy in the head with a flashlight during a domestic assault investigation and then restrained him with a knee to the back for 17 minutes even though the child was handcuffed and complained of struggling to breathe. According to prosecutors, the boy’s mother, who had called police, repeatedly asked Chauvin to get off her son, who was bleeding from the ear and later received stitches. Prosecutors described Chauvin’s behavior as “far more violent and forceful” than his police report had implied.

[Defense attorney] argued that allowing the incidents to be cited as evidence before a jury would violate Minnesota legal precedents on how past acts can and cannot be used in current cases. Nelson wrote that he thinks prosecutors want to use past incidents to “illegally prove propensity,” which he argued is not allowed under state law and would be “unfairly prejudicial.”

Southside voices (5): Kim (Think “funky”)

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Kim Carrell-Smith (9 mins.)

We want a vibe that’s not just generic every place. Steel and glass is a lack of identity. History is how Bethlehem has branded itself already. History is a great way to create a sense of place. 30-year resident, I have a lot of feelings about this Southside stuff. We have a great stock of historical buildings, and I would encourage you to figure out some way to enhance those historical streetscapes. Historical guidelines don’t square with the zoning ordinance. Need to start with changing the zoning ordinance. Can’t have towering buildings that overshadow the sidewalks. For many folks darkness is perceived as unwelcoming. We need to think about things like height and shadow. We have great streetscapes, we just need to tweak the buildings we have. The other thing we need to think about is historical vistas. Vistas provide a validation for life and work. Gives us identity. Distinctive. No franchises. Cultivate small businesses. We want smaller locally owned businesses that can serve local folks. Places to buy socks and underwear. What about sports facilities. Like Iron Lakes — drop off kids, then go shop. We don’t often serve youth in South Bethlehem. More places for kids to stay occupied. Need well marked walking paths and well marked parking to bring people in to the core. Greenway is starting to show us that that works. Need affordable housing, not just luxury apartments. We don’t need to serve student population, but empty-nesters and people like that. We need affordable housing for families, for young people. Arts District people working hard. Please help us keep what makes this distinctive. And don’t turn us into every other place in the United States. No franchises, anonymous glass. We’ve got cool stuff now to improve upon. Cool, eclectic, and kind of funky place. Keep South Bethlehem funky.*

* We need a vision for South Bethlehem, something we can define in a word or phrase on which we can focus our thinking. Kim has used that term “funky” before in presentation at Council. It’s vision that resonates. What does “funky” mean to you? Interestingly odd. Unconventionally stylish. What place comes to mind as an example of a funky place? Gadfly thinks we should pursue this vision.

———-

Gadfly says try to keep your body still while listening. That’s what I’m talking about.

“Funky Town”

Gotta make a move to a town that’s right for me
Town to keep me movin’
Keep me groovin’ with some energy
Wont you take me to
funky town

Thinking more about supporting the police

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

Gadfly continuing to think more about the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance and support for the police after his earlier post this morning.

In that November 18 Facebook post commentary, LVGNA says, “Sadly, our request for City Council members to improve their understanding about what our police do and how they do it fell on deaf ears. They only seem to want to hear from the radical activists who share their leftist political bias. Luckily, Council members Olga Negron, Adam Waldron and Grace Crampsie Smith are coming up for re-election in November 2021. Perhaps Bethlehem’s voters should help them move on to jobs where they would do less damage.”

LVGNA specifically targets Councilpeople Negron, Crampsie Smith, and Waldron for negative focus at next election time, which would really be the May primary not November. And campaigns will be starting soon. In Allentown, for instance, several people have already declared for mayor.

But there is also a 4th Councilperson up for re-election next year.

That Councilperson is Bryan Callahan.

Councilman Callahan does not seem to be on LVGNA’s negative re-election radar.

LVGNA is not suggesting that their followers help move Councilman Callahan on.

Now it is true that except for Councilman Callahan, one does not hear magniloquent [good opportunity to use today’s Merriam-Webster word-of-the-day] encomiums [good SAT word] about the police.

Gadfly is not sure there is anything especially deducible from that about the other three, at least not without substantial additional evidence.

But it is true that Councilman Callahan has been known to deliver something like magniloquent encomiums that contain many true points about the police.

Gadfly has knit together here two such examples, a short one from the November 9 budget hearing (1 min.) and a bit longer one from the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting (4 mins.).

Listen.

Something in the Councilman’s words is bothersome to the Gadfly.

It’s the strain of uncritical adulation.

Gadfly has heard this tone before.

Councilman Callahan is unabashedly, unashamedly pro-developer. Gadfly has heard this tone before in his direct personally praiseworthy address to the owner of 2 W. Market during a tough City Council meeting.

Gadfly knows he’s being the quintessential unpopular gadfly here and knows he’ll get a slap upside the head, but the gushing praise for Chief Kott (he knew she was going places) that elicits her muted, embarrassed “thank you” and his desire for the Chief to give an atta-boys-and-girls shout-out to the entire police force for him seems out of place (imagine how this would be done — loudspeaker announcements, emails to everybody, taking time at roll calls).

Gadfly is no expert on Council protocol, but such pronouncements from the Head Table can suggest attempts to curry favor.

And statements like “our police department is way ahead of most police departments in the country” just feel a little too hyperbolic for Gadfly’s liking.

The job of the Councilman in a strong Mayor-Council form of government is to be a check-and-balance. And the job of a Councilman in this cultural moment of reckoning with race is hard-nosed, open-minded, unprejudiced analysis of the way we do public safety.

Gadfly needs to feel the Councilman is capable of those things.

City website wins award!

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Welcome to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

Bethlehem Receives a 2020 Communicator Distinction Award in the Category of Government Websites

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the City of Bethlehem received a 2020 Communicator Distinction Award in the Category of Government Websites. The Communicator Award honors excellence in strategic, effective, and meaningful communication across digital, video, podcasts, marketing, and print. The Award of Distinction is presented for projects that exceed industry standards in quality and achievement.

The City launched its new website last fall, which was designed by KSA&D. Mayor Bob Donchez thanked the firm for their work on the project. “KSA&D was a great partner for this initiative. We found them to be creative, skilled, and responsive to all the needs of our various departments. The application of technology and transparent government are two of my highest priorities, and our new website checks both of those boxes.”

Bob Kraemer and Peter Schurman, Partners at KSA&D, stated, “It was a great collaborative effort on everyone’s part. We were able to bring complex requirements together for an easy-to-navigate, visually pleasing, and functional platform. We are proud to be partners with the City of Bethlehem and appreciate their support and confidence throughout the entire development process.”

In addition to information for City departments, the new website offers news, events, and social media sections that can be easily updated by city staff to supply information efficiently. Quick links offer work schedules, online forms and permits, job postings, and access to City Council meetings. The website pages can be updated and modified internally by departments, which provides the City with the opportunity to quickly adapt the site to changing conditions.

The website can be found at Bethlehem-pa.gov

Headquartered in Allentown, PA, Kraemer Schurman Advertising & Design, Inc. has been the Lehigh Valley’s premier resource for design, web development, and marketing services. For over 20 years, KSA&D has been providing a full line of advertising services, from print to digital; e-commerce to social media; and mobile to web applications.
With powerful messaging coupled with creative delivery, KSA&D enhances your organization’s return on investment. For more information, or to contact KSA&D, please visit ksand.com or on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/company/ksa&d-inc./.