Bethlehem Steel in Latin America

Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem history

National Museum of Industrial History

NMIH virtual exhibit


Dear friends and members of the Bethlehem community,

I’m excited to share with you an upcoming event that presents new research on Bethlehem Steel’s global impact and long-standing relationship with Latin America, which is part of an ongoing project with support from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium.

On January 23rd at 3 pm EST, Dr. Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Professor of International Affairs at Lafayette College and public historian Javier Rojas of La Serena, Chile will present a virtual, bilingual talk entitled Digging up Bethlehem Steel’s History in Latin America: Chile and Transnational Flows of Raw Materials and People at the National Museum of Industrial History.

From 1913 until 1971, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation operated iron mines in Chile, shipping ore to the US through the Panama Canal. Chilean iron ore was essential to Bethlehem Steel’s World War II production, and various engineers, geologists, and Bethlehem Steel executives worked on the Chilean mining projects. Many brought families who lived for years in the mining towns or surrounding areas near La Serena, Chile, and through these connections Chileans also came to study, work and live in the Lehigh Valley. This talk will explore the history of Bethlehem Steel’s iron mining operations in Chile, the transnational flows of raw materials and people and Bethlehem Steel’s legacy in Latin America.

To receive the link to attend the free, virtual event, please visit  to register.

Visit the accompanying virtual exhibition curated by Chilean public historian Javier Rojas, who was born in the mining town of El Tofo, here

If you have memories, memorabilia, or documents related to Bethlehem Steel’s history in Latin America that you would like to share with the project, please visit

We hope to see you on January 23rd! Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who may be interested in attending.

Anna Smith
Outreach Coordinator, Bethlehem – Chile Project

National Museum of Industrial History

NMIH virtual exhibit


Several “first contact” cases in the news

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

“The rampant police mentality to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to a Black person is incontrovertible evidence that Black lives don’t matter to
too many law enforcement officers.”
Benjamin Crump, lawyer for the Hill family

ref: Yet another “first contact” gone bad

Gadfly keeping an eye on this Andre Hill case. The officer was fired. Still nothing put forth to explain or justify the shooting. But more details now about the shooting officer’s poor past disciplinary record. Gadfly says again that he would like to hear more about how our department handles misconduct. He can remember Chief DiLuzio saying that he had fired officers, so our disciplinary process may be just fine in weeding out “bad apples.” But Gadfly thinks we should hear more about it. Stories of such incidents very often show bad signs in an officer’s record and the role that police unions play in protecting them.

We should also note the 12-year-old Tamir Rice and killed-in-her-bed Breonna Taylor cases also made news recently, and not in a particularly good way.


selections from Andre Welsh-Huggins, “Police observed no threats from Andre Hill before shooting.” Associated Press, December 29, 2020.

An officer on the scene of the fatal shooting of Andre Hill in Ohio’s capital city last week didn’t perceive any threats and didn’t see a gun, contrary to a mistaken claim by the fellow officer who killed Hill, according to records released Tuesday.

The city fired Coy on Tuesday, accusing him of incompetence and “gross neglect of duty,” among other charges.

Coy asked Hill in a “normal tone of voice” to exit the garage and Hill complied but without responding, Detwiler said.

As Hill walked out, Detwiler “did not observe any threats from Mr. Hill,” nor did she see a gun, the internal affairs report said.

“Officer Detwiler stated Officer Coy observed a firearm and yelled, ‘There’s a gun in his other hand, there’s a gun in his other hand!’” the report said. “Officer Detwiler heard gunfire at this moment.”

No gun was found at the scene, police said.

Reports also indicate that Police Chief Thomas Quinlan felt something was off about the shooting as soon as he arrived, saw the officers and then saw the body cam video.

“I have responded to many officer-involved shooting scenes and spoken with many officers following these critical incidents,” Quinlan wrote in a Dec. 26 report. “There was something very distinct about the officers engagement following this critical incident that is difficult to describe for this letter.” He did not provide further details.

Coy’s handling of the shooting “is not a ‘rookie’ mistake as a result of negligence or inadvertence,” Quinlan said in his recommendation that the 17-year veteran be fired. Quinlan added that Coy’s actions were “reckless and deliberate.”

A review of Coy’s personnel file shows more than three dozen complaints have been filed against him since he joined the department in January 2002, mostly for rude or abusive language with a dozen for use of force. No details about the allegations are contained in the sparse summaries the city provided from the department’s internal affairs bureau. All but a few were marked “unfounded” or “not sustained.”

Quinlan noted that he had first raised concerns about Coy in 2008, when Quinlan was his patrol lieutenant.

“If sustained improvements are not fully realized a decision whether Officer Coy is salvageable must follow,” Quinlan said, quoting from a letter he wrote.

Coy was fired Monday hours after a hearing was held to determine his employment.

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page now available!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Click here for video and to donate

Your donation is tax deductible

Click here for video and to donate

Save our Bethlehem Swifts on Gadfly:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan
ref: When renovation turns to conservation

Giving gadflying a bad name

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

This is the kind of stuff that gives gadflying a bad name.

Somebody needs to connect the dots between the newspaper story and the LVGNA post for me.


Peter Hall, “Bethlehem police: Man tried to gouge officer’s eye during arrest.” December 28, 2020.

An Easton man is charged with aggravated assault after allegedly trying to gouge the eye of a Bethlehem police officer who was investigating package thefts Saturday.

Rashan Y. Bellamy, 39, of the 900 block of Butler Street was sent to Lehigh County Jail under $50,000 bail, according to court documents. In addition to a felony charge of aggravated assault of a police officer, Bellamy is charged with simple assault, resisting arrest, disorderly conduct and driving an unregistered vehicle.

According to a police affidavit:

Officer Matthew Steidel and another Bethlehem officer were watching a car that was identified as the vehicle used in multiple package thefts. The officers discovered that the temporary registration tag on the car was assigned to another vehicle and had expired in September.

When the officers saw Bellamy get into the car and pull out of a parking space without using a turn signal, they tried to make a traffic stop, but Bellamy eluded them.

Steidel radioed that he found the car in the 600 block of Fifth Avenue and officer Trevor Tomaszewski responded to that location. When Tomaszewski arrived, he saw Steidel struggling to take Bellamy into custody. Tomaszewski helped Steidel handcuff Bellamy, who continued to resist until he was placed in a police car.

Steidel said Bellamy pushed him against the police car, hit him and pressed his finger on Steidel’s eye.


When renovation turns to conservation, a building plan takes flight

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

“Something cool’s going to happen here.”
John Noble

“These birds are amazing.”
Jennie Gilrain

“What Mr. Noble is doing is so incredibly unusual and
incredibly good for the environment.”
Peter Saenger

“When renovation turns to conservation. A building plan that’s taking flight.”
Bo Koltnow

The Masonic Temple is coming down.

But plans to save the Swifts are rising.

The cause got a big boost last night with coverage by local and Philadelphia news media.

Take a look. Treat yourself.

Jim Friedman,  “Thousands of Chimney Swifts Alter Plans of Lehigh Valley Development Project.” NBC10 Philadelphia, December 29, 2020. (2 mins.)

Bo Koltnow. “Local developer says construction project delays worth the cost to save special type of bird.”  WFMZ Channel 69, December 29, 2020. (2 mins.)

Meet the principals again:

John Noble, developer, beaming like St Francis of Assisi

Jennie Gilrain, teacher by day, theatrical director by night,
already choreographing a Swift production

There’s a gofundme in our future, my followers!

to be continued . . .


Save our Bethlehem Swifts:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan

Shelby Steele: “Blacks have never been less oppressed than they are today”

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

“Shelby Steele believes that the use of victimization is the greatest hindrance for black Americans. In his view, white Americans see blacks as victims to ease their guilty conscience, and blacks attempt to turn their status as victims into a kind of currency that will purchase nothing of real or lasting value.”

Gadfly believes in systemic racism, believes in the need for individuals and institutions and entities to be anti-racist.

Not everybody does, of course.

And a sometime but passionate follower believes the blog needs a counter voice, suggesting prominent Black conservative Shelby Steele.

Happy to oblige.

Gadfly asks you to listen (there is video on two of the links) to Shelby Steele.


selections from Shelby Steele, “The American Dream is very much alive.” Fox Business Network, April 2, 2019.

“The American Dream is still very much alive . . . We are a free society essentially . . . based a good deal on individual initiative, effort, responsibility . . . These are the kinds of things that give you a very good chance of succeeding in a free society . . . [interviewer: You hear it all the time that somebody can be held back by their race, or their gender, or ethnicity . . . no?] . . . We live in a new age . . . I grew up in segregation . . . I know what it means to grow up in a society totally organized against your aspirations as an individual . . . I know what that’s like . . . That does not exist any longer . . . It’s not absolutely perfectly gone, but it is largely gone . . . So that today, no matter who you are, what your race is, your color, your ethnicity, etc., you can do pretty much what you want to do, what you want to work hard enough to really want to do . . . I don’t know any place in the world that offers more opportunity, more freedom, than this society . . . We convince ourselves , for all sorts of other reasons, that that’s not true . . . but as a Black American I can certainly tell you that one of the most important things I have ever understood in my life is that I am free . . . That was not the case when I grew up . . . That freedom is a very rare gift, and we need to appreciate it is the answer to all of our problems.”

selections from Charles Creitz, “Shelby Steele: Claims of ‘systemic racism’ are ‘expanding the territory of entitlement’.” Fox News, June 7, 2020.

“In order to pursue power as they [radical Blacks] do, you need victims . . . George Floyd is the archetypal victim . . . And the whole incident, his murder, is sort of a metaphor for the civil rights agenda, the grievance agenda . . . complete innocent . . . tortured to death . . . well, Wow . . . the excitement that triggers on the left in America . . . It validates their claims that America is a wretched country . . . that they must get recourse for what’s going on . . . It feeds this old model of operation that we’ve developed . . . that America is guilty of racism, guilty of this sin and has been for four centuries . . . and minorities are victims who are entitled . . . And so when people start to talk about systemic racism built into the system, what they are really doing is expanding the territory of entitlement . . . We want more, we want more, we want society to give us more . . . Society is responsible for us because racism is so systemic . . . That’s a corruption . . . The truth of the matter is Blacks have never been less oppressed than they are today . . . Opportunity is around every corner . . . Why don’t you take some responsibility . . . Why don’t you take more responsibility . . . If we had the nerve, the courage, to look at Black people . . . and say ‘You’re not carrying your own weight . . . Are you making things happen for yourself? . . . Or are you saying I’m a victim, I’m owed.”

selections from Shelby Steele, “The Inauthenticity Behind Black Lives Matter.” Wall Street Journal, November 22, 2020.

Insisting on the prevalence of “systemic racism” is a way of defending a victim-focused racial identity.

Even today, almost 60 years beyond the Civil Rights Act, groups like Black Lives Matter, along with a vast grievance industry, use America’s insecure moral authority around race as an opportunity to assert themselves.

Both [whites and Blacks] need blacks to be victims. Whites need blacks they can save to prove their innocence of racism. Blacks must put themselves forward as victims the better to make their case for entitlements.

This is a corruption because it makes black suffering into a moral power to be wielded, rather than a condition to be overcome. This is the power that blacks discovered in the ’60s. It gained us a War on Poverty, affirmative action, school busing, public housing and so on. But it also seduced us into turning our identity into a virtual cult of victimization—as if our persecution was our eternal flame, the deepest truth of who we are, a tragic fate we trade on.

Yet there is an elephant in the room. It is simply that we blacks aren’t much victimized any more. Today we are free to build a life that won’t be stunted by racial persecution. Today we are far more likely to encounter racial preferences than racial discrimination. Moreover, we live in a society that generally shows us goodwill—a society that has isolated racism as its most unforgivable sin.

Thus, for many blacks today—especially the young—there is a feeling of inauthenticity, that one is only thinly black because one isn’t racially persecuted. “Systemic racism” is a term that tries to recover authenticity for a less and less convincing black identity. This racism is really more compensatory than systemic. It was invented to make up for the increasing absence of the real thing.

We don’t have to fight for freedom so much any more. We have to do something more difficult—fully accept that we are free.


Steele points to Burgess Owens, Herschel Walker, Daniel Cameron, Tim Scott — speakers at the Republican National Convention — as examples of Blacks who have succeeded, defying the existence of a systemic racism ceiling.

to be continued . . .

Senator Boscola: funding for some City projects

“ArtsQuest cultural center, other Lehigh Valley redevelopment projects get big financial boost.” WFMZ, December 24, 2020

  • ArtsQuest Community Cultural Center II ($3.5 million): Project consists of the construction of a new 80,000-square-foot arts and cultural center at the site of the current Banana Factory Arts Center in Bethlehem
  • Goodman Building ($1 million): Alloy5 Architecture will be redeveloping the former Goodman Furniture building into a mix used project
  • Boyd Theater Redevelopment II ($250,000): A mixed use redevelopment of the former movie theater into ground floor retail and 120 one and two-bedroom apartments in Bethlehem’s central business district

Reminder! Draft Climate Action Plan now available for review and comment: January 6 deadline

Latest in a series on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan

City Climate Action Plan page

The draft Climate Action Plan
Public comment form: January 6 deadline

The penultimate step in the process to develop a Climate Action Plan for our city is upon us.

The full final draft of the CAP is now available on the City web site.

‘Tis there for your perusal, and comments and questions will be taken till January 6.

We can look forward to the implementation of the CAP shortly thereafter.

The CAP is really quite a forward looking achievement.

And Gadfly bets a lot of people said it couldn’t be done.

And now it’s another thing that makes Bethlehem a special place.

With the President-elect Biden Administration, we can look forward to renewed action and support at the national level.

Get your “two cents” in by January 6.

Images of anti-racism (2)

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

On June 27, 2015, ten days after Dylann Roof killed eight Blacks in a Bible study class in a Charleston church, in an act of peaceful civil disobedience as American as apple pie, as they say, a Black woman, Bree Newsome, climbed the flag pole outside the South Carolina State House and removed the Confederate flag.

With her was a white man, James Tyson.

See the news story here

Gadfly talked yesterday about the image of anti-racism from “12 Years a Slave” that moved him during his participation in one of the local programs on race in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

In another one of those programs, the topic was the difference for white people between being an “ally” and a “co-conspirator” when it comes to the fight for racial justice.

That’s another way of saying the difference between being “not racist” and being “anti-racist.”

James Tyson was being a co-conspirator.

James Tyson was being anti-racist.

Simply by holding the pole.

When the Courthouse police threatened to taze Newsome, Tyson grabbed the pole, thwarting the police, who were reluctant to risk sending a “charge” through the white man.

And then he simply joined her in arrest.

A lively discussion among program participants centered on this very lively Bettina Love video (5 mins.) and the challenge to whites to be active in the fight for racial justice, to be co-conspirators. to “find your pole.”

Something to think about.

Being anti-racist, that is.

As we approach the traditional time of making resolutions.

If somebody today asks you if you found your pole, you’ll know what they’re talking about.

Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

This is Portland not Bethlehem. This is the Chapman Chimney Project not a Masonic Temple one. But you get the idea.

Listen to Jennie Gilrain float her multi-layered vision regarding the Swifts (2 mins.).

Gadfly finds it hard to curb his enthusiasm.

How about you?

“One thought I had . . . and this is particularly for the ears of the City . . . but we’re all citizens . . . all of us . . . I think this particular chimney . . . is extremely important . . . and has a place in my heart in particular because it’s two blocks away from me and I’ve actually seen the birds go in it . . . But I feel . . . well I not only feel, but I think . . . that this is an opportunity . . . that John [Noble] and his family and all of us . . . can set a precedent for a city . . . cooperating together . . . a developer . . . environmentalists . . . ecologists . . . civic-minded people . . . cooperating to save a threatened or vulnerable species . . . that hasn’t adapted to an urban environment . . . so even beyond saving the species we can model embracing the wild in an urban environment . . . and . . . this is for the ears of city government . . . I don’t know if there’s such a thing as . . . a city adopting a bird . . . You know, I know they have state birds . . . but do they have city birds . . . could we claim that the Swift is Bethlehem’s bird . . . and then really care for that bird . . . and enjoy it . . . and make it an attraction . . . and make it a tourist attraction . . . just like the Bethlehem Star [delightful Jennie-giggle] . . . So I really feel that this particular chimney is important . . . crucial . . . but it could be the beginning of a citywide . . . and then a countrywide . . . a national, even . . . precedent . . . example.”

to be continued . . .


Save the Bethlehem Swifts:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”

Help is on the way! Bethlehem receives first vaccine supply!

Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the Bethlehem Health Bureau has received an initial allotment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine. The Bethlehem Health Bureau will begin vaccinating individuals in the first phase priority group, as defined by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, this week.
“This vaccine is critical in stopping the spread of COVID-19 and I encourage everyone who is eligible to get immunized,” Mayor Bob Donchez stated.
The Bethlehem Health Bureau is coordinating vaccination efforts for healthcare workers with the Allentown Health Bureau, Lehigh Valley Health Network and St. Luke’s University Health Network. Walgreens and CVS will begin vaccinating residents and employees in long-term care facilities this week as well.
The Bethlehem Health Bureau will distribute vaccine to the following priority populations in the City of Bethlehem and Northampton County during the first phase: home health care workers, school nurses, college and university health center staff, independent physicians, dermatologists, dentists, eye doctors, coroners and podiatrists. Any agency that is interested in receiving the Moderna vaccine and is part of the 1A priority group is encouraged to register by going to the City of Bethlehem’s COVID-19 webpage at…/Communicable…/COVID-19 and click under the vaccines tab or go directly to the following link:
The Bethlehem Health Bureau is expected to receive vaccine shipments on a weekly basis. Following the distribution to the priority 1A group, the health bureau will provide vaccines to additional groups, including first responders and essential workers. Timing of the vaccine for the general public is not yet known at this time. The Bethlehem Health Bureau will continue to provide updates as to when the vaccine will be made available to additional groups.

Images of anti-racism (1)

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

“I ask no favor for my sex. All I ask of our brethren is
that they take their feet off our necks.”
Sarah Moore Grimke’ via Ruth Bader Ginsburg

It’s kind of a quiet, in-between week in the Gadfly business.

City work mainly buttoned up till we hit the new year.

Time for a little “intellectual” work.

As you might have noted, Gadfly has been taking advantage of the various webinars, conferences, programs, etc., on race offered locally (BAPL has done a great job!) in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Will be doing homework today for a discussion tomorrow.

Ah, the luxurious gift of time: a joy of retirement.

But Gadfly has recently fretted here that the way the world turns in our manic-paced culture we’re in danger of losing the national reckoning with race his murder precipitated.

But maybe not for another week anyway.

We are entering the flush of those television year-end reviews of the big stories of 2020, and, like you, Gadfly has noticed that Floyd is much back in the news.

His murder still sharing top headline billing in a year overfilled with news.

The image of a knee [not the feet of Justice Ginsburg’s remark!] on a neck coming center stage again.

I was thinking of that image recently while watching for a local program on race the 2013 Academy Award Best Picture “12 Years a Slave” about a free Black kidnapped into slavery who for twelve years unsuccessfully attempts to free himself — a film based on a true story.

It takes the agency of a white man (Samuel Bass) to free the wronged Black (Solomon Northrup).

Sometimes it is not possible for a Black to “rise” on his or her own, though not for the lack of trying. [Think systemic racism]

At considerable risk to himself — a white man living in the South defying the laws of the South — Bass contacts white people in the North who arrange to free Northrup.

Northrup is able to reconnect and reclaim his life, once more becoming a valuable contributor to his society.

But it takes the agency of a white man, a white man performing an anti-racist act, a white man who moves from a hands-off passive intellectual repulsion at slavery to an active physical repudiation of and personal rebellion against the racist system, the very world in which he exists.

Gadfly was very much moved by this image of an anti-racism act.

We can’t have too many images of anti-racism, acts which are never easy.

to be continued . . .

Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: “This is a worthy cause”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

Peter Saenger, President, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society (2 mins.)

“Like many of our North American bird species, they’re under pressure . . . They’re in severe decline . . . Originally, they nested in hollow trees . . . and then we cut the forests down . . . and they adapted to nesting in chimneys . . . and now we’re capping them . . . and modern construction doesn’t have chimneys . . . So they’re habitat is going away . . . So every single spot is critical for them . . . especially migratory spots . . . for populations that still have nesting sites up in the north in the mature forests . . . I don’t know a lot about the Masonic Temple chimney . . . but during migratory seasons, spring and fall these birds gather in huge numbers . . . apparently this chimney houses 2000 birds at a time . . . and it’s critical that they have these roosting sites during migration . . . So these places are going away very quickly . . . So every one that we can replace or maintain is critical for their continued existence . . . These birds migrate from North America, Canada, all the way down to the Brazilian rain forest for the winter . . . and they come back . . . and they are very site-specific . . . so if they lose a tower, they have no place to go . . . and I would gather a good percentage would perish if they don’t have the same place to go back to . . . This is a worthy cause.”

to be continued . . .


Save the Bethlehem Swifts:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”

My peace . . .

My peace I give to you.

Merry Christmas!

My Peace
Words by Woody Guthrie, Music by Arlo Guthrie

My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you
My peace is all I’ve ever had it’s all I ever knew
I give my peace to green and black to red and white and blue
My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you

My peace my peace is all I’ve got it’s all I’ve ever known
My peace is worth a thousand times more than anything I own
I pass my peace around and around ‘cross hands of every hue
My peace my peace is all I’ve got that I can give to you

After a night of kumbaya, “My Peace” has been the ol’ hippie’s signature closing.

Yet another “first contact” gone bad

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

“There’s no compression on the wounds, no attempts at CPR, not even a hand on the shoulder and an encouraging word that medics were en route. To see him lying in the driveway minute after minute after minute after minute with no attempt to render aid and comfort. To be honest, I had never seen body worn camera footage like that.”
Columbus Mayor Andrew Ginther

“Columbus voters in November also approved a city charter amendment to create a Civilian Review Board and inspector general, which will conduct independent investigations into police misconduct and policies. The city is currently accepting applications for the review board, which it hopes to seat early next year.”
NPR,  December 23, 2020

Gadfly gets no pleasure out of this.

And Gadfly makes no inferences about our police department, which, as far as he knows, has a fine record.

But the headlines read “Ohio Officer’s Bodycam Shows He Shot Unarmed Black Man Within 10 Seconds Of Encounter” and “Columbus officer who fatally shot unarmed Black man has history of excessive force, misconduct” and “Columbus mayor calls for termination of officer who killed unarmed Black man.”

Something is wrong with the way these “first contact” situations are handled. And perhaps with the way officer misconduct is handled.

And Gadfly feels that there should be open discussion of such topics in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

And the sooner the better.

We don’t want such occurrences to happen here.

The way the world turns, soon people will be saying, “George who?”

Consider this latest case of “first contact” gone wrong.

See news story here:

Bethany Brunner, “Here’s video and a timeline of the Andre Hill shooting by Columbus police.” Columbus Dispatch, December 23, 2020.

Good signs of the Christmas season

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

The headline on the Associated Press story on p. 13 of the print version of the Morning Call yesterday was “KC Star reckons with its past.”

KC Star. That’s the Kansas City Star. A major midwestern newspaper for over 140 years. Meaning it was founded in the post-Civil War generation. Just after the end of slavery. In the Reconstruction Era.

Gadfly has been fond of saying that the murder of George Floyd spurred a “nationwide reckoning with race.”

On December 20, the Kansas City Star editor Mike Fannin reckoned with the paper’s racial past: “The truth in Black and white: An apology from The Kansas City Star.”

It was brutal.

Today we are telling the story of a powerful local business that has done wrong.

For 140 years, it has been one of the most influential forces in shaping Kansas City and the region. And yet for much of its early history — through sins of both commission and omission — it disenfranchised, ignored and scorned generations of Black Kansas Citians. It reinforced Jim Crow laws and redlining. Decade after early decade it robbed an entire community of opportunity, dignity, justice and recognition.

That business is The Kansas City Star.

Before I say more, I feel it to be my moral obligation to express what is in the hearts and minds of the leadership and staff of an organization that is nearly as old as the city it loves and covers:

We are sorry.

The Kansas City Star prides itself on holding power to account. Today we hold up the mirror to ourselves to see the historic role we have played, through both action and inaction, in shaping and misshaping Kansas City’s landscape.

It is time that we own our history.

It is well past time for an apology, acknowledging, as we do so, that the sins of our past still reverberate today.

This spring, the Memorial Day death of George Floyd in Minneapolis beneath the knee of a white police officer ignited protests worldwide over racial injustice. In doing so, it has forced institutions to look inward.

Inside The Star, reporters and editors discussed how an honest examination of our own past might help us move forward. What started as a suggestion from reporter Mará Rose Williams quickly turned into a full-blown examination of The Star’s coverage of race and the Black community dating to our founding in 1880. . . . Reporters were frequently sickened by what they found — decades of coverage that depicted Black Kansas Citians as criminals living in a crime-laden world. They felt shame at what was missing: the achievements, aspirations and milestones of an entire population routinely overlooked, as if Black people were invisible.

Reporters felt regret that the papers’ historic coverage not only did a disservice to Black Kansas Citians, but also to white readers deprived of the opportunity to understand the true richness Black citizens brought to Kansas City. . . .

We encourage other Kansas City businesses to come forward and own their history as well, tell their stories, get the poison out — for the sake of the community and their employees.

It still pains me personally to know that in The Star’s monopolistic heyday — when it had the biggest media platform in the region — the paper did little to unify the city or recognize the inherent rights of all Kansas Citians.

But our history doesn’t have to own us.

We are grateful for how far we’ve come. We are humbled by how far we still have to go.

In the wake of the murder of George Floyd, the Kansas City Star has taken an anti-racist step.

Gadfly has been scribbling such examples of institutional anti-racism he comes across on the back of an envelope. There have been many. Like Major League Baseball this month recognizing more than 3,400 players from seven distinct Negro leagues that operated between 1920 and 1948 as “major leaguers.” The New York Times called it “righting a wrong.”

The Kansas City Star and MLB took a knee.

Gadfly finds such “anti-racism” morally aphrodisiac.

And totally appropriate for this Christmas season of good will to all.

While he has been excited by the targeting of systemic racism in the discussions of our Community Engagement Initiative, he has been impatient with, in his opinion, the slow speed that concrete actions are taking place here.

He is afraid we are in danger of missing the George Floyd wave of concern for racial equity, and he hopes that anti-racism will be a feature of mayoral and Councilpersonic campaigns that are probably now shaping up for the spring.

The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page

“Feeling is first,” says the poet cummings.

And the feeling that lover of birds Jennie Gilrain felt when the appearance of construction fences made demolition of the Masonic Temple a stark reality was fear.

Fear for the Swifts that nest in the Temple chimney.

But “good things started to happen,” Jennie exults, when she made contact with the developer family — John, Lynn, and daughter Casey Noble (a second daughter Bailey is now living in Los Angeles but will also be involved in the project).

Jennie “made me aware of the Swifts,” admitted John.

“We really had no idea!” says Lynn.

The Noble family became ready co-conspirators with Jennie in a project to save the Swifts.

John, a self-employed business man, and Lynn, a fine art photographer and writer, met while John was at Lehigh, Lynn at DeSales. Casey is Project Manager for Elevate Construction, and Bailey is an actress who also owns her own business.

John bought the Wilbur Mansion/Masonic Temple property in 2016, “without a plan, but knowing that with the right preservation we could create a gateway focal point for Bethlehem.” Gadfly, like you probably, has eagerly followed the changing plans for the site since then through stories in the local media. John last appeared here in the blog last February, just before the pandemic slowed things down. He is now breaking ground for a development that combines apartment living with hotel, restaurant, and event space.

“My first big commitment to preservation came in 2008,” John recalls, “when I was able to work with my neighbors to acquire 45 acres stretching along a mile of the Saucon Creek. We worked with the Wildlands Conservancy and Lower Saucon, raising some of the funding to prevent its development and blanket the land with a conservation easement.”

“The wildlife along this land is absolutely amazing,” John exclaims.

“Nature is what inspires almost everything we do,” Lynn explains. “We have always been concerned with protecting the land and the wildlife around us. I can tell you many, many stories about how our family has saved countless animals . . . deer, fox, possums, rabbits, geese, ducks, and many different varieties of birds! We even caused an uproar with the Bethlehem Board of Health the time we rescued a fox!”

“We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected,” Lynn promises.

“I’m big into birds,” assures John.

Gadfly hears the Swifts sigh with relief.

Along with Jennie.

The Nobles’ new building

to be continued . . .


ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared

A fire in the fire department

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

At the December 15 City Council meeting during the discussion of ordinance 8A — Adopting the 2021 General Fund Budget — Councilwoman Crampsie Smith alluded to an email about internal dissension in the Fire Department.

Here’s what she said (2 mins.):

“I proposed my amendment with my concern about eliminating four firefighter positions . . . and that did not pass . . . but I would ask . . . the administration to take note that we all received an email from . . . a concerned citizen . . . that was forwarded to Robert Brooks who is First Vice President of the Firefighters Local . . . I don’t know the facts, but some of the information is a little alarming . . . It sounds like what concerns me because, again, because our Public Safety, whether policemen, firemen, EMTs or whatever . . . they are the backbone of our community and assuring that our community is safe . . . and from this memo it sounds like there is a lot of dissension . . . regarding the Fire Chief at this point . . . and I would request that the Administration would sit down and try to broker with those two entities . . . to see if we can try to resolve these issues . . . as Mr. Brooks notes that the morale in the Fire department is at an all time low . . . and we all know that if the morale is low in any department . . . that certainly can affect the quality of work . . . and we’re talking about people who deal with life and death safety issues . . . I would be more than willing to help mediate . . . I do that every day . . . I do feel that this issue be addressed . . . We are looking at a department in our city that is responsible for the safety of our citizens . . . and if there is morale and tension in the department it needs to be addressed.”

At the time the Councilwoman’s comments were a mystery, to be sure. Gadfly had no idea what she was talking about. And the subject dropped, no one else responded.

The issue seemed to be a mixture of budget and personnel, and Gadfly knows from his short experience that personnel matters are not usually discussed in open meetings.

Lacking better information, Gadfly said nothing to you when doing his review of the meeting, but he sought a copy of the email through the Right-to-Know process.

See the linked documents:

Fire Department email

What you’ll find is an email from “Concerned Citizen” to Union official Brooks dated 3:25 December 15, the day of the City Council meeting, with an attached document titled “Fact Checking the Fire Chief.”

Brooks then forwarded “Concerned Citizen’s” email to the members of City Council at 3:49, in time to be read before the 7PM meeting if the Councilors were checking their email in timely fashion.

In his transmittal message, Brooks lamented the way Council members deferred to the Chief’s acquiescence to the cuts of the 4 firefighters at the November 9 budget hearing, said that department morale is “at an all time low,” and asked Council to “reconsider” its position on cutting the 4 firefighters till it understood the firefighter position on the impact of those cuts.

“Concerned Citizen’s” attachment is 4 pages of correcting false or misleading statements the Chief made at the November 9 budget meeting, concluding that the Chief “deliberately misinformed” Council to justify the personnel cuts.


So now Councilwoman Crampsie Smith’s comments are demystified only to have the issue mystified again:

  • Why did “Concerned Citizen” wait from November 9 to December 15 to make this damning report, when it was virtually too late for a change?
  • Why did Councilwoman Crampsie Smith not seize on the allegation of false information from the Chief to renew her attempt to save the firefighter positions?
  • Why was there no response to this allegation of deliberate misinformation from Councilman Callahan, who previously also tried to save the positions, especially since he specifically asked about Fire Department morale on November 9 in what turned out to be a very awkward interchange with the Chief? Check it, see what you think (video at min. 1:09:50).
  • Why did no other Council members respond to the allegations?
  • Was it because there is an understanding among Council members that there would be no budget changes at this late date (the budget has to be approved by the end of the year, and December 15 was the last meeting)?
  • For what it’s worth — and it might not be much — Gadfly remembers thinking on November 9 that the Chief’s presentation and responses seemed lackadaisical, like one who has been put in a tough position, defending something — the 4 cuts — he really didn’t believe in (see the Chief in meeting video at min. 3:35 and min. 13:15 and especially min. 26:09). That would make the Chief a victim of the budget process rather than a participator.

What do you think will happen next on this front?

A change in Fire Department leadership?


Do you have implicit bias? Take the test!

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Implicit bias training for Bethlehem police

Gadfly has reported that 6 of our officers, including the Chief, are in a pilot implicit bias training program.

“The pilot program is broken down into three sessions. Each session provides officers with information regarding implicit bias through PowerPoints, videos and tests.”

In one of the sessions the officers took the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

You can take it too.

Gadfly did.

It only takes a few minutes.

Go to Harvard Implicit Bias Test.

Gadfly was surprised at his result.