What the Swifts have to teach us

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“Swifts have, of late, become my fable of community, teaching us about how to make right decisions in the face of oncoming bad weather.”
Helen Macdonald

You have been following Gadfly’s support of our Save Our Swifts campaign spearheaded by Jennie Gilrain and with the blessing of Masonic Temple site developer John Noble. You may have even contributed to the campaign. 91 people have so far, and there’s room for plenty more. (hint, hint)

There’s word on the street that there’s a move afoot to name the Swifts the official bird of the City of Bethlehem.

There’s further whispers of a resolution at the next City Council meeting.

It behooves us to get to know the Swifts.

We may soon be seeing images of them everywhere from on police cars to our water bills.

I can imagine Swifts illuminated on the side of the Hotel Bethlehem at migration time.

Now Gadfly already told you that you could know Swifts by reading scientist/naturalist JJ Audobon, he of considerable fame.

What Gadfly didn’t tell you, however, is that ol’ Audobon is the typical cold, detached scientist.

While not exactly Dr. Frankenstein, he killed and stuffed his birds.

Gadfly couldn’t bear to tell you that before.

On a midnight excursion to the Louisville Sycamore Swift Hotel, JJ and his Igor “caught and killed with as much care as possible more than a hundred [Swifts], stowing them away in [their] pockets and bosoms” for further examination.

Gadfly appreciates the “as much care as possible” gesture, but we’re not talking about love here.

We want to love our Swifts.

With a tip o’ the hat to Jennie, Gadfly would like to recommend “ornitho-poet” Helen Macdonald’s New York Times Magazine essay “The Mysterious Life of Birds Who Never Come Down.” 

Here we will find love.

Here we will find respect.

Here we will find awe.

Gadfly gives you a taste:

The bird was suffused with a kind of seriousness very akin to holiness. . . . Swifts are magical in the manner of all things that exist just a little beyond understanding. . . .  they are creatures of the upper air, and of their nature unintelligible, which makes them more akin to angels. . . . If the swifts were flying low over rooftops, I’d see one open its mouth, and that was truly uncanny, because the gape was huge, turning the bird into something uncomfortably like a miniature basking shark. . . . They still seem to me the closest things to aliens on Earth. I’ve seen them up close now, held a live grounded adult in my hands before letting it fall back into the sky. You know those deep-sea fish dragged by nets from fathoms of blackness, how obvious it is that they aren’t supposed to exist where we are? The adult swift was like that in reverse. Its frame was tough and spare, and its feathers were bleached by the sun. Its eyes seemed unable to focus on me, as if it were an entity from an alternate universe whose senses couldn’t quite map onto our phenomenal world. . . . They mate on the wing. And while young martins and swallows return to their nests after their first flights, young swifts do not. As soon as they tip themselves free of the nest hole, they start flying, and they will not stop flying for two or three years, bathing in rain, feeding on airborne insects, winnowing fast and low to scoop fat mouthfuls of water from lakes and rivers. . . . Common swifts spend only a few months on their breeding grounds, another few months in winter over the forests and fields of sub-Saharan Africa, and the rest of the time they’re moving, making a mockery of borders. 

Gadfly usually gives you selections and then a link to full articles or news stories. A bow to your busy lives.

But he would really like you to read this whole article.

It’s kinda long for sure.

But it’s exquisitely written and should not be excerpted.

Look for the phenomenon of “vesper flights.”

See what the Swifts have to teach us.

And be ready to tell me what you think.

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Save Our Swifts

Riverport starting to whet our appetites!

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Such good news! (Reminds Gadfly to wonder what’s happening lately on the Banana Factory renovation front.) The Morning Call online article linked below has a great image gallery at which you should look.

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selections from Ryan Kneller, “First four vendors, including a brewery and Mexican eatery, announced for Bethlehem’s Riverport Public Market.” Morning Call, January 19, 2021.

The first four vendors of a highly anticipated public market on Bethlehem’s South Side have been announced, and they are likely to make your mouth water.

A start-up brewery, a local winery, a Mexican restaurant and a micro creamery have signed on to occupy the Riverport Public Market. The center is set to open later this year at the site of the former Starters Riverport restaurant at 17 W. Second St., the market and principals of Ashley Development Corporation announced in a Tuesday news release.

Before the pandemic, experiential concepts were among the strongest performers in both the retail and [food and beverage] world,” Natalia Stezenko, the market’s design and project manager, said in the release. “The pandemic has put those concepts on hold, and many experiential players that were thriving will simply not make it through the crisis without help. But, we see the public market model as the vehicle which can lead a resurgence of the experiential retail and F&B economy.”

In terms of a tentative opening date, the development team is “optimistic for November,” Stezenko added.

The forthcoming market’s vendors include:

Soaked Winery: Soaked Winery aims to create an environment “where everyone is welcome and where the stuffy heirs of wine snobbery fall by the wayside.”

Jealous Star Brewing Co.: Jealous Star Brewing Co. is the brainchild of restaurateur Ramiro Bravo, brewer Brendon Velasquez and Tim Kiss. The brewery, whose name is derived from Norse mythology, will focus attention on hand-picking ingredients catering to each style of beer.

TYT Lite: TYT Lite will be a new fast-casual Mexican concept from Ramiro Bravo, owner of Tacos Y Tequila in downtown Allentown and Palmer Township. TYT Lite will have street tacos, burritos, burrito bowls, quesadillas and nachos on the menu for your on-the-go authentic Mexican cuisine fix.

Batch Microcreamery: Established in 2019, Batch will open a third location at the upcoming Riverport Market in Bethlehem. The micro creamery, which also has locations at the Downtown Allentown Market and newly opened Trolley Barn Public Market in Quakertown, offers super premium, hand-crafted ice cream that is made on-site.

Riverport Public Market, occupying a two-story, 24,000-square-foot space, will feature 24 food and beverage vendors and create “a vibrant new place to celebrate local food and craft culture,” according to the release.

In addition to showcasing unique, freshly made food and other high-quality selections from artisans, the market will host a variety of cooking classes and events featuring instructors ranging from in-house vendors and local chefs to nationally known cookbook authors in a demonstration kitchen.

“We seek harm to none and harmony for all”

“We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation, rather than share it.”

Amanda Gorman was an Inauguration sensation with her poem “The Hill We Climb.”

Find information on her below provided by a member of a discussion list to which Gadfly belongs.

Some of his favorite lines in the poem are here. What are yours?

We are striving to forge our union with purpose
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gaze, not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.

“The Hill We Climb”

The following information on Gorman provided by Abdul Alkalimat:

Now 22-years-old, West LA raised Gorman was named Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles at the age of 16. At 19, while in college at Harvard, she was named the first-ever National Youth Poet Laureate.

The poem she read
https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/20/amanda-gormans-inaugural-poem-the-hill-we-climb-full-text.html

The position of Youth Poet Laureate
https://www.youthlaureate.org/

Bio
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amanda_Gorman
https://www.lataco.com/meet-amanda-gorman-the-l-a-native-who-is-the-first-national-youth-poet-laureate/
https://www.thecrimson.com/article/2017/9/18/youth-poet/
https://tinyurl.com/y2e8u88u

Her website
https://www.theamandagorman.com/

Her inaugural reading
https://www.cnn.com/videos/style/2021/01/20/amanda-gorman-youth-poet-laureate-full-poem-biden-capitol-inauguration-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/cnn-style/

Interview
https://www.cnn.com/videos/style/2021/01/21/amanda-gorman-poet-laureate-interview-inauguration-vpx.cnn

Her poetry
https://poets.org/poem/place-american-lyric
https://www.amazon.com/s?k=amanda+gorman&i=stripbooks&crid=2I5C0SOWEZ64I&sprefix=aman%2Cstripbooks%2C190&ref=nb_sb_ss_ts-a-p_2_4

Her other readings
https://youtu.be/zM4En012IJo
https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2018/10/youth-poet-laureate-amanda-gorman-delivers-poem-at-harvard-presidents-inauguration/
https://poets.org/teach-poem/amanda-gorman-library-congress

Oprah gave her earrings
https://people.com/style/oprah-gifts-symbolic-jewelry-to-inaguration-day-poet-amanda-gorman/

“But while democracy can be periodically delayed,
it can never be permanently defeated.”

An opportunity to step up: “our city needs your civic engagement”

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

The City just published the following announcement seeking applications for volunteer positions on the City Authorities, Boards, and Commissions — what Gadfly calls our ABC’s.

The primary election is May 18. We will be electing a mayor and City Council members. But sometimes we too little recognize that a lot of the City work and a lot of the decisions are made by volunteer residents serving on the ABC’s.

The City is looking for volunteers. Now is the time for you to think about where you can participate.

Follow the link in the announcement to the list of ABC’s. If unsure about what one of the ABC’s does or what you might be suitable for, you can talk to Alex Karras in the Mayor’s office wkarras@bethlehem-pa.gov.

The City has been responsive to calls for new blood on the ABC’s, especially from women and people of color.

For a pep talk, I recommend Councilwoman Negron’s still relevant 2019 article posted below.

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Appointments Available For Bethlehem Residents Interested in Serving on Authorities, Boards, Commissions

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Appointments are available for Bethlehem residents who may be interested in serving on one of our various authorities, boards, and commissions!

Please review the following link for information specific to each of them:

https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Meet-Your-Government/Authorities-Boards-and-Commissions

Interested citizens are encouraged to send their letter of interest and resume to the Office of the Mayor at wkarras@bethlehem-pa.gov

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Olga Negron, “Your View by Bethlehem councilwoman: Want to help democracy? Serve on a government board.” Morning Call, August 31, 2019.

Voting in national elections is important, but it’s only one of many ways that citizens can fulfill their duty to contribute to the governance of their communities and country.

I’m Councilwoman Olga Negron, vice president of Bethlehem City Council and the first woman of color elected to Bethlehem City Council. Getting elected to City Council was not a matter of chance or luck. I’ve been civically engaged all my life. Before running for local office, I served in many volunteer positions within the city, such as on the Planning Commission, the Public Library Board and many other nonprofit boards.

As a member of these governing bodies, and now as an elected official, I’m here to tell you that our city needs your civic engagement.

A few highly visible decision-making positions in local government are elected positions and each of us has to be a resident of our municipality in order to hold that post (mayor, city council, etc.).

However, that’s not the only way to be part of the decisions about what happens in our city. There are many, other extremely important nonelected positions in local government that need to be filled by volunteers, such as positions on the Public NegronLibrary Board, Fine Arts Commission, Housing Authority, Human Relations Commission, Board of Historical and Architectural Review, City Planning Commission, Environmental Advisory Council, Historic Conservation Commissions, Parking Authority, Recreation Commission, Redevelopment Authority, Zoning Hearing Board.

Although some positions have residency requirements, in many cases people who sit on these commissions and boards don’t live in our city.

We also have individuals who have been members of the same board or commission for 15 to 20 years, and some individuals are members of two or three boards at the same time. Why, you might wonder?

Some of these positions require an expertise (electrical, health, financial, etc.). And these are also nonpaid positions, which makes it more difficult to find individuals willing to serve.

Many times when there are vacancies, they need to be filled rather quickly and the person charged with selecting nominees is “stuck” with the same few individuals.

However, it’s important to know that not all positions require a specific expertise; most just require a dedicated person with common sense and love for our city who is willing to be the voice of their community.

As a member of city council, I understand that one of my roles is to provide a check and balance on the mayor of the city and at the same time to be the voice of the people.

But the people in our city have diverse voices, and what we need is more of that diversity working in our government. That’s why I’m reaching out to challenge every single one of you to get civically engaged, to share your talents and put them to work for the betterment of our city. Don’t wait until you are negatively impacted by a government decision to get involved in local decisions.

A functioning democracy requires citizens who care what their government is doing and who put the time in to make it work for them. At the municipal level, you can have an impact on the political.

When citizens get involved in local government, they make it possible for government to do more than elected officials could accomplish alone.

Just this year, the city’s Environmental Advisory Council proposed several ordinances that would otherwise never become a possibility.

When members of local boards and commissions tell us what they think is good for the city, their views can have a significant impact on the decisions that elected officials make.

By getting involved in local government, you can make a big difference in the governance of our collective life and community long before the 2020 presidential election arrives.

City: info on vaccine and on utility bills

Bethlehem Health Bureau To Expand Vaccine Distribution

Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez announces that the Bethlehem Health Bureau will expand vaccine distribution.

The Bethlehem Health Bureau will now expand COVID-19 vaccines to individuals age 65 or older and individuals 18-64 years of age with certain medical conditions that increase the risk of severe illness from the virus.

“The Bethlehem Health Bureau has done an outstanding job vaccinating over 2,850 individuals in the first priority group.  We now look forward to vaccinating additional individuals who are now eligible to receive the vaccine,” Mayor Bob Donchez stated.

The Bethlehem Health Bureau is expected to receive vaccine shipments on a weekly basis. The Bethlehem Health Bureau will continue to provide updates as to when the vaccine will be made available to additional groups.

For a complete list of groups who are eligible to get vaccinated in the 1A phase or to schedule an appointment at one of our upcoming clinics, please visit https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Health-Bureau/Communicable-Diseases/COVID-19 and click on the COVID-19 vaccine tab.

Proof that individuals are eligible to receive a vaccine in the 1A phase will be required at the time of appointment.

Individuals can contact the Bethlehem Health Bureau at (610) 865-7083 with any questions.

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Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that the City of Bethlehem is experiencing significant delays affecting delivery of customer utility bills due to problems within the US Postal Service as they deal with the Covid-19 pandemic and backlog from the Christmas holiday season.  Utility bills (which include water, sewer, and recycling charges to city residents) are running two to three weeks behind schedule.

Due to these problems which are outside the customer’s control, the City has suspended all penalties and late fees on overdue utility bills until March 31, 2021. We appreciate our customer’s patience as we work with the USPS to rectify the situation.

USPS expects to catch up with their backlog and resume normal delivery schedule in the next few weeks.

Dana Grubb entering the mayoral race

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Lifelong City Resident and Former City Worker

To Announce Candidacy for Bethlehem Mayor

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Lifelong Bethlehem resident and former City administrator Dana Grubb will announce his candidacy for the 2021 Mayoral Election on Wednesday, January 27. The announcement will be made at 11 am at the Steel Ice Center, 320 East First Street on the South Side. All persons at the event must be masked; social distancing will be required.

Grubb, who served as the city’s Grants Administrator and the Deputy Director of Community Development among other offices, will lay out the key tenets of his candidacy and reveal some of the principles by which he intends to govern. Not a career politician, and known for a principled work ethic, Grubb brings to his candidacy not only solid experience with the City’s governance but also a background as a small business owner and a journalist. Most of all, he brings his deep and abiding love of the city, and a genuine desire to make it a better place.

Press Contact: Deb Courville 570-996-7534 (SMS & voice)/debcourville@gmail.com

Northside 2027: supporting the housing market

The latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027

The third main area that Planning Director Heller reviewed at the Northside 2027 meeting a week ago was housing.

Different from other programs where home ownership is the focus, here in this area in which there are a lot of rentals, the goal is quality rental properties and support for the landlords.

Main issues include code enforcement and trash hauling.

 

 

concluded

Bethlehem City Council meetings tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 19, 6:00PM and 7PM

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 19, Community Development Committee at 6:00 and regular Council meeting at 7PM.

You can watch the City Council meetings on the following YouTube channel: City of Bethlehem Council
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

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6:00PM: Community Development Committee

  • Proposed Ordinances Related to Third-Party Inspections: Councilman Callahan proposed this during the budget process as a way of saving money by cutting positions while speeding up the inspection process. If the discussion at the budget hearing is any clue, this discussion could be “hot.”

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Of interest:

  • To Gadfly’s eye, there’s nothing obviously “hot” on this agenda

But there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council.

Be informed. Be involved.

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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 the City Council 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 day 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.

Northside 2027: fostering economic vitality

The latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027

The next series of recommendations that Planning Director Heller reviewed at the January 12 Northside 2027 meeting had to do with the economics of Broad St. and Linden St., streets with “two different personalities.”

We have a challenging block on Broad St., with vacancies such as the Boyd Theater and with the Pentamation building that doesn’t interact with its surroundings.

Linden is more of a neighborhood community area, and the talk there went to branding, the creation of an identity for that corridor. Special events? And there should be an attempt to attract new businesses and support those that are there.

 

 

 

to be continued . . .

Audobon’s obsession with Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are coming in April!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

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“When about to descend into a hollow tree or a chimney, its flight, always rapid, is suddenly interrupted as if by magic, for down it goes in an instant, whirling in a peculiar manner, and whirring with its wings, so as to produce a sound in the chimney like the rumbling of very distant thunder.”
John James Audobon, c. 1830s

John James Audobon had an obsession about Swifts.

In the delightful chapter on the “American Swift” in his classic The Birds of America, Audobon takes us back to the Swift’s pre-chimney days in the “ancient tenements” in the almost illimitable forests of America, especially in the “Sycamores of gigantic growth. . . . those patriarchs of the forest rendered habitable by decay.”

Audobon is captivated by the Swifts abiding in a two feet in diameter hollowed branch forty feet up on a huge Louisville sycamore sixty or seventy feet high and seven or eight feet in diameter at the base.

Audobon not only watches the Swifts, he meticulously counts them.

He not only watches the Swifts, but, ear against tree trunk, he listens to them.

He not only watches the Swifts from a distance, but he scrambles forty feet up the tree to view then, voyeur-like, through a window he bores.

He not only watches the Swifts from the outside, but, if Gadfly reads him right, he goes inside the hollow tree.

He not only watches the Swifts when they are awake, he anticipates the dawn to experience their dramatic awakening:

Next morning I rose early enough to reach the place long before the least appearance of daylight, and placed my head against the tree. All was silent within. I remained in that posture probably twenty minutes, when suddenly I thought the great tree was giving way, and coming down upon me. Instinctively I sprung from it, but when I looked up to it again, what was my astonishment to see it standing as firm as ever. The Swallows were now pouring out in a black continued stream. I ran back to my post, and listened in amazement to the noise within, which I could compare to nothing else than the sound of a large wheel revolving under a powerful stream. It was yet dusky, so that I could hardly see the hour on my watch, but I estimated the time which they took in getting out at more than thirty minutes. After their departure, no noise was heard within, and they dispersed in every direction with the quickness of thought.

Yes, John James Audobon had an obsession about Swifts.

But he has nothing on Jennie Gilrain.

Any day now Gadfly expects to find Jennie rappeling up (hmm, can you rappel “up”?) the Masonic Temple chimney.

He has Bethlehem native Jim Friedman, NBC10 photo-journalist, on speed dial.

So, yes, Jennie Gilrain also has an obsession about Swifts. That’s a good thing. Without it, we wouldn’t have a campaign to save them.

Gadfly invites you to take a few minutes to read Audobon’s short charming pioneer study of the Swifts.

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Gadfly is distressed to receive anxious notes from eager potential contributors to the Save Our Swifts campaign who can’t locate the GoFundMe page. O my. Here it is! Right here .

Northside 2027: fostering a safe and vibrant public realm

The latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027

We continue providing info on the kickoff meeting of Northside 2027 last Tuesday.

Here Planning Director Heller surveys some of the recommendations on the slides in the “Foster a Safe and Vibrant Public Realm” part of the plan: return Linden and Center to 2-way, grants and improvements for Monocacy Way, traffic calming, pedestrian and bike safety, priority on Linden Street, problematic intersections, street trees, public art, adding greenery.

This is the best Gadfly can do with slide size. If there is something you can’t make out, let Gadfly know.

 

 

 

 

to be continued . . .

Reckoning with Racism

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

These two of the most familiar Insurrection Day images demonstrate that we have a ways to go toward achieving the American Dream of a multi-racial democracy in which all people are truly equal.

Gadfly is fond of saying that the murder of George Floyd triggered (another) national reckoning with race. And fond of saying that the Bethlehem Area Public Library has done a wonderful job of providing resources and programs that enable us to do the kind of reading, viewing, thinking, discussing, learning that that reckoning requires of us if that death is to have any lasting meaning.

Gadfly recommends these two programs now in progress.

Sundays January 3, 10, 17, 24 from 12:00-1:30

Information and registration

Note especially Rayah Levy, “The Modern African American Experience in Bethlehem,” January 24

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The next two meetings of our “conversations” will be based on the last two chapters of Kendi’s book, but the discussion is free-ranging, and you can profit even if you can’t complete the reading.

register here

COVID-19 infections here among highest in the state

Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus

“Bethlehem and Whitehall Township among Pa. ZIP codes with the most new COVID-19 infections this week.” lehighvalleylive, January 15, 2021.

All I can give you is the grim headline. My Gadfly “subscriber exclusive” account to lehighvalleylive.com isn’t working. Sigh.

Stay safe out there!

Allentown Police Department: involving social workers a good idea, disagreements about funding

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

So much going on at the national level. Hard for Gadfly to think about local matters these days.

But here he continues to keep an eye on what’s happening in our neighborhood regarding reimagining the way public safety is done in the wake of George Floyd’s murder.

Gadfly has been worried that we will soon be in a “George who?” state if we don’t keep our eye on the ball.

Allentown is a little bit ahead of us in terms of movement on concrete proposals, but our police department has made moves toward partnering with the Health Bureau, and we’re looking forward to a Public Safety Committee meeting soon.

We’ve entered the election campaign season, and Gadfly wonders if reimagining public safety will be an issue.

He hopes so, while there is still some GeorgeFloyd momentum.

See here and here for Gadfly’s review of the Eugene, Oregon, CAHOOTS program cited in this article.

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selections from Andrew Wagaman, “Who should respond to 911 calls related to mental illness? Allentown discusses police alternatives, though path forward remains hazy.” Morning Call, January 14, 2021.

Allentown officials are largely in agreement: Recruiting social workers to help city police respond to 911 calls involving mental health crises, substance abuse and homelessness issues is, conceptually, a wise move.

But some are reluctant to bring in a consultant until they are sure Lehigh County officials and one of the regional health networks are on board — and prepared to provide funding. Others fear mental health professionals will expropriate, rather than supplement, police resources.

Allentown City Council set aside $100,000 in its budget this year for general consulting services. Legislators Ce-Ce Gerlach and Joshua Siegel want to spend a share to figure out how to adapt programs used in other cities where mental health workers assist or replace police officers in certain “community interventions.”

The best-known policing alternative is the Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets model, developed by the White Bird Clinic in the late 1980s in Eugene, Oregon. Two-person teams consisting of a medic and a mental health crisis worker serve as the first responders to nearly a fifth of all emergency calls. Their uniform is a hoodie, and they do not carry weapons. The goal: connect people in crisis with services such as housing programs, youth counseling and drug rehabilitation rather than incarcerating them.

Dispatchers are trained to recognize which calls can be routed to the CAHOOTS teams. In 2019, police backup was requested just 150 times out of roughly 24,000 CAHOOTS calls, according to the White Bird Clinic.

Larger cities such as Denver, Houston and most recently Chicago have begun pairing police officers with mental health workers trained in harm reduction and deescalation. Each program is a little different, but generally, the social workers conduct welfare checks, respond to suicide threats and handle calls involving people with mental illness or substance abuse.

Locally, Bucks County last month announced a two-year, $400,000 pilot program that will pair social workers with police officers during mental health-related incidents in Bensalem Township, the township with the county’s largest police department. It’s based on a similar program in Dauphin County.

Supporters say such programs reduce the chances of violence between police and citizens, and save local governments money. More than a fifth of fatal encounters with police involved people with mental illness, according to one study in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine. And law enforcement agencies spend roughly $1 billion a year transporting people with severe mental illness, according to a 2017 Treatment Advocacy Center survey.

Allentown police Chief Glenn Granitz Jr. said pursuing a pilot program like those in Dauphin and Bucks counties is a “no-brainer.” But it shouldn’t come out of the police budget, he said, arguing that the city already comes up short in measurements of officers per capita.

“We would be served well by adding [both] police officers and social workers to improve the safety and quality of life in Allentown,” he said after Wednesday’s meeting.

Mayor Ray O’Connell said city and county officials are meeting next week with interested community partners like Thomases and officials with St. Luke’s University Health Network to figure out how best to proceed. Before council calls in a consultant, officials need to pin down the questions it wants answered, O’Connell said.

“Go slow to go fast,” O’Connell advised council.

It’s important for Allentown to signal its commitment to other important stakeholders involved, Gerlach countered, in order to prevent inertia.

“I would urge us to be the one to lead this, and demonstrate some buy-in,” she said.

Over the past year, calls by Siegel and Gerlach to reallocate some of the police department’s budget to various social services have vexed Councilmen Daryl Hendricks and Ed Zucal — both retired city police officers — and Councilwoman Candida Affa. On Wednesday, Affa praised the merits of a CAHOOTS-style program but feared it could come at the expense of the police department.

“When you start taking money from the police budget to fund these programs, the citizens of Allentown won’t stand for that,” she said.

While the Eugene Police Department does fund the CAHOOTS program, it ends up saving millions annually because of its reduced call volume, Siegel said.

“We should be less wary of a reimagination or reallocation of public safety, because the need is still being met. We’re just shifting who’s meeting the need,” Siegel argued. “The community is being kept safe, the individuals in need of services are being addressed. But now, rather than being met with punishment, they are being invested in through mental health services.”

Locally, officials have been taking incremental steps reevaluating how it handles behavioral health calls.

For example, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin last month announced that the office’s Regional Intelligence and Investigation Center will work with local mental health experts to ensure crisis intervention training provided to the Allentown Police Department is as effective as possible. It will also work with the Allentown Health Bureau on data-driven efforts to prevent opioid overdose deaths.

The Lehigh County public defender’s office hired a social worker in early 2020 to assist clients with a variety of issues, and plans to hire another this year.

n Allentown, about 40% of police officers have undergone crisis intervention training led by mental health providers and family advocates, and Granitz said during an October budget presentation he’s committed to having the entire force complete the training in 2021. His department is also teaming with Cedar Crest College to measure whether its training and community partnerships are curbing repeat behavioral health emergencies and police use-of-force incidents.

In a separate initiative with Cedar Crest College, Allentown will begin a three-year process in 2021 of establishing a community police program. Part of the process will be researching community policing programs in other cities.

Bethlehem seeking World Heritage status

Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem history

Federal Register Announcement: Historic Moravian Bethlehem Named on Potential Nomination to World Heritage List

Huzza to Charlene Donchez Mowers for two decades of work! Gadfly never knew. The payoff of such a designation would be significant. What say? Can you help?

selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem needs your help to secure World Heritage status.” Morning Call, January 12, 2021.

Bethlehem’s historic Moravian buildings could be recognized as an icon, landing on the World Heritage List along with wonders like the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids of Giza, but the city needs the public’s help to get there.

Comments are being taken through Jan. 26 on the next potential nomination to the World Heritage List. The comment period was announced Monday via a posting in the Federal Register.

The World Heritage List was established in 1972 to “encourage the identification, protection and preservation of cultural and natural heritage around the world considered to be of outstanding value to humanity.”

There are 1,000 sites on the list — 24 are in the United States, including Independence Hall in Philadelphia and the Statue of Liberty in New York.

World Heritage sites don’t receiving funding, but city officials have said the designation would signify to tourists that Bethlehem is a must-see attraction.

Charlene Donchez Mowers, longtime president of Historic Bethlehem Museum and Sites, has been working on securing the international accolade for nearly 20 years.

Historic Moravian Bethlehem is working with the Moravian community of Herrnhut, Germany, with the goal to submit an extension to the 2015 World Heritage listing of Christiansfeld, a Moravian Church settlement in Denmark. The extension would include Herrnhut, the Moravian Bethlehem District in Bethlehem, and possibly other historic Moravian communities around the world.

Today, the Moravian story is told in the well-preserved, Germanic architecture that still stands in the heart of downtown Bethlehem.

Moravian Bethlehem includes the Colonial Industrial Quarter, God’s Acre cemetery, the Sun Inn and buildings of the Central Moravian Church, the city of Bethlehem, Historic Bethlehem and Moravian College. The district includes two buildings recognized as national historic landmarks — the Waterworks pump house and the Gemeinhaus community hall.

The U.S. Department of the Interior in 2012 recognized that district’s importance, naming it a National Historic Landmark District.

To comment on the nomination, a letter of support may be mailed to Jonathan Putnam, Office of International Affairs, National Park Service, 1849 C St., NW, Washington, DC 20240.

Comments can also be e-mailed to jonathan_putnam@nps.gov

Northside: “an area in transition”

The latest in a series of posts on Northside 2027

“In order to have healthy downtowns, healthy commercial areas,
we need to have healthy neighborhoods.”
Darlene Heller. Planning Director

It’s nice to see two important projects, both fathered by Councilman Reynolds, coming online.

Gadfly means the Climate Action Plan and now Northside 2027.

At the meeting of the Northside 2027 Task Force on Tuesday, Darlene Heller, Bethlehem Planning Director, rehearsed the history of the project, which goes back as far as 2017, and outlined the goals (4 mins.):

She focused attention on the first three general categories here in her presentation,

offered the vision statement,

and reminded us of the boundaries and constituent elements of the Northside area.

to be continued . . .

Surgical demolition required!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The Swifts are coming in April!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.

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photo by Jennie Gilrain

One of the many fascinations of the “Saving Our Swifts” project has to do with the demolition of the Masonic Temple.

No slam-bang, no, sir.

The delicate touch of a surgeon is needed to leave Hotel Chimney Swift intact.

The migratory Swifts are creatures of habit. They’ve been visiting the Masonic chimney for years. Like the Gadflys to Ocean City.

Developer Noble is trying not to disturb their routine. (This guy is something else, isn’t he?)

Take a good look at the territory.

Whattaya think?

What odds do you give for a successful surgery?

Well, not to worry too much.

If the chimney can’t be saved, Developer Noble will build a new one a short distance away (yes, this guy is something else, isn’t he?), and the smart money says the Swifts will find the new digs.

This photo was taken a week ago. The surgery might be done. Gadfly is not mobile. Can anybody put eyes on the scene and report back?

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In case you are disoriented, you can click here for the GoFundMe page.

Replacing a roof in the age of sustainability

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.

Gadfly has often called your attention to Steel Town native Steele’s blog. He is particularly struck here by the kind of and amount of research and thinking relative to a decision that in the “old days” of his less-than-admirable energy unconsciousness he would have made with the snap of his fingers.

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“My Cabin Doesn’t Leak When It Doesn’t Rain, Part 1

Cost analysis

In spring 2018 some shingles blew off of our roof in a bad storm, and we got a leak that made its way through our attic and down to our living room. This was not too surprising, given that our asphalt roof (generally considered to have a 20-year life) was at least 20 years old when Christian bought the house 10 years prior. He had a stack of extra shingles that came from the last roof replacement and had been using them to patch and perform roof maintenance as needed, but that supply finally ran out. Long story short, it was time to shop for a new roof, and I began exploring options.

At the time, I wrote a blog post based on some cursory research of roofing materials and investment value of asphalt, metal, and the new Tesla solar shingles.[1] Unfortunately, much in the tradition “The Arkansas Traveler,” [2] a song that was sung to me as a child (and clearly had an impact), “my cabin doesn’t leak when it doesn’t rain,” meaning Christian’s patch let us put that decision on the back burner while I did some more research. Nearly two years later, that research still hadn’t happened, and it was time for the house to remind us of our responsibility… on Christmas Eve.

We spent the holiday emptying pans of water in the attic and calling roofing contractors for quotes. I spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s diving into materials research, product warranties, and recycling options to build on my original blog post, which was only focused on financial investment, not product lifecycle. . . .

continue on Alison’s blog

“My Cabin Doesn’t Leak When it Doesn’t Rain,” Part 1