Mayor Donchez: 2021 promises “transition back to normality”

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

As said, the insurrection has fixed Gadfly’s attention for the past half-week. Inevitably so.

And, among other things, it was an opportunity to ruminate on leadership.

More specifically, on the essential need for good leadership.

Gadfly has recently written that Mayor Donchez is in the 8th inning of his two terms as mayor and a year away from (probably) the end of several decades of public service to Bethlehem.

We need him to not only remain a steady hand but to continue to actively respond to the challenges on several fronts the likely rough year ahead will pose.

It was good to hear his positive voice yesterday morning, even if the piece was written before Wednesday’s chaos.


selections from Robert Donchez, “Your View by Mayor Donchez: Bethlehem will continue to move forward in 2021.” Morning Call, January 10, 2021.

New Year’s Eve has always had a profound effect on me, but none more than this year. It is the reflection and the contemplation of a year’s worth of goals and hard work that has come to pass.

As I counted down the moments to the dawn of a new year, with many of my friends and family members unable to join me because of the pandemic, all I can think about is the unimaginable heartbreak and tragedy we witnessed at just about every turn of 2020.

And I cannot help but spend New Year’s Eve pondering the events missed: weddings at Hotel Bethlehem, concerts at Musikfest, graduations, family picnics, just to name a few. There is no doubt that this has been a challenging year for everyone.

Last January, I unveiled ambitious goals and initiatives for Bethlehem, bolstered by strong national and local economies. It was soon after the New Year that we began to hear the words that have become household terms: coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic and social distancing.

Inside City Hall, I worked with my cabinet to take all the necessary steps to keep our employees and residents safe, while continuing to deliver all the essential services a city is responsible to provide. As we learned more each day, our policies and procedures continuously evolved. City employees adapted to every change with courage, cooperation and flexibility, while remaining focused on our mission.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allowed the counties to provide funding directly to businesses. In addition, Northampton and Lehigh counties provided grants to Bethlehem to purchase first responder equipment, personal protective equipment and information technology equipment, and supported our response to our downtown communities, specifically the restaurants that have been struggling during this time.

As we continue to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, I encourage all of our residents to support our local businesses in any manner possible.

The impact of the pandemic derailed economic activity across the country. Bethlehem was not spared, and our revenues did not meet expectations for 2020. We made a number of adjustments to reduce expenses and limit the deficit, including a hiring freeze, employee furloughs and the closing of pools, parks and traditional summer programming.

Despite the challenges, Bethlehem continued to move forward in 2020, and I am pleased to share some of our accomplishments for the year. . . .

As the sun sets on 2020, Bethlehem will continue to move forward in 2021.

We hope to see the beginning of the development of the Martin Tower site, continued redevelopment of the Westgate Mall with the opening of the new Weis supermarket, the completion of Lehigh University’s Health Science Building, the construction of a second hotel on the Wind Creek site and some additional housing in both of our downtown districts.

As 2021 brings hope of an expected transition back to normality, we keep in mind the lessons learned from the challenges and frustrations of 2020. Among the most important of these lessons is gratitude.

We all owe a special thank you and appreciation to all of the health care workers and essential workers who have done a tremendous job seeing us through these unprecedented times.

Tomorrow is a bright new day for Bethlehem. I can assure you we will continue to work to meet the challenges that lie ahead, and am confident we will emerge stronger than ever.

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