The Arts in Bethlehem: an offer you can’t refuse

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Gadfly bets that when many of you think of the Arts in the Valley, you think of ArtsQuest, Pennsylvania Shakespeare, the State Theater, and so forth.

Big-name productions. Lots of advertising. Lots of splash. Lots of foreign talent.

Gadfly bets that some of you may know of Touchstone Theatre, but few of you have attended a performance there.

A shame.

Touchstone is one of many distinctive Arts treasures in Bethlehem.

Founded in 1981, Touchstone Theatre is a professional not-for-profit theatre dedicated to the creation of original work.  At its center is a resident ensemble of theatre artists rooted in the local community of Bethlehem. . . . The Ensemble . . . transforms audiences through community-based theatrical productions and community-building projects.

Original work . . . resident ensemble . . . rooted in the local community . . . community-building projects.

Remember the 10-day Festival UnBound? (Deargod, look at this video, and I dare you not to glow with pride at this Bethlehem extravaganza!)

Frankly, Gadfly has not been good at recognizing and patronizing these home-grown treasures.

But that is changing.

Gadfly has become familiar with and inspired by a project that you will hear more about later, a project about the Arts of the Local Culture, about the Resident Arts Community.

Native talent.

A month ago, Gadfly went to an original play at the Ice House that he wrote you about, and Sunday to a wonderful performance (playing this week too) at the Pennsylvania Playhouse.

And on Sunday March 8, 2PM he’s going to Edith Piaf: Hymn to Love at Touchstone.

Gadfly has two tickets for that performance he can’t use.

Here’s his offer: he would like to give the two tickets to someone who has never attended Touchstone Theatre in return for a short post on Gadfly about the show or the experience of going to Touchstone.

What say? Contact Gadfly via the Contact link on Gadfly or at ejg1@lehigh.edu.

City Council meeting tomorrow night!

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Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, February 18, Town Hall, at 7PM.

These meetings are video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Find the Council agenda and documents here: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2020/City-Council-Meeting/53

Among things going on will be a communications about residential rental unit inspections and a vote authorizing the temporary closure of Packer Avenue that Gadfly’s been bludgeoning you about.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

Participate. Be informed.

Reposted from February 11: Gadfly thinks Lehigh strikes out on the Packer proposal

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“Gadfly is not demanding that Council completely reject the street closing. He’s asking they demand Lehigh make a compelling case. A case that compels them.”
Gadfly, February 11, 2020

City Council tomorrow night will vote to enable the closing of Packer Avenue between Webster and Vine for a traffic study that will be a key determinant in the decision about a permanent closing. Gadfly has taken some heat for opposing the street closing. He hastens to say that he has an open mind on that decision. What he opposes is going ahead in even a preliminary fashion without a compelling case. Council needs to require convincing argument before it acts. Gadfly could fashion such a convincing argument. He challenges Lehigh to do so. And he challenges Council to withhold approval for the pilot study till they do so. And thus he reposts his thoughts from February 11.

————–

As you can see from the video in Gadfly’s previous post, at the February 4 Council meeting Lehigh presented three rationales for the Packer street vacation as it did January 23 at Broughal, but the rationales were not the same. Rationale #2 was different February 4. But rationales #1 and #3 were no stronger.

Lehigh presented “three major issues overlapping one another”:

1) safety of pedestrians:

Lehigh simply presented some facts about the number of Lehigh pedestrians who cross Packer Ave. The number is “substantial.” But the number of pedestrians crossing a street, even though huge, doesn’t logically prove there is a safety problem. What would prove there is a safety problem? Facts. Number of accidents. Number of injuries. Number of deaths. No data has been given. Where are the facts? Has the City recognized the central crossing of Packer as a danger? If so, why have they not recommended some remedy? Even if the data backs up a significant safety issue, have any number of other traffic calming tools been applied? Why go immediately to the most drastic option? The answer probably is that the three rationales are “overlapping,” and the most drastic option enables goal 3: a Packer Promenade of some sort. Without the successful completion of rationale #1, there can be no Promenade. Gadfly sees the promenade as Lehigh’s main goal.

2) the changing face of the Lehigh campus as it shifts downward toward Southside:

The downward shift is partly due to projects on campus but partly due to “our investment in the city.” Investment. That is, we have put money in. Note that this rationale #2 is not the same as the rationale #2 that was presented at Broughal. At Broughal, the stated rationale was “Better connecting Lehigh with South Bethlehem to have more [foot] traffic supporting the businesses” — the change is a recognition that no logical connection could be made between Packer open or closed and foot traffic at Southside businesses. Now no mention of impact on business is made. What is mentioned is money Lehigh has spent. That’s a big difference. Lehigh had to shift the argument. (Maybe they were reading Gadfly!)  And in the shift we find a bald quid pro quo (wheee!). Now Lehigh reminds the City of their “investment” in the Southside and their “partnership” in developing it. In effect, they are saying remember what we’ve done for you and with you. Now it’s time for you to do us a favor. In addition, there is the completely new element of opening up a “point of connection” with the Southside but not in the north-south direction of the prior rationale #2 but in an “east-west” direction. This is the first time we hear of an east-west connection with the Southside as a Lehigh or City goal. But what is there to connect east-west? North-south was connection with businesses and other understandable aspects of city life. What’s the point, function, goal of an increased east-west connection even if it could be shown that closing the street would effect one?

3) improving the pedestrian experience not only for the Lehigh community but the public at large:

Value for the Lehigh community is obvious. But for the public at large — which should be the Mayor and City Council’s prime concern — it is not. How much east-west “public” foot traffic is there? Gadfly is tempted to say virtually none. But are there any facts? Is there any data? There is no expansion on this third point. No rhetorical support. No elaboration. No description. No argumentation. No example. No persuasion.

Which for Gadfly adds up to no reason for City Council to approve even so preliminary and costless a step as a traffic study.

In Gadfly’s view, Lehigh has demonstrably not made a case with enough mental rigor for even a baby step to be taken toward closing Packer Ave.

It’s hard for Gadfly to see that closing Packer Ave. was on any City agenda in the same way as, say, refurbishing South New St. But let the case be made. Strongly. Before any action is taken.

(Gadfly wants to note among all his negativity that Lehigh indicated response to concerns about Broughal safety and expanding the area of the traffic study raised at the January 23 meeting, as well as commitment to shutting down the study/closure early if things aren’t working out. These are good things.)

to be continued . . .

Gadfly rests: waiting official response to questions surrounding the marijuana arrest

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This post was written yesterday — Sunday, February 16 — and placed in the queue to be automatically published today at 10:00am.  Thus, it was written before Gadfly received the Lehigh Valley Ramblings post on this subject less than an hour ago and remains unchanged.

“The City Administration is well aware of the matter. It has been thoroughly reviewed internally. The matter is the subject of an ongoing non-criminal investigation. We caution you not to speculate as to the nature of the ongoing investigation. We caution you that it would be inappropriate to assume the truth of the allegations. We caution  you that it would be inappropriate to assume there is good cause for the allegations. The City Administration will have no further comment because the information and evidence are subject to confidentiality under Pennsylvania law. The Administration does not consider the matter appropriate to be reviewed  by the Public Safety Committee.”
Email to Gadfly from Mayor Donchez, February 11.

Gadflies are always outsiders. They can only try to make sense of what they can see. They are always cognizant of and respectful of their limited perspective. They are always open to other views, always ready to be slapped upside the head for wrong-headed thinking.

The Mayor says this serious matter has been “thoroughly reviewed internally” and is the subject of “an ongoing non-criminal investigation.”

Good.

We would guess that review asked the same questions, covered the same territory that Gadfly has here in the past several posts.

Gadfly wonders, however, if, given the nature of the issues and the people involved, whether an “internal” investigation is the only or best avenue for an objective look at what happened.

The dueling complaints again: considering the sources

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DiLuzio and Meixell to Greene 11 20 19
Englesson to Greene 11 29 19
Englesson to Donchez 12 20 19

We have been asking what we know and what we do not know as we attempt to evaluate this situation of dueling complaints about a serious matter of possible racial profiling by a police officer or what we might call abuse of power by a district judge.

Chief Dilusio’s complaint alleges that Judge Englesson accused one of his officers of being a racist. The Judge, in turn, cited the resistance of the arresting officer to the “constructive criticism” of his behavior during a traffic stop and the “spurious complaint” the Chief filed against him with the Northampton County Court.

We have talked about the search and the warrant. Let’s talk now about the complainants themselves.

The Chief:

  • The conversation between the Judge and the two officers was November 14, a Thursday. The statements by the two officers are dated November 15 — Friday. The Chief’s “complaint” letter to Northampton County is dated November 20 — the following Wednesday. The Chief had 3-4 working days to investigate the matter and to plan a course of action.
  • No evidence beyond the statements of the two police officers is presented in the November 20 letter.
  • The Chief’s defense of his officer and the record of his department is natural and honorable.
  • But one hopes that on some level the Chief at least minimally entertained the possibility that he may have one racially insensitive officer or an officer who was racially insensitive one time.
  • For instance, was there anything in the arresting officer’s past record that relates to racially insensitive behavior?
  • One wonders why, in the interest of fair and amicable conflict resolution, the Chief  lodged a complaint against the Judge with his superior rather than contacting the Judge first.
  • I guess you’d expect Gadfly, whose motto is “Good conversation builds community,” to feel that way!
  • Though the Chief had 3-4 working days to consider his response, that act of lodging a complaint without at least talking with the Judge seems intemperate. The Chief heard only one side of the November 14 conversation as far as we know.
  • Gadfly says “as far as we know” because he is confused by the Mayor’s email to him that he “should exercise caution in posting and thereby endorsing the truth of the allegations directed against the City by Judge Englesson, which prompted Chief Diluzio’s complaint to President Judge Koury [the head Northampton County judge].”
  • What allegation against the City did the Judge make that prompted the Chief’s November 20 letter?
  • There was a conversation, a private conversation, between the Judge and two City officers. Let’s suppose for the sake of argument that the Judge in front of a witness did undeniably allege the arresting officer was a racist. Would that be an allegation against the man or the city?
  • Gadfly sees no systemic charge against the police department or the City in the Judge’s private conversation that would explain the Chief making the first shot in this interchange and thereby, in effect, inevitably making the dispute ultimately public.
  • In fact, the momentum seems precisely the other way ’round — the Judge forced to respond to the Chief.
  • The Chief’s complaint against the Judge seems intemperate to me.

The Judge:

  • The Judge’s counter-complaint is rather exhaustive.
  • He explains that he made a conscious and calculated decision to have a private conversation with the officer to offer him constructive criticism about his job,
  • and to protect his constituents from maltreatment,
  • and to protect the City from Civil Rights lawsuits.
  • He explains his respect for police in general and for Bethlehem police in particular.
  • He explains his extensive background and law-enforcement-related experience.
  • He explains what he could have done if he wanted to accuse someone of racial profiling, and it wouldn’t be in private.
  • He explains how he understands that the officer might have felt intimidated by such an “uncomfortable conversation” with a judge.
  • The Judge’s vigorous response to the Chief’s complaint seems understandable and appropriate to me.

How are you seeing it? Gadfly has no desire to tell his followers how to think. The primary sources on which to base thinking are available to everybody. All courteously presented perspectives welcome.

to be continued . . .