On “Giving Tuesday” support public art on the Southside

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

“it’s a cool and eclectic and kind of funky place. So keep South Bethlehem funky.”
Kim Carrell-Smith

Southside Arts District Public Art project

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

Each year we work tirelessly to create opportunities for local artists to transform the streetscape of South Bethlehem into their canvas. Over the last three years the Southside Arts District has completed the following projects:

  • artistic designed flowerpots
  • downtown murals
  • Greenway ArtsWalk
  • artistic designed bike racks
  • public piano

 

 

PLEASE  DONATE HERE

 

 

 

 

“I am sure this experience had no positive effect on his alcoholism or mental illness”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

part 7

Nandini Sikand’s documentary INSIDE/OUTSIDE is especially eye-opening in the way it portrays the effect incarceration has not only on the person incarcerated but also on that person’s children. A particularly poignant scene shows one formerly incarcerated woman’s teenage son struggling not to cry when describing the time he spent away from his mother while she was incarcerated (Sikand, 2019).

I am 23 years old and working at a local gas station while attending community college. A local homeless man is outside panhandling for the third time this month. I go outside and ask him to leave, a request he normally listens to. Today, however, he responds belligerently, suggesting I call the police if I really want him to leave. I tell him I will, hoping I won’t actually have to. Ten minutes pass and several customers have come inside to complain. I call the non-emergency police number and report that a man I had asked to leave is refusing to do so. I make sure to include that he is not violent and likely mentally ill. The dispatcher informs me that an officer will arrive shortly. Another ten minutes pass and two police vehicles approach the homeless man, who is standing in the parking lot and smoking a cigarette. The officers immediately handcuff him, pushing him up against the wall and patting him down. The man remains in cuffs for nearly an hour before an officer comes inside to question me. I tell him the situation, and he takes down my information. They finally release the homeless man, who scurries away as fast as he can. I am told that I will be called as a witness and that he was charged with criminal trespassing. I never see the homeless man again (my witness testimony was apparently not needed), but I am sure this experience had no positive effect on his alcoholism or mental illness.

seventh part in a series . . .

“58% of the average daily jail population is either in custody for a parole or probation violation or a new charge”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

part 6

Though there is a shortage of data needed to definitively state the percentage of the jail and prison population who are incarcerated because of some form of probation or parole violation, a 2020 article published by the Prison Policy Initiative explains that the data that is available suggests that they make up a significant percentage of the incarcerated population. For example, in Philadelphia County 58% of the average daily jail population is either in custody for a parole or probation violation or a new charge while also on parole or probation (Sawyer, Jones, & Troilo, 2020).

Six months after my experience at court, I am visiting Derek in jail. I sit on the other side of a glass screen and watch as guards lead my friend to the bench on the other side. His once full head of hair is shaved, he has acquired several DIY tattoos, and he is somehow even scrawnier than I remember. There are dark circles under his eyes and when he smiles at me, I notice two of his teeth are beginning to rot. We talk about his two sons, both of whom are under three years old. I ask if his girlfriend has brought them in to visit. He shakes his head and fights back tears as he explains he doesn’t want his family to see him this way. In another six months, Derek is released. He is unable to keep a job and quickly turns to hard drugs like methamphetamine and heroin. He has another son with his girlfriend and, soon after, they break up. He takes his eldest son to Florida, where his mother lives, and gets sober. He no longer sees his younger sons, but he has a job and is finally able to pay off the remainder of his legal fees. I often wonder if his family would still be together if he had not been forced to spend a year away from them.

sixth part in a series . . .

George Floyd’s America (6): “the police were omnipresent in his life”

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

“This is something you talk about, the systemic racism, which is part of the problem in this country, and it’s embedded in criminal justice, housing, and a lot of other things. . . . what you’re saying is exactly what the Captain has said, the Deputy has said, we talk among ourselves. It may not be here in the City, but it’s in the overall system.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

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

———-

“A knee on his neck: Police were a part of George Floyd’s life from beginning to end, an experience uncommon for most Americans, except other Black men”

HOUSTON — From the day George Floyd moved to Texas as a child to the day he was killed in Minneapolis, the police were omnipresent in his life.

They were there when Floyd and his siblings played basketball at the Cuney Homes housing project, driving their patrol cars through the makeshift courts. They were there when he walked home from school, interrogating him about the contents of his backpack. They were there when he went on late-night snack runs to the store, stopping his car and throwing him to the ground. They were there, surrounding his mother’s home, as his family prepared for their grandfather’s funeral.

They were at the bus stop, on the corner, and on his mother’s front porch. And they were in Minneapolis — 1,200 miles from where Floyd first said “Yes, officer,” to a patrolman — when he took his last breath in handcuffs.

The frequency of Floyd’s contact with police during his 46 years of life is an anomaly for most Americans, except for other Black men. While the majority of public interactions with police begin and end safely in the United States, according to 2015 survey data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, for Black Americans, those encounters are more likely to happen multiple times in a year, more likely to be initiated by police and more likely to involve the use of force.

continue . . .

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the sixth and final part in a 6-part series

“He is now legally allowed to carry the same amount of marijuana he received a felony for years ago”

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

part 5

Earlier this year, my now ex-boyfriend applied for and received his medical marijuana card. He is now legally allowed to carry the same amount of marijuana he received a felony for years ago on his person or in his vehicle.

I am 21 years old, and I’m sitting outside of a courtroom, awaiting a preliminary hearing in which I am meant to act as a witness for the defense. The man on trial is a friend of mine, Derek. He is charged with aggravated assault after a drunken fight between him and another friend ended in a stabbing. He has spent the last several months awaiting trial in Northampton County Jail after being unable to post bail. He is facing a felony charge which could result in up to 10 years in state prison, and he is prepared to take a plea deal. Before the hearing starts, the prosecutor pulls aside our other friend, the one who was stabbed. She asks him if he remembers who started the fight. Every person in the courtroom hears him answer, “I don’t remember, it might have been me, I was drunk.” The prosecutor promptly drops all charges, and the court is dismissed as soon as the trial begins. Derek is no longer facing charges, but he remains in jail for the next year. This occurs because his involvement in the fight is considered a violation of his probation, which he was given after being charged with simple possession of marijuana.

fifth part in a series . . .

Lehigh Valley Stands Up applies full-court press as budget vote nears

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

City Council, November 17, 2020 video
begin min. 14:40

Lehigh Valley Stands Up members or residents supporting them dominated the public comment period at the November 17 City Council meeting, criticizing the budget plan to insulate the police department from cuts and calling for reallocation of resources to Health areas.

Such arguments were generally based on needs generated by the pandemic, and, for the first time, we see such specific proposals as a hiring freeze in the police department, elimination of school resource officers, and cutting — 16% — a specific amount that would double the Health Department budget.

Interesting.

One caller — the final caller — Bruce Haines provided the “other side,” indicating that the police department has been understaffed, that social trip media indicates Bethlehem is not a safe city, and that therefore the police are very important to the business community and others. He also suggested that he has no argument with mental health as a need but that the defunders should explore other options rather than the police department for the necessary funds.

As always, Gadfly points out that his text is paraphrase and incomplete and that he hopes you will take a little time to listen to the voices of your fellow residents as they make their cases.

Public participation. Democracy in action.

Always good.

There are two more meetings where the budget will be discussed, amended, and voted on.

What are you thinking about the issues raised here by community members?

 Jon Irons (4 mins.) (min. 14:40)

Lot of needs in the City: pandemic, economic crisis. The Mayor’s budget is planning for this but leave the police department budget untouched. If there are cuts in personnel anywhere, there should be cuts in police. It’s the biggest slice of the budget and the primary driver of the pension costs. How to cut? School resources officers might be cut. Also a hiring freeze. Hopes in future years for serious divestment in the police department. Health Bureau, for instance, has a lot of needs. Could expand the new social worker program immediately. More public accountability in regard to discipline hearings and firings. Any new training should be within existing budget not new funds or new grants.

W. Market St. lady (2 mins.) (min. 18:35)

Increasing evidence that policing is not working in the way we expect it to. Think strategically and creatively about ways in which we can keep our community safe and healthy.

Michele Downing (3 mins.) (min. 20:20)

Short time to address the impending catastrophes. Mortgages, evictions, housing crisis, student loans, covid, food insecurity, child care, online learning = our social worker program is inadequate. We are not looking at all at what the needs of the City are going to be. We all need to tighten our belts and redistribute as necessary. Videos of cars in line at food banks, and we’re not removed from that. Need discussions of where resources actually belong.

Glenn Nelson (3 mins.) (min. 23:38)

Immediate hiring freeze, and future defunding of police. Reallocation of 16% of police budget would double the Health Department budget, which seems reasonable in the middle of a pandemic. A common sense move when you realize how underfunded the Health bureau has been. It makes sense is a pandemic and financial crisis to see where money is really critically needed. Police department budget has gone up every year a bit, leading to large amount over decades. Unjustifiable in financial crisis not to look at the Police budget, plus we know it’s not working. Putting issues with people of color and with mental issues at higher risk. Hoping for cuts in police officers and addition of mental health personnel.

Cherokee St. lady (3 mins.) (min. 26:25)

Mental health crisis long before covid, now made worse. Worrying about your talk of increased police presence on Southside because knows from personal experience because police re not going to help here, and she is not alone in this belief. These crises in mental health, substance abuse, and covid have shown how deep inequalities are. We need sacrifices everywhere, and the police department is the obvious place to look. Police are not what we need. Part-time social worker and bias training will not help.

Patricia (3 mins.) (min. 28:53)

Supports calls for increased health services in the midst of a pandemic. Affordable public health services have been incredibly helpful to her. Calling 911 for mental health issues — cf. Walter Wallace — is not the answer. Police not trained to deal with such things. I ca sleep easier because of the Bethlehem Health Department but not because of the police. Need to put funds where they help people. People are really concerned as second wave of covid comes in, evictions, student loan payments. Not easy working with budget but keeping things as is will not be a benefit.

Anthony Downing (4 mins.) (min. 32:01)

Concerns of the disabled. Wants to remind people of a time when they were united in regard to caring about health because now cutting fire and other place as well as putting a 5% tax on is going in opposite direction. We should be spending this money in the midst of a global pandemic to bolster our public health, and more police or not cutting police but cutting elsewhere is going in opposite direction. You’ve done the right things before and hope you will be cutting money from police in favor of mental health services now.

Alexander Fisher (3 mins.) (min. 35:52)

Supports cutting police budget and reallocating to mental health services. Not safe calling police for mental health issues. Police department very overfunded. No empirical evidence that shows more policing leads to less crime. Myth that without big police force we would have an unfit society. Not hatred for police but growing move to reimagine the police and their function. Reallocation would make people of color and women feel a lot safer.

———-

Bruce Haines (3 mins.) (min. 39:26)

LV Stands Up has one agenda, to cut the police budget, and using the idea of a national agenda to do that. But that is not a majority position, rather a minority position. Agrees that the police are not meeting needs of the community but reason is that they are understaffed. Department only now fully staffed which gives business community a sense of safety about bringing tourists to Bethlehem. See Trip Advisor — we are considered an unsafe community. Police are critical in Bethlehem putting its best foot forward. No issue with concern for mental health but need to refocus on other options to funding mental health instead of taking money from police. Our police problem is not excessive. We don’t have a major police problem. LV Stands Up tries to make it a problem. I’m here to defend the police and funding for the police and speak for a whole lot of people who haven’t called in because the Mayor’s budget did not cut the police. Speaking for the other side and the safety of our community.

Reimagining the Rose Garden

Latest in a series of posts on the Rose Garden

7PM DECEMBER 1 MEETING: REIMAGINING THE ROSE GARDEN

If you would like to participate in this public meeting, for the zoom link please email 18018mana@gmail.com or cmroysdon@gmail.com.

Help us celebrate the anniversary of the 1931 historic Bethlehem Rose Garden as we reimagine it for the next 90 years.

Meeting agenda items include:

1. Grant details and updates
2. Possible design plans: presentation by consultant Pam Ruch
3. Feedback from meeting participants

The historic West Bethlehem Rose Garden, created in 1931, will celebrate its 90th birthday next year!

Ideas for updating and revitalizing the garden will be shared through a Zoom presentation and discussion on Tuesday, December 1 at 7PM.

A grant from Lehigh County to MANA (Mount Airy Neighborhood Assn, west Bethlehem) has enabled the development of a plan and new plant list.

Presenter Pam Ruch, a consultant for the grant, will share beautiful examples of environmentally friendly rose gardens, near and far, to inspire the work going forward.

A group discussion will follow.

Pam Ruch, a garden designer and writer based in Emmaus, maintains the gardens at the Glasbern Inn in Fogelsville and is the garden director at the Nurture Nature Center in Easton. She recently retired from managing the historic gardens at Morven Museum & Garden, in Princeton, NJ. She holds a BS in horticulture from Temple University, and presents programs throughout the region.

Postcard below dates from 1953!

Info from from the Bethlehem Environmental Advisory Council and Christy Roysdon’s Facebook pages.

San Francisco D.A. when charging police officer: “No one is above the law”

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

“[The officer] was doing, the union argued, what he was trained to do.”

Gadfly keeping an eye on subject shootings. This may be the first time San Francisco charged a police officer with homicide. In the post-GeorgeFloyd era officers are being held more accountable. We need to review training for “first contact” situations among other aspects of officer conduct. That the unnecessary death occurred from the actions of an officer following his training is precisely what needs to be reviewed. It’s increasingly clear that officers will no longer get a pass in such situations.

———-

The District Attorney describes the incident (3 mins.):

———-

Selections from Paulina Villegas, “In a possible first, San Francisco charges an officer with homicide over fatal on-duty shooting.” Washington Post, November 24, 2020.

A former police officer was charged with manslaughter by the San Francisco district attorney’s office Monday, three years after he fatally shot Kita O’Neil during an alleged carjacking incident.

District Attorney Chesa Boudin announced that his office had filed homicide charges against former San Francisco Police Department officer Christopher Samayoa, a decision that appears to be the city’s first homicide prosecution against a law enforcement officer who has killed someone while on duty.

“I hope the message people take from this decision is my commitment to follow through on my campaign promises, the recognition that no one is above the law, not even police officers, and that we value the Black and Brown lives impacted by police violence,” [D.A.] Boudin told The Washington Post on Tuesday.

“We recognize that the vast majority of the police officers are doing the job well, but when an officer violates the law, there will be consequences,” he added.

The charges come amid mounting public demands nationally for greater accountability in cases of alleged police abuse and in police killings.

Boudin argued that cases such as the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, cases that sparked protests across the country, reflected “the failures of our legal system to hold police accountable for the violence committed against the very members of the public they are entrusted to keep safe,” he said.

“This lack of accountability for police who abuse their power has created great mistrust, particularly for communities of color,” he said.

On Dec. 1, 2017, Officers Edric Talusan and Samayoa followed a person thought to have carjacked a state lottery van in the residential neighborhood of Potrero Hill.

When the van reached a dead-end street and other police cars blocked its path, O’Neil, 42, jumped out of the car and ran past the police car where Samayoa was seated in the passenger seat.

Samayoa, who was just out of the police academy and four days into his field training, fired his gun through the side window, killing O’Neil.

Samayoa’s body camera showed that O’Neil did not have a weapon, and O’Neil’s manner of death was determined to be a homicide, according to the district attorney’s office.

In March 2018, the officer was fired from the SFPD as a result of the shooting, prompting outrage from the police union, which argued that Samayoa’s firing was unfair given the fact that he was doing, the union argued, what he was trained to do, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

“This prosecution is an important, historic step towards showing that Black lives matter and that unlawful police violence will not be tolerated,” [Boudin] said.

George Floyd’s America (5): “Being Black in America . . . is its own preexisting condition”

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

“You and me, we had hurdles [speaking to Councilman Reynolds], but we were able to get over them. But everybody doesn’t go that same route. I’m in agreement with what you’re saying. I don’t know how we change that whole system.”

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

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

———–

“Racism’s hidden toll: In Minneapolis, the physical and mental strain of a lifetime confronting racism surfaced in George Floyd’s final years”

MINNEAPOLIS — George Floyd came to this city with a broken body and wilted dreams, his many attempts at a better life out of his grasp. He was left with no college degree, no sports contract, no rap career, not even a steady job. At 43, what he had was an arrest record and a drug problem, his hopes hinging on one last shot at healing.

So in February of 2017 he decided to board a bus in Houston and ride more than 1,100 miles on Interstate 35 almost straight north to Minneapolis. Waiting for him was his friend Aubrey Rhodes, who had taken the same journey a year earlier. Rhodes was now sober and working as a security guard at the Salvation Army.

“Damn, bro, it’s cold,” Rhodes recalled Floyd saying on what was, for Minnesota, a balmy 50-degree winter day.

“You ready for this?” Rhodes asked him. “You can get yourself together here. You can find a way to live.”

Finding a way to live has never been a sure thing for Black men in America, who are taught from an early age that any misstep could lead to a prison cell or a coffin. They have higher rates of hypertension, obesity and heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They are twice as likely as White men to die of a cocaine overdose, twice as likely to be killed by police and, in Floyd’s age group, 10 times as likely to die of a homicide.

Public-health researchers and scientists once held that these disparities were the result of poor choices — bad diets, lack of exercise, being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But experts are increasingly pointing to another culprit: systemic racism. Being Black in America, they have found, is its own preexisting condition.

continue . . .

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the fifth part in a 6-part series

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

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

part 4

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

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

fourth part in a series . . .

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

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

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

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

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

———–

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

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

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

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

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

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

continue . . .

———–

the fourth part in a 6-part series

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

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

part 3

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

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

third part in a series . . .

The pandemic makes sense trying a CSA

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

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

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 1

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

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

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

continue on Alison’s blog

Community Supported Agriculture, Part 1

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

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

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

Gadfly:

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

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

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

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

Government should also be doing the same thing.

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

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

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

Bruce

Pedestrian bridge politics

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

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

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

Gadfly:

It is all about who is pandering to which constituency.

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

Who doesn’t want a “free bridge”?

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

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

Politics is not about doing what’s best,

it’s about doing what best for the politicians.

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

We are currently in crises financially.

Aren’t we taxed enough already?

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

Bud

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

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

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

Mark DiLuzio, Bethlehem Chief of Police, 2014-2020

———–

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

———–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

continue . . .

———–

the third part in a 6-part series

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

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

part 2

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

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

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

second part in a series . . .

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

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

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

Dear Gadfly :

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

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

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

Six public meetings at the IceHouse and City Hall.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks, Doug

The debate over the pedestrian/bicycle bridge

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The clips are longish but worth listening to.

We can learn a lot about each Councilman.

The narrative is like a short story developing.

Gadfly likes to lay these things out for you first.

What are you thinking?

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

City Council, November 17

Callahan 1 (7 mins.)

Reynolds 1 (7 Mins.)

 

Callahan 2 (3 mins.)

Reynolds 2 (3 mins.)

 

Callahan 3 (6 mins.)

Reynolds 3 (1 min.)

 

Callahan 4 (2 mins.)

Reynolds 4 (4 mins.)

 

Budget Hearing November 19

Callahan 5 (13 mins.)

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

Latest in a series of posts on the pedestrian bridge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Councilman Callahan was not deterred, however.

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

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

That’s where we stand right now.

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

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

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

The budget dance (2): the police department

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

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

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

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

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

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

———–

ref: “Defunders” criticize the proposed police budget

Gadfly finishing off what he started a week ago.

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

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

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

There were no “defender” voices at that meeting.

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

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

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

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

They may be dancing alone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The TIF — a “big deal” — ends

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Could Bethlehem renew the TIF? Maybe.

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

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

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

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

Mark DiLuzio
Bethlehem Chief of Police
2014-2020

———–

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

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

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

———–

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

continue . . .

———–

the second part in a 6-part series

Third budget meeting Tuesday 6PM

Latest in a series of posts on the City Budget

View the Mayor’s 2021 Proposed Budget

Third Budget Meeting

Tuesday, November 24, 2020

6:00 PM

TOPICS:  PAGES IN BUDGET BOOK                                                                                                      

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

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

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

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

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

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

first part in a series . . .