City Council meeting April 7 canceled, April 21 moved online

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Bethlehem residents:

The April 7, 2020 Bethlehem City Council meeting will be canceled due to the developing COVID-19 public health emergency. The City is currently working to develop a remote Council meeting system that will allow for public comment.

The next Bethlehem City Council meeting will be April 21, 2020, at 7:00 PM, and hosted through remote meeting software. The meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube and the public will be able to participate in the public comment sessions through a call-in phone number. The standard five minute time limit will apply to public comment sessions.

The City is currently developing procedures for remote public comment and will distribute instructions to the public as soon as possible. When ready, call-in instructions will be posted on the City website, distributed to local media, and distributed through select City social media channels.

Thank you for your understanding.


Robert G. Vidoni, Esq.

City Clerk
Offices of City Council
City of Bethlehem

Tip o’ the hat!

City Covid-19 update

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Covid-19 Update April 3, 2020

As of noon on April 3, 2020, Bethlehem had a total of 108 COVID-19 cases and 0 deaths.  The Bethlehem Health Department continues to investigate all reported cases and quarantine close contacts.
For questions about COVID-19, please contact the Pennsylvania Department of Health at 1-877-PA-HEALTH or the Bethlehem Health Department at 610-865-7083.

Please monitor the City’s website at and social media for additional information regarding City facilities, public meetings and updates on COVID-19.

Will City Council meet Tuesday?

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Interesting question.

The City has shut down all meetings.

But that notice didn’t include City Council.

The answer to my past wondering about whether the March 17 City Council meeting would be held seemed to be that it would be held because it was under legal obligation to do so. (Gadfly hasn’t been able to find the code citation on this — anybody?)

You might remember that the members socially distanced themselves around Town Hall, but the meeting lacked a quorum so that no official business could be done.

One wonders further whether the legal obligation to meet holds during a national emergency.

In any event, Friday is the day we usually get the agenda for the Tuesday meeting, so Gadfly expects that we will know soon one way or ‘tother.

But Gadfly went to “church” last Sunday online, the EAC met last night online, First Friday will happen online — raises the interesting question whether City Council could meet online.

The Sunshine Act allows councilmembers to participate via video conferencing.

It’s only a step from that to having all members participate via video conferencing — wheeee!

The problem is required public participation.

But there are the conferencing programs like Zoom and GoToMeeting such as Gadfly participated in recently.

Would be exciting to push the envelope a bit and explore such possibilities for City Council.

Though Gadfly would never want to give up “being there”!

Dreadful disease, dreadful dilemma: quarantine the city or risk losing Bethlehem Steel to the war effort

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For perspective on our current coronavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

Our president has called himself, metaphorically, a war-president in the fight against the coronavirus.

In 1918, there was a real war going on when the Spanish Flu arrived.

A war in which Bethlehem Steel, Bethlehem Steel workers, and Bethlehem in general played an essential role.

Gadfly bets you hadn’t considered how fighting a foe in Europe complicates fighting a flu in the ether.

But doesn’t the following situation sound familiar?

Recognition that “social distancing” combats the disease (plus recognition that we’re a crucial link in the military supply chain) but reluctance to “go the distance” because of entertainment and business interests.

Another disease sometimes seems to come in tandem with the pandemics: political paralysis.

The government official recommends the Lehigh Valley tri-cities enter in to an “absolute quarantine . . . in order to guard against the danger of a Spanish influenza epidemic which the government fears would cripple the industrial centres hereabouts that are turning out war products.”

The government official recommends “the prohibition of all public gatherings in the city, the closing of all schools, theatres, saloons, pool rooms, soda fountains and churches for an indefinite period.”

Shut-down. Shelter-in-place.

The Allentown mayor drags feet. Such “drastic and radical” action will interfere with fund raising for the war (red herring), there’s already the constructive effort of an anti-flu placard, sign, and card campaign (we’re doing enough to fight the disease now), and he opts to wait to see what others will do (punts).

The government official sees the real reason: “When General Pershing cables for guns and ammunition we cannot tell him that we cannot send the supplies because we didn’t quarantine a city for fear it would be an inconvenience to the merchants and saloonmen.”

The government official turns the screws, or tries to: “If production at the Bethlehem Steel plant is impeded because of the epidemic, we will be culpable. . . . This is a radical act but these are radical times.”

Decision, decisions — that’s why our local officials make the big money! (Just kidding, of course.)

God grant our elected officials the courage to act with wisdom and speed in radical times.

(Wouldn’t you love to see “man-in-the-street” interviews?)

Flu 23

Flu 32
Flu 33
Flu 34

Morning Call, October 2, 1918

You can still First Friday!

Online Today!

4pm: info from Missy Hartney
7pm: concert begins

Southside Arts District
Happening on First Fridays
Each First Friday Bethlehem’s SouthSide Arts District comes to life, celebrating art, music, their unique shops and delicious restaurants. And this Friday is no different. The Arts District invites you to join them on Facebook at 4pm with the SouthSide’s Downtown Manager, Missy Hartney to learn which restaurants and bars are offering curbside pickup and how to shop local during this time. “We want to give people a sense of normalcy, and we couldn’t think of a better way to do that, than by celebrating on a Friday night. Get take out, go home safely and enjoy live local music on Facebook,” said Hartney. “Supporting local businesses is crucial right now. When the dust settles and we are all back to work and school, we want these businesses to still be here. These are our neighbors that run these shops and restaurants. If we don’t support them now, we won’t have them when we make it to the other side, so if you have plans to treat yourself with takeout please support local!”
In addition to local restaurant specials, at 7PM local musicians will take over the SouthSide’s Facebook Page offering viewers live entertainment for their Friday night. Kendal Conrad, local American Country singer-songwriter, kicks off the evening at 7pm, followed by Carlos Barata, Soulful Alternative singer-songwriter, and at 8pm Classic Rock singer-songwriter Ralph Pagano. Viewers who like and share each performance with the hashtag #facebookfirstfriday will get the chance to win a $100 gift card to the SouthSide retailer or restaurant of their choice. The more performances they share, the more chances to win! The winner will be announced Friday evening on the SouthSide’s Facebook page!
For more information on all the local shops and restaurants still in operation in the SouthSide please visit:
Special thank you to our First Friday Sponsors – ArtsQuest, The Bethlehem Parking Authority and Lehigh University for making First Friday possible!

The Spanish Flu comes to Bethlehem

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For perspective on our current coroniavirus situation, we are following the entrance of the 1918 Spanish Influenza, that paragon of pandemics, into the minds and bodies of Lehigh Valley residents who got their news through the Morning Call (the files of the Bethlehem Globe are closed to us at the moment).

In the period a few days before and after October 1, 1918, Bethlehem readers of the Morning Call could see the disease coming closer and closer to their homes.

On September 27 Allentonian James Kingston returned from Tennessee and the funeral of his nephew, “a specimen of good health, 27 years of age,” whose “sudden and unexpected death” while serving in the army at Camp Devens was a “severe shock” to the family.

But that was nobody’s immediate family and Camp Devens and Tennessee were far away.

On October 1 in Easton, “suspicion was aroused” that two people with no connection with the military died of the “dreaded Spanish Influenza,” 20-year-old Ulmont White and 55-year-old Seth Johnson.

But that was Easton and the cause of death unsure.

October 2 was the day uncertainty itself died in Allentown. On October 2 the Spanish Flu claimed John Levi Keiser, age 68, 118 Walnut St.; Harvey Diehl, age 29, 19 S. 12th St.; and Lewis Uhl, 320 N. 6th.

On September 13, the Spanish Flu arrived in the U.S.; on October 2 it arrived in Allentown.

The Flu was no longer a number; it had a name, an address, and a story.

It was real.

Keiser was the Lehigh Valley Railroad gatetender at the 3rd St. crossing, someone many people might have passed over the years. Diehl had the hard luck of catching the Flu literally waiting in line for his discharge from the very army on which the Flu was feasting like a bear at a honey pot.

Flu 28

By October 4 the disease was certainly in Bethlehem, killing “a popular young resident,” 32-year-old Frank Lowery of 620 W. Broad St. (the address of the hairdresser next to the former Mayflower lunch across from Sim’s Market), a husband leaving a wife and two sons, a son himself tragically dying before his parents — perhaps the first Bethlehem resident known to succumb to the Flu.

Flu 29

The Spanish Flu had come to Bethlehem.