Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Prompt 4 (26)

(26th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 Bethlehem NAACP “Candidate’s Night 2019,” April 22, 7PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

registration deadline April 22

Election Day is May 21

vote for 3

4th in the series of candidate statements

statements in alphabetical order this time

Talk about budgets and the budgeting process, arguably the most important power and responsibility that City Council has.

Michael Colon (incumbent) Colon 2

The City’s budget is a long, tedious process which is often not very appealing to the public. I understand why.  There are a number of budget hearings during the fourth quarter each year. City Council and the administration go through a budget book which is hundreds of pages long.  A couple years before I was elected to City Council, I went to a budget hearing and truthfully didn’t totally grasp what I was hearing.  Thankfully the members of Council at the time were polite enough to answer emails I’d send with general questions to help me understand.

What is important to understand with the City’s budget today are two things. First is personnel is the biggest cost driver in running Bethlehem. Second is the overall headcount of Bethlehem employees is as low as anyone can remember. Most employees are likely going to work each day to a department that had more manpower when they started their employment. The question then is how to maintain adequate services?

The City must continue to look at technologies which will allow employees to be more effective at their jobs. Continued investment in new technologies will help in delivery of services. An example is the water department rolling out more electronic meters each year which allow the meter to be read remotely, cuttimg down on time going meter to meter. That being said, the workloads only increase our departments at City Hall.  Sometimes adding to the headcount is necessary as we recently decided to add a part-time employee to the Law Bureau due to increased demands. It is important to consider the long-term budgetary impact of each addition to the City’s payroll. In this instance there are no benefits other than salary.

The cost of doing business will continue to rise. It’s only fair a hardworking employee should be paid more today than they were one, three, ten years ago. Am I opposed to raising taxes?  Can’t say that I am. I’ve been a part of a Council that has passed small tax increases. What I am in favor of is continuing to look at the budget, this massive document, comprehensively and continuing to understand how to meet the City’s needs so that when taxes do have to rise they are incremental.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) JWReynolds

The following facts about the budget cannot really be disputed.

  • Most of the budget is fixed due to union contracts and obligations (such as debt relating to capital investments)
  • The vast majority of the budget is personnel (over 80 percent)
  • The majority of the budget is public safety (important when considering the service impact of any spending cuts)
  • Legitimate meaningful cuts cannot be made without touching personnel (which generally Councilmembers do not want to do)

With those four points in mind, it is very difficult to make substantial cuts during budget time. So, what is City Council’s role in the budget?

  • Determine, follow, monitor the long-term financial health of the city by understanding the budget revenue and expenditure drivers
  • Have an in-depth understanding of the direction of departments and the short- and long-term financial implications of annual proposed changes
  • Monitor and follow revenue and expenditure estimates throughout the year
  • Educate the public about the aforementioned structural limitations of our budget
  • Support initiatives that assist the city financially and do not sacrifice the effectiveness and efficiency of city services

The single most impactful thing that Council members can do as it pertains to the budget is to keep open communication with the Administration and department heads about their short- and long-term financial plans for their departments throughout the year.   The budget is passed in December, but important financial questions are being asked and answered every day in City Hall.  What is our pension obligation for next year? A few people retired, are those positions being filled? Would a change in departmental structure save money over the long run without sacrificing service? If we have a year with many winter storms, where are we moving money from to pay for snow removal?

City Councilmembers who wish to fund new initiatives also must work with the Administration and Department heads throughout the year (rather than during budget time) to understand where new initiatives work with the larger plans/strategies for the departments.  It is often a long and tedious process to build support and the necessary financial budgetary flexibility for even minor additions to the budget throughout the year. Working slowly is, however, necessary to not only fund new initiatives but also to make sure the implementation process is clear moving forward.  During my time on City Council, most Councilmembers have approached the budget process with the above information in mind and, as a result, the current and future financial position of the City is stable and growing stronger by the year.

Carol Ritter

Watch this space

David Saltzer  David Saltzer

When speaking about budgets, there are  multiple facets that change annually. I have had the opportunity to sit on the other side of the council table as a taxpayer, employee, and president of the union looking at the budget from different perspectives. Budgeting is one of council’s most important duties. To create a budget that is fair to everyone allows the city to operate, grow, provide essential city services, and not drain the pockets of the citizens.

Budgets should be reevaluated on an ongoing basis. By looking at our vendors and what they offer to the city, it may in our best interest to look at long-term contracts as opposed to monthly or yearly contracts for services to save money, while also continuing with a yearly fleet replacement plan for aging essential city equipment in the streets, parks, and public safety departments. This will also help in the long term by not having to replace multiple broken and aged pieces of equipment at once.

We can also look at attracting businesses that will help add to the tax base and give back to the community through sponsorships to maintain parks or monies to fund essential equipment, saving taxpayers monies. We can also continue to search and seek out grants for community upgrades, equipment programs such as Costars, and safe staffing such as the COPS and SAFER grants for fire and police to help offset the cost of salaries in public safety.

One area where we cannot afford to cut is city personnel. Our city is currently operating with the lowest number of employees in history, and it shows. Employees are constantly asked to do more with less, and this attitude is unacceptable and needs to change. Our employees can feel the lack of support from the current city administration and are burning out, and the city is seeing the results of this burnout.

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent) Van Wirt 2

Semper Pro Populus

City Council has fiduciary responsibility over the City operations — the budget, capital expenditures, and leveraging debt. In thinking about this duty I find the term “Semper Pro Populus” to be the guide: Always for the Public. It is in this role that Bethlehem’s finances must be abundantly transparent, and the decision-making behind the city finances accessible and easily understood.

City Council approves debt — in part by floating general obligation bonds, which are
backed by the power of the taxpayer. Taxpayers frequently backstop the bonds of
independent authorities, approved by City Council. It is in this responsibility I find the
most serious oversight responsibility lies — how do we ensure that we do not wind up like Scranton, where City Council approved general obligation bonds for the Scranton
Parking Authority to build yet another parking garage which subsequently was not
supported by parking revenue. The Parking Authority then asked Scranton City Council
to raise city taxes to pay the G.O. bonds. Scranton City Council refused to honor the
taxpayer guarantee for the Parking Authority’s G.O. Bonds — not wanting to raise taxes on it’s citizens — and Scranton wound up losing access to capital markets as a result,
precipitating a full-blown financial crisis. (Mary Walsh, “With No Vote, Taxpayers Stuck
with Tab on Bonds” New York Times 6/25/2012) Or Harrisburg, where the G.O. Bonds
for a trash incinerator provided the initial debt, which was subsequently inflated by the
Harrisburg Authority over the years, ultimately leading to the state taking over
Harrisburg’s finances. Or Allentown, where the debt of the struggling Lehigh County
Authority has provoked widespread concern. To compound the problem, these
obligations are frequently carried off the books.

In terms of function, the City budget is composed of a series of operating funds
(general, water. and sewer) as well as a capital budget. Within this framework, there is
often very little room for leverage in council towards goals that differ from the
administration, with the exception of the capital budget. It is here that I think a unified,
cohesive City Council has the most room to guide the administration- How we invest in
our downtowns to help Bethlehem’s small businesses? What are the projected costs of
replacing our fleet with electric vehicles? How do we improve our sidewalks? How do
we use the power of the purse to create a city with a diversified economy, an affordable
housing stock, and lively, energized streetscapes in our downtowns?

A fiduciary must always act with highest ethical standards. This means honesty and full
disclosure. The power of the purse, as controlled by City Council, is another reason we
must have a strong ethical foundation for our elected officials; the proposed Ethics
Ordinance, which I will be reintroducing, is meant to reassure the taxpayers that no
conflict of interests will affect Bethlehem’s elected official’s obligation to the people.

Bethlehem is pressured by many responsibilities — pension obligations, retiree and
employee healthcare, aging infrastructure are just a few — and is looking for ways to
creatively increase the tax base and to find new sources of revenue all without adding to
the taxpayer’s burden. It is in the fiduciary role of City Council — to ensure that
Bethlehem’s financial obligations and decision-making are transparent, that taxpayerbacked bonds are vetted and publicly discussed, particularly when it comes to off-the-books Authority debt, — that we must ensure we are Semper Pro Populus — always for the public.

Council Candidates – 2-year seat – Prompt 4 (25)

(25th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

 Bethlehem NAACP “Candidate’s Night 2019,” April 22, 7PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

registration deadline April 22

Election Day is May 21

vote for 1

4th in the series of candidate statements

statements in alphabetical order this time

Talk about budgets and the budgeting process, arguably the most important power and responsibility that City Council has.

Will Carpenter Will Carpenter

As a new member to Council, I would first need to listen and learn about process and the current and past budget initiatives, long-term objectives and challenges.  While I have created budgets, had profit/loss accountability, projected expenses and negotiated costs, I have never been a part of a municipal budgeting process and will have much to learn.

For expenditures, my priorities would start with public safety — from police, fire, and EMS to health and water quality. Keeping our community safe and our first responders well-equipped should be non-negotiable. Code enforcement is also part of public safety.  We have rules, so we should make sure they are consistently enforced and our departments have the resources to do so.

On the revenue side, we must protect and support our current strongest sources of revenue while looking ahead to the next revenue generators. Our business community and residential neighborhoods are the backbone of our city.  We are partners in success.  As the economy and the world continues to change, Bethlehem must be forward-looking to meet the needs of the next generation.

So initially, my responsibility is to ask questions, hold departments accountable and learn. Are we, the citizens, receiving good value on the expenditure?  What can we learn from past experience, or other municipalities experiences? Times aren’t always good, and bad times don’t last forever. Don’t overspend and don’t under-invest. It is a difficult balance, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers, but I will certainly ask the questions.  Above all, don’t play politics with the budget.  I will tell it like it is and make the hard choices with a long-term perspective.

Ashley Daubert Ashley Daubert

In a healthcare setting, members of nursing leadership (like myself), are involved with some of the most critical functions in budgetary planning. Like nurse managers, the members of City Council serve as the link between the plans of administration/City and the workforce/tax payer. In my experience, the use of historical budgeting is a vital component of planning the next fiscal year’s budget. As a member of City Council, I would review historical budgets from the previous (at least) four years, and identify patterns and trends. I would also compare this data to a chart of accounts for the City – analyzing revenue, expenses, liabilities, and assets. I would then compare actual revenue and expenses to the budgeted revenue and expenses for each year. Variances would be identified and variance analyses completed, as appropriate. The budgeting process is ongoing and dynamic. It should provide feedback and opportunity for corrective action; this is essential in managing a budget.

In the development of a budget, it is important to really analyze what is being requested. For example, in the healthcare setting, there are things we need to function, and there are things that would be wonderful to have in an “ideal situation.” This is a concept I use when creating our household budget as well. I call it the “need vs. want” scenario(s) – the same mentality I would use as a member of City Council. I have reviewed the City of Bethlehem 2019 Operating and Capital Budgets, but without being able to (also) review some of the aforementioned historical documentation, at this point, I can only say it is very comprehensive and diverse. I can appreciate that it is does not intend to allocate funding disproportionately in one area versus another.

It is difficult to condense such a broad topic into the summary above – but in closing, a critical task in creating and/or approving a budget is collecting relevant data. Armed with this knowledge, Council can make fiscally responsible decisions to ensure the City can run efficiently, without raising taxes.

My Grandfather, Dale Daubert, served on the South Whitehall Township Board of Commissioners for 25 years. He was an outspoken advocate for preservation, and consistently voted against tax increases in the township. This is something he was known for, and I intend to fight the same way for the taxpayers of my City. You might say – it’s in my blood.

Grace Crampsie Smith grace crampsie smith

My previous budgetary experience with allocating federal, state, and local funds will be beneficial in my role as city councilperson. In my capacity as Addictions Counselor and Coordinator of Community and Early Intervention Services for Lehigh County Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities, I was faced with the arduous task of assuring limited taxpayer funds were utilized most efficiently for my clients and families.  Budgetary battles were the norm, for there were never enough funds to adequately serve those in need, and waiting lists prevailed

Currently as a school counselor I again am faced with budgetary dilemmas in that school districts are faced with rising costs, especially given the diversion of sufficient funds from the budget to charter schools. As AP Coordinator, I am responsible for the AP budget and am facing increasingly challenges to offset rising costs with assuring quality administration of the AP program.

Negotiation and mediation skills have been the hallmark of my career as a counselor and human services administrator. While at Lehigh County, I facilitated the transformation of our service delivery from contract-private provider based to a Family Driven- Family Support Services model. This entailed weekly meetings with a Family Council, comprised of parents of those with developmental disabilities.  After more than a year of intense negotiations, we successfully transformed our delivery system, eliminating waiting lists, and assuring all clients/families received services. Negotiation was certainly the key during this arduous yearlong process, and I was complimented for my efforts.

What we need to remember re: the city budget is that like most budgets, the majority of the budget is comprised of fixed costs items such as personnel and health care. In fact 75.2 % of the general fund is comprised of personnel costs.

As a taxpayer I certainly “get it” that no one wants to have their taxes raised.  Concurrently, as a long-time professional in the area of human services, I see on a daily basis the need for services funded by public monies.

As time commences, costs increase — that’s why we have cost of living increases. So how do we balance this, especially for those on fixed incomes that receive minimal to no COLA?  As a councilperson, it is vital to assure funds are spent most efficiently, and prioritization is essential. We can also look at alternate sources of funding such as grants. When I wanted to empower our at-risk 9th graders, I applied for a grant through the Rt. 22 Anti-Gang Task Force and was able to institute the “Skills for Success” program in collaboration with Lafayette College. Collaboration with private entities/individuals should also be encouraged. For example, my friend Mary Sculion recently celebrated 30 years as Founder of Project Home in Philadelphia. At the celebratory dinner this past week, the private benefactors in attendance raised $10 million dollars in one night for her organization. We need to see more of this in Bethlehem.

As a young child, my family faced financial crisis when my father became very ill and was out of work long-term. My family of 9 would never have survived had it not been for the good will of our community.  This experience had a profound impact on me and is one of many reasons I want to be a city councilperson to assure we all work together for the benefit of ALL, regardless of budgetary constraints.

A couple election notes

May 21 is primary election.

Hoping everybody will vote.

Gadfly needs everybody involved in making informed choices for the best candidates for city government.

Thus, please note and continue to refer to our “candidates for election” thread (see under Topics of the sidebar and under Serious Stuff on the top menu).

We are getting great cooperation from the candidates in providing statements on various topics.

By election time each candidate will have prepared a portfolio of sorts where we can find their views and hear their “voices.”

Three sets of responses to prompts so far, and the fourth comes tomorrow.

And Carol Ritter (who’s had what Prof Gadfly nostalgically calls an excused absence) has posted her prompt #2 now and is getting back on track. Please take a moment now to read Carol’s post.

Do all you can to get to know the candidates. I hope they will let me know where they are “appearing,” so I can pass that on to you.

But mark this:  The Bethlehem City Democratic Committee is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall, 53 E. Lehigh St.

Also, for the incumbents, attend the City Council meetings or watch them on video. You can find past videos here. Several incumbents were vocally “active” at the April 16 meeting, for instance.

And the key thing is that you are registered to vote and registered Democratic (will there be any Republicans running?). In the primary election, you can only vote in the party in which you are registered. And since in a basically one-party town, the primary is tantamount to the general election, you must make sure that you are registered.

Monday is the last day to register!

See detailed registration info in a previous post here.

Thanks again to follower Al W for the registration info and — correcting the record — to follower Carol B for suggesting I provide this info on Gadfly.

Are you registered to vote?

Gadfly thanks to follower Kate for the nudge and thanks to follower Al W for the info

This coming Monday, April 22, is the last day to register to vote in Pennsylvania for the May 21 Primary Election. If you are not registered to vote in Pennsylvania, the PA Department of State offers an online application that only takes five minutes, and can be completed online. The application can be accessed using the web address: https://www.pavoterservices.pa.gov/pages/VoterRegistrationApplication.aspx

Other information on voting rules and info can be found at

votespa.com

The two county voter registration websites:

https://www.northamptoncounty.org/CTYADMN/ELECTNS/Pages/VoterRegInfo.aspx

https://www.lehighcounty.org/Departments/Voter-Registration

The League of Women Voters usually has helpful info too:
https://lwvlehighcounty.org/

http://www.lwvnorthco.org/

Northampton County

Election:

Contact Elections for questions related to your polling place, when or where an election will be held and other election related information.

​Ms. Amy Hess
Election Director
669 Washington St., Room 1211
Easton, PA 18042-4101
(610) 829-6260
election@northamptoncounty.org


Voter Registration
:

Contact Voter Registration to confirm if you are registered to vote, how to register and other questions related to voter registration.​

Ms. Amy Hess
Election Director
669 Washington St., Room 1211
Easton, PA 18042-4101
(610) 829-6260
election@northamptoncounty.org

County WebsiteNorthampton County Website

Lehigh County

Election:

Contact Elections for questions related to your polling place, when or where an election will be held and other election related information.​

Mr. Timothy Benyo
Chief Clerk, Board of Elections
Lehigh Co. Government Center
17 S. 7th St.
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 782-3194


Voter Registration
:

Contact Voter Registration to confirm if you are registered to vote, how to register and other questions related to voter registration.​

Terri Harkins
Deputy Chief Clerk
Lehigh Co. Government Center
17 S. 7th St.
Allentown, PA 18101
(610) 782-3194

County WebsiteLehigh County Website

Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Prompt 3 (24)

(24th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21.

Order in which contributions were received this time.

Vote for three.

All of the candidates deserve our thanks!

Please expand on one of the points that you listed in response to question #2.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

NorthSide 2027 is an initiative that encompasses the work that we need to continue to pursue in Bethlehem. Bringing together the Bethlehem Area School District, Moravian College, citizens, small businesses, and City Hall, we are trying to invest in and revitalize our neighborhoods with a comprehensive approach to community development. In the past year, we have brought together neighborhood stakeholders, hired a consultant, held public meetings, and gathered ideas relating to the strengths and weaknesses of our north side neighborhoods. As the initial plan nears completion, the implementation of the neighborhood strategies will be one of my priorities if elected to another term.

Different priorities for different neighbors have emerged during the planning process for NS2027. While that can be a challenge, it also holds the potential for the initiative to bring together neighbors for a shared, unique purpose. Projects such as the Bethlehem Food Co-op give us the opportunity to make structural investments that can positively impact the future of our city’s families.

Improving our community’s connections with our neighborhood elementary schools,
making our neighborhoods more walkable, and improving opportunities for our families are all priorities that will be important tenets of the NS2027 plan moving forward. As important as the priorities of the “plan” are, however, I am hoping that the legacy of the plan will be the permanent structure of interested community stakeholders that has been created, engaged, and empowered.

Bethlehem families’ lives are often intertwined between our school district, city government, the physical space of their neighborhoods, and the businesses/services that are within walking distance of their home. As a city, we owe it to our neighborhoods to look through that interconnected lens if we are going to maintain and improve the quality of life that has always made Bethlehem special.

David Saltzer  David Saltzer

I am happy to follow up on my statement in last week’s edition that, as a city council member, my first and foremost goal is to make Bethlehem a safe city for our residents, visitors, and employees. As a retired City of Bethlehem Firefighter who had to retire early due to an on-the-job injury, I believe strongly in upholding the motto of public safety workers — Everyone goes home.

I’ve worked in a multitude of emergency services facets, starting at age 16 as a volunteer firefighter and EMT, and later becoming a 911 dispatcher and, in 1999, an acting supervisor. Through these experiences, I gained a first-hand understanding of what goes into the everyday aspect of each job. I also have a firm understanding and knowledge related to negotiating with the city administration and council on topics such as safe staffing levels for fire, police and EMS, and making sure that first responders have working equipment to do their jobs. I understand the budgeting of these items and the cost factor that accompanies them; however, what is the cost of a life? For first responders and their families, this is a common worry. For those not close to the job, sometimes strains related to emergency services staffing levels and equipment shortages seem not as dire. With ongoing cuts to the fire department’s staffing levels, our aging and outdated equipment, and fleets of vehicles that may or may not work, the job becomes more difficult and it makes it much more complicated to keep fellow firefighters, residents, and visitors safe.

A further complication to the above is the inability to retain fully-trained public safety workers in the city when they can take their experience to another municipality or township and make better wages, while working in an environment with more secure staffing levels and better equipment. For example, our city paramedics are top-notch but must work at multiple places just to make ends meet. These men and women clock in and may not see the station again until they go home and are highly under-appreciated. These are things that need to change. I also feel, as a 911 dispatcher and acting supervisor since 1999, I would be a key person to aid in the facilitation of the ongoing transition of our 911 system going to Northampton County. I have input and ideas to help with a much smoother transition than how it is occurring currently.

My last part of the plan that I would like to see is a joint public safety training facility for fire, police, and EMS—a place to train that isn’t in a parking lot somewhere. This isn’t a new idea and has been talked about at length before, but it has never materialized. I’d also like to look at other opportunities for employee recruitment and retention, such as the apprenticeship program that Allentown Fire Department uses. Together, these elements I outlined: safe staffing, working and upgraded equipment, a better- functioning 911 center, and proper training will help keep this city one of the safest in the country for its residents, visitors, and employees.

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent)  Van Wirt 2

Gadfly, in answering your questions, I have been thinking a lot about Jane Jacobs. Jacobs, an urbanist, changed the way city planning was understood in America. In her book Death and Life of Great American Cities, written in 1961, Ms. Jacobs challenged the status quo of large, shiny projects, arguing for eyes on the street and human scale. “At a time when both common and inspired wisdom called for bulldozing slums and opening up city space, Ms. Jacobs’s prescription was ever more diversity, density and dynamism – in effect, to crowd people and activities together in a jumping, joyous urban jumble.” NYT, 2006.

Bethlehem is in the same type of moment as New York City in Jacobs’ day — do we continue with auto-centric thinking for our two downtowns? How do we create a city where people want to walk — for recreation, for exercise, for work? A city in which people want to walk creates a human scale and that elusive but magical word — community. Walkability doesn’t mean shaming people into not driving — just the opposite. It means understanding the “jumping joyous urban jumble” and how to foster development that honors the humans in the downtown, rather than a Corbu-inspired “tower in the park” idealism. We see it playing out every day as our beautiful city is appreciated by investors — how do we capture this energy and steer it to create a city where we all want to be? It means having a plan and expecting others who want to invest here to honor a city’s vision for itself.

One of Jacobs’ epic battles was with Robert Moses, the powerful chairman of the NYC Parks Commission. Moses favored highways over public transit. He saw his efforts in placing the Cross Bronx expressway in the middle of a vivid working-class neighborhood as “slum clearing.” She successfully fought his efforts to do the same to her beloved Greenwich village, by defeating the Lower Manhattan Expressway ripping through the heart of the village. Bethlehem is at a pivot point where we can continue to look at our city through old paradigms of “any development is good development,” or we can take Jacobs’ philosophy to heart locally and understand that when change comes to our beautiful city, it should be shaped and guided by principles that value the human, the public, the citizens of Bethlehem.

Michael Colon (incumbent)  Colon 2

Last time I mentioned I want City Hall to continue to have the resources to meet the needs of our community. Since I’ve been on Council we’ve consolidated departments (Recreation and Public Works), eliminated departments (911 moving out of the city), and cut a few positions (various departments). The primary function of local government is to deliver core services: police, fire, EMS, public works (streets), water, sewer, and community and economic development. City Hall is currently seeing its lowest staffing levels anyone can remember. This makes the delivery of services all the more challenging.

These moves and decisions are usually made during the budget process, which makes Council’s role in adopting a budget so important. However taxes are also raised during the budget process. All policies, agendas, programs, etc. have a cost associated with them. Bethlehem has been fortunate to maintain the delivery of services while only adopting modest tax increases the last few years.

At the end of the day that’s what I hear most from citizens, “Don’t raise my taxes.” What is implicit is the understanding that citizens still want a police officer nearby when they need one, their street maintained, a firefighter on standby in case of an emergency, and someone at City Hall to help them when they call or walk-in.

The budget process is tedious, it is complex, and it always has to be balanced. What I will continue to do is look at it comprehensively each budget season to balance the needs of our city and neighborhoods with the resources we have at our disposable.

Carol Ritter Ritter

Carol has an excused absence from d’professor.

 

 

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Council Candidates – 2-year seat – Prompt 3 (23)

(23rd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

Election Day is May 21.

Order in which contributions were received this time.

Vote for one.

All of the candidates deserve our thanks!

Please expand on one of the points that you listed in response to question #2.

Ashley Daubert  Ashley Daubert

In prompt two, I explained (briefly) that one of my initiatives as a BCC candidate was “community wellness.” Specifically, destigmatizing mental illness and eliminating the division that exists between mental and physical health – and, instead, integrating them into the umbrella term “wellness.” As an ANCC psychiatric-mental health RN, I have seen people at their lowest. Mental health does not have a face, or a socioeconomic class, or an age, or a gender, etc. It does not discriminate. The purpose of this initiative is to examine the “wellness” of our community – to address the opioid epidemic; to examine the affordability of housing related to respective income potential, rates of homelessness, crime rates and public safety; to talk about why the suicide rate in the Lehigh Valley is at an all-time high; to be aware of the issues our children and our aging population are facing; and to come together as a community to address these issues. My plan is to increase education and awareness – to get out in the community and talk to community leaders and school officials, those who are currently suffering from/with one or more of the aforementioned challenges, local law enforcement, and organizations that work to combat these issues. We need to talk about these things – and not just hear one another, but actively listen, and work together to come up with viable solutions to address human suffering within our City. I see it every day. Creating partnerships and increasing education and awareness are the first steps in the development of a plan of action. A plan that has the ability to change the quality-of-life for those that need it most. In terms of value, you can’t “quantify” waking up every morning with purpose and being thankful to be alive. Imagine being able to change the course of someone’s life – to know that your efforts have made your community a better place to live, work, and raise a family, for all.

I have the power to do that.

You have the power to do that.

We have the power to do that.

Will Carpenter Will Carpenter

Why have a plan?

I have witnessed many cities progress through a reactionary process. If someone wants to put something new here, then let’s be grateful  and find a way to make it work.  The results are not always bad. Most development comes about because a need is identified and filling that need can benefit the investor and the community.  The problem with this type of reactionary planning approach is that each new piece takes away a little from what exists rather than building together on a unified vision.

As a member of the Bethlehem City Council, I will become fully knowledgeable of our current comprehensive plan to understand the stake holders and its history.  I will work to understand what the vision of growth was, what parts of our natural resources it seeks to enhance, what deficiencies in our commercial, housing, or transportation policies it seeks to address. What coming trends and future needs it looks to adapt to and prepare for. This will be the context through which I would consider zoning issues, traffic flow, use of public funds, and other issues.

Cities with good leadership and a solid vision become the most attractive place to live and invest in. Taking a thorough look at what we have, what we want, and what we need to protect will help to refine a vision and a plan.  For residents, investors, and developers this plan gives a structure, a level of certainty, and that tends to attract more investment and development, which bring good jobs and a vibrant economy. No plan can ever anticipate all the future needs or possibilities. Changes must be made thoughtfully, with public input and open discussion, and we must trust our planning staff to protect the long-term thinking and not allow short-term political needs to take us off course.

Grace Crampsie Smith grace crampsie smith

While all of my priorities are vital, I would like to expand on priority #1, assuring the health, safety, and well being of all. As a school counselor, within the past 2 years, I have seen an astoundingly significant increase in the number of students and families facing homelessness. This is a direct result of the lack of affordable housing throughout our country and within our communities such as Bethlehem. The disparity between housing costs and income has grown considerably and has received national and local media attention.

Families who pay more than 30 percent of their income for housing are considered
cost burdened and may have difficulty affording necessities such as food, clothing,
transportation, and medical care. An estimated 12 million renters and homeowner
households now pay more than 50 percent of their annual incomes for housing. A
family with one full-time worker earning the minimum wage cannot afford the local
fair-market rent for a two-bedroom apartment anywhere in the United States.

While development of residential properties is essential, let’s examine the
disproportion between the development of high-end luxury apartments and condos
versus affordable residential units. We are all interdependent upon one another and thus must assure that our neighbors have the basic needs of life met, first and
foremost, affordable and suitable housing.

As I have noted previously, Council members must be mindful that our community
is made up of people from all walks of life who have varied incomes, educations, and
skills, and we all want the same thing – to provide for our families and have a good
quality of life.

Recent initiatives such as the partnership between the Community Action
Development Corp. of Bethlehem and the City of Bethlehem to rehab homes on the
South Side is promising and needs to be expanded upon.

To further address this issue, I would propose developing a task force of public and
private entities. I have been fortunate to witness the success of my dear friend and
mentor Mary Scullion, Founder of Project Home in Philadelphia. Mary has
developed a successful plan to address homelessness that has received international
recognition. She accomplished a significant decrease in homelessness via the
collaborative efforts of public officials and private entrepreneurs.

After all, assuring our community members have affordable and suitable housing
promotes stronger, safer neighborhoods, which benefits the community at large.

 

 

BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall,
53 E. Lehigh St.

An opportunity to hear several of the Council candidates (22)

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey and encourage someone else also

(22nd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

At the monthly meeting of the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee (BCDC) last night,  candidates were given two-minutes to speak. Not much time, but I think that hearing them even for a short time provides a helpful gauge of personality.

So Gadfly is glad to report that BCDC is hosting a candidates’ forum May 6, 6PM, at Steelworkers Hall, 53 E. Lehigh St. The expectation is that all candidates will be on stage together — so mark your calendars. Don’t miss!

The BCDC organizers didn’t elaborate on what the forum format will be. It will be interesting to see if it includes interaction among the candidates and questions from the audience.

Gadfly’s mission for all of us is better informed voting, so he hopes you will take advantage of all opportunities to learn as much as you can about each of the candidates.

So, lend an ear:

Candidates for the 4-year seat on City Council

Not attending were Michael Colon, Carol Ritter, and David Saltzer

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

 

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent) Van Wirt 2

 

 

 

Candidates for the 2-year seat on City Council

Not attending was Ashley Daubert

Will Carpenter  Will Carpenter

 

Grace Crampsie Smith  grace crampsie smith

 

 

Take the “Connecting Bethlehem” survey and encourage someone else also