John Price is a forty-something resident of the forgotten far northeast Bethlehem. He is a computer nerd by day and political wonk and local government follower in the shadows of the night. A socially liberal, fiscal conservative in a world gone mad, he wonders if he is in danger of extinction.
A little online investigation suggests that John Price is not a real person. He has what looks like a fake profile set up on Facebook, which clearly has the sole purpose of smearing Dana Grubb. He has no friends, no pictures, and no information suggesting anything about who he is. In case he exists, I would offer a small reward to anyone who can prove it. I really can’t wait to meet him in person. In all of my ten years of attending City Council meetings, I’ve never heard him speak or be referred to by anyone. By letting him post on your blog under a false name, you give his comments the appearance of objectivity. John Price, for all we know, could be Willie Reynolds’ campaign manager. That would explain his on-going efforts to try to justify a wholly inappropriate campaign mailer, and the silly comments in this post about the manner and content of Mr. Grubb’s criticism of current governance in Bethlehem. Anything Mr. Grubb said at a meeting is on the record, and in the minutes, so people can look his comments up themselves if they seriously think that there is something wrong with his much appreciated efforts to challenge bad decisions and demand integrity from elected officials. As someone who has seen Mr. Reynolds mock residents who dare disagree with him, call them “ridiculous” and then rant about how angry he is about their complaints, I find it rather amusing that Mr. Price would liken Mr. Grubb, rather than Mr. Reynolds, to the former president. Mr. Price is only fooling people who don’t pay attention to Bethlehem politics. The only reason for anonymity on your blog is if someone is facing some kind of threat or harm as a consequence of revealing their true identity. I am fully confident that Dana would not affiliate himself with anyone who would do such a thing and, therefore, that Mr. Price is both deceptive and cowardly in hiding behind a false name.
John Price, crafter of the charming and intriguing Gadfly post byline above, and who recently defended the Reynolds’ mailer that Reynolds’ endorser Lehigh Valley for All termed negative campaigning, suggesting an apology to his opponent Dana Grubb, has been a mystery man to Gadfly followers. His September 2019 post on a Bethlehem Parking Authority controversy stood out so much that followers wanted to find out who he was. From the looks of it, he must be a person close to the controversy. But a John Price was nowhere to be found. Leading to the suspicion that someone was posting under a false identity. As you can see, the suspicion persists. Gadfly doesn’t at all like the idea that he is doing what Breena suggests, so he has reached out to John, twice offering his phone number. So far, John has not responded. If you know John, ask him to text or call the Gadfly, willya?
“I was born and raised in South Bethlehem. . . . I felt this divide growing up. . . . What I hear most often is that we need a strong voice for the Southside. . . . The implication, to me, is that [the residents] do not feel heard.” Rachel Leon
Another week, another Gadfly prompt from hell for our candidates!
I joked in the prompt audio that they’re wishing I’d ask about something easy, like fixing potholes.
But Gadfly is up in the stratosphere. Literally. Gadfly asked everybody to look at Bethlehem from a high up perspective.
Inspired by Mark Iampietro’s “Lookout yoga,” Gadfly asked the candidates to take the proverbial 30,000ft. view of our town.
And what did they see? one city, one city with two complementary parts, one city with two different parts, one city with two contrary parts, one city with equal parts, two (or more) cities ?
If you want to listen to my full prompt. click here. For responses by other Council candidates to this prompt, click here.
Thank you, Gadfly, for another thought-provoking prompt.
Are we a city of two cities?
I was born and raised in South Bethlehem, so I can only speak from my experience.
Cities all over our country are broken into downtown areas, arts districts, and historic districts. What makes this so pronounced in Bethlehem is the presence of our river. A 10-minute walk across the Fahy can feel like leaving one city and entering another, but we are all Bethlehem.
The labeling of Bethlehem as a city of two cities can feel a bit antiquated, especially when viewing the divide within the historic context of the joining of the three boroughs. However, I felt this divide growing up in South Bethlehem. Whatever reason led to Bethlehem feeling like a city divided, those sentiments have lingered. I hear this sentiment echoed as I continue speaking to people about how I can help if I am elected. What I hear most often is that we need a strong voice for the Southside. The implication, to me, is that they do not feel heard. I know for a fact that South Bethlehem has had amazing community leadership speaking loudly in defense of our communities. Maybe the issue isn’t the speaking but the ability to hear their voices. If they aren’t being heard, maybe they are being spoken over.
Bethlehem is a beautiful city with a unique history. A history that is important to preserve, even while we move toward increased development. I am passionate in my belief that development needs to be intentional and considerate of the communities we are asking to bear the brunt of continued development. South Bethlehem is often spoken about in terms of student housing and lower income families. Affluence and struggle. This just isn’t true. Communities are not monoliths; they are made up of people of diverse backgrounds, be that ethnic or financial. If we miss this important fact, we miss what makes South Bethlehem so special.
So, as a resident of South Bethlehem, I can best answer the question of if we are divided by continuing to raise the voices of people in South Bethlehem who believe we are. They aren’t digging back 100 years to validate their ideas. They are pointing to decisions that have been made in recent years. Decisions that they have shown up to stand against. Decisions that they have fought against. Decisions, that in the end, they were unable to stop from being made. I hope that, as Bethlehem continues to move forward, we listen to all our communities and how they want to see their city grow and develop. I hope that elected officials ensure that the southside doesn’t become the default location for unwanted land uses or over-development. I hope that we value all areas of our city for their own unique history even as we continue to work together toward a stronger, more united Bethlehem.
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Here we go, gang! Just a week to go till Election Day.
Gadfly is a MIBer, but he’s holding off putting a stamp on in case there are last leg theatrics.
The Gadfly forum is finished, but he will post individual oldies but goodies from the forum over the course of the next week as well as some other clips from candidate meetings that he hasn’t used yet.
Lots of info about the candidates here on Gadfly. Ample material for review. Click “Forum” and “Elections” to dive in.
Speaking of the forum, here are the candidate stats for participation:
Mayoral (8 forums): each candidate did all 8.
Council (7 forums): Callahan 4/7, Crampsie Smith 2/7, Kwiatek 7/7, Leon 6/7, Wilhelm 7/7.
Gadfly believes May 8 was the deadline to file. All candidates have filed as of this writing Monday morning 7:45 except candidate Reynolds. Which optically is a bit awkward given the tense discussion about the source of his contributors in the past, but since the deadline was on the weekend maybe there was simply a logistical hang-up, and we’ll be seeing his report later today.
These financial disclosures are worth a look. Gadfly has always wondered how many $$$ he’d need if he ran for office (might have to dig up the Campbell soup cans filled with $1 bills buried in the backyard in case of some financial apocalypse). And it’s interesting sometimes to see who supported whom. And it’s worth reflecting on the role that money plays in the final outcomes.
For instance, over the weekend Gadfly saw ads for candidate Callahan several times on digital billboards around town. Now that’s a first for Gadfly. He doesn’t remember seeing such in 2019.
Aren’t you curious who has all the money?
Gadfly’s looking forward to skywriters next election.
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The despicable Trump mailer? A cheap-shot. Brought on by the “Hardball” mailer? Going lower is the trademark of Trump, and where has it got us? And Mr Grubb’s mailer asked important questions.
So what of the actual issues, questions asked?
Mr Reynolds did not answer the question of appropriateness of accepting MONEY from developers. (He said he is supported.) This is NEVER ok. This is THE problem of money in politics and quid pro quos. He voted favorably on behalf of developers rather than recuse himself. This is the hallmark of politicians, not leaders.
And by the way, 10 or 11 years ago is not before thoughts and plans of redeveloping the Martin Tower Property. As well, the MTP is far from the only development game in town, then and in the future. Come on, that’s insulting.
But, if Mr Reynolds raised no money – respectably, from citizens and citizen organizations, for four or five years, then that speaks to his failure at it. Acknowledging that would be more leader-like.
Mr Grubb OPENLY discussed the physical altercation that Mr Reynolds is attempting to exploit. Mr G has no record of any such pattern but had a solid argument regarding supporting witnesses.
Mr Reynolds has not publicly acknowledged or discussed his unwillingness to move for council discussion of the public demand for reconsideration of the police budget. That was his shared responsibility to represent ALL citizens.
“No one wanted to talk about it” he said. [Insert shaking my head meme here.] Missed opportunity to lead there.
The Community Engagement Initiative: a potentially really good thing. Where does it stand? It is the responsibility of leadership to make known the status of “progress.” To “advocate,” to have an “open Bethlehem” as Mr Reynolds claims.
One meeting only? And what of the Lehigh U expert in policing and budgeting, Dr Ochs and scientifically supported understanding? And then Mayor Donchez’s private undocumented “meetings” with (some) stakeholders, rather than held by a transparent third party? (Another conflict of interest.)
I can’t trust this – and I’m of the privileged persuasion.
A new Police Chief? (A good choice it seems.) But well beyond due. And reward to leadership for doing their jobs – now? Un-uh. And what about those demands to reconsider the police budget? “Those” 20%+ of residents deserve a better voice.
More and more, I am worried by Mr Reynolds’ Willie-ness(?) to do whatever it takes to get his way. And to NOT acknowledge his mistakes and failures; to ignore part of the public for whom he says he will “advocate” and to whom he will be “accountable” and for whom he will insist on a “responsive” and “equitable” government.
Actions and words here are at odds. “A lie,” as Mr R has claimed about Mr G?
Mr R has been asked to address these issues over and again, but he has avoided them.
I can not vote for that, so I must vote against it.
Thanks to all the candidates for giving to this city. Thanks to Ms Negron for her service, particularly.
Hopefully, we’ll have new courage on council next year to replace Ms Negron in her representation of ALL, with the addition of Ms Rachel Leon.
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Gadfly is hoping to resolve a significant disagreement that occurred between the mayoral candidates in this exchange at the Lehigh Valley for All candidates meeting and that received significant attention on social media just afterwards. Not all City Councilors have responded at this time.
Wonderful summary by Barbara Diamond about Mr Reynolds behavior in his leadership role at that time as President of City Council.
I was one that clearly called for the President & the VP of Council to recuse themselves for the clear appearance of conflict of interest as the developers of Martin Tower were by far their largest donors in the then most recent election.
Instead of considering that suggestion, Reynolds retaliated personally with a blustering lecture to me that far exceeded the 5-minute limit that we were afforded during our comment period. I didn’t call him corrupt but simply stated the facts that there was a significant appearance of conflict of interest.
This was only one example of the behavior that disqualifies him to lead this city. He has suggested openly that residents that ask for their residential neighborhoods to be preserved as the city zoning ordinances require should “move to Macada Road.”
Mr Reynolds has an opinion on every issue & blusters regularly at council meetings with little tolerance for those that have opposing views. That isn’t the Mayor we need for a city that prides itself on the integrity of our neighborhoods & the integrity of our two downtowns. As a business leader in this community, I think we deserve a leader that is a good listener to his constituents rather than one that demands his way or the highway.
I am extremely disappointed that City Council Members Van Wirt, Negron, & Colon abandoned their principals to support the very person that stood against most of their positions. Do we really want to elect a Mayor with a puppet city council? I think we deserve a Mayor with integrity & a check & balance from an independent City Council.
Dana Grubb has always stood for the people of Bethlehem against bad government & truly deserves your vote.
Two of the three candidates for City of Bethlehem mayor were panel guests at a virtual forum Thursday night.
City Councilman J. William Reynolds and Dana Grubb, a former administrator with the city, participated in the forum, which was sponsored by POWER (Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild) Lehigh Valley; Black Progress PAC; and Promise Neighborhoods of Lehigh Valley. Both Reynolds and Grubb are Democrats.
Moderators asked the candidates questions on racism, police reform and affordable housing.
“Although I’d like to think I was color blind, I was not conscious of my own privilege,” said Grubb. “I realize the advantages I had as a white male. That root must be uprooted in order to create a city that is truly accessible to everyone.”
“The pandemic has shown how many things are broken in our country and city,” said Reynolds. “Many of our systems have been broken for a long time. The pandemic blew that wide open and made that obvious to us.”
Grubb said as mayor he would try to work on some of the inequities through affordable housing, climate action and attracting development that is compatible with the community.
“There are a lot of different ways you can implement policy as a mayor that I would seek to do,” he said.
“We need to learn how to live in other people’s energy,” said Reynolds, adding that as a councilman he has worked towards establishing coalitions for change including the city’s Climate Action Plan and Northside 2027 neighborhood plan.
Moderators also asked about police reform and if they would support reallocating municipal funds toward programs that deal with criminal reform, substance abuse and education.
“I think opening up the lines of communication will open up trust and mental health solutions,” said Grubb. “I think it’s a natural marriage. I think police must work closely with those services.”
Grubb added that he would reassess if police should handle certain issues such as animal control and increase efforts in other areas of interest like community policing, de-escalation training and bias training.
Reynolds said he is working on trying to find ways to hire mental health liaisons in order to focus on the cultural and operational functions.
Reynolds said as a councilman he has helped to establish an affordable housing task force.
“We need to be a city that is inclusive city that is welcome to everybody,” he said. “If we’re going to be the type of mid-sized city that people want to live in, then we need to make that clear and we need to do everything we can.” He added, “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been here 50 years or 50 seconds, you’re getting that same level of service.”
“The optimal ratio is 70% owner-occupied and 30% rental,” said Grubb. “The Southside is opposite of that.”
Grubb said he would look at city zoning laws in order to provide more inclusionary housing, along with first-time homebuyer assistance programs.
“There is not an ideal percentage here with rental and housing because we’re dealing with people,” said Reynolds.
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Let’s try to look at this negative mayoral campaigning controversy objectively.
Gadfly does not endorse candidates. He doesn’t feel smart enough for that.
His interest is in providing information on everybody so that voters can make the most informed choice possible.
Gadfly has tried to make these pages open to all candidates in a balanced and even-handed way.
This morning, for instance, you can find a Grubb video followed by a clip from a classy Reynolds Town Hall, followed by both candidates together answering the same question.
All three without comment. Gadfly provides you with the primary sources. You are smart enough to assess and make up your own minds. You don’t need Gadfly telling you how to vote. You shouldn’t care how Gadfly votes.
Contributions from followers have leaned toward Grubb. Gadfly wishes there were more balance there for sure.
So let’s try, try to look at the campaign mailer controversy objectively, without partisan lenses.
Gadfly, in fact, is putting on his professorial hat as well, trying to look at the Grubb and Reynolds mailers as if he were commenting on them as assignments in a writing class.
Readers should not take the following comments as endorsements for one candidate or another but a response to one element of their campaigns.
But an element that relates to something fundamental in both candidates.
Which is why Gadfly ventures into so vexed an area.
Gadfly did not get the Grubb mailer in the mail. Surprising. Not sure why. He’s receiving a steady stream of other mailers. So he’s on mailing lists.
He first learned of the Grubb mailer, in fact, from candidate Reynolds. His news was quickly accompanied by a flurry of “did you see this?” messages from followers.
There was a decent interval between these “be on the alert” messages and actually seeing the Grubb mailer.
Gadfly was prepared to be shocked.
He was not.
He was shocked — and not a pleasant shock — when he received (in the mail!) the Reynolds mailer.
Let him talk outloud as he tries to determine why the different readings on his shock meter.
First, It was clear to Gadfly that G was running as an “outsider,” in fact had to run as an outsider. R has been a visible player for over a decade, he has a solid handful of major concrete accomplishments, he has a substantial financial “war chest,” and he has run the table of endorsements from the local political establishment (ha! except Councilman Callahan!).
So Gadfly expected at some point that G would have to try to put a dent in R’s record. He would have to try to turn heads. How he would do it was the suspense.
When you put aside the ridiculous mailer claptrap of bolded letters, capitalized letters, all caps, strategic quotation marks, dramatic font shifts, warped photos (why do we mature people put up with such crap when it comes to elections? so childish), when you put all that aside, G’s thesis (speaking under my prof hat) is “we” can’t afford R. And he supports or bolsters that thesis with 9 reasons.
We have to give G his thesis. But Gadfly thought it was crafty. Frankly, Gadfly has thought that G doesn’t have a chance in this election. R has so much going for him. An uphill climb for G. But he has identified a soft spot in focusing on the budget. On money matters. Actually, G identifies 2 soft spots. The other being the flap over the ethics ordinance. Pretty shrewd, thought Gadfly, who knows about as much about political strategy as you would expect from an English teacher.
But G has his thesis. So how effectively does he support it?
Take the 9 points one by one. Do they hold up.
Did R vote for a tax increase 3 of the last 4 years? Yes. Did R vote to raise taxes 5% this year? Yes. Did R vote for the stormwater tax? Yes. Did R vote to eliminate firefighters? Yes. Did R vote for those salary increases? Yes. Did R accept $26,000 in campaign donations from big developers while usually voting their way? Yes. Did R vote to rezone Martin Tower in spite of EAC recommendations? Gadfly is not sure about this one. Did R not support a comprehensive ethics ordinance? Yes. Is R not backed by others who also voted for the above items in the 2022 budget? Yes.
Gadfly would say that G supported his thesis. Which is not to say that his points aren’t arguable. Gadfly sees G laying out 9 talking points on which to engage R. Nothing wrong with that. And Gadfly would expect R to engage in return, to rebut. Which he is more than capable of. R is a powerful arguer. And, in fact, he has explicitly made effective responses to most of these points in Gadfly’s hearing already. His point about the danger in voting in block for a large ethics ordinance makes sense to Gadfly. R points out that G doesn’t mention that in the last 5-6 years he has taken no contributions. That’s an interesting point. And qualifies G’s point. So R has responded in kind. He is perfectly capable of defending himself. And then one would expect that G would respond to R’s responses, saying perhaps that R’s silence on the ethics ordinance since 2017 indicates his indifference to it. Or whatever. But that is the cycle of legitimate back and forth that Gadfly expects.
Gadfly does not see what is so foul about the way G is playing hardball.
Gadfly does not understand R’s references to attacks against the Mayor, Council colleagues, and the “fantastic women” running for Council. G has attacked the women running for Council??? Yiiii. Where? How? The prof in me says that calls out for specific example if it is going to have any force and impact. Of course, such things may be in the corners of social media in which Gadfly is unfamiliar, and he waits to be informed. But the point is that “as is” such an accusation has no basis for belief.
And Gadfly cannot understand the defenses of R by his Council colleagues, people whom R points to for support. Sorry, Gadfly cannot connect the dots between Councilwoman Van Wirt’s 30 years reference to anything in the G mailer. Gadfly needs help there. Councilman Colon’s note appended to R’s Facebook message decrying G’s mailer does not mention the mailer at all and thus takes no position on it. Gadfly has not come across public statements regarding the G mailer by Councilfolk Negron and Waldron. One would not expect a statement by Councilman Callahan. The best response is by Councilwoman Crampsie Smith. Her point about the value of Council experience as preparation to be mayor is substantive and points to a soft spot in G’s argument. But the amount of space given to the sterling traits of her family and R’s family is, frankly, complete fog and off-point, says the prof — stick to examples of what’s negative or erroneous in G. But the killer is the Councilwoman’s concluding comment that R’s campaign has focused “on the positives.” Lehigh Valley for All, who endorsed him and now is looking for a direct apology to G, doesn’t see his mailer that way.
Which brings us to R’s mailer.
Gadfly was shocked.
Gadfly didn’t understand it at all. Didn’t see the need for it. As he said before, Gadfly felt R a virtual shoo-in for election. The odds seemed to him stacked way, way against G. How could he understand R’s move here? Frankly, it seemed a desperate move. (He felt the same way when he saw Lisa Boscola come around for a second endorsement. Calling in the cavalry?) And was R not simply shooting himself in the foot? The prof would beg him not to send that damn mailer. Please, Willie, no. Falling off the high road.
Gadfly’s mailbox lit up with indignation.
Lehigh Valley for All suggests an apology.
Lehigh Valley for All considers it negative campaigning.
Gadfly has been aware of G’s city hall incident for a long time. He wondered if it would become an issue if he ran for mayor. So it did. Gadfly is not a denizen of social media, but he was aware it was being talked about there early in the campaign. G faced up and posted an account of the event here on Gadfly March 11. He has heard him describe the incident at least twice since at candidate meeting-type events. It’s not as if G was hiding this incident from his past. His account of events has been consistent. The story was “out there” with his explanation.
R supporters Shirley Morganelli and John Price (who people have suggested to me is a pseudonym) posted comments on Gadfly as a result of G’s March 11 post. These posts prompted Gadfly to try to research the incident more — to go to the primary sources, as he likes to say — but right-to-know requests of police files from the city went nowhere. Dead end there.
Gadfly ultimately decided to let the matter be. G had not tried to hide the incident. He volunteered information about it. He told a story that was consistent and explained his “side.” The incident was 17 years ago — virtually a generation ago. It was an isolated incident. As far as anybody knows, G’s life is not characterized by criminal misbehavior. To describe the event as G’s “history of workplace violence” as R and his supporters have done simply seemed to Gadfly a gross exaggeration and misrepresentation. An over-dramatization.
R says G’s mailer “could not go without a response.”
But not that kind of response.
Pound the hell out of him on the 9 points in his mailer. Yes. You are more than capable of doing so.
But the Trump mailer was beyond unfortunate.
Now, apologize, and get on with the last leg of the campaign.
Onward! Let the best man win!
As usual, Gadfly invites comment, waits to be slapped upside the head.
Q.Do you think there’s enough diversity in City Hall? What would you do to make sure minority groups are represented?
Grubb: No. Qualified individuals from diverse ethnicities and all gender identifications must be recruited for all authorities, boards and commissions, government positions, and particularly those in public safety. The demographics of Bethlehem’s government ought to reflect those of its citizens. In addition, there ought to be bilingual staff available at City Hall to assist those for whom English might not be a first language, and thus a hurdle to smooth interaction and the accomplishment of their goals.
Reynolds: There is not enough diversity in City Hall. It is vital that positions of leadership in our city reflect the changing identity of our community. My administration would be committed to increasing the diversity throughout City Hall. Doing that, however, also means that everyone in our city has access to high-quality services and that city government spends equitable time addressing the needs of everyone in our community. This is an issue of fairness. City government will increase the amount time that it spends in neighborhoods that have traditionally been underrepresented as far as the priorities of our government. Going into our neighborhoods to listen, study the inequities in our city and open up opportunities for everyone in our community is also imperative if we are serious about creating a stronger city.
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Bill Scheirer is a charter member of the Bethlehem Gadfly pantheon, with probably 20 years service behind and at the Town Hall podium. We miss seeing him throughout the long duration of this damn pandemic.
I support Dana Grubb for Mayor of Bethlehem, which is in danger of losing its special quality, because of developments that overwhelm neighborhoods by being too big and/or too tall. Mr. Grubb is more sensitive to this danger. He is not accepting campaign contributions from major developers. Dana was a member of a committee of citizens that crafted a 30-page ethics ordinance that was introduced into the city council by Councilmembers Negron and Colon. It was never acted on by the council, not even to pass certain parts. Mr. Grubb’s opponent preferred two rather innocuous ordinances passed by council. One authorized training on the quite weak state ethics law. The other was a gift ban that didn’t go much beyond existing law. Left untouched were all other considerations, such as campaign contributions, which can create an apparent conflict of interest. Unlike his opponent, Mr. Grubb has specific plans including reintroducing a comprehensive ethics ordinance to increase public confidence that elected officials are transparent and ethical. I have known Dana for 18 years. He is quite possibly the most ethical person I have ever met, and I am 83 years old.
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“It is my privilege to represent the people of West Bethlehem in Harrisburg and at home. It is a responsibility I do not take lightly, which is why I am happy to endorse Willie Reynolds as your next mayor.
I look forward to working with him to ensure policies and resources that benefit all of Bethlehem through the pandemic recovery and beyond. Please join me in supporting Willie Reynolds for Mayor on May 18th.”
Q. Bethlehem stands to receive nearly $34 million in federal coronavirus relief money. How do you think the city should spend that money?
Grubb: First and foremost, funding should be allocated to get all eligible Bethlehem residents vaccinated. Second, funding should be used to provide assistance to both businesses and their employees, both of who have been negatively impacted by the pandemic. Third, nonprofit organizations that struggled to support the neediest in our community during COVID should receive assistance that allows them to continue their mission and service. Fourth, funding should be allocated to the provision of safe affordable housing. Finally, environmental and public infrastructure such as air quality improvement measures, streets, parks and existing public facilities that need maintenance should be funded, particularly since use of outside spaces has increased exponentially during the pandemic.
Reynolds: The past year has been extraordinarily difficult for everyone in our community. We need to work with Northampton and Lehigh counties to make sure that everyone in our city benefits from the federal money in both the short and long term. The relief bill was designed to help our families, small businesses and nonprofits that suffered during the pandemic. One initiative that I have proposed is a community recovery fund that will provide financial assistance to the organizations in our city that define who we are. Neighborhood farmers markets, arts and cultural groups, youth recreation associations. They need to be financially supported to guarantee they continue their vital work in our city. Many of these organizations were not able to operate over the past year and our city suffered financially and emotionally. The community recovery fund will be designed to help them bounce back and make them more vibrant and successful post-pandemic.
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Barbara Diamond enjoys retirement as Lehigh University Director of Foundation Relations by engaging in various activities and organizations hopefully for the betterment of the community. Her particular interests at the moment are preventing gun violence, local government ethics reform, and Bethlehem Democratic Committee work.
Ms. Negron more than anyone deserves credit for launching the effort to pass a comprehensive ethics ordinance. It was her impassioned remarks at the special meeting of December 8, 2015, on the Martin Tower rezoning ordinance in which she cited numerous instances of questionable behavior by the administration and council and declared her intention, when she was sworn in a month later, to pass an anti-pay-to=play law. I recommend that anyone who wants to understand why people question Mr. Reynolds’ commitment to ethics reform in Bethlehem go to the city council archives and read the minutes of that meeting, especially the public comments not only by Ms. Negron (pg.13) but also Bruce Haines (pg. 11 & 19), Breena Holland (pg.21), Bill Scheirer (pg. 13), and Dana Grubb (pg. 14).
Although there had been several previous council meetings on the rezoning, the meeting on December 8, 2015, was significant because of documents that had been obtained and published in November through a Right to Know request by Bernie O’Hare. The documents revealed extensive developer influence in drafting the ordinance that would effectively rezone the Martin Tower site to allow for massive commercial development. The documents verified significant misrepresentations by the Donchez administration and Councilman Reynolds, who was City Council President at that time. Mr. Reynolds repeatedly insisted to the public that the developers were not involved, that the ordinance was being brought forward by the administration, and, therefore, that no plan for the Martin Tower site was available for public review.
The public asked Mr. Reynolds and another council member who also received generous campaign donations from the developers multiple times to recuse themselves and questioned the propriety of their voting on a zoning ordinance that would so obviously benefit a developer who had given them significant campaign contributions. Instead of acknowledging the public’s concerns, Mr. Reynolds responded that “the idea that there is a conflict here and that anyone can attack the integrity of the member of council is ridiculous. It is also insulting” (October 6, 2015 Minutes pg.27). The Right to Know documents revealed that at the very time Mr. Reynolds was scolding the public for challenging his integrity, the developer of the Martin Tower site, Lewis Ronca, was in the hallway texting to DCED director, Alicia Karner, that he needed to leave before reporters spotted him; his texts expressed his chagrin that the 2 hour 15 minute presentation by Planning Director, Darlene Heller, had not caused more people who patiently awaited their turn to speak to leave the meeting. In addition, the documents revealed that Ronca’s assistant, Duane Wagner, provided talking points to Ms. Heller to use when engaging the public, including the myth that the current ordinance allows up to 425,000 sq. ft for retail (Lehigh Valley Ramblings, November 24, 2015).
Many of the people who spoke in opposition not only to the rezoning but also to the revelations of public officials’ cozy relationship with the developers and the dishonest way those relationships were presented to the public went on to form the grassroots effort in 2016 to support Councilwoman Negron’s aim to pass an ethics ordinance. I recently listened to the audio of Mr. Reynolds’ response to the ethics ordinance at the council meeting (May 17, 2017) in which he stated that he was angry about the ordinance, mischaracterized it in multiple ways, and described public comment on it as ridiculous and insulting. In fact, Councilwoman Van Wirt mentioned numerous times that it was the disrespect Mr. Reynolds displayed for Ms. Negron and the good faith effort of members of the community that inspired her to run for office. I will also note the maneuver by Mr. Reynolds in his effort to sabotage the ordinance of having DA Morganelli speak in opposition. Morganelli made over 20 false and misleading statements, which could not be rebutted because his remarks were allowed after Courtesy of the Floor.
Councilwoman Negron’s recent post to Gadfly asks us to have faith that Councilman/Mayoral candidate Reynolds is now in favor of an ethics ordinance. It is now 2021, Mr. Reynolds was president (2014-18) and a wielder of significant power on council for these past 6 years. If he was truly in favor of an effective ethics ordinance (not the ineffectual, piecemeal training and gift bans they passed, which were mere window dressing), he would have helped Ms. Negron try to fix the ordinance she proposed or wrote his own ordinance relevant to city contracts, which he expressed an interest in while chastising her efforts way back in 2015. I note also that Councilwoman Negron is speaking for Mr. Reynolds. Her effort to take blame for Reynolds’ bad behavior does not undo my own observation since 2015 of Mr. Reynolds’ bias toward special interests like developers.
In view of the above, I believe trust in Mr. Reynolds is misplaced.
Q. What do you think the city can do to address the issue of affordable housing?
Grubb: As a real estate photographer and secretary-treasurer for the affordable housing nonprofit Housing Opportunity Movement, I know this is a difficult task. I recently wrote the guidelines for HOM’s closing assistance program, where qualified first-time homebuyers can receive up to $12,000 toward their closing costs. The city will need to consider other assistance like this as well as zoning changes to encourage low-to-moderate-income home ownership, and more development of affordable housing. Bethlehem could also allocate some federal COVID relief funds, and consider the use of federal infrastructure funding, which President Joe Biden is proposing, to address the affordable housing need. In addition, funding assistance from already established federally funded CDBG and HOME programs to nonprofits such as Habitat for Humanity must continue. Addressing the many issues with affordable housing won’t be easy, but a multifaceted approach will make a successful start.
Reynolds: Housing is the single biggest expenditure for almost every family in Bethlehem. During the past year, I have worked with Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith, the mayor’s administration, our nonprofit sector and our community to create policy recommendations and proposals to tackle the issue of affordable housing for our most vulnerable citizens. We need to start by making our Affordable Housing Task Force a permanent, regularly meeting body. We are also creating an Affordable Housing Trust Fund to leverage public dollars with private investment to tackle the issue. As new development occurs in the coming years, we also must insist that it is assisting our mission to develop more affordable housing. Finally, we need to focus on the other monthly financial pressures that squeeze our families. We have always been a city where everyone could afford to live and we need to continue to be that kind of community.