Council candidate Bryan Callahan at LV4ALL

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Candidate for City Council incumbent Bryan Callahan at the Lehigh Valley for All “Meet the Candidates” event February 17.

As many of you know, I am a long-time educator in the Bethlehem Area School District. I teach at Northeast Middle School. I have been a union member my whole entire life. My very first job was in Local 54 down in Atlantic City. When I was in college I was a member down there. And then when I became a teacher I became a building rep at Freedom High School. And then after I became the building rep, I became the vice-president for the BEA for the high schools, for Liberty  and Freedom. I have also owned and operated a very successful small business here in Bethlehem for the last 12 years, and I am supported by a very long list of local unions . . . You know, all the building trades and many of the other unions in the City of Bethlehem and in the Lehigh Valley are long-time supporters of mine. Probably the most proudest thing I’ve done in my life is, unfortunately, a lot of you know that I lost my wife Lucia to cancer 14 years ago. I had  a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old at the time, and I’m so proud of them. I raised two great kids and have been very successful and are doing very well in their lives. And that’s really the crowning achievement of my life. You know, that I got them through the disaster of losing their mom. And it was a tough thing to do for the first 4-5 years, bit once they started getting off and driving and getting off on there own, things started easing off a little bit. And that’s really my pride and joy. I have B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations. I have a B.S. in Health and Physical Education. I also have my Masters in Education. I was the chair of the Finance Committee, Community and Economic Development, and Human Resources, and I’ve been on Public Works also. I am also on the Bethlehem Mental Health Board which I sit on. I will be running for my third term on City Council. As many of you know, I have a great love for and passion for our city. I’m a Nitschmann Lion and Liberty Hurricane till the day I die. There is a perception and an idea by a few people in our City that all that good that has happened in our City over the last 20 years was just inevitable. And they think that the rebirth and renaissance our City has been through in the past 20 years . . . that simply is not true. There are countless cities littered and scattered through the northeast and the midwest of the Unites States where progressive, forward thinking and leadership did not happen. I am proud of my years in service on City Council. I will finish up by saying that in the years I’ve been on I passed the wage equality ordinance that prevents the perpetuation of gender-based wage inequality, and I also proposed and passed the no gifts ban that prohibits City Council members from accepting gifts from those trying to influence public policy, along with improvements to the Rose Garden and the Municipal Golf Course and more funding for ADA ramps. Next month I’ll be bringing forward a new ordinance that give local businesses, especially minority, female, and veteran-owned businesses advantage in the bidding process in local jobs. . . . I also supported, and this is something I am extremely proud of, I probably gave more money to Democrats in Northampton-Lehigh county, good, hard-working progressive Democrats, than any candidate in the City. I take great pride in trying to help people out financially, so we can get those people elected to office.

There are 6 candidates running for 4 seats on City Council. The other candidates are Grace Crampsie Smith, Hillary Kwiatek, Rachel Leon, Adam Waldron, Kiera Wilhelm.

Mayoral candidate Grubb: leadership roles with the City

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Dana Grubb for Mayor

In 1999, Dana Grubb was Bethlehem’s Grants Administrator and responsible for managing millions of dollars of grant money received by the City of Bethlehem. In addition, then Mayor Don Cunningham named him Acting Director of Community and Economic Development when the director became terminally ill: this meant Dana was in charge of the Health Bureau, EMS, Code Enforcement, Housing Inspections, Planning & Zoning, Housing Rehabilitation, Recycling, and Economic Development. Dana then took on a lead role negotiating with Bethlehem Steel on the Tax Increment Financing (TIF), which became critical to advancing the development of SteelStacks, the Levitt Pavilion, the Hoover-Mason Trestle, the Stock House Visitors Center, the Southside Bethlehem Green Way, public parking, roads, and public utilities on the former Bethlehem Steel site.

In all of these three positions, he provided leadership, hard work, dedication to his home town, and sound judgement, as he accepted his ever-growing list of tasks and goals.

That is why Dana is the ONLY candidate for Mayor of Bethlehem who knows the responsibilities, has the work ethic to achieve incredible results, has the character and integrity to always work in the City’s best interests, and who can provide the knowledge and experience to lead the City of Bethlehem now and into the future.

It is also why two former City Councilmembers and fifteen former city administrators, with an aggregate of nearly 400 years of service to the residents of Bethlehem, have endorsed his candidacy for Mayor!

Dana Grubb for Mayor

Council candidate Kiera Wilhelm at LV4ALL

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Candidate for City Council Kiera Wilhelm at the Lehigh Valley for All “Meet the Candidates” event February 17.

Bethlehem has been in my heart for a long, long time. I went to Moravian College. I graduated in 1993, and I lived here for another year before I moved away to start my career in teaching. Which I did. I taught for five years in the Bucks County and Souderton school districts before I moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to get my Master’s Degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. I ended up staying in Cambridge for almost 14 years working in Education and Arts Administration and non-profit administration and development fundraising. And was called back to Bethlehem in 2013, and it was really exciting to me to return to a city that I had loved for such a long time and to people that I loved. I loved Cambridge as well, but what I realized when I moved back to Bethlehem was that Bethlehem offered the things that I loved about Cambridge, arts and culture, a great food and drinks scene, wonderful education institutions, and so many of those wonderful things that I felt that Bethlehem invited you to become involved in in a more heartfelt way. You could get your hands dirty here, and, in fact, that has been exactly what has happened to me, in particular through my current role. I have served for 4 years plus as director of Fig Bethlehem magazine. I just happen to have a copy of Fig right here with me. You may have seen it. If you don’t know Fig, I’ll tell you that our mission is to lift up local business. And that is a responsibility that I have taken very seriously and done so with great pride. And, in fact, I would say that it’s my role at Fig that brought me closer to Bethlehem, and sort of wove me in to the fabric of the city a bit more through meeting wonderful business owners and community leaders and volunteers and non-profit managers and just members of this community at large. And, in fact, what has happened is the more that I got to know, the more I wanted to know, the more I wanted to know, the more I wanted to get involved. And ultimately that’s why I’m here. I serve on Boards such as the YWCA Bethlehem, Touchstone Theatre, the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, Any Given Child. I was on the advisory committee for the Lehigh Valley Creative Economy Project. Side note — I also officiate weddings as part of the Lehigh Valley Celebrant Team. I believe Bethlehem to be, and I want to help it continue to become a city that is vibrant and thriving and sustainable — a forward thinking city that honors its past and builds on that as well. And that looks after all of its citizens. And there are so many ways to accomplish that. Some very important ones to me personally. I’ll start with helping small business because that’s where I spend my day-to-day. And not just helping business through this devastation of the pandemic. but in the long term creating a galvanized business community that is actively supported by its community. A business friendly community. I am deeply invested in housing, housing insecurity, and homelessness. Grace, I know you started the affordable housing task force — that’s so important. Sustainability is extremely important to me, a walkable, bikable city, streamline and normalize public transportation — all this speaks to vibrancy. And I feel very strongly about civic engagement, and I am proof of that pudding. I became involved because I knew more. And as a City Council person, I want to promote a Council that is inclusive and accessible and that communicates warmly with the people of the City and invites them in. Everybody should have a voice. As a City Council person, it’s my responsibility to listen closely, and I would be honored to serve this City in a greater role as a Bethlehem City Council person.

There are 6 candidates running for 4 seats on City Council. The other candidates are Bryan Callahan, Grace Crampsie Smith, Hillary Kwiatek, Rachel Leon, Adam Waldron.

Council candidate Rachel Leon at LV4ALL

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Candidate for City Council Rachel Leon at the Lehigh Valley for All “Meet the Candidates” event February 17.

  • Born and raised in South Bethlehem
  • Donegan > Broughal > Freedom
  • 10 years in the military
  • Lived in Hawaii where she started a non-profit for struggling veterans and homeless
  • Back to South Bethlehem, which she loves and is “home”
  • Currently studying at NCC, majoring in Global Studies with a focus on environmental sustainability
  • Learned courage and commitment in the military
  • Has courage to stand up for people on the Southside who are often unheard
  • Committed to Bethlehem in general but South Bethlehem in particular
  • Loves it here
  • Concerned about affordable housing
  • Worked on Climate Action Plan, now on the Library Board

There are 6 candidates running for 4 seats on City Council. The other candidates are Bryan Callahan, Grace Crampsie Smith, Hillary Kwiatek, Adam Waldron, Kiera Wilhelm.

Another thing to think about, election-wise

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ref: Things to think about election-wise

Thinking out loud again.

What’s in an endorsement?

How should we value endorsements?

Gadfly didn’t mention endorsements in his previous post with some thoughts about the upcoming election.

But seeing what’s happening almost daily on Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb’s Facebook page, he’s become intrigued by (so far) the different endorsement strategies in that campaign.

Now Gadfly has — more than once — heard Councilman Reynolds called a “career politician.” Usually disparagingly. As if there’s something wrong, something suspect, something nefarious in the way that this young man has steadily devoted himself to local public service for a dozen and more years while holding a full-time job. Which is nonsense.

But — almost to ratify the suspect “career politician” moniker — there’s candidate Reynolds celebrating the endorsement by someone further up the party food chain — our Congresswoman Susan Wild.

Of course, that endorsement, that kind of endorsement, can have tremendous value. It’s a kind of blessing, a kind of anointing. It’s saying that you are a good club member.

How different is candidate Grubb’s endorsement practice, endorsement strategy.

Candidate Grubb worked in Bethlehem City government for 27 years.

Now virtually every day, or so it seems, he has an endorsement from somebody he worked with during that long career.

These are for the most part what we might call collegial endorsements, lateral endorsements rather than hierarchical ones.

Gadfly is not sure how long candidate Grubb can keep up that stream of testimonials from, in effect, co-workers.

But it leads to an interesting question for us voters.

How do we weigh the impact of one endorsement from a party luminary against, say, twenty endorsements from peers?

How do we weigh an endorsement by Susan Wild v. endorsements by Richard “Bucky” Szulborski, Tom Mohr, Dianne Bachmann, Jeffrey Fritz, Tom Marshall  . . . ?

As I say, interesting question.

Something to think about.

What meaning, power, influence do endorsements have for you?

Things to think about election-wise

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Campaign season began in earnest this past week.

Candidates could start circulating petitions last Tuesday.

In order to be on the May 18 ballot, candidates must file petitions with voter signatures by March 9.

For instance, the candidates for mayor and Council each need 100 signatures of registered voters in the Democratic party. (Gadfly is not aware of any Republicans running.)

100 signatures sounds easy but probably isn’t. It certainly can be time-consuming.

There are multi-candidate petition-signing events going on.

You may be asked to sign.

As Gadfly reads the regulations, you can only sign a petition for one of the two mayoral candidates. Since there are four Council openings, you can sign petitions for four Council candidates.

There are now six people running for Council: Callahan, Crampsie Smith, Kwiatek, Leon, Waldron, Wilhelm.

Gadfly only learned of Rachel Leon’s candidacy at the LV4ALL event Wednesday and will post about her soon.

You need to sign your name exactly as it is on your voter registration.

The county election board will scrutinize the petitions.

Our democratic process is rollin’.

———-

Some things to think about:

  • Turn-out in these off-year elections is smaller than others. That’s not good. Gadfly has been thinking about how important mayors are while watching interviews with Texas mayors in their crisis of this past week. And post-GeorgeFloyd events have put the spotlight and the pressure on lots of City Councils. We need to pay attention to this upcoming election for our own good.
  • The importance of name recognition. The word to prospective candidates at the January 30 League of Women Voters workshop was that name recognition is key to success. Candidate Reynolds — councilman for a dozen years — has a lot of name recognition. Councilman Callahan — councilman for 8 years and brother to a popular past mayor — has a lot of name recognition. As voters, we should go beyond the name recognition and look carefully at what all the candidates are made of.
  • Money. Candidates Reynolds and Callahan have a huge, huge advantage here. Money translates into options for gaining name recognition. As voters, we need to go beyond the flyers and yard signs and etceteras and look carefully at what all the candidates are made of.
  • Gadfly has asked rhetorically “Where are the Republicans?” — meaning where are candidates outside the usual suspects: women, Blacks, Latinx, LGBTQ, and so forth. Note, especially, that there are 4 women running for Council. Theoretically, 5 of 7 Council members could be women next year.
  • If mayoral candidate Reynolds wins, he will resign his Council seat and Council will select yet another person to fill out his term. There’s the possibility of a lot of new faces on Council next year.

Collaterally, Gadfly reminds you again that he will be folding his wings the day after the election, and he is hoping to hear from someone(s) to take over the Bethlehem Gadfly blog or to start a new one.

Every town needs a gadfly.

Mayoral candidate Grubb at LV4ALL

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Candidate for Mayor Dana Grubb at the Lehigh Valley for All “Meet the Candidates” event February 17.

What I’d like to do tonight is outline three key areas of my platform:

Public safety and policing:

We need to customize policing and public safety to meet Bethlehem’s needs. I think Chief Kott’s vision for Bethlehem’s police force aligns pretty much with mine; to provide the best service and protection possible to residents, to various out reach measures. I’ve lived through two versions of community policing, and I think it’s been proven to work. It establishes very strong relationships within the community, and in the end it grows trust between law enforcement and the residents. I will implement more diversity in hiring and seek to employ more Bethlehem residents throughout all departments in City government. I worked there 27 years, and when I was hired, you had to be a Bethlehem resident. I’m not saying I want everybody to be a Bethlehem resident, but I think residency improves the buy-in to the community. I fully support programs that encourage young people to consider a law enforcement career in their hometown, programs such as the Junior Police Academy. Continue police training in crisis intervention and diversity recognition, as well as the appropriate interaction with resources dealing with mental health and substance dependence will be a priority for me. And there will be a zero tolerance policy across all city departments for discrimination and disrespect. Our laws will be applied uniformly and fairly.

Climate change:

Considering climate change, I support the city’s climate action plan, and I will pursue initiatives such as widespread and conveniently located electric charging stations for civilian and commercial vehicles. I will seek to amend zoning ordinances to require solar installations on the roofs of large new developments, and I want large warehouse developments to require off-street and energy stations to reduce diesel truck idling. Truck traffic and its attendant pollution disproportionately impacts the very young and the old in the community who are most vulnerable to assaults on their health. And it’s especially dangerous for those with fewer resources. As a long-time advocate of appropriate economic development in low-income communities, in the Southside in particular, I think it is critical that whatever benefits get allocated from the climate action plan  apply to all communities not just those that can afford solar panels and electric vehicles.

Affordable housing:

In my 27-year city career, I served as a finance specialist in the City’s housing rehabilitation program, later as grant administrator for all grant programs, including Community Block Grant and Home. My responsibilities included oversight of that same rehab program and the home ownership opportunity program that covered down payment costs for first-time home buyers. I also processed a number of HUD loans used to convert empty factory spaces into affordable housing units, all benefiting low and moderate income residents in Bethlehem. I recently crafted the closing assistance program called CAP, the guidelines for the non-profit housing opportunity program, which provides up to $12,000 in closing costs for low and moderate income first-time home buyers.

I think my experience matters. I have a lot to bring to the table because of that experience in City Hall and since as a small business owner.

Reminder that you can find a comparison of the mayoral candidates here.

Mayoral candidate Reynolds at LV4ALL

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Candidate for Mayor J. William Reynolds at the Lehigh Valley for All “Meet the Candidates” event February 17.

We’ve made a lot of progress in our City since Bethlehem Steel shut down, but there’s a lot more work to do. I feel strongly that we need a vision for our community especially coming out of the pandemic if we are going to grow and prosper this year and beyond. I’ve long felt that we need to continue our economic redevelopment and revitalization efforts . . . and we’ve got to keep building a City where everyone matters. We need to implement our Climate Action Plan to make our City healthier and more sustainable, and, more than anything, we need a vision for what we can be. Our optimism in Bethlehem has always overcome the negative and cynical voices among us . . . Our best days are in front of us if we can rely on our creativity, imagination, and passion to guide our future . . . The pandemic has shown us that we need to design better systems and increase cooperation in our community between our cities, our counties, our school districts, and our healthcare networks, and think about where our systems have failed to protect our most vulnerable. Progress is only possible when we are able to create coalitions of individuals and institutions that are committed to change. I think our efforts with climate action and neighborhood revitalization have shown the work that I am capable of in that area. The only real limitation we have as a city is whatever  we put on our selves. This isn’t about who we were or who we are but who we can be as Democrats, as families, as a City.

Mayoral candidate Reynolds answered a question about his plans for the Southside:

I think when you look at the Southside what you see is a lot of private investment going on, but it also is where we see a lot of systems, in my opinion, that failed . . . service requests. snow removal, and potholes, and things like that, and there’s so much less on the Southside than in other areas. It’s not because the problems are less but because we have a digital divide there . . . don’t have access to high-speed internet . . . We need to look at how do we just not build systems for the West side or the North side . . . but what can we do for the City on the Southside as how do we create a fairer city and give everybody in our city access to the opportunities people have throughout our city.

Reminder that you can find a comparison of the mayoral candidates here.

Game on! Start meeting the candidates tonight

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Join the meeting here!

With Kiera Wilhelm’s announcement for City Council, we now have a game in Bethlehem’s two major elective races.

As of this moment (still plenty of time for others to join the game!), here’s what the fields look like:

Mayor

Dana Grubb
Willie Reynolds

City Council (4 seats)

Bryan Callahan
Grace Crampsie Smith
Hillary Kwiatek
Adam Waldron
Kiera Wilhelm

So now it’s our job, our responsibility in the next three months before May18 to get to know the candidates as best as possible so that we can make informed choices.

You know, “informed” choices, not choices on the basis of race, sex, ethnicity, good looks, alma mater, friend of a friend, yard sign design, and the rest of the etceteras.

Here’s an opportunity to get to know the candidates.

Lehigh Valley for All has this “Meet the Candidates” event tonight.

We can’t be sure who will show up.

But everybody who does in races across the Lehigh Valley will get a few minutes to make his or her pitch.

Eventually, LV4ALL members will vote to endorse candidates in each position and work to elect them.

Work to elect them!

It’s grassroots politics — and fascinating to watch.

And participate in.

Kiera Wilhelm announces candidacy for Bethlehem City Council

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For Immediate Release
Contact:
Kiera Wilhelm
617.388.0495 / 484.725.5966
kieraforbethlehem@gmail.com

BETHLEHEM, PA – Kiera Wilhelm has announced that she is seeking election to Bethlehem’s City Council in 2021.

For the past four years, Kiera has served as Director of Fig Bethlehem magazine, a print/digital publication whose mission is to support and promote local businesses and organizations in Bethlehem and the Lehigh Valley. “In my role as Director of Fig, I am charged with representing our local small business community, and I do so proudly. Many of our small businesses have been devastated by the pandemic, and I am inspired every day—now more than ever—by their dedication and commitment, and I want to do more. Connecting with so many hard-working business owners, particularly in the past year, has fueled my desire to run for City Council. Their needs are diverse, and diverse opportunities to help our small businesses exist—Council can and should serve as an accessible resource in getting them the help that they need.”

As a member of Council, Ms. Wilhelm will champion policies that serve the health and well-being of Bethlehem and all of its citizens, including those that:
• support diversity, inclusion, racial justice, and equality;
• promote sustainability, including more green spaces, improved public transportation, walkability, and the targets within Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan;
• increase affordable housing options and strive to end housing insecurity and homelessness;
• actively support and sustain a vibrant small business community, both as it recovers from the economic downturn and beyond.

Additionally, Ms. Wilhelm says she will prioritize more frequent, more accessible communication with the citizens of Bethlehem—via an enhanced and easy-to-navigate digital hub, a more robust social media presence, and, when it is safe, in-person conversations in the neighborhoods where people live and work. “I believe that better, warmer communication between a government and its citizens can lead to increased civic participation—an engaged community of residents who, having been thoughtfully informed and actively invited to participate, do,” she said. “This can mean anything from increased voter participation, to more trees planted, to volunteering, community gardens, more public art, and so much more. Civic participation contributes to the health and well-being of individual citizens, and to the community as a whole.”

As Councilperson, Ms. Wilhelm will also support the administration’s ongoing goal of greater transparency and accessibility, both through systems, such as the Open Bethlehem portal, and direct actions: “I plan to be the type of City Council member I have admired—which is more or less the kind of human being I admire: somebody who listens, pays attention, seeks information and feedback, and responds with thought, care, and intention.”

A graduate of Moravian College, Kiera lived in Bethlehem from 1989-1994 before moving away to begin her career in teaching. In 2000, she received her Ed.M from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She remained in the Boston area, working in education and nonprofit arts administration, development, and fundraising before returning to Bethlehem in 2013. She has served as Director of Fig Bethlehem magazine since 2016.

She currently serves on the development/marketing committee for the YWCA Bethlehem, the marketing committee for the Bach Choir of Bethlehem, and the steering committee for the historic Charles A. Brown Ice House Tonight performance series. Kiera is a member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op. She was a member of the advisory group for the Lehigh Valley Creative Economy Project, and has served on committees and task forces for the Bethlehem Area Public Library, Touchstone Theatre, Godfrey Daniels, and Any Given Child Bethlehem. Kiera officiates weddings and other milestone life celebrations as part of the Lehigh Valley Celebrant team.

Councilman Callahan as legislator

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Community Development Committee Meeting
Tuesday, February 09, 2021
Proposed Ordinances related to Third-Party Inspections

Last Tuesday Council’s Community Development Committee held a meeting on ordinances proposed by Councilman Callahan relating to Third-Party inspections.

Councilwoman Van Wirt chairs the committee; other members are Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith.

Third-party inspections.

Yawn, you are saying, yawn.

But this meeting touches on three important subjects: the quality of City services, the City budget, and the upcoming election.

Gadfly would like you to think about all three subjects as you contemplate this post, but especially the last — the upcoming election.

Literally as he was writing this, Gadfly learned that Councilman Callahan will not be running for Mayor but for re-election to his third term on Council.

One of Gadfly’s most basic goals has been to help you have the information that you need to vote in the most informed way possible.

This is Councilman Callahan’s project.

We should be paying attention to such things as we consider spending our votes (though, at the moment, it looks like 4 candidates for 4 slots — no competition).

Take some time to witness him on center stage, in action, as it were, proposing legislation, one of the main jobs of a councilman. You can listen to him on the meeting video here.

Gadfly will provide some audio clips with summaries from the meeting below, but followers know that he always advises that you go to the primary source yourself and form your own opinions before he comments.

He will only say now that this meeting shows a pattern in the way Councilman Callahan works that he has seen before, and he wonders if you do too.

———–

Councilman Callahan’s proposal cum rationale (20 mins.):

The City employs building inspectors. Councilman Callahan has heard complaints from both commercial entities as well as “mom and pops” of undue delays getting necessary building inspections. His purpose is to streamline the permit process as well as save money by using outside inspectors. This year our taxes went up 5%, we cut 4 public safety positions, etc. The hard budget choices will continue next year. We currently use our in-house inspectors as well as a third-party inspector for acute needs. Councilman Callahan has learned that many other surrounding towns simply use the third-party inspectors. If we did that, he argues, we could cut our budgeted inspectors, save money, and provide better service. Councilman Callahan notes that the Department of Community and Economic Development is the only City department that hasn’t been cut recently — in fact, it has grown. We have 8-10 inspectors now, and something is wrong in the way our sysytem is operating. Councilman Callahan is not asking for immediate change but for the City to request bids from third-parties so that we can determine if a new system would be good for us. He outlines the potential benefits of replacing in-house inspectors with third-party inspectors, such as more efficiency because of more sophisticated technology. Bottom line: a win/win of cutting payroll while gaining more efficient services. Something’s not working now, he argues, and cost-savings will be substantial.

DCED Director Karner’s initial response to Councilman Callahan’s proposal (3 mins.):

Director Karner agrees that there is some technology desiderata while describing what they do have now in the way of technology, but she categorically rejects the anecdotal evidence of delays in the inspection process. These complaints have not come to her attention, and if and when such problems are brought to her, they are/will be addressed immediately.

Further response from Director Karner (5 mins.):

In response to probes by Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, Director Karner adds that the use of a third-party inspector would result in loss of control in front of a magistrate, that the inspectors are revenue-neutral, and that City inspectors do a much more comprehensive inspection than the third-partyers.

Response from Councilman Reynolds (5 mins.):

Councilman Reynolds argues that there would not be a financial savings as indicated by Councilman Callahan (in ways ex-English-teacher Gadfly couldn’t follow!) and that he could not be in favor of the proposal until all the questions/objections raised by Director Karner were satisfied.

Councilman Callahan and Director Karner interact (36 mins.):

Councilman Callahan questions Director Karner for a long time. The Councilman is especially interested in getting some data from the Director in written form. The Director makes two points, that third-party inspectors would not save the taxpayer money (there would be a “remarkable difference” in cost) and that the data he seeks about time lag in inspections will not give the Councilman the information that he is looking for (“it will not show why things are delayed”). Director Karner suggests that Councilman Callahan take up any complaints about delay with the permit coordinator and reminds him of a complaint in the past that turned out to be “unfounded,” turned out to be a “lie.” “I am not going to allow you to sit there and continue to make these accusations that we have these long delays.”

Councilpeople Crampsie Smith (1 min.) and Reynolds (2 mins.) respond to the Callahan/Karner dialog:

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith wonders about simply a policy to deal with complaints, starting with the department head and going up to the mayor rather than dealing with these kinds of things at Council. Councilman Reynolds says that it’s obvious we are not ready to vote on Councilman Callahan’s proposal, that there are questions to be answered, that this meeting is not the most “productive” way to get answers to those questions, and that the proposal should be revisited when Councilman Callahan has the answers to his questions.

Chair Van Wirt make suggestions to Councilman Callahan (5 mins.):

Councilwoman Van Wirt, as chair of the Committee, indicates that a lot has been covered, tries to move Councilman Callahan along by suggesting that he put his thoughts in writing and take time “away from this committee” to pull things together. Councilman Callahan summarizes what he’s looking for and tasks chair Van Wirt for being “unfair” and “stifling” his desire to get information when the meeting has only gone on one hour and twenty minutes.

Chair Van Wirt wraps up the meeting (4 mins.):

Councilwoman Van Wirt pushes back strongly to Councilman Callahan’s proposal. There are “irrelevancies” in the questions he was asking. This is “a solution in search of a problem.” She has seen no evidence of complaints. Until there is a “clear need” for a different way of doing things, the current way (a la Crampsie Smith) is adequate. She suggests adjourning the meeting rather than tabling the proposal, which was what Councilman Callahan was suggesting.

———–

Now Gadfly is asking a lot here.

If you followed him and worked through this meeting, you spent a lot of time.

But when it comes to assessing our candidates for office, that is time well spent.

Gadfly started this post this morning thinking that Councilman Callahan might be running for mayor, and the pattern he sees in such interactions would have been more significant in that context.

But it applies to assessing him for another term as councilman too.

Councilman Callahan decides not to run for Mayor, focuses on Council

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Cribbed this from Bernie O’Hare’s Lehigh Valley Ramblings blog.

Clears the air a bit. But do you think anyone else will join Messrs. Reynolds and Grubb in the mayoral race? Deadline for filing still pretty far off: March 9.

————-

There has been much speculation about my running for Mayor of Bethlehem.  Over the last year I’ve met with many residents, homeowners, business owners and union leaders who have encouraged me to run for Mayor. However, the time for me to run for Mayor is not right.

As many of you know, I lost my beautiful wife Lucia to cancer 14 years ago. Our kids were 12 and 9 at the time, so my first and foremost obligation is to my two kids.  I am a fulltime veteran educator in the Bethlehem Area School District at Northeast Middle School. I love teaching the students of our City and I believe I’ve made a real difference in the lives of many of them.  I have also owned and operated a very successful small business for the past 12 years and just opened a new brick and mortar business, Callahan’s Driving School and Testing Center with my brother John. This new business requires a significant amount of my time to ensure its success.  While being Mayor of our great City would have been the honor of a lifetime, it is a fulltime commitment and thus I will not be placing my name on the ballot for the Mayor of Bethlehem.

I will be running for re-election for my third term on City Council. As many of you know, I have a great love and am very passionate about our City. I am a Nitschmann Lion and Liberty Hurricane until the day I die. There is this perception and idea by a few people in our city that everything that has happened, all the good that has happened in our city over the last 20 years, was just inevitable. They think the rebirth and renaissance our City has been through over the last 20 years would have just happened by itself…that is simply NOT true! There are small towns and cities littered and scattered throughout the Northeast and Midwest of the United States that are examples of what happens when you don’t have progressive forward thinking leadership willing to keep pushing for better.

I am proud of my service on Council.  As a member and a Chair of the Finance Committee I have fought to keep taxes in check and by refinancing some high interest debt the Standard and Poor’s bond rating for the City of Bethlehem rose 4 times from a BBB Stable rating to a A+ Stable rating in just 5 years.

In my first two terms I introduced, proposed and passed the Wage Equality Ordinance that prevents the perpetuation of gender-based wage inequality, the No Gifts Ban that prohibits City Council Members from accepting gifts from those trying to influence public policy, along with improvements to the Rose Garden and Municipal Golf Course and more funding for ADA Ramps.

I also supported and voted for the Ethics Training Ordinance for City Council Members, the Community Engagement Initiative, the North Side 2027 initiative to help revitalize neighborhoods, the Open Data Group that improves openness and transparency in government, supported ordinances to ensure City contracts pay a fair wage to its employees, two new fire engines to support our fire fighters, body cameras and new Motorola radios for our police, a new EMS vehicle and funding for the Climate Action Plan.

In the next month I will be bringing forward a new ordinance that gives local businesses, especially minority, female and veteran owned businesses an advantage when bidding on local jobs.

My record of supporting critical smart economic development and fighting hard to hold the line on taxes (I voted 6 out of 7 times against tax increases) will continue.  I will also fight to make certain we fund our public safety resources at the level needed to keep our neighborhoods safe and our property values up.  Growing our tax base, keeping our neighborhoods safe and holding the line on taxes are critical so that Bethlehem remains affordable and the best City in Pennsylvania to live, work and play!

I look forward to the campaign and sharing my vision for Bethlehem.

A status report on the candidates

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

How’s the candidate pool for the May 18 election shaping up?

It’s early yet.

Candidates have until March 9 to formally file to run in the May 18 primary.

About a month from now.

Plenty of time for others to show up, but candidates do have to allow enough time to collect the proper number of signatures to accompany their filing paperwork.

Gadfly focuses narrowly on the Bethlehem City elective positions, Mayor and City Council.

Here are the slates the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee recently put out:

Mayor

Dana Grubb
Willie Reynolds

City Council (4 seats)

Bryan Callahan
Grace Crampsie Smith
Hillary Kwiatek
Adam Waldron

Gadfly hasn’t heard anything about Republican candidates.

So, good, we have competition for Mayor. And there’s the further possibility that Councilman Callahan might enter the race (see below).

But four candidates for four Council slots is not good. (Two-term current Councilwoman Negron is not running again.) At the moment, no competition.

In these pages Gadfly has several times asked rhetorically “Where are the Republicans?”

Along that line of thinking, he happened yesterday by chance to come across Nicole Radzievich’s “Why Republican challengers are scarce in Bethlehem, Easton” article from a few years ago.

“Bethlehem, which has had two Republican mayors, and had split councils decades ago, has been run by a Democratic mayor and council the last 20 years,” Gadfly learned, “The last time Republicans ran a full slate of council candidates was 2011, and the last Republican to run for mayor was in 2003.”

Interesting.

More interesting and more indicative of the kind of thinking that demonstrates why Gadfly could never be a politician was the idea that Republicans were actually discouraging candidates in Lehigh Valley cities in order to focus on the suburbs.

Go figure.

Noteworthy, as Gadfly has pointed out several times in these pages, Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance has been looking to recruit candidates for Mayor and Council.

Just yesterday it was, Gadfly believes, that LVGNA identified Councilman Callahan as a candidate to support for Mayor and sought its followers to put some pressure on the Councilman to run.

Ouch.

Gadfly would welcome Councilman Callahan in the mayoral race. Gadfly likes the idea of competition. And even a cursory Bethlehem government watcher knows that the Councilman’s views would clash in many respects with the other two contenders.

But, frankly, if Gadfly were Councilman Callahan, an endorsement from LVGNA is not one that he would particularly welcome.

Gadfly is invigorated by many of the posts on the LVGNA facebook page, but in the post soliciting their followers to nudge Councilman Callahan, LVGNA includes their “coffee cup” brochure that Gadfly found a pretty sorry and low specimen of political argument. Not the kind of political discourse we or the world needs more of at this cultural moment.

Gadfly has had significant problems with some of LVGNA’s positions and style, and he hopes Councilman Callahan would not become associated with them.

Hillary Kwiatek announces candidacy for Bethlehem City Council

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

February 11, 2021

West Bethlehem resident Hillary Kwiatek will seek a four-year term on City Council in 2021. “I am running for Bethlehem’s City Council to serve all of the people of the city that I have called home for more than twenty years,” she stated. “My husband and I have raised two children and built a fulfilling life here. I love Bethlehem, but I know there’s so much more we can do to become a stronger community where all of our residents feel a sense of true belonging.”

Kwiatek’s priorities include:

Recovering From the Pandemic
“Through an inclusive and progressive approach to public health and a focus on transparent economic development, Bethlehem can recover from the pandemic while also creating jobs with family-sustaining wages. We must also increase the availability of quality, affordable housing. We will only emerge stronger on the other side of this crisis by ensuring that no one is left out of our recovery.”

Reimagining Public Safety
“Creating a strong partnership between our public health and police departments will best serve all of our community members. For example, health care workers and other professionals can be dispatched instead of police to respond to mental health, substance abuse, and other non-violent incidents. This approach has been proven to create safer communities and better outcomes for people in crisis.”

A Vibrant Sustainable City for All
“As a City Council member, I will work toward the goal of increasing affordable housing and ending homelessness. Bethlehem can be a thriving green city through implementation of the climate action plan. Our neighborhoods should include well-maintained parks with activities for families. And I will work to support vibrant and diverse small businesses throughout the city.”

Addressing Racism and Inequity in our City
“Black Lives Matter. We must identify and eliminate racist and discriminatory practices across all aspects of city government that have led to inequity for Black and Latino residents of Bethlehem.”

———–

About Hillary
Hillary and her husband Brandon, an Allentown native, moved to Bethlehem in 2000. She has worked in non-profit fundraising and communications over the course of her career and currently works at Lehigh University as a communications specialist. Her volunteer activities have included serving as President of the Friends of the Bethlehem Public Library, captaining a KaBoom! playground build, serving on the Connect Bethlehem working group to help the city better understand its communications needs, and serving as an officer and precinct committee person on the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee.

Contact Information
Hillary Kwiatek
hillaryforbethlehem@gmail.com
610-984-7748

Advice on running for office

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Gadfly will be out of work May 19.

Thinking to explore what might lay on the next horizon, he dropped in (virtually) to the January 30 Lehigh Valley League of Women Voters webinar on “Running for Local Office”

Ken Mohr, former Lehigh County Commissioner, was the keynote speaker. His topic was “Prepare Yourself to Be a Candidate.”

Mohr structured his advice to the assembled first-time office seekers around two-dozen what-he-called cliches.

Quite interesting.

What would you like to see added to Mohr’s list of advices for the wannabe’s?

———–

Every day I’m a little smarter than I was the day before.
Have a desire to learn, running and serving is a great education.

Politics is for the long-distance runner.
You need to bring along a lot of people.

They who assume public office should consider themselves public property.
Everything in your life can and will be brought up in a campaign.

Never write anything or say anything that you wouldn’t want to see on the front page of tomorrow’s newspaper.
Do not stretch a point.

They who live in the media, die in the media.
Reporters, etc., who use your information will turn on you in a minute; everything you post on social media will alienate a certain percentage of the electorate.

Never speculate in public.
Don’t share your first thoughts.

A little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Know what you don’t know; don’t guess; say I’ll get back to you.

It is different in the bull ring than to speak of bulls.
Politics is a contact sport, it is not like sitting in a bar talking to a buddy.

In politics, friends may come and friends may go, but enemies accumulate.
It’s easier to create opposition than to build consensus.

You have to count to five (or, on Bethlehem City Council, four).
If you want to get something done, you have to get the votes; being right is not enough, you have to build consensus.

Do you want to make a point or do you want to make a difference.
You have to bring others along.

A good product with no advertisement will not succeed.
You are the product.

Target the market.
Only market super-voters, people who are known to vote.

A campaign brochure has a life expectancy from the front door to the garbage can, or from click to swipe left.
Keep it simple: your name is key thing and no more than three issues.

Too much information can be a dangerous thing.
Too much detail can be used against you or alienate some voters.

Everybody knows my name, so why do I have to campaign.
Most local elections are about name recognition not issues; put your name before the super-voters at least five times.

Begin with the end in mind.
List the benchmark events of your campaign in order.

Time is the hunter.
Drive the process and keep the schedule moving.

Asking for campaign contributions from friends is their way of contributing to good government because they like and trust you.
Price out the scope of your campaign and budget accordingly.

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.
Form a committee and assign responsibility, minimize you and spouse, whose responsibility is speaking and raising money.

I love it when a plan comes together.
Stick to your plan.

(Should you get elected), governing is win/win, you need to bring others along.
Campaigning is win/lose, somebody has to win, somebody has to lose.

Power is like an inheritance, you can grow it or squander it.
Depends on your actions.

America is great because she is good.
Good people make good government, democracy is fragile; our future is in your hands.

———-

Gadfly tries to use every opportunity to bring the candidates to you, so he apologizes for missing the Bethlehem Dems last night, where several local candidates gave brief presentations.

Mayoral candidate Reynolds announces Congresswoman Susan Wild’s endorsement

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Councilman J. William Reynolds recently announced Congresswoman Susan Wild’s endorsement for his mayoral candidacy:

“Willie Reynolds is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, and a lifelong resident of Bethlehem.  He has already demonstrated his concern and work ethic as a member of Bethlehem City Council.

Willie’s experience and steady hand will be invaluable for the City as we emerge from the crisis of this pandemic.  Willie has the vision and vitality to lead Bethlehem into a prosperous future while always respecting its rich history.

He will follow in the footsteps of a long line of excellent Mayors, while still bringing his unique perspective and style to the job. I believe there is no one better suited for the job of Mayor of Bethlehem, and I enthusiastically endorse Willie Reynolds.”

U.S. Representative Susan Wild

The campaign war chests

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Candidate financial disclosures

Bernie O’Hare has reminded us to follow the money.

The first round of candidate financial reports are in.

Let me copy Bernie’s convenient list:

Bethlehem

Bryan Callahan – $19,461.36

Michael Colon – $28.59

Grace Crampsie Smith – $2,993.54

Bob Donchez – $107,486.44

Eric Evans – $2,108.01

Dana Grubb – $2,772.05

Willie Reynolds – $21,303.01

Adam Waldron – $0

Some things to think about:

  • What happens to Mayor Donchez’s $$$$?
  • I don’t believe President Waldron has formally announced.
  • Nothing from Hillary Kwiatek yet, which must mean she hasn’t formally filed for election (deadline March 9).
  • There was a controversy last election about the propriety of one candidate giving or loaning money to another that I don’t think was settled.
  • Will election strategies change as a result of the pandemic and will money make a difference?
  • How important is money to election success anyway?

Now it’s always interesting to see who’s donating to candidate campaigns.

Sometimes it can tell you something very important to know.

But one must be careful about making inferences.

You can check here.

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb sees rebuilding city workforce morale as first challenge

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Campaign website

“I believe that the first challenge of the next mayor will be to rebuild the morale of the city workforce. . . . Far too many instances of fearful, tense and depressed conditions within city hall have been reported. The city workforce is the single most important asset that the public and the mayor have: a respected and content workforce will deliver better services.”

Campaign Facebook
Campaign website

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: “It is time for a mayor who is not a political insider”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

selections from Sara K. Satullo, “It’s a race: Dana Grubb enters Democratic Bethlehem mayoral field.” lehighvalleylive.com, January 27, 2021.

Former Bethlehem city administrator Dana Grubb on Wednesday jumped into the Bethlehem mayoral race.

Grubb, 70, is running as a Democrat and he’ll face Bethlehem City Councilman J. William Reynolds, 39, in the May Democratic primary. Mayor Bob Donchez cannot run again because of the city’s two-term limit for mayor.

Over his 27-year career in city government, Grubb helped create the tax increment financing district that ushered in the redevelopment of the former factory into the SteelStacks campus.

“Our history is what makes Bethlehem unique, and distinguishes it among others,” Grubb said. “We need to build on that history to secure and grow our future.”

 In his speech Grubb touted his ability to work collaboratively across departments over his career to solve the problems facing the city. He vowed to bring that attitude back to City Hall.

 Grubb was the city grants administrator and deputy director of community development among other roles. He retired from the city in 2004 after he and Harvey Joseph, who was the environmental health director, got into a fistfight in City Hall. Then-Mayor John Callahan told them they could retire or be fired.

 “I also believe in personal accountability, service to community, and leaving the world in a better place,” Grubb said Wednesday. “We’re all held accountable for the mistakes we’ve made. We should learn from them, and then move on to remain active and contributing members of society.”

Currently, Grubb owns a small business providing photography to local Relators, the Wind Creek Event Center and working for The Bethlehem Press.

The lifelong city resident said he’s running for mayor solely to serve the citizens of Bethlehem. If elected, he will not take city health benefits or accrue a pension, he vowed.

 “It is time for a mayor who is not a political insider, someone who will be independent of political expediency, and who will seek only to serve Bethlehem residents and improve the quality of life throughout the community. It is nobody’s ‘turn’ to be Mayor, after holding other elected offices,” Grubb said referencing Reynolds, who lost to Donchez in the 2013 mayoral primary but did not challenge him four years later. “Bethlehem needs someone who will apply common sense and logic to governance, and not default to political favoritism based on campaign contributions or other influential factors.”

Bethlehem residents tell Grubb they don’t feel their government is responsive and Grubb says city worker morale is at an all-time low. A respected and content workforce will deliver better services to residents, developers, contractors, business owners and relators, he said.

If elected, Grubb would form a a small business concierge, a one-stop shop to help aspiring and current business owners navigate bureaucracy.

 “Public service is an attitude as well as a commitment, and poor morale among city workers affects how well services are delivered to the community,” Grubb said.

The Bethlehem Parking Authority is a top complaint for many residents and business owners, who feel it is not responsive or in touch with the community’s needs, he said. Grubb floated the idea of possibly bringing the day-to-day operations of the authority into City Hall, allowing the authority to operate solely as a financing authority.

The city needs to continue to expand its tax base via economic development, but in a manner that respects the city’s rich history and is compatible with its neighborhoods, Grubb said. Bethlehem needs more affordable housing — not public housing — but homes for working-and-middle class families like the one he grew up in, he said.

“Community development has played second fiddle to economic development for too many years,” Grubb said.

He vowed to create a city-wide affordable housing task force. (Councilwoman Grace Crampsie Smith recently created an affordable housing task force.)

Public safety and a strong parks and recreation systems would be at the forefront of city services in his administration, Grubb said.

 “I believe that a robust community policing program strengthens relationships between residents and law enforcement, and builds trust,” he said. “Training in both traditional law enforcement disciplines as well as newer applications will ensure that every resident can trust the Bethlehem Police Department to apply the law equally, to everyone, at all times.”

———-

selections from Anthony Salamone, “Former city administrator Dana Grubb is second Democrat to announce a run for Bethlehem mayor.” Morning Call, January 27, 2021.

Former city administrator Dana Grubb announced his campaign Wednesday, delivering a 10-minute speech before supporters at the Steel Ice Center in south Bethlehem.

Before his speech, Grubb said there are several key issues facing the city’s next mayor, including improving public safety, building up the city’s affordable housing stock, and creating a caretaker, or “concierge,” to help small businesses.

Grubb, 70, whose nearly three decades of work for the city included time as grants administrator and deputy director of community development, last held a city position in 2004. He was forced to retire after fighting with another employee in City Hall.

But the northeast Bethlehem resident, who said he received approximately $24,000 a year in a city pension after retiring, has stayed active in Bethlehem government in various ways. He has also worked as a freelance writer and photographer, and has owned a photography business. He said during his speech that he would not take another pension or accept health insurance benefits if he is elected mayor.

No Republican has formally announced for mayor. The Northampton County Republican Committee did not respond to messages seeking comment. Bethlehem traditionally has held a Democratic majority among voters, with the last Republican mayor, Ken Smith, serving during the 1990s. He resigned three months early in 1997 to take a position at Lehigh University.

Grubb on the mayoral stump for the first time tomorrow

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

A reminder that mayoral candidate Dana Grubb meets the public tomorrow for the first time after his press release announcement a week ago.

That would be 11 am at the Steel Ice Center, 320 East First Street on the South Side, tomorrow Wednesday, January 27 — mask and social distancing in order.

Gadfly is still under house arrest (first rendezvous with the vaccine tomorrow!).

He hopes some followers will attend and report back to Gadfly headquarters.

At the moment Grubb and Councilman Reynolds are the only contenders in the mayoral ring.

The competition is a good thing.

Let’s make sure we hear the different views.