Video record of the Public Safety Committee meeting now available

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It was planned that there would be two ways to attend the Public Safety Committee meeting last night, via YouTube or webinar.

But right around the beginning of Capt Kott’s part of the presentation YouTube went to hell. And the webinar then became the only way to attend.

So there are two videos of the meeting now up at this location:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

Watch the regular YouTube first, then switch to the webinar.

Gadfly will continue to break the event into pieces for better focus, but you can now play or re-play the entire night’s events for yourself.

Counting down! Important online Public Safety Committee meeting blasts off tonight at 6PM — One hour!

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The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

Find agenda, documents, public comment instructions, and registration information

here

Alert! Important online Public Safety Committee meeting tonight, 6PM — must register for best results

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The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

Find agenda, documents, public comment instructions, and registration information

here

Alert! Important online Public Safety Committee meeting Tuesday, August 11, 6PM — must register

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The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

Find agenda, documents, public comment instructions, and registration information

here

It’s time for an enthusiastic effort to engage more of the community

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ref: “Where is the public in this process?”

Thank you for listening and magnifying, Gadfly.

I’ve emailed all council members and the mayor so they could reach out to talk. Apparently they don’t care about meeting the public where they are. “Harsh”? “Critical”? What should we say when our questions are left unanswered?

I recall from the July 27 council meeting Dr. Van Wert saying “we are listening to you“ in response to the many callers speaking on the CEI. And paragraphs were struck and a new line added. That’s not inconsequential but it’s only in response to great pressure. And it’s reluctant.

I think it’s time for more conscious leadership and representation for more progressive policies. And an ENTHUSIASTIC effort to engage so much more of the community than the seemingly few who “show up”. (The city’s Youtube channel only shows about 160 subscribers….) That was me too, until recently.

Who’s interested in developing council candidates along these lines?

Greg Zahm

“Where is the public in this process?”

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If Gadfly’s memory serves him well (Prevagen addict), Greg Zahm’s comments at City Council last night were the third in a row on basically the same topic.

He had “continued grave concerns about the Community Engagement Initiative and its process,” since there was no “opportunity for thorough public discussion and input into the content and format” of the CEI.

Perhaps his comments can best be summed up by “”Where is the public in this process?” and “We need better outreach.”

Greg enumerated five specific points:

1) Why was the public excluded from this process?

2) Why did Council turn its responsibility over to the Mayor, the Administration, and the police?

3) Do the public partners have any apparent role in implementation?

4) Why is the appropriateness of the participants and invitees to be determined by the Mayor and his administration and not a committee that would include Council and public partners?

5) Are we using the same narrow digital portals for publicizing the upcoming August 11 meeting? There are other ways to reach out to the public. What are you doing to improve on involving the public?

These are themes close to Gadfly’s heart.

Gadfly wonders how “we” are publicizing the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting. The piece in today’s Bethlehem Press is a dry-as-dust press release. We need the public stoked about the potential great significance of the police and CEI discussion.

Anna Smith’s “We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous” still plays in his head. He’d like to see tee-shirts.

Greg touched on a basic Gadfly confusion about who’s in charge when he read from the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution: “City Council of the City of Bethlehem urges the Mayor and his Administration to collaborate with the City of Bethlehem Police Department to create a public space and forum for the long-term discussion of issues. . . . The Community Engagement Initiative might include and/or interface with any individuals or entities that the Mayor and his Administration think appropriate such as . . . .”

Gadfly is a writing teacher. The resolution says the Mayor et al is the driver of the CEI. The Mayor et al is “urged” to create a forum, and the Mayor et al is given the choice of participants. That’s what the resolution says. Greg is right.

Why is Council acting as if in charge? Councilwoman Crampsie Smith has for two meetings lamented confusion in the public sphere that she cannot understand. Well, there’s my confusion.

Who’s in charge?

Grrr.

Remember that the City Council meeting today is at 5:30PM!

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, August 4, at 5:30PM.

The meeting documents are/will be located at the following link:
https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2020/City-Council-Meeting/65

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

 PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council August 4, 2020 Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on August 4, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963. NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Ordinances for short term lodging and bed & breakfasts are on the agenda.

We hope to learn more about the upcoming Public Safety Committee too.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

Note: 5:30PM — Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow evening Tuesday, August 4, 5:30PM — Note: 5:30PM

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, August 4, at 5:30PM.

The meeting documents are/will be located at the following link:
https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2020/City-Council-Meeting/65

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

 PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council August 4, 2020 Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on August 4, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963. NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Ordinances for short term lodging and bed & breakfasts are on the agenda.

We hope to learn more about the upcoming Public Safety Committee too.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

City announcement and instructions for the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting

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The City of Bethlehem announces:

The Bethlehem City Council Public Safety Committee will hold a virtual meeting on Tuesday, August 11, 2020, at 6:00 PM, to discuss City of Bethlehem police use of force polices and statistics as well as the proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

This meeting will be live-streamed on YouTube at “City of Bethlehem Council” YouTube channel at the following website address: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw.

PUBLIC COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS.

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, general access to Town Hall is currently closed.  If you would like to speak during the virtual meeting, you can preregister to participate on a device through a webinar application or use your phone. If you use the webinar application, you should be able to see shared documents discussed at the meeting.

You can preregister at: 
https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2923328048332531216
.

After entering your name and email address, you will receive an email confirmation with a link to join the meeting on the scheduled date and time. You will be able to speak using your device microphone (if installed and enabled) or via phone using a phone number in your registration confirmation email. Prior to the meeting, it is recommended that you click the link “check system requirements” in the registration email to confirm your device compatibility.

If you would like to sign up to make public comments by phone, please email the City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 3:00 PM on August 11, 2020 or call (610) 997-7963 when the Public Safety Committee Chairperson announces he will take public comment calls. Phone calls will only be accepted during the designated public comment period. Please note, a five minute time limit will apply to all public comments.

MEETING DOCUMENTS. The August 11, 2020 Public Safety Committee meeting documents are located at: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/getattachment/59e73201-f04a-4adf-9f6f-08772c882834/COBCalendar_Agenda.aspx

“I truly believe that the city needs some serious help at least with communication and Public Relations”

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Mr. Gadfly, thanks for your engagement.

I continue to remind myself that city council positions are voluntary, and I try to remain cognizant that only the mayor is paid for his leadership. Having said that, I am disappointed in the council’s and the Mayor’s leadership and communication in response to the ongoing BLM/Police Violence protests. (And that which fuels them.)

June 3, I sent the mayor a still unanswered email (copying council) with seven questions in response to his “comments on Minneapolis” in which he neither named George Floyd or blacks, specifically. (To be fair, he referred to the “affected” inclusively, though that is insufficient.) As a result of this failure to communicate, and my fortuitous awareness of the Community “Engagement” Initiative, I have commented by phone at each of the last three council meetings.

Regarding the Initiative, it’s about time, especially since we broached the subject about two years ago in a public council meeting after the disturbing death back then of ANOTHER black person at the hands of police. (By the way, not a single public caller during the July 7 council meeting voiced an opinion in favor of the resolution as it stood, while many specifically asked for the vote to be stayed. And only Olga Negron called for postponing voting on it until more thorough public input was had.)

As it has been roughly two years since that meeting, I will not give the Mayor credit for “get[ting] out in front” of the events surrounding George Floyds’ murder (especially as he refused even to identify Mr. Floyd or black people in his comments). We are no farther ahead – as far as the public is aware – than two years ago, at least as far as I can tell. One of the questions I asked the mayor in my June 3 email was “What has been done by the city since then?” (Crickets.)

Now, I support the call of BLM and others for ACTION. It is 2020 and just now our council is calling for discussion. And, are they really? Good faith is required. Suddenly voting on a resolution not presented WITH the minority members of council – or even after THEIR consideration – and without the opportunity for public input is tone deaf at best and a noticeable, inexcusable – if understandable – pattern. Insert Michael Colon’s . . . uninspired words here – “I truly believe that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we’re not going to be the ones to change the world, to change the country.” (My father and his friends would never have let that comment represent Bethlehem without a loud rebuttal, and I certainly won’t.)

I truly believe that the city needs some serious help at least with communication and Public Relations. I’d like to see efforts expanded to dialog more effectively WITH the community, not speak AT it like currently takes place through nested digital postings accessible through the city’s narrow web portal or announcements via digital news outlets. Perhaps a new hire is called for or the expansion of the job description for an existing position to include communication outreach. (Think of callers’ unanswered questions. Don’t most hang in the air forever, as if rhetorical, unless the CALLERS follow up?)

How can we improve communication? (Well, certainly work and resources are required.) Imagine various communication inequities and failures being overcome by committing the financial and volunteer resources to REGULAR, socially distanced, FACE-TO-FACE communication at city schools with staff and families AS WELL AS via electronic message boards positioned strategically around the city. (Did you know that the high schools, at least, have invested in a number of large flat-screen monitors positioned around the school to communicate continually to the school community?)

And imagine all caller questions – and emails – being answered. It’s not rocket science that a good marketing campaign includes multiple formats. I’d like our city to be proud enough of its words and deeds to market them adequately. And dialogue requires response.

So let’s actually discuss improving the release and availability of information by the City to be sure truly include all. And commit to OPEN public discussion on important community relations matters.

I would like to be part of “momentous.” I believe we can change our country . . . and the world. Maybe just a little, maybe a lot. But neither without effort  . . . and an attitude adjustment.

Greg Zahm

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday, July 21

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, July 21, at 7PM.

The last meeting was open per social distancing but seems not so this time. Public comment now by phone again.

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

PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council July 21, 2020 Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on July 21, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963.

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

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Before the meeting there will be a public hearing about the definition of bed & breakfasts that has been an issue of some concern.

We hope to learn much more about the Community Engagement Initiative, the Public Safety meeting, and a report on the new Community Advisory Board.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

Imagining tomorrow’s City Council meeting

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Gadfly’s pretty excited about tomorrow’s City Council meeting.

And not about the resolution to upgrade the park bathrooms either.

About the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative resolution.

We’ve been talking about it for days here on The Gadfly.

Gadfly doesn’t know anything about anything but likes to think about the possibilities.

Have some fun. Think along with him.

Has this resolution already been talked through with Council (Sunshine permitting)? Could there be opposition on Council? Will there be discussion? Will there be SPEECHES? Will there be amendations? Or will this sail through clean as a whistle?

Whattaya think?

Could somebody want Council to initiate the CEI? Could somebody want a definite role for Council in the planning for the proposed CEI or in its membership? Could somebody want stronger roles for the CEI than suggested in the resolution, stronger than “assisting” and “discussing”? Could somebody want to include a time frame for the Mayor to indicate his willingness and then to return with a plan?

Will the Mayor talk tomorrow night? Might he have an alternative plan? Is there a possibility the Mayor will say no? One likes to think that the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith team has already discussed this with the Mayor and has his agreement, no? How does the CEI relate to the commitment with the NAACP to do somewhat of a similar thing, the commitment the Mayor spoke of last meeting and which Gadfly thought we were to hear more about already by this time?

And now how does this resolution relate to the talked about Public Safety Committee meeting? Are we still going to have that? There is still the discussion of the use-of-force directives to handle. And, frankly, Gadfly was hoping for the Public Safety Committee meeting first, so that the CEI could have some open discussion. Gadfly has some reservations about the current plan — how do you see it? — but the time for that conversation seems over.

Gadfly loves to exaggerate, so you won’t be surprised if he says he feels this is a big thing and you should be quite attentive to tomorrow’s meeting.

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday, July 7 — open to the public again

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, July 7, at 7PM.

Per these instructions from the City, note that the meeting is open to the public again as well accessible online. Public comment can be made in person or by phone.

While the meeting is open, due to the COVID-19 pandemic masks are required, and social distancing will be enforced per posted signage. Rather than attending the meeting in person, we encourage members of the public to watch the meeting live-streamed on YouTube at “City of Bethlehem Council” YouTube channel at this website address.

PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council July 7, 2020 Meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls. If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 12:00 PM on July 7, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963. After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963. NOTES. Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit. If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished. As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios. At the start of your call, please state your name and address. A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Of especial interest will be the Resolution urging the creation of a
Community Engagement Initiative in the City of Bethlehem by Council members  Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

And Gadfly assumes we’ll have another update on the coronavirus situation as well.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

Councilwoman Negron: “our city needs your civic engagement”

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So the last 3-4 posts in this series have been about the volunteer-staffed ABCs — the Authorities, Boards, and Commissions — that in the June 16 City Council meeting Councilwoman Van Wirt called, in a phrase so wonderful Gadfly keeps repeating it, “cloistered venues of power.”

And the Gadfly followers are smart people.

So you knew where he was going to end up.

Yes, with a recruitment pitch.

Gadfly is “the pied piper of civic engagement,” as a blessed follower tagged him.

On which ABC would you like to serve? On which ABC have you offered to serve?

Council, as we saw in the last post, is hot to improve the selection process.

Now we need good people to go along with that.

Here below is an oldie but goodie from Councilwoman Negron, who, if you listened to the audio from the June 16 meeting in the last Gadfly post, was “on fire” about the importance of the ABCs and Council’s role in them.

Gadfly wrote you about her Morning Call article last year when it came out. It bears another read. And some action on your part.

Olga Negron, “Your View by Bethlehem councilwoman: Want to help democracy? Serve on a government board.” Morning Call, August 31, 2019.

Voting in national elections is important, but it’s only one of many ways that citizens can fulfill their duty to contribute to the governance of their communities and country.

I’m Councilwoman Olga Negron, vice president of Bethlehem City Council and the first woman of color elected to Bethlehem City Council. Getting elected to City Council was not a matter of chance or luck. I’ve been civically engaged all my life. Before running for local office, I served in many volunteer positions within the city, such as on the Planning Commission, the Public Library Board and many other nonprofit boards.

As a member of these governing bodies, and now as an elected official, I’m here to tell you that our city needs your civic engagement.

A few highly visible decision-making positions in local government are elected positions and each of us has to be a resident of our municipality in order to hold that post (mayor, city council, etc.).

However, that’s not the only way to be part of the decisions about what happens in our city. There are many, other extremely important nonelected positions in local government that need to be filled by volunteers, such as positions on the Public NegronLibrary Board, Fine Arts Commission, Housing Authority, Human Relations Commission, Board of Historical and Architectural Review, City Planning Commission, Environmental Advisory Council, Historic Conservation Commissions, Parking Authority, Recreation Commission, Redevelopment Authority, Zoning Hearing Board. (A full list for the Bethlehem can be found at: www.bethlehem-pa.gov/about/authorities/index.html).

Although some positions have residency requirements, in many cases people who sit on these commissions and boards don’t live in our city.

We also have individuals who have been members of the same board or commission for 15 to 20 years, and some individuals are members of two or three boards at the same time. Why, you might wonder?

Some of these positions require an expertise (electrical, health, financial, etc.). And these are also nonpaid positions, which makes it more difficult to find individuals willing to serve.

Many times when there are vacancies, they need to be filled rather quickly and the person charged with selecting nominees is “stuck” with the same few individuals.

However, it’s important to know that not all positions require a specific expertise; most just require a dedicated person with common sense and love for our city who is willing to be the voice of their community.

As a member of city council, I understand that one of my roles is to provide a check and balance on the mayor of the city and at the same time to be the voice of the people.

But the people in our city have diverse voices, and what we need is more of that diversity working in our government. That’s why I’m reaching out to challenge every single one of you to get civically engaged, to share your talents and put them to work for the betterment of our city. Don’t wait until you are negatively impacted by a government decision to get involved in local decisions.

A functioning democracy requires citizens who care what their government is doing and who put the time in to make it work for them. At the municipal level, you can have an impact on the political.

When citizens get involved in local government, they make it possible for government to do more than elected officials could accomplish alone.

Just this year, the city’s Environmental Advisory Council proposed several ordinances that would otherwise never become a possibility.

When members of local boards and commissions tell us what they think is good for the city, their views can have a significant impact on the decisions that elected officials make.

By getting involved in local government, you can make a big difference in the governance of our collective life and community long before the 2020 presidential election arrives.

The link to the City page above in the Councilwoman’s article says to contact the person on the ABC in which you are interested, but you should also contact the Mayor’s office.

to be continued . . .

How the Fine Arts Commission does it

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Deni Thurman-Eyer heads the Fine Arts Commission.

Gadfly:

The Bethlehem Fine Arts Commission changed the process for appointments to the BFAC about 12 years ago.  For many years, the Mayor would submit names to Council for approval without any input from the BFAC. This produced a Commission which had members who were not all engaged and, worse, acted in their own self-interest.

We recognized that we could improve that process. We revised and strengthened our Nominating procedures. We evaluated the needs of the Commission in terms of diversity, skills, and commitment to the arts, actively seeking nominees in that context. The Nominating Committee interviewed potential nominees before sending our recommendations to the Mayor to submit to Council.

This process has vested power in the BFAC to develop a strong, engaged, and productive 25-member Commission. This could be a model for improving the recruiting and retention of effective ABC boards.

Deni

Making some points about the ABCs

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Dana Grubb is a lifelong resident of the City of Bethlehem who worked 27 years for the City of Bethlehem in the department of community and economic development, as sealer of weights and measures, housing rehabilitation finance specialist, grants administrator, acting director of community and economic development, and deputy director of community development.

Gadfly,

I’ll make 4 points on the ABCs:

First, solicitors (or their firms) for ABCs should only be permitted to serve one ABC.

Second, there should be term limits. We need more turnover so that fresh ideas and experiences can be introduced. If you’ve served for 12 years (for point of discussion) on the planning commission, I would have no issue with you moving to the housing authority board and putting in additional time there. Some people want to contribute to their community through service, so this would allow them to continue to do so.

Third, all resumes submitted expressing interest in serving should be shared between City Council and the Mayor, and vice versa. This way they both know who is interested.

And, fourth, both the Mayor and Council should strive to have the ABCs as representative of community demographics as possible. Turnover mentioned in #2 would help that. There appears to be far too much “old boy network” at play, and while that may satisfy political and special interests, it doesn’t necessarily satisfy the community’s best interests.

Dana

The ABCs are cloistered venues of power . . . Council must check and balance . . . We need to include more types of experience

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Authorities, Boards, and Commissions

Ok, so now you have your annual refresher on the ABCs and some current problems with them.

So Gadfly recommends that you listen to the whole 30 minutes of the discussion of the ABCs at the June 16 City Council meeting.

Yes, yes he does — all 30 minutes — he likes that you hear, that you experience your elected officials rather than just reading about them.

The audio below is an example of City Council at its best, on the same page, concerned about fostering proper and widespread citizen participation in city governance.

Councilwoman Van Wirt tees up the issue of how ABC members are selected, Councilwoman Negron sets the issue on fire, President Waldron coolly engages the Mayor diplomatically and the Mayor reciprocates in kind, and the other Councilmembers ratify the need for Council attention and the process agreed on to move ahead.

Agreed on is that the Mayor will provide an inventory of openings now on ABCs and openings/reappointments coming up till the end of the year so that all concerned can have a head-start on cultivating a diverse pool of candidates.

There was not much focus on specific candidates up for approval on that June 16 night. The focus was on the process of selection, the diversity of the ABCs, and such matters. But Gadfly would say that a quiet example of the “problem” under consideration was the reappointment that night of a member of the Planning Commission who’s been in place 12 years. Gadfly  has been to many of the Planning meetings, and if he were asked, he would have had to say that from what he could see in the public deliberations (as opposed to whatever goes on in executive session) that the 12-year member was not a “presence” in deliberations.

Please kick back and listen.

Councilwoman Van Wirt (min. 0: 20)

  • [The process] seemed like a mere rubber stamp by Council to approve anyone the Mayor put forward.
  • This has been the argument for Council continuing to approve reappointments . . . for people who have been on for years and years and decades.
  • One of the first things I had asked for is resumes of people who were coming forward from the Mayor . . . so we could actually vet somebody.
  • We still don’t have attendance given for reappointments, but overall here’s this ongoing kind of notion in Bethlehem that this is the Mayor’s prerogative, but I’m pushing back against that because I feel that the reason that City Council was given the vote instead of just the Mayor appointing whomever he wanted so that we as representatives of the citizens of Bethlehem could insure that Authorities, Boards, and Commissions have people on them who actually represent the citizens, who look like the citizens, who come from different areas of the city, who come from different income levels, different perspectives, that’s the point of City Council to me.
  • [Last time] one of the suggestions that was made by President Waldron was that we invoke term limits . . . Any term limits discussion there’s pros and cons to the approach, and the problem I had with that is our Authorities, Boards, and Commissions are all vastly different.
  • Some have way more power and influence on day-to-day lives, some use our tax dollars, some leverage the borrowing capacity of the city, and these are ones that need particular scrutiny because that’s where power is held.
  • Power in this city is held in the Authorities, Boards, and Commissions. Not having a voice in that in Council, we allow the Administration to have one blanket approach to how things are done, and it doesn’t represent this city.
  • I would hate to institute term limits for a commission that we have trouble even filling all the spots on it. It doesn’t seem to me that that would be a helpful thing.
  • Maybe we should just apply it to our powerful commissions . . . the Bethlehem Parking Authority, the Zoning Hearing Board.
  • I just wanted to have an open dialog with Council about these feelings.
  • . . . haphazard approach to staffing . . .
  • Often what we hear from the Administration is that they cannot find the people to staff them . . .
  • We have no way of knowing who has submitted resumes unless they have also submitted them to Council.
  • We don’t know how the Mayor goes about finding people to go on these Authorities, Boards, and Commissions.
  • I understand that it is his prerogative to put people forward, but it is also our prerogative and indeed our duty . . . to make sure that our ABCs look like Bethlehem.
  • This is a huge responsibility of Council . . . The way things have been done in the past is not always the right way to do things right now.
  • Circumstances change, cities change, and we are a reflection of the city, so I hope that we can consider a different way of approaching how we put people on these Authorities and Boards and Commissions.

Councilwoman Negron (min. 5:38)

  • [Last year] I wrote an article in the Morning Call . . . where I was actually asking the people . . . to be actively engaged. to be civically engaged, to be part of the movement, being an elected official is one way, but [the ABCs] is another.
  • [got responses from the Latino community mainly]
  • Many of them said the Mayor is not going to appoint me . . . we look very different.
  • I challenged them, I really did. Last Thursday I sent to all of you members of Council . . . sharing an email from a member of our community that back in February sent an email to the Mayor expressing interest in the Planning Commission, and here we go again.
  • There’s interest. I’ve been talking to individuals, and they want to be part of Commissions and Boards
  • So with 76,000 people in the City, you can’t tell me you can’t find people to serve.
  • Members of the Latino community say why would I bother if I’m not going to be appointed.
  • It’s our responsibility as members of Council to be the check and balances, we are not being the checks and balances.
  • I am sick and tired of hearing this, professionally, and at all levels, because I have to hire another white person because there is no person of color that send me a resume of is qualifies for the job — really?!
  • [My daughters] don’t want to come back to Bethlehem . . . Why would you want to come back to a place that’s not going to hire you, that looks down on you, that’s going to treat you differently.
  • This is the right time to think of our role as members of Council — checks and balances, that’s what we are supposed to be doing.

President Waldron and the Mayor (min. 9:30)

President Waldron engaged the Mayor in a conversation about the process of nominating ABCers. The Mayor is not for term limits. He does check the record of attendance and input for reappointees. If City Council votes down, he will submit another name. Has sometimes not reappointed people. It’s a process, and he does evaluate. There are not many ABCs that have vacancies. Willing to sit down with Council members to review the appointments for the rest of the year.

  • ARW: Do our Boards, Authorities, and Commissions represent the people of Bethlehem? What is the gender split? What is the geographic split from different parts of the City? What is the racial split?
  • ARW: At some point you can either take a passive role and say these are the people who have applied. or maybe there’s some efforts with which the Administration can work with Council on to reach out to different groups that might be interested in serving but have not been tapped to say are you interested in serving/
  • ARW: I think just that question to start the dialog might be helpful to have a little more diversity on those boards.
  • RJD: I certainly would support that.
  • ARW: This conversation should happen beforehand.

Councilwoman Van Wirt (min. 16:00)

PVW brought up the problem “from the citizen’s perspective” of those ABCs who still meet during the day. An interested applicant to an ABC had to say no because he was a working person and could not make the time of the meeting.

  • PVW: We have essentially cut out an entire part of the electorate that is willing to serve but can not meet at 4 o’clock because they have normal working jobs.
  • Our ABCs are cloistered venues of power that are only accessible to a certain political class, and I certainly feel we need to consider how we change this dynamic so that all of our citizens can participate [by being on the boards or coming to the meetings and speaking their minds].

Councilwoman Negron (min. 18)

ON reiterates that she has people interested. Will have people interested send resumes to entire Council. She’s hearing from non-Latinos too. Her community is not just the brown and black.

Councilman Colon (min. 20:20)

Now a good time to start getting an inventory of Councilmanic appointments.

The Mayor agrees to do a full inventory of vacancies and reappointments coming up and to share that with Council.

Councilman Reynolds (min. 21:45)

  • We need to understand that because of traditional structures in our city, you have had certain groups of people and certain areas of the city that have been underrepresented.
  • The sooner that we get that in the forefront of all of our minds . . . It’s a conversation that we need to have about how we get as many people as possible involved in these conversations because people do bring different experiences.
  • In general we need to do a better job in getting as many people involved in these conversations, especially when some of these conversations may affect communities traditionally underrepresented on these boards in the decision-making.
  • We need to include more types of experience throughout the city and more histories throughout the city on these boards and commissions.
  • It’s on all of us to try to help find those people.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (min. 24:05)

Frustration about process: more info, more notice. Hope the process can be streamlined so it works in a better fashion.

Councilman Callahan (min. 25:30)

Not in favor of term limits. Influential, “power” boards need people with suitable background. Classes available for people who want to be on boards like planning. Can’t just jump in to some boards. Need background. Would favor increasing membership on Human Relations Commission.

Your refresher course in the ABCs (2)

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Authorities, Boards, and Commissions

Gadfly has devoted considerable attention to the ABCs. At the bottom of the right-hand sidebar here, you will find a Search box. Enter “ABCs” and click to find the full collection of those posts.

In his apprentice year, Gadfly went to as many ABC meetings as possible, often the only spectator person in attendance. From his personal observation, Gadfly became very knowledgeable about the quality of the members on many of the ABC groups, quality which, in the overwhelming majority of the cases, was excellent.

Over and over again, Gadfly was impressed by the care with which this corps of volunteers did their work.

There were some dead spaces, though, and some questionable choices.

There are, however, three issues of concern with the ABCs:

1) The appointment and re-appointment of members: it is the prerogative of the Mayor to appoint members, and apparently historically Council almost always acted as a “rubber stamp” on the Mayor’s nominations. As if these appointments were an uncontested “perk” of office rather than a “check and balance.” Council seems to be given little more than a vita shortly before a meeting in which approval is sought. Gadfly can understand the “politics” of that tradition (elections have consequences) but has expressed the view that, at the very least, reappointments should be based on evidence of performance, more than just on a vita. Lately, though, even the appropriateness of first appointments has been scrutinized. In any event, the issue is that Council is not exercising proper oversight over the appointments. Councilwoman Van Wirt has rightly been especially concerned about this.

2) Meeting times: The ABCs do public business, and they meet in public, mostly at Town Hall. Each ABC sets its own meeting time at the mutually decided upon time agreed on by the members. By law the meetings times must be scheduled and advertised a year ahead. The idea is that the citizenry knows when the meetings are and can attend if so desired. Most of the meetings are in the evening, thus “after dinner,” “after work” (for most people). But some (1/3?) were held during the day, late afternoon, when (most) people are working and thus would find it difficult to attend. Some important meetings requiring broad public input before significant decisions have been held at these difficult-to-attend times. Causing some justifiable consternation. Councilwoman Van Wirt again took the lead on this point — the Mayor did ask the afternoon ABCs to consider moving their times to evening. Some but not all did.

3) “representation”: Do these ABCs have a balance of genders, a balance of our city’s ethnic and racial make-up, a balance of members from both sides of the river? It is not clear that such thinking has gone into staffing the ABCs, and there are obvious and notable gaps on the ABC menu of membership.

It is easy to think of these ABC procedural matters as mere housekeeping to be as quickly disposed of at City Council meetings as legal decorum allows.

But not so.

We have voting power over the Mayor and the Councilors, but there’s a layer of important personnel here we don’t directly control and of which we might not even be aware. (Think presidential appointment of Federal judges.)

Now you should have the backstory for the good 1/2hr. discussion of the ABCs at the June 16 Council meeting.

Authorities, Boards, and Commissions

Your refresher course in the ABCs (1)

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Ok, time for your annual refresher course in City Civics, my good followers.

Subject: the ABCs of city government.

ABCs — our acronym for the City “Authorities, Boards, and Commissions.”

You know how the City is run, right?

We have a “Strong Mayor/Council” form of city government.

The Mayor runs the nuts and bolts of the city.

Council members are part-time, and their role is 3-fold:

  • pass legislation
  • pass the budget
  • appoint members to the ABCs

So its the ABCs that you probably don’t know about unless you are a veteran city watcher, as many Gadfly followers are.

We have about two dozen “Authorities, Boards, and Commissions.” Take a look.

The ABCs are staffed by around 125 volunteers from the city.

All of the ABCs do important business, contribute to the quality of our lives, and some wield extraordinary power.

Who serves on the ABCs, therefore, is critically important in all cases, but especially on those that wield extraordinary power.

The Mayor nominates residents to serve on the ABCs, Council approves.

The main point to know is that much of city business depends on the freely given good will of citizens over time and a steady stream of such citizens.

Serving on the ABCs is an important way that “we” participate in and help shape our city government.

It goes without saying that we need to have the best possible people serving on the ABCs.

There was an important discussion about the process of filling slots on the ABCs at City Council on June 16.

You will want to see the next post in this series.

Comments on parklets

Gadfly,

It’s nice to see people returning to our downtown and dining outdoors. It would be even nicer if two other things were done. I enjoyed the ambiance of this with a friend on her birthday this past Wednesday at the Apollo. However, between cars driving past blasting music and other bikers and cars revving their engines and using loud mufflers to impress us, it became difficult at times to converse between ourselves and with wait staff. A little old-fashioned law enforcement including issuing citations would set the tone for a peaceful downtown where quality of life and peace and quiet are embraced and not denigrated by inconsiderate drivers by. Stop both of these and you will have a much more enjoyable experience!

Dana Grubb

———–

Gadfly:

A couple of unrelated thoughts on parklets:

I especially like the one on Main Street where they used planters to create the separation/protection barrier! (They should extend this or similar approaches to the others.)

They should close Adams from Columbia to Morton, leaving one lane open (for residents only) between 4th & Morton. There may be other opportunities to extend the areas so they are more usable. Extended areas also facilitate distancing. (The restaurant on W 4th has tables so close there is no effective distancing; the health department should alert them to safe practices.)

Note: Many of these aren’t really “parklets” — if a space is reserved for patrons of a particular establishment, it wouldn’t be a parklet, which is a small park, by definition a public space.

Peter Crownfield

City hits home run with new parklets, so let’s do it again

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“I was really ‘Wow!’ and Bravo! — well done!”
Councilwoman Negron

“One extra thing that makes Bethlehem such a beautiful place to visit.”
Councilman Callahan

(Can’t find a photo of the parklets with the city planters — anyone?)

At last City Council kudos were spread around to Alicia Karner, Michael Alkhal, and the City gang for the street planters beautifying and safety-fying outdoor dining — and thus helping our business community.

The Mayor and others are thinking of doing this again next year and even annually in the post-pandemic age. Far out!

Mayor Donchez:

Councilman Callahan:

Councilwoman Negron:

Other good news:

1) City Hall is open.

2) Fireworks on July 4th

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday, June 16

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Click for public comment instructions!

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, June 16, at 7PM.

The meeting is closed to the public, of course, because of the coronavirus.

The meeting can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Note well: though the meeting is “virtual,” we still enjoy public comment. See the link above for instructions. Let’s take advantage of the opportunity offered.

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Of especial interest, no doubt, will be discussion of the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith memo to Chief DiLuzio that we have been discussing here for the last week.

And Gadfly assumes we’ll have another update on the coronavirus situation.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges “attending” City Council.

Participate. Be informed.

Chief DiLuzio: what you saw on tv was murder, and we are out in front in regard to the kind of training people are calling for

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So, in response to a need for local action regarding police/minority issues stemming from the murder of George Floyd, Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith have proposed to Chief DiLuzio a plan “concerning two areas that we feel need to be priorities for our City moving forward”: Use of Force Directives and a Community Engagement Initiative.

Tip o’ the hat to the Councilmembers for stepping up.

They made their proposal to Chief DiLuzio. How will Chief Diluzio respond?

The Chief has been asked to respond by June 15 (before the next Council meeting), and Gadfly hears that a Public Safety Committee meeting is in the formative stages.

Let’s take the two parts of the proposal individually.

First, the use of force directives. The Councilmembers’ proposal says:

There has been national discussion recently about a set of policy directives related to use of force directives within police departments (generally referred to as “8 can’t wait”). We have received significant support from the members of our community about the implementation of these principles here in Bethlehem. The directives are attached to this memo [see the last page of the proposal here]. In connection with the directive, we have the following questions:

(1) How many of these eight directives are currently included in our use of force guidelines?
(2) For the directives currently not in place, what is your stance on adding them to our current guidelines?
(3) What are our annual training requirements for our police department?
(4) What percentage of the training time is spent on de-escalation?

If the conversations with Councilmembers Crampsie Smith and Colon that succeeded his “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” statement on behalf of the police department at last week’s Council meeting are any indication, the Chief will be eager to answer Council questions about police department policies and training, confident that the department is well ahead of the pack in implementation of the positive measures to control unnecessary violence capsuled in the “8 can’t wait” principles (see chart below and, again, see the last page of the Councilmembers’ proposal here).

Floyd 5

Followers know that Gadfly always recommends that you go to the primary sources and form your own opinions.

Thus he recommends very strongly that you take less than 5 minutes each to listen to these interchanges. Don’t just read Gadfly’s summary paraphrasing.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith and Chief DiLuzio

The Councilwoman asks the Chief about training. All officers have body cams. The kinds of things people are asking for have been in place for years. We are accredited at the national and state level. We do escalation, we do crisis intervention, we have a strict use of force policy. We learn from our mistakes. We’re in front of what people are talking about and have been so for 10-15 years. We do training, qualification, recertification yearly. We have a training division, and that’s all they do constantly. We have courses endorsed by the minority communities. We are a diverse department and every year get more diverse. The training is continuous. We were in front of deescalation training.

Councilman Colon and Chief DiLuzio (listen to the Chief’s comments toward the beginning as well as at the end of the interchange)

The criminal justice system is broken. What I saw in Minneapolis was disgusting. Americans don’t act that way, cops don’t act that way. That was murder what you saw on national tv, period. This is going to take a change at many levels. Nothing is going to change overnight. The system is 50 years behind the times. It’s not what fits society today.

What are you thinking about this part of the Councilmembers’ proposal and the Chief’s comments regarding police department policies and training?

Followers have already posted here about the need for the “8 can’t wait” principles, and it sounds like we will learn in more detail that they are all in place.

But, though proper policies are in place and proper training is implemented, there is still the question of outcomes.

Have these policies — stringently applied and enforced as they might be — successfully eradicated or reduced cases of violent police behavior? Is there any data on that?

One can expect that Derek Chauvin had training. Training can’t guarantee the proper outcome.

Why is the City “out front” in training? What’s the history here? The Chief made the interesting comment that “we learn from our mistakes.” What did he mean by that? What’s the context for that? What mistakes? So, is there a baseline that would help us determine the efficacy of all our energy put into training?

And, as Breena Holland and others have pointed out, there is a level of behavior beneath, as it were, violence that is still racist and, Gadfly would say, just as insidious. What can we say about that? Have there been citizen complaints, either formal or informal? Have there been incidents? Have there been disciplinary consequences? Have there been “talkings to”? Who keeps track of such things? Gadfly hears murmurs of insensitive behavior by police with minorities that doesn’t turn violent and doesn’t make the papers. Is there evidence of such?

In this regard, Gadfly will go next to the handling of the marijuana enforcement to which Breena also called attention.

You have the Chief’s long statement and his conversations with Councilmembers.

It’s important that we have trust in the Chief.

Please listen.

Council voices matter

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One of Gadfly’s missions is to help make us better voters.

We don’t elect our City Council members, for instance, to make 7-0 decisions on a contract for the Water department, though that is the kind of thing seemingly they mostly do.

We elect them — or should elect them — for their potential to provide leadership when things get tough.

Like now.

George Floyd’s murder has become a national inflection point. Look at the news to see what City Councils across the country are being asked to consider — are, in fact, considering.

Such moves as defunding, dismantling, disbanding the police.

Such issues as racial discrimination and systemic injustice.

That’s a lot for our part-time Bethlehem public servants.

But this is precisely the kind of time we should envision when we vote.

Over the past few days, Gadfly has asked you to concentrate individually on each Council member’s first public response to the Floyd murder.

Whose voices move us, whose don’t?

Who seems up to the task at hand, who not?

Whose voices reveal leadership timber, whose not?

Gadfly asks you to consider such questions now and as we go forward especially in the next few weeks for we will no doubt meet these people on the Council ballot again, for no doubt one or more of these Council members will be running for mayor — a decision now less than a year away.

Let’s test their mettle now.

Let’s see what they’ve got.

So before we move on, Gadfly asks you to take a few more moments to browse again the first voices of our Council members at this dynamic cultural moment.

For, to shamelessly appropriate a phrase, “Council voices matter.”

President Waldron: “the Police department . . . did a great job . . . supporting the First Amendment rights that everyone is granted”

Councilwoman Van Wirt: “I ask you to do something, to look at our own city and address economic and social racism where it exists”

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith: “We must work together as a city to insure that all our community members and visitors of color feel safe, secure, equal, and loved”

Councilman Reynolds: “It is not enough just to say that we can have peaceful demonstrations here”

Councilman Callahan: “I was so proud of the way people were behaving themselves and just peacefully protesting”

Councilman Colon: “Now is the time for listening and to keep the dialog going

Councilwoman Negron: “There’s a lot of wrong-doing, a lot of wrong going on right here”

Councilwoman Negron: “There’s a lot of wrong-doing, a lot of wrong going on right here”

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On behalf of the department, Chief DiLuzio read a statement on “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” at the Council meeting Wednesday night. You can find the text here and the audio below. (The Mayor’s May 31 statement was not read into the record but can be found here.)

The Chief’s statement was the occasion for response to the local and national events of the last ten days or so by each member of Council.

Followers know that a main purpose of this blog is to help you know your Council members better. These Council responses are a good way to do exactly that, so Gadfly is taking some time to present each one individually for better focus.

Listen to the voices of our elected officials.

We began with President Waldron and have proceeded in the order in which the comments were presented at the meeting. finishing up here with Councilwoman Negron.

Councilwoman Negron

“I appreciate some of the comments that some of you have made. I also remind you that the change that we need, it is not about a resolution or a magic pill. It’s simpler than that. We have been taught, we have been cautioned, we have been advised that there is injustice going on in our courts, in our district courts who are brown and black people in our community. And everybody turned the side to look another way. O that’s not happening. That is not in here. We are very blessed, very lucky that we have a great community, a beautiful community that I love, that I chose to raise my daughters in, and I don’t regret it. But there’s a lot of wrong-doing, a lot of wrong going on right here. We have been advised . . . each one of us has been advised of wrong-doing in terms of injustice to the brown and black people, your constituents. Your brown and black constituents are being right now, every day treated in an unjust way. You’ve been told, you’ve been cautioned, you’ve been warned. You did nothing about it. So, yeah, I am glad that nobody in our Bethlehem Police Department has killed any of our brown and black people here today. Right? But the injustice exists. And there’s no way for anybody to say otherwise unless you lived it or heard the stories directly from the individuals that are crying ______, even myself. I am, as all of you know, very proud to be a Puerto Rican woman, and I carry my flag, and I even have a face mask now my sister gave me with the Puerto Rican flag, I’m afraid to wear it to some places. There are a lot of places that I would not wear my flag. There are a lot of places where even without my flag, I’m not crazy to go. I feel intimidated, afraid, and I’m not the only one. All of your constituents, all of your constituents, 76,000 people who live in the City of Bethlehem, all of the brown and black individuals, are feeling something very similar. So we don’t need a resolution, we don’t need a magic pill, we just need to listen to what we’ve been told that is happening, and we need to do something about it. It is unfairness. It’s like Councilwoman Smith said, with liberty and justice for all. Really? Justice for all. Justice for all as long as you have light skin, gold hair, and blue eyes. Because if you don’t, there’s no such a thing in here as justice for all.”