Boom times?

Festival UnBound
Ten days of original theatre, dance, music, art and conversation designed to celebrate and imagine our future together!
October 4-13

So, apropos of much Gadfly traffic lately, one follower asks:

Where are all these deep-pocketed tenants — residential and retail — going to come from?

Forsooth, we’re looking at one helluva lot of new apartments coming online.

Gadfly — dancing with the downsizing devil — may be looking for one.

But he’s not deep-pocketed.

Is Bethlehem a deep-pocket magnet?

Mr Connell — of the Garrison development we have most recently been discussing — mentioned that he’s engaged a study. I wonder what it will show.

Take a look at this list of apartments (numbers may be off):

548 — Martin Tower
74 — New/Garrison
33 — 548 N. New
120 — Boyd Theater
40-50 — Skyline
33 — Polk St.

And what has Gadfly overlooked?

We are creeping toward 1000 new “luxury” apartments.

Is that realistic?

Will an oversupply drive the price down into Gadfly’s range?

So big that we might have to put on an extra Councilperson to handle the work!

Festival UnBound

Follow-up to and fallout from the Zoning Board nomination controversy (3)

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

Council meeting tonight.

Two meetings ago — August 20 — we had the long “debate” over the Zoning Board nomination. Gadfly spent 9 posts on that, beginning here.

One meeting ago — September 3 — we had the follow-up to that “debate.” Gadfly devoted 2 posts to that, beginning here.

But he left that second post with a “to be continued,” a promise that should be fulfilled before the meeting tonight.

Gadfly wants to say something about Councilman Callahan and about President Waldron, but mostly about President Waldron.

Gadfly has said one of the purposes of his project is helping you know your elected officials better, especially so that you will be better informed when it comes time to vote (some Council members, you can be sure, will run for re-election, and, you know, some might even think of running for Mayor! Be prepared!).

Gadfly did not like the August 20 performance. He felt guilty, like a gaper at a car wreck. Stephen Antalics felt “deeply embarrassed.” People who reported to President Waldron found it “cringe-worthy.” Gadfly faulted BC. Not everyone did, of course.

But, though faulting BC, Gadfly has to admit that his “defense” at the September 3 meeting (as outlined by Gadfly here) was masterful. He began with testimonies approving his behavior; he made the solicitor acknowledge that the rules were on his side; he used direct audio evidence (stunning! ballsy!) to make his central point; and he APOLOGIZED. Gadfly was in awe of BC’s technique. And remembered that he has seen BC do the “Perry Mason” (look it up, young ‘uns!) thing before, especially leading Robert Novatnack down a path of one-word yes/no answers to make a point that supported his position in an aspect of the Martin Tower controversy. Gadfly must point out, however, that BC’s apology was framed by blaming Councilman Reynolds for starting the nastiness (BC was only reacting to provocation), and he not only did not back off but reiterated his unspecified charge on JWR. So we might put “apology” in quotes just to get us to think about it some more.

But it’s the punctuation (sorry, ever the English prof) that President Waldron put on this Zoning Board episode on which Gadfly would like to focus most attention.

The trials of leadership.

Here again is the “period” AW put on the episode (see the video here):

“I’m gonna try to enforce the rules moving forward fairly and consistently. That becomes challenging when rules are habitually broken, and I’m trying to give guidance and my guidance is pushed aside. I think everyone has a right to be heard, and I think they have a right to speak, from members of the public to members of Council. I’ve been criticized for having a light gavel in the past, and I can promise you I will continue to have a light gavel. I don’t think silencing people’s thoughts and opinions is a productive way to continue a conversation. With that being said, I do think there should be a level of decorum and respect for each other in the room. And I think at times at the last Council meeting that was not there. I did not get any feedback publicly that that was a positive conversation. In fact, many people reached out to me that I saw and said that it was cringe-worthy and it was embarrassing. I think the tone of that conversation wasn’t helpful, and it’s my opinion that I think we can do better and we must do better when we get in to the dangerous territory of accusing people of things on Council, whether that’s members of Council accusing each other of something or members of the public accusing, because that happens quite a lot, and I don’t gavel that down much the same way people go over the 5-minute time limit and I don’t gavel that down. I think people should be heard. Whether you agree with that opinion or not, the First Amendment is wide-ranging and it supersedes Roberts’ Rules of Order. But I would hope that we would have the respect for each other to adhere to those, so that the conversation can be productive. I hear a lot different kind of tone than I did last week, Mr. Callahan, and I appreciate that you were reflective on that, and I think open debate is a good thing. I think we should hold each other accountable for our thoughts and actions as well, and I think moving forward taking a little time to consider how our words are affecting other people in the room, it’s going to be beneficial. So I look forward to continuing this conversation publicly. Whether it’s warranted that people think the rules are being violated — Roberts’ Rules — which I think they are — I’m going to enforce them pretty liberally because I think the conversation should be open and fair, and I’m going to take remarks from members of Council if they want to give a little course correction and think that I should enforce the rules a little differently. I’ll listen to the majority of Council if they have a strong opinion that the rules should be enforced differently. Although I’m currently president of Council, I would welcome feedback from members of Council if they think I should have a different approach. And I’ll try to balance those in the future as we continue these conversations under new business.”

Gadfly is sympathetic. He administered a department of 60-some people for a decade.

All individualists, as professionals in the humanities, and especially the field of English are wont to be.

What kind of a leader is AW, at least as revealed in this episode?

AW realizes that he’s been criticized for being soft.

Gadfly has seen AW extend a long leash at times during public comment even when the audience is visibly restive.

Gadfly has benefited from that softness as he yacks on and on over his 5 minutes during public comment . He has even called AW Mr. SoftGavel in these pages.

He’s patient. Gadfly loved AW’s quip August 20 about potty-training twins.

But AW’s patience did reach a limit August 20, and Gadfly thinks Council might benefit from some rules — as suggested by Mr. Antalics and even invited by AW.

Hence, a modest proposal — actually a version of rules Gadfly has seen in Robert’s Rules.

  • a limit of 10 minutes, then others are given an opportunity to speak
  • after others have spoken or passed on the opportunity to speak, another 10 minutes
  • any further 10-minute time after that only with majority vote of the other Council members

Gadfly believes that AW’s instinct toward openness is right — if you are going to err, do it on the side of more communication rather than less — but August 20 showed that some broad rules are necessary when unpleasantness occurs.

City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday September 17

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, September 17, Town Hall, at 7PM.

This meeting is video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov > Quick Links > City Council Meeting Agendas and Documents.

You can find the meeting agenda here: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/citycouncil/meetings/index.html

As always, as long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending, one way or the other.

Gadfly #2 tackles conflict of interest

Conflict of interest was the crux of our recent Zoning Board Hearing Board controversy. Gadfly gathers this was one of the hot topics a few years ago when an ethics ordinance was debated by City Council. The ZHB controversy made clear the need to go at this issue again.

Bill Scheier, Gadfly #2 (16 years of attending Council meetings), talks here at the September 3 Council meeting of different ways to deal with conflict of interest and his optimism that a successful means can be found.

Bill sees a problem and moves to do something about it.

Not just talk. Solution.

Your non-tax dollar at work again.

Won’t you aspire to be in a Gadfly video confidently espousing your views in the near future!

  • No one I know of has accused anyone of voting a certain way because of campaign contributions.
  • But . . . there is always the appearance of a possible conflict of interest.
  • Campaign contributions are often pursuant to knowledge of a candidate’s views, that is, the candidate’s views influence the contributors.
  • Whatever are we going to do to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest?
  • A blanket recusal would prevent someone from contributing to a candidate with similar views.
  • I came up with a limit of almost exactly $400 per person per election
  • A limit on campaign contributions can be combined with recusal such that any contribution over the limit would trigger recusal
  • The purpose of a campaign limit can be defeated by numerous contributions from family members and/or employees.
  • I believe it will be possible to craft an ordinance that removes any clouds of conflict of interest and still allows contributors to support a candidate with compatible views, but what will be required is a willingness to sit down and engage in thoughtful discussion and analysis of these and other points that will arise.

Follow-up to and fallout from the Zoning Board nomination controversy (2)

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

See the end of this post for good journalistic accounts to compare with and complement Gadfly’s.

Under New Business at the September 3 City Council meeting Councilman Bryan Callahan’s follow up to the August 20 meeting had four recognizable parts. Always go to the primary source. Listen before looking at Gadfly’s summary. 12 minutes.

1) BC outlined the support he received after the August 20 meeting. He extended thank you’s to the people who reached out, the dozens of phone calls, the few emails, and the personal contacts — one couple saying that that was “probably the greatest meeting that they’d ever been to.” What he heard from literally dozens of people was “debate and open discussion is a good thing for the citizens.” Recently, he received a 40-minute phone call “out of the blue” from a “very distinguished,” longtime “servant in Northampton County,” well known to everybody, the upshot of which was that open debate was a good thing for the City.

2) BC indicated that he had heard from lawyers and solicitors from boroughs and Authorities with the advice that according to Roberts’ Rules “in small settings you are allowed to direct comments to individuals.” He asked for Solicitor John Spirk’s opinion of that, and the Solicitor agreed that, generally speaking, in small boards modifications for flexibility is allowed: “modifications to the rules permitting greater flexibility are commonly allowed for small boards” (boards numbering under 12).

3) Then, playing five or so excerpts from the audio recording of the August 20 meeting (for example, 1:18:37, 1:21:20), BC, calling in the Solicitor for corroboration, supported the claim that “we [meaning Councilpersons Reynolds and Van Wirt?] all have broken the rules” and that they did so in the meeting before he violated the rules [1:32:46] and weren’t called out for doing so. BC: “I want to play by the same rules as everybody else, but I don’t want to be called out on something that we all are doing,” and “I want to abide by whatever rules we decide [on]. . . . I want the rules to be applied evenly to everybody.” “All I’m asking for is if you are going to call me out out, please call out other people.”

4) Finally, BC apologized to Councilman Reynolds for getting personal, indicating that JWR triggered his personal response. “What I do regret is that around minute 1:30 Mr. Reynolds got personal with me and brought up a personal conversation that I had with him and that’s what I regret, and for that Mr. Reynolds, for my response back to you I apologize. . . . I felt it was political retribution, political revenge, and that’s why I . . . and I stand by that. . . . Mr. Reynolds, I apologize that me and you got personal last week, and for that I do apologize, but if you’re fair about it and go back and look at it, for the first 24 minutes I didn’t attack anybody.”

Go to continuing video:

Councilman Reynolds: “Apology accepted”

President Waldron: “I’m gonna try to enforce the rules moving forward fairly and consistently. That becomes challenging when rules are habitually broken, and I’m trying to give guidance and my guidance is pushed aside. I think everyone has a right to be heard, and I think they have a right to speak, from members of the public to members of Council. I’ve been criticized for having a light gavel in the past, and I can promise you I will continue to have a light gavel. I don’t think silencing people’s thoughts and opinions is a productive way to continue a conversation. With that being said, I do think there should be a level of decorum and respect for each other in the room. And I think at times at the last Council meeting that was not there. I did not get any feedback publicly that that was a positive conversation. In fact, many people reached out to me that I saw and said that it was cringe-worthy and it was embarrassing. I think the tone of that conversation wasn’t helpful, and it’s my opinion that I think we can do better and we must do better when we get in to the dangerous territory of accusing people of things on Council, whether that’s members of Council accusing each other of something or members of the public accusing, because that happens quite a lot, and I don’t gavel that down much the same way people go over the 5-minute time limit and I don’t gavel that down. I think people should be heard. Whether you agree with that opinion or not, the First Amendment is wide-ranging and it supersedes Roberts’ Rules of Order. But I would hope that we would have the respect for each other to adhere to those, so that the conversation can be productive. I hear a lot different kind of tone than I did last week, Mr. Callahan, and I appreciate that you were reflective on that, and I think open debate is a good thing. I think we should hold each other accountable for our thoughts and actions as well, and I think moving forward taking a little time to consider how our words are affecting other people in the room, it’s going to be beneficial. So I look forward to continuing this conversation publicly. Whether it’s warranted that people think the rules are being violated — Roberts’ Rules — which I think they are — I’m going to enforce them pretty liberally because I think the conversation should be open and fair, and I’m going to take remarks from members of Council if they want to give a little course correction and think that I should enforce the rules a little differently. I’ll listen to the majority of Council if they have a strong opinion that the rules should be enforced differently. Although I’m currently president of Council, I would welcome feedback from members of Council if they think I should have a different approach. And I’ll try to balance those in the future as we continue these conversations under new business.”

to be continued . . . 

For other summary accounts of the meeting:

Stephen Althouse, “Bethlehem City Council reflects on meeting, adds council member.” WFMZ.com, September 3, 2019.

Nicole Radzievich, “Bethlehem Councilman Bryan Callahan apologizes for rules violation, but says he wasn’t lone violator.” Morning Call, September 4, 2019.

Follow-up to and fallout from the Zoning Board nomination controversy (1)

(The latest in a series of posts on City government)

Gadfly loves to publish resident comments. Democracy in action. Giving our voices life beyond the Town Hall walls. Providing models for our own walks to the podium. Don’t be afraid to speak. Don’t be afraid to make some noise. It’s empowering!

Do you remember the drama at the August 20 City Council meeting over the withdrawn nomination of a person to the Zoning Board? Remember Nominee-1?

Better than an hour it was. Some thought of it as “spectacle,” a “circus” marked by a “mad rant,” but, it turns out, some thought of it, as did Councilman Callahan, as a good debate, as an example of a flourishing First Amendment.

That’s America!

Word got around about the norm-busting behavior in usually peaceful Town Hall, and it drew the largest number of youtube views so far. Deservedly so.  See the video here.

Gadfly thought you could learn a lot about Councilmembers from that portion of the meeting and spent 9 posts — a long time — discussing it, beginning here.

Having spent so much time, Gadfly was kind of “done” with the issue and pretty much put it out of mind — and talked about other things during the public comment at last night’s September 3 Council meeting.

But Gadfly wondered about follow-up or fallout.

For instance, he really expected there would be letters to the editor in the newspapers.

However, two residents addressed that dramatic episode last night during Council public comment: one negative, one positive.

Gives us a chance to test our own reactions again.

Was what happened at City Council August 20 healthy or corrosive?

Do we want more of that kind of thing or less?

(Stick around for a following post on how the Council members followed up at last night’s meeting.)

Negative: Stephen Antalics

  • “I find no joy in saying what I’m going to say.”
  • “I recall some meetings being very contentious . . . but they were for a purpose. They involved issues.”
  • “There were some very strong exchanges here, but, in all those exchanges over the years, the subject never concerned personality of members of Council.”
  • “[In the past] that [president’s] gavel would have hit that table so hard, it would have shaken the walls.”
  • “At last meeting, I was deeply embarrassed . . . I felt like a child caught with his hand in the cookie jar. But why should I feel that way, because what transpired should not have happened.”
  • ‘We do not want to hear petty discussion from one Council member to another.”
  • “It is not mature. It is demeaning to people sitting in front of you.”
  • “Council owes us citizens an apology for their behavior.”
  • “There’s freedom of speech, but there’s also good taste. And the behavior last Council meeting was totally tasteless.”
  • “The gavel should have hit that table immediately, but it didn’t.”
  • “it might be wise for Council to consider limitations to how long a Council member can continue ad nauseum.”

Positive: Dan Krasnick

  • “The only time I’ve ever talked to you is when a history lesson . . . needs to be taught or learned. And that seems to be an issue here when it comes to open debate.”
  • “We once had a colonial representation to decide the fate of the declaration of independence.”
  • “Think about the importance that they had when deciding the fate of. . . . These people were needed to decide whether America was going to become America.”
  • “It was quite evident that John Adams did not have the support of his representatives.”
  • “They would have a vote as to whether to discuss, just merely to discuss the fact of having a vote on whether to talk about whether we could become our own country or not.”
  • “And it was not done behind any door . . . this was out in the open with people taking notes.”
  • “There is no topic that I have ever seen that is too scary to even just talk about.”
  • “If you’re afraid to talk about something then we have a problem with the issue itself.”
  • “So they were finally able to convince . . . to vote on the possibility of taking a vote.”
  • “We took a pledge earlier today . . . without this open debate there would be no America.”
  • “The concept of open debate, the concept of the First Amendment is inherent in who we are and what we do.”
  • “Everybody wins and loses in a conversation; when you compromise you are both going to win and lose.”
  • “I saw the YouTube, and I was surprised that it had gotten this far.”
  • “Please, vote for open debate.”

to be continued . . .

Grace Crampsie Smith sworn in!

Grace Crampsie Smith officially sworn in last night to fill the City Council slot opened by the resignation of Shawn Martell.

A happy time! Big crowd! And a family affair — Grace’s sister, Sr. Anne Crampsie, Life and Ministry Facilitator, Sisters of Mercy, Merion, PA, gave the invocation.

And Grace takes the oath with her daughter looking on–

Fight the good fight for us, Grace!