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

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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 will take the next day or so to present each one individually for better focus.

Listen to the voices of our elected officials.

We began with President Waldron and are proceeding in the order in which the comments were presented at the meeting.

Councilwoman Van Wirt

“Thank you, thank you, Chief, I agree with everything President Waldron said about the commendable bonds that the police formed in a difficult situation, but I’m going to raise the bar a little bit. Thank you for addressing recent civil unrest nationally and locally; however, what I explicitly did not hear from Chief DiLuzio was an acknowledgment of systemic racism at the heart of Minneapolis police officer Chauvin’s murder of George Floyd. That racism was the reason for this event and many other similar events and not just a lack of training. That racism played a role in the other three officers looking away. Mayor, you’re a good man, Chief DiLuzio, you’re a good man, if the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing, then I ask you to do something, to look at our own city and address economic and social racism where it exists. Chief, you said in the paper that the one thing he could have done, our friend Officer Chauvin, was to take his knee off of him. My question to you is why did he not? It was not a lack of training here, clearly, it was because of institutionalized racism in the police department. I too am glad that the Bethlehem Police Department modeled a calm attitude and insured protestors could have this day. But that is simply not enough. I’m going to read a letter published locally from a Lehigh professor which encapsulates my concern over both the Mayor’s letter and the Chief’s response. And while this letter might paint broad strokes for police officers — I think implicitly it doesn’t mean every police officer, and explicitly I certainly don’t mean every police officer —

PVW then read the post from Breena Holland published here on Gadfly June 2

Now I know this doesn’t leave us with a great Bethlehem Moment feeling, but if you can’t speak the truth for what it is, I don’t know what the use is in saying anything. We are very used to handing out attaboys up here, but the quality of good leadership is how they respond to the pointed criticism of it. And I do fully place this burden on your shoulders, Chief and Mayor, and I do thank you for listening.”

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

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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 will take the next day or so to present each one individually for better focus.

Listen to the voices of our elected officials.

Beginning with President Waldron and proceeding in the order in which they were presented at the meeting.

President Waldron

“Obviously when we have such a large event like we did last Saturday, and what you’ve seen is many other cities where things have turned violent, it’s a great indication of the folks that we have in our community as well as the restraint and the respect the Police department showed when there was not a single incident that happened within that large rally last Saturday. The berth that the Police department gave the marchers, to allow them space to be heard, is a testament to the planning and the thoughtfulness that went into that event, and I would encourage you and the department to continue that practice. Where you’ve seen other Police departments in the country escalating the tensions that are there and forcing stand-offs and physical altercations that are not necessary, I think the Police department in Bethlehem did a great job in helping to be part of supporting the First Amendment rights that everyone is granted. I would hope that that practice can be encouraged in future events tomorrow and through the weekend as well.”

Downtowns are poised to open up

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On Monday Gadfly briefed you on the City’s plan (see below) for outdoor dining in our downtowns.

And today you may see signs of opening up.

On Wednesday there was a discussion of this plan at City Council between Administrator Alicia Karner and Council folk Waldron and Callahan that you might find interesting.

Click to access Plan_for_Outdoor_Dining_and_Other_Business_Uses_3.pdf

The City plan was developed in collaboration with the business community. There was talk at Council about whether the allocated space would have to be expanded, whether there should be a “festival feel,” about the different needs of retailers and the restaurant owners, the different model of parklets that the City is using (the City is building planters as borders), liquor enforcement, the goal of enabling the restaurants to pull in some money in case of a second virus wave later in the year, the possibility of giving leeway with some regulations since the goal is to “save” restaurants from going under, about opening streets.

It sure is a weird time, isn’t it? The joy of opening up (for those of you not bunkered in as Gadfly is) clashing with the devastating downer of national events over the past ten days or so.

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Wednesday, June 3

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Click for public comment instructions!

Gadfly bets that virtually all of his followers have voted by mail, but others should remember that this is election day and the polls are open till 8pm.

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Wednesday, June 3, 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.

The meeting will open with a public hearing that looks of especial interest.

Public Hearing No. 1
The first Public Hearing is to receive public comment on the proposed use of funds to be received through the Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) 2020 Coronavirus Emergency Supplemental Funding Grant in the amount of $146,016.

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.

Bethlehem’s plan for outdoor dining

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City Of Bethlehem’s Outdoor Plan For The Business Community
Saturday, May 30, 2020

After the brutal events of this past weekend, if it weren’t for the masks on protestors, it would be easy to forget that there is a pandemic going on.

The most important communique out of City Hall this weekend was the Mayor’s powerful statement about community after the shocking image of George Floyd’s treatment and the consequent uproar in the streets of so many cities in America.

But back to the pandemic — we are opening up.

Many will be heartened by Bethlehem’s  “Plan for Outdoor Dining and Other Business Uses” for restaurants and retailers who wish to expand their operational footprint to help meet social distancing requirements and to provide additional accommodations to the business districts.

The plan proposes three models for consideration by the business community:

1) street closure: the City will allow closures of downtown sections of Walnut, Adams, New, and 1st street Thursday through Sunday, 4-7pm. Businesses not located in the downtowns can also make requests.

2) parklets: the City will install parklets on Main, Broad, 4th, Vine, and additional parklets can be requested by the Downtown Business Associations and by individual businesses.

3) the City will review requests for use of public spaces, on sidewalks, and on surface parking lots.

Application information and a list of regulations are part of the plan. Educational material on social distancing will be provided.

Howz your appetite?

Mayor Donchez: “We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred”

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“My comments on Minneapolis”
Sunday, May 31, 2020


Almost 250 years ago, Thomas Jefferson, declared, “That all men are created equal.” Our nation has had a long and difficult history dealing with those simple and profound words. Since 1776 it has taken numerous conflicts and much bloodshed for us to live up to those words. And yet, have we? Once again, we are grieving as a nation and standing together to condemn the shocking violence in Minneapolis and the innocent loss of life, and those simple words of Thomas Jefferson, somehow got lost in translation or understanding.

I grew up in South Bethlehem. The words “all men are created equal” were words to live by in my neighborhood and in my world. We were a melting pot, a cauldron of hope where there was no room for racism, bigotry, and intolerance. We had our differences – culturally, linguistically, racially and religiously, and yet we were a community. When we had to, we locked arms across the many lines and boundaries of our differences and dedicated ourselves to unity. Because of that, we were able to achieve some early measure of social and economic justice and equality for many in our community.

Those lessons of social and economic justice and equality traveled with me and were a daily part of my 35 years as a teacher at Allen High School in Allentown. I made sure my students were tolerant of all who attended Allen High School – Black and White, Latino and Asian, Gay and Straight, Male, Female and Transgender, Rich and Poor, and all who made up the city, the Lehigh Valley and the country.

As the son of a police officer and as a Mayor, watching the images from Minneapolis have been tough. I have great respect and admiration for our police officers, so it was very emotional watching that Minneapolis police officer suffocate handcuffed George Floyd with a knee to his neck. I know that almost all police officers adhere to the law and would never hurt someone like that, and yet this behavior continues and it hurts – it hurts the police and it hurts every one of us.

The kind of behavior we have seen in Minneapolis has no place in America or anywhere in the world. We in Bethlehem must condemn acts of violence and hatred, and are deeply saddened by the loss of life of a fellow human being. This is not just a race issue, this is a human issue, and we are all connected by our shared human experience.

Max Lucado wrote, “If Jesus could teach us only one thing, it would be that a person has value simply because they are a person.”

This is not the time to pretend that there’s not a problem in America.

This is not the time to turn our backs on racism.

This is not the time to accept innocent lives being taken from us.

This is not the time to think this doesn’t affect you.

This is not the time to sit back and say nothing.

This is not the time to think that you can’t be part of the solution and the change needed for this to stop.

Benjamin Franklin said, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

This is a time for outrage, but it is not a time for violence. The hatred that comes with racism, bigotry, and intolerance will not be condoned or supported here in Bethlehem or anywhere else for that matter. We are one. Our anger and abhorrence must be converted to something more positive – to hope, to faith and to love.

To quote Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

Mayor Bob Donchez

“Maintaining a community is harder than maintaining a garden”

Gadfly:

I’ve been gardening at Martin Luther King park on Carlton Avenue since I moved to Bethlehem in 2018. The garden was well organized at one time — a former president of Lehigh University was highly involved. A Lehigh professor was coordinating things when I arrived but had to leave shortly after, leaving just a small student group and a couple of community members to manage the site. Maintaining a community is harder than maintaining a garden.

Gray Simpson