O, yes, election season has begun

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

ref: Councilman Reynolds opens his mayoral campaign
ref: Thinking about the primary election
ref: Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance issues a CALL TO ACTION

As Gadfly tries to dial back from the national drama (though this week promises to be as portentous as last), he would like to call attention to the beginning of the local political campaign season.

In an event likely to have been overshadowed by the insurrection, Councilman Reynolds kicked off his run for mayor last Wednesday. He should never have any difficulty recalling the exact date he tossed his hat in the ring!

Four City Council seats are also on the line.

Elections excite the Gadfly. They represent periodic new beginnings, fresh starts.

And Councilman Reynolds has laid out substantial visions for the future to woo our votes.

And we will hear more from campaigns that will necessarily have to be run under pandemic rules.

How interesting. What impact will there be on such standard fare as door-to-door solicitation, meet-and-greets, candidate nights, and so forth? Will campaigning radically change? Will we see innovative tactics?

You’ve seen Gadfly hope for competition, the vigorous exchange of ideas in the public square that makes us all better.

He would particularly like to see people of color and women candidates.

But sometimes, as they say, you gotta watch what you ask for.

The Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance is looking for candidates.

That does not bode well, thinks the Gadfly.

We’ve seen one commenter in these pages say that “this group seems to prefer labels & fear-mongering to actual analysis or truth.”

And to wonder “what the term ‘Marxist’ means to them.”

Another poster found the LVGNA commentary “pretty awful . . . incendiary and off-putting, not an opening for a conversation.”

If there is one thing that the insurrection tells us, it’s that we need to seek a greater sense of community.

In addition, Gadfly hears President Waldron’s wise call for civility in our local dealings.

As a first step in fielding a candidate, Gadfly would ask LVGNA to stop the name-calling and to explain how Marxism pertains to the actions done by and positions held by current elected officials.

Mayor Donchez: 2021 promises “transition back to normality”

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

As said, the insurrection has fixed Gadfly’s attention for the past half-week. Inevitably so.

And, among other things, it was an opportunity to ruminate on leadership.

More specifically, on the essential need for good leadership.

Gadfly has recently written that Mayor Donchez is in the 8th inning of his two terms as mayor and a year away from (probably) the end of several decades of public service to Bethlehem.

We need him to not only remain a steady hand but to continue to actively respond to the challenges on several fronts the likely rough year ahead will pose.

It was good to hear his positive voice yesterday morning, even if the piece was written before Wednesday’s chaos.

———-

selections from Robert Donchez, “Your View by Mayor Donchez: Bethlehem will continue to move forward in 2021.” Morning Call, January 10, 2021.

New Year’s Eve has always had a profound effect on me, but none more than this year. It is the reflection and the contemplation of a year’s worth of goals and hard work that has come to pass.

As I counted down the moments to the dawn of a new year, with many of my friends and family members unable to join me because of the pandemic, all I can think about is the unimaginable heartbreak and tragedy we witnessed at just about every turn of 2020.

And I cannot help but spend New Year’s Eve pondering the events missed: weddings at Hotel Bethlehem, concerts at Musikfest, graduations, family picnics, just to name a few. There is no doubt that this has been a challenging year for everyone.

Last January, I unveiled ambitious goals and initiatives for Bethlehem, bolstered by strong national and local economies. It was soon after the New Year that we began to hear the words that have become household terms: coronavirus, COVID-19, pandemic and social distancing.

Inside City Hall, I worked with my cabinet to take all the necessary steps to keep our employees and residents safe, while continuing to deliver all the essential services a city is responsible to provide. As we learned more each day, our policies and procedures continuously evolved. City employees adapted to every change with courage, cooperation and flexibility, while remaining focused on our mission.

The federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act allowed the counties to provide funding directly to businesses. In addition, Northampton and Lehigh counties provided grants to Bethlehem to purchase first responder equipment, personal protective equipment and information technology equipment, and supported our response to our downtown communities, specifically the restaurants that have been struggling during this time.

As we continue to navigate the ever-changing COVID-19 guidelines, I encourage all of our residents to support our local businesses in any manner possible.

The impact of the pandemic derailed economic activity across the country. Bethlehem was not spared, and our revenues did not meet expectations for 2020. We made a number of adjustments to reduce expenses and limit the deficit, including a hiring freeze, employee furloughs and the closing of pools, parks and traditional summer programming.

Despite the challenges, Bethlehem continued to move forward in 2020, and I am pleased to share some of our accomplishments for the year. . . .

As the sun sets on 2020, Bethlehem will continue to move forward in 2021.

We hope to see the beginning of the development of the Martin Tower site, continued redevelopment of the Westgate Mall with the opening of the new Weis supermarket, the completion of Lehigh University’s Health Science Building, the construction of a second hotel on the Wind Creek site and some additional housing in both of our downtown districts.

As 2021 brings hope of an expected transition back to normality, we keep in mind the lessons learned from the challenges and frustrations of 2020. Among the most important of these lessons is gratitude.

We all owe a special thank you and appreciation to all of the health care workers and essential workers who have done a tremendous job seeing us through these unprecedented times.

Tomorrow is a bright new day for Bethlehem. I can assure you we will continue to work to meet the challenges that lie ahead, and am confident we will emerge stronger than ever.

President’s annual report and comments

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

President’s 2020 Annual Report

Last night’s January 5 meeting was, of course, the first City Council meeting of the new year and the traditional time for the Council President’s annual report.

That report will be online, and Gadfly probably will obtain a copy to share with you (just added, see link above).

The amount of work that our elected part-timers accomplish in the course of a year is always quite impressive, and we need be thankful.

It is not a job that they do for the money, for sure.

So Gadfly begins this day with a tip o’ the hat in their direction.

He very much appreciates those who step up, who fight the good fight.

Here is President Waldron reading that 2020 annual report (8 mins.):

But always of interest as well as the report is any comments the president takes this ritual moment to make.

After reflecting on the past and on the brink of the new beginning, what’s on the president’s mind as the year turns?

For President Waldron, his focus was on Council interaction.

He was talking to his fellow Council members.

In regard to space to speak, President Waldron said he would “never be stricter than necessary for the good of the meeting,” that it was important to hear all perspectives, especially those you don’t agree with.

But he called attention to the negative effect of repetition and indicated that Council members should speak no more than twice on any issue (a Roberts’ rule?), except under new business, where the rules are more flexible.

Council members should avoid personal insults, attacks, name calling, be respectful of the time of others, not be combative.

With an eye to the local campaign season upon us, President Waldron said he would work “to keep politics outside of the room.”

With an eye to the national scene we are all suffering from, President Waldron issued a “call for civility,” suggesting that we could model a thoughtful way to run our business.

As we move forward, President Waldron called for the civility, decorum, and respect lacking on the national level.

A “call for civility.” The words resonate strongly with Gadfly after the long night of the Georgia election and on the morning of this day in which we expect another bleepshow at the national level.

Please.  Good conversation can build community. And a better sense of community in our wider world is obviously what we need.

President Waldron’s comments (7 mins.):

———-

Gadfly will add that he appreciates the flexibility and respect and sometimes necessary patience that President Waldron exhibits toward we public commenters and empathizes with his attempts to be fair to a colleague who can be stubborn and repetitive.

Bethlehem City Council meetings tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 5, 6:30PM and 7PM

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 5, Committee of the Whole at 6:30 and regular Council meeting at 7PM.

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

————

6:30PM: Committee of the Whole meeting:

  • on My Bethlehem PA – New City Service App

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Of interest:

  • resolution by Councilwoman Negron to support a Senator Casey initiative to “help bring about racial justice and reduce the number of police interactions involving people with disabilities, often people of color.”

And there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

———–

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 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 2:00 PM on the day of the meeting: (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.

Thinking about the primary election

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

The last post got me thinking.

Mayor Donchez can’t run again. He’s in the 8th inning of his second term. Still a good bit of time to go. And there will be important things for him to do. He won’t be checking out.

But attention will inevitably turn in the next few months to the next Administration.

Gadfly posted the post below back in September.

Expectation seems to be that Councilmen Callahan and Reynolds will run for Mayor.

And who might be standing on the sidelines with hat in hand poised to throw?

And the terms of current Council members Callahan, Cramspsie Smith, Negron, and Waldron are up in 2021.

Potential for a lot of turnover.

Could/should be lively election.

Gadfly wondered in the post below where are the Republicans in this town? And Independents? And African Americans? And Latinx? And women? And LGBTQ?

Even if current election chances are slim, one could hope for candidates from such constituencies to gain experience for future elections.

Maybe more importantly right now, perhaps we should be thinking about what the key issues and priorities should be for our candidates.

Gadfly would welcome your thinking in this regard.

What needs to be done?

What do you want to see on the platforms for candidates in the May primary?

———–

Originally posted September 29, 2020

Where are the Republicans?

Or Independents?

Gadfly is jogged to ask by this post in Bernie O’Hare’s “Lehigh Valley Ramblings” the other day about the “Bethlehem Democratic Party Machine.”

Hoping to provide a beneficial public service, Gadfly plans to help people be the best informed voters they can be by providing info on all the candidates in next spring’s election.

He’s hoping there will be several Democratic candidates for Mayor, and scuttlebutt indicates there will be.

But where are the Republicans in this town? And Independents? And African Americans? And Latinx? And women? And LGBTQ?

Gadfly hopes for competition, for choice.

That’s the kind of thing we gadflies live for.

Especially as he plans to retire Election Day +1.

Wants to go out with some drama!

Alan Jennings: “There is too much to do”

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

We turned the corner. New year. Time for resolutions. Setting agendas. Mayoral and Councilpersonic elections coming into view. Platforms forming. Gadfly welcomes essays like this. Getting us thinking. What needs to be done? What is it on which we’d like to see local government working?

selections from Alan Jennings, “Strap in Lehigh Valley, we have things to do.” Morning Call, January 3, 2020.

Well, that was the year from hell. Certainly, the worst of my 62.

Let’s just try to move on. There is too much to do.

To be sure, our most challenging problems are national in scope . . .

But there are a ton of issues right here in our own little once-green spot on the planet we call the Lehigh Valley. Here is what you can expect the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley to pursue.

The big project is the completion of a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion. For many months, now, dozens of people from the nonprofit, for-profit and public sectors have been crafting a strategy to finally unlock the doors that have kept far too many from accessing economic opportunity.

It will include better access to markets for minority-owned businesses, elimination of cash bail and other criminal justice reforms, testing (some call it “secret shoppers”) various groups to ensure they are treating people the same regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak, more participation on boards of directors, and much, much more.

This should be a game-changer, folks.

The condition of our housing stock needs an enormous amount of funding to bring it up to modern (meaning habitable) standards. We are dramatically expanding our work in this area.

The efficiency of COVID-19 in its destruction of small businesses will open many opportunities for new businesses in this market. CACLV has tripled its small business coaching and lending capacity.

The Lehigh Valley has successfully transitioned from an industrial economy to a broader, more diverse economy; and, yet, we have not lost the identity and culture of that past. We have a lot of “hip” going on, with ArtsQuest leading the way. Allentown’s downtown revitalization, the Easton vibe, Bethlehem’s gentility and other factors make it a real, live, developing culture with an enviable quality of life.

We’ve got colleges, top-notch health care systems, a business community that is refreshingly progressive. Even the Chamber CEO is a closet liberal (couldn’t help outing you, Tony).

We’ve got Musikfest (I hope), minor league hockey and baseball teams and a top-notch sports and concert arena.

But we aren’t good enough. With one in eight Lehigh County residents and one in 11 Northampton County residents living below the poverty line, and a marketplace that is merciless, too many are being left behind.

The unaffordability of housing in this market and its substandard condition is worse than a crisis — it’s a disaster. It is a public health problem by causing asthma and lead poisoning. It is an education problem by forcing families to move frequently, disrupting the rhythm of their lives, especially the kids’ educations. And if the schools struggle to teach, it becomes a community development issue if people of means don’t want to live here.

Check this out: 79% of white children who live in suburban communities take the college entrance exams (SAT or ACT). Just 8% of urban Latinos take the exams, and a particularly shocking 4% of urban African Americans take them. Those three data points are all we need to understand why color and class are almost synonymous in the Lehigh Valley; they also explain tidily why there is so much income and wealth disparity in our society.

The weaknesses in our behavioral health services, from detox and residential rehab to the critical shortage of psychiatrists, are known by all, including our two, big systems. COVID-19 is a roll-the-dice complication to all these issues.

A fire in the fire department

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

At the December 15 City Council meeting during the discussion of ordinance 8A — Adopting the 2021 General Fund Budget — Councilwoman Crampsie Smith alluded to an email about internal dissension in the Fire Department.

Here’s what she said (2 mins.):

“I proposed my amendment with my concern about eliminating four firefighter positions . . . and that did not pass . . . but I would ask . . . the administration to take note that we all received an email from . . . a concerned citizen . . . that was forwarded to Robert Brooks who is First Vice President of the Firefighters Local . . . I don’t know the facts, but some of the information is a little alarming . . . It sounds like what concerns me because, again, because our Public Safety, whether policemen, firemen, EMTs or whatever . . . they are the backbone of our community and assuring that our community is safe . . . and from this memo it sounds like there is a lot of dissension . . . regarding the Fire Chief at this point . . . and I would request that the Administration would sit down and try to broker with those two entities . . . to see if we can try to resolve these issues . . . as Mr. Brooks notes that the morale in the Fire department is at an all time low . . . and we all know that if the morale is low in any department . . . that certainly can affect the quality of work . . . and we’re talking about people who deal with life and death safety issues . . . I would be more than willing to help mediate . . . I do that every day . . . I do feel that this issue be addressed . . . We are looking at a department in our city that is responsible for the safety of our citizens . . . and if there is morale and tension in the department it needs to be addressed.”

At the time the Councilwoman’s comments were a mystery, to be sure. Gadfly had no idea what she was talking about. And the subject dropped, no one else responded.

The issue seemed to be a mixture of budget and personnel, and Gadfly knows from his short experience that personnel matters are not usually discussed in open meetings.

Lacking better information, Gadfly said nothing to you when doing his review of the meeting, but he sought a copy of the email through the Right-to-Know process.

See the linked documents:

Fire Department email

What you’ll find is an email from “Concerned Citizen” to Union official Brooks dated 3:25 December 15, the day of the City Council meeting, with an attached document titled “Fact Checking the Fire Chief.”

Brooks then forwarded “Concerned Citizen’s” email to the members of City Council at 3:49, in time to be read before the 7PM meeting if the Councilors were checking their email in timely fashion.

In his transmittal message, Brooks lamented the way Council members deferred to the Chief’s acquiescence to the cuts of the 4 firefighters at the November 9 budget hearing, said that department morale is “at an all time low,” and asked Council to “reconsider” its position on cutting the 4 firefighters till it understood the firefighter position on the impact of those cuts.

“Concerned Citizen’s” attachment is 4 pages of correcting false or misleading statements the Chief made at the November 9 budget meeting, concluding that the Chief “deliberately misinformed” Council to justify the personnel cuts.

Whew!

So now Councilwoman Crampsie Smith’s comments are demystified only to have the issue mystified again:

  • Why did “Concerned Citizen” wait from November 9 to December 15 to make this damning report, when it was virtually too late for a change?
  • Why did Councilwoman Crampsie Smith not seize on the allegation of false information from the Chief to renew her attempt to save the firefighter positions?
  • Why was there no response to this allegation of deliberate misinformation from Councilman Callahan, who previously also tried to save the positions, especially since he specifically asked about Fire Department morale on November 9 in what turned out to be a very awkward interchange with the Chief? Check it, see what you think (video at min. 1:09:50).
  • Why did no other Council members respond to the allegations?
  • Was it because there is an understanding among Council members that there would be no budget changes at this late date (the budget has to be approved by the end of the year, and December 15 was the last meeting)?
  • For what it’s worth — and it might not be much — Gadfly remembers thinking on November 9 that the Chief’s presentation and responses seemed lackadaisical, like one who has been put in a tough position, defending something — the 4 cuts — he really didn’t believe in (see the Chief in meeting video at min. 3:35 and min. 13:15 and especially min. 26:09). That would make the Chief a victim of the budget process rather than a participator.

What do you think will happen next on this front?

A change in Fire Department leadership?

Anything?

Police chaperone fee when alcohol is served is questioned

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Another issue involving the police, marginally, was also raised at the December 15 City Council meeting.

A City policy requiring a police officer present at events on City property at which alcohol is served is apparently under review.

The cost is $50/hr. for an officer to be present.

The crux of the issue is the financial impact on non-profits.

Mary Toulouse spoke against the policy on behalf of the Mt. Airy Neighborhood Association/Rose Garden Farmers Market, and Jp Jordan and Christopher Schorr spoke against the policy on behalf of Touchstone Theatre.

For Ms. Toulouse, the issue was a vendor (and a Bethlehem merchant at that) at the Farmers Market selling alcohol for home consumption, not at the market. The cost for a policeman would have been $200 per Saturday for 20 weeks . Ms. Toulouse ultimately argued successfully with the City for an exemption this year, but it sounded like she might have to argue similarly next year, and, in any event, she felt “threatened” by the police in her interaction over the fee. Ms. Toulouse spoke against the policy both for herself and other groups in similar situations.

The issue for Touchstone was selling alcohol at events for consumption there. Mr. Jordan described the different situation elsewhere in cities at which the theater troupe performed and suggested it might be a “cultural issue” here in Bethlehem (close to being a sin tax). Mr. Schorr argued the difference between a large entrepreneur who sold alcohol at events to make money, and to whom hiring a policeman was an acceptable cost of doing business, and the cost to a non-profit simply trying to make expenses and for whom a policeman might account for 50% of the profits. Au contraire, said Mr. Schorr, the City should be trying to “incentivize” the non-profits.

Neither the reason for the policy nor its duration (a remnant of Pa. blue laws?) was given, so it’s hard for Gadfly to judge the merits of the policy, but Gadfly can tell you the three residents made good sense.

One more thing, though, that intersects with wider police discussions.

Ms. Toulouse remembered a time of community policing that West Side neighbors still remember positively and fondly — nostalgia for a neighborhood beat officer they all knew and — speaking to the issue at hand — one who could visit the Farmers Market in the due course of his or her beat work. Councilwoman Negron gave this idea legs as well.

Gadfly has heard others  — he thinks especially of resident Lisa Rosa — who speak fondly of this past successful version of community policing and urge its return. Such comments always confuse Gadfly since the department describes itself as already doing “community policing” on the City web site: “The Bethlehem Police Department is structured using the community policing philosophy and is committed to community and police partnership. The department structure has three divisions: Patrol, Criminal Investigations and Professional Standards.”

There’s confusion somewhere.

There must be different definitions of community policing.

Gadfly’s thinking on this subject is no doubt influenced by his Norman Rockwell image of the idyllic small town with its friendly police, but he must admit that he would like to see this form of community policing discussed in the promised meetings early in the new year.

Mary Toulouse (8 mins.):

Jp Jordan (5 mins.):

Christopher Schorr (5 mins.):

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 15, 7PM

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 15 at 7PM.

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

————

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Of interest:

  • We hope to have from the Mayor and Chief Kott the community engagement plan Councilman Reynolds asked for
  • 2021 budget gets finalized
  • student housing
  • housing inspections

And there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

———–

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 December 1, 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 2:00 PM on December 15, 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.

Require Crisis training on a par with shooting training!

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

610-252-9060

In the event that you are experiencing a mental health crisis, Northampton County Information, Referral and Emergency Services Department is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Crisis department can be reached at 610-252-9060 .

ref: What are the alternatives to calling the police?

Good ideas here from the good Councilwoman.

  • require Crisis training on a par with shooting training!
  • publicize County CRISIS contact info!

Gadfly would just mention again a list/flyer/poster of all the various phone numbers for help (like CRISIS) of various kinds like the Minneapolis example cited previously.

————

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 10:50 AM

To: Donchez, Robert J <RDonchez@bethlehem-pa.gov>; Kott, Michelle L <mkott@bethlehem-pa.gov>

Good morning!

Last week I had a great conversation with Sue the director of Northampton County Human Services. They have been doing training for first responders across the county called Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) and here is the flyer of what it covers. They offered the training 3 times per year and it’s a 6 hours training which includes de-escalation with individuals with a mental health crisis. I know the chief mentioned training with the county but it sounded to me as something informal. That’s why I reached out to learn more about it. I would like to know how often our officers are getting this training? Can it be set that it’s required training every so often? Just like it’s mandated to have officers practice in the shooting range twice per year, day and night time, which I understand it’s extremely important, we should also make the CIT a required training and not just once and done!

They also have a direct line for CRISIS (610-829-HELP) which I was familiar with and I know that members of our community that are receiving mental health or drug and alcohol treatment are very familiar with this number as well as their close family members but those in our community not in that loop (not receiving treatment with county) don’t know about the number or the service. The 829-HELP number is answered 24-7!

Even though this is a county service, I’m wondering if we can share the number and service on our city’s website, perhaps on the police and health bureau pages? Perhaps is a number that members of the Service Center should also be familiar with (maybe they are, I don’t know) and sharing it with callers as appropriate? It could also be included in the new City App? Lehigh County does have a CRISIS number as well 610-782-3127.

In my mind there is no need to re-invent the wheel but we need to do whatever we can for our constituents to know about services available to them.

Councilwoman Olga Negrón

Lots for Council to think about

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Dear Council members:

I attempted to call in to the council meeting at least eight times Tuesday night, from both cell and landline with the same “mailbox full“ message that I’ve never received before. (This format is more appropriate but I’m sorry to say it won’t be five minutes.)

I too am grateful for the real protection – and assistance – I have received from police in my lifetime. It has not been little. And I Appreciate so many citizens engaging Tuesday.  And for your dedication.

There were many anecdotes and feelings expressed about proper police funding and, while anecdotes matter because we must value/validate our neighbors’ lives, in order to decide an issue that affects so many – so seriously, nothing less than science is sufficient, where it exists.  And while science is not perfect, it has the ability to clarify. Lehigh’s Professor Ochs, (worthy of much better treatment than she has received) presented bits at the Community Engagement Initiative in the jarringly little time afforded her and by some Tuesday night citing the lack of causality between money and safety …and more.

Sadly, the conversation about funding police appropriately, based on scientific research – not anecdote – doesn’t seem to have taken place here in our previously forward thinking city.

Can you prove the many people wrong who have spoken TO you and can you share the details of the thorough discussion you’ve had? And then continue to involve residents in it, rather than shut it down surreptitiously? Topics of such profound importance should not be rushed.

It is our obligation to those whose families and communities carry the concrete consequences of 400 years of horrific oppression that took place here but also whose deep veins still throb with its legacy today, keeping the progeny of many – and our entire community – buried in its inequity and far from our best. It is our obligation to repeat these facts until made right. Doing right and righting wrong is our responsibility.

The citizenry is owed some answers regarding the proper treatment of this invasive issue.

1)What are the notes and result of the CEI initiative? Where are they shared? What has council gleaned from the repeated calls on the topic? Is a city TRANSCRIPT of calls (in addition to the Gadfly’s considerable effort) published for reference?

2)All people deserve to know the process of the budget consideration and of your decision making. Does council consider it radical, as suggested by some citizens, to ask that the police budget be evaluated and the process and results shared? Are police policies now and in perpetuity made public?

3)HOW did you decide to increase police funding? Was it as simple as, “We increase it every year per COL so do it again”? THIS is as important to many as the funding itself and arguably more important as it speaks to the transparency and health of our city government.

So, was the DISCUSSION completed and, if not, continue it, out of respect and obligation to ALL in the city.

Finally, 4) Broad outgoing communication like ease of access to city information for many does not seem to be a priority. Why not?

Variable electronic message boards (on highways) have been used since 1950 at the earliest. And text messaging technology has been mainstream for 15-20 years. Have you considered the efficacy of these and to what end? And if not, why not?

For instance, other than print newspaper and the city website, why do we not publicize data, decisions, upcoming meetings and agendas that affect everyone more widely to engage a larger portion of the electorate? Or, if we do, how?

It would be enlightening, for example, for residents to find the following on a digital message board (while crossing the Hill to Hill or the Minsi Trail, or on 4th St, Hayes St, Center St, Schoenersville, 8th Ave, or entering public buildings): “Next City Council Mtg Tues, Dec 15, 7PM. Listen on YouTube and call in starting at 7:05 with your concerns at 610….” or “The 2020 and proposed 2021 police budgets numbers are…., an increase of 3%”, or “City council’s reasoning for maintaining the police budget is explained at the City website under news”. You’ve sat through the call in sessions this year. You know the importance.

Or mass text messaging via a Remind.com type app? Or another? Imagine the reach and simplicity?

As I’ve mentioned this before without treatment, I’m imagining that it sounds ridiculous to some of you, and that’s upsetting. (I posed the question twice during call-ins and in the Gadfly blog.)

You must be aware that most institutions use such messaging boards and text messaging. (Our school buildings use them.)

Sure, I love navigating the city website to the narrow nested openings for budget or council meetings and then plumbing docs such as the budget for a few high impact numbers, but not everyone does.  Hard to believe! I know.

Don’t you want the public more engaged, especially the young that so many either hope for or complain about? Wouldn’t you  rather residents be more educated on city matters?

Thanks for your commitment. I look forward to your response(s)!

Truly,

Greg Zahm

PS

Also hard to believe, Allentown has had recycling containers in high pedestrian traffic areas of the city for years but Bethlehem STILL hasn’t done this – even on Main Street. When I spoke with the (now deceased, bless him) recycling office director some years ago he explained that the historic oversight board said it was too expensive to obtain historically appropriate containers. (They were around $900 each, I believe.) Yes, that’s a lot. But what alternatives have been considered to remedy this missed opportunity?

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 1, 7PM

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 1 at 7PM.

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

————

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

  • The Wage Equity Ordinance is up for final approval.
  • Retired Chief DiLuzio will receive a citation.
  • Nothing else of note visible from the agenda.

We may see a flood of callers from the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance against any cuts to the police department budget.

And there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

———–

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 December 1, 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 2:00 PM on December 1, 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.

The TIF — a “big deal” — ends

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Selected from Christina Tatu, “The tax incentive that gave rise to much of SteelStacks is set to expire.” Morning Call, November 19, 2020.

The taxing district that transformed the former Bethlehem Steel plant into the multimillion-dollar SteelStacks campus is ending this month.

The Tax Incremental Financing District, which Bethlehem created 20 years ago to jump-start redevelopment of the industrial land, expired Sunday.

Over the past two decades, real estate taxes derived from development in the TIF — namely the casino owned by Wind Creek — were diverted to build infrastructure and public amenities such as the Bethlehem Landing visitors center, Hoover-Mason Trestle and the plazas at the SteelStacks campus.

The money also contributed to site remediation at Five 10 Flats, an apartment and commercial project on East Third Street.

“The TIF is a big deal. In the end it provided great amenities and infrastructure for the city,” said Eric Evans, the city’s business administrator. “Even now, looking at the crystal ball, there’s so much opportunity for that property. We are all really pleased with where we’ve gotten in 20 years.”

Now the city’s Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the TIF, is allocating the remaining $1.2 million from the program. The latest projects won’t be as flashy as those that transformed the former blast furnaces into a tourist destination, but they will maintain the SteelStacks campus that sees 1 million visitors a year, said the authority’s executive director, Tony Hanna.

Over the past two decades, real estate taxes derived from development in the TIF — namely the casino owned by Wind Creek — were diverted to build infrastructure and public amenities such as the Bethlehem Landing visitors center, Hoover-Mason Trestle and the plazas at the SteelStacks campus.

The money also contributed to site remediation at Five 10 Flats, an apartment and commercial project on East Third Street.

“The TIF is a big deal. In the end it provided great amenities and infrastructure for the city,” said Eric Evans, the city’s business administrator. “Even now, looking at the crystal ball, there’s so much opportunity for that property. We are all really pleased with where we’ve gotten in 20 years.”

Now the city’s Redevelopment Authority, which oversees the TIF, is allocating the remaining $1.2 million from the program. The latest projects won’t be as flashy as those that transformed the former blast furnaces into a tourist destination, but they will maintain the SteelStacks campus that sees 1 million visitors a year, said the authority’s executive director, Tony Hanna.

The final allocation includes money to replace LED streetlights for the SteelStacks campus; road improvements and new brick paving on First Street and Founders Way around the Levitt Pavilion, ArtsQuest Center and PBS 39; maintenance to the Hoover-Mason Trestle, new landscaping in the median at Founders Way and money for the new plaza at the National Museum of Industrial History.

The authority is also using the money to make repairs to the Visitor Center at SteelStacks. The former stock house, which dates to 1863 and once held supplies for the blast furnaces, needs repairs to the roof, brick exterior and some windows. Water has been seeping in for the past 10 years and offices on the upper level were damaged, Hanna said. The repairs will cost $131,500.

Another significant portion of the money — $500,000 — will offset costs the Bethlehem Parking Authority incurred for the purchase of a parking lot that will be used for the Polk Street Parking Garage, although that project is on hold.

The TIF has raised more than $100 million for public improvements to the 125-acre section of the former Bethlehem Steel plant, roughly between the Fahy and Minsi Trail bridges.

Could Bethlehem renew the TIF? Maybe.

City officials are weighing their options for the area, but it likely won’t be another TIF, said Alicia Miller Karner, director of community and economic development.

Good news from Councilwomen Crampsie Smith and Negron

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

 

Two great developments announced at the November 17 City Council meeting:

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith (2 mins.)

  • The Councilwoman is focused on homelessness and the housing crisis and has been meeting with people throughout the state, Alan Jennings, and Alicia Karner and announced the first meeting of the Bethlehem Affordable Housing Task Force (members include people from non-profits, financial institutions, city government, developers, etc.) to address the issue of lack of affordable housing and rental properties within the City with a goal of bringing ideas “to the table” by April. Fantastic!

Councilwoman Negron (2 mins.)

  • The Councilwoman has facilitated a meeting with the Mayor and Chief Kott with Pinebrook Family Services that has been doing work with the Allentown Police Department — with the goal of perhaps working together relative to the new plan by the Police and the Health Bureau to link a social worker to Police activities. Fantastic!

Your tax dollars at work!

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday, November 17, 7PM

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 17 at 7PM.

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

———–

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

  • contract for Pedestrian Bridge Feasibility Study is up for approval
  • John Filipos is up for reappointment to the Bethlehem Revitalization and Improvement Authority; we hope for scrutiny of reappointments
  • Councilman Callahan’s Wage Equality Ordinance is up for first reading

But there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

———–

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 November 17, 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 2:00 PM on November 17, 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.

City Stormwater meeting Tuesday 5:30

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

CITY OF BETHLEHEM TO HOST PUBLIC MEETING ON PROPOSED STORMWATER UTILITY FEE

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 17, 5:30 P.M., VIRTUAL
Date: November 17, 2020
Time: 5:30 pm
Location: Microsoft Teams Meeting
Who: All

City of Bethlehem to host public meeting on proposed Stormwater Utility Fee

The City of Bethlehem will host an online information session on Tuesday, November 17, to provide information regarding the development of the City’s proposed Stormwater Utility Fee.   To maximize accessibility, the 60-minute virtual meeting will be held at 5:30 PM at the following web address:

Microsoft Teams meeting
Join on your computer or mobile app
Click here to join the meeting
Or call in (audio only)
+1 281-810-1627,,615801156#   United States, Houston
(866) 670-1764,,615801156#   United States (Toll-free)
Phone Conference ID: 615 801 156#
Find a local number | Reset PIN

Bethlehem will address its current and growing stormwater management responsibilities. These issues include local flooding and stream health as well as the challenge of maintaining aging storm sewer infrastructure across the City. Additionally, we will discuss increasing permit requirements placed on the City through EPA and PADEP.   Bethlehem has developed a plan on how to effectively update its current stormwater program to address these issues. We are now discussing how these improvements will be sustainably financed. We believe that it is critical that the public is aware of the City’s stormwater management activities and challenges; and how we anticipate property owners to participate in working with the City to address them.

Kudos for Health Director Wenrich

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Posting on Moravian’s virus situation, reminded Gadfly of Councilman Reynolds taking a few moments out after Health Director Kristen Wenrich’s presentation at the November 9 budget meeting to praise her for the good work she’s done during this pandemic mess.

Nicely done and worth a listen.

photo credit lehighvalleylive.com

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night Wednesday, November 4, 7PM

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 4, at 7PM.

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

———–

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Frankly, the agenda looks pretty tame. That might be a blessing. The election’s liable to drain us all.

But there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

———–

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 November 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 2:00 PM on November 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.

New document to review before tonight’s Council Committee of the Whole mtg 6pm

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Meeting documents and call-in instructions
view meeting here

See previously distributed meeting documents through the link above.

Here is a quite interesting and informative document — a comprehensive list of Police Department community programs, collaboration with other city departments, and collaboration with outside organizations — just made available this afternoon.

10-29 Committee of the Whole mtg – BPD

Gadfly likes this. An audit of bridges to the world outside the Police Department designed to provide evidence of trust-building, community-building activities.

But not all the bullets are about current activity.

For instance, this bullet under the Health Department heading jumps out at Gadfly as a new activity:

Social worker/police collaboration
o Pilot program being implemented this November
o Will consist of a social worker from the Health Department working closely with members of the police department to ensure that community members have access to the social service programs/resources they need
o This collaboration will also result in members of the police department receiving yearly training in areas such as de-escalation, emotional and social intelligence, and crisis intervention

Now the narrative for tonight’s meeting is taking shape!

Gadfly excited.

Take a look before the meeting.

10-29 Committee of the Whole mtg – BPD

Thursday, October 29, 2020

6:00 PM – Town Hall

Committee of the Whole Meeting

Subject:  Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/

Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development

City Council Committee of the Whole meeting Tomorrow Thursday 6pm

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Meeting documents and call-in instructions
view meeting here

See meeting documents through the link above. No explanation. Gadfly is still not exactly sure what the purpose of this meeting is.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

6:00 PM – Town Hall

Committee of the Whole Meeting

Subject:  Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/

Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development

Bethlehem City Council meeting tonight Tuesday, October 20, 7PM

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tonight Tuesday, October 20, at 7PM.

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

———–

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Of interest to Gadfly:

  • possibly hearing what the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting is all about
  • possibly hearing more about the Community Engagement Initiative
  • the exec director of the Bethlehem Parking Authority reports on doings

And there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

———–

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 October 20, 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 2:00 PM on October 20, 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.

Some notes on last night’s Committee of the Whole meeting on Capital Projects

Latest in a series of posts on the City Budget

Capital Project documents

City Council met as a Committee of the Whole last night, discussing the Capital Project documents linked above — no votes were taken.

This meeting went smoothly, and Gadfly understands that this ground will be covered again during the budget hearings that begin in November.

Some notes perhaps of interest:

  • Memorial pool: in great shape, final punch list being completed, on schedule to open in spring
  • Greenway: that section to the ball fields at the north-end of Saucon Park is planned to be completed next year
  • Sidewalks: substantial work planned for Southside, priority is doing worst shape first
  • Rose Garden: divided into a phase #1 and phase #2, phase #1 had to be scaled back a bit, but construction will begin shortly and be completed this season
  • Roads: we have 258 miles of streets, there’s a substantial re-surfacing back-log, $18m worth, we have averaged about $1m a year for last 5-10 yrs. on this, the biggest obstacle to catching up is funding

There was a bit of discussion on the conversions of Linden and Center streets to two-way. PennDOT involvement is far out (2030s), so the City is trying to get something done earlier. Linden St. is the priority: shorter span and benefit to commercial properties along it.

The Mayor announced that next year’s budget will be available November 15.

Bethlehem City Council meeting tonight Tuesday, October 6, both at 6PM and 7PM

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

 6PM: Click for public comment instructions, agenda, and etc.!

7PM: Click for public comment instructions, agenda, and etc.!

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tonight Tuesday, October 6, at both 6PM and 7PM.

You can find all the information that you need to follow along and participate through the links above.

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

———–

6PM: Committee of the Whole

(Committee of the Whole: the whole membership of a legislative house sitting as a committee and operating under informal rules.)

How’s our money being spent?

The budget might be thought of as, bottom line, the most important thing Council does.

Council will be discussing the 2021 – 2025 Capital Budget. See documents here.

Find spending plans on public safety, traffic, streets, storm sewers, facilities, grounds, recreation, miscellaneous projects.

The beginning pages give dollar figures, followed by narrative explanation.

You might want to scan the narrative part.

Of interest to Gadfly:

  • South New St. streetscape, construction 2021 (p. 2)
  • Exploring conversion of Linden (the priority) and Center to 2-way (p. 3)
  • Northside 2027 Pedestrian Safety Improvements (p. 3)
  • Greenway extension (p. 9)
  • Rose Garden improvements (p. 9)
  • Citywide Wayfinding signage (p. 11)


7PM: The regularly scheduled normal Council meeting

Of interest to Gadfly:

  • Appointment of Michelle Kott as Chief of Police
  • Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative
  • Zoning amendment regarding a Retirement Complex at 2105 Creek Rd.

And there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.

Looking forward to Tuesday night’s Council meeting

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Gadfly’s looking forward to Tuesday night’s City Council meeting hoping to hear more discussion on public safety and the Community Engagement Initiative.

You know that Gadfly’s loins lept to hear Councilman Reynolds say “The Community Engagement Initiative is [about] looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.”

Now there’s a vision of the city to resuscitate the idealism of an old Hippie.

Now there’s a vision of the city to wake up a complacent public.

Now there’s a vision of the city to hang a mayoral campaign on.

Gadfly was so enthused that he envisioned (ever so tongue-in-cheek) here and here a new or an additional brand for us: “Bethlehem, the Anti-Racist City.”

Bethlehem, not just a non-racist city but an anti-racist city. We know the difference, right?

So Gadfly is looking forward to hearing more discussion on public safety and the Community Engagement Initiative with an eye toward advancing the “audaciously ambitious” (Gadfly’s eloquence!) goal of ending systemic racism and creating an equitable city.

Because it’s not like systemic racism (which you know began a good 600 years ago if you attended the recent BAPL “Courageous Conversation”) is running out of steam.

The inability of a high-level important person that we all know to unequivocally condemn White Supremacy Tuesday night is a gauge of racism’s vitality.

So we must do something.

And our post-GeorgeFloyd record so far to Gadfly’s way of thinking and Gadfly’s visibility has not been impressive.

Of course, the departure of the police chief surely was an unfortunate occurrence for planning purposes.

New Chief Kott will be confirmed Tuesday night. Thank god for her stepping up. These days the professional life of a police chief is as uncertain as a B-29 pilot in WWII. There will probably be well deserved celebratory speeches. Gadfly wishes her well.

There will be congratulations. There should also be challenges. The one part of a Public Safety meeting devoted to the police department did not seem near enough. Followers know that Gadfly has been putting himself through a self-tutorial on police practices and procedures. Most recently a forum organized by a Law Enforcement organization that gave him much to think about, which he shared with you. The installation of Chief Kott marks a new beginning. She may give a speech Tuesday. But Gadfly thinks the new Chief should be invited to a meeting in which she lays out her ideas on a variety of specific matters of current concern. Her syllabus might include training, use of violence, accountability, diversity hiring, internal discipline, bias, transparency, public reporting, community relations, community policing. She’s a fresh Ph.D. She should be “locked and loaded” for such a discussion. Now is the time for a thorough examination of the department.

Gadfly has said that the city’s post-GeorgeFloyd record has not been impressive.

Let’s review.

A selected timeline.

May 25: George Floyd died.

May 31: The Mayor made a statement. It’s a good statement, but it does not indicate anything need be done locally in response to the murder.

June 3: The Police Chief made a statement. It’s a good statement, but it does not indicate anything should or will be done locally.

June 16: We learn of the Mayor participating with the NAACP in a Community Advisory Board, the details of which have always been sketchy.

June 16: We learn of a proposed meeting on the police use of violence and a proposed Community Engagement Initiative.

July 7: Community Engagement Initiative resolution passes.

August 11: Public Safety Committee open meeting on the police and the CEI.

September 18: We learn of a Committee of the Whole meeting October 29 on “Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development.” No details. Is this related to post-GeorgeFloyd concerns?

October 29: If the Committee of the Whole meeting is on post-GeorgeFloyd concerns, it will be 5 months past the event.

So Gadfly will now make his mentors in Gadfly Academy proud:

There was no initial recognition from the Mayor and Chief that the murder might be an occasion for self-assessment. It took 11 weeks to get to the August 11 Public Safety meeting. The August 11 agenda was too big for one meeting. It does not appear that the meeting was adequately publicized: some callers indicated that that they heard about it late and by chance through social media. Some people who had signed up to speak didn’t get to speak because of their placement on a program that went — predictably — late. Approximately 27 members of the public did speak, vigorously and about evenly split — indicating considerable public interest, but the meeting ended with no indication of what the next step by the city would be. There seemed to be no forethought of what the next step in a process of discussion perhaps leading to city action would be. In the August 18, September 1, and September 15 Council meetings (Gadfly would be glad to be corrected on this), the only references to the August 11 discussion were a brief reference to a meeting with Lehigh prof Ochs on her research on local policing sometime in the fall and a remark by one Councilperson, purpose of which seemed to be to start a dispute and which was thankfully cut off by the Council president. Gadfly would have thought that good management procedure would have been to tell the eager public on August 11 what the next step would be, to take time under new business August 18 for Council members, as a matter of respect to the 27 callers and the large number of others attending on livestream, to reflect on what they heard, well, to indicate that they had heard. Without that respectful response, why would anybody engage again? Now we have a meeting October 29 which, as far as Gadfly knows, and he tries to keep his antennae up, may or may not have anything to do with post-GeorgeFloyd matters.

So there’s bitchy Gadfly’s case for feeling that our record so far in responding to the national reckoning on race is not impressive.

And he looks forward to hearing more Tuesday.

As usual, Gadfly invites your response, even if it’s a slap upside the head.

“We are at an important moment in our community’s history,
and we have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.”
Anna Smith