City Council meeting tomorrow night!

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Out of an abundance of caution about the virus, Gadfly will not be attending in person. There goes his chance for the Perfect Attendance award.

Government regulations are changing seemingly by the hour, so look for updates about this meeting tomorrow.

We are not encouraged to attend per this note on the meeting web page:

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we encourage you to watch the meeting on YouTube. 

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

These meetings are video-recorded and 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.”

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

But see here President Waldron’s Saturday communique about modifications in the agenda because of the virus. Reports from City officials on the virus are planned.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly will always urge attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

He wants you to participate, to be informed.

But use good judgment during these virus times.

Gadfly is staying home.

Social distancing at City Council?

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City Council is meeting tomorrow night as regularly scheduled. But we are encouraged not to be there per this note on the meeting web page:

Due to the COVID-19 public health emergency, we encourage you to watch the meeting on YouTube.

Will the Councillors engage in social distancing like we are seeing as the new norm?

I imagine them taking advantage of Town Hall’s rondure and sitting wide apart like, in Emerson’s phrase, “the gods on their mountains around Olympus.”

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President Waldron fills us in on Tuesday’s Council meeting

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Tip o’ the hat to President Waldron for filling us in on the upcoming Council meeting in timely fashion.

We currently are still planning on having our meeting on Tuesday. Third class city code requires we have two physical meetings per month that are open to the public. The YouTube stream will be up and running. As long as we have at least 4 members of Council and a clerk the meeting can go on.  We are doing our best to balance public safety and accessibility. We have eliminated our public speaking sign-in sheet but will have full public comment.

As of now, Director of Emergency Management Bob Novatnack and Health Bureau Director Kristen Wenrich will be at the meeting to give Council an update of the efforts the City is taking to respond to Covid-19.

The Creek Road rezoning has been pulled from the agenda by the applicant. We are also in discussion to postpone the short term lodging ordinance and zoning text amendment. This action would require re-advertising and starting the process over. We are working towards finding the balance of accessibility and safety.   During such trying and unsure times Council, the Clerks, and all the city Administration are considering all prudent actions to remain operational, while minimizing risk and potential exposure to all residents and employees of the City.

Adam Waldron
City Council President

City Council meeting tomorrow night!

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Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, March 3, Town Hall, at 7PM.

These meetings are video-recorded and 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.”

Find the Council agenda and supporting documents here.

Looks interesting: a Public Hearing on short term lodging; committee report of short term lodging and rentals; committee report on the proposed wage equality ordinance; committee report on the marijuana ordinance; and first reading of the residential renter ordinance.

And there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

Participate. Be informed.

Marijuana enforcement differential comes to committee tomorrow

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Nate Jastrzemski, “Southside marijuana charges uneven.” Bethlehem Press, February 17, 2020.

More than a year ago Bethlehem passed a marijuana decriminalization ordinance giving police the discretion to charge people arrested for possession of a small amount of marijuana either under the harsh federal statute or the less severe City ordinance comparable to receiving a traffic ticket.

‘Twas wondered from the beginning how the ordinance would be applied since the Lehigh County District Attorney wanted all cases to be charged under the federal statute. Creating the potential for a boundary dispute. Charged one way one side of the street, another way on the other.

But there’s another issue too.

In December Southside District Judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez published a letter calling attention to the fact that Lehigh University police were charging Lehigh students under the lesser penalty while by-and-large the Bethlehem police were using the federal statute — what she saw as a problem for her dispensing fair and equal justice.

Lehigh students get off with a slap on the wrist, Southside residents get hammered.

Gadfly has written about this here and here.

The Judge’s full letter is printed here.

On January 6 the Mayor said that the Police Chief would investigate the county differential, and on January 13 Councilman Reynolds called also for information on application of the laws in the different geographical regions of the City.

The issue in the Southside is particularly crucial because of the racial and social class discrimination implications if there is an uneven application of the law between, for example, Hispanic residents and “privileged” white students.

We would assume that necessary information gathering for tomorrow’s Public Safety Committee meeting would necessitate contacting the various magistrates and gathering statistics. And, like the Bethlehem Press reporter above, Gadfly tried 2-3 weeks ago to do a bit of investigating himself to see if that was happening.

The other Southside Judge had not been contacted by the police but reported to Gadfly that during a several month period before Judge Gonzalez’s letter was publicized, the Bethlehem ordinance was not used at all in 117 cases. Another Judge met with me only to say that there had been no contact from Bethlehem police and no statistics were gathered. All other judges would not talk with me at all.

The information from the two Southside judges makes you wonder if Bethlehem police practice is undermining the intent of the recent ordinance decriminalizing the use of small amounts of marijuana, as well as wonder if the ordinance is applied differently in different parts of the city — especially in the heavily Hispanic Southside.

We are hoping for a good discussion based on solid data tomorrow.

The Public Safety Committee is chaired by Michael Colón, with members Grace Crampsie Smith and Olga Negrón. The meeting is 5:30 in Town Hall, before the regular City Council meeting at 7PM.

Councilman Callahan’s wage equality proposal discussed in committee tomorrow

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“The premise of this ordinance is that salary offers should be based upon the specific job responsibilities of a position, and not based upon an applicant’s prior wage history, so as to avoid the perpetuation of gender wage inequalities.”

Councilman Callahan’s Wage Equality ordinance proposal will be considered at the Human Relations committee meeting 6PM, Tuesday, February 25, Town Hall.

Councilman Callahan talked about this proposal at a meeting of the Bethlehem Democrats a while back. Gadfly probably won’t be able to attend Tuesday night and report on the discussion, so he urges you to hear the Councilman talk about his idea.

Callahan Wage Equality proposal

For the full proposed ordinance, go here:

Wage Equality Memo (1)