Councilman Reynolds requests a Community Engagement Plan outline from the City

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Last night at the budget hearing, Councilman Reynolds read his November 30 memo to the Mayor and Chief Kott asking for a community engagement plan of meetings with a report at the end.

The Councilman provided some brief comments at the end of his reading as well.

Gadfly welcomes the movement the Councilman is prompting.

 

Gadfly all-abuzz again

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Something Dr. Roy said yesterday nudges the Gadfly to make another comment about our plans for a Community Engagement Initiative, an idea dear to Gadfly’s heart and mission.

But let him back up for a moment.

Gadfly likes — loves — the idea of a CEI but isn’t crazy about how we are going about it.

He has latched on to the goal of the CEI in these words: “The Community Engagement Initiative is [about] looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.”

(Those are Councilman Reynolds’ words in his verbal explanation of the CEI at, m’thinks, the July 7 City Council meeting in which this CEI resolution with Councilwoman Crampsie Smith was adopted. Councilman Reynolds is a man of high ideals, but Gadfly worries that he might be making too much of what might just have been rhetorical exuberance on the Councilman’s part. That’s a helluva goal. “Audaciously ambitious.” Maybe not practical. Maybe no way achievable. Maybe not a platform a politician could run on. But Gadfly would like to hold the Councilman to his words if he could. They are good words. The best.)

Gadfly just doesn’t see the announced means suitable to that exalted end.

Councilman Reynolds contemplates two types of meetings as part of a CEI. (The first type perhaps is the one occurring tonight.)

Let’s focus on the second one, the one centered on meetings initiated by and managed by community organizations.

Gadfly has already virtually floated an alternative version of going about these meetings rather than waiting in a passive manner for such meetings to pop up. For time is passing and nothing has been announced yet.

Briefly, Gadfly would suggest that “we” take charge of initiating the meetings. The resolution itself has a list of topics/areas in which we would like meetings. We already know what needs to be talked about. So we approach appropriate community groups and stimulate meetings. Say we know that the homeless issue needs to be worked on. We approach an appropriate group — who? — New Bethany? — to host a meeting on the homeless. We ask them to discuss the question “What can the city do to help advance your goal of caring for the homeless?” We ask for an action item to work on. Then we go about our anti-racist work.

Otherwise, it seems to Gadfly “like sands through the hourglass are the days of our lives.”

No, you say, our attack on systemic racism can wait.

After all, as Gadfly has learned in the BAPL “Courageous Conversations” webinar (a little knowledge is a dangerous thing), the “inaugural defense of African slave-trading, the first European book on the Africans in the modern era” was Gomes Eanes de Zuara’s The Chronicle of the Discovery and Conquest of Guinea in 1453. Nearly 600 years ago. Virulent (is there any other kind, Gadfly?) racism has been in the soulstream of Western Civilization for nearly 600 years. One guesses waiting a few more months to begin an attack on it is of little matter. One guesses the objects of systemic racism can wait a little bit longer. No hurry.

And, after all as well, Gadfly, at age 80, admits to being impatient, for his time is on a short leash. His meter is running at a faster rate than probably all of his followers except one. Ha! He simply would like to hear local anti-racist progress read to him in Town Hall rather than over him at Fairview Cemetery. (Got a plot, Roy?)

At the end of the “Racial Justice” program yesterday a message went quickly by announcing a “Trust Building with Law Enforcement” program at the Hispanic Center in April. Wow! Terrific! But when was that again? April. April. Another 5-6 months. And last Monday we added another name to the reasons for a “trust building” program — Walter Wallace. The list will no doubt grow by April.

Which brings Gadfly back to the Hispanic Center session with Dr. Roy yesterday morning that triggered this missive.

The subject was increasing diversity in the BASD teaching staff. The students spoke of feeling more comfortable if there were more teachers of color. Reasonable. But Dr. Roy spoke of the difficulty in recruiting. It’s not always an “easy sell,” said the good doctor, to convince, say, a teacher of color from Philadelphia that “this is a good place to live.”  We need “to sell the Lehigh Valley” to them, he said, we must tell them what’s here for them, we must tell them “as a young person of color here are groups for you to connect with, things for you to do.” And apparently what we are, what we have is not working.

Now that kind of hit Gadfly — old white guy, proud of his town, thinking of all the apartments and parking garages we’re building — right between the eyes. We have a beautiful historic Northside downtown, right? Many, many people want to live here, right? Dr. Roy made me see Bethlehem through the eyes of a young, top-notch teacher of color from an area where he or she has an established professional cultural network. Why would he or she want to come here? What do we have to offer that person in the way of a place to live, a place to sink roots? Dr. Roy seems to indicate that can be a hard sell. Gadfly had never thought of it that way, never looked at it through a “colored” lens.

(If Gadfly is not mistaken, Sharon Brown made a similar point about the presence of Blacks in Bethlehem at the “Poets and Troubadors” session of last year’s Festival UnBound at Godfrey Daniels.)

So, suppose “we” stimulated a meeting with BASD and asked “What can the city do to help advance your anti-racist goals so important for the education of our children?” Give us an action item. And suppose the answer was the BASD has a hard time recruiting teachers of color, and could the city throw a modicum of the kind of energy and resources we do to attract businesses and developers into attracting teachers of color? Could we have a city goal to increase the number of teachers of color as part of our goal to end systemic racism and increase equity in the city? Could we show those bright young educators that the city as a whole, as a moral institution is serious about this diversity business? Ok, and then we go about our anti-racist work.

Sure, maybe a dumb example, but maybe you get the idea.

(In fact, Gadfly thinks even bigger and dumber than that. Councilman Reynolds has schooled us several times on the reason why there are so few Blacks in Bethlehem — exclusionary employment policies of Bethlehem Steel in the old days. What about a plan to reverse that misguided policy, a plan to encourage more Black families to live here as a step toward having a more truly multi-cultural city, a paradigm of racial harmony? Ha! Calm down Gadfly, calm down. Get back on your meds. You have no credibility as it is.)

The Gadfly simply does not sense the urgency to do something meaningful as part of the national reckoning with race triggered by the murder of George Floyd.

An overview of the “Racial Justice for Stronger Community” event at the Hispanic Center

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

ref: “A student interview with Dr. Roy on systemic racism in the Bethlehem schools”

Here’s a good overview of the “Racial Justice for a Stronger Community” event by the Hispanic Center that Gadfly attended and reported on yesterday.

click here to play

Adding to the clips provided yesterday, here in the Q&A Dr. Roy fields some questions about teacher development regarding racism and his anti-racism emphasis (4 mins.).

Another tip o’ the hat to the Hispanic Center for doing this.

A student interview with Dr. Roy on systemic racism in the Bethlehem schools

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Virtual Health Equity Summit: Racial Justice for Stronger Communities
Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley
October 27 2020

Gadfly has remarked more than once at the wealth of local events and resources available to us in this post GeorgeFloyd period of national reckoning with race.

Yesterday was a great Gadfly day in that regard.

In the morning was the Hispanic Center event and at night another of BAPL’s “Courageous Conversations” moderated by Rayah Levy.

There were three parts to the HCLV event: Systemic Racism in K-12 Education, The Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic on Communities of Color, and Understanding Colorism within the Hispanic Community.

Gadfly learned from them all, but he is just going to focus here on the education one with Dr. Roy and students Xenise Price and Dayanara Marrero-Allen since it is more related to topics we’ve been discussing here on the blog.

Dr. Roy is always a good interview.

Gadfly planned to just excerpt a piece for you.

Instead, you have the whole segment.

Listen, don’t depend on Gadfly’s text — just paraphrasing and giving you the gist.

Enjoy!

“Systemic Racism in K-12 Education”
Dr. Joseph Roy and students Xenise Price and Dayanara Marrero-Allen

Why do you think that teachers aren’t encouraging and supporting students of color to take higher level classes? (3 mins.)

One of the challenges we have to overcome is encouraging students more. One of the solutions may be encouraging students to sign up in groups to overcome the solitary student of color situation. Doing a better job of “cohort scheduling.”

 

Why does it seems that white students get more opportunities in choosing classes? (3 mins.)

We have to start further back and lay the groundwork. We need to do a better job of literacy skills. We have an intense focus on early literacy skills to prepare for the advanced work later.

 

What about the role of counselors? (2 mins.)

Course selection time is critical for all of us in school to not think of courses in terms of a gatekeeper mentality. We want to be the gate opener. A student recounts a positive experience in this regard.

 

Why do you think that students feel that they have to work twice as hard to keep up with the white kids to get the same opportunity? (2 mins.)

I’ve been heavily involved in equity and access. And we’re moving to more heterogeneous, mixed groupings in Middle School.

 

In addition to tracking, what else is the school district doing to promote equity in the schools? (3 mins.)

The most impactful is literacy. A second is our challenge for everybody to be anti-racist. We’ve been looking at opportunities to improve participation in sports, activities, and clubs, for instance. Dual enrollment classes with college as another concrete thing. Gifted education too.

 

Students of color aren’t really being prepared for advanced classes . . . Why aren’t students of color being mixed more, and doesn’t it seem a little counterproductive for teachers to teach this way? (2 mins.)

That’s an issue that has been fixed. Old model is gone. We’ve received national recognition for what we’re doing in early education. Working on it at higher levels.

 

Teachers and staff . . . Are they proportionate to students of color? (4 mins.)

No, certainly not. A challenge. Making some progress each year. Started an education pathway here, to grow our own teachers here. Also connecting with Temple University to figure out how to recruit people to come here. Not an easy sell to come to the Lehigh Valley. Selling the lifestyle in the Lehigh Valley. The students agreed that more teachers of color would be a benefit.

 

What is something you are proud of at the Bethlehem School District? (1 min.)

How teachers and students have handled the pandemic.

 

Dr. Roy talks of the digital divide and the pandemic. (3 mins.)

Pandemic has put spotlight on inequities in society. Trouble for some students keeping up with schoolwork. Worried about them. We’re working to close the digital divide. Great progress.

Tip o’ the hat to HCLV for doing this!

Hispanic Center: Racial Justice for Stronger Community! Tuesday October 27

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Here’s another one of those post-GeorgeFloyd resources to help us think about racism that Gadfly was just talking about. And Gadfly is thinking of this as the first of our Community Engagement Initiative events, even though it was scheduled before the CEI.

register here

The Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley invites you to our Virtual Health Equity Summit on October 27, 2020 at 9:00am – 11:00am with a focus on systemic challenges faced by communities of color. This year’s event will address the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, colorism within the Hispanic Community, and systematic racism in education. The funds raised from this event will be utilized to support HCLV’s health equity work. To register, please visit: https://hclvhealthequitysummitracialjustice.eventbrite.com

Presentations:

  • The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Communities of Color, Dr. Rajika Reed
  • Understanding Colorism within the Hispanic Community, Dr. Griselda Rodriguez
  • Systemic Racism in K-12 Education, Dr. Joseph Roy & Three students from the BASD

As the center continues to focus on building a stronger foundation for the future in order to help improve the quality of lives of families (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) by empowering them to become more self-sufficient, while promoting an intercultural understanding in the Lehigh Valley; please consider contributing to assist with its efforts by making a monetary donation: https://bit.ly/2Yz2WZO

register here

Gadfly donated — how about you?

Gadfly all-abuzz

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Community Engagement Initiative rev July 7

ref: Advancing the Community Engagement Initiative, Police on board

On July 7, City Council passed a resolution “urging the creation of a Community Engagement Initiative in the City of Bethlehem.” You can find the (revised from the original) resolution that passed 7-0 at the link above. You might want to refresh yourself on its contents.

The resolution urges “the Mayor and his Administration” to create the Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly was thrilled.

“Good conversation builds community,” sayeth the Gadfly.

Quoth the Gadfly: “The main goal of the Gadfly blog is to provide a space for healthy public dialogue about issues of concern to Bethlehem, Pa., residents. All sides, all perspectives welcome.”

The CEI is the Gadfly blog intentionality writ large.

Gadfly was thrilled July 7.

At the City Council meeting last week October 6, Councilman Reynolds advanced some more information about the Community Engagement Initiative that was approved by Council July 7.

Do you have 5 minutes to listen?

According to Councilman Reynolds, the CEI can be composed of two types of meetings:

  • traditional City-run meetings through Council committees etc. such as the scheduled October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting
  • meetings by various community organizations such as at the Hispanic Center October 27 “Racial Justice for Stronger Community” event

Gadfly has to be frank. He’s not feeling good about the way the CEI is unfolding. And he will simply shotgun almost at random some of his concerns here.

  • The energizing power of the CEI according to the approved resolution (see the link above) is the Mayor.
  • Where is the Mayor in all of this? The voice at the top of the command structure is missing. Especially now that things are beginning to roll.
  • JWR talked about the CEI October 6. The new Police Chief talked about the CEI October 6. The Mayor did not.
  • The Mayor did say at an earlier meeting (August 11?) that he was listening for good ideas. But Gadfly thinks he needs to do more than that.
  • The CEI isn’t going to work if the Mayor is passive. The CEI needs Mayoral force.
  • The Mayor could help stimulate community meetings.
  • The Police Chief takes orders from the Mayor.
  • The Mayor could pledge his department heads to attend Community meetings.
  • If the Mayor isn’t kicking some butt or persuasively making a case, why will the city staff engage?
  • JWR says he talked with the Mayor about publicizing the CEI events. I should hope the Mayor would do that. I would hope there was no question he would do that. But that doesn’t seem enough. Is this the extent of the Mayor’s role?
  • Gadfly doesn’t know what the lead time was, maybe it was prohibitive, but there is nothing about the CEI in the current City newsletter, nothing in the Mayor’s statement therein.
  • Top down is crucial. To Gadfly, so far the Mayor is a missing link. And he doesn’t understand it.
  • Gadfly thinks the Mayor should be leading as envisioned in the resolution.
  • So why is JWR the driving force? The Council voted 7-0 to approve the CEI, but is everybody engaged? JWR’s voice seemed a bit supplicating to his Council colleagues October 6. If this is Council’s baby now, Gadfly would hope for continual visible, vocal support from all other members. At an earlier meeting a couple Council members gave some support though qualifying that they couldn’t promise to make all meetings. JWR was pretty much a lone wolf October 6.

——–

  • But maybe there is something here Gadfly doesn’t see. Gadflies are outsiders. They can only see what they can see. And thus often say dumb things.
  • Maybe that first type meeting JWR described, the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting, was called by the Mayor. Nothing has been said publicly in any detail about it so far, as far as Gadfly knows.
  • All we know about this meeting so far is “Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development.”
  • Of course, we might be informed about the meeting at the October 20 Council meeting, but it seems a bit odd to Gadfly to announce it a full 6 weeks ahead and not describe its content or purpose.
  • And it is a meeting called by Council not the Mayor, and it is a Committee of the Whole meeting not an open meeting for the public, so it doesn’t, on the surface, look like a meeting called by the Mayor.
  • And it’s not clear yet how, if we are to see it as part of the CEI, the community will be engaged.
  • What is our engagement at this meeting to qualify it as something different than what we’ve had before and a legitimate part of the CEI??
  • Will the community contribute ideas beforehand, which would seem to be the idea of a CEI, or just make comments after the Council discussion, as the more usual practice?
  • We hope to find out October 20.

———

  • How is the community at large being apprised of this initiative? How is enthusiasm and expectation being whipped up that we’re serious this time that engagement on their part is going to make a difference? How are we selling the idea that the deadly notion that “City Hall never listens” doesn’t apply any more?
  • Are organizations being stimulated, energized to have meetings? Are we suggesting the kinds of topics we would like them to address? Or are we being passive? Are Council members just keeping their ears to the ground and reporting what they hear? Or are they prompting, promoting?
  • A prime concern is hearing from the people we don’t usually hear from. Giving the unheard a voice at the table is the kind of rhetoric we’ve had in descriptions of the CEI. How is that goal progressing? That seems so important, so very important. That group is likely to be unorganized. How are they even hearing that we want to hear them?
  • There was no mention of the promising meeting with the Prof Ochs/CORE group that was thought of so highly that it was amended into the final resolution and with which a meeting was envisioned for this month or next. What’s up there?
  • Gadfly would have liked to hear that the list of monthly events would be published for the public to see on such-and-such a date each month, and therefore Council members — who are the only suppliers of content — have a such-and-such deadline each month. Let’s be definite. Let’s sound organized. “The public can expect the first list of events on____________ and on the _____th of the month every month thereafter.”

———-

  • Gadfly understands the need, desire, value of getting people to talk. For giving voice to the voiceless. He believes in good conversation.
  • But he also looks forward to something done, and he worries about diffuseness and time passing.
  • The CEI can provide a continuing space for conversation and dialogue over time, which is good, but when does action factor in?
  • How, when, will ideas that bubble up arc back to policy makers? The CEI provides a space for talk. There hasn’t yet been any talk of talk arcing to action.
  • The process as described so far seems too open-ended to Gadfly. The goal of all this is to do something. There was strong talk, rousing talk of making change. Where’s that part of the process?
  • Could reports from those meetings, meetings that Council members attended, be made publicly at Council, so there would be sharing, so everybody can hear what’s going on?
  • Could the community organizations be strongly invited to attend Council, report on their discussions/conversations, advance position statements, draft legislation?

———

  • The new Police Chief was all agreeable. But Gadfly would like to hear much, much more about how the police will be engaged before he in any way believes there will be the kind of cooperation and participation that will be meaningful. Call him a Grinch.
  • Gadfly has read over and over that officer buy-in is crucial but hard. A lot aren’t going to think they need community engagement. Gadfly expects some active resistance. He needs to be shown otherwise.
  • Gadfly is skeptical of easy general voluntary cooperation and participation, and he doesn’t believe the Chief can legislate it.
  • The Chief should have been asked to report back on her plan to involve a number of police sizeable enough to make a culture difference.
  • Gadfly can’t believe a high number of officers are voluntarily interested and over a long run in doing this to such a marked degree that it will make a difference.
  • JWR talked of the difference to him when he engaged with the community of his students. But he made it sound like he wasn’t expecting that a lot of officers need engage. But the ones who don’t engage won’t get a chance to feel the difference he did. And if enough don’t engage, what have we gained?
  • There are 154 police officers (now maybe 153). What’s the goal number for involvement?
  • JWR said the key component to the success of the CEI was the “real involvement” of the police department.  There is no plan for this crucial component yet and no request for one.
  • You probably need either a quantitatively lot of general officer engagement or a good number of key officer engagement to make a difference in department culture. Gadfly can’t see this as easy as the Chief made it sound.
  • So the Chief’s words were polyannish to Gadfly.
  • What’s the Union going to say? Some departments Gadfly has read about build community engagement into the work day and have other kinds of incentives. Won’t we need such mechanisms, such carrots?
  • Gadfly senses a lot of work to be done here.
  • The Chief should be made to show a plan. Welcome to Chiefdom!

———–

Ok, ok, Gadfly the Grinch. Gadfly the wet blanket. Enough. Just being honest. He doesn’t feel good about this CEI as its evolving so far.

And he’s ready for his slap upside the head. Maybe on both sides. And on top.

He buzzes because he cares. He sees a “momentous” opportunity here — to quote a follower — and is worried that it will slip away.

What Gadfly expected was something like the organization for the Climate Action Plan. Something like the organization for Northside 2027.  We see something getting done there. Progress. Something like the series of “Summits” one of the Gadfly followers suggested that a Bethlehem-based organization ran in Detroit and which we reported on in these pages. Something more organized by this time, 4 1/2 months after the murder of George Floyd.

Gadfly is fond of quoting Kurt Vonnegut: “There is no reason good can’t triumph over evil. It is simply a matter of organization.”

He doesn’t feel that organization here yet.

And time is passing.

to be continued . . .

Advancing the Community Engagement Initiative, Police on board

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Followers know that Gadfly has been whining about lack of information about the development of the Community Engagement Initiative, a proposal that was adopted by City Council July 7.

The CEI was proposed in a resolution by Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith. Councilman Reynolds seems to be the driving force.

Subsequent to July 7, Councilman Reynolds briefly sketched out that the CEI could have two types of meeting:

  • a City-run traditional meeting such as scheduled October 29 (the nature of which has yet to be described)
  • by various community organizations (such as at the Hispanic Center October 27)

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Reynolds finally laid down a plan for this second type meeting.

  • every month there would be a list of events
  • the list would be generated by members of Council (who, according to JWR, are “pretty connected” and have a good idea what’s going on)
  • Council members will be counseled to send items for that list to the City Clerk by a certain date each month
  • the City Clerk will assemble the list
  • the City will publish the list each month through its communication channels (Ha! I hope they include the Gadfly!)
  • the public and City folk can then know about and participate in the meetings

The key component, said Councilman Reynolds, will be “real involvement” from the Police department and involvement beyond the Chief to other officers, though the Councilman wasn’t envisioning full force participation.

Councilman Reynolds cited the importance in his own work as a teacher to go out and listen to the people in the community, an experience that can be an “eye-opener” and cause important significant self-reflection in realizing where the community is coming from.

Councilman Reynolds invited the brand new Chief to weigh in on whether the Police Department would participate in these community meetings, and Chief Kott gave strong support.

Here in what is her first significant public statement is the clip of Chief Kott providing her affirmation of the department’s participation in the CEI:

  • Absolutely.
  • That’s the way we are going to build that relationship is through positive, non-enforcement contact.
  • And not only is it going to help strengthen the bond between our officers and the community, but it’s also going to build that equity, it’s going to build that legitimacy.
  • And it’s going to help remind our officers why they became officers in the first place.
  • Because our officers want to go out into the community.
  • They want to help community members.
  • And that’s what our community is asking for.
  • It’s easy to try to think up what exactly the public wants.
  • It’s time to listen, not only to the community, but to our officers who want community engagement.
  • And I absolutely agree with you that it cannot be just the same one or two faces going to community events.
  • That’s not going to help build that relationship back.
  • That strength — you need to have it from a top to bottom approach, to have all members of the department engaged in community policing.
  • And I am very confident that the men and women of the Bethlehem Police Department want to take part in it.

The downside of programs to end systemic racism

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

As we saw from the previous post, Councilman Reynolds is on the agenda at City Council tonight to speak about the Community Engagement Initiative, which, as you know, Gadfly has been very excited about because of its (admittedly “audaciously ambitious”) goal of ending systemic racism.

Yay!

So Gadfly has had his antenna up for sources that would help him think about systemic racism, and he came across this Loyola article a few days ago in a post, and he made a note to come back to it.

Gadfly thinks it might relate to cautions Bud Hackett has been writing about in regard to actions that might result from the CEI.

The irony of trying to do good and doing the opposite.

Perhaps food for thought and comments from followers more knowledgeable in these matters than he.

Selections from Mario Loyola, “The New Segregationists.” National Review, August 20, 2020.

The Black Lives Matter movement, we are told, has heralded a “national reckoning” on race. Every example of racial disparities — from arrest rates to income inequality — is now proof of systemic racism, with guilt apportioned by social category, on a cui bono basis. That bodes ill for this reckoning, because many and perhaps most racial disparities today arise not from racial discrimination, but rather from the very policies that progressives are now insisting we need more of.

These disparate factions [of the BLM movement] have several important things in common. They want to help black people, and they think progressive policies will help. They also ignore how often those policies are the very cause of the systemic racism that they think they’re fighting. And they increasingly support the frankly segregationist idea that discrimination on the basis of race is okay if it results in equity — the argument of the best-selling book How to Be an Antiracist. Most have only the best of intentions, but their tendency to imagine racism everywhere leaves them blind to all of the ways that progressive policies foment and entrench the very racial disparities they abhor.

Let’s start with the disparities in arrest rates and police brutality. The disparities are not just real, but astonishing. According to reports from the New York Police Department, black men are arrested and prosecuted in about 60 to 70 percent of every category of violent crime, though they are just over 10 percent of the city’s population. . . . It is indeed horrible that police in many cities spend most of their time chasing after suspects who are black.

Someone who is really interested in solving these problems might start by asking this question: Why are so many of our country’s most crime-ridden neighborhoods black? High rates of crime and vagrancy are highly correlated with other social dysfunctions, such as dependency on welfare, low labor-force participation, and family breakdown. Of course, these are the very failures that conservatives have spent generations criticizing the welfare state for. Nicholas Eberstadt takes a hard look at those failures in his 2014 pamphlet The Great Society at 50 and astutely notes that, if welfare policies are not the exclusive cause of the social dysfunctions of the Great Society, welfare is at the very least financing them.

This was all widely predicted at the dawn of the Great Society by, among others, one of Lyndon Johnson’s assistant secretaries of labor, the future Democratic senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan. The 1965 Moynihan Report was particularly pessimistic in looking at the impact of welfare on families. Not only does welfare seek to protect women from having to depend on a husband, it in effect disincentivizes marriage. The report proved all too prophetic, as the proportion of black children born to unwed mothers has soared to 80 percent in the decades since.

The dysfunctions of the welfare state are well understood, at least among conservatives and some of the more courageous progressives. What is less well understood about welfare is perhaps its most reprehensible aspect: It replaced the state segregation laws of Jim Crow with an enormous federal program of segregation, albeit one that is indirect and unwitting.

Welfare benefits set the bait, luring the lowest-skilled part of the labor force away from jobs, forcing children into single-parent homes, and depriving millions of adults of the greatest vehicle of upward social mobility available to them: the workplace.

By virtually every measure of human welfare (except perhaps the government’s official poverty rate), American society has made enormous gains since the 1960s, and that includes blacks. Though the main driver has been America’s amazing economic growth over the last half century, the anti-poverty programs and — more important — the civil-rights movement have certainly contributed to a more equitable distribution of gains. Yet, as Thomas Sowell has pointed out, black household incomes rose more in the decades before the Great Society programs than they have since.

At the creation of these programs, Lyndon Johnson made clear that the purpose of welfare was “not to make the poor more secure in their poverty but to reach down and to help them lift themselves out of the ruts of poverty.” To the extent the Great Society was meant to enhance upward social mobility, it has not only abjectly failed, it has accomplished the opposite. In fact it pays to accomplish the opposite: The U.S. spends more per capita on social welfare than any country in the socialist paradise of Scandinavia, a solution that creates the very problem that it is supposed to solve.

Because families that depend on welfare tend to remain on it for generations, tend to live in government-sponsored affordable housing, and tend to stay out of the productive economy except as consumers, one little-noticed consequence of welfare is the long-term segregation of the poor. And because poor people tend to be disproportionately black, the chief victims of this insidious new segregation are black. If the civil-rights movement triumphed in ending many racist practices, including the discrimination in housing that had kept blacks marginalized for generations, the new welfare programs often cut the other way.

It is a stark reminder of the dangers of judging policies by their intentions rather than their results. This is how Democrats, though perhaps with the best of intentions, keep blacks in a state of political dependency — dependent on the benevolence and charity of affluent whites who live somewhere else, a dark and shameful tradition that has survived in one form or another for more than 200 years.

Money spent on social programs has not been effective

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

ref: “In ‘obvious ways . . . our system is set up to preserve the status quo'”

Peter:

Regarding the criticism of the report, maybe the data from the US Census is more compelling to understand that this country has spent billions on social programs that seem to help left wing politicians more than the US citizens they are targeted to benefit. Respectfully, neither the federal government nor the Bethlehem City Council should be pandering to the social justice/environmental movement to “get votes.”

I am inclined to believe the facts of U.S. Census Bureau annual poverty report:

•       2013, 14.5 percent of Americans were poor. (the same poverty rate as in 1967, three years after the War on Poverty started)

•        Census counts a family as poor if its “income” falls below certain thresholds. But in counting “income,” Census ignores almost all the $943 billion in annual welfare spending.

•       government’s survey: 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television; half have a personal computer; 40 percent have a wide-screen HDTV. Three-quarters own a car or truck; nearly a third has two or more vehicles. ( FYI, I don’t have AC or an HDTV).

•       Ninety-six percent of poor parents’ state that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.

•       Some 82 percent of poor adults reported that they were never hungry at any time in the prior year.

•       The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children, and in most cases is well above recommended norms.

•       Less than 2 percent of the poor are homeless. Only 10 percent live in a mobile home.

•       The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and not over-crowded. In fact, the average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor individual living in Sweden, France, Germany, or the United Kingdom.

•       For a decade and a half before the War on Poverty began, self-sufficiency in American improved dramatically. But for the last 45 years, there has been no improvement at all. Many groups are less capable of self-support today than when Johnson’s war started.

•       The culprit is, in part, the welfare system itself, which discourages work and penalizes marriage. When the War on Poverty began, 7 percent of American children were born outside marriage. Today the number is 41 percent. The collapse of marriage is the main cause of child poverty today.

•       The welfare state is self-perpetuating, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future.

•       in 2014, President Obama announced plans to spend $13 trillion over the next decade on welfare programs that will discourage work, penalize marriage, and undermine self-sufficiency.

There is little evidence that all this taxpayer money has helped people improve their lives.

Authors misunderstand systemic racism and use propaganda practices

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Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

ref: “‘Systemic racism’ based on unfortunate notion that humans lack free will”

It’s unfortunate that the original op-ed, to which Largay & Saunders are responding, used the term “systemic racism,” because some of the injustices he describes have nothing to do with the race of the accused or inmate. Had the writers of the response stuck to that, they would have a more credible case — although even there, their understanding is, I think, flawed because they apparently assume that systemic racism means that the system explicitly includes provisions that are racist, ignoring the widely-accepted understanding that it exists when the system operates in ways that cause or reinforce racial group inequity.

Even more problematic, the authors’ response uses techniques that are close to standard propaganda practices such as straw-man arguments. [more on that below] They also add their own interpretation of the basis for Pinsley’s position is “the unfortunate notion that humans lack free will and their thoughts and actions follow an irrelevant ‘collective’ characteristic, such as skin color or gender . . . ”

Pinsley’s op-ed focused on two main premises:

(1) the justice system, if it is to achieve justice, must ensure that every defendant has an adequate defense — a fundamental premise of the Sixth Amendment, one that has been upheld and strengthened by the Supreme Court in several cases — without adequate public defender services, poor people do not have a fair trial.  Unfortunately, the system has proven over and over that it delivers justice to those who can afford a top-notch defense and often does not do the same for those who are poor.

One reason why this happens often is the system often embodies blatant unfairness on the part of the police, prosecution, and judge. This, combined with the disproportionate resources given to the state actors, is one reason why the standard for conviction is supposed to be “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Both of these are systemic factors that cause or perpetuate inequity.

The existing system winds up convicting innocent people, most of whom are poor, at an unacceptable rate. (This has been documented right here in Pennsylvania, including cases in Lehigh County.) Analyses of death-penalty cases in the U.S. indicates that at least 4% of people sentenced to death are innocent, and some of them are later exonerated by evidence that proves their innocence. In some cases, however, this does not happen until they have spent decades in prison or even until after they are executed. Although the premise dates back to Roman law, Blackstone’s principle says that “the law holds that it is better that ten guilty persons escape, than that one innocent suffer,” and the US Supreme Court said in 1895 that “it is better to let the crime of a guilty person go unpunished than to condemn the innocent.”

– – – – –

(2) The authors also distorted what Pinsley said about telephone & commissary costs, creating what amounts to a “straw man” argument. Pinsley did not say that prisoners should not have to pay for their phone calls and commissary purchases; he said that the rates were set high (so the County could earn a hefty commission) and the inflated costs are, in most cases, borne by the inmate’s family. (It is not uncommon for inmates to be fed so poorly and at such odd times that they need to supplement with commissary purchases at 2–5 times what they would pay outside.) And remember, this includes inmates who are awaiting trial — and therefore presumed innocent under the law — but could not afford to pay bail.

– – – – –

The authors also say Pinsley’s op-ed is based on collectivism and add an statement that “Collectivism effectively treats individual humans with minds, consciences, even souls, like the mindless physical matter of physics that makes no choices,” giving it their own definition that denigrates its wide acceptance in many societies — collective principles are key elements of the Amish way of life (and many other religions), and many Asian & European countries are based on the importance of sharing responsibility.

Peter

In “obvious ways . . . our system is set up to preserve the status quo”

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Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

ref: “Bethlehem Council Should Learn from the Past about Social Programs”

The first thing to note is that these earlier efforts, like the “war on drugs,” were implemented in ways that were doomed to failure — but made their sponsors look good.

As implemented, huge pots of tax money were distributed to consultants and contractors who proclaimed their expertise but didn’t really know what they were doing. (Often they were cronies of the people responsible for program implementation.) I remember the director of a CETA program in the 70s who had some great ideas and philosophical observations, but he was a poor manager who got his job through personal connections; many of the trainees and employees hired through that office were incompetent or corrupt.

Besides, it would not take a “war on poverty” to end poverty in the U.S. — one of the wealthiest countries in the world.  All it would take is a fair tax structure and an end to subsidy & tax giveaways to corporations and the obscenely wealthy.

Peter

ref: “Let’s recapture the Lyndon Johnson vision of helping the poor help themselves”

Be wary of citing studies from places such as this.  While there are also sources biased to the left, the Heritage Institute is known for its support for the notion of free-market economics and the belief that all comes down to individual choice and self-sufficiency.

The report you used for this basically ignores or denies that the system blocks some people from equal opportunity, and this is compounded by the effects of intergenerational trauma. Our system is set up so that:

—  official unemployment figures minimize the percentage of people who are un- or under-employed.

—  our tax system applies the highest rates to earned income, followed by generally lower rates for interest, dividends, and capital appreciation, and even lower rates — often 0 — for inherited money.

—  the tax code also provides plenty of built-in loopholes that allow corporations and people of higher incomes & wealth to avoid taxes.

—  the minimum wage has stagnated to the extent that employee compensation has declined in comparison to that of 50 or 60 years ago [adjusted for inflation], while the share going to executives, managers, and owners has skyrocketed.

—  businesses and corporations are not required to provide fair benefits to employees, such as we see in most European countries.  (Paid maternity/parental leave, paid sick leave, and paid vacations to name a few.)

Let’s face it, these are only a few of the most obvious ways that our system is set up to preserve the status quo.

Peter

Let’s recapture the Lyndon Johnson vision of helping the poor help themselves

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

ref: “Bethlehem Council Should Learn from the Past about Social Programs”

Review of the 50 Years of Federal Programs

At the federal level, President Johnson launched the “War of Poverty” in January 1964. He declared “unconditional war on poverty in America.” Since then, the taxpayers have spent $22 trillion on Johnson’s war. Adjusted for inflation, that’s three times the cost of all military wars since the American Revolution.

Johnson had to politically overcome, being less popular than Kennedy, managing a very unpopular Vietnam War and the civil unrest that occurred before and after Martin Luther King’s death – he needed to do something.

According to a 2014 report by Robert Rector, who is a senior research fellow in the DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation, government spent $943 billion dollars providing cash, food, housing, and medical care to poor and low-income Americans. (That figure doesn’t include Social Security or Medicare.) More than 100 million people, or one-third of Americans, received some type of welfare aid, at an average cost of $9,000 per recipient.

Rector’s article summarizes a U.S. Census Bureau annual poverty report:

  • 2013, 14.5 percent of Americans were poor. (The same poverty rate as in 1967, three years after the War on Poverty started.)
  • Census counts a family as poor if its “income” falls below certain thresholds. But in counting “income,” Census ignores almost all the $943 billion in annual welfare spending.
  • Government’s survey: 80 percent of poor households have air conditioning; nearly two-thirds have cable or satellite television; half have a personal computer; 40 percent have a wide-screen HDTV. Three-quarters own a car or truck; nearly a third has two or more vehicles.
  • Ninety-six percent of poor parents state that their children were never hungry at any time during the year because they could not afford food.
  • Some 82 percent of poor adults reported that they were never hungry at any time in the prior year.
  • The average consumption of protein, vitamins, and minerals is virtually the same for poor and middle-class children and in most cases is well above recommended norms.
  • Less than 2 percent of the poor are homeless. Only 10 percent live in a mobile home.
  • The average poor American lives in a house or apartment that is in good repair and not over-crowded. In fact, the average poor American has more living space than the typical non-poor individual living in Sweden, France, Germany, or the United Kingdom.
  • For a decade and a half before the War on Poverty began, self-sufficiency in American improved dramatically. But for the last 45 years, there has been no improvement at all. Many groups are less capable of self-support today than when Johnson’s war started.
  • The culprit is, in part, the welfare system itself, which discourages work and penalizes marriage. When the War on Poverty began, 7 percent of American children were born outside marriage. Today the number is 41 percent. The collapse of marriage is the main cause of child poverty today.
  • The welfare state is self-perpetuating, welfare creates a need for even greater assistance in the future.
  • in 2014, President Obama announced plans to spend $13 trillion over the next decade on welfare programs that will discourage work, penalize marriage, and undermine self-sufficiency.

The author suggests that rather than repeating the mistakes of the past we should return to Johnson’s original goal. Johnson sought to help the poor help themselves. He aimed to free the poor from the need for government aid, rather than to increase their dependence. That’s a vision worth recapturing.

Bud

to be continued . . .

Bethlehem Council Should Learn from the Past about Social Programs

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative 

Bud Hackett is a Bethlehem resident who raised 4 kids in the City. He recently became very interested in quality of life issues in the city and hopes to offer a balance to the approach City Council is taking.

Lynette Tolbert Hazelton, “For 40 Years, Philly Mayors Have Promised to End Poverty.” Philadelphia Magazine, September 3, 2020

Citizens of Bethlehem have become aware of the left-leaning political perspective of City Council members since June of 2020. The political pressure from some extreme left groups including Black Lives Matter and Lehigh Valley Stands Up and others who were interacting with City Council members resulted in the Resolution 105 or the Community Engagement Initiative.

Lots more to say about the quotes from Council members in sympathy of those groups to “refund the police.”  It is nice they record their meetings for all to hear.

It’s Important to think about where City Council is going in sympathy to those groups with the upcoming budget hearings. I urge Council to read/consider a recent article/investigation in Philadelphia that examined four decades of social programs designed and funded to win the “war on poverty.” That means the federal and city programs to address poverty and what we now call “systemic racism.”

Bottom line, a black female reporter from the North Philly area says Mayor after Mayor comes up with new programs, millions of dollars in spending, and she concludes, NONE HAVE WORKED to alleviate Poverty. Read on . . .

The War on Poverty | We lost with bad programs – need a better way. (8 29 20)

In her September 2020 article Poverty: Our 40 Year Tragedy,” author Lynette Tolbert-Hazelton profiles the efforts of 40 years of Mayoral leadership in Philadelphia to address the poverty issue.

Ms. Tolbert-Hazelton describes herself as a third-generation black resident of North Philadelphia, an area she refers to as “the Jungle.” She is a journalist who has observed and written about Mayor(s) Bill Green (1980), Wilson Goode (1984), Ed Rendell (1992), John Street (2000), Michael Nutter (2008), and the current Mayor Kenny.

The article discusses 40 years of “promises to end poverty” and the enormous amount of money spent to address the extraordinarily complex issue. She discusses how the politically correct programs, the ones that get the votes, did not result in measurable improvements in reducing poverty levels in the city. She asks the question, “How did Philadelphia become the poorest big city in America?”

Four decades of mayors have tried to “reverse-engineer the city’s poverty problem and its concomitant issues. THEY ALL FAILED.”

The author discusses the loss of manufacturing jobs in the city resulting in increased poverty as folks with entry-level skills struggled to find jobs in the information economy as city policies and rising taxes drove business out of the city. She references Mayor Rendell’s book, A Nation of Wusses: How America’s Leaders Lost the Guts to Make Us Great.

She talks about the work she did with the President Clinton era program called the Transitional Work Corporation (TWC) that received $32 million between 2007 and 2011, then abruptly ended with little success. Some of the training included “telling clients they had to stop smoking weed so they could pass a drug test” and “help them redesign their lives so they could prioritize work . . .”

Another program to address poverty in Philadelphia was Rendell’s Neighborhood Transition Initiative (NTI), a $300 million bond issue in 2002. After 13 years of operation, the NTI spent “half the money on demolitions and the other half on preservation”: “The problem is that urban renewal doesn’t lift folks out of poverty.” “Most experts say what’s really needed is a good education system” (suggest you read her next few paragraphs).

In Philadelphia, the problem persists and will now be left to the next mayor.

Bud

to be continued . . .

Hispanic Center: Racial Justice for Stronger Community! October 27

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Gadfly will count this as a Community Engagement Initiative event, though it’s the 3rd annual such summit, and though Councilwoman Negron referenced it (he believes) as in the works when Councilman Reynolds announced the CEI. Gadfly registers once more his impatience for visible movement in the CEI area, which was passed at City Council July 7. Gadfly hopes for a calendar of such events so that they will be open to the public, covered by the official media, and all energy devoted to generating enthusiasm in and participation of the public. We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous, he says, quoting one of his favorite followers.

register here

The Hispanic Center Lehigh Valley invites you to our Virtual Health Equity Summit on October 27, 2020 at 9:00am – 11:00am with a focus on systemic challenges faced by communities of color. This year’s event will address the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color, colorism within the Hispanic Community, and systematic racism in education. The funds raised from this event will be utilized to support HCLV’s health equity work. To register, please visit: https://hclvhealthequitysummitracialjustice.eventbrite.com

Presentations:

  • The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on Communities of Color, Dr. Rajika Reed
  • Understanding Colorism within the Hispanic Community, Dr. Griselda Rodriguez
  • Systemic Racism in K-12 Education, Dr. Joseph Roy & Three students from the BASD

As the center continues to focus on building a stronger foundation for the future in order to help improve the quality of lives of families (Hispanic and non-Hispanic) by empowering them to become more self-sufficient, while promoting an intercultural understanding in the Lehigh Valley; please consider contributing to assist with its efforts by making a monetary donation: https://bit.ly/2Yz2WZO

register here

Gadfly donated — how about you?

New branding campaign takes off!

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image courtesy of a Gadfly follower

Gadfly:

I love this! Mr. Mayor, please kick off the new slogan by embracing diversity with a new police chief who is well-informed about systemic racism, new recruitment models and training, data-driven adjustments and open dialog, and the most up to date practices in equitable policing!

Kim Carrell-Smith

Bethlehem: “The Anti-Racist City” — how’s that sound?

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“The Community Engagement Initiative is [about] looking at the ways that
we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.”
Councilman Willie Reynolds

Can you imagine a new (or additional) brand for Bethlehem? Gadfly is anxious to get the campaign going. Can anybody photoshop in “the Anti-Racist City”? The CEI is our castle in the air. Let’s start imaging some supports under it.

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

And what’s this meeting all about?

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High alert! This memo from headquarters just came in!

Committee of the Whole Meeting

Thursday, October 29, 2020

6:00 PM – Town Hall

Subject: Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development

Now what do you suppose this means?

Note that Gadfly index’d it under “Community Engagement Initiative.”

But is it?

Could this be the former of the two kinds of meetings that Councilman Reynolds described as the possible ways the CEI could evolve?

Not sure.

This meeting was announced at City Council last Tuesday.

Without explanation.

Teasing us.

If this is part of CEI with the goal of “ending systemic racism and creating an equitable city,” what’s the Recreation department doing in there?

Gadfly has his eye on the beginning of Budget season. There was some talk in June and July that substantive discussions about possible restructuring of public safety would need to take place before Budget season. Budget season started last year on November 12.

A vision of Bethlehem as anti-racist city

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In his comments during the August 11 Public Safety Committee meeting, Councilman Reynolds enunciated a powerfully moving vision for the City:

“The Community Engagement Initiative is [about] looking at the ways that
we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.”

Gadfly isn’t sure anyone has remarked on that vision. It was perhaps easy to miss in Councilman Reynolds’ characteristically passionate machine-gun delivery. Or maybe we have become cynical about big ideas. But it hit him smack in his Idealism gland. He feels it should have been the headline in the August 12 local media.

Just think about it.

A goal of ending systemic racism and creating an equitable city.

A vision of Bethlehem as anti-racist city.

It makes Gadfly’s loins leap.

It made Gadfly call the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution that includes the Community Engagement Initiative “audaciously ambitious.”

The murder of George Floyd was tragic, horrendous.

But it tapped our conscience, and triggered (yet another) national reckoning with race, triggered (yet another) attempt to deal with “America’s original sin.”

And it put a fire in Councilman Reynolds’ belly.

Take 5 mins, 16 seconds and listen to the Councilman at the June 3 City Council meeting, the first one after George Floyd’s death

  • I think that the fact that everybody in this country just about agrees that what happened to George Floyd was horrorific, it was a tragedy, it was an injustice unlike what we have seen on camera for a long, long time.
  • But there’s also a difference between not doing something wrong and doing what’s right. And I think that’s part of the conversation we need to have in the city.
  • we need to start with the understanding that we don’t have the same experience in this country based on our skin color. We don’t. And I think as a government we need to be creating institutions that are equitable and fair.
  • It’s just not enough to be against racism, but we need to pro-actively be anti-racist.
  • It is not enough just to say what happened in Minnesota is wrong. It is not even enough just to say that we can have peaceful demonstrations here. It’s gonna be enough when people that are in marginalized communities are able to look at us as our elected officials and look at things we’ve done and say, you know what, they made things better.
  • It falls on every public institution, every governmental institution to make sure that we understand both the history, the pain, the anger, the frustration, and we need to be committed to creating better, fairer institutions that are equitable and that our citizens can look at and say that they believe them.

It is this dynamic vision of Bethlehem as an anti-racist city that fuels Gadfly’s impatience that you have seen him express lately.

Things seem to be going too slow for him.

Enough of the thinking that we should be totally in listening mode, that change is slow and incremental, that Bethlehem can’t change the world.

Gadfly thinks often of this line from the comment by Anna Smith at the August 11 Public Safety meeting — one of the best of the lot, Gadfly feels —

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

Let’s get to it.

Regarding the difference between being not racist and being anti-racist, Gadfly refers you to the wonderful short video we watched a week or two back.

Visions of Bethlehem

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Bear with your long-winded Gadfly as he sets the stage for his next post or two on the Community Engagement Initiative, willya?

In the run-up to the election in May 2019, Gadfly provided a prompt and asked 6 of the 7 candidates for Council seats (one was unable to participate) to do a mini-essay each week for 8 weeks preceding the election. To help us know them better. To help us get beyond the yard signs and the meet-and-greet patter and the Candidate Night stump speeches. 8 essays each. Due Saturday noon. Gadfly remembers that Grace good-naturedly (he thinks) beat him up over rumpling her festive Friday nights.

The candidates were wonderful. Imagine doing that in a busy campaign season on top of their day jobs. It said a lot about them. Gadfly was extremely grateful for the cooperation. And it was very instructive for voters. Gadfly followers were much appreciative. Gadfly hopes to do the same as his swan song before the next election, especially since the mayoral office is on the ballot.

In Gadfly’s mind, the climactic prompt was the most important. At the end he asked the candidates to rise above the routine and mundane topics on which much election conversation and debate is based and talk about their “visions” of the City. Gadfly encouraged them to strive to be poets rather than politicians. It was probably the toughest prompt. It asked them to engage with us voters on a quite different level than their views on parking rates and such. And he doesn’t believe they had “canned” answers.

Gadfly loved their varied answers, their varied visions, and he repeats them here, even those of the unsuccessful candidates, for Will Carpenter and David Saltzer are worthy to be remembered for what they contributed to a good race.

Visions appeal to our highest instincts.

Gadfly repeats their visions here as a frame for thinking in the next post or two of this series of the goal of a Community Engagement Initiative.

The job of a leader is to have a vision that inspires citizens, that connects with citizens, that engages citizens. Sometimes that vision is capsuled in a slogan. What is your vision of/for Bethlehem?

Will Carpenter

Bethlehem is a gem. We are very fortunate to have inherited what we have from past leaders. Many, many business leaders, residents, and city employees work to make what we have so special. Our first obligation is to respect that work and the needs of our current tax payers. Where is the sense in giving public funding to attract new businesses that harm existing ones? We must define what we value in our community and make policy to promote and protect those values.

This has always been a place where hard working people can afford to live, find good jobs and attend great schools. To protect this we need strong leadership to value and attract more than just high-end developments. Neighborhoods should have a seat at the table when new projects are considered. If a project is not supported by the surrounding neighborhood citizens, their concerns should be addressed before a project can move forward. At the very least, contested projects should not be awarded public funding or tax incentives.

Our historic city is uniquely situated for smart growth —  or exploitation. Our geographic position, natural and historic beauty makes us attractive to businesses and investors. We should both protect and take advantage of this and make Bethlehem better for everyone — with projects that help fund solid infrastructure and connectivity, improve air and water quality, and so on to allow us all pursue our livelihoods on equal footing.

We must respect our past as we forge our future.

Michael Colon

Moving forward I want to keep making Bethlehem a place where natives want to stay and out-of-towners want to move to. As many industrial towns across this country lost their economic anchors, like a steel mill, they saw a mass exodus. Even as recently as my high school and college years, I’d have to hear from friends that Bethlehem did not appeal to them. Reasons included lack of career opportunities, a perception of a rusty old steel town, or simply “nothing to do.” Through its reinvention and revitalization, Bethlehem has come out of the shadow of the Bethlehem Steel celebrating strong technology, arts, education, healthcare, and small business sectors. We are unique in how we’ve redefined what Bethlehem is and what it will continue to be. This energy revitalizes a community and brings it together. I envision more community hubs and events growing that bring out neighborhoods. The expanded Tunes at Twilight concert series, the upcoming 3rd season of the West Side Farmer’s Market, the Recreation Bureau’s Movies in the Park, all the events put on by the Downtown Bethlehem Association and SouthSide Arts District. I envision us to keep diversifying our economy, supporting the quality of life for all who live here, and fostering the sense of one big community. When we stop moving, the rust comes back.

David Saltzer

The Historic City of Bethlehem, The Christmas City, The Steel City, all of these make Bethlehem unique, and all of these describe this great city’s ideals and history. This city is rich in its history, which needs to be preserved and continue to be taught to the next generation, as well as new residents and visitors. I have concerns that we are losing some of that history by allowing buildings to be built that do not fit into the neighborhoods or blend in with the beautiful architecture of the city. We need to look into rehabilitating some of these beautiful remaining structures and reusing them rather than destroying them and building new “box” structures. We are on the cusp of an exciting time and have the opportunity to do some phenomenal things to bring affordable housing into the city and attract businesses that will work with the city to maintain some of the history while providing good jobs with a livable wage. These initiatives will attract people to live, work, and reinvest in the city, allowing it to grow and create new history. Bethlehem-present has the ability right now to make Bethlehem-future something that our previous generations would be proud of and happy to call home.

Walkability and bikeability are important issues. How can we make that more enjoyable and safer for everyone in the city? The city has applied for a grant to have a study done on this initiative. I am excited to see what the study shows and what the recommendations are.

J. William Reynolds

During my time on City Council, I have tried to lay out a vision for what our community needs to be moving forward. I included my vision for our city in my Bethlehem 2017 initiative when I proposed making our city more progressive and investing in several areas in which I felt we could do more. We needed to focus on the issues that will determine our success in the 21 st century and do so by creating opportunities for our citizens to be involved in helping to create the solutions to the problems of the 21st century.

We need to focus on the issues that matter to our residents – climate, neighborhood reinvestment, technology, the efficiency of government. That focus starts with planning
that includes creating long-term strategies for our community and our city. That planning isn’t just elected officials sitting around talking. It involves government
leveraging the best asset we have – the passion of our citizens.

Our community is at its best when we have everyone working in the same direction on an issue. Our NorthSide2027 neighborhood meetings are a great example of that.
Families, long-time residents, small business owners, community groups coming together to work on planning what the future of their neighborhood can be. This is the
vision that I have always had for our city – our neighbors coming together to positively talk about what we are as a community and what we can be. We are going to need
more of that to make sure Bethlehem never loses what makes our city what it is.

Grace Crampsie Smith

My vision is captured in the following: “Embrace our rich heritage as we build our future.” Given Bethlehem’s rich cultural and architectural history, it is fundamental to maintain a balance between preserving the city’s past, honoring the people and businesses that built this city, and promoting progress in our diverse community. Bethlehem is a city that has never been stagnant. We are unique in that for centuries Bethlehem has constantly evolved and re-invented itself in the arts, education, and business while never losing sight of its heritage. Maintaining a balance between our past and future will remain a constant challenge, yet an achievable one. The Steel Stacks is a fine example of connecting the past and the future. While many steelworkers had concerns re: this project, it has a good mix of preservation of the industry that built this city and the addition of a great cultural center for the city. As we move forward, it is imperative to honor and build upon our unique past, while incorporating modern and smart growth.

Paige Van Wirt

I think Bethlehem has been held in a paradigm of development that is left over from the early years when Bethlehem Steel closed: any development is good development.  I think this is an outdated notion and does not reflect the reality that we are a unique city, poised for a development boom, with a diversified tax base and beautiful downtowns, architecture, and geography.  We are in this strong position in part due to the hard work of our previous city leaders. However, this economic engine must now be harnessed and directed to create a city that respects our downtowns, demands excellence in the plans and vision of the investors in our city, and hews to the notion that a great city comes from incremental, healthy organic growth of codependent businesses, and does not run after the next large, bright shiny object.

I see a walkable Bethlehem, including a pedestrian bridge project if found to be feasible, that attracts young people to stay here, or to relocate to here, because of our wonderful quality of life. I see a Bethlehem that emphasizes alternative means of transportation, including walking on our future repaired sidewalks, with increased residential density downtown to support our small businesses. I see a Bethlehem that uses data to drive decisions, not campaign donations. I see a Bethlehem that respects the environment and uses the power of the government to pilot green initiatives that have worked for other cities. I see a Bethlehem that prioritizes the development of affordable housing through targeted zoning changes which will spur construction in this price range. I see a Bethlehem, emboldened by the involvement of its citizens in local government, that is innovative, fiscally prudent, adaptive of best practices and determined to provide a joyous quality of life for all our citizens, a Bethlehem where the citizens know their voices matter, and will be heard.

What shape will the Community Engagement Initiative take and when?

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Councilman Reynolds — co-sponsor with Councilwoman Crampsie Smith of the July 7 resolution that urged a Community Engagement Initiative — has been the prime articulator of the goals and possible shape of the CEI.

It might be instructive for us to revisit his two main statements about the CEI:

July 7: ‘Reynolds rationale for the resolution”
August 11: “Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative”

Let Gadfly summarize for you key points about the Community Engagement Initiative articulated by Councilman Reynolds:

  • Goal: “The Community Engagement Initiative is not about our police department; it is about a different kind of conversation and looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.”
  • Shape: “There can be two types of meetings, one type of meeting could be run by the City of Bethlehem similar to [the Public Safety meeting] . . . The second type of meeting, though, could and needs to be run by organizations and groups in our community . . . [schools, churches, social justice organizations]. . . . It is important that City Hall or Council doesn’t control all of these meetings.”

Let’s talk about the shape of the CEI now and the goal in the next post.

Meetings run by the City

Let’s think about this first type meeting. Since it’s run by the City (but “who” is that, as Gadfly’s last post asks?), this aspect of the CEI should be easier to set up, and Gadfly wonders why we haven’t already seen some progress here. What would these meetings be about? Councilman Reynolds already has a good idea. When he has spoken about the intertwining tendrils of systemic racism, he machine guns a litany of subject areas. In fact, the July 7 resolution itself contains a litany of agenda items. Topics for CEI meetings run by the City could include mental health, addiction, poverty, inclusionary housing, affordable housing, zoning, transportation, education, policing, employment practices. Thoughtful people might create such a list of the tendrils of systemic racism, consult about setting priorities, set priorities about which areas/issues to tackle first, and begin calling residents and people with special knowledge or expertise together to suggest the kinds of policies and legislation that would work to eradicate (he says boldly) racism in each area. Each meeting could be tasked to generate a list of ideas as well as a list of legislation. Gadfly feels that this type meeting has the best chance for getting things done quickly, and he wonders — ha! since, of course, he doesn’t have to do any of the work — why it isn’t up and running already.

Meetings run by community groups

The goal of these meetings, says Councilman Reynolds, could be letting people share their experiences . . . whatever organizers of the meetings want. The decentralized nature of these meetings by design requires the host organization to set the agenda, control questions, etc. We’re talking here about schools, churches, the Boy’s and Girl’s Club, New Bethany, and so forth. The agendas here would be set by the individual community groups. It is not clear to Gadfly how these meetings will be stimulated. It is not clear to Gadfly how substantive ideas from these meetings will get back to Council, it is not clear how the community groups will be assured that their ideas will get back to Council, for some Council members have already said that they will do their best but that for sure they would not be attending all such meetings. And the more meetings there are, the more successful the CEI catches on with community groups, the less likely Council will have much direct involvement at the grass roots level. If “we” succeed in sparking a thousand, a hundred, a dozen, a half-dozen “points of light,” how is the loop closed and how are the ideas generated brought back to Town Hall for action? Councilman Reynolds stated that he had his own ideas, but that it was important that others be heard. Gadfly gets the need for wide engagement, gets the need to assure that the agenda is open, but at this point Gadfly worries that there won’t be cohesion and looks to hear more about how this type meeting will work as part of the CEI. The danger is that people are invited to talk, nothing comes of the talk, and civic participation loses even more ground. You might remember Gadfly astounded that after 27 people called in to the Public Safety Committee meeting August 11, they were promised no follow-up, just a kind of vague “we’ll get back to ya,” and at the subsequent Council meeting one week later there was (he thinks) no substantive mention of the Public Safety meeting at all, no mirroring of all that citizen input. Where did that several hours of citizen comment go? Poof.

Gadfly is not sure if Councilman Reynolds was saying that there could be two types of meetings running concurrently. That does seem too much. Maybe he was throwing his full weight behind this second type. If so, Gadfly feels it will take more organization than he’s heard of so far, and he worries that time to meaningful action will spin out too far. But maybe that’s not a problem for many of you. Being an old feller, Gadfly has a more acute sense of the value of time than others. But all of us probably believe that the sooner racism is stemmed the better. Let’s get started.

Comments invited as always.

to be continued . . .

Gadfly’s insomnia

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Gadfly was up early this morning. Before the paper delivery man, before even the Word of the Day (“purport”) appeared in his in-box.

Part of that has to do with his 80-year-old plumbing.

But the main part has to do with nagging questions about our Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly knows you will envy him so smooth and settled a life that during a pandemic, the last 50 days of a nation-gripping-ripping presidential election, and ongoing concern over his sagging mental and physical powers that it’s the CEI that makes him lose sleep.

But there you go.

Gadfly’s excited about the CEI, very excited. People all over the city, underheard people especially, gathering, speaking, a social spreading of a positive kind, a spreading of dreams, ideas, concerns, problems, energy, enthusiasm. A powerful bubbling up of citizen participation. Democracy in action.

But he still doesn’t get it yet.

Forget that in the exact words in the resolution that passed July 7 in the Year of Our Lord 2020, he reads that “the City Council of the City of Bethlehem urges the Mayor and his Administration to collaborate with the City of Bethlehem Police Department to create a public space and forum,” that is, to create the “Community Engagement Initiative.” There is no sign that is happening. There is no sign that “the Mayor and his Administration” is doing that. And it seems it is only the anal-retentive Gadfly that is worrying about this little detail about who is to set up the CEI, or only the anal-retentive Gadfly who even remembers this little detail.

Sigh.

But the reason the anal-retentive Gadfly is exercising his anal-retentiveness over this detail is that he thinks we need to know who is responsible for the CEI. He thinks we need to know whom we should hold responsible, whom we should hold accountable for whether or not the CEI happens, for whether or not it is productive. Is it Councilman Reynolds? Is it Councilwoman Crampsie Smith? Is it both Councilman Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie Smith? Is it Council as a whole? Is it community organizations?

Where does the buck start and stop?

And something’s missing for Gadfly — visible organization, a visible plan.

If it’s there, if it’s happening, it’s not visible, at least to Gadfly. Yet.

So what got Gadfly up early this morning (it’s 4:58 as he writes) is the fact that here we are on the brink of another Council meeting, and he is afraid we are not going to hear any more in a concrete way about the extremely exciting notion of a Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly’s putting this in the queue for 8:00AM posting. No sense disturbing your sleep as his has been disturbed.

to be continued . . .

What is the Community Engagement Initiative, and how does it relate to the police? Can you count from 1-10?

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Community Engagement Initiative logo

The police are in the cross-hairs, nationally and locally.

Why?

Many of our residents cannot understand what seems to be a negative focus on the police, and even in some a desire to eliminate the police altogether.

At the final session of BAPL’s wonderful 4-part “Dialogues on Racial Justice” workshop series, Guillermo Lopez said that when the oppressed, the suppressed, the downtrodden finally get the energy to look up from the figurative boot on their neck and seek change, what they see first is the police. (I am paraphrasing and probably elaborating unconscionably.)

Floyd 16

The police are seen as the visible, tangible, memorable proximate manifestation of their poor condition, which has manifold sources.

Councilman Reynolds uses the easily grasped analogy of counting from 1-10. The police are 10, but there is a laundry list of social injustices before that, a 1-9, that need to be addressed first and as well if the condition between the police and the community can be improved.

There are problems with the police, but in these analogies, Reynolds and Lopez helped me see the bigger picture and understand that change in 10 demands change elsewhere.

Short clip. Listen up. Provides clarity. Good stuff. Exciting prospect.

  • One’s opportunities are often determined by your race.
  • Correcting those inequities on a structural level is one of the basic tenets of the idea of social justice
  • Social justice is not just about policing.
  • It’s like counting to 10; the police get involved when you get to 10.
  • But social justice is working, caring, dedicating your life to 1 through 9.
  •  . . . education . . . mental health . . . transportation . . . housing . . . employment . . . the list goes on and on . . .
  • We as a city cannot have a conversation about number 10 without going through 1-9.
  • That’s what the Community Engagement Initiative is about.
  • This does not mean not having a police department.
  • It means understanding that systemic racism exists in 1 through 10.
  • It means spending our time and allocating our resources . . . in a way that recognizes the responsibility of people in positions of authority to fix 1 through 10.

If you want to refresh yourself on Councilman Reynolds’ July 7 full comments from which the above clip is excerpted, go here:

Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative

 

Gadfly looks for the wave

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Community Engagement Initiative logo

The Community Engagement Initiative is . . . is about . . . looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.
Councilman Willie Reynolds, August 11, 2020

America is ready . . . to do the hard work of rooting out our systemic racism.
Prez candidate Joe Biden, August 20, 2020

I would ask Dr. Van Wirt, are you for defunding the Police Department?
Councilman Bryan Callahan, August 18, 2020

Gadfly has called the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative “audaciously ambitious.”

Means it.

And he was thinking about it last night during the Biden speech.

Councilman Reynolds has framed the work (“so eloquently,” admired Councilwoman Van Wirt) with our country’s highest ideals.

It’s a program to get excited about.

End systemic racism, create an equitable city.

Gadfly keeps hearing Anna Smith’s “We have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.” (T-shirts coming)

What disappointed Gadfly so much watching the video of the August 18 City Council meeting (Gadfly has had some business to take care of at home so he could not be “present”) was the lack of detail about the program, the missed opportunity to generate enthusiasm and propel momentum.

A few posts back Gadfly invited you to listen to Councilman Reynolds’ words and “catch the wave.”

There wasn’t any.

Gadfly was surprised.

Gadfly can’t help but feeling that something’s wrong with the process. He still can’t understand the misalignment between the words of the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution that puts the CEI in the Mayor’s hands and the way it is unfolding in Council’s hands, what to him seemed the long delay in getting the Public Safety meeting, the lack of a clearly visible plan (Tuesday Public Safety Committee chair Colon simply said vaguely that “Council will continue to discuss next steps and make sure anything coming forward in the future will be communicated to the public”), and the virtual silence about the 6-hour August 11 meeting marked by vigorous comment from 25 members of the public.

Gadfly senses lack of urgency. Maybe it’s Gadfly’s fault, though. When you make a 9-1-1 call like he did last Friday, your mind re-prioritizes. The trivial tumbles to the bottom. Maybe he’s asking too much.

But Gadfly was surprised at the virtual silence at Tuesday’s meeting about the issues raised by the resolution and discussed August 11. He remembered Councilman Reynolds at the earlier July 7 Council  meeting justly defending the CEI from charges it was a band-aid, citing his own record of getting things done, a defense President Waldron justly seconded. Gadfly agrees. When he first started “paying attention” almost 3 years ago, he looked for a City agenda, a list of things to do, and he found Councilman Reynolds’ “Bethlehem 2017” documents, and since that time has watched those proposals come gradually into being. My sense is that Councilman Reynolds gets things done.

But, of course, maybe things are getting done in the background. Gadflies don’t really know anything. They only can see what they can see. He just wishes he could see more about so important a project.

He also wishes there were things he could unsee.

Gadfly has said above a couple times that Tuesday night there was “virtual silence” about the Public Safety Committee meeting and issues related to the resolution.

Carefully chosen words.

For there wasn’t complete silence.

There was this.

With Prez Waldron’s adjournment gavel in the air, there was this.

Felt like a grenade with “Council disengagement” stamped on it.

Gadfly wept.

Put this in your file of clips for the highlight reel when election time comes around again.

Councilwoman Crampsie Smith on the Community Engagement Initiative: building deeper, stronger, and more trusting relationships between the public, individuals, and the community as a whole

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Community Engagement Initiative logo

Co-sponsor with Councilman Reynolds, Crampsie Smith decries those instilling fear and anxiety in others and stresses her law enforcement genes as she joins JWR in kicking off the Community Engagement Initiative.

[The goal of the Community Engagement Initiative is] to address all issues relative to systemic racism as well as build bridges within the community and the police. Community Engagement is a framework of guiding principles that respects the right of all community members to be informed, consulted, involved, and empowered. Community Engagement allows everyone a voice over decisions that affect their lives and their cities and builds deeper, stronger and more trusting relationships between the public, individuals, and the community as a whole. That is our goal. What do we hope this will look like? I agree with Mr. Reynolds. . . . It could include community engagement in training, deliberate dialog and community input, and engaged research. But mostgrace crampsie smith important the direction that Community Engagement takes is guided by the framework of our community members because that’s what its truly all about. While I strongly believe in our democracy’s foundation of the right of all to express their opinions, it is very disturbing to have false contentions to instill fear and anxiety in others. No one on Bethlehem City Council ever said they want to or will eliminate our police department. This is ludicrous, and it is unfortunate that innocent citizens in our city have had fear and anxiety instilled in them needlessly due to these false accusations.  I thank our Administration and police for meeting with us and revising our use of force policies to comply with 8 Can’t Wait. We’ll meet to discuss the need for superior training and resources for mental health. . . . And this is only the beginning of our dialog. I feel I am in a unique position because I come from a family of police. . . . Thus I have personal insight into the professional challenges that police face daily.  Concurrently, I have spent almost 40 years in the Human Services and Counseling field. . . . In my current role as a school counselor. . . . Thus, I certainly do not agree with any group that calls for the elimination of the police. I do feel that we need to work together as a community to be anti-racist. I also feel that we need to insure that we use funds within the police department to make sure that our police and community have the best training and resources available to them. . . . beginning of a long term process. . . . enhance the overall health of our community. . . .

Councilman Reynolds on the Community Engagement Initiative: looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Community Engagement Initiative logo

Councilman Reynolds at the Public Safety Committee meeting August 11 lays out his vision of the Community Engagement Initiative: the goal is working toward ending systemic racism and creating an equitable city through two types of meetings, one run by the City, the other by diverse community groups.

Councilman Reynolds is at his rousing best here. Worth listening and catching his energy and enthusiasm.

“That was beautiful,” said Councilwoman Negron, “you get it!”

Community engagement is of course, of course synonymous with Gadfly’s mission.

The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith Community Engagement Initiative is audaciously ambitious.

Catch the wave!

  • Community Engagement Initiative is not just about our police department. It’s about something much bigger than that.
  • People have different experiences based on their race.
  • A lot of the justified anger and frustration . . . has arisen because many Americans and people in positions of authority do not understand those different experiences.
  • Black Lives Matter . . . acknowledges that opportunities in this country have been historically unequal.
  • Correcting those inequities on a structural level is one of the basic tenets of the idea of social justice.
  • Social justice is not just about policing.
  • [the 1-10 analogy, min. 1:28]
  • We can’t have the conversation about #10 [the police] without having a conversation about #’sReynolds 3 1-9.
  • That’s what the Community Engagement Initiative is about.
  • This does not mean not having a police department.
  • It means understanding that systemic racism exists.
  • The CEI is about 1 through 10.
  • [JWR’s students at Allen High School]
  • Their experiences with the institutions that we on City Council personally trust so much . . . they don’t have those same experiences.
  • Systemic issues . . . a priority for me and proposals I have brought forward . . .
  • Systemic racism is real.
  • [Everybody] should care about these other areas [the 1-9].
  • The Community Engagement Initiative is not about our police department; it is about a different kind of conversation and looking at the ways that we as a community can end systemic racism and create an equitable city.
  • . . . difficult to change things quickly . . . challenge to come up with a plan . . .
  • The Community Engagement Initiative is designed to create a vehicle through which change can be discussed and created by a community by listening to voices that traditionally have not had a seat at the table.
  • There can be two types of meetings, one type of meeting could be run by the City of Bethlehem similar to . . .
  • The second type of meeting, though, could and needs to be run by organizations and groups in our community . . . [schools, churches, social justice organizations]
  • It is important that City Hall or Council doesn’t control all of these meetings.
  • The goal of these meetings could be letting people share their experiences . . . whatever organizers of the meetings want.
  • The decentralized nature of organizing these meetings by design requires the host organization to set the agenda, control questions, etc.
  • The City can hopefully help to spread the word on these meetings, space on web site, etc.
  • Important that we allow organizations and groups the ability to create their own groups and the conversation [schools, churches, Boy’s Club, New Bethany, etc.].
  • Why do we need to have these meetings? Because it’s clear . . . that we need to hear from our residents and we need to hear what we as a city and a community need to do better.
  • How will we be held accountable for what comes up at these meetings? How will we see progress? . . . by what we say and what we do with the conversations and the discussion.
  • I think we do have an opportunity in the coming weeks and months to make tangible progress on ending systemic racism and creating more equitable systems.
  • I think we can change a lot of things in our city for the better.
  • The chance of us making progress, though, will come down to how many people in our community and in positions of authority believe, and are willing to say that they believe, systemic racism is real, that they believe that black and brown lives matter, and that they believe that it’s our responsibility, including anyone in society that has authority, to listen and fix these systems that cause so much damage and pain.
  • I do think that we can be doing much more.