For the record, the interchange between mayoral candidates about a lie

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

ref: Mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb introduce themselves to LV4ALL

Gadfly told you that there was a bit of the back and forth, a bit of the give and take between mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb at the April 6 meeting of Lehigh Valley for All.

He will present those interchanges in posts over the next few days.

But, first, a bit of a tempest has blown up in local social media about candidate Reynolds’ claim that candidate Grubb lied about not soliciting endorsements from City Council members.

As far as Gadfly can tell, at least some people engaged in the tempest making have not heard the interchange and are curious about it.

Here it is:

Candidate Reynolds:

The best that my opponent has as far as a vision is complaining about something that happened in 2011. So, I can tell you, and once again I guess I would say look at my colleagues. And if you take a look at Dr. Van Wirt and Councilman Colon. and Councilman Colon, and Councilwoman Negron, like they are all supporters of mine, and they are also people my opponent went to for support, and they said no because of his negativity and his vision.

Candidate Grubb:

I did not go to any elected officials looking for endorsements — at all.

Candidate Reynolds:

That’s a lie, but I’m going to let that go.

Mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb introduce themselves to LV4ALL

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

Tip o’ the hat to Lehigh Valley for All for convening the mayoral candidates April 6 for a bit of the back and forth. Gadfly will spin out the various pieces of their interchange over the next week or so, beginning here with their introductory remarks. Best to listen to the audio; the text is not an exact transcription.

J. William Reynolds

The only question that really matters in America right now is are you supportive of the changing identity of America. Our campaign is building momentum every day because of our commitment to building a more inclusive, vibrant, and equitable city. We have a chance coming out of the pandemic to invest, fix, and build better systems. During the pandemic so many of our systems failed, whether or not it was healthcare, or economics, or our educational systems. We have a sense of optimism right now, an opportunity to see what is possible throughout the Lehigh Valley. In Bethlehem we’ve been building those systems for several years, our Climate Action Plan, our Northside 2027 initiative, which has just recently gotten the addition of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op, and our commitment to expanding high-speed internet are just a few. Our campaign last week announced the endorsements of my great friends Grace Crampsie Smith and Dr. Van Wirt. They both commented to me that the reason whey they were supporting our campaign was because of our ability to build multi-class and multi-racial coalitions in our community and how this moment demands that kind of coalition and leadership. This momentum is not just because of my candidacy. We have wonderful candidates running for City Council as well. For the first time in January we are going to have a majority City Council. I’m excited to work with them. I’m excited for their support for my campaign. Bethlehem has always been a great place to live, work, and raise a family, and we have a vision to make our city more inclusive, equitable, and sustainable.

————

Dana Grubb

My integrity is not for sale. I have not sought nor would I accept endorsements from sitting elective officials because of the inside political dynamics that come with them. I also have not sought nor am I accepting contributions from the major developers who regularly do business in Bethlehem. I want economic development projects to stand on their own merit not the size of campaign contributions. I feel Bethlehem needs a comprehensive ethics ordinance. If we learned anything from what happened in Allentown, we’ve got to move in that direction. Of course, I’ve had many years experience in city government in a variety of capacities. I’ve managed both large and small staffs. I’ve budgeted. I intend to re-establish the Department of Parks and Recreation to better maintain and enhance our parks and facilities. I’ve been a small business owner for 17 years. And I intend to support the small business community by creating a one-stop shop. My mayor’s office will be bilingual and will include a community outreach position. And I will continue open office hours for the mayor. Affordable housing is something very near and dear to me When I managed as grants administrator the federal Community Development Block and Home grant program, we created a number of ideas and programs to address that, and to this day I work for a non-profit affordable housing group. I’m a strong component of community policing and providing the most up-to-date training. I will implement a zero-tolerance policy for bullying and intimidation, and discriminatory words and actions for city employees. I’ll look for the best and most diverse applicants for city positions as well as appointments to city authorities, boards, and commissions. I’m an environmental activist, member of the Sierra Club and Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and I hike, I bike. I think there are a number of things we can do to address the environmental impact of vehicles and development where it impacts traffic, air quality, carbon footprint, diesel idling, etc. I will remain an independent political influence, seek to serve residents first, and bring a lifetime of government and small business experience to the mayor’s office and hit the ground running.

Lehigh Valley for All endorses candidates

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Lehigh Valley for All is a progressive, community-minded, grassroots organization whose goals are to provide a platform for voters to gain knowledge of the political system and to effectuate progressive policies within their communities through issue campaigns and encouraging our membership to seek office.  

We are a group of volunteers that work hard to organize and help candidates that believe in our progressive values and want the Lehigh Valley to move forward.  Our group will put “boots on the ground” for candidates that receive our endorsement. 

BETHLEHEM MAYOR

   William Reynolds

BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL

   Grace Crampsie Smith

    Hillary Kwiatek

   Rachael Leon

      Kiera Wilhelm

Being endorsed by Lehigh Valley for All comes with a promise that we will assist in the candidate’s campaigns and help on election day at polling locations. Each of us must commit to writing postcards, posting signs, dropping off literature or making phone calls. LV4All has a reputation throughout the Valley for getting the best candidates elected and putting our time where our mouths are.

Gadfly council forum #4: an innovative project

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Council candidates comparison chart

“The overarching issue is inclusiveness and transparency in our city government so that we can bring everyone together and move forward with a true sense of belonging as residents of Bethlehem.”
Hillary Kwiatek

“For me, the building of a homeless shelter would be of upmost importance. . . . I hope to focus on environmental justice. This focus will allow me to work with council members and our local nonprofits to address the need for a homeless shelter. . . . The matter of a homeless shelter is one that speaks to our humanity.”
Rachel Leon

“It’s crucial that we provide swift, equitable, and easily accessible funding to help our small businesses stay in business.”
Kiera Wilhelm

————

The prompt:

Bryan, Grace, Hillary, Rachel, Kiera:

In the first three forum prompts, I have given you the topics.

Let’s turn that around this time.

You get to choose the topic.

Attached you will find a comparison chart. I wanted voters to have a handy way of looking at you all at once. I filled in the blocks of the chart from your campaign literature or hearing you make presentations, or, with Bryan and Grace, simply from knowing what you’ve done. I have tried to include what I have heard you identify as a campaign or platform issue.

Please pick one campaign or platform issue and elaborate on it.

What do you most look forward to working on in your term on Council?

Council members are problem solvers. What major problem would you like to work on either through the influence inherent in your position or through developing specific legislation —  whether alone or, most likely, in coalition with fellow Councilors?

Elaborate. What is the problem? How is it affecting our residents? How did you become engaged in it? What will you have to learn about it? What preparation will you have to do? With whom will you need to engage? What will be your goal? How will you go about achieving the goal? How will you gain support from your Council colleagues? What outcome do you seek? What value to the residents in our city will your work have?

Thanks for your service and your willingness to serve.

————

Hillary Kwiatek

Grace Crampsie Smith

————-

Rachel Leon

I would like to think that we all have an ethos, consciously or subconsciously, that guides how we make our decisions. For me, environmentalism is that ethos. In this time

of hyperpolarization, I believe that we can all agree on this one thing, there is only one planet Earth. For this reason, whenever I make a decision, I think of how this might affect my family, my neighbors, my community down to the seventh generation. Understanding environmentalism as a platform is to truly understand what it means to be part of a community. It isn’t just about planting more trees, although I believe we should. It isn’t just about picking up litter, even though I love a good clean-up effort. Environmentalism is investing in local economies and supporting our small businesses. Environmentalism is addressing the placement of factories in our communities and how this affects already marginalized communities. Environmentalism is addressing access to nutritious food and affordable housing. When we put the health of our community at the core of our decisions, we can address the macro issues of environmentalism, like our air quality. We can make real change.

I think of affordable housing when I think of environmental issues. When we cannot find affordable housing, we are forced to move further away from our communities, adding to our overall emissions. I think of access to a full-service grocery and of members of our community who must drive 20 minutes just to pick up a few items during the week. I think of our homeless community members that are at a higher risk of experiencing environmental hazards. One thing I love about Bethlehem is that we have community organizations that work on issues like these. Our council has members that champion environmental issues and work diligently to address affordable housing. If I am afforded the opportunity to serve, I hope to work along side of them, and bring my unique perspective as a resident of South Bethlehem. For me, the building of a homeless shelter would be of upmost importance. This past year has shown us that, as a community, we are all connected. When we help our most marginalized community members, we help the community at large.

Environmental issues will be my driving force as I work with other council members. Although environmentalism is multifaceted, I hope to focus on environmental justice. This focus will allow me to work with council members and our local nonprofits to address the need for a homeless shelter and to address our air quality. I am already working with members of the community that have boots on the ground, so to speak, regarding these issues. The more I work with them, the more I learn about what has been successful in the past as well as what has not worked. If we come together, the Council and the nonprofits that have already done much of the heavy lifting, we can come up with an effective plan that implements proven solutions. The matter of a homeless shelter is one that speaks to our humanity. It has support in our community. It is my hope that we can take the next steps and make it a reality.

————

Kiera Wilhelm

The meaningful relationships I have developed with small business owners in Bethlehem through my work at Fig have brought this community, and the issues they

face, close to my heart. I have always admired, deeply, the extraordinary hard work and dedication it takes to launch a small business. But this past year, I have been in awe. Forced closures, capacity reductions, layoffs, complex and time-consuming grant applications, learning how to keep customers and staff safe in a pandemic—the list of unimaginable challenges goes on.

With over $33 million of funding coming to Bethlehem through the 2021 American Rescue Plan Act, the City will have the opportunity to provide desperately needed support to small business owners: to help them keep and hire back employees, provide debt relief, cover the cost of upgrades and strategies required to keep customers safe, and more. It’s crucial that we provide swift, equitable, and easily accessible funding to help our small businesses stay in business. And not only the funding itself, but the guidance and information to help small business owners navigate the process of applying for and utilizing it. This involves direct communication with small business owners themselves and working closely with those already serving the important role of supporting our small business community—including our existing economic development team, organizations like CADCB, and individuals like Missy Hartney with the SouthSide Arts District and Tammy Wendling with the Downtown Bethlehem Association (both of whom have worked tirelessly to guide our small business owners through the ever-shifting landscape of the past year).

We must look beyond the pandemic, as well. What do our small business owners need to succeed and feel supported by the City in the long term, and how can we better provide that support? What can we do to create an even more vibrant small business community? Can we improve practices with regard to inviting entrepreneurship and encouraging new small business owners to choose Bethlehem? How can we, as a City, more actively promote our local businesses? What mistakes have we made in the past, and how can we correct them?  How can we make it as easy as possible for great small businesses to open, expand, and thrive—not just post-pandemic, but well into the future?

Small businesses are often referred to as the lifeblood of the US economy, for good reason. Spending that we do at local businesses helps our local economy. Small businesses create jobs, drive innovation, and enable us to purchase products made locally. And small business owners are members of our community, too. They are neighbors and friends; they know our favorite item on the menu, how we take our coffee. They, and the work they do, provide character and individuality to Bethlehem. They are invested, deeply, in what happens here. And the past year has challenged them like no other. Celebrating and supporting small business is more important than ever, and taking a greater role in helping our hard-working community of small business owners thrive—now and into the future—will be a great privilege and responsibility of my role on Bethlehem City Council.

———–

Bryan Callahan

———-

Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to ejg1@lehigh.edu. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.

Council candidate Grace Crampsie Smith visits the EAC: passionate about affordable housing

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“I was fortunate to grow up in the Jim Thorpe area, so I was surrounded by the beauty of the environment as I was growing up.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • born to a police chief and a nurse
  • grew up in Jim Thorpe area, surrounded by environmental beauty
  • spent career in human services: guidance counselor, addictions counselor, mental health and disabilities
  • taught at community college
  • grateful mother of three
  • almost arrested for refusing to litter (you have to listen!)
  • Affordable Housing Task Force
  • Insurance coverage for PTSD for first responders
  • helping business owners during pandemic
  • Community Engagement Initiative for social justice and police issues
  • working with Chief Kott of police training
  • responsible contractor ordinance
  • critical to preserve single-family homes
  • voted for regulation of student housing
  • voted against closing of Packer Ave.
  • supported pedestrian bridge feasibility study
  • initiated block watch
  • partnered with Pros-for-Clothes supplying clothes for homeless

“The issue of homelessness and the lack of inclusionary, multi-level income housing in our city is very passionate to me, and I have fought to try to do whatever we can to make Bethlehem as inclusionary as possible from a housing perspective.”

Council candidate Kiera Wilhelm visits the EAC: “the potential to gather us all together”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“I really appreciate the incredible effort you have put into the Climate Action Plan. . . . It’s not just creating the infrastructure but the culture shift.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • lived in Cambridge for 14 years, a city that puts a high priority on the environment
  • currently director of Fig Bethlehem magazine, whose mission is to support local business
  • has used her platform at Fig to engage in advocacy, including for the environment
  • piece on Jennie Gilrain, John Noble, and the Swifts in the current issue
  • appreciates incredible effort put into the Climate Action Plan
  • very important is the attention it gives to justice and equity
  • our most marginalized communities suffer the negative effects the most
  • advocacy leans in the community direction: walking, biking, pedestrian bridge, public transportation
  • need messaging, culture change
  • not just creating the infrastructure but creating the culture shift
    improving and creating parks and green spaces
  • access to our river
  • nature is there for all of us

“I believe that caring for the environment is important for many reasons in and of itself, but it is a way of caring for ourselves and our neighbors. It is in its nature equitable. It is there for all of us. And so it has the potential to gather us all together on bike and on foot. It is there for all of us.”

Council candidate Hillary Kwiatek visits the EAC: all in for the CAP

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“The Climate Action Plan actually is one of the six points of my inclusive
vision for Bethlehem.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • uses platform at work at Lehigh University to support the efforts of the sustainability program there
  • been a Democratic activist on planning issues since teen years
  • Climate Action Plan is one of her six platform issues
  • pandemic recovery, affordable housing, Climate Action Plan, racism/inequality, reimagine Public Safety, foster vibrant neighborhoods
  • pieces of the CAP are in all of the parts of her plan
  • particularly loves that the CAP instills environmental justice throughout
  • particularly struck by the implementation part of the CAP and Council’s important role there
  • avid organic gardener
  • changing policies to create better access to renewable energy
  • an ally to implementation of the CAP
  • worked on the communications piece of the CAP
  • timing of the CAP is brilliant, aligning with the federal infrastructure plan

“Pieces of the Climate Action Plan are in all of my plan, actually, because I want to address racism and inequality, I want to reimagine public safety, and I want to foster vibrant neighborhoods which also involve the parks, the playgrounds, the green space in out communities. What I love about the Climate Action Plan is that it instills environmental justice throughout.”

Council candidate Rachel Leon visits the EAC: wants a green Bethlehem

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“We need to make Bethlehem green.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • 10-yr Navy veteran
  • currently student at NCC
  • majoring in Global Studies with a focus on Environmental
  • president of the Climate Action network at NCC
  • has gone through Climate Reality training
  • must attract developers interested in using the buildings that we have
  • need new buildings with green energy
  • need to focus on our air quality, which is the poorest in the state
  • must preserve our green spaces, must maintain the few that we have, particularly on the Southside
  • need to make Bethlehem a more pedestrian friendly city

“We are seeing a lot of apartment complexes being built up, and with more apartment complexes and increased population density, we’re seeing more cars, which is feeding the beast of our air quality.”

That’s Rachel and Joshua on the D&L trail.

Gadfly mayoral forum #4: innovative projects

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

Because of the Easter holiday weekend, we’ve pushed our Forum posts back a day, and we’ll continue a Tuesday forum for the mayoral candidates and a Wednesday one for the Council candidates going forward.

This time the Gadfly Forum asks different questions of our candidates.

Once again, a tip o’ the hat to our candidates. Voting is getting closer, and everybody is getting busier. The extraordinary care taken with these responses is obvious.

———-

The prompts:

Willie:

You have been a City Councilman for a long time. You have a record of achievement that includes Northside 2027, the Climate Action Plan, and the Open Data Portal. You tout that achievement as a basis for your qualifications to be mayor.

Speaking as an average citizen, Northside 2027 and the Climate Action Plan are easy to “get.” I see what Northside 2027 is and understand its value. I see what the Climate Action Plan is and understand its value.

But speaking as an average citizen, I don’t “get” the Open Data Portal. Frankly, I have never gone there till 20 minutes before writing this, and I don’t understand its value except, perhaps, for the green eyeshade type folk who find numbers aphrodisiac and charts of pie delicious.

Here’s what you say on your candidate web site about the Open Data Portal:

“I am proud to have proposed and created Open Bethlehem – our city’s first open data program.  Open data allows citizens access to data related to local government, our community, and our neighborhoods. People throughout the country, when given access to government collected data, have found innovative and creative uses for the data that improve their community. Some applications of city open data initiatives include the tracking of budget revenue and projections, the efficiency of city services, health and code violations, police department statistics, and economic investment information. Bethlehem’s open data program has the potential to transform the ways in which citizens are able to access and utilize public data in an effort to improve our community. Bethlehem’s Open Data portal can be viewed here.

Please make the Open Data Portal interesting and valuable to me as an average citizen.

Perhaps take me to (be clear about how to navigate) and expand upon 2-3 specific examples of data you think an average citizen would be (should be?) most interested in or surprised by.

And, most intriguing of all, is it possible for you suggest or speculate how having access to that data might be useful for individual or groups of citizens striving to improve their community, as you claim?

Thanks for your service.

———–

Dana:

You were a City administrator for many years. But not lately.

You have told us of significant accomplishments during your significant time with the City. But you have none lately.

What you do have, though, contrary to Willie, are plans for intriguing new projects – such as the small business concierge and the reorganization of parking.

Here’s what you say about these two ideas:

Parking Authority Reform: Bethlehem needs a kinder, gentler parking authority. Many residents and small business owners feel that the Bethlehem Parking Authority is not approachable, and as a result is out of touch with the community that they are attempting to serve. I will address this and will consider moving the day-to-day operation into city hall, with the Parking Authority operating solely as the financing arm of that operation. This would give residents and business owners recourse through their elected representatives.

Small Business Assistance: Small businesses are the backbone of our local retail, restaurant, commercial and service sector. I understand many of the concerns that other small business owners have expressed to me. Small businesses are a critical part of our community’s economic vitality, and city government needs to recommit to providing assistance to current and prospective small businesses in Bethlehem. My administration will create a “small business concierge” to do exactly that.

Please expand on one or both of these ideas (depending on how much you have to say) – the need for them, their purpose, how they would operate, the value for the residents, and the city.

Thanks for your willingness to serve.

————

J. William Reynolds

Open data is about transparency, innovation, and collaboration with the community.  It is also about possibility.

  • What is Open Bethlehem now? First and foremost, it is about transparency. If one visits Open Bethlehem, they can track our budget, our revenues, ourexpenditures, and the cost drivers.  Snow operations, street overlays, and pension costs are just a few of the topics one is able to track on a year to year basis. This information provides the structure for our budget every year. Rather than waiting for the budget to come around in November, one can see the revenues and expenditures that control the vast majority of what is included in the draft budget in November and December. This is a huge improvement over the previous process that one would have to undertake to find any of this financial data.
  • What can Open Bethlehem be? The next Administration needs to expand the public data that citizens are able to see. How many housing violations are in my neighborhood? How many building permits are currently active in my neighborhood? What streets are the most traffic tickets given out on? Other cities are leading the way in making this information easily accessible to the citizens of their community.

Open data is also about innovation. Government data has long influenced private sector and institutional decision-making. For example, hospital networks often make decisions on what services to provide in a certain area based on census data. Our City Health Bureau has valuable data that is extraordinarily helpful to our hospital networks. These data sets have enormous short- and long-range consequences and potential benefits for public health in our community. The pandemic has proved the necessity for this type of cooperation. This is only one example of public and private innovation. There are also extensive benefits to working with school districts, entrepreneurs, and social service providers which leads to our next question . . .

  • How do we get to the next stage of Open Data as a community? It starts with asking the community what data sets that they want. Our Open Bethlehem site now is effective if one is looking for information on city finances. We have not, however, even scratched the surface of the capabilities of what we can do with the above mentioned groups and institutions. This will not happen by accident, however. When I launched the concept of Open Bethlehem, I launched the Open Data Working Group that met with hospital network representatives, business leaders, city staff, and interested citizens to talk about the possibilities. The Working Group led to the launch of Open Bethlehem, but it must be empowered to expand the benefits of open data in our city. City staff are unable to know exactly what the private sector, social service providers, and health care networks want. We need to bring them into City Hall to find out.
  • How else do we see the benefits of technology as a city? This is not breaking news, but how well government utilizes technology will be a determining factor in the effectiveness and efficiency of government in the 21st century. Similar to the private sector, we need to invest in technological innovation within City Hall and in our community. Another thing we can do is sponsor community technology cooperation. Tech meetups with our tech community, hack-a-thons to create new city apps, and collaboration with universities and colleges are all examples of the types of initiatives that most cities are doing (and every city will do in the coming years). We should be able to track snow plows on our phones. We should make it easier to get text alerts about snow emergencies.  Adding these types of services must be a priority for us in the coming years if we are going to continue to offer the high-quality city services that our residents have come to expect and enjoy.

As a city, we have started to use technology more efficiently, but we have a long way to go to. Open data is one part of that effort to expand our technological capabilities and improve our ability to deliver services in an efficient and equitable manner. Our success in building a fairer, more inclusive city depends on it.

———-

I have observed and interacted with several City Councils over the years, both when I worked in City Hall and since then. I’ve witnessed professional and effective.

Council members, as well as unprofessional, ineffective, self-serving ones. Being a resident of the City but not part of its administration for the past 17 years has afforded

me objectivity and given me perspective regarding its government. It’s been eye-opening, and I have at times been vastly disappointed in the decision-making process on Council.

I’ve witnessed a disturbing disingenuousness on the part of publlc officials with regard to issues they do not wish to address: in particular, the Bethlehem Parking Authority. More than once I’ve heard a Mayor or Member of Council tell someone who has a parking question or issue that they can’t do anything because the BPA is a separate authority.

I’ve also listened to complaint after complaint from residents and business owners about the intransigent treatment given to those who feel that they’ve been disrespected or mistreated by the BPA. I recently received a video from a resident showing their interaction with a very surly enforcement officer. Gadfly, you yourself have experienced a chilly reception at a BPA board meeting.

If you believe as I do that government’s function is to provide service and be accountable, then it makes perfect sense to have the city’s parking system responsible and accountable to Bethlehem residents and business owners through their elected representatives.

In order to improve service and accountability I’ve proposed bringing the day-to-day operation of the parking authority under the aegis of the Mayor and City Council. The authority would remain to fund and own the parking authority infrastructure, and the city Department of Parking would remain at the current North Street Parking Garage location. The Director of this department would be a member of the Mayor’s cabinet and attend Mayor’s staff meetings.

This model parallels the structure of the city’s water system, so it’s a very familiar and successful paradigm in Bethlehem city government.

My small business concierge proposal has also come as a result of repeated dissatisfaction expressed by small business owners about their experiences with City Hall, whether as an existing owner trying to draw attention to a matter of importance or a prospective new business owner who has experienced many frustrating hurdles in City Hall as they tried to open a new business.

Having a one-stop shop that can provide a roadmap of assistance will encourage small businesses to locate in Bethlehem and allow existing owners to flourish. Acting on their behalf and walking them through the permitting, inspections and licensing process will encourage entrepreneurs to locate in Bethlehem. The small business concierge will also be able to link existing and future business owners to potential funding sources and assist them in filing applications for that assistance.

Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. Their success is in all of our best interests.

Both of these ideas came about because I’ve been listening to residents and business owners, as a lifetime Bethlehem resident and small business owner myself.

When issues present themselves, we need a Mayor who has proven that they can find solutions, someone Bethlehem’s residents can believe in, who won’t play politics and jeopardize citizens’ livelihoods or trivialize their concerns.

Lastly, I’d like to touch on a third proposal I’ve made, that of re-establishing the Department of Parks and Recreation. The pandemic has brought people into parks and playgrounds and onto trails, as they seek fresh air, exercise, and solace.

As I visited Bethlehem’s parks and trails, I was dismayed at the lack of attention they’ve been receiving, especially when I saw how well-maintained parks and trails elsewhere were while I’ve been hiking and biking throughout Eastern Pennsylvania.

By restoring this department with an emphasis on maintenance and beautification, we can bring back what were at one time some of the nicest recreation facilities in the Lehigh Valley. Our residents deserve as much.

I believe that all three of these initiatives will benefit Bethlehem residents by providing more accountability on parking matters, improving the business climate in our town, and keeping our recreation facilities well maintained and safe for the heavy usage they’ve been experiencing. This allows all of us to “Believe in a Better Bethlehem.”

———–

Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to ejg1@lehigh.edu. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.

Council candidate Bryan Callahan visits the EAC: a proud financial supporter of pro-environment officials

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“One of the things I’m probably most proud of is I have not only supported
very pro-environmental people, but I have also backed it up with large donations.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • voting record on environmental issues is 100%
  • supported the Climate Action Plan
  • instrumental in securing funds for the Rose Garden
  • supported the Appalachian Mountain Club at Illick’s Mill and our Urban Forestry initiative
  • backed up support of pro-environmental people with large donations
  • specifically Susan Wild and Tara Zrinski
  • supported watershed plans

“I gave a $1000 to our Congresswoman Susan Wild, who I think is doing a great job [for the environment], and Tara Zrinski is a good friend of mine. I have been one of her greatest financial supporters. She is one of the largest voices we have when it comes to climate change and the environment in the Lehigh Valley.”

Candidates speaking to the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Lehigh Valley Stands Up (LVSU) is a grassroots multi-racial working class force for transformative political change in the Lehigh Valley. We empower constituents and public servants alike to address systemic causes of inequity at the heart of our mission, especially the systems that disproportionately impact our marginalized communities, such as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQIA+); disabled; and otherwise vulnerable residents.

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb and City Council Candidates Hillary Kwiatek and Kiera Wilhelm committed to the LVSU 2021 Movement Pledge and completed a 9-question questionnaire “intended to help the members of Lehigh Valley Stands Up (LVSU) understand how you view the world and the political issues that face the Lehigh Valley.”

You can find each candidate’s complete questionnaire here: LVSU Dana Grubb, LVSU Hillary Kwiatek, LVSU Kiera Wilhelm.

Question #2, for instance, asked, “What do you believe are the biggest issues facing BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ constituents? How does it fit into your campaign priorities?”

Here’s how our three candidates answered that question:

Dana Grubb: “Two of my priorities are inclusivity and excellence of service; city staff and city authorities, boards, and commissions will reflect the diversity of Bethlehem. BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities are not only under recognized and under supported, they are under utilized. In seeking out the best to serve our community, all constituents will be encouraged, welcomed and considered by my administration for appointments.”

Hillary Kwiatek: “In my conversations with BIPOC community members, I often hear the themes that are common to the experience of BIPOC Americans in general: Racism continues to pose great challenges in access to economic opportunity and generational wealth. Access to quality healthcare (including during the pandemic) and nutritious food is not equitable in our city. The way the police treat BIPOC community members is different than how they treat white community members. I have also heard particularly from Latinx South Side residents that there has been too much focus on higher end rental housing development and not enough focus on the community’s needs. All of these concerns are all aligned with my campaign priorities of fighting for transparent economic development that provides family-sustaining wages, reimagining public safety, expanding municipal public health, and increasing access to affordable housing.

In the LGBTQIA+ community, there are many experiences, including the experiences of those who exist at the intersection of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ identities. In Bethlehem, our municipal government has passed ordinances of inclusivity, including a ban on conversion therapy. I have heard from my LGBTQIA+ neighbors and friends that they generally feel welcome here, but that may not be the case for all LGTBQIA+ Bethlehem residents.

As the mother of a transgender young woman, I am especially focused on making sure that Bethlehem continues to be a welcoming and inclusive place for her and for all of our LGBTQIA+ residents in the face of the growing movement seeking to stem the tide of progress in our country.

If I am elected, I pledge to greatly increase the amount of interaction city council has with members of Bethlehem’s vulnerable and marginalized communities, including convening town halls and/or hearings on site in impacted neighborhoods.

Kiera Wilhelm: “This question is challenging to answer, because there are so many issues that any BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ individual faces, on any given day. Each at the time will feel—and therefore is—the most significant. Especially as someone who is not a member of either community, my job is to listen, and to learn.

There are foundations of systemic, historic, deep-seated bias that underlie the daily inequities faced by both populations. Challenging this bias is crucial work that extends beyond my run for Council, or beyond any one election. It’s a long haul. Inequities must be addressed, every day, at every level, by me, and by all of us. By challenging our own assumptions; through our interactions with family and friends; by enacting policies that advance justice and equity, and amending policies that do not. By enabling and empowering marginalized communities, and correcting past injustices.

Guided by the lived experiences of those in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities, I will work, every day, to be a voice on Council that strives to represent their needs and experience; that ensures that they feel safe and heard, and can live without discrimination, harassment, or violence.

Councilwoman Van Wirt endorses candidate Reynolds for Mayor

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“This has been the most challenging of years, and as I think about who can be the best Mayor for Bethlehem, I believe that person is J. William Reynolds.

I feel that he has the ability to guide Bethlehem to a future where all citizens are able to see our city as a place of hope, and of opportunity.

I am a strong proponent of fiscal prudence and balanced development, as well the fundamental responsibility of a city to provide excellent municipal services, including community policing.

I believe Mr. Reynolds is fully committed to the future of Bethlehem along that path and look forward to his leadership.”

Dr. Paige Van Wirt, Bethlehem City Council

Meet the candidates tomorrow night Thursday at the EAC

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Take advantage!

The Environmental Advisory Council has invited our candidates to their regular monthly meeting.

Thursday, April 1, 7PM.

Contact:
Lynn Rothman, Chair
Bethlehem EAC
Lynn@therothmans.info

LINK TO JOIN
Topic: EAC Monthly Meeting
Time: Apr 1, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/95616243255?pwd=amVDMlhsdEVRUmpnWjBJK05RZG5yUT09

Meeting ID: 956 1624 3255
Passcode: 156493

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Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aBpm39ln8

Gadfly council forum #3: city services

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Council candidates comparison chart

“As Councilperson, warmly inviting and empowering residents to participate
will be at the core of my service.”
Kiera Wilhelm

“Elected officials need to find better ways to go to the communities that
tend to have less of a voice in local politics.”
Rachel Leon

“If I am elected, I will view constituent services as, in fact, part of ‘my job’.”
Hillary Kwiatek

“In serving and responding to others within the community my golden rule will
continue to be: ‘It doesn’t cost you anything to be nice to people’.”
Grace Crampsie Smith

“[City residents] know I will look into their particular situation and,
if I have to, fight and act on their concerns!”
Bryan Callahan

————

The prompt:

Bryan, Grace, Hillary, Rachel, Kiera

Our first two Forums were on “heady” topics: the budget and development.

I’d like to come more down to earth in this Forum #3.

Council responsibilities include setting the budget, approving personnel appointments, and passing laws. Big ticket items. On the other hand, the mayor has responsibilities for the day-to-day running of the city — from trash to parking to paving to snow to leaves, etc., and etc.

But you will get asked (or told!) about these things. Even Gadfly gets asked about this kind of basic quality of life/city services stuff. People think since I have a big mouth, I have some power to take care of a problem or get something done at City Hall. So you surely will get asked. People look at you as their voice in City Hall, the person to bring complaints to. The City Council meeting is what I call the “face” of city government. You’ve seen people show up at Town Hall or call in about water leaking into their cellar from a neighbor, fireworks bothering their dogs, and such things. It’s where they bring their complaints. And you’ve seen the Council prez awkwardly try to plead “not my job” and pass the resident on.

(Veterans Bryan and Grace might talk about their experience with this kind of resident contact. What have people complained to you about, what did you do, what was the outcome?)

So in this Forum I want you to think about basic city services. Residents will be telling you things, a lot good, we hope, but certainly some complaints about basic city services. It’s in the nature of your job to have your ear to the ground. Since you are now asking people for their vote, some no doubt are responding to you with a sort of “what will you do for me”? Or here’s what I want you to do. That is, here’s a problem we’d like you to do something about. Will you work on it if I vote for you?

If elected, you may not have a hand in the day-to-day managing of public services, but you will probably find it important to establish good rapport with the Mayor and department heads and so forth to be a channel for resident voices. If another level of persuasion is necessary, you have the power of the bully pulpit at Council meetings to call attention to a problem that you feel needs tending. And in the final analysis you might utilize the power of the budget to shape how City services are performed or delivered.

What are you hearing with your ear to the ground about those basic city services that have such a great impact on the day-to-day lives of the average resident?

Please share what you are hearing, what you are thinking about on this level.

What would you like to see worked on, improved?

You will be working with a new mayor — will there be things you will be bringing to his attention as he shapes his agenda and priorities at this basic level of City/resident relationship and interaction?

Thanks for your service and willingness to serve.

————

Kiera Wilhelm

When I first moved back to Bethlehem seven years ago, I lived in an apartment at a fairly busy intersection downtown. It was a noisy spot, located above a bar, and with

a good amount of incessant atmospheric noise at large. One day, I was speaking (okay, complaining) to a friend about it, who had lived in Bethlehem for years, and was quite involved in the community.

“You should bring it up to City Council,” he shared. “There’s a chunk of time at every meeting for the public to share any concerns or grievances.” This conversation was my first real introduction to Bethlehem City Council.

At the time, the thought of standing in front of a room of people at a podium to talk about my noise complaints made me shudder a bit; who would be interested to hear? Were my concerns important enough for that? But knowing that there was an entity available to hear from me and my neighbors if something was troubling us—and who might be able do something about it—made an impact. (I obviously remember the conversation, all these years later, and here I am running for City Council.)

Needless to say, I have since attended a number of Council meetings. At every one, I admire those who take the initiative to ask their questions, voice their concerns, and share their support. I’ve even been inspired to take the podium myself! I have watched as members of Council have listened—some respectfully, and some, occasionally, less so. You say it yourself, Gadfly, and I agree: these meetings are the “face” of city government. They enable our residents to feel heard. And to me, serving all of the citizens of Bethlehem by listening, respectfully, is one of the greatest responsibilities of being on Council.

Through my work, I have had the pleasure of developing trusted relationships with clients, colleagues, and readers throughout the City. I strive to listen, genuinely, to their needs, and I take my responsibility to each of them seriously. I’d like to think that this is behavior that’s come to be expected of me. I plan to bring that same trustworthy, respectful rapport to my relationships on Council—whether it be with fellow members, the Mayor, department heads, or constituents. (It’s worth mentioning that in my role as director of Fig, people regularly ask me about various aspects of the state of the City and inquire as to whether I can do anything to help any number of concerns, or pass their concerns on to those who can do something about it. This is a big part of why I am running for Council in the first place; I want to be able to say “yes.”)

After receiving this week’s prompt, I reached out to a handful of residents from different areas of the City to ask their concerns about City services. Here are some of the responses I received, in no particular order:

  • Roads have been neglected for so long and the constant utility construction, ripping up the roads and patching spots here and there are so poorly done.
  • As an active walker around the city, I’m saddened by the lack of attention to local parks.
  • I’m disturbed by the amount of trash that seems out of control along sidewalks, near highways, streams, and just in general.
  • The Boyd has sat way too long in utterly horrible condition.
  • Gridlock traffic problem on the South side.
  • My immediate answer is “paving the roads”. Number one. Top of the list.
  • Patiently waiting for the Pedestrian Bridge from North to South.
  • Lopsided attention Main Street receives.
  • People experiencing homelessness – what are the city initiatives to assist? Any secular resources?
  • Something like Denver’s STAR program that dispatches health care workers to some emergency calls so police aren’t always the people dispatched.
  • No single hauler trash pickup.
  • Fixing deteriorating roads.
  • Stormwater fee — this should have been explained better/more before implementing.
  • More attention to the city beyond the two blocks of Main Street that tourists visit.
  • Town & Gown relationships – Moravian, Lehigh, NCC, etc.

There are repeats. There are contradictions. But I learned so much from one simple inquiry. This is the lived experience of these residents, and their input is valuable—crucial—to informing City Hall about what is working well, and what’s not.

Understanding the role of local government, let alone attending or standing up at a Council meeting, can be intimidating. But not only do I want to hear from the citizens of Bethlehem, I want to hear from as many as possible. As Councilperson, warmly inviting and empowering residents to participate will be at the core of my service. Our constituents are our best resources; they represent our neighborhoods and report their real-life experiences. They are, in essence, City Ambassadors. Their input helps make our City better.

————

Rachel Leon

Thank you, Gadfly, for another thought provoking prompt. The part I want to focus on is the “day-to-day lives of the average resident.” It seems like such a mundane statement,

but we live out our lives in these day-to-day moments. When members of our communities are frustrated with local government it is usually a result of what happens in these day-to-day moments. An intersection that is difficult for pedestrians to navigate. Trash piling up outside of a school. The fear of overdevelopment in our neighborhoods. Lack of affordable housing. Food insecurity in areas of our City where there is limited access to a grocery store. As I speak to more and more people about their concerns, I continue to hear about all these things. We are coming out of a difficult time as a nation, and there are also concerns surrounding how our local economy will recover post pandemic. We need to be able to address all of these concerns, not just the ones that have an economic impact. As elected representatives, it is our responsibility to get into all our communities and ask what we can do for them. The key to the quality of life in our communities isn’t always more development, but we won’t know that if we aren’t asking the questions or if we are only listening to people who find a way to get our attention. It is important that we are really asking the questions, not just checking off an obligated line item in a budget meeting.

Of all of the concerns that I have heard, affordable housing seems to top the list. There are amazing people working hard to address the issue of affordable housing, and we need to continue to push forward with them. We need affordable housing, especially in our remaining mixed-income neighborhoods. We need accessible housing. Communities cannot continue to get pushed farther and farther out of their neighborhoods, so they can be replaced by people who can afford higher rents, for the sake of developer profits. Another issue that continuously comes up, and which has support from many local nonprofit organizations, is the need for a permanent homeless shelter. COVID has shown us just how vulnerable we all are. I don’t believe that we as a city can, in good conscience, put off building a shelter any longer. Homelessness was on the rise pre-pandemic and is expected to continue to rise. We need a permanent place where members of our community can get their basic needs met. This is a matter of basic human dignity.

While affordable housing and the building of a permanent homeless shelter are some of the issues I would like to continue to see work on as a councilmember, there are many other issues that face our communities. There has been a rise in civic engagement among citizens who want to protect our historic structures and districts. Parking is increasingly hard to come by in our more densely populated areas, partly due to limited options for public transportation. Our city parks need maintaining. I believe many of these issues can be addressed through better and more communication between residents and local government. It could very well be that there is a plan in place to take care of every single concern that our communities are facing and that our community members are simply not aware of these plans. Simply posting information on a website or hosting only one meeting about something that matters to communities can have the effect of excluding a lot of people from the conversation.

So, what I would like to see improved is our approach and commitment to providing affordable housing, the construction of a permanent homeless shelter, and better communication between local government and our communities. I believe elected officials need to find better ways to go to the communities that tend to have less of a voice in local politics. If we want to understand the issues that they are facing, we can’t just wait for them to come to us. A fully engaged and informed city council would be a forceful back up as the City moves forward with a new mayor.

The mayor and his staff can’t know everything. It’s the job of city council to make sure the mayor’s plans reflect what is good for communities that they may know little about. If the mayor’s plans fail, we all fail. While it may not be the job of councilmembers to fix everything, we can help the mayor know what the problems are and provide some insight on how to fix the problems. This is something I learned in the Navy. If one person doesn’t fix something right, the whole ship goes down. In this respect, local governance is the responsibility of all elected officials.

————

Hillary Kwiatek

The services Bethlehem provides are its most direct connection to residents. And folks are never more aware of those services than when they fall short of expectations.

Unfortunately, that’s usually when residents need those services most.

I have been knocking on doors in support of Democratic candidates in Bethlehem for more than fifteen years, and during that time I’ve probably heard it all: neighborhood bets on whether leaves will be picked up on the Southside or the smaller streets of the West Side, regardless of what the schedule says. A neighbor’s hauler never picks up their trash, and the bags are ravaged by animals resulting in garbage strewn all over the street. Springtime potholes destroy tires and alignments. Musikfest. (I personally love Musikfest, but your mileage may vary!) Absentee landlords who don’t address maintenance of their properties, endangering residents. And, of course, snow removal.

But I’ve also heard the good stuff: the city took care of a neighbor’s complaint that someone was leaving a non-operating car to decompose in their shared alley parking area. New curb cuts make traversing neighborhood intersections safer for older residents. New playground equipment goes up. Potholes get filled. Snow, eventually, is removed.

In a municipal government, the Mayor is the executive and the Council is the legislative body. In this model, Councilmembers are sent to City Hall to represent the people of the city as a member of Congress represents them in Washington, DC.

If I am elected, I will view constituent services as, in fact, part of “my job.”  I will learn the ins and outs of how city services are delivered. I will keep an open line of communication with residents, and I will strive to help them solve their problems or at least point them in the right direction.

Transparency is essential in helping residents understand how and why services are delivered in the city. That’s why Open Bethlehem is such a big step forward. Residents can see, in easy to read graphs, how the city is spending their tax dollars. (I tend to nerd out on data, so, yes, I was pretty amazed to find out that the city’s income from the sale of recyclable materials has plummeted over the past seven years to just 14 percent of what it was in 2013.)

But without good communication, residents won’t even know such resources are available. That’s why I was proud to be a member of the Connect Bethlehem working group. We surveyed residents about their awareness of and satisfaction with the ways the city communicates with them, from paper newsletters and telephone hotlines to social media accounts. From the more than 1,000 responses we received, we found a number of common themes:

  • Lack of awareness of communications resources
  • For those who are aware — concern that there are too many communications resources and a desire to consolidate those resources into fewer, more centralized accounts and tools
  • A desire for more consistent, regular communication that is easier to find
  • A need for a coordinated communication strategy, perhaps led by a dedicated staff position (“chief communications officer”)
  • A desire for more interactivity (“two-way communication”) in the city’s communications — exhibited by comments such as “They just post press releases” and “I sent them a message on FB Messenger and they didn’t reply”

As part of my work on the Connecting Bethlehem working group, I had the chance to meet many city staff members from nearly every municipal department. They were all clearly committed to serving the residents of the city and doing the best job they could with the resources available.

So, I would hesitate to put forth too many proposals for changing the way city services are delivered until I have had the chance to really dive into city operations and learn them from top to bottom.

I believe the new Bethlehem app is a step in the right direction in connecting residents with city services centrally. I have already seen issues in my own neighborhood being addressed as a result of reports sent via this tool. With a new Mayor, particularly one who has a progressive mindset with regard to communications, we can do even more.

————

Grace Crampsie Smith

I was fortunate to be born into a family where service to others was paramount. I literally saw on a daily basis my father, as a Police Chief, constantly respond to the calls and needs of others. Community members knew if there was a problem/issue, they could go to “Jack” and he would deal with it. He emulated to me the importance of treating others with compassion, respect, objectivity, and going to whatever lengths to resolve conflicts. He was known for his motto ”It doesn’t  cost you anything to be nice to people,” and I try to live his legacy every day.

My mother was the epitome of compassion for others. As the eldest of 10, mother of 7, and a nurse, caring for others was her middle name. If someone was ill or had an unmet need, they knew they could reach out to my mom and she’d be there for them.

My 6 siblings were much older than me, so I also got to experience them as role models of service/response to others. Several went into public service, and my only sister became a Sister of Mercy, literally giving her life in service and mercy to others. I always joke that having been born in between 5 brothers she had enough of men and decided to be a nun.

It is no wonder that I choose a professional path of serving those with addictions, mental health diagnoses, and developmental disabilities, as well as counseling high school students for almost 40 years.

In my tenure as city councilperson, I frequently have constituents reach out to me re: concerns. Issues range from public works (streets), safety/police, health, etc. I have responded to every issue by first and foremost gathering the facts, then reaching out to the appropriate person(s) in city administration to address the issue. I always tell fellow community members that I am here to represent and serve them so they should not hesitate to reach out to me. I also advise them of our new Service App, which is so much easier to navigate than the past one. However, I know that not everyone can or cares to access this app.

Over time, I’ve had several concerns within the Moravian College area re: typical college student behaviors that are disruptive to the neighborhood- parties, loud noises, safety of nearby residents due to Covid. I reached out to the College President, College Police, and City Police Dept. to address these concerns. Given my belief it is best to meet issues head on with all involved, I initiated the Moravian Block Watch. This allowed neighbors to sit at the table with city police, Moravian Police, and Moravian Representatives to discuss and resolve presenting issues. I think we were progressing and had success in resolving some issues, but, unfortunately, we had to discontinue meetings due to Covid.

I truly believe the skills I have honed as a counselor, as well as in various areas within the human services field has been a definite advantage in serving as a councilperson. In my career, I have to mediate and resolve conflict amongst individuals and entities on a daily basis. I’ve learned the importance of treating all sides with respect, allowing all sides to express their concerns, and try to guide others to meeting in middle. It is also important for different sides of issues to have their consciousness raised as to the obstacles the other side may face

I never hesitate to reach out to city staff or the mayor and will continue to do so no matter who the new mayor is. I believe those within the city and the mayor know that I will always strongly advocate for those in need, from micro issues such as a potholes to macro issues such as securing inclusionary housing options for multiple income levels. Recently, when we had to implement the new stormwater fee, I noted there needed to be a tier system or appeal process, and the appeal process was added.  Being a student of free/reduced lunch, I know first-hand the monetary challenges some households may face, and I will continue to advocate for those less fortunate.

In the end, in serving and responding to others within the community my golden rule will continue to be: “It doesn’t  cost you anything to be nice to people.”

————-

Bryan Callahan

Ed,

In the 7 plus years that I’ve been on Council, I am probably the most proud of the fact that City residents, taxpayers, property owners, policemen, firemen, and city workers

feel comfortable enough to call me or in many cases come to my house to talk to me and confide in me. They know I will look into their particular situation and, if I have to, fight and act on their concerns!

The issues range from small concerns to much bigger concerns and problems. My favorite memory was on a Sunday morning about 6 years ago. An elderly lady came out of church service at Notre Dame on Catasauqua Road on the West side. It was early Springtime, and as she pulled out of her parking spot her front tire hit a deep pot hole that caused a flat tire on her car. She called to tell me that the tire was so badly damaged that she had to buy a new tire and get a wheel alignment that cost her almost $250 and that she was very upset about it because that was a lot of money for her on her fixed income. As soon as I got off the call with her, I was so touched by her call, that I reached out to Public Works Director Mike Alkhal. Mike has always been a very responsive and responsible department head. I knew he would get it fixed, but I didn’t think it would be the first thing the next morning. Around 9:30 AM on Monday I got another phone call from her number. She told me that she was just driving up the road where the pot hole was, and she was shocked that “my pot hole was already being fixed!” She told me that she was very thankful for me acting on her behalf. I told her that all I did was make one phone call, but that I would call Mr. Alkhal to thank him for her. That situation put a smile on my face, that one little phone call made an elderly resident feel like the City was listening to her!

On a much larger scale I’ve been shocked when I had several police officers tell me that the administration was sitting on and holding back from Council the fact that several months earlier a man, who was being held in police custody, had committed suicide in the basement of City Hall or when residents have informed me about perceived retaliation from permits and inspections workers within the Community and Economic Development Department if they even dared to question the length of time it was taking to get their permit for their new garage, pool, patio or addition to their house.

I have always taken every resident’s phone calls and listen to their concerns, problems, and issues with a seriousness and have acted accordingly when needed.

I truly feel that listening to our residents and being their voice is the most important job of being on Council!

———-

Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to ejg1@lehigh.edu. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.

Gadfly mayoral forum #3: city services

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

The candidates again have wonderfully cooperated with what they might think of as Bethlehem’s form of March madness.

We need to stop, think, and be grateful at what is extraordinary, voluntary cooperation.

The candidate responses are presented in alphabetical order this time.

————

The prompt:

Dana, Willie:

The first two forums have been on “heady” subjects: the budget and development.

I’d like to get more down to earth for Forum #3.

The Mayor is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the city. The Mayor is on the front line every day, in the trenches. The mayor is responsible for the basic city services from trash pick-up to parking to road paving that produce a good quality of life for our residents. The mayor “administers.” I think of him or her as the person who keeps the trains running on time. When basic services break down, the mayor gets the call. The average Bethlehem Joe or Jane no doubt spends less time thinking about the budget and development than whether the snow is shoveled and the leaves picked up.

How do you see yourself in this aspect of a mayor’s job?

For instance, here are some possible things to think about that would be of interest to talk about:

1) What kind of administrator do you see yourself as?  Do you have a sense of your leadership style? Are you a delegator? Are you “hands-on”? Are you a micromanager? Do you foster creativity? How will you ensure that priorities are set, goals met? How will you interact with department heads? How will you set a tone for city employees in dealing with the public?

2) Do you contemplate any changes in the way “City Hall” operates? Will there be administrative innovation? Will there be new internal policies, procedures? Will there be new work structures, new ways of organizing how things get done? Do you plan creating any new administrative positions, any new reporting channels?  Will it be “business as usual” in City Hall when you move in to the corner office, or do you see some changes? For example, I believe fairly recently Recreation was moved around in a reorganization plan. Do you see anything like that as you envision yourself overseeing the nitty-gritty, day-to-day operation of the city?

3) Do you have a sense of what city services are working well and what city services aren’t? For instance, most particularly, are you aware of citizen concerns in certain areas of city services in which you will want to focus your attention right away and strive for improvement? Is there one department on which you will want to focus your attention? How will you monitor resident complaints and concerns and their successful resolution?

Some rich topics there from which to select and focus.

 Thank you for your service and willingness to serve.

————-

Dana Grubb

Having worked 27 years in several positions and with regular interaction among all city departments, I am the only Democratic candidate with the background and management experience to run Bethlehem city government. I will hit the ground running with my plans to reorganize, streamline, and rebuild employee morale so that the residents of Bethlehem get the best services possible and are treated with respect and fairness.

My management style has been characterized as “firm and fair.” I would add compassionate to that because I always try to put myself in the other employee’s shoes. When I worked in city hall, I expected my co-workers to execute their job duties and follow the employment rules and policies. I also sought to encourage them to have an attitude of service to the public, and one of empathy: employees need to consider the way in which they would like an issue handled if it were their own. I showed confidence in bureau heads and those reporting directly to me by enabling them to do their jobs; I also urged them to let me know if they needed support, so we could find solutions together. As Mayor, I may need to be more hands on initially, not to the point of micromanagement, but to ensure that everyone understands my philosophy of working in local government: it’s all about service to the community.

The Continuous Improvement Program under a prior administration failed because of the top-down bullying management style it created. Instead, innovations for cost savings and efficiency will be encouraged organically, and if someone has a good idea, I want to hear about it. I want the city workforce to enjoy coming to work, not be counting down the days until they’ll be leaving public service.

My Mayor’s office will be bi-lingual. There will be both a chief of staff position and a community outreach position. Chief of staff will work closely with me and assist in the dissemination of timely public information among other responsibilities. The community outreach professional will coordinate interaction between my office and outside groups and agencies. Both may be called upon to represent my office if there are scheduling conflicts.

I will also maintain the Mayor’s open office program, although perhaps on a different schedule, including evening hours at locations around the City to make access to the Mayor easier and less intimidating for segments of the population who need that consideration.

I will seek diversity in the hiring of qualified individuals. As much as possible, I will try to find the best and brightest people for city positions who are also city residents. That kind of connection to Bethlehem among city staff is critical, and I want it in my administration.

My plans for reorganization include returning the Department of Sewer and Water back into Public Works, where it used to be. There will be a Public Works Director and a Deputy Director of Sewer and Water in the reconstituted format.

I will reestablish a Department of Parks and Recreation because I think its dissolution was very short-sighted. Our parks, playgrounds, and trails need attention: a reestablished Department will bring a renewed effort to maintenance and potential capital projects. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s the need for outdoor activities to keep ourselves mentally and physically healthy.

I will take community policing one step further than the initial re-organization by Chief Kott. The concept of community policing needs to become ingrained among the patrol platoons. I will promote and encourage this so we can build stronger relationships, communication, and trust between law enforcement and the public.

There are several positions inside city hall that will either be cut or refocused. A number of positions have been instituted over the last 15 to 20 years that were created for people and not because of real need.

Unlike my opponent, I am a small business owner. I understand the challenges and mechanics of running a small business, whether existing or start-up. This is why I will create the small business concierge position in the Office of Economic Development, so that a one-stop shop exists to provide resources for both new and existing business owners in Bethlehem.

I also remain committed to transferring the day-to-day operation of the Bethlehem Parking Authority into a City Department of Parking. The physical location will remain the same; however, as a city department, provision of services will be directly responsible to elected officials, which will make it more accountable. The Authority will remain to handle financing and ownership matters, much the same as the current structure with the water system’s Bethlehem Authority and city department.

Finally, delivery of city services is a fundamental responsibility for those serving in city government. I’ve heard far too many complaints about nonresponses to emails and phone calls from business owners and residents. It doesn’t take much to acknowledge a contact and inform someone that you’re working on it and will be back in touch with an answer. To simply ignore something is unacceptable.

The city’s workforce is a tremendous asset. I will do everything in my power to restore morale and pride in effort. Out of my own pocket, I plan to institute a monthly employee award in the form of a gift card from a Bethlehem business; I also have a few other ideas to reverse the current downward spiral of morale.

Managing a workforce takes experience: I have that experience. My opponent does not.

————

J. William Reynolds

The daily running of City Hall revolves around the delivery of basic city services. The efficient delivery of these services is often the determining factor for people when deciding

if they feel local government is working. The City of Bethlehem has a history of delivering services well.  Our water is of the highest quality, our leaves get picked up, and our streets are clean. Our employees deserve credit for the reputation Bethlehem has as a well-run city. There are several things, however, that I see Bethlehem needing to do to improve our delivery of services.

On a systemic level, City Hall needs to use technology to improve the efficiency of our operations. City government has taken several steps in recent years that have improved our use of technology. An improved website, a new services app, and our open data portal have contributed to real progress. We need to continue to implement technology, however. I have learned that citizens become the most frustrated when they cannot get an answer to their questions. Technology should allow neighborhood issues to be responded to in a quicker manner. We should also be using data more effectively to track and determine if city services are being delivered effectively as well. If someone sends me an email that they are happy with leaf pick up, that is great. That does not, however, guarantee that the system of leaf pickup is working or that the majority of people are happy. We need citywide data and metrics to determine that. The establishment of such data systems needs to be a priority moving forward.

Connected to this idea of using technology more, there is a lot of room for the City to communicate more effectively with our citizens. Our communications survey in 2019 showed that while residents (who filled out the survey) were largely happy with City communication channels, there were still things that we could do to make City Hall more accessible, clear, and responsive. This is absolutely an issue that must be prioritized going forward. As stated above, we have made great strides in this area, but there is much more we can do to bring City Hall into the 21st century.

It is also important that when citizens walk into City Hall that they feel that city government is being helpful. Often times, people’s entire opinion of City Hall will be determined by their one visit every couple of years to file for a permit or inquire about a communication that they received from the City. It is important that when citizens come to City Hall that they leave with the feeling that City Hall is welcoming, understanding, and helpful in trying to solve problems.

During my time on City Council, I have learned City Hall is the most productive when goals and priorities are shared between the Administration and City Council, across departments, and the community. Decision-making can never be done in a vacuum.  I have always relied on the leaders of Departments and Bureaus to provide practical, on the ground information to influence decisions related to funding and allocation of resources. This collaborative approach is one that provides the framework for how a City Hall should be run as we look to create a more accessible and responsive city.

Successful leadership in government often comes down to one question. Are you able to build diverse, broad coalitions to create progress and change? During my time in public office, I have learned rarely does anything of consequence happen without significant support, time, and energy coming from multiple areas of the community. When it comes to the City of Bethlehem, this means a combination of City Hall and community support. During my time as a Councilmember, this has been the formula I have used to create our Climate Action Plan and NorthSide 2027. These types of coalitions – residents, City Hall staff, elected officials, and institutional representatives – will be a hallmark of how my Administration would look to organize efforts to create change and progress in our City.

———–

Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to ejg1@lehigh.edu. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.

A bit of a pep talk as we wait for Forum #3

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

Each Monday at noon between now and the May 18 election, we hope to have on Gadfly the voice of the mayoral candidates, each Tuesday at noon the City Council candidates.

While sitting here in Gadfly headquarters waiting for the mayoral voices coming in an hour, Gadfly has been thinking how lucky we are to have “races” for both electoral positions.

We’ve come very close to having “no contests.”

Wouldn’t that have been something. In a town of our size. In a town of our — what? — stature.

Candidate Reynolds is a young man but old in service years. If it weren’t for candidate Grubb, candidate Reynolds might have just walked through the primary, walked perhaps directly to the corner office at City Hall. Gadfly has heard many times that it is candidate Reynolds’ “time.” As if there is a line of succession. That is not the way we should be thinking. We need to hear candidate Reynolds as if for the first time. He must be made to earn our vote. And it is perhaps our even greater responsibility to listen to “dark horse” Grubb. He is not a casual or a faux candidate. His voice is enlivening our important cyclic community dialogue about the nature of Bethlehem. We must conscientiously seek to know what perspectives he has to offer.

So the Gadfly Forum is a way to help get us beyond mailings and yard signs, the sound bites at “Meet the candidate” events, the inevitable superficiality of meet and greets, the transiency of neighborhood walk-bys, and the potential inadequacy of past and first impressions — to encourage us not only to vote but to vote thoughtfully and mindfully.

We hope you will engage the forums in active mode and in high gear.

Gadfly seeks your questions for and responses to the candidates.

Name that tune, er, candidate!

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart
The Council candidates comparison chart

Test yourself this rainy Sunday.

Now agree that one of the most important things on our plates is the upcoming local election. And Mail-in ballots will be out in 2-3 weeks or so. Voting will begin soon.

You’ve all seen those quiz show/game show bits where contestants are asked to identify a song from hearing only the first few bars.

By analogy, do you know your candidates well enough to identify them just by the sound of their voices?

Give it a try. Below are 10-second clips of the candidates for mayor and city council. Can you match voice to candidate?

The clips were chosen at random, so don’t worry about the content — just the sound of the voices.

Can you identify ’em?

Gadfly knows that these candidates were invited to the upcoming 7PM Thursday meeting of our Environmental Advisory Council.

Zoom in to the EAC at
https://zoom.us/j/95616243255?pwd=amVDMlhsdEVRUmpnWjBJK05RZG5yUT09

Know your candidates.

Vote and vote knowledgeably!

Get beyond the yard signs, which race for quantitative superiority, by the way, in Gadfly’s eye, is currently being won by the fleet Reynolds minions.

Giddy-up the rest of you!

clip 1

clip 2

clip 3

clip 4

clip 5

clip 6

clip 7

Mayoral candidate Grubb responds to the Armory neighbors

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

ref: Gadfly mayoral forum #2: development
ref: Addendum #1 to Gadfly forum on development: the Armory

Dear Gadfly,

The intrusion that the Armory project has become to a quiet Bethlehem neighborhood is the perfect example of the kind of development that Bethlehem doesn’t need. It reminds me of Cinderella’s stepsisters trying to jam their oversized feet into the tiny glass slipper.

I support redeveloping this site but will repeat again my Mayoral review criteria for projects in Bethlehem and address each point as it relates to this specific site.

“As Mayor, when a proposed project is brought to my attention I will have a series of questions and checklist for the developers of those projects:

  1. How will your project benefit Bethlehem and the neighborhood in which you’re locating?
  2. Have you met with the surrounding residents and property owners? How do they feel about your project?
  3. How many and what variances will you be seeking? Are you in compliance with all city ordinances?
  4. What if any assistance do you need from City Hall?
  5. Are your taxes current on all of the real estate that you own in Bethlehem? Are your properties in good condition and code compliant? We want to make sure that you are a responsible property owner.
  6. What are the parking needs for your project and how will they be addressed? Are you stressing an already existing short supply of parking?
  7. What is the environmental impact of any proposed demolition and/or the actual project?”

It is apparent that since construction started this neighborhood has been negatively impacted by an oversized development designed to maximize return on investment at the expense of those already living in this area. I’ve driven past it several times. I would not want this happening in my own neighborhood. I empathize with the neighbors’ plight. I’m not privy to any “inside deals” between city government and the developer, but my administration will be more demanding when it comes to scale, mass, and parking.

Neighborhood meetings were held, but from what I’ve seen and heard they appeared to focus on disseminating information rather than gathering, and listening to, input. It also doesn’t help when a former Bethlehem Mayor arrives representing a development that he personally profits from. Was he really listening to any concerns, or just paying lip service?

The number of zoning variances requested was exorbitant. When a project is scaled properly for its setting it won’t require this many variances.

The developer received assistance from the city when government conveyed one half of a boulevard-like roadway to the project. I’m less concerned with the loss of half of the roadway than I am with the reason for it: parking. I’ve questioned from the start why parking isn’t being built beneath the project to provide some relief from its parking demand on the neighborhood streets.  A less dense redevelopment of this site would have eased this concern. We still don’t know what the end use of the Armory portion of the project will be and what parking demand will be incurred.

Why weren’t condos or owner-occupied town houses considered? I don’t recall any conversation about affordable housing units.

While I have no reason to doubt that this developer is exemplary with regard to their “good citizen” standing, my administration will routinely verify that on taxes and property maintenance for other holdings.

Finally, there is a plethora of environmental concerns with this project. Construction and demolition debris filling a landfill, air quality, noise, vibrations from demolition and site preparation, are again all impacted by the project’s scope.

I will finish by addressing the City’s role of providing community support to the already existing residents. Simply put, the residents were there first. Every possible accommodation, demonstration of support, and application of inspection enforcement will be a priority for my administration.

My opponent for Mayor has taken campaign contributions from the primary developers in Bethlehem: I do not and will not. Therefore, I am at liberty to work in the best interests of the public. I can be fair, negotiate in good faith to bring the best development possible into Bethlehem, and do it in a way that allows us all to “believe in a better Bethlehem.”

Addendum #2 to Gadfly forum on development

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

ref: Council mayoral forum #2: development

Yep, it’s development week on Gadfly.

Even the post on the affordable housing meeting fits in. And additional posts on that meeting will follow soon.

But the Mayoral forum on development brought in what Gadfly thinks are two other good prompts.

As I said in the post on Addendum #1, the candidates have done their assigned homework, but they (even the Council candidates) should feel free to weigh in on these subjects.

At the very least, these are good points, points that we should keep in mind as we think about development in the city.

— The examples in Gadfly’s prompt to the mayoral candidates about development were all, I think, in regard to the Southside. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that there is a long unresolved issue on the Northside that the candidates should speak to. Commercial Airbnb operations continue to operate there in the Historic District several years after initial citation of violations. [See Airbnb and Short term lodging links under Topics on the Gadfly sidebar for context.] The same issue of the tension between dollars and history operates there, and the candidates should be asked if they see it as a problem, and, if so, how they will move to resolve it.

— Gadfly’s prompt on development focuses on the role and responsibility of the mayor. But the volunteer historic boards, the Planning Commission, and the Zoning Hearing Board all play key roles and arguably have not always served us well. How do the candidates see themselves vis-a-vis these entities? They are making recommendations and decisions that affect the whole city. In your view, how well have they been functioning? Are you comfortable with the current staffing of those entities? What will you be looking for when it comes to staffing these entities?

What questions or comments do you have on the subject of development? Gadfly would be pleased to have some feedback on both the mayoral and council candidate responses Friday. What have they made you think about?