Council candidates differ over the role of tax revenue in considering Martin Tower proposal

Latest in a series of posts on Martin Tower

ref: Martin Tower proposal significantly interrogated at Council
ref: Trying to nail down the Martin Tower developer
ref: Martin Tower developer responds to Council request
ref: Martin Tower developer reminds Council that “tax revenues are an equally important consideration
ref: Martin Tower developer: “I can’t believe this is as much of an issue as it is”

The recent official discussions about the Martin Tower project are in themselves of interest to many Gadfly followers, but probably at this moment the election 4 days away trumps that interest.

We can combine both interests here, though, by focusing on the three incumbent candidates’ participation in the discussion of the Martin Tower project at the May 4 City Council meeting.

Well, however, candidate Reynolds did not participate in this aspect of discussion at the meeting. Which is very unusual. When has Councilman Reynolds not spoken on an issue? Gadfly doesn’t know the reason why now mayoral candidate Reynolds remained silent, but it is hard not to speculate about its connection to an issue in the campaign. An issue in the campaign has been the possible effect Martin Tower developer Ronca’s large contribution may have had on the Reynolds vote at that controversial time of the major discussion on a vision for the site as well as necessary zoning changes six years ago.

Followers will find here classic Callahan: a pro-development tax-hawk.

Candidate Crampsie Smith questions the developer closely, differs dramatically with Callahan on the primacy of tax revenue in the Council decision, and it is her motion that triggers a month’s hiatus for further discussion before a vote.

So we can certainly learn something about the candidates here.


A brief recap: About to begin construction at the site, the Martin Tower developer asks for a zoning change in regard to parking, on the surface a minor issue. At a previous meeting, however, Council took a wider view of the project and, in Gadfly’s phrase,  “seriously interrogated” it. President Waldron suggested that the developer and the City meet before the May 4 Council meeting and discuss and agree on some issues. No such meeting occurred, but the developer sent a long, itemized letter to Council addressing most or all of the issues Council raised and adding the positive impact the project will have on our tax revenue. At the May 4 Council meeting discussion of issues was not resolved and decision was postponed a month.

Councilwoman Van Wirt began the discussion May 4 in tiger mode: “I anticipated this letter with a lot of interest. I was hoping the City would hear the urgency in our tone at the last meeting about sitting down with the developer and kind of hammering out something solid that we could react to, but, unfortunately, that did not occur. I read this letter extremely carefully. . . . I find it incredulous to believe. . . . pushes the edges of my own credibility. . . . also strains my credibility. . . . pushes my credibility. . . . I was looking for something of substance in this letter. My overall impression of this letter was seriously disappointed.”

Don’t hide your feelings, Councilwoman!

In direct contrast, a calm Councilman Callahan defended the developer, taking a good bit of time carefully discussing points in the developer’s long, itemized letter one-by-one, hoping to take most or all of the issues “off the table.”

Here are those long Callahan audio clips if you are interested in hearing his defenses.

Perhaps of more significance is the argument Councilman Callahan wraps around his defense, which I summarize for you here, but which you can hear for yourself in the several clips below: The issue is “huge” for Callahan, and the hang-up, perplexingly, is over just 2 lanes of parking. It’s a “small ask,” and there’s a chance that the end users will walk away from the project if they do not get the designs they want. For it is end-user designs that are in the plan not the developer’s, and they have a contract right to opt out if they do not get the design they want. The developers are trying to help the City, a City that is not too receptive to development (unlike Easton, with whom we are competing) — we are simply making development harder and harder. This developer is willing to talk about affordable housing, and this project (like the proposals on the Southside coming to Council) gives us the opportunity to see and show how serious we are about something we call a crisis. It is because we are being negative and pushing back on developers that we have the crisis. Councilman Callahan wants to put $5m of the $33m Rescue money coming in to affordable housing, and he wants Council to join him on that — again putting money where our mouths are. “This vote that we take is going to have an impact on a lot of different entities. . . . we’re looking at a substantial amount of taxpayer money in tax increases if this doesn’t go through. The City needs to bring in an extra $2m a year to balance our budgets. And there’s no question that this is probably the largest development project in the City of Bethlehem.”

Contrary to Councilman Callahan’s approach, Councilwoman Crampsie Smith engages the developer in a way that evokes his frustration over the way Council is slow-walking what, in his view, should be an easy decision on a minor issue. It is in this interchange that the developer says, in exasperation, “I can’t believe this is as much of an issue as it is.”

For a rousing finish to this post today, you must hear Councilwoman Crampsie Smith push back vigorously against her colleague’s lectures on and foregrounding of tax revenue in the Council decision: “I think I can speak for all of us. . . . Nobody ever wants to raise taxes. . . . I grew up as a freebie-lunch student. I have been on my own, you know, for the last few years supporting my three kids. I know what it’s like to really struggle financially. That’s probably why I am such an advocate for those who are oppressed. . . . It doesn’t matter where any of us are at as far as our income goes. . . . Certainly we need to look at development to increase our tax base. But the way I see here, black and white, simply is we’re not going to approve of a development project simply because it’s going to bring taxes in. . . . We have to vote on changing the law. . .. We have to vote our conscience and as representatives of the people of this city. . . . So the bottom line is, we’re here to vote on changing of the law not to vote on changing the law just because we want to increase our tax base in the city.”

We give candidate Crampsie Smith the last word: “we’re here to vote on changing of the law not to vote on changing the law just because we want to increase our tax base in the city.”

So, again, we have a razor-sharp difference in approach by the Council candidates who are running against each other.

And we might even be able to learn something from the mayoral candidate’s silence.

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: on care for smaller Southside sites

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb in front of the Brinker Lofts:

  • a complete retrofit of an historic icehouse
  • an example of the creative development we need
  • but most historic sites on the Southside are smaller
  • such homes and apartments need to be rehab’d and converted too
  • but in a way that keeps history and charm and reduces environmental impact
  • many models out there for smaller scale properties
  • affordable housing and economical commercial space
  • will help vulnerable populations and small businesses
  • the proposed 10-story building on New St. doesn’t get it
  • luxury apartments etc.
  • too many of such projects will change the unique character of the Southside
  • we need to build on historical capital be rehabbing older buildings
  • keep livable scale mixed income community
  • create jobs, keep real estate available, and reasonable for renters and businesses
  • will work with small investors and establish training programs
  • small investors need to know how to navigate the city’s processes

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

Gadfly Forum Highlight: candidate Callahan on the budget

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

This year I was stunned when my fellow City Council members voted 6-1 to raise your taxes 5% in the middle of a World Pandemic and to cut 4 Fire public safety positions. I was the one and only vote against it!
Bryan Callahan

The prompt:

‘Tis said that the most important job of City Council is approving the budget. The Mayor proposes, Council disposes. Budgets demand setting priorities. Budgets require hard choices. Choices that often need to be explained to a questioning public. We’d like a window into your thinking about budgets by focusing on a specific complex issue [the pedestrian bridge] that came before Council last November, and thus in which some of you were involved, and which issue, frankly, gave me pause.

For responses by other Council candidates to this prompt, click here.


Bryan Callahan

The most important thing that residents need to understand is that there are basically just two ways our City can generate additional revenue to pay our bills. The first is to

raise taxes and fees on all the existing properties and property owners in the City. The second way is through smart economic development, by taking an empty lot or rundown property that has a very low tax assessment and then building something on that lot that has a much higher tax assessment/higher taxes paid by the developer, when the project is completed.

The new projects on 3rd and New St (The Benner Building) and the 510 Flats building on 3rd St. are great examples of the latter. The 510 Flats building was an empty stone parking lot forever that paid a couple thousand dollars in taxes per year. The 3rd and New St (Benner Building) was an empty lot for over a decade and also paid a very small amount of taxes due to the fact both lots were empty with no buildings of any value on them. The two developers invested close to $30 Million each into both of those sites and are currently each paying close to $300,000 per year in taxes.

My point in bringing this up is, I’d much rather prefer to increase everyone’s property values in our City than raise taxes on existing property owners. Every time the City raise taxes on existing property owners, we make our City less affordable for lower and middle income residents.

This is even more true for renters. The bottom line is that the owners of rental units are in business to make money on a long-term investment. They are not investing their money into the rental units to lose money. Thus, whether you want to believe it or not, every time the City raises property taxes/fees, the owners of the rental units don’t absorb the additional taxes/costs. The owners of the rental properties are only passing those costs on to the renters. If you are renting in our City, you know exactly what I’m talking about. Bethlehem is becoming unaffordable to live in for many because we keep raising taxes instead of promoting more smart economic development.

When I ran for council 8 years ago for my first term, I promised to keep Bethlehem Safe and Affordable. I have fought hard on Council to try and make needed cuts in a bloated permits and zoning department and to hold the line on taxes by promoting smart economic development. In 7 years I voted 6 times against raising your taxes. Why? Because every time I’ve been asked to vote to raise your taxes, I think of the parents of my old Kaywin Avenue friends and neighbors who still live in the same middle class ranch homes on the West Side. They are all retired now and living on fixed incomes. They don’t live extravagantly, they love Bethlehem and what it has given them. They pay their bills but because of continued yearly tax increases, they struggle to be able to even afford a simple week vacation each year.

If Bethlehem is going to stay as the cultural center of the Lehigh Valley and Northeast Pennsylvania, we will have to continue to support smart economic development on vacant and condemned properties so we can hold the line on taxes for our current residents and let the developers generate the new tax revenue needed for increases in wages, retirement, and health care costs.

This year I was stunned when my fellow City Council members voted 6-1 to raise your taxes 5% in the middle of a World Pandemic and to cut 4 Fire public safety positions. I was the one and only vote against it!


Mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb on why they want to be mayor

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

selections from Nate Jastrzemski, “Mayor primary candidates Q&A.” Bethlehem Press, May 12, 2021.

Q. Why do you want to be mayor of Bethlehem?


I am concerned that the wishes of residents are often ignored at the expense of the interests of the largest developers, and that residents’ voices are being muted. I’m running for this office to serve those residents first. I ‘Believe in a Better Bethlehem,’ and feel that as mayor, I can give residents a voice in the governance of Bethlehem: I am not part of the political class that tends to shut them out.


Our city recovered from the closing of Bethlehem Steel because we had forward thinking leaders who placed an emphasis on a revitalization of our community through economic redevelopment. We need a mayor coming out of the pandemic that has a vision to create an economically vibrant and dynamic city. That vision must be based on increased economic investment, diversity and equity.

Our campaign has broad support from families, progressive organizations, small businesses, environmental advocacy groups, public education advocates, organized labor, and elected officials at the local, state and federal levels. That cross-section of support will be the same citywide coalition that the next mayor will need if Bethlehem is going to emerge from the pandemic an even stronger community.

Important message for John Price

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

ref: If you see John Price, ask him to call home . . . er, the Gadfly
ref: The Reynolds mailer was a fair mailer that cited facts
ref: The City committee’s evaluation of the Polk developers thought to be “laughable and wrong” (9/6/19)


I have a $20 bet that “John Price” is your real name and not a nom de plume, a pseudonym,  a mask, a masquerade, a pen name. I’ll split the winnings with you. Easiest ten bucks you ever made. Call me. If a woman answers, hang up.



Mayoral candidate Grubb reminds us of his endorsements

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election


I am grateful for the number of former city co-workers and officials who have endorsed my candidacy. These people know my experience, work capacity, and moral compass as well as anybody.

Here is what some of them have to say:

  • Richard ‘Bucky’ Szulborski – former Bethlehem City Councilman: “Dana is a man of honesty and integrity.”
  • Tom Mohr – former Bethlehem City Councilman: “He was admired by his peers and subordinates.”
  • Dianne Bachmann – former Public Works Department Business Manager: “Dana always had a great work ethic.”
  • Anna Marie Eckert – former administrative assistant for the Parks & Recreation Department: “Dana is city smart, he has a deep commitment to the city and will lead with honesty and integrity.”
  • Jeffrey Fritz – former City of Bethlehem Utility Superintendent: “Dana Grubb is a man that I trust.”
  • Tom Marshall – former Director of Recycling: “He is a fair and honest man.”
  • Steve Melnick – former Director of Development in BEDCO: “Dana’s integrity, honesty and dedication will make him a true Mayor for all citizens in our community.”
  • Larry Mika – former Public Works Section Engineer: “He was always a very pleasant person to work with and was a fantastic supervisor, fair to all.”
  • Mary Jo Reed – former Purchasing Director: “I know that Dana is dependable and his word is his honor.”
  • Dennis Reichard – former City of Bethlehem Business Administrator: “He will be a Mayor who is caring and will work hard for the residents.”
  • David Saltzer – former City of Bethlehem Firefighter and President Emeritus Bethlehem Firefighters I.A.F.F. Local 735: “This is a true leader who employees will follow and who will restore the morale of the city’s workforce.”
  • Joan Schrei – former Administrative Assistant to Mayor Gordon Mowrer and Public Works Department Business Manager: “I always found him to be honest, fair, committed and focused on making Bethlehem a better place to live.”
  • Gordon Smith – former Director of Emergency Medical Services: “He was always honest and fair.”
  • Jim Smith – former Public Works Streets Superintendent: “I can assure all citizens that your best interest is Dana’s main goal.”
  • Greg Solderitch – former Bethlehem Police Captain: “His work ethic is beyond reproach, as is his honesty and integrity.”
  • Christopher Spadoni, Esquire – former City Council Solicitor: “I think he is very knowledgeable about Bethlehem city government.”
  • Ann Szmania – former Supervisor of Accounts Payable: “I have found him to be above all else a man of integrity, honesty and compassion.”
  • Mark Wood – Bethlehem Waste Water Treatment Plant Superintendent: “I have never met a person with more integrity or more trustworthiness in my entire life.”
  • Jean Zweifel, former Director of Human Resources: “His moral compass, honesty, integrity  and love of the City of Bethlehem and her residents is continually displayed by his actions each and every day.”


If you see John Price, ask him to call home . . . er, The Gadfly

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

ref: The Reynolds mailer was a fair mailer that cited facts
ref: The City committee’s evaluation of the Polk developers thought to be “laughable and wrong” (9/6/19)

John Price is a forty-something resident of the forgotten far northeast Bethlehem. He is a computer nerd by day and political wonk and local government follower in the shadows of the night. A socially liberal, fiscal conservative in a world gone mad, he wonders if he is in danger of extinction.


If you see John, ask him to call the Gadfly

A little online investigation suggests that John Price is not a real person. He has what looks like a fake profile set up on Facebook, which clearly has the sole purpose of smearing Dana Grubb. He has no friends, no pictures, and no information suggesting anything about who he is. In case he exists, I would offer a small reward to anyone who can prove it. I really can’t wait to meet him in person. In all of my ten years of attending City Council meetings, I’ve never heard him speak or be referred to by anyone. By letting him post on your blog under a false name, you give his comments the appearance of objectivity. John Price, for all we know, could be Willie Reynolds’ campaign manager. That would explain his on-going efforts to try to justify a wholly inappropriate campaign mailer, and the silly comments in this post about the manner and content of Mr. Grubb’s criticism of current governance in Bethlehem. Anything Mr. Grubb said at a meeting is on the record, and in the minutes, so people can look his comments up themselves if they seriously think that there is something wrong with his much appreciated efforts to challenge bad decisions and demand integrity from elected officials. As someone who has seen Mr. Reynolds mock residents who dare disagree with him, call them “ridiculous” and then rant about how angry he is about their complaints, I find it rather amusing that Mr. Price would liken Mr. Grubb, rather than Mr. Reynolds, to the former president. Mr. Price is only fooling people who don’t pay attention to Bethlehem politics. The only reason for anonymity on your blog is if someone is facing some kind of threat or harm as a consequence of revealing their true identity. I am fully confident that Dana would not affiliate himself with anyone who would do such a thing and, therefore, that Mr. Price is both deceptive and cowardly in hiding behind a false name.

Breena Holland


John Price, crafter of the charming and intriguing Gadfly post byline above, and who recently defended the Reynolds’ mailer that Reynolds’ endorser Lehigh Valley for All termed negative campaigning, suggesting an apology to his opponent Dana Grubb, has been a mystery man to Gadfly followers. His September 2019 post on a Bethlehem Parking Authority controversy stood out so much that followers wanted to find out who he was. From the looks of it, he must be a person close to the controversy. But a John Price was nowhere to be found. Leading to the suspicion that someone was posting under a false identity. As you can see, the suspicion persists. Gadfly doesn’t at all like the idea that he is doing what Breena suggests, so he has reached out to John, twice offering his phone number. So far, John has not responded. If you know John, ask him to text or call the Gadfly, willya?

Gadfly Forum highlight: Council candidate Leon on Bethlehem: a tale of two cities?

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

“I was born and raised in South Bethlehem. . . . I felt this divide growing up. . . . What I hear most often is that we need a strong voice for the Southside. . . . The implication, to me, is that [the residents] do not feel heard.”
Rachel Leon

Another week, another Gadfly prompt from hell for our candidates!

I joked in the prompt audio that they’re wishing I’d ask about something easy, like fixing potholes.

But Gadfly is up in the stratosphere. Literally. Gadfly asked everybody to look at Bethlehem from a high up perspective.

Inspired by Mark Iampietro’s “Lookout yoga,” Gadfly asked the candidates to take the proverbial 30,000ft. view of our town.

And what did they see? one city, one city with two complementary parts, one city with two different parts, one city with two contrary parts, one city with equal parts, two (or more) cities ?

If you want to listen to my full prompt. click here. For responses by other Council candidates to this prompt, click here.


Rachel Leon

Thank you, Gadfly, for another thought-provoking prompt.

Are we a city of two cities?

I was born and raised in South Bethlehem, so I can only speak from my experience.

Cities all over our country are broken into downtown areas, arts districts, and historic districts. What makes this so pronounced in Bethlehem is the presence of our river. A 10-minute walk across the Fahy can feel like leaving one city and entering another, but we are all Bethlehem.

The labeling of Bethlehem as a city of two cities can feel a bit antiquated, especially when viewing the divide within the historic context of the joining of the three boroughs. However, I felt this divide growing up in South Bethlehem. Whatever reason led to Bethlehem feeling like a city divided, those sentiments have lingered. I hear this sentiment echoed as I continue speaking to people about how I can help if I am elected. What I hear most often is that we need a strong voice for the Southside. The implication, to me, is that they do not feel heard. I know for a fact that South Bethlehem has had amazing community leadership speaking loudly in defense of our communities. Maybe the issue isn’t the speaking but the ability to hear their voices. If they aren’t being heard, maybe they are being spoken over.

Bethlehem is a beautiful city with a unique history. A history that is important to preserve, even while we move toward increased development. I am passionate in my belief that development needs to be intentional and considerate of the communities we are asking to bear the brunt of continued development. South Bethlehem is often spoken about in terms of student housing and lower income families. Affluence and struggle. This just isn’t true. Communities are not monoliths; they are made up of people of diverse backgrounds, be that ethnic or financial. If we miss this important fact, we miss what makes South Bethlehem so special.

So, as a resident of South Bethlehem, I can best answer the question of if we are divided by continuing to raise the voices of people in South Bethlehem who believe we are. They aren’t digging back 100 years to validate their ideas. They are pointing to decisions that have been made in recent years. Decisions that they have shown up to stand against. Decisions that they have fought against. Decisions, that in the end, they were unable to stop from being made. I hope that, as Bethlehem continues to move forward, we listen to all our communities and how they want to see their city grow and develop. I hope that elected officials ensure that the southside doesn’t become the default location for unwanted land uses or over-development. I hope that we value all areas of our city for their own unique history even as we continue to work together toward a stronger, more united Bethlehem.


Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: creating a small business concierge

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb on historic Main St.:

  • one of the most popular spots for shopping and dining
  • I’m a regular here, as a photo-journalist and an occasional meal
  • and for finding some of the best gifts
  • a small business owner myself, I know that these shops are the backbone of our local business community
  • and our local economy
  • dealing with City Hall can often be overwhelming for those unfamiliar
  • I plan on creating a small-business concierge
  • single point of contact for small businesses needing assistance
  • gone will be uncertainty

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

Candidate Reynolds campaign financial disclosure

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Gadfly sees the Reynolds financial report as of the Friday May 7 deadline is now in.

Did you look at the others this morning?

It’s almost a good thing that the Reynolds was late.

Now you can focus on it.

After all, it’s the one that’s received the most pre-election buzz.

You’ll need the focus time.

It’s a big report: looks like $68,000 in new contributions, absolutely dwarfing everybody else.

Other things Gadfly noted in a quick review:

  • $1,000 from Petrucci contractor/developer returned immediately
  • several large Union contributions
  • payment of $8500 for voter data
  • contributions to the Council campaigns of Wilhelm, Kwiatek, and Crampsie Smith
  • payment of $13,000 for direct mail design

What did you see in this Reynolds disclosure or the others?

Campaign numbers and such

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Here we go, gang! Just a week to go till Election Day.

Gadfly is a MIBer, but he’s holding off putting a stamp on in case there are last leg theatrics.

The Gadfly forum is finished, but he will post individual oldies but goodies from the forum over the course of the next week as well as some other clips from candidate meetings that he hasn’t used yet.

Lots of info about the candidates here on Gadfly. Ample material for review. Click “Forum” and “Elections” to dive in.

Speaking of the forum, here are the candidate stats for participation:

  • Mayoral (8 forums): each candidate did all 8.
  • Council (7 forums): Callahan 4/7, Crampsie Smith 2/7, Kwiatek 7/7, Leon 6/7, Wilhelm 7/7.

Also of interest is the report of each candidate’s finances to date.

Gadfly believes May 8 was the deadline to file. All candidates have filed as of this writing Monday morning 7:45 except candidate Reynolds. Which optically is a bit awkward given the tense discussion about the source of his contributors in the past, but since the deadline was on the weekend maybe there was simply a logistical hang-up, and we’ll be seeing his report later today.

These financial disclosures are worth a look. Gadfly has always wondered how many $$$ he’d need if he ran for office (might have to dig up the Campbell soup cans filled with $1 bills buried in the backyard in case of some financial apocalypse). And it’s interesting sometimes to see who supported whom. And it’s worth reflecting on the role that money plays in the final outcomes.

For instance, over the weekend Gadfly saw ads for candidate Callahan several times on digital billboards around town. Now that’s a first for Gadfly. He doesn’t remember seeing such in 2019.

Aren’t you curious who has all the money?

Gadfly’s looking forward to skywriters next election.

Candidates Reynolds and Leon on exiting the pandemic (Reynolds Town Hall April 14)

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Reynolds Virtual Town Hall April 14

Candidate Reynolds:

  • pandemic showed that some of our systems were not built in an efficient way
  • access to technology, health care, food, etc.
  • how do you build equitable systems, that work for everybody
  • because something’s working for me doesn’t mean it’s working for everybody
  • we can confuse those things
  • must work on that
  • expand to connect with school district etc to build better systems

Candidate Leon:

  • people complaining about going to school from home
  • but people on my street didn’t even have internet
  • library did amazing work
  • pandemics are going to be exacerbated by climate change
  • City must address climate change

Candidate Reynolds:

  • lots of people have done ok economically in pandemic
  • but lots of vulnerable people have had to take on extra work
  • affordable housing
  • going to work on affordable housing trust fund, etc.
  • for a lot of people life is getting more difficult
  • must be aware that lots of people’s experiences are not ours
  • need to build systems around that awareness

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: a wonderful example of community collaboration

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb at the Rose Garden:

  • Rose Garden 90th anniversary
  • wonderful example of community collaboration between residents and city government
  • outdoor enjoyment, music, farmers market
  • undergoing transformation
  • public and private collaboration improving quality of life

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

“The Reynolds mailer was a fair mailer that cited facts. The comparison to Trump is apt”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

John Price is a forty-something resident of the forgotten far northeast Bethlehem. He is a computer nerd by day and political wonk and local government follower in the shadows of the night. A socially liberal, fiscal conservative in a world gone mad, he wonders if he is in danger of extinction.


I disagree with your assessment of the Reynolds mailer. In the world of balls and strikes, it was a strike.

Grubb has made his experience as a city administrator a centerpiece of his campaign.  That experience includes the behavior he exhibited while being in that position, including being forced to retire for getting into a fight.

Recently, Grubb offered an explanation for the fight that contradicts the reporting done by 4 Morning Call journalists in three separate news articles on the incident that are available online.  Grubb even went as far as to say one of the journalists had it out for him due to complaints he made against him.  That journalist is now deceased and not here to defend himself from the slanderous allegation.   And while he did not call the stories “fake news” per se, it was his way of saying the news articles were not true.   Sounds familiar to a former president.

The account in the below article is one that I have not seen posted, but I think proves Grubb’s version of the events in his recent explanation is malarkey, and includes the testimony of 2 employees that insinuates Grubb was the aggressor.

Grubb compounded the fighting incident into years of bashing the city’s mayors, councils and personnel.  The incident has defined Grubb for the last 17 years and is entirely relevant to his temperament to be mayor.   The incident also sheds light on to his temperament and behavior prior to the fight.   As set forth from the hearing testimony, he “barked” at an employee, and had heated discussions with a bureau chief, he later tried to confront.

He has on at least one occasion compared the Donchez administration to that of Nazi Germany.   I understand he became a “gadfly” and critic, but even critics should be held accountable for outlandish statements.

He even attended health board meetings after his termination and was accused of intimidation of the Health Bureau Director at the time.  It got to the level where police had to be present at the meetings.

He has also claimed to be an informant for the FBI.  I find this claims to be outlandish.  First, I am not sure why it is relevant to his explain his behavior.  Second, no one from Bethlehem was indicted on Federal charges.  So either he had nothing to offer, the FBI found his information to be unfounded, or he is lying.

The Reynolds mailer was a fair mailer that cited facts.  The comparison to Trump is apt, as Grubb has acted in a Trumpian manner several times over the years.   Grubb simply lacks the temperament to be Mayor.

(Also, I am a real person, who commented on this blog long before this race, as you know).


Gadfly seeks conflict resolution

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Gadfly is hoping to resolve a significant disagreement that occurred between the mayoral candidates in this exchange at the Lehigh Valley for All candidates meeting and that received significant attention on social media just afterwards. Not all City Councilors have responded at this time.

ref: The Mayoral candidates April 6 at LV4ALL: question to Reynolds on contributions from developers


May 4, 2021

Bryan, Michael, Grace, Olga, Paige, Adam:

So the mayoral race got nasty.

The battle of the negative mailers.

Both Willie and Dana explained themselves in a Gadfly Forum this morning. Good.

Still hanging, though, is the question of whether Dana asked any of you to support his candidacy. Willie said he did; Dana said he didn’t. The “L” word was used.

Would you be willing to say whether or not Dana asked you to support him?

It would be good to clear that up.

Thanks, Ed

Reynolds’ behavior “disqualifies him to lead this city”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

ref: “Trust in Mr. Reynolds is misplaced”


Wonderful summary by Barbara Diamond about Mr Reynolds behavior in his leadership role at that time as President of City Council.

I was one that clearly called for the President & the VP of Council to recuse themselves for the clear appearance of conflict of interest as the developers of Martin Tower were by far their largest donors in the then most recent election.

Instead of considering that suggestion, Reynolds retaliated personally with a blustering lecture to me that far exceeded the 5-minute limit that we were afforded during our comment period. I didn’t call him corrupt but simply stated the facts that there was a significant appearance of conflict of interest.

This was only one example of the behavior that disqualifies him to lead this city. He has suggested openly that residents that ask for their residential neighborhoods to be preserved as the city zoning ordinances require should “move to Macada Road.”

Mr Reynolds has an opinion on every issue & blusters regularly at council meetings with little tolerance for those that have opposing views. That isn’t the Mayor we need for a city that prides itself on the integrity of our neighborhoods & the integrity of our two downtowns.  As a business leader in this community, I think we deserve a leader that is a good listener to his constituents rather than one that demands his way or the highway.

I am extremely disappointed that City Council Members Van Wirt, Negron, & Colon abandoned their principals to support the very person that stood against most of their positions. Do we really want to elect a Mayor with a puppet city council? I think we deserve a Mayor with integrity & a check & balance from an independent City Council.

Dana Grubb has always stood for the people of Bethlehem against bad government & truly deserves your vote.

Bruce Haines

Candidates Reynolds and Kwiatek on public safety (Reynolds Town Hall, April 7)

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Reynolds Virtual Town Hall April 7

Candidate Kwiatek:

  • lots of conversation about policing
  • hot button issue
  • look at policing as part of a larger ecosystem
  • new vision with new police chief
  • bring together police and Health dept
  • get social workers, etc. involved with non-violent calls
  • models in other cities
  • saves money as benefit too
  • police not experts in every thing
  • more community policing
  • integrate public health practices

Candidate Reynolds:

  • Chief Kott for more community involvement
  • listen to what community wants
  • always situations where you want a police officer
  • but often in situations that are unfair to the officers
  • how do we make our police officers’ jobs easier
  • must do a lot to help out before a call to a police officer is needed

Candidate Kwiatek:

  • lots going on in people’s lives that we must take care of
  • all connected
  • public safety is not isolated
  • we can solve more than one problem at a time

Mayoral candidates on race, police reform, affordable housing

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

selections from Bethlehem mayoral candidates discuss police reform, affordable housing.” WFMZ, May 7, 2021.

Two of the three candidates for City of Bethlehem mayor were panel guests at a virtual forum Thursday night.

City Councilman J. William Reynolds and Dana Grubb, a former administrator with the city, participated in the forum, which was sponsored by POWER (Pennsylvanians Organized to Witness, Empower & Rebuild) Lehigh Valley; Black Progress PAC; and Promise Neighborhoods of Lehigh Valley. Both Reynolds and Grubb are Democrats.

Moderators asked the candidates questions on racism, police reform and affordable housing.


“Although I’d like to think I was color blind, I was not conscious of my own privilege,” said Grubb. “I realize the advantages I had as a white male. That root must be uprooted in order to create a city that is truly accessible to everyone.”

“The pandemic has shown how many things are broken in our country and city,” said Reynolds. “Many of our systems have been broken for a long time. The pandemic blew that wide open and made that obvious to us.”

Grubb said as mayor he would try to work on some of the inequities through affordable housing, climate action and attracting development that is compatible with the community.

“There are a lot of different ways you can implement policy as a mayor that I would seek to do,” he said.

“We need to learn how to live in other people’s energy,” said Reynolds, adding that as a councilman he has worked towards establishing coalitions for change including the city’s Climate Action Plan and Northside 2027 neighborhood plan.

Police reform

Moderators also asked about police reform and if they would support reallocating municipal funds toward programs that deal with criminal reform, substance abuse and education.

“I think opening up the lines of communication will open up trust and mental health solutions,” said Grubb. “I think it’s a natural marriage. I think police must work closely with those services.”

Grubb added that he would reassess if police should handle certain issues such as animal control and increase efforts in other areas of interest like community policing, de-escalation training and bias training.

Reynolds said he is working on trying to find ways to hire mental health liaisons in order to focus on the cultural and operational functions.

Affordable housing

Reynolds said as a councilman he has helped to establish an affordable housing task force.

“We need to be a city that is inclusive city that is welcome to everybody,” he said. “If we’re going to be the type of mid-sized city that people want to live in, then we need to make that clear and we need to do everything we can.” He added, “It doesn’t matter whether you’ve been here 50 years or 50 seconds, you’re getting that same level of service.”

“The optimal ratio is 70% owner-occupied and 30% rental,” said Grubb. “The Southside is opposite of that.”

Grubb said he would look at city zoning laws in order to provide more inclusionary housing, along with first-time homebuyer assistance programs.

“There is not an ideal percentage here with rental and housing because we’re dealing with people,” said Reynolds.

Gadfly wades in to the negative mayoral campaigning controversy

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Let’s try to look at this negative mayoral campaigning controversy objectively.

Gadfly does not endorse candidates. He doesn’t feel smart enough for that.

His interest is in providing information on everybody so that voters can make the most informed choice possible.

Gadfly has tried to make these pages open to all candidates in a balanced and even-handed way.

This morning, for instance, you can find a Grubb video followed by a clip from a classy Reynolds Town Hall, followed by both candidates together answering the same question.

All three without comment. Gadfly provides you with the primary sources. You are smart enough to assess and make up your own minds. You don’t need Gadfly telling you how to vote. You shouldn’t care how Gadfly votes.

Contributions from followers have leaned toward Grubb. Gadfly wishes there were more balance there for sure.

So let’s try, try to look at the campaign mailer controversy objectively, without partisan lenses.

Gadfly, in fact, is putting on his professorial hat as well, trying to look at the Grubb and Reynolds mailers as if he were commenting on them as assignments in a writing class.

Readers should not take the following comments as endorsements for one candidate or another but a response to one element of their campaigns.

But an element that relates to something fundamental in both candidates.

Which is why Gadfly ventures into so vexed an area.


Gadfly did not get the Grubb mailer in the mail. Surprising. Not sure why. He’s receiving a steady stream of other mailers. So he’s on mailing lists.

He first learned of the Grubb mailer, in fact, from candidate Reynolds. His news was quickly accompanied by a flurry of “did you see this?” messages from followers.

There was a decent interval between these “be on the alert” messages and actually seeing the Grubb mailer.

Gadfly was prepared to be shocked.

He was not.

He was shocked — and not a pleasant shock — when he received (in the mail!) the Reynolds mailer.

Let him talk outloud as he tries to determine why the different readings on his shock meter.

First, It was clear to Gadfly that G was running as an “outsider,” in fact had to run as an outsider. R has been a visible player for over a decade, he has a solid handful of major concrete accomplishments, he has a substantial financial “war chest,” and he has run the table of endorsements from the local political establishment (ha! except Councilman Callahan!).

So Gadfly expected at some point that G would have to try to put a dent in R’s record. He would have to try to turn heads. How he would do it was the suspense.

When you put aside the ridiculous mailer claptrap of bolded letters, capitalized letters, all caps, strategic quotation marks, dramatic font shifts, warped photos (why do we mature people put up with such crap when it comes to elections? so childish), when you put all that aside, G’s thesis (speaking under my prof hat) is “we” can’t afford R. And he supports or bolsters that thesis with 9 reasons.

We have to give G his thesis. But Gadfly thought it was crafty. Frankly, Gadfly has thought that G doesn’t have a chance in this election. R has so much going for him. An uphill climb for G. But he has identified a soft spot in focusing on the budget. On money matters. Actually, G identifies 2 soft spots. The other being the flap over the ethics ordinance. Pretty shrewd, thought Gadfly, who knows about as much about political strategy as you would expect from an English teacher.

But G has his thesis. So how effectively does he support it?

Take the 9 points one by one. Do they hold up.

Did R vote for a tax increase 3 of the last 4 years? Yes. Did R vote to raise taxes 5% this year? Yes. Did R vote for the stormwater tax? Yes. Did R vote to eliminate firefighters? Yes. Did R vote for those salary increases? Yes. Did R accept $26,000 in campaign donations from big developers while usually voting their way? Yes. Did R vote to rezone Martin Tower in spite of EAC recommendations? Gadfly is not sure about this one. Did R not support a comprehensive ethics ordinance? Yes. Is R not backed by others who also voted for the above items in the 2022 budget? Yes.

Gadfly would say that G supported his thesis. Which is not to say that his points aren’t arguable. Gadfly sees G laying out 9 talking points on which to engage R. Nothing wrong with that. And Gadfly would expect R to engage in return, to rebut. Which he is more than capable of. R is a powerful arguer. And, in fact, he has explicitly made effective responses to most of these points in Gadfly’s hearing already. His point about the danger in voting in block for a large ethics ordinance makes sense to Gadfly. R points out that G doesn’t mention that in the last 5-6 years he has taken no contributions. That’s an interesting point. And qualifies G’s point. So R has responded in kind. He is perfectly capable of defending himself. And then one would expect that G would respond to R’s responses, saying perhaps that R’s silence on the ethics ordinance since 2017 indicates his indifference to it. Or whatever. But that is the cycle of legitimate back and forth that Gadfly expects.

Gadfly does not see what is so foul about the way G is playing hardball.

Gadfly does not understand R’s references to attacks against the Mayor, Council colleagues, and the “fantastic women” running for Council. G has attacked the women running for Council??? Yiiii. Where? How? The prof in me says that calls out for specific example if it is going to have any force and impact. Of course, such things may be in the corners of social media in which Gadfly is unfamiliar, and he waits to be informed. But the point is that “as is” such an accusation has no basis for belief.

And Gadfly cannot understand the defenses of R by his Council colleagues, people whom R points to for support. Sorry, Gadfly cannot connect the dots between Councilwoman Van Wirt’s 30 years reference to anything in the G mailer. Gadfly needs help there. Councilman Colon’s note appended to R’s Facebook message decrying G’s mailer does not mention the mailer at all and thus takes no position on it. Gadfly has not come across public statements regarding the G mailer by Councilfolk Negron and Waldron. One would not expect a statement by Councilman Callahan. The best response is by Councilwoman Crampsie Smith. Her point about the value of Council experience as preparation to be mayor is substantive and points to a soft spot in G’s argument. But the amount of space given to the sterling traits of her family and R’s family is, frankly, complete fog and off-point, says the prof — stick to examples of what’s negative or erroneous in G. But the killer is the Councilwoman’s concluding comment that R’s campaign has focused “on the positives.” Lehigh Valley for All, who endorsed him and now is looking for a direct apology to G, doesn’t see his mailer that way.

Which brings us to R’s mailer.

Gadfly was shocked.


Gadfly didn’t understand it at all. Didn’t see the need for it. As he said before, Gadfly felt R a virtual shoo-in for election. The odds seemed to him stacked way, way against G. How could he understand R’s move here? Frankly, it seemed a desperate move. (He felt the same way when he saw Lisa Boscola come around for a second endorsement. Calling in the cavalry?) And was R not simply shooting himself in the foot? The prof would beg him not to send that damn mailer. Please, Willie, no. Falling off the high road.

Gadfly’s mailbox lit up with indignation.

Lehigh Valley for All suggests an apology.

Lehigh Valley for All considers it negative campaigning.

Gadfly has been aware of G’s city hall incident for a long time. He wondered if it would become an issue if he ran for mayor. So it did. Gadfly is not a denizen of social media, but he was aware it was being talked about there early in the campaign. G faced up and posted an account of the event here on Gadfly March 11. He has heard him describe the incident at least twice since at candidate meeting-type events. It’s not as if G was hiding this incident from his past. His account of events has been consistent. The story was “out there” with his explanation.

R supporters Shirley Morganelli and John Price (who people have suggested to me is a pseudonym) posted comments on Gadfly as a result of G’s March 11 post. These posts prompted Gadfly to try to research the incident more — to go to the primary sources, as he likes to say — but right-to-know requests of police files from the city went nowhere. Dead end there.

Gadfly ultimately decided to let the matter be. G had not tried to hide the incident. He volunteered information about it. He told a story that was consistent and explained his “side.” The incident was 17 years ago — virtually a generation ago. It was an isolated incident. As far as anybody knows, G’s life is not characterized by criminal misbehavior. To describe the event as G’s “history of workplace violence” as R and his supporters have done simply seemed to Gadfly a gross exaggeration and misrepresentation. An over-dramatization.

R says G’s mailer “could not go without a response.”


Most definitely.

For sure.

But not that kind of response.

Pound the hell out of him on the 9 points in his mailer. Yes. You are more than capable of doing so.

But the Trump mailer was beyond unfortunate.

Now, apologize, and get on with the last leg of the campaign.

Onward! Let the best man win!

As usual, Gadfly invites comment, waits to be slapped upside the head.

Mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb on diversity in City Hall

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

selections from Christina Tatu, “Q&A with Bethlehem’s Democratic candidates for mayor.” Morning Call, April 22, 2021.

Q. Do you think there’s enough diversity in City Hall? What would you do to make sure minority groups are represented?

Grubb: No. Qualified individuals from diverse ethnicities and all gender identifications must be recruited for all authorities, boards and commissions, government positions, and particularly those in public safety. The demographics of Bethlehem’s government ought to reflect those of its citizens. In addition, there ought to be bilingual staff available at City Hall to assist those for whom English might not be a first language, and thus a hurdle to smooth interaction and the accomplishment of their goals.

Reynolds: There is not enough diversity in City Hall. It is vital that positions of leadership in our city reflect the changing identity of our community. My administration would be committed to increasing the diversity throughout City Hall. Doing that, however, also means that everyone in our city has access to high-quality services and that city government spends equitable time addressing the needs of everyone in our community. This is an issue of fairness. City government will increase the amount time that it spends in neighborhoods that have traditionally been underrepresented as far as the priorities of our government. Going into our neighborhoods to listen, study the inequities in our city and open up opportunities for everyone in our community is also imperative if we are serious about creating a stronger city.

Council candidate Wilhelm on the the role of her job at Fig in her decision to run (Reynolds Town Hall, April 7)

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Reynolds Virtual Town Hall April 7

Candidate Wilhelm:

  • played a huge part
  • “small business candidate”
  • many meaningful relationships with countless small business owners
  • especially involved as they have navigated the pandemic
  • opportunity to tell the stories of impactful leaders
  • story of the Swifts, for instance
  • Hector Lopez, Olga Negron — getting to know people
  • relationships with non-profits
  • all this has brought her close to what’s happening in Bethlehem