Mayoral candidates Grubb and Reynolds on the most pressing issue facing the City

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. What do you think is the most pressing issue facing the city and how would you address it?

Grubb: Gentrification. It is becoming more and more difficult for longtime and lower income residents to remain a part of the community. Addressing affordable housing is the first step to rectifying this. If a diverse population can’t afford to rent or own a home in Bethlehem, its character will suffer as a result. Diversity is a strength, and losing that strength will negatively impact the pool of qualified people to fill employment opportunities in the city.

Reynolds: The pandemic has upended our community in many ways and we need to emerge as a stronger, fairer and more vibrant city. Families, small businesses, nonprofits and our institutions have all made incredible sacrifices during the past year. We need to assist our residents most affected by the pandemic as well as invest in building a more resilient community.

Our response must be directed towards both short-term relief and longer-term planning in Bethlehem. We must continue to attract jobs and new investment to our city. Private economic investment in our community is needed to fund our basic city services and keep taxes as low as possible. Every job that is created in our community makes it easier for City Hall to continue to deliver high quality public safety services, pave our streets and invest in our neighborhoods.

Two interesting things about candidate Reynolds and the CAP

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

ref: The Mayoral candidates April 6 at LV4ALL:  the environment and Martin Tower

Gadfly,

I note two interesting things about WR’s response. First, he is taking a lot of credit for doing his job, which is to respond to the significant citizen interest in a climate action plan (CAP). While he deserves some credit for helping to get money for other people to write the CAP, it is a bit self-aggrandizing for him to claim that HE is the developer of it. He’s the public face of a citizen effort, and as a consequence of that, he is benefiting from significant political support coming from the environmental community in Bethlehem that this public role assured him. Of course, we don’t actually have any concrete action on climate change after many years of planning and talking and support building, so whether he will be successful in getting anything significant done on climate remains to be seen. Second, as a quasi-governmental advisory council without a partisan political affiliation, I’m shocked that Mr. Reynolds would publicly proclaim the support of members of the EAC that he voted to appoint. It’s fine for appointed officials to support political candidates as private citizens, but for Reynolds to affiliate his candidacy with the support of people he approved for public positions smacks of impropriety. It undermines the legitimacy of the EAC because it gives the appearance that he approved the appointment of people because he already knew he could later claim their support in a political campaign. This is precisely why we need the Ethics Ordinance that Reynolds so effectively torpedoed.

Breena

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: the City must have “a comprehensive code of ethics”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb at City Hall:

  • worked 27 years in various capacities in the Department of Community and Economic Development
  • critical for the City to have a comprehensive code of ethics
  • proposed several years ago but rejected by several Council members including opponent Reynolds
  • need transparency, honesty, integrity in a system built on checks and balances
  • must deflect solicitations for special favors
  • no campaign donations from Bethlehem major developers (deep pockets)
  • also no endorsements from City and elected officials (you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours)
  • will act solely in best interest of residents

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

The Mayoral candidates April 6 at LV4ALL: the environment and Martin Tower

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“How would you balance environmental protection concerns such as those brought up by the Environmental Action Committee with rezoning and development in Bethlehem into such things as Martin Tower?

Candidate Grubb:

  • The EAC made recommendations when Martin Tower was before Council
  • such as impact on Monocacy Creek, pollution
  • they weren’t listened to
  • developers given carte blance
  • which opponent Reynolds supported
  • with so much impermeable surface you can’t ignore the environmental impact
  • you gotta play hardball with developers
  • has experience doing that
  • gotta let them know the environment is important to the residents
  • would take a hard stance with developers

Candidate Reynolds:

  • Administration not Council brought forward the re-zoning proposal
  • Council created compromise that reduced the amount of retail by 75%
  • compromise balance commercial, residential, and retail
  • redevelopment is a balance of those three in a sustainable way
  • nobody’s talking about the Climate Action Plan I developed and that is just going to be released
  • EAC has been 100% supportive of CAP
  • members are supporting my campaign
  • roadmap to sustainability that touches every project including Martin Tower

On the subject of hardball and negative campaigning

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Candidate Grubb’s hardball mailer created quite a buzz, a buzz about negative campaigning. Now we have the Reynolds hardballer as well. Apoplexy abounds.

Here below we have Councilwoman Negron giving candidate Reynolds some space on the topic of his involvement with the ethics ordinance and Barbara Diamond defending candidate Grubb against the charge of negative campaigning.

Further comments on either side welcome and invited.

ref: Hardball (Grubb)
ref: Candidate Grubb critics don’t respond to the facts
ref: Hardball (Reynolds)

Gadfly,

Dr. Van Wirt and I continued the conversation to bring back our Ethic ordinance and Dr. Van Wirt did her due diligence and approached councilman Reynolds who said he would support the Ethics Ordinance. I think it took him a while, but he now understands our points and the problems of not having a single, comprehensive ordinance. There is a lot of work that we do behind the scenes that takes a lot of time, and we don’t bring the work to the public eye until it is totally ready. Councilman Colon and I met with a group of citizens for an entire year to create our Ethics Ordinance. I made a big mistake (because I didn’t know any better), and I didn’t present the ordinance to our council solicitor. He would have revised and better prepared it to follow the format typically used when presenting an ordinance. Once presented, he did change it, but that’s when I realized I should have done that first, and he could have helped me make additional  changes before presenting it to full council. That’s what Dr. Van Wirt was and is working on since 2019. The Pandemic forced her to stop that process. It has being a tough year for everyone, but for a frontline doctor, one can only imagine. Council will bring the Ethics ordinance back, councilman Reynolds is in full support that we do so, and will support the ordinance as well! People don’t know what they don’t know; however, I really wish my and Dr. Van Wirt’s opinions would be taken more seriously and with more respect. We are the ones fighting the good fight right in the trenches!

Olga Negron April 26

———–

Dear Gadfly,

In your Hardball post of April 25th, Mayoral Candidate Willie Reynolds and Councilwoman Crampsie-Smith accuse Mayoral Candidate Dana Grubb of negative campaigning in response to a campaign mailer that lists actions Mr. Reynolds has taken. It is legitimate to challenge your opponent on his record. Mr. Reynolds could have used the opportunity to refute what was listed on the mailer or provide some context or defense. It is revealing that he does neither of those things. He doesn’t address the facts on the mailer at all. Instead he denigrates Mr. Grubb by characterizing him as someone who is not proud of where Bethlehem is going and Ms. Crampsie-Smith characterizes him as acting with malevolence. To my mind, these personal attacks actually are negative campaigning.

Now behold the Reynolds campaign mailer that arrived in the mail today. This was most likely in production when Reynolds and Crampsie-Smith were complaining about Dana’s negative campaigning. This piece is exceedingly misleading insinuating that Dana is like Trump and by leaving out important information, which Dana explains in Gadfly’s March 11 post. Dana was assaulted by a coworker resulting in a broken nose; he did not retaliate. The coworker was someone Dana had reported to the Director of a Human Resources and the City Solicitor for unethical and potentially illegal behavior. Although both participants had to leave city government, Dana was approached by and assisted the FBI for 2 years with information about possible corruption in Bethlehem’s city government and development community.

It seems obvious that candidate Reynolds would rather attack his opponent with distortions than defend his own record. Voters want and deserve to know specifically what candidates who have held public office or served in city hall have actually done and how those actions have moved the city forward or point toward future decision-making.

Barbara Diamond April 30

Hardball (2)

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

received today from the Friends of J. William Reynolds

 

The print is hard to read:

Suspended official told not to work at home — Morning Call — November 12, 2004 — page B3

Bethlehem officials have ordered Dana Grubb, one of the managers involved in a Nov. 4 fight at City Hall to stop taking files and documemts home and performing work-related duties while he is suspended with pay.

City to post police guard at meetings** After Nov. — Morning Call — January 18, 2005 – page B1

For years, Dana Grubb attended Bethlehem Health Board meetings as a deputy director of community development, but if he wants to attend another one, it will be under guard of a police officer.

The city is taking action in response to concerns raised by Health Director Judy Maloney, who was in her office Nov. 2 when just outside it Grubb and Harvey Joseph, the city’s former environmental health director, got into a fistfight. Both men were later forced to retire.

Grubb was the city grants administrator and deputy director of community development among other roles. He retired from the city in 2004 after he and Harvey Joseph, who was the environmental health director, got into a fistfight in City Hall. Then-Mayor John Callahan told them they could retire or be fired.

Mayoral candidate Grubb on the 2004 City Hall fight

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Mayoral candidate Grubb’s response on the topic of a City Hall fight given at the North West/Kaywin Block Watch meeting April 26 at the Church of the Manger.

————–

In 2003, I received phone calls that a city employee who reported to me was taking bribes. I immediately went to the HR director and she called the assistant city solicitor into the meeting. I was told later that a criminal investigation was started.
The city was transitioning at that time from the Delgrosso administration to the Callahan administration, so the outgoing solicitor met with me, told me how he thought it should be pursued by the incoming administration, and outlined how he felt I should proceed. I don’t know if the person under investigation was aware of any of this, but I suspect he may have been, because my immediate supervisor, the DCED director, was his cousin.
When the new administration came in, I followed the advice I had been given. I felt that Bethlehem residents deserved to have something like this resolved because they deserved better; plus, it did not reflect well on city government.
The morning of the episode in question, I went up to the health bureau on an unrelated matter. When I arrived there the employee who was going to hit me in the face was seated in the reception area. He kept interfering with my interaction with the health bureau secretary, which did not involve him at all, and I finally told him to mind his own business.
At this point, that individual got up from his chair and came across the health bureau office, and got into my face/space. I sensed that he was going to get physical, and felt threatened. I reached out to move him out of my space by putting my hands on his shoulders and applying pressure. As I did that, he swung over my extended hands and arms as I was moving him back, and his fist connected with my nose.
I then grabbed him by the shoulders to hold onto him because he was swinging wildly, and even biting and scratching at me: I needed both to de-fuse the situation and defend myself. I ended up with scratch marks on my neck in addition to a fractured nose.
The entire encounter lasted about 15 seconds until a couple or three other co-workers pulled us apart. My right hand came off his left shoulder but he continued to attack getting within inches of biting me. I his left shoulder again, but a second or two later, the other workers had got my assailant under control.
I left the health bureau office and went back downstairs to my office to let my secretary know I was heading up to HR to report the incident, which I did.
It was at the advice of the HR director that I went to the hospital to be examined.
I never swung or hit my assailant, and he has admitted that to others.
Months before this occurred, I had reported a MC journalist to my superior because a number of us had noticed that he seemed to be under the influence of alcohol whenever he came to city hall: the odor of alcohol was easily detectable on him. I threatened to go Editor-in-Chief Susan Hunt if the matter wasn’t addressed. The MC was made aware of the situation, and it is entirely possible that my name became known to the reporter. He was later terminated by the MC after Councilwoman Jean Belinski complained to the paper about him misrepresenting her statements in his coverage of Council meetings. When my episode happened, he was still with the MC and wrote the articles about it, which were not only not factual, but sensationalized.

Reprinted from March 11: Mayoral candidate Grubb explains 2004 incident

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

This post first appeared in The Gadfly March 11, 2021.

————

Dana Grubb is a candidate for mayor of our city.

Dear Gadfly,

I’ve been hesitant to dive into the details and drag others into the issue, but after learning that a Republican candidate has announced for Mayor of Bethlehem, one who was involved in a confrontation in another state in the past himself, and that parallels are now being drawn by some groups between his incident and an incident in my own past, it is time for me to clear the air. I was not present for whatever happened to the Republican candidate and therefore cannot comment on it.

In 2004, I was acting on some citizen complaints about a coworker of mine who was accused of unethical and potentially illegal behavior. As an administrator to whom these complaints were directed, I had a responsibility to report them to both the Director of Human Resources and the City Solicitor. I did. The city government was transitioning into the new Callahan administration, and follow up on these complaints was either ignored or covered up. However, I felt such serious allegations needed to be pursued in order to discover the truth: the citizens of Bethlehem deserve no less. Outgoing City Solicitor Joseph ‘Jay’ Leeson had also advised me to continue.

Later in 2004, I was assaulted and punched in the face by this coworker, which resulted in my nose being fractured. I never retaliated, and the incident was over within seconds. Actions taken by others who witnessed all or part of the incident had nothing to do with the incident itself; comments about other workers being afraid and locking themselves in their offices to escape involvement were no doubt prompted by witnessing something that never should have happened in City Hall, but in which I was not the instigator—and in fact was the person who was assaulted.

My coworker and I were both held accountable and retired from city service.

Newspaper accounts in the Lehigh Valley regarding this matter were skewed and sensationalized by a City Hall beat reporter. I had previously brought complaints about him, which I had received, to the attention of my superior who handled it with the reporter. He stopped the behavior that had engendered the complaints, but apparently remained irate about my intervention, and therefore took this opportunity to have his revenge.

Others with absolutely no understanding or knowledge of this back story are attempting to drag my name through the mud by bringing up this incident, to benefit the Mayoral candidate of their choice. None of them were present the morning of the incident between me and my coworker, nor did they work in city hall. In answering queries I’ve had about this occurrence, I have always said that we were both held accountable, have learned from the experience, and have moved on. My resolve to institute a zero-tolerance policy for intimidation and bullying has only been strengthened by what I learned from this experience. As someone who was attacked for acting on principle, I have a better understanding of the various ways bullying and intimidation may be accomplished, as well as a better understanding of a victim’s situation.

After this incident and my retirement, I was approached by the Federal Bureau of Investigation to be an informant and provide as much information and knowledge about possible corruption in Bethlehem city government and the development community in general. I did that for over two years.  I recently learned that the investigation into the Allentown Mayor’s conviction on pay-to-play charges had provided evidence that the same thing had been happening in Bethlehem.

I did not, do not, and will not accept unethical or illegal behavior from anyone involved in Bethlehem’s governance. People who know me and have worked with me are aware of that, and many have endorsed my candidacy for Mayor because they are certain that I will stand by my principles, even if it makes me unpopular in certain sectors. My integrity is not for sale to anyone and that may be why those engaged in such behaviors are so eager to point the finger at me. If people applauded those who stand up against wrong doing in any form, it would help to foster a much needed culture of ethics in city government.

Dana

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

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“Willie, you have accepted a $4000 donation and a $2000 donation from folk related to developers. Can you explain this and assure the people that it would not be a conflict of interest for you when discussing developments within the City?”

Candidate Reynolds:

  • I can tell you one of the things I want to start with is if you look at 2016, 2017, 2018, 2020, I literally raised zero dollars.
  • For a while my opponents here were talking about contributions I received 9, 10, 11 years ago.
  • They dropped talking about that, it was a decade ago, because they realized it didn’t sound as good.
  • I can also tell you that in politics I’ve learned that at some point you need to raise money.
  • And everybody remembers campaigns where my opponents sent out campaign mailers when I was 19 years old with my backwards hats on.
  • Those campaigns were run by a lot of the people currently making comments in the chat box and by my opponent right here.
  • But I can tell you that I’m proud of every vote that I ever made.
  • And a lot of the conversation here is about the fact that people are frustrated that Bethlehem is moving forward.
  • There’s a lot of hypocrisy here, and I can tell you that we need investment in our city.
  • And I think if you take a look at the economic development projects that have occurred in Bethlehem over the past 25 years, it is what has allowed Bethlehem to build back an economy that was struggling after Bethlehem Steel went down.
  • So I am very proud of my voting record.
  • In the last several years you’re going to look at the fact that, in the last 4-5 years I didn’t raise a dollar.
  • The best that my opponent has as far as a vision is complaining about something that happened in 2011.
  • I would say look at my colleagues, and if you take a look at Dr. Van Wirt and Councilman Colon and Counvilwoman Negron, 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.
  • So I am proud of who is supporting my campaign.
  • I am proud that we have support in the community, and I look forward to serving the residents.

 

Moderator to Grubb:

  • I’ll give you a 30-second rebuttal.

Candidate Grubb:

  • Just one point, 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.

The Mayoral candidates April 6 at LV4All; the 2017 ethics ordinance

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“As mayor of Bethlehem, would you support an ethics ordinance in our City similar to the one in 2017? And why or why did you not support that ordinance in 2017?

Candidate Reynolds:

  • 2017 ethics ordinance was about 50 pages long
  • advice of lawyers and D.A. was to break it up in pieces
  • passed two sections: ethics training and no gifts ban
  • always open to look at new things to strengthen the ordinnce
  • Councilpersons Colon and Negron proposed the ordinance in 2017
  • they felt the important parts were passed
  • they support his candidacy
  • open to whatever proposals come forward
  • must take it piece by piece
  • the advice in 2017 was that 50 pages was too long
  • best to break it up into pieces

Candidate Grubb:

  • would support the 2017 ethics ordinance
  • lot of lessons to be learned from what happened in Allentown
  • and with martin Tower
  • conflicts of Councilmen with sizeable contributions from developers
  • length of ordinance doesn’t matter
  • content is the key
  • Council dropped ball
  • two small pieces approved
  • nothing’s happened since
  • Reynolds has had a chance since 2017 to act but hasn’t
  • if elected, will resubmit a comprehensive ethics ordinance

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: “Economic development projects must stand on their own merit”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb at SteelStacks:

I am not accepting contributions from the 7 or 8 largest developers in Bethlehem. Economic development projects must stand on their own merit, not the size of a campaign check.

In 1999 I was one of the City administrators that negotiated tax-increment financing and the HUD section 108 loan which allowed many of the improvements you see over here today to happen. If you elect me Mayor in May, I will take the same negotiating skills into economic development projects today where we preserve history and development fits in our city.

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

Gadfly mayoral forum #7: The State of the City

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

The prompt:

The Mayor delivered the annual State of the City address April 16.

For this Forum response, Gadfly asked the candidates to think of the state of the city, the Mayor’s state of the city address, the content of that address, criticism of or additions to the address, the way in which that address is given, focusing more resident attention on it, and options or supplements to it.

Big open range again for the candidates to roam in.

Listen to Gadfly’s full prompt here.

————

Dana Grubb

The Mayor’s delivery of a “state of the city” speech, currently done at a Chamber of Commerce sponsored business meeting, presents some opportunities for improvement. Attendees must pay in order to be at the meeting and hear the speech, which limits who may attend. I have reservations about that. My sense has been that, when it comes to this address, the general public doesn’t receive the same focus as a paying audience. That is problematic.

My preference would be for the Mayor to deliver their address via local media, perhaps on our local PBS 39 station, so that anyone who is interested can tune in. Additionally, the speech could be live streamed on the city’s website and archived so that even more people could hear what the Mayor has to say.

As for this year’s address by Mayor Donchez, it struck an even tone concerning the challenges of the past year by acknowledging a number of them. The Mayor credited partners and recognized opportunities. He listed accomplishments, which sends a positive vibe, much like cheerleaders who encourage the team on the field.

During the pandemic, the City’s Health Bureau — who reported to me when I was the Deputy Director of Community Development — excelled and deserved the special mention they received this year. Support from other city departments which helped deliver the vaccine was also recognized, as it should have been.

But some aspects of the speech seemed stale, and of questionable value: old points were regurgitated, and past accomplishments were praised again.

Make no mistake about it: challenges remain in our city. Gentrification, out of scale development, a preponderance of “upscale” rental housing over owner-occupied housing, lack of affordable housing, poor city facility maintenance especially in parks, the question of ingrained racism and equal treatment under the law, and opportunities for our diverse population are all issues that were ignored by Mayor Donchez in his “state of the city” speech. They should not have been, if presenting a complete picture of the “state of the city” was the aim of the speech. While it is nice to hear about the character and charm of the city, its many amenities and achievements, it is necessary to also hear about the tests being faced by the city, its residents, and its government. These demands must be faced unflinchingly if Bethlehem is going to move forward and become better: ignoring challenges does not make them go away.

It might be better to hear from residents as well as government about the “state of the city” if we really want a thorough account. Residents’ perspectives would likely be more realistic and not as one-sided or sugar-coated, providing a sharper focus for the direction in which the city needs to move.

————–

J. William Reynolds

Ed, The “State of the City” hits at one of the basic functions of government – how do we communicate and engage with our residents?  It isn’t a one-off event

but rather a 365-day-a-year effort to interact with the people of our city. When I launched the Connecting Bethlehem initiative two years ago, the idea was to measure citizen satisfaction AND engagement with our current communication channels.  While many people are satisfied with the current communication measures that the city uses (and our revamped website and service app are substantial improvements), there were two takeaways in particular that are important for this conversation.

  • Residents want a centralized place to get information pertaining to Bethlehem
  • A not insignificant percentage of residents do not have internet access, so their ability to engage and interact with the City is limited.

As Mayor, I would look to revamp the ways in which the City shares information. Think about it as a 365-day “State of the City.” During my campaign, I have been using some of these tools to communicate and interact with residents about what I have focused on during my time on City Council and our ideas for building coalitions in Bethlehem to create change and implement new initiatives.

  • Study and implement a plan to achieve 100 percent high-speed internet access in the city. We need to use COVID Relief Funds (which is specifically allowable in the legislation) to conduct a study to understand the depth of the issue as well as potential long-term solutions. These efforts should include a coalition of the Bethlehem Area School District, community members, and non-profit organizations
  • Hold virtual town halls to interact with people who are unable to come into City Hall or come to City Council meetings
  • Make “The Bethlehem Corner” a weekly opportunity to talk about city issues, have city employees talk about leaf collection, snow removal, etc., and have on community members to talk about important topics in Bethlehem
  • Have these conversations in the community whenever possible. It is vitally important to meet people where they live, work, and play. City Hall should be the last place where we have these conversations

This last point gets to the crux of your post. There is nothing wrong with speaking about the state of the city to a group of business and community leaders. That, however, can only be one strategy for talking about where as a city and where we are going. Our Climate Action Plan, Northside 2027, and Community Engagement Initiative have also been designed to increase the ability of residents and community service providers to be involved in creating change as it relates to their view of the “state of the city.” It can’t be a one-way conversation from City Hall to the community. Everyone’s perspective on our community is important and City Hall must utilize every tool that it has to gather and present more comprehensive pictures on the current and future state of 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.

City Council candidates on the pandemic

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Bethlehem City Democrat Committee
City Council candidate forum April 12

Council candidates: Callahan, Crampsie Smith, Kwiatek, Leon, Wilhelm

———-

“The pandemic has had a huge impact on all of our citizens and businesses over the last year. What do you see as the biggest priority for City Council to help get our city back on a forward track?”

Grace Crampsie Smith

 

“Continue to fight the virus . . . . small businesses . . . Department of Health . . . homelessness . . . housing.”

 

 

Rachel Leon

 

 

“We have to really start adjusting to climate change.”

 

 

Kiera Wilhelm

 

“A vaccine equity initiative . . . multi-lingual  programs to educate folks about the vaccine . . . mortgages and rent relief . . . schools . . . small businesses . . . make funding easy to get.”

 

 

Bryan Callahan

 

“We have to be very careful about what we are doing with our tax rate.”

 

 

Hillary Kwiatek

 

“We need to look at this problem not just from one community but the many communities that make up our city.”

 

to be continued . . .

Candidate Grubb critics don’t respond to the facts

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Breena Holland is an Associate Professor at Lehigh University in the Department of Political Science and the Environmental Initiative. She is a past and current director of Lehigh University’s South Side Initiative.

ref: Hardball

Dear Gadfly,

Thanks for posting the responses of Willie Reynolds and other city councilmembers to Dana Grubb’s mailer. It’s interesting that none of them respond to the facts on the mailer but instead come close to making ad hominem attacks. Even the comment by the usually fair-minded Dr. Wirt is devoid of substantive content. She seems to be suggesting Mr. Grubb’s proposals are somehow backward looking, but I’d certainly be willing to argue with her about the accuracy of that description. Mr. Grubb does tend to focus more on what can be done immediately, in contrast to Willie Reynolds’ fantastical imagining of what our city can be at some far point in the future. It’s good to know where you are going, but I trust Grubb’s practical mindedness and capacity to listen to good ideas to get us there faster. Mr. Reynolds has often shown disdain for and a lack of follow through on many good ideas. After torpedoing the ethics ordinance that councilmembers Negron and Colon put forward, he never delivered on his publicly proclaimed intention to put through smaller substantive pieces of the ordinance; I would hardly call the ethics training and gifts ban that Councilmen Martell and Callahan put through substantive commitments to ethics. And that is just one instance where he did not deliver.**  Many of us are hoping he’s stopped taking such large donations from developers.*** It would seem politically stupid to continue accepting donations from developers after he voted in favor of the Martin Tower rezoning, despite citizens’ requests for recusal based on the hefty donations he had already accepted from the property owners.

The most troubling response among those you posted is from Grace Crampsie Smith, who goes as far as to call Mr. Grubb malevolent for stating facts about Mr. Reynolds’ record. By definition, this means she thinks Mr. Grubb wants to do evil to others. Well, she fits in perfectly with the kind of politics we have in Bethlehem. Those who disagree with the decisions of people in power – in this case, by simply stating facts about a public official’s record – frequently get called “divisive” and “negative,” and now I guess those people are evil as well. It’s a well-honed strategy to silence dissent and speaks volumes to precisely the kind of candidate that Mr. Reynolds is. Rather than defend his decisions, he proclaims himself the victim of negative campaigning, tries to say the presentation of facts about his record (some of which are relevant to decisions made before councilwomen Crampsie Smith and Van Wirt were even on Council) are an attack on all of Council, and does not bother to explain any single fact presented on the mailer. This is the go-to response of Mr. Reynolds: criticize those who disagree and mobilize your allies to help silence them. It saddens me that citizens have only two choices where his campaign is concerned. We can either agree that Mr. Reynolds’ lofty hopes and dreams for Bethlehem are enough to make him our choice for mayor, or shut-up and go away. And for the record, I do agree with Mr. Reynolds’ hopes and dreams—who wouldn’t want the city he talks about? Unfortunately, after watching him operate for ten years, I just don’t think he has either the capacity or commitment to get us there.

He is right about one thing, which is that nothing will change the “vision, passion, and enthusiasm” of his campaign. They are literally drowning in it. Those of us who are not, however, would like to see some concrete discussion of how he’s going to achieve his vision in a way that involves something besides bringing people together and creating new positions at City Hall. For instance, there is the small matter of managing the day-to-day work of the City. But first, of course, all those people who think he is being victimized by his opponent delivering facts about his record need to send more money to his campaign. I guess the endorsements of the entire democratic establishment that controls Bethlehem politics are not enough? All the money he’s stockpiled from developers over the years is not enough?*** No, now that someone is talking about his actual record, people need to send him more money. Or maybe he’s already worried about raising money for his next political ambition?

Sincerely,

Breena

————

** Candidates Reynolds and Grubb were asked a question about the ethics ordinance at the Lehigh Valley for All candidate event, and the interchange is in the Gadfly’s queue for posting in the near future. Followers can see the substantial discussion of the ethics ordinance at the May 2, 2017, City Council meeting here.

*** The candidate Reynolds financial disclosure for this campaign will probably be posted here in the first week of May. Followers can see his past disclosures there as well. The candidates did have an exchange about campaign contributions that Gadfly can’t put his finger on at the moment but will search for and post.

3 weeks left!

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Three weeks left to the walk-in, gang.

Gadfly’s mail-in has been processed and should be arriving this week.

Time to be paying attention.

Be informed with your vote.

Let’s have record turn-out for a “municipal” election.

Morning Call, Nation and World, p. 15 print version, April 25, 2021

Mayoral candidates Reynolds and Grubb on their qualifications

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Good article by Christina here. Take a look at the entire piece now if you wish, and Gadfly will break it down for specific focus over ensuing days.

———–

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

Q. What makes you qualified to be mayor of Bethlehem?

Grubb: Experience. I worked for the citizens of Bethlehem for 27 years in city government, managing budgets and staff, and negotiating the tax increment financing at SteelStacks, as well as other contracts, loans and grants. I am also a small-business owner and I work for a nonprofit affordable housing entity, HOM. My willingness to listen and incorporate other viewpoints into my decision-making combined with my experience make me qualified for the job.

Reynolds: We need a vision coming out of the pandemic that will create a more vibrant and dynamic city. That vision must be based on sustainability, economic revitalization, diversity and equity. During my time on City Council, we have worked to economically revitalize our city and helped to lead us to our strongest financial position in decades. I have introduced and implemented initiatives related to neighborhood revitalization, climate action, economic redevelopment, technology and transparency. Every one of those initiatives has been designed around organizing, listening and bringing people together to create change.

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 the next mayor will need if Bethlehem is going to emerge from the pandemic an even stronger community.

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb: “Our public parks are a precious resource”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

click here for video

Candidate Grubb at Monocacy Park:

  • Our parks have provided peaceful places for fishing, picnicking, and walking for generations.
  • Unfortunately, maintenance is often wanting and floods wreak havoc.
  • Regular maintenance can defer cost of capital improvements.
  • I will reconstitute the Department of Parks and Recreation.
  • The park resources will gain a new focus.
  • And will be available to future generations as they were to him.

Let’s believe in a better Bethlehem.

Our candidates on Earth Day

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

“I’m an organic gardener. At home we are very focused on sustainable living.”
Hillary Kwiatek

“I personally take the opportunity to advocate in my daily life to people around me. . . . Being a teacher is always with me.”
Kiera Wilhelm

“I like to consider myself a Lorax, I speak for the trees.”
Rachel Leon

“My kids and I, pretty much all of our clothes are from gently used stores.”
Grace Crampsie Smith

“The biggest thing that I do in my personal life . . . financial backing as much as I can . . . I’m a big supporter of Tara and Congresswoman Susan Wild.”
Bryan Callahan

“I’m that guy out on the trail who’s picking up litter.”
Dana Grubb

At the Environmental Advisory Council meeting at which the candidates for election appeared, Breena Holland posed some good questions appropriate for today, Earth Day.

What have you actually done personally to protect the environment?

Hillary Kwiatek

  • Involved in protests
  • support climate action candidates
  • walk to work
  • organic gardener
  • very focused at home on sustainable living
  • lives in 1860s home
  • picking up trash at Higbee playground
  • captained playground bill to clean up park

Kiera Wilhelm

  • voting record of support
  • walk to work
  • use own grocery bags
  • if use plastic bag, wash it
  • advocates in daily personal life with people around her
  • a teacher, teaching young people about environment was important part of her past

Rachel Leon

  • she’s a Lorax
  • life revolves around environmental issues
  • environmental studies career path (student At NCC now)
  • environmental justice subcommitee of Climate Action Plan
  • Sierra Club
  • president of Climate Action Network at NCC
  • monthly clean ups
  • does Earth Day events
  • global environmental issues at UN
  • Afros in Nature
  • working with school in Puerto Rico

Grace Crampsie Smith

  • has always supported the EAC
  • grew up close to the environment in a small town near Jim Thorpe
  • spent young years at Glen Onoko Falls, Mauch Chunk Lake
  • gave great appreciation for the environment and the land
  • instilled compassionate care for environment in her children
  • recycles, no plastic
  • cleanups
  • clean up at Musik-Fest
  • reusing items
  • clothes from gently used stores
  • clothes at Cancer Boutique
  • walks and bikes
  • car with almost zero emissions

Bryan Callahan

  • Mauch Chunk lake every year
  • avid camper and hiker
  • regular upstate New York
  • lot of time on our trails
  • South Side Little League clean up
  • biggest thing is financial supporter of officials like Tara Zrinski and Susan Wild

Dana Grubb

  • Drives Subaru, made in zero-waste facility
  • executive committee of Boutique at the Rink
  • Sierra Club
  • picks up litter on the trail and in parking lots
  • canvas shopping bags, no plastic
  • huge recycler, waste stream is limited
  • walks the walk

Councilman Reynolds, could you give some priorities in the Climate Action Plan?  What do you think is important, and what do you think you
can actually get done and how?

Willie Reynolds

  • enormous undertaking
  • building 6-7-8 different roads at the same time
  • need coalition as big as possible
  • building codes, internal city operations
  • priority is creation of sustainability office
  • Green Ribbon Commission
  • Climate and Environmental Justice Council
  • biggest thing we can do is education and show people we are serious
  • will take a while but confident in coalitions

Limited space available for presentations by mayoral candidates

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

This in-person event is primarily for this Blockwatch members, but the organizers have permitted the Gadfly to announce it here.

No recording will be permitted.

Space is limited because of COVID guidelines.

No walk-ins.

Let Gadfly know by Wednesday midnight if you would like to attend, and he will see if there is room.

Gadfly mayoral forum #6: The George Floyd anniversary

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

(Note: these essays were done and posted before the Chauvin verdict.)

The prompts don’t get any easier as the finish line approaches.

The prompt:

The Chauvin jury has just started to deliberate as I write this. We look for an “end” soon. Maybe even before all the candidate responses get published.

We look for an end, but whatever the outcome, there will not be “closure.”

Floyd’s death is of too great significance for that. The waves will ripple out for years.

Gadfly gave the candidates, mayoral and council candidates alike, a scenario.

George Floyd died May 25, 2020. The one-year anniversary is approaching. An anniversary that will be marked around the country. One can imagine it a day of speeches and ceremonies.

My basic prompt question was should there be an anniversary response at the City Council meeting of May 19 or June 2?

If so, what; if not, why not?

The Floyd death triggered a national reckoning with race and a reimagining of the way we do public safety.

The Floyd death challenged us to be anti-racist.

What have we done? Have we done enough?

The mayor and Police Chief made speeches on the heels of the Floyd murder. A City Council meeting overflowed with heated resident commentators brimming with ideas. A sensitive political climate caused the Police Chief to bite the dust. We resolved to initiate community engagement. We partnered with the NAACP on a Community Advisory Board. We piloted a program with the Health Bureau. We reorganized the police department.

How has what we have done gone? Have we done enough? Do we plan to do more?

Should we pause and take stock of our response to Floyd’s death or not?

Do we owe residents some sense of how we have used that year in which we have all been challenged to work seriously on some of the most deeply rooted problems in our society?

Have we done enough?

Or will we simply let the anniversary slide by in silence?

Big open field again for the candidates to play in.

But looking for big ideas.

If you want to listen to my full prompt, click here.

————

J. William Reynolds

Gadfly,

The most appropriate way to start this prompt isn’t by laying out what should be done to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of the

murder of George Floyd. It is rather to lay out what should be done period.

The collective national response to the George Floyd murder reflected a truth that many have known, lived, and talked about for a long, long time. Our experience in this country is fundamentally influenced by our race. Black Lives Matter. The words that so many are afraid to say. Black Lives Matter is partly about the idea that one’s experience in this country is based on their race.  This is not an opinion statement. It is sad, tragic, and unacceptable, however, that many in our community won’t say those words or don’t believe your experience in America is influenced by race. In fact, many people have zero interest in having any conversations about anything involving race. Conversations, however, need to be had and systemic action needs to be taken.

Part of the American and local response to the George Floyd murder was influenced and motivated by the systemic racism that our country has been experiencing for hundreds of years.  We talked last week about the idea of “two cities,” and it is a reality that has historically played out throughout America. Your economic and educational opportunities are often dictated by your zip code. Access to jobs, transportation, health care, and well-funded public schools are just a few areas where historically the government has failed to create equitable systems. In fact, policy has intentionally been designed throughout American history to direct resources and opportunity to white Americans at the expense of black and brown citizens. Similar to even saying the words “Black Lives Matters,” many people do not believe that systemic racism is a real thing. It is therefore vital that we point out systemic racism where it exists, eliminate it, and build more equitable systems for our future.

Following the national and local conversations last year, Councilwoman Crampsie Smith and I created the Community Engagement Initiative. It was built on the idea that local action should grow out of conversations, experiences, and historically underrepresented perspectives. We know mental health, homelessness, issues of structural poverty, and even areas like equitable school funding play a direct and indirect role in many citizen encounters with our police department. As we have seen tragedies play out across the country, we wanted to bring citizens, police officers, social service providers, non-profits, and advocates for our homeless population together. One of the goals was to better understand the intersection of the aforementioned issues and start to collectively discuss how we could design more effective systems to tackle these community-wide problems.

There have been some great community conversations led by the Bethlehem Area Public Library, the YWCA, the Hispanic Center, the Bethlehem Area School District, and many others.  I know I, and many Councilmembers, have participated and listened to our residents share their feelings on race in America and in our community during these conversations. The City, however, needs to take much more of a leadership role in this area. We should have an employee dedicated to organizing and leading our Community Engagement Initiative. Chief Kott has made progress in increasing the number of officers who are part of these events, but we need to expand that involvement to include every officer. Our officers need to hear from the community about the depth of the structural issues that lead to police involvement. Our community also needs to hear from our officers about the difficult decisions that they must make on a regular basis when responding to calls. As I have mentioned before, the analogy of counting to ten is apt. Someone calls the cops at 10 because 1-9 (equitable school funding, mental health services, economic opportunities) have all failed. By bringing the people together who are involved, the organizations dedicated to 1-10, we are able to collectively work to cut down on how often our community ever gets to 10.

The Bethlehem Area School District has been a leader in the area of anti-racism. Curriculum changes, investments in employee training, and restorative justice have all been priorities for the district. It is also almost impossible to attend a district event without hearing their latest in developing an anti-racist school district. As we approach the one-year anniversary of the George Floyd murder, the City of Bethlehem and the next Mayor needs to take a similar approach (and a much stronger one than City Hall has in the past year).

  • Invest in our Community Engagement Initiative with a fulltime employee
  • Study the intersection and improve the relationship between our social service providers and our police department
  • Create accountability metrics for measuring progress
  • Be clear – we aren’t just going to be against racism, we are going to be an anti-racist city.

Many of us go through our days believing that our life experience is similar to everyone else.  Over the years, between my years as a student in the Bethlehem Area School District, working for State Rep. Steve Samuelson, and my time on City Council, I have learned that my experience is just that – only my experience. My students at William Allen High School have taught me more about this subject than I could ever teach them about government or history. I trust our educational, healthcare, and justice systems, the process of democracy, and most of all, the institutions that make up our community. Many of them do not. Over the years, I have heard story after story after story about how institutions have let them down, left them behind, or simply weren’t designed for their families.  That collective frustration and anger came to the forefront of America when the murder of George Floyd occurred. Make no mistake, however, it had been building for a long, long time.

We didn’t create the systemic racism that exists in America. It is our responsibility, however, to eliminate it. Every day that we don’t take stronger action makes us more responsible for the systemic issues that are part of our community. That comment will make a lot of people uncomfortable. Good. That is where change comes from.

————–

Dana Grubb

2020 was a year unlike any other, with the COVID pandemic, systemic American racism spotlighted, a national election fraught with dissension, and an insurrection against our Congress and the Capitol Building in Washington. The murder of George Floyd stood out, however, as an example of the many issues, decisions and dilemmas facing members of the black and brown communities and members of law enforcement. The trial of Derek Chauvin for killing Mr. Floyd exacerbated the pain and suffering that murder brought and proved how widespread the vicious tentacles of systemic racism really are in a country that is supposed to be the “land of the free.” Even as that trial was going on, other killings were taking place across the country: a map issued by the Gun Violence Archive places a red marker at the site of every shooting death in the US. The map is awash in red.

The national discourse brought to a head by Mr. Floyd’s murder has raised feelings of loss, resentment, and anger, as well as demands for change. Peaceful public protests and marches following Mr. Floyd’s murder began a healing process, but anger is still evident across the nation and in our city in the discourse on both sides of the community and policing relationship. The term “defund the police” was coined in reaction to a series of police and minority interactions over time, and it is a term that is frightening to many.

In reaction to Bethlehem public officials’ statements on the matter, labels like “Marxist” were mentioned. The use of words like “defund” and “Marxist” are counterproductive and only add to the distrust, unrest, and misunderstanding. They are words of fear and reaction, not words of acceptance and reason. Bethlehem’s community leaders searched for ways to address the growing pressures of this national issue. The Mayor formed a community advisory board, and Council advanced a community engagement initiative. So far, although well intentioned, neither body has provided city residents with any concrete results or plans.

The Bethlehem Police Department transitioned to a new Chief recently, and people expressed hope that this would lead to better relationships between the community served and law enforcement, and thus more effective policing. Positive steps have been taken: the department has been reorganized, and a commitment has been made to training officers on implicit bias, through a Northampton County program.

Immediately after the murder of Mr. Floyd, I had the privilege of interviewing a long time Black friend for a newspaper column I was writing. He told me that he didn’t have any issues directly with Bethlehem’s Police Department but that he did feel that the current day force did not really know the community that it serves, unlike Bethlehem’s officers did in the past. A close friend who died many years ago was a popular Black community police officer in Allentown. Lately, I’ve thought about him a lot, because although I always sensed that he felt very accepted by the community he policed, I also felt that at times he was unsure just how deep that acceptance really went. I wish I could speak with him now in light of the current events.

In conversations with some of my neighbors who are Black or Brown, they stressed the need for acceptance and respect among all people. That cuts to the core of racism: if all people are not accepted and respected as being on an equal footing, prejudice is the result. And prejudice of all types stems from a fear of those who appear to be different from ourselves.

I’ve also listened to many white people tell me that they’re not racist or discriminatory; yet in some of their qualifying comments it’s apparent that they do struggle with these issues. It may more properly be said that they do not wish to be racist or discriminatory but that prejudice is so ingrained, it is extremely difficult to surmount.

I recognize each day that I, personally, must work to better accept others, no matter their background. So, what do I think we should be doing roughly one year after George Floyd’s murder?

I’d start with a call to every individual for a personal commitment to working for racial justice by actively opposing racism. It is not enough to consider oneself unprejudiced or say one is against racism: action must be taken directly to combat the issue. The fear of those who seem different and the concurrent emphasis on protecting oneself and others “like us” must be overcome, and systems that sideline, subvert, and dismiss those whom we have deemed different must be destroyed.

Dialogue with others is an important step, as it allows people to comprehend others’ perspectives. If we really listen when people of color speak, we can perhaps begin to understand.

“Just walk a mile in their moccasins
Before you abuse, criticize and accuse.
If just for one hour, you could find a way
To see through their eyes, instead of your own.”

–Mary T. Lathrap, 1895*

I’d have no problem if elected officials chose to pass a resolution remembering Mr Floyd’s murder, recognizing failings in our governmental and societal systems, and offering concrete solutions for addressing these issues. But public officials should also commit to a zero-tolerance policy for discriminatory, racist, and bullying behavior in our local government, and have the courage to enforce that policy. I have committed to this throughout my campaign for Mayor.

Change won’t come overnight; however, it can happen if everyone recognizes and accepts the need for change, overcomes their fear of that change, and commits to active engagement to fight against the prejudices and stigmas that only serve, ultimately, to hold us all back.

*Edited; complete text online.

————

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.

City Council candidates on the Climate Action Plan and leadership in environmental issues

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Bethlehem City Democrat Committee
City Council candidate forum April 12

Council candidates: Callahan, Crampsie Smith, Kwiatek, Leon, Wilhelm

———-

“Given the state’s control over many potential initiatives that might limit us in taking a forward looking view on our community’s environmental impact, what steps do you see as possible to help us now take a leadership role in protecting our environment?”

Grace Crampsie Smith

 

“We are a role model . . . We can impact policy upward.”

 

Rachel Leon

 

 

“We need to address our air quality and lack of green spaces.”

 

Kiera Wilhelm

 

 

“Working groups will be the perfect candidates to advocate for the program.”

 

Bryan Callahan

 

“I have a 100% voting record for environmental issues.”

 

Hillary Kwiatek

 

“Building that framework, that structure within City government, we are well poised to take advantage of the opportunities to move on things.”

 

to be continued . . .