Have you ever seen a campaign finance report? (50)

(50th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Election Day is Tuesday May 21

That’s three days from today!

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidate series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

Wow! This is the 50th post on the election.

Gadfly — who is a prophet without honor in his own land — is often referred to as Gab-fly among his own family.


But the election means a lot to him.

Fostering an involved and informed electorate is at the heart of the Gadfly project.

In his Norman Rockwell fantasy of a small town, citizens take elections very seriously and elected officials are . . . the very best the town has to offer.

Funny, I stutter there because the Gadfly evil twin almost filled in “the very best that money can buy.”

Gadfly has always wondered how much money it takes to run for local office. And where that money comes from. He bets that has crossed your mind.

How are those glossy fliers arriving in the mail this week paid for?

And recently the Campaign Finance Reports came out.

Take a look.

Gadfly is not sure why they come out before the election. And he assumes there must be another report after the election as a wrap-up.

Take a look.

Gadfly bets most of you — like him — never saw a campaign finance report before.

Gadfly thinks you will find several things of interest.

Voting is the essential act of a democratic society.

It’s what makes our country special.

Unfortunately, running for office costs money.

Gadfly’s goal is a lively, spirited, competitive race. He worked hard here to provide a forum for the views of all candidates. He placed several ads in the Bethlehem Press promoting this forum. He will have ads in the Morning Call Sunday and Monday promoting this forum. He has wanted the candidates to have every opportunity to express their views and for those views to be known to as many people as possible.

In a sense, Gadfly has endorsed all the candidates.

Gadfly has contributed to five of the seven candidates — one was not taking contributions as a matter of principal, and he did not find a “Friends of” source for the other. Given the opportunity, he would have contributed to all.

Maybe that was the wrong thing to do. But he felt it was either contribute to all or contribute to none. Because Gadfly is impartial. It’s the process that is important to him.

Gadfly decided to contribute to all because he valued and appreciated the courage and commitment it takes to put yourself “out there” (sometimes pinata-fashion) and give voters a variety of views and a menu of options.

And he assumed that it was individual average people like himself whose contributions made it possible for other average citizens like himself to afford to run for office.

Maybe that’s the wrong way to think. You will tell him if so. He listens.

But Gadfly tells you all this to encourage you to look at this version of the Campaign Finance Reports.

And see what you see.

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.




Let’s play the Match Game again (49)

(49th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Election Day is May 21

That’s four days from today!

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

You recognize all the candidates by now, right?

Way back at post #37 we played match the candidate with his or her occupation.

Now let’s see if you can match them with their self-identified unique qualification quality to be a member of the Bethlehem City Council that was the subject of yesterday’s post.


This is the question that might well be the most important to judging the candidate or at least maybe the first thing you need to know about them.

How well have you been paying attention?

Can you mentally draw a line from each candidate to his or her unique quality?

While we’re on this topic, go back to our first prompt in post #16 and post #17 See how each candidate answered then.

How are you feeling about how important these statements are in your own decision process?

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

Vote and vote informed!

What do the Council candidates have to say about their “unique qualifications” to serve? (48)

(48th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Election Day is May 21

That’s five days from today!

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

The third general question that BCDC asked of all the candidates was:

“What single skill or experience makes you uniquely qualified to serve on Bethlehem City Council?”

Candidates for the one 2yr. seat

Will Carpenter: “fluency in the development process, I spent twenty years negotiating with mayors, councils . . . I know how the process works.”

Grace Crampsie Smith: “I’m a bridge builder . . . I’ve had to look at different sides . . . I’ve always looked at the whole situation pragmatically and objectively.”

Candidates for the three 4yr. seats

Michael Colon: “I grew up in the Marvine neighborhood of Bethlehem, I was raised by my grandparents . . . we didn’t have a lot. Through hard work I’ve been able to achive the things I have today . . . I am one of two Spanish-speaking members of City Council . . . I relate to members of the City in any neighborhood . . . I volunteer work, I stay involved

J. William Reynolds: “I bring forth creative solutions to problems in our community . . . It’s never been enough for me to say “no,” it’s about how you come up with a “yes” . . . an ability to work through disagreement to come up with creative visions.”

Carol Ritter: “My one thing is leadership, I have led many boards in my career . . . leadership is about service . . . raised [with her team] millions of dollars for the Children’s Room [in the library].”

David Saltzer: “I worked for the City  . . . born and raised in the City . . . and I was also a Union president . . . [looked at budgets from three perspectives] as a taxpayer, what was good for the City, and what was good for the Union.”

Paige Van Wirt: “I used to be an urban planner . . . I think I really understand what makes a healthy city . . . not afraid to ask questions . . . I understand the CRIZ . . . sidewalks . . . why were we not funding a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge . . . I bring a different perspective to City Council.”

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

Vote and vote informed!

Reflecting on the demolition discussion (60)

(60th in a series on Martin Tower)

Martin Tower demolition May 19

Risk tolerance should not be the default position of public officials.
(Breena Holland)

I wish all this didn’t make me think of Erin Brockovich, but it does . . .
(Nalyn Marcus)

Thank you, all of you . . . I personally think they have done what they possibly could do in the right way to take this building down.
(Resident Jean at the May 9 meeting)

The demolition of Martin Town is a “done deal” said two residents in the response period at the end of the May 9 night meeting at Nitschmann.

Maybe so.

But if so, it’s time to reflect.

Gadfly is thinking about several things.

One is the type of representation we want, the type of representative we have.

Councilpersons Van Wirt and Callahan were particularly illustrative at the discussion of the demolition at the May 7 City Council meeting, as I detailed in post #38.

Gadfly thinks that Van Wirt and Callahan are in a real sense talking to each other.

North pole and south pole.

Please listen to this interchange and ask yourself what kind of citizen each Councilperson envisions. And ask yourself how you would describe the tone of their deliveries.

Listen. Take the time to listen. It’s important.

Don’t look down at the transcript.

Listen first.

Councilperson Van Wirt (6 mins.):

Councilperson Callahan (3 mins.):

Ok, now listen to this second interchange.


Councilperson Van Wirt (30 seconds):

Councilperson Callahan (2 mins.):

What are you thinking?

What kind of citizen does each Councilperson envision?

So, now here are transcripts. But the tone is as important to my question as the content. So listening is primary.

Councilperson Van Wirt: “I’m trying to get this information to the people. . . . The time frame for this is still troublesome . . . so the citizens aren’t at the last minute feeling that they are scrambling for answers that they want to know for their health. . . .The predominant concern that I’m hearing about is health concerns, and these are legitimate health concerns. . . . I think there is a valid role here for the Department of Health to be involved in disseminating health-related information to the citizens. . . It’s not on the citizens to not have the information. . . . They deserve the right to know the answers to these questions. . . . I would ask that the Department of Health be involved. . . . If we have to double-down and do a deep dive, we need to be doing it. . . . Michael Bloomberg said, ‘In God we trust, everyone else bring data.’ So tell them to bring data.”

Councilperson Callahan: “Can you just tell us briefly all the organizations that have been involved in the planning of the demo? . . . How about from the county? . . . How about the state? . . . And what other departments from the state have been involved? . . . How about the FAA? . . . Are there any county, state, or city organizations that you think should be involved that weren’t involved? . . . And the people that are involved in the demolition, this their first time doing it? . . . Do you know of any buildings that they’ve knocked down that something went wrong? . . . I know you and the owner and everybody else in all the departments that have been involved have done an enormous amount of planning on this. The thing that kind of upsets me is this undertone that all the professionals, these organizations aren’t doing what they are supposed to be doing . . . everybody’s just pushing this through to demo a building . . . I think you are going to find out that a large majority, an astronomical amount of people are informed about it and feel completely safe about it and you are going to see a lot of people getting up early in the morning to watch it, and they have no fear of anything that’s going on at the site and they have complete confidence in all the professionals as I do.”

What kind of citizen does each Councilperson envision?

Gadfly always hates to speak for others.

But he hears one Councilperson who wants to empower citizens to make their own good decisions and another who is willing to let the “professionals” do the thinking.

Wow! — did Gadfly stretch too far? Is he the only one who hears this?

In any event, it’s worthwhile to ask which kind of citizen you see yourself and what kind of representative you want.

What do the Council candidates have to say about “transparency”? (47)

(47th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Election Day is May 21

That’s 6 days from today!

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

The second question the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee (BCDC ) asked of all the candidates on May 6 was about transparency:

“Transparency, especially in terms of fiscal matters, is incredibly important to Bethlehem residents. What initiatives do you support to keep the City government accountable?”

Candidates for the one 2yr. seat

Grace Crampsie Smith: “We need to improve accessibility . . . the City web site . . . significant advance notice of meetings . . . very important to consider rotating City Council meetings throughout the City.”

Will Carpenter: “We need you to pay attention . . . We both need to do our part . . . [The City needs to] put more information out there [in local papers] so you don’t have to seek as much.”

Candidates for the three 4yr. seats

Paige Van Wirt: “making sure people have access to meeting agendas and data way in advance of the meetings . . . continue to make the meetings available online . . . all public meetings after 6 o’clock . . . remove any impediments to [participation].”

David Saltzer: “more people coming in and voicing their opinions is going to allow us to do a better job . . . open door policy is also a great thing.”

Carol Ritter: “One of the things that is important to me as a representative of you if I am elected, when I am elected that I am an active listener . . . Transparency is not only about the Administration and City Council but also about the staff.”

J. William Reynolds: Talked about his Open Bethlehem (open data), Fair Accountability Incentive Reporting (FAIR), and the Connecting Bethlehem Survey projects.

Michael Colon: “We’ve taken major steps these last few years to make sure people have access to these meetings . . . I’ve always tried to respect everybody’s opinion and never discourage anyone from wanting to come out to City Council meetings or discourage anyone to make their opinions known.”

Candidate responses to BCDC’s third general question coming soon.

Be sure to review the Gadfly series of Q&A’s with candidates, the like of which you can get nowhere else, on these pairs of posts in the candidates series: 45/44, 36/35, 31/30, 26/25, 24/23, 20/19, 17/16.

Vote and vote informed!

Council Candidates – 4-year seat – Prompt 7 (44)

(44th in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Election Day is May 21

5 candidates
(one not represented here)

vote for 3

7th in the series of candidate statements

statements in reverse-alphabetical order this time

Prompt #7, 1 & 2

1) Participation

Gadfly followers want to be involved, want to be heard, do not see themselves as CAVE people (citizens against virtually everything). How can Council foster increased citizen participation with and trust in City government? Possible foci include increased interactive technology, increased public inclusion, office hours, different kinds of Council meetings, a different format for the current Council meetings, a stronger ethics ordinance, term limits.

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent) Van Wirt 2

I decided to mount a write-in campaign in the late summer of 2017 for two major reasons. First reason: nobody ran against any of the incumbents, which I felt was a disturbing reflection on citizen involvement in council, due to many factors which needed to be addressed. Second reason: after attending the City Council Committee of the Whole meeting regarding the proposed Ethics Ordinance in spring 2017, I was very upset at the substance and tenor of the conversation among council members and particularly toward Councilwoman Negron, who was trying to help make our city stronger and avoid problems like we have seen in Allentown, Reading, Scranton, Philadelphia . . . this list is too long, and the cities too close. The Ethics Ordinance was subsequently shelved. Since appointment to council, I have been pushing for more citizen participation in council by trying to open up the workings of our Authorities and Commissions; establishing a vigorous Facebook presence which posts relevant meetings and issues for citizens of Bethlehem; reintroducing the proposed Ethics Ordinance in the upcoming month; and pushing for Bethlehem City public meetings to be held after normal working hours and filmed for all to see, which has now been requested by the Mayor to start in 2020. I will continue these efforts by continuing this work; I will request that our most active authorities and commissions present to council every 6 months updates on activities, finances, and new initiatives.  I will continue keeping the citizens informed, not just of the what, but of the WHY.

David Saltzer David Saltzer

As a council member, we need the citizens to be engaged in and working with city government. Transparency is a big topic right now and one that I believe in. The ability to now watch council meetings online and follow what is going on is a step in the right direction, as is the mayor moving all committee meetings to start after 6pm beginning in 2020, allowing working residents the time to attend. I also believe there needs to be a minimum time of the announcement of important meetings so that the people that want to attend can plan to do so. Announcing a meeting at 9 or 10 am for a 4pm start is not being transparent and fosters a community of distrust. Other technologies, such as the city’s website, can be managed better with meetings announced and posted on the homepage, as well as made more user friendly as well. I think between the live streaming of the meetings, an active, user-friendly website and later meeting times following announcement protocol will allow the citizens the ability to be more active in local government.

I maintain that I would have an open-door policy and would encourage residents to
reach out to me with questions or concerns. I would support office hours where
residents would be able to come speak with a city council member.

As for different types of council meetings, I believe in the past that city council did try to
take the meetings on the road and have them in different corners of the city to attract
people to come out in their neighborhoods to attend the meeting. I am not sure what the
outcome of that was or if it was talked about trying it again, but it is an idea that could be considered.

As for ethics, I know that the current council has presented an ethics policy and have
adopted some parts of it in different forms. I would need to see what was presented and
I do believe that we do need to have some type of ethics policy in the city.

For council term limits, we would need to investigate that by researching other 3rd class
cities to see if anyone else has council term limits. What are the pros and cons of them?
How long are the term limits? How has it worked out and have they changed back to no
term limits? After researching this we can come up with some type of plan, and we
should leave it up to voters in a referendum vote as to whether the constituents in the
city want their council members to have term limits.

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

When I launched Bethlehem 2017, I did so partly as a way to mobilize the people in our community who are passionate, committed, and want to be involved on a local level. Our Climate Action Plan, NorthSide2027, and Open Data projects all were designed to create permanent structures of citizens to help plan and implement the initiatives. Creating positive opportunities for citizens to be informed and involved in the issues they care about is vital in creating meaningful opportunities for citizen engagement.

There are thousands of people in Bethlehem who want to be involved in giving back to
our city. They are often very busy helping their children with homework, volunteering
at their church, or running a small business. These responsibilities often prevent them
from committing to standard meeting schedules or attending City Council meetings.

Finding flexible, meaningful, engagement opportunities for our citizens is very important in creating citizen engagement moving forward. This idea was the genesis behind the structure of our planning strategy for our Bethlehem 2017 initiatives and has proven to be effective in engaging citizens on a city-wide level.

Michael Colon (incumbent)  Colon 2

For about two and a half years before being elected I attended as many meetings of City Council as I could make it to, both regular meetings and committee meetings. After meetings I’d occasionally email a Council member if I didn’t understand something I heard, and they’d always get back to me. After asking to get more involved, I was appointed to two city boards and also completed the Bethlehem Citizens’ Academy. As a member of Council I’ve continued to encourage participation and involvement. I’m now on the receiving end of those emails and try my best to answer what questions someone has. More often I’ll invite someone who wants to have a discussion to breakfast so we can really get into the nuance of the issue. Sometimes we agree, sometimes we disagree, but I always want to be respectful of differing opinions especially because we all, including myself, have the capacity to subscribe to bad ideas. We’ve taken steps to make meetings more accessible, in the forms of YouTube broadcasts and now mandating all board/authority meetings to be in the evening. The City’s use of social media is increasing to keep people informed and give the public another avenue to reach out to City Hall. I’ve always favored campaign finance reform and also support term limits for elected officials, including City Council.


2) A Vision of/for the City

The job of a leader is to have a vision that inspires citizens, that connects with citizens, that engages citizens. Sometimes that vision is capsuled in a slogan. What is your vision of/for Bethlehem? What is your vision of Bethlehem past, or Bethlehem present, or Bethlehem future? How is Bethlehem unique – in a positive, negative, or potential way? Are there best practices from other cities you would you like to see implemented in Bethlehem? Does a pedestrian/bicycle bridge that would connect the north and south sides fit into that vision?

Paige Van Wirt (incumbent) Van Wirt 2

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

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

David Saltzer David Saltzer

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

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

J. William Reynolds (incumbent) Reynolds 3

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

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

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

Michael Colon (incumbent) Colon 2

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

Vote and vote informed May 21

Paige Van Wirt at the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee Forum May 6 (43)

(43rd in a series of posts on candidates for election)

Paige Van Wirt is a candidate for the one of three 4yr seats on City Council, running against Michael Colon, Carol Ritter, David Saltzer, J. William Reynolds.

Van Wirt 1

Paige Van Wirt’s question: infrastructure (4.5 mins.)

“Many of the questions submitted on social media concern infrastructure — city road repairs, highway maintenance, new construction, etc. Can you speak to how you will address those concerns if elected.”

  • there’s a definite mindset different from a business mindset now
  • we just keep kicking the can down the road
  • getting a windfall from Casino Transfer Tax now but must plan better for infrastructure
  • don’t annex other communities into our sewer capacity
  • her requests for sidewalk repair have been denied
  • need a pilot program for sidewalk repairs
  • walkability has been neglected
  • walkability drives people to the City

Saltzer agreed that there should be grants for sidewalks and suggested that grouping projects together could reduce cost (min. 2:28). Carpenter remembered that the Casino was supposed to help us, but now we’re behind on important things. Why are the fundamentals suffering? (min. 3:48).

Paige Van Wirt’s closing comment (1.5 mins.)

  • re-introducing ethics ordinance

Look for more on Van Wirt as she responds to other candidate presentations and participates in group answers on such topics as their unique qualities, transparency, neighborhoods.