The next Bethlehem City Council meeting is Tuesday December 1st at 7pm. Please call in during the public comment section of this meeting to speak directly to council about your public safety concerns surrounding the current push by radical activists to defund the Bethlehem Police Department.
Among the responses are these two:
Jose L. Garcia
Done, it is disturbing that our local government has even thought about it.
Done. This is absolutely disgraceful that they would even consider this.
LVGNA responds to Debra:
Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance
We agree. Equally disgraceful is the way they repeatedly use the police whenever they want or need them. We’re learned that this council uses police to delivery their meeting minutes / packets directly to their homes. They want to defund the police but they want them to be their personal servants as well. Shameless hypocrites.
A more community-based response suggested by Gadfly:
Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance
Jose and Debra
We know you are incredulous, but let me tell you that several of our fellow residents have made their cases to Council.
For instance, neighbor1 and neighbor2 pointed out such and such and such and such.
You can hear them on the video of the November 17 Council meeting at such and such.
But we don’t agree with their cases and here’s why: ___________________.
Silence compels questions: are we self absorbed, overwhelmed, fatigued of divisiveness, hopeless, angry? Where is the willingness to discuss, rather than to name-call and inflame? There is a cause for everything, usually multiple.
But “Marxists”, “Master Plan”, “Infiltrating the government”, “Far Left”, “Ring Leader” and “Power Grab”? Are we divided so thoroughly that we revert to what is arguably slanderous and libelous rhetoric rather than embrace free speech – so long as it is morally and scientifically defensible – and the differences that allow us to evolve?
Where is the city effort to bring us together? Where are those digital message boards to inform our neighbors how to attend council meetings? We have an idea that many more would attend with appropriate, more capable publication.
It is an incredibly tough time, but this is obviously important and we managed one (?) virtual meeting. It is perverted somewhat not standing face to face, but aren’t we capable of taking responsibility for those ill chosen words and actions, the risks of dialogue and being human, without forever hating? We must believe we are.
I believe in our community. There is so much good taking place.
If we commit to asking each other what we need to know, listening and challenging and supporting and respecting honest answers. Not shouting down or bullying. Those are American, democratic values – however arguably unequally enjoyed and defended – that unite us.
Yesterday Glen and Carrie of the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance were on the Bobby Gunther Walsh radio show to alert local residents of possible action related to the Bethlehem police in the current budget hearings, encouraging people concerned about “defunding” the police to make their voices heard at tonight’s City Council meeting and Thursday’s last budget hearing.
Gadfly loves good discussion, good argument, good conversation.
And he has complimented Glen for his comments to that effect July 21 and August 11.
“Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation” has common sense bumper-sticker clarity and concision.
Gadfly is not sure when the Good Neighbors group was formed — perhaps after August 11? — but he has been disappointed in the rhetoric lately coming out under the aegis of LVGNA.
And he was disappointed in yesterday’s conversation with Gunther and wonders what call-in comment from LVGNA supporters tonight and Thursday will be like as a result.
First, there was a failure during the show segment to recognize and communicate to others that “defunding the police” simply means reducing police department budgets and redistributing those funds towards essential social services that are often underfunded, such as housing, education, employment, mental health care, and youth services.
LVGNA has recently called attention to the fact that the police answer c. 60,000 calls a year. If the number of calls were reduced to 55,000 or 50,000 by siphoning off some mental health and other type non-criminal calls without compromising public safety, would some reduction in the police budget be unreasonable? That’s the kind of thing mainstream “defunders” are talking about.
Next, Marxism gets mentioned a half-dozen times on the Gunther show.
What has Marxism got to do with moving funds to social workers or the Health Bureau?
To Gadfly the repeated references to Marxism on the show seem an odd throwback to the Cold War. What Gadfly hears is echoes of the 1950s hysteria: there’s a Communist cell (“a small noisy, vocal group”) in Bethlehem pushing a Stalinist 5-year plan (“they have a master plan for us”) involving brain-washing (“Dr. Roy is indoctrinating your kids”), with the idea of “infiltrating” (ha! when is this word ever used except in relation to Communists) our government — we’re in an epic battle between the forces of GOOD and EVIL right here in our “home town” — a struggle to the death “to repel a Marxist crusade to destroy our quality of life.”
Gladfly had a flashback while listening to the radio show to standing out in front of the Drexel Hill Furniture Co. in the early 1950s watching the McCarthy Hearings on one of the few televisions in town set up in the showroom window.
Moreover, can’t we dispense with incendiary labels like leftist, activist, radical activist and, instead, refer to our fellow residents who don’t share our views by name — as individuals — and show we respect their views by understanding them?
And do we need ad hominem slurs like “she’s a doctor, as if I give a blank”? Or “self-proclaimed expert”?
How, Gadfly wants to know, is what Gunther’s listeners heard yesterday fostering the “quality public conversation” that develops “quality public policy”?
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Michele Downing is a Social Worker and RN, a grandmother of two, interested in social and environmental justice, a resident of the Lehigh Valley for fifteen years, the last six years a resident of West Bethlehem.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Greg and Carrie, co-founders of Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance, had a conversation with Bobby Gunther Walsh on his radio program today at approx 9:50AM, alerting the public about a concerted Marxist effort to defund the Bethlehem Police department and the need for the “silent majority” to make their views known at the City Council meetings this week.
Gadfly always recommends going to the primary source, so he urges you to listen to the show segment (11 mins.)
But his text are direct quotes.
. . . leftists trying to totally trying to transform the city of Bethlehem, a small noisy, vocal group that are changing everything for all the citizens — wake up and smell the coffee because there is a Seattle brewing in our home town.
Bethlehem is being targeted, and the Bethlehem police department is under siege by a group of radical Marxists who are hell-bent on not only defunding but dismantling and entirely abolishing the Bethlehem police department, as absurd as that might sound.
In the words of their leaders, their self-proclaimed leaders, “I am 100% in favor of defunding and abolishing the police. They are not necessary, and their only purpose is to protect private property. I am not safer because some white guy with a gun is driving around my neighborhood.”
One of their self-proclaimed policing experts, who is a far-left Lehigh professor, and sadly Lehigh has become a hot-bed of this leftist, odd-ball Marxism, said, “the voters have told you . . . we do not want institutions who have not reconciled with their racist past to get more funding. We expect this Council to invest in anti-racism.”
So somehow this self-proclaimed policing expert also has the psychic ability to divine what the voters of Bethlehem want even though they haven’t voted on anything yet.
We are urging people who are concerned about public safety or losing the incredible public safety we have in Bethlehem [to contact City Council].
People in the Lehigh Valley who realize this concerted effort by Marxists that is happening all across the country . . . skyrocketing crime rate. It just doesn’t happen in those major cities, it is happening in the Christmas City.
It’s happening in our home town, and we have to fight against it.
At the last City Council meeting, one Bethlehem business person spoke against, he was outnumbered 10-1 by these Marxists who call in to every City Council meeting.
They started this summer, but now they are really pushing because this is budget season.
This is when City Council either approves or defunds the Mayor’s policing budget.
Here’s one of the ringleaders . . . I also had conversations with this woman, this Van Wirt . . . she’s a doctor, as if I give a blank, she did not like the news that I sent her, then lied to me about something that I already knew was a lie, she is one of the ringleaders.
They’ve indoctrinated your kids, colleges, schools, indoctrinated your kids to hate America, and they are this minority . . . that is steering the whole City Council.
Tell Council something from a point of view they don’t want to hear but that they desperately need to hear from the silent majority, but if we are silent for too much longer, we’re going to be forever silent.
Dr. Roy, at the Bethlehem Area School District, is indoctrinating, using your tax money, indoctrinating your children, and we can see the logical result of this when you listen to these meetings because it’s the young people who are calling in, some of them admit that they have mental health issues, and these are the very people who are being manipulated by a well organized, very well financed PAC . . . using young people to lobby Council on a consistent basis and to infiltrate our government.
And one of the City Council members, Grace Crampsie Smith, who’s up for re-election next November, came right out and said we’re giving radical activists a mechanism to make changes to our police department and address systemic racism.
Activists are the ones who are going to navigate the process in all areas, including education, housing, economic disparities . . .
They have a master plan for us, and if we don’t get off our butts, and do something about it, well, then, you are going to be led by the nose.
A lot of people don’t even know this is going on.
That’s the way they want it. City Council passed a resolution without even hearing from any dissenting voice.
So most of the City Council or all of them are in the tank with these leftists?
All except one . . . except Bryan Callahan, who is the only one who had the guts to call out his other Council members.
For they are denying they are for defunding.
But we’ve traced highly placed sources who have told us that’s exactly what’s going on.
So most of the people on City Council are in the tank for it except Bryan Callahan.
Folks, you need to speak up.
Amendments will defund the police if we don’t speak up now.
This is our last chance.
Join our voices to repel this Marxist crusade to destroy the quality of life we enjoy in our home town.
The Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance is employing a counter-insurgent full-court press, as evidenced by their petition, their appearance on local radio today (in 40 minutes from the publication of this post), and their call for public comment at upcoming City Council meetings.
There’s a regular City Council meeting tomorrow night Tuesday December 1, and Thursday night December 3 is the final (#4) budget hearing.
There is a good chance that there will be significant public comment about the budget both Tuesday and Thursday.
Gadfly is not sure how much budget discussion by and among the Council members will take place Tuesday night, but Thursday is the time Council traditionally focuses on horse-trading, making amendments, and attempting to finalize the budget. There should be much discussion Thursday night. Gadfly urges you to join in.
Gadfly encourages you to “attend” the Thursday budget session for sure. You can expect to see all Council members in action. And that’s what we live for on Gadfly.
The final vote on the 2021 budget takes place at the City Council meeting December 15, and Gadfly supposes that there could be more discussion and amendment-making then too.
Gadfly reminds you that City Council has ultimate budget power.
What we will be seeing in the next two weeks is Council exercising its highest responsibility.
It is our responsibility to be paying attention.
What are the visible budget issues so far?
Let’s face it — tough year financially. The Mayor called it a gut-punching year, the worst he’s faced in his two terms. Thank you pandemic.
Beside general belt-tightening, the Mayor is proposing to cut 4 firefighters, 2 Service Centerers, and raise taxes 5% ($46 for the average home owner).
Gadfly has not heard a dollar figure put on the personnel cuts, but he will guess the proposed saving is in the $500,000 range. He would welcome more authoritative figures.
The City’s financial rating has been excellent, and there seems general consensus that personnel-wise the City runs a lean ship.
So far, Councilman Callahan is the only one floating specific counter-proposals to the Mayor’s budget.
Cutting staff is always nasty, but it’s even more so now because the firefighters are on the front line of public safety. Will the cuts make us less safe?
Councilman Callahan has talked vigorously about the necessity to save the personnel cuts, most particularly the firefighters.
He has floated a plan to cut building inspectors in the Department of Community and Economic Development, though no dollar figures were attached to this proposal either, so Gadfly can’t be sure how far, if enacted, that plan would go toward saving firefighters.
Councilman Callahan also has taken aim at $40,000 matching funds to a state and county collaboration to fund a feasibility study for a pedestrian/bike bridge across the Lehigh — calling it a “luxury” and bad optics when families and businesses are struggling to survive in these hard pandemic times.
The police budget is a wild card in Gadfly’s mind.
There has been a steady drumbeat of pressure to reimagine the nature and duties of the police department, especially in the last several meetings by members of and supporters of Lehigh Valley Stands Up.
In early post-GeorgeFloyd meetings, some Council members seemed inclined to consider changes in the nature and duties of the department, though two said without equivocation they would not defund.
The police department itself is instituting a pilot program aimed at addressing some of the goals of the “reimaginers,” and, though generally deemed inadequate by those “reimaginers,” Gadfly’s sense is that Council generally sees that program as a positive step. The police initiative might take the steam out of other plans for change.
Thus, in regard to the police department Council has, to public view, so far kept its powder dry.
However, the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance — a Back the Blue group — has said it has heard from two highly placed sources that a Council defunding plot is afoot, and LVGNA is mobilizing members and the general public to resist it. Their petition to “defend” the police department has 7,000+ signatures.
And, hence, as Gadfly just posted, their appearance on the WAEB Bobby Gunther Walsh radio program (790AM) at 9:40 this morning.
But, as indicated already, all Gadfly can say is that he has seen no definite visible signs of such a Council plan in regard to the police.
An interesting and important week ahead, my followers.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
The program note: “A Spokesman for Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors – They are fighting a Radical Leftist Agenda to Defund the Police in Bethlehem. They want to make you aware of upcoming City Council Meetings and Budget Meetings surrounding the defunding of the Police.”
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Gadfly continuing to think more about the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance and support for the police after his earlier post this morning.
In that November 18 Facebook post commentary, LVGNA says, “Sadly, our request for City Council members to improve their understanding about what our police do and how they do it fell on deaf ears. They only seem to want to hear from the radical activists who share their leftist political bias. Luckily, Council members Olga Negron, Adam Waldron and Grace Crampsie Smith are coming up for re-election in November 2021. Perhaps Bethlehem’s voters should help them move on to jobs where they would do less damage.”
LVGNA specifically targets Councilpeople Negron, Crampsie Smith, and Waldron for negative focus at next election time, which would really be the May primary not November. And campaigns will be starting soon. In Allentown, for instance, several people have already declared for mayor.
But there is also a 4th Councilperson up for re-election next year.
That Councilperson is Bryan Callahan.
Councilman Callahan does not seem to be on LVGNA’s negative re-election radar.
LVGNA is not suggesting that their followers help move Councilman Callahan on.
Now it is true that except for Councilman Callahan, one does not hear magniloquent [good opportunity to use today’s Merriam-Webster word-of-the-day] encomiums [good SAT word] about the police.
Gadfly is not sure there is anything especially deducible from that about the other three, at least not without substantial additional evidence.
But it is true that Councilman Callahan has been known to deliver something like magniloquent encomiums that contain many true points about the police.
Gadfly has knit together here two such examples, a short one from the November 9 budget hearing (1 min.) and a bit longer one from the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting (4 mins.).
Something in the Councilman’s words is bothersome to the Gadfly.
It’s the strain of uncritical adulation.
Gadfly has heard this tone before.
Councilman Callahan is unabashedly, unashamedly pro-developer. Gadfly has heard this tone before in his direct personally praiseworthy address to the owner of 2 W. Market during a tough City Council meeting.
Gadfly knows he’s being the quintessential unpopular gadfly here and knows he’ll get a slap upside the head, but the gushing praise for Chief Kott (he knew she was going places) that elicits her muted, embarrassed “thank you” and his desire for the Chief to give an atta-boys-and-girls shout-out to the entire police force for him seems out of place (imagine how this would be done — loudspeaker announcements, emails to everybody, taking time at roll calls).
Gadfly is no expert on Council protocol, but such pronouncements from the Head Table can suggest attempts to curry favor.
And statements like “our police department is way ahead of most police departments in the country” just feel a little too hyperbolic for Gadfly’s liking.
The job of the Councilman in a strong Mayor-Council form of government is to be a check-and-balance. And the job of a Councilman in this cultural moment of reckoning with race is hard-nosed, open-minded, unprejudiced analysis of the way we do public safety.
Gadfly needs to feel the Councilman is capable of those things.
Followers might remember that Gadfly recently spent 7 posts on the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance, ending with the line lets “see if we have common ground.”
Here’s some common ground.
Gadfly agrees that the police department doesn’t get enough recognition for the good it does.
Even he recognizes that in this post-GeorgeFloyd period of national reckoning with race that he has a tendency to take the good the police do for granted and head right to the problems.
There needs to be a balance.
Gadfly needs to be balanced.
So Gadfly applauds a concerted focus on stories of exemplary service by police.
He wishes, however, that LVGNA had dropped the parenthesis “(including several Bethlehem City Council members)” in the no doubt truthful claim that many do not realize and appreciate all the good police do.
(The extensive list of activities the Chief presented at the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting was very instructive in that regard.)
That’s unnecessary red meat in Gadfly’s estimation.
Because for most of the 30+ responders to this post at the moment, the parenthesis became paramount.
There is only one good story of invaluable service by the police.
Instead, there is name-calling: Council is useless, out of touch, clueless, reckless, liars, schemers, jerks, criminals (yes, there’s a call to lock ’em up!).
Instead, there is hyperbolic, emotionally charged terms: radical activist, leftist political bias, co-conspirators.
Lets have the good stories.
Lets have the common ground.
The common ground that enables the tough conversations we inevitably have to have.
Time for Gadfly to take his tongue out of his cheek.
To Gadfly’s mind, the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance, as represented in the November 2 Facebook post and the “Coffee Cup” brochure, is going in the wrong direction in the discussion of policing made imperative by the killing of George Floyd.
Gadfly has nothing against our police department, but he is convinced that this is the time for a thorough analysis of how we do public safety.
The country is severely divided on this issue, as with many others..
Gadfly sees the LVGNA approach he has just analyzed as exacerbating division.
How can that be any good?
Gadfly seeks the conversation that builds community.
Gadfly would like to invite LVGNA into a discussion aimed at solving a specific problem in policing, a problem with what he calls the “first contact” situation.
Followers have seen him describe his thinking about the first contact situation here in many posts.
The necrology of problematic first contact situations that have riveted widespread public attention and stirred widespread public unrest includes George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Jacob Blake, Walter Wallace.
Those names have become household names.
Gadfly sees a disturbing readily apparent pattern in these first contact situations: someone dies (often a POC), textbook police training is called into question, a rift between police and the community opens, officer careers get disrupted or ruined, residents are traumatized, racism is charged, rioting and unrest follow, lives and property of innocent people are lost and damaged, law suits result, tax payers typically pay millions.
And the cycle starts at that first contact.
Gadfly doesn’t want to see such a pattern play out here. We had a botched first contact situation 20-some years ago and only finished paying for it not too long ago. Not to mention his worrying about the racial dimension to which we are now so sensitive in a city whose population is almost 40% POC .
The repetition of the pattern suggests to Gadfly an inherent problem about which something should be done.
It does not seem sufficient or satisfactory to him to say that the above mentioned “tragedies” are caused by chance or by “bad apples” — or by the citizen subjects themselves.
Gadfly has suggested that a meeting on policing take place with an image of the Walter Wallace first contact with two officers in Philadelphia October 26 (but it could be any number of images) framing this question for the discussants: “If you agree that there was not a good outcome here for either the subject, or the officers (it must be shattering to kill some one in any circumstance), or the community, how do we avoid such an outcome?”
Such discussions have led people around the country to suggest reimagining how public safety is done and reallocating resources appropriately. That’s what is, in an unfortunate term, called “defunding” the police.
Gadfly may be wrong, but his sense is that those opposed to “defunding” are resistant to any analysis of, any change in the present state of policing, and Gadfly can only deduce that they do not see any problem the police are responsible for in the first contact situations that have become imprinted on our minds.
Does LVGNA see no first contact problem that needs to be addressed? Gadfly would be curious to know the basis for such a view. That would be good conversation.
Or does LVGNA see a first contact problem and have a solution (such as more training handled internally by a department) but are objecting to “defunding” and/or to the presence of BLM? That would be good conversation too.
Lets have good conversation from LVGNA. And see if we have common ground.
“[LVGNA’s] ‘Coffee Cup’ brochure is a classic of its kind! It is a work of high art in the genre of rabid partisan politics. Gadfly cannot help but recognize the skill of its construction. The brochure will be effective. And Council has no ready means to combat its message.” The Gadfly, November 12
Gadfly has called the “Coffee Cup” brochure by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance a classic of its genre. What does he mean by that? Let’s break the brochure down and identify several of its textbook tactical stylistic elements, the better to appreciate the skill with which it is constructed to achieve its goal:
Sensationalism: beginning with grim reapers strikes the proper apocalyptic note, for we know civilization will crumble if the police department does its business in a different way.
Caricature: the dangling puppet image is a great way to cloud remembrance of such service by the senior-in-tenure councilman as his two terms as council president and his initiation of programs like the Climate Action Plan and Northside 2027.
Innuendo: “Councilman J. William Reynolds wants to be mayor” slyly takes a laudable ambition based on a significant record of public service and taints it with a suggestion of self-serving whorishness by a man who will do anything to get power.
Trivializing: “Olga’s Ultimatum” and “Willie’s World” sound respectively like a chapter in a 4th grade reader and a section of an amusement park.
Delightful nonsense: a sentence like “Councilman Waldron confused about where the truth begins and his career ends” is a meaningless non-sequitor, but it is pure music, pure poetry and will mesmerize the audience.
Cannodading use of capital letters: a very simple and basic device that can always be counted on to pulverize any contrary opinion without the bother of convincing argument.
Branding: the brand “CANCEL CULTURE,” for instance, is a convenient short-hand that saves a lot of time and avoids having to explain that the former police chief performed, perhaps innocently, a bonehead act in a period of exquisite national sensitivity about law enforcement and race, an act that objectively compromised his front-line leadership of a law enforcement department that he and others touted as one of the best in the state, an act that caused him to be disciplined (not fired) in appropriately harsh words by his usually mild-mannered boss, a boss who is his friend and who defended his appointment to the position of Chief seven years ago, an act which the Chief never adequately explained or apologized for before deciding to retire. Branding is so handy.
Loaded language: though the Cold War is so old news, a word like “Marxist” is still a knock-out punch. If someone says they are going to monitor your conversations, call them Marxist! It doesn’t matter if there is no connection. If you call defunding the police Marxist, no one will ask for an explanation how or why. The word is magic.
Fear-mongering: nothing bonds an audience to you more than revealing a danger they weren’t aware of. It is even more effective if you can make them feel that you and only you are the source of help dealing with that danger.
Intimidation: don’t waste time arguing your point, mobilize supporters, draw up a petition, make the polling place not the debate hall the focus of your activity. Make Council feel your eyes, your hot breath on them. Make them feel prey.
Anonymity: use of blank terms like “us” and “concerned citizens” helps avoid having to bother with the personal, time-consuming, and work-distracting nastiness that comes with this level of politics.
There, that should give you an idea of why Gadfly tips his hat to and marvels at the entrance of the “Coffee Cup” brochure by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance into Bethlehem’s serious deliberations as part of our national reckoning with race in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.
Gadfly finds himself very intrigued by the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance. He feels a kind of kinship. They are playing a gadfly kind of role — outsiders with “eyes” on City Council trying to stir awareness in and the participation of the larger community in the workings of City government. And their “Coffee Cup” brochure sure exemplifies Gadfly rule #1 — go to the primary sources. Lots of quotes there and links to the meeting archives for substantiation.
However, Gadfly had a hard time with the style of the two LVGNA documents linked above, and thus what he did in the last post was attempt to parse out what he thought was the skeletal framework of ideas that lay underneath that style.
And he used that skeletal framework to focus some thinking overnight about those ideas. Here’s what he came up with.
The purpose of that [July 7 Community Engagement Initiative] resolution was to defund the police department, endangering public safety.
That doesn’t seem right to Gadfly. There’s a link to the resolution above. Gadfly would like to see LVGNA directly connect the dots from the words of the resolution to a defunding purpose. Gadfly is in “show me” mood here. Connect the dots. Moreover — bigger picture — Gadfly doesn’t find defunding so scary an idea. In this morning’s Call, a columnist says defunding may be the “dumbest political slogan ever.” Agreed. What people labeled as defunders are talking about is reimagining how public safety is done. The goal of public safety is keeping all people safe not keeping a certain way of doing public safety in existence forever unchanged. If the current mode of doing public safety isn’t keeping all people safe, then it makes sense to seek another mode. Those advocating reimagining how public safety can be done believe the current system isn’t keeping all people safe, therefore they seek change. Gadfly sees no problem with that. Gadfly has done some research in cities that have successfully reimagined their public safety structures. These models are not hare-brained. They do not move so quickly as to endanger public safety.
In creating and passing that resolution, Council listened only to advocates of defunding.
Gadfly doesn’t understand this objection. Yes, commentary at the July 7 meeting was one-sided. Gadfly wondered about that at the time. Gadfly was puzzled that the “defenders” of the police (these terms are awkward and imprecise, but we’re kind of stuck with them) were not there. But surely that cannot be Council’s fault. Where were members of the “other side”? The meeting was open to the public. Now that lack of balance was surely remedied at the August 11 meeting where defenders out numbered the re-imaginers. Council heard plenty from the “other side” that night.
The advocates of defunding who spoke July 7 favored the resolution.
Gadfly finds this point very curious. Gadfly thinks that to a person the “defunder” commenters (again, we’re stuck with the terminology) were either dissatisfied with the resolution or dead-set against it. If the purpose of the resolution was to defund, dismantle, etc. the police department, the defunders and dismantlers didn’t see it that way!!! How odd!!! Gadfly agrees, though, that the responses from the 4 Councilmembers quoted on the brochure would give the impression that in listening to the defunders, they were agreeing with them. That’s why Gadfly has been puzzled by subsequent silence on Council’s part and why he was so interested in the LVGNA claim of putting the brakes on Council action.
Council actively ignored, discredited, suppressed (censored?) opposing views.
This is the distinct impression that Gadfly came away with from the two LVGNA documents. This is an egregious claim or, at the least, insinuation. Badly needs evidence. Again, LVGNA has to connect the dots here.
The conscious, intended effect of the Community Engagement Initiative is to exclude some people from the community (such as those who oppose defunding the police).
Gadfly’s immediate response is that this claim or insinuation by LVGNA is patently absurd — prima facie. The resolution is about “Community Engagement,” it’s about wide inclusion, and it is done in a so open-ended, passive way that Gadfly has criticized it for being bound to be ineffective. It goes to an extreme to be inclusive. LVGNA could even sponsor a meeting as part of the Community Engagement. Again, Gadfly is in a “show me” mode here. LVGNA needs to connect the dots.
Council is a monolithic body, 7 people all on the same page, operating in unison as one body.
Gadfly’s backing off on the “monolithic” reading he previously made of LVGNA here. He now sees that the brochure does exempt Councilmen Callahan and Colon from the “bad guys.” I think LVGNA could have made clearer that they mean a “majority” of Council are “betraying” the City. However, he thinks they do create the impression that the danger to the public stems from the entire Council walking in lock-step with the “defunders.” In fact, saddle up, gang, I would expect discussion to be robust if issues or proposals ever get to Council.
This monolithic Council has a radical political agenda.
Remember, forget the “monolithic.” Council isn’t “monolithic.” Radical political agendas is a “loaded” term, but, in any event, radical political agendas don’t scare Gadfly. But he should have been more specific. He should have asked what LVGNA meant by that term. He guesses at root it might be the eradication of “systemic racism.” LVGNA puts that term in quotes on the their post probably to indicate their belief that systemic racism is a fiction. Gadfly believes in it. And, yes, he would guess that each Council member believes in it too. Systemic racism is obviously a polarizing issue and is too big an issue to tackle here in a few lines, but you know what came to Gadfly’s mind? That moment in one of the early post GeorgeFloyd meetings in which the former Police Chief — a victim of “Cancel Culture” according to LVGNA — rather movingly agreed with Councilman Reynolds that certain people in our culture don’t start from the same spot in life as the Chief and the Councilman did and didn’t benefit from the same advantages they did. That, Gadfly thought, was an honest, touching acknowledgment of systemic racism from a person LVGNA respects.
Reliable sources, necessarily unnamed, have revealed that the monolithic Council has discussed defunding in secret, perhaps in violation of the Sunshine Laws.
Awww, Gadfly recognizes the need to protect sources — been there, done that — but this is a bit too dramatic for Gadfly. Are 4, maybe 5, god forbid 7, cabal-ing in the basement of Mach’s Gute or somewhere? Judge Judy would call this hearsay.
LVGNA activists have stopped Council’s police defunding scheme and continue to work to preserve public safety in Bethlehem.
He has a personal Facebook page as well as a page for the Bethlehem Gadfly.
But he rarely goes to either.
It just so happens that he went to his personal Facebook page last Thursday November 5 and found the “Betrayal of Bethlehem by Our Own City Council” post plus the “Coffee Cup” brochure from the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance dated November 2.
(Yiii, November 2, Election Day eve, Gadfly gives the LVGNA a tip o’ the hat for the ability to think about anything else at that time.)
Gadfly doesn’t understand how that post got there. The workings of Facebook are truly a mystery to him. But he’s glad it got there.
For he wonders if it explains something that has been puzzling him.
Followers will recognize that Gadfly has been impatient with the pace and the indirection with which the City and City Council have been playing their part in the national reckoning with race that has characterized the post-GeorgeFloyd era.
And he has been trying to understand why that is.
Gadfly really doesn’t know anything about the internal politics of our City.
But he knows there is a meaningful election coming up. He knows 4 Council members will be on the ballot (should they choose to run again, of course) — Councilpeople Callahan, Crampsie Smith, Negron, and Waldron). He thinks he knows that at least 2 Council members may be running for Mayor.
So Gadfly has been playing with the idea that the reason for the slow pace and indirection he has been whining about is . . . “politics.”
Perhaps, thought Gadfly, who is totally ignorant of these matters, the Police are a powerful political force in the City, that candidates benefit from the “endorsement” of the Police, that candidates would want to be viewed as pro-police, and that any questioning of the Police is dangerous politically because it could tag you as anti-police.
Perhaps, thought Gadfly, who is totally ignorant of these matters, questioning of the Police is a political minefield on which any Councilperson mindful of self-preservation would want to tread lightly.
(Is Gadfly mistaken when he says he seems to have observed a significant proliferation of those “Support your Police” yard signs around town lately.)
He remembers that right out of the gate two Councilpeople pledged that they would never “defund” the police. Gadfly thought that odd to do before any discussion — a clear indication that minds were already made up, an indication that minds were closed. Never a happy thought for Gadfly.
Gadfly remembers that one Council member kind of went out of his way to remind “us” that another Council member had entertained the idea of “defunding” — a sign that the issue was hot.
So, could politics be the answer to Gadfly’s puzzlement? He hated to think so — holding idealistically to the belief that Councilpeople are independent thinkers.
But, being totally ignorant of these matters, he hesitated to raise the question of the part that “politics” was playing in inquiries about the way we do public safety.
And then he finds LVGNA is orchestrating a political campaign claiming their “political activism” has “temporarily stopped [City Council’s] police defunding scheme in its tracks.”
Wow! Could this be true? Is the LVGNA political campaign the reason for the Council silences, the lack of urgency, the feet dragging that Gadfly has been whining about?
If so, Gadfly is a bit sympathetic, for, though he feels that LVGNA is pretty much totally off-base and misleading, that “Coffee Cup” brochure is a classic of its kind! It is a work of high art in the genre of rabid partisan politics. Gadfly cannot help but recognize the skill of its construction. The brochure will be effective. And Council has no ready means to combat its message.
We will come back to look at LVGNA’s post and brochure in more detail, but Gadfly’s day job is going to consume most of his day.
In the meantime, Gadfly invites you to spend a good bit of time on the LVGNA material and comment on what you see.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Good conversation builds community. The Gadfly
For the past six “conversation” posts, Gadfly has been pairing opposed views on defunding or altering Bethlehem’s system of policing expressed at the August 11 Public Safety meeting. However, the supporters of the status quo were more numerous than the “revisers,” so from here on we’ll just be hearing from the supporters. Mr. Ragni gives us a lot to think about here, so I won’t pair him with someone else. Remember that the text is not a transcription, so that Gadfly always suggests that you go to the primary source. For best results, please listen to the audio.
Thank you to the representatives from the Bethlehem Police Department . . . for their incredibly professional and thorough presentation. It’s obvious that they track their officers’ behaviors and actions in a myriad of different ways which makes them capable of self analysis and correction. . . . It doesn’t surprise me that they have these advance accreditations that they’ve earned. . . . With regard to the commentary by Holona Ochs. . . . One of the things we’ve heard a lot about tonight is the concept of implicit bias. It may be a bias that we have only one criminologist that we have. . . . We might want some counterbalancing ideas. . . . Now I’ve been in contact with thousands of the citizens of Bethlehem. . . . I don’t think we need to tear each other down to achieve these goals. The police department doesn’t have to be dismantled, or defunded or destroyed in order to achieve these goals of equality and fairness. . . . And by the same token for the police department to survive and thrive there shouldn’t have to be members of the community who shouldn’t have to . . . experience any type of traumas from policing. I think we can figure this out. But maybe we need to examine our own implicit and explicit biases. It seems that everyone wants to talk about everybody else’s biases but nobody wants to talk about their own biases. . . . Everybody talks about people they think are great. . . . Holona Ochs . . . “the” expert? . . . There’s a lot of research on criminology. . . . So maybe we need to expand our views beyond our local criminologist. . . . Look at all of the possible options. . . . it sounds to me that Bethlehem is one of the cities that has done policing well. Maybe other cities should look to us. . . . It seems to me that some members of Council are struggling to understand the difference between statistics on a page and real life policing. . . . Perhaps members of City Council should do a defensive tactics scenario day, where Council would go and they would be the police. . . . It seems that some on Council, to be honest, are coming from a very strong political or ideological mind set — I’m going to call it their ideological blind spot. . . . An instance of racism I experienced when I listened to the July 7 meeting. One of the comments by one of the activists was “we don’t need to hear from any more white people.” It doesn’t get any more racist than that. . . . “Silence is violence.” . . . “Tolerating racism in any form is racist.” . . . You guys sat there and listened to that. . . .Every one of you should have called that out. . . . Practice what you preach. . . . perhaps we need more common sense. . . . Look at Seattle, Minneapolis. . . . If your idea of getting experts is to turn our city into that, don’t get too comfortable in those City Council seats.
Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police
Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation. Glen Ragni
I haven’t heard a lot of nuanced conversation. Carrie Fitzgibbons
Gadfly knows nine uses of the comma, but he also knows that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.
The strongest and starkest negative and cautionary comments about the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution at the July 7 City Council meeting came from the members of activist groups who came in person to the meeting. You might want to go back and refresh yourselves on that commentary.
So, at the July 21 City Council meeting we had the pushback.
Good conversation builds community.
The callers oppose defunding of the police and see the humanity and value of the police, but what Gadfly hears, over all, is a call for good, wide-ranging, multi-perspective’d conversation.
Please listen to the voices of your fellow residents here. Don’t just skim and scan Gadfly’s notes. Always go to the primary sources
I’m calling today out of concern about the quality and diversity of the recent public statements made about defunding, disbanding, and abolishing the Bethlehem Police Department.
During the Bethlehem City Council’s last meeting all of the speakers repeated almost exactly the same demands and were affiliated with the same few political organizations.
They do not represent our entire community.
Many of the speakers insisted that the time for conversation was over, that they’ve already had the relevant conversations amongst themselves, that they have their own initiative and they don’t want any more input from any members of our community, or even the involvement of the democratically elected Mayor or the police . . . we just want your money.
Another speaker . . . we don’t need to hear from any more whites.
Appallingly, several members of Council seemed extremely tolerant of these demands and even agreed with most of what was said, that centered around the abolition of the entire police department.
Over the past several months we have initiated conversations with hundreds of residents and stakeholders in our community. . . . The majority of those we have spoken with have expressed strong reservations about defunding . . . the police.
. . . abolishing the police department represents reckless public policy . . . experimented with this path . . . and the results have been deadly.
We encourage Council not to proceed recklessly . . . we encourage everyone in our community not to proceed recklessly.
Our community is diverse in our makeup, but we are one community.
We must learn to either live together respectfully as brothers and sisters, or we will surely perish together as fools.
Quality public policy starts with quality public conversation.
It’s troubling to hear that some community members say they have no interest in the exchange of ideas.
How are we going to proceed when the police have reached out in solidarity, the Mayor has reached out in solidarity, the Council has reached out?
Where does that leave the other 75,000 members of the Bethlehem community whose concerns haven’t even been heard yet?
How do we proceed when only one side wants to have a conversation. and the other side is only issuing demands?
That attitude doesn’t come from a sense of respect for the community.
. . . that all community members listen to their own hearts and characters . . . the quest for peace and mutual understanding.
That quest for mutual understanding begins by genuinely listening and truly hearing each other’s troubles and concerns, so that we can better search for balanced solutions and choose policies that respect our common humanity.
I’m still trying to gather and process information from many points of view, and I imagine you are as well. Clearly this is a complex issue that requires such nuanced thinking and much research.
And my concern is that I haven’t heard a lot of nuanced conversation around this topic. Instead, what I’ve heard doesn’t qualify as conversation at all if conversation is a free exchange of ideas from multiple perspectives building toward some workable solutions that can be tried and tracked to see how really effective they are.
In public debate thus far we’ve only heard how one group of people view policing, and their perspectives deserve to be heard.
Some very broad, absolute statements have been made, and we would humbly ask Council to actively reach out to everyone in the community to seek out as many perspectives as possible. There will be many different constituencies that will be affected differently by any changes that are made.
And we would also ask before public policy is set that rigorous research is conducted backed by statistical evidence.
Some people say the police shouldn’t have a voice in this process. I disagree. . . . their unique perspective of what could possibly improve our system.
This report [the recently published 2019 police report] . . . . If we have to go through all those [65,000] calls . . . to better understand what the police do for us, so be it.
So far we haven’t discussed any real statistics . . . unbiased understanding of the value our police department contributes to our daily lives.
I also feel it is important to realize that our police officers are human. Police have been referred to of late in any number of insulting and threatening ways. At the last Council meeting they were called an “evil machine” and when we start referring to groups with demeaning names, you make it easier to treat them as less than human, and you invite in hatred and violence.
Police risk their lives every day balancing [our] rights . . . and they are legitimate members of our community.
I find it sadly ironic that groups who are combating their own marginalization would attempt to marginalize other groups who are a legitimate part of our community.
If people truly want a conversation, they must welcome the contributions others make. Otherwise, this movement begins to feel it’s less about justice and more about revenge.
Some are not interested in balancing their rights with the rights of others.
We are all human, and we all have flaws, and everyone needs to be held accountable for their actions.
In any relationship, both parties bring 50% to the interaction. . . .Perhaps part of that education should be to teach citizens how to respectfully respond to the legitimate requests of police officers.
We only achieve compassion for each other by understanding the other side’s perspective.
We can separate the truth from the errors that are part of everybody’s belief system.
If there is genuine dialog . . . we can truly hear others, and to truly hear others is to value what other persons say. Not just talk at each other but really listen.
I was compelled to call in because of [residents Ragni and Fitzgibbons above]. I thought both of them eloquently spoke to the need for real dialog and not one-way demands.
I have no demands tonight. I simply want to compliment them on the quality of thought that went into their presentations, and I support what they had to say completely.
I moved here to Bethlehem, made an investment, live in the downtown. I moved here because of the safety and quality of life in Bethlehem, and I have experienced the Bethlehem police on multiple occasions . . .
I have the utmost respect for the Bethlehem police department and what they do and also the Bethlehem Fire Department. I think we have two of the finest public safety departments anywhere in the state, and I encourage you not to jump to any conclusions, especially in regard to defunding.