The Penultimate Budget Meeting (3)

(3rd in a series of posts on the Budget)

Here’s the proposed 2019 budget

Nicole Radzievich, “What Bethlehem taxpayers can expect from next year’s budget?” Morning Call, December 10, 2018.

Council President Waldron quipped about the full house at Town Hall on the 2 W. Market meetings compared to the 1 spectator at a $78m budget hearing.

So it goes. (Who recognizes that Kurt Vonnegut is still on Gadfly’s mind?)

There were five scheduled meetings of the Administration and City Council to discuss the 2019 budget.  One was snowed out. The last meeting was last night, and the sequence is well reported on in the above article by Nicole. Penultimate tinkering was done last night. The final, official budget will be voted on next Council meeting December 18. Some changes could occur before the vote. Here are some bullet points Gadfly plucked from Nicole’s article

  • $78m budget
  • 3.8% increase
  • + $34 for the average homeowner
  • a non-emergency call center will replace 911 service taken over by the county
  • city work force is down but pension payments rising
  • more road work will be done than in previous years
  • makeover at Memorial Pool
  • improvements to the Rose Garden
  • possible contribution to a feasibility study for a pedestrian bridge
  • uncertain amount but a one-time large tax income from Casino sale on the horizon
  • new fiscal plans for the Golf Course

Ho, hum, some people would say. But Gadfly found his very first experience with budget hearings very interesting. Here are a couple quick notes:

  • the interchanges were not only civil, but light and even humorous
  • no hassles like we hear about, for instance, in Allentown
  • it was good to hear and “recognize” department heads, people before mainly faceless
  • you can learn a lot when ideas are or have to be linked with money
  • neat seeing resident-based requests got into the budget

Gadfly’s antennae (he thinks he has more than one) were especially attuned to this last point. CM Reynolds introduced a request for Rose Garden money. CM Callahan pushed to increase it and to add funds for a pedestrian bridge feasibility study (funds for that seem to be imminently possible from the county and another granting agency as well). Rose Garden money was proposed out of the city budget, and additional money for the Rose Garden plus money for the bridge study were put on the list for consideration when that Casino tax income is definite. All of Council, as far as Gadfly could tell, were supportive of both the Rose Garden improvements and moving forward on study of the pedestrian bridge.

But what do the budget hearings look like? How does the process work?

Gadfly videographer Owen Gallagher took some video. We don’t have video editing software, so the following three clips are not focused on key moments or highlights but simply present the routine linear process (which had many twists and turns) monitored by President Waldron on the Rose Garden insertion into the budget. You can see CM Reynolds introduce the idea, then CM Callahan move to augment the idea. During the process you can see the mayor, especially Public Works head Mike Alkhal, and other Council members interact.

It would take NFL films to make this visually “exciting,” but exciting things are happening nonetheless.

Proponents of the Rose Garden should get a thrill. Looks like $$$$ flowing your way.

Pedestrian bridge is also on the radar.

Here’s your local government operating in perhaps the most important thing they do.

Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 1
Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 2
Budget Hearing 12=4=-18 Rose Garden 3

As Gadfly wrote in post #1, there is a feeling among Council that the City is doing a good budget job (A+ credit rating), and that was reflected in final comments last night. Shown here is CM Reynolds’s offering of appreciation to the City, which were followed by equally gracious remarks by President Waldron that unfortunately we didn’t film.

The Rose Garden in Bloom (1)

(1st in a series of posts on the Rose Garden)

(see the Northside 2027 and Neighborhoods threads as well)

Mount Airy Neighborhood Association

Rose Garden masterplan

Rose Garden Toulouse

Gadfly has been buzzing only for about six weeks now, but one of the topics drawing his interest almost right away is Bethlehem’s neighborhoods.

He said recently that he’s aware that when he thinks of “Bethlehem,” he tends to think of downtown, especially the Northside downtown.

Not fair. Not right.

Lots going on out on the frontier.

Northside 2027. Streetscaping on the Southside. Now Gadfly would like to add the West Side and specifically the Rose Garden to the line-up here.

Back in his first post in the Neighborhood series (Oct. 18), Gadfly lays out the cluster of bullet points that he realized added up to his own awareness of the neighborhood pulses and his own almost subconscious yearnings for a greater feeling of “neighborhoodliness.”

Let me add to that cluster Senator Ben Sasse’s new book Them: Why We Hate Each Other and How to Heal.  I didn’t really know Sasse except as an occasional bright, articulate talking head on tv news. Turns out he’s a PhD from Yale. (Ha! Big whoop, some of you will say!) Anyway, he was on the morning news shows pitching the book. And talked about neighborhoods, which piqued my interest, especially with all going on in our town. I’m not far into the book yet, but here’s a few early bullet points:

  • loneliness is killing us
  • there’s a loneliness epidemic
  • people yearn to belong, and when healthy forms of belonging vanish, people will turn to more troubling forms of tribalism (and you all know what he’s talking about!)
  • lots of us miss the “hometown-gym-on-a-Friday-night” feeling

Enter the Rose Garden as a space for healthy forms of belonging.

Take a few minutes to digest Rose Garden Toulouse and the Rose Garden masterplan.

And we’ll come back and talk more later.

(Whom should we be reading about urban quality of life these days? I saw Jane Jacobs’ name on several stickies at Streetscape – she still the guru?)