The full Allentown resolution

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This resolution was discussed but not voted on last night at the Allentown City Council meeting. Gadfly will encourage you in subsequent posts to follow discussion at the meeting by breaking it down into parts for easier focus. There’s a lot we can learn and think about. Gadfly would assume that, though we haven’t had an incident like Allentown had in the Sacred Heart Hospital episode, that the basic issues regarding the operation of the Police Department will be basically the same. And viewing the dynamics of the Allentown Council in handling this matter can be valuable to us as well.

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to be continued in next post . . .

Let’s meet Prof Holona Ochs

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Holona Ochs has been mentioned prominently in our recent discussions about the police department as part of the national conversation on systemic racism precipitated by the murder of George Floyd.

Councilwoman Negron distributed information about her research prior to the July 7 Council meeting that took up the Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution on the Community Engagement Initiative, Anna Smith and Al Wurth mentioned her favorably in public comments relative to the resolution, and Councilman Reynolds reported at the July 7 Council meeting that, in fact, he spent an hour and a half in discussion with her.

The Reynolds/Crampsie Smith resolution was amended to recommend consideration of her research: “The Administration should work with and incorporate recommendations by research experts including Lehigh University’s Core Grant team who recently conducted a large research project on policing in the Lehigh Valley.”

Looks like we’re going to hear more from Prof Ochs.Ochs

Time to meet her.

Prof Holona Ochs is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Lehigh University and heads the department’s graduate program.

Prof Ochs describes her research on democratic policing in the United States:

I am also working on a constellation of projects on democratic policing in the US. The first study is a time series analysis of the police use of lethal force. This project explores the impact of mental healthcare investments across states on deadly encounters with the police and the potential for Crisis Intervention Training (CIT) to make policing safer for the police and the public. The second study examines the aggregate patterns of bias in the execution of lethal force across various demographic groups and geographical regions. This project includes case studies to further identify factors that may reduce the potential for bias the police use of force. The third research project on policing is an interdisciplinary study of the perspectives on policing that the police and various communities have in order to identify potential disjunctures. We expect that differences in the understandings of the challenges and complexities of policing and in expectations of the police may serve as opportunities to improve police-public relations.

The specific work that brings Prof Ochs to the forefront of our attention at this time is a study of local policing: “Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions.” This study was just coming to a conclusion when the pandemic suspended activity at Lehigh in March, and now we look forward to a final report on the 124 interviews conducted, with a bit o’luck, in the fall.

from Sara K. Satullo, “How Lehigh Valley cops could help change U.S. policing for the better.” lehighvalleylive.com., January 2, 2019.

A team of Lehigh University researchers are digging into public perceptions of law enforcement in the Lehigh Valley and looking into ways to reduce biases on all sides.

The research is still in its early stages with the team gathering data through surveys and focus groups with a wide swath of Lehigh Valley residents, including police officers, community groups, Lehigh students and folks who have served time in jail.

The idea for the project — Democratic Policing: Bias Reduction and Police-Public Interactions — sprung out of informal conversations about bias amongst Lehigh faculty in the psychology, criminal justice and political science departments.

“The real motivation here is to learn about those institutional factors that we can affect that will make policing safer for the police and the public,” explained Holona Ochs, Lehigh associate professor and graduate director in the political science department, who has been studying policing since 2009.

While the use of force by police in the Lehigh Valley is pretty rare, researchers think the region’s unique geography and demographics may result in real life applications across the country.

The team wants to know how participants view their community’s relationship with police and what they think an officer’s job actually is. And they want to hear from officers about the challenges of modern policing.

“We’re trying to understand where are people’s perspectives aligned and where are they misaligned,” said Dominic Packer, associate professor of psychology and associate dean of research and graduate programs in Lehigh’s College of Arts and Sciences. “They are really exploratory focus groups.”

Adjunct Lehigh professor and recently retired Bethlehem police Sgt. Wade Haubert thinks inherent bias is a fascinating research topic with real world applications.

“Start off acknowledging what we all know: every single person in this country has grown up in some environment where they ultimately have bias,” Haubert said. “It doesn’t mean that it is bad, that you are a bigot. Let’s just all acknowledge, we have some stereotypes. Let’s identify through a study why those things might occur and we can look at what we can do to potentially recognize that and factor that in as a conscious factor in how we make decisions.”

Informal conversations about police tactics and procedures in the wake of high-profile police shootings started forming the questions that are now the basis of the research, Haubert said. His own concerns about the direction of policing attracted him to the project.

“I was very frustrated with the way the profession of policing has changed over the last 20 years,” Haubert said. “…When I first got hired, community policing was a big thing and the Bethlehem Police Department was one of the poster children for good community policing.”

This was lost nationally in the wake of 9/11.

“We lost our ability to put the citizens first and have the ability to communicate with them and understand that most people support us,” Haubert said.

“Different communities have different expectations of the police and relate to the police in different ways and it affects the complexity of policing and whether people think the police are doing a good job,” Ochs said.

But as the region changes demographically those differences could potentially be problematic if a “past practice of acceptable policing behavior is applied to a diverse community,” Haubert said.

If a brown skinned family moves into a largely white and homogeneous borough, the police might be called as they are moving in, Haubert said. Or if you’re driving a certain type of car while gawking at mansions in Upper Saucon Township you may get stopped.

Researchers hope these focus groups can spur wider conversations among communities with the police, so residents can gain a better understanding of ins and outs of policing and how to communicate with police.

“The bigger goal is to bring different communities together with the police and talk about the challenges and complexities of policing and how different communities can better relate and interact using the police as intermediaries,” Ochs said.

“If we can build this research further we’d like to create Center of the Study of Democratic Policing — that center would be an online forum and a public space where we would organize conversations about maintaining peaceful relations without the use of force,” Ochs said.

If police departments are interested in specialized training or resources, the center could offer that as well, she said.

We’ll devote two or three more posts to getting to know Prof Ochs’ work.

The problem with this blog

Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly,

This blog faces the same problem as the city — it’s almost all white voices. Can you reach out to Olga Negrón, Esther Lee, Victoria Montero, Melanie Lino, teachers, and others to encourage participation by minority voices, especially young people?

Peter

Peter calls attention to a problem. Mindful of his mortality, his day job, and temperamentally averse to merchandise, self-promote, and sell himself, Gadfly has always hoped that the blog would find its audience by word of mouth. So if you see value in the blog and if you see the real problem to which Peter calls attention, would you right now, right this minute send to everybody on your contact list: https://thebethlehemgadfly.com/ — to follow, click the button at the top of the right-hand sidebar.

Viva la diversidad!

Ooops! Gadfly mis-speaks

Gadfly referred to a meeting last night as the “Mayor’s Community Advisory Board.”

The Mayor’s office reached out to correct him, saying “The Community Advisory Board was created by the local unity of the NAACP and Esther Lee at the direction of the National NAACP. The Mayor did not create the board, he agreed to participate.”

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Mayor’s Community Advisory Board meets tonight

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Town Hall, 6pm

About 25 members — socially distanced that will about fill the Rotunda.

(Who aren’t members? Doesn’t look like any of the young people who organized demonstrations or who spoke at Council Tuesday and are part of activist organizations.)

No notice to the general public by the City as far as Gadfly can see.

I guess we’re not invited.

Nor is there any indication of video.

No matter.

Nothing much of interest on the agenda.

Only a presentation on Police Reform by the Police Department.

Wouldn’t miss Jeopardy for that.

But hope the press is there.

Christina and Sara, depending on you.

BASD to review African American history in the curriculum

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from Jacqueline Palochko, “Black Lives Matter movement prods Bethlehem and other districts to review how history is taught.” Morning Call, July 12, 2020.

Jared Dowling was surfing the internet three years ago in June when he noticed a Google Doodle paying tribute to Juneteenth. Having no idea what the event was, Dowling, a 2020 Freedom High School graduate heading to Syracuse University, spent all day reading about how it originated in Texas on June 19, 1865, when slaves learned of their freedom — two years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

In four years of high school, Dowling, who is Black, never learned about Juneteenth in classes. But that didn’t surprise him. “There was never going to be a heavy focus on things of that nature in history class,” Dowling said.

Schools do not honestly and accurately teach the struggles and history of African Americans, Bethlehem Area School District Superintendent Joseph Roy acknowledged. That’s why he is proposing that the district spend the next year reforming middle and high school history courses.

“Going way back, American history was to teach how great the country is,” Roy said. “And we are a great country, and I think we’re great enough that we can look at our failures and the progress we’ve made.”

By state law, Pennsylvania public schools must teach ethnic and racial relations, which could include segregation and racial profiling. By third grade, students are taught about the “treatment of minority groups in history.” But the state doesn’t mandate specific courses. Districts build their own curriculum, with approval from school boards.

Roy would like Bethlehem’s history classes to go into more moments that deeply affected African American communities. While the civil rights movement is taught, for example, it’s often quickly done at the end of the school year and not given enough time. Roy would also like classes to delve into historical policies that heavily contributed to income disparities facing African Americans today.

About 11% of Bethlehem’s 13,600 students are Black.

“We know about slavery and we know it’s bad, but then we jump through Reconstruction, Jim Crow, civil rights,” Roy said. “We don’t do enough to understand the long-term structural impacts.”

The lack of teaching of African American history is not a knock on teachers, Roy said. As a former social studies teacher, he only recently learned about Juneteenth himself and knows other events were left out of his lessons. It also goes back to what teachers were taught when it comes to race relations. That’s why he wants to make sure the district finds the right resources and offers the necessary instruction to teachers before reforming history courses.

“We have to have teachers learn more and be given the materials,” Roy said.

School board President Michael Faccinetto expects the board to support a review of the history curriculum.

“I think it’s important to teach an honest account of history, not a comfortable one,” Faccinetto said, adding that history classes should teach more about the struggles of African Americans between the Civil War and the civil rights movement.

A review of the history curriculum is a step in the right direction, Dowling, the soon-to-be Syracuse student, said. But the disparities in white and Black communities shouldn’t just come up in history classes, he said.

During his four years at Freedom, Dowling observed that he was the only Black student in his high school honors classes, the only Black student who ran for student council and the only one on the debate team.

There have been times in class, such as when slavery comes up, when Dowling has felt his white classmates’ eyes drift toward him in an uncomfortable way. But there isn’t anything wrong in feeling uncomfortable, Dowling said.

“We need to have those uncomfortable conversations so people know this is not OK,” he said. “Even if the class is overwhelmingly white, people should be educated on the plights the Black community has faced.”

4th of July 2020

Gadflies are never satisfied. Gadflies, seeking perfection,
always see the glass only half-full.

For a black American, for a black inhabitant of this country, the Statue of Liberty
is simply a very bitter joke, meaning nothing to us.
James Baldwin

“I shall see this day . . . from the [people-of-color] point of view.”
Frederick Douglass

In 1852 the people of Rochester, NY, did an audacious thing.

They asked a slave — Frederick Douglass — to give the annual 4th of July oration.

Douglass had escaped slavery. And until quite recently, when a friend purchased his freedom, he was still the property of another, subject to arrest and return to his Master.

Douglass was “Other.”

In that oration, Frederick Douglass did an audacious thing. He spoke as a slave and asked, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”

In that oration, Frederick Douglass had the audacity to tell his mostly white audience [“us”] what the slaves would think and say hearing the pious and patriotic 4th of July orations.

Followers will know that Gadfly feels the pain of others. Especially the pain of the underdog. Especially unjust pain.

When he wrote last 4th of July, the national mind was full of images of the treatment of and the conditions of migrants along the Southwest border.Floyd 6

This 4th of July it’s urban racial violence.

Gadfly will ask you to do an audacious thing.

Imagine if we asked an inner-city Black from, say,  Minneapolis to give the 4th of July oration here today.

And imagine he or she answered in Frederick Douglass’s words.

I am not wanting in respect for the fathers of this republic. The signers of the Declaration of Independence were brave men. They were great men too—great enough to give fame to a great age. It does not often happen to a nation to raise, at one time, such a number of truly great men. The point from which I am compelled to view them is not, certainly, the most favorable; and yet I cannot contemplate their great deeds with less than admiration. They were statesmen, patriots and heroes, and for the good they did, and the principles they contended for, I will unite with you to honor their memory. . . .

Fully appreciating the hardship to be encountered, firmly believing in the right of their cause, honorably inviting the scrutiny of an on-looking world, reverently appealing to heaven to attest their sincerity, soundly comprehending the solemn responsibility they were about to assume, wisely measuring the terrible odds against them, your fathers, the fathers of this republic, did, most deliberately, under the inspiration of a glorious patriotism, and with a sublime faith in the great principles of justice and freedom, lay deep the corner-stone of the national superstructure, which has risen and still rises in grandeur around you. . . .

I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. — The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. . . .

Above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of [thousands?] whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, “may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!” To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. . . .

I shall see this day . . . from the [people of color] point of view. . . . I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the [people of color] on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate [this treatment] — the great sin and shame of America! . . .

I submit, where all is plain there is nothing to be argued. What point in the [need for racial justice] creed would you have me argue? On what branch of the subject do the people of this country need light? Must I undertake to prove that [people of color are human beings]? . . .

What, then, remains to be argued? . . . The time for such argument is passed. At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed. O! had I the ability, and
could I reach the nation’s ear, I would, to-day, pour out a fiery stream of biting ridicule, blasting reproach, withering sarcasm, and stern rebuke. For it is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake. The feeling of the nation must be quickened; the conscience of the nation must be roused; the propriety of the nation must be startled; the hypocrisy of the nation must be exposed; and its crimes against God and man must be proclaimed and denounced. . . .

What to [people of color] is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.

Like getting hit with a bucket of boiling oil.

A message addressed with equal fervor to members of all political parties.

This, in Gadfly’s opinion, is the kind of soul-rattling voice we need to hear on this 4th of July as we think at the next City Council meeting and later about our local response to what a morning newspaper article called “the nation’s searing reckoning with racial inequality.”

We need to hear this soul-rattling voice when we meet the voices of resistance and status quo and fatigue, as we surely will.

The City could do better making citizen participation on the ABCs visible and inviting

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Carol Burns is a freelance marketer who works with several local organizations, both paid and volunteer. In addition to supporting WDIY, the Bethlehem Public Library, and local theatres, her “third place” is the Bethlehem Food Co-Op — she contributes her time to helping bring a full-service, community-owned grocery store to Bethlehem’s downtown.

Gadfly:

Out of curiosity I went to the city’s website to see if I could find info about getting involved in an advisory council or other board [one of the ABCs!] as a citizen. I poked around for awhile and not finding any obvious paths finally put “boards” in the search bar.  This page came up: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/City-Government/Authorities-Boards-and-Commissions.

The page leads with: “For information regarding vacancies on Authorities, Boards, and Commissions on which you may be interested in serving, please e-mail or call the listed number.” And then lists 21 such groups.

Each one had a phone number, several had a website listing, and one had an email. A few listed their meeting times. Not one had a description of what they do — and without a website, you are left on your own to figure that out. Of course some are self-explanatory, like Bethlehem Area Public Library, but others are not clear — at least not to me.

It doesn’t seem particularly compelling nor welcoming, and I’m going to take a wild guess that specific openings are not publicized beyond a general “come on out and apply” message once or twice a year. A clear opportunity to do better!

Carol

Carol’s post is quite apropos of the recent series of posts on the ABCs. We might need to think about that page on the City web site more as a recruiting opportunity than just providing factual information. And is it even right that interested people should be directed to the ABC head? And how about some sort of “advertising” of positions that are open? Thoughtful post, Carol. 

to be continued . . .

Comments on parklets

Gadfly,

It’s nice to see people returning to our downtown and dining outdoors. It would be even nicer if two other things were done. I enjoyed the ambiance of this with a friend on her birthday this past Wednesday at the Apollo. However, between cars driving past blasting music and other bikers and cars revving their engines and using loud mufflers to impress us, it became difficult at times to converse between ourselves and with wait staff. A little old-fashioned law enforcement including issuing citations would set the tone for a peaceful downtown where quality of life and peace and quiet are embraced and not denigrated by inconsiderate drivers by. Stop both of these and you will have a much more enjoyable experience!

Dana Grubb

———–

Gadfly:

A couple of unrelated thoughts on parklets:

I especially like the one on Main Street where they used planters to create the separation/protection barrier! (They should extend this or similar approaches to the others.)

They should close Adams from Columbia to Morton, leaving one lane open (for residents only) between 4th & Morton. There may be other opportunities to extend the areas so they are more usable. Extended areas also facilitate distancing. (The restaurant on W 4th has tables so close there is no effective distancing; the health department should alert them to safe practices.)

Note: Many of these aren’t really “parklets” — if a space is reserved for patrons of a particular establishment, it wouldn’t be a parklet, which is a small park, by definition a public space.

Peter Crownfield

Other aspects need to be explored

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Peter Crownfield is officially retired but spends most of his time working with students in his role as internship coordinator for the Alliance for Sustainable Communities–Lehigh Valley.

Gadfly:

I think the reporters did a very good job with this, although there are still some aspects that need to be explored, including:

• Chief DiLuzio’s justification for saying that an unredacted use-of-force policy put police officers or the public at risk — surely he must know that these are public in many cities throughout the US. [see useofforceproject.org] And he must realize that lack of transparency runs counter to some of the fundamental principles of a democratic society.

• Even where departmental policies are good, there have been many cases where individual police officers failed to follow them — and where fellow officers fail to intervene or even report them. (Sometimes, this seems to be based on a “thin blue line” mentality and/or knowing that it wouldn’t sit well with the higher-ranking officers.)

• The terms “reform” and “defunding” seem to be misused in many conversations. Reform focuses on immediate changes that can reduce the amount of violence and bias in police forces, while defunding involves reducing police budgets *so the funds can be used, through modalities other than policing, to prevent and reduce the conditions that contribute to crime. (For a better understanding of this, one good source is Josie Duffy Rice at the Justice Collaborative.)

I hope the reporters will follow up on this, but it’s even more important that the city council (and officials in other jurisdictions pursue these questions.

Peter

Let’s start thinking about a “Community Engagement Initiative”

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We’re in the process of thinking about the Use of Force Directives and a Community Engagement Initiative memo to Chief DiLuzio by Councilmembers Reynolds and Crampsie Smith.

And once more a tip o’ the hat to the Councilors for stepping up and getting something on Hatlo 2the table.

We’ve spent some time thinking about the first part of the memo, the “Use of Force Directives.” Now to the “Community Engagement Initiative.”

Here’s what the Councilors put on the table:

Over the last several years during budget hearings and various community events, we have heard consistently about the positive programs that our police officers engage in with the community. These “community policing” programs involve everything from working with elementary school students to attending block watch meetings where citizens share the issues in their individual neighborhoods. The importance of these programs is unquestioned. They provide positive, trust-building opportunities for members of our community and the police officers who serve them. Yet, many residents feel that the level of trust is still lacking. We, as a community, clearly need to invest more time and money into the aforementioned initiatives to continue to build trust and collaboration between our citizens and our police department.

We are proposing creating a citywide Community Engagement Initiative within our police department. It would include a broad coalition consisting of residents, police officers, representatives from our schools, social justice organizations, and more.

The initiative would bring awareness and a louder voice to issues of injustice in our City. It could also help to design and promote events and actions designed to build trust between our citizens and the Police Department. It could also be a place for people to talk, organize, and, most importantly, listen. The reality is we don’t know exactly what the coalition would want to focus on. It is designed to be a group with an organic and flexible focus determined by our community. We understand that we are currently successfully carrying out individual events that fulfill the philosophy of engaging citizens with our Police Department in non-enforcement activities. It is clear, however, that we need to do more. Bethlehem needs to include more officers, more organizations, more citizens, and have more discussion on issues relating to race, justice, and trust.

Now Gadfly has said earlier that he didn’t think the Chief would have any qualms about engaging with the Councilors on the directive part of their memo. His comments at last week’s Council meeting show that the Chief is confident in the area of policies and training in regard to the use of violence.

But Gadfly is not sure how the Chief will respond to this initiative.

The concept of a Community Engagement Initiative is defined only in very, very broad outlines here.

An awfully lot has to be worked out and detailed before one could agree to be totally on board.

Now perhaps there is some back and forth going on between the Chief and the Councilmembers before the requested Monday response on some of these details.

But if Gadfly were Chief, he thinks all he could say now is that 1) he is open (or not) to participating actively in the development of this major enterprise or 2) that he would like to withhold comment and commitment till the Councilors provided much more detail on how such an initiative would operate or 3) here’s another, maybe better idea to achieve the same goals.

But a ball is rolling.

Some questions and comments about this initiative are coming into Gadfly’s mind — how about you? Think on this, send comments if you want, and join with Gadfly in sharing some preliminary thoughts in the next post.

Councilman Colon: “Now is the time for listening and to keep the dialog going”

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On behalf of the department, Chief DiLuzio read a statement on “George Floyd’s Death & Policing in America” at the Council meeting Wednesday night. You can find the text here and the audio below. (The Mayor’s May 31 statement was not read into the record but can be found here.)

The Chief’s statement was the occasion for response to the local and national events of the last ten days or so by each member of Council.

Followers know that a main purpose of this blog is to help you know your Council members better. These Council responses are a good way to do exactly that, so Gadfly is taking some time to present each one individually for better focus.

Listen to the voices of our elected officials.

We began with President Waldron and are proceeding in the order in which the comments were presented at the meeting. Previously we have posted on Councilmembers Van Wirt, Crampsie Smith, Reynolds, and Callahan. Negron comes after Callahan here.

Councilman Colon

Unfortunately, Councilman Colon’s presentation is occasionally garbled.

“I really don’t have that much to add that members of Council haven’t said already other than I am glad things have been going peaceful and well for the past few days. I’m someone who comes from a diverse family, a Puerto Rican family. My youngest brother whom many of you know and have met is African American. And I’m still using now as a time really for listening, thinking that my experience and what I see and the life that I live is reminding myself every day that my existence isn’t the scope of all that goes on here in Bethlehem. I’m using this time to listen. I’m glad that others have mentioned that now is the time for listening and to keep the dialog going. So I hope we can really achieve . . . I know the department is trying to stay ahead a lot of the things that are coming whether the norm or ahead of the times a little bit but keep all those things going. I was glad to hear from Mr. Dobyan who called in, some of those things I thought were just common operating procedure in all departments across the country, they all sound pretty reasonable [The Chief interrupted to say that all depts don’t have guidelines, that we’re talking about criminal justice reform, the system is broken and reiterated that what he saw in Minneapolis is disgusting as well as everything else going on. That was murder on national tv.] I truly believe that Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, we aren’t going to be the ones to change the world, to change the country, I think we could continue beyond today as we have and even change is incremental. As I said before, change takes time and effort. The calendar days keep ticking away. I know the effort is there, and I really just hope we can stay . . . I’m proud of the city I grew up in, I think we could all say we appreciated whether it’s the cultural diversity that go no further in South Bethlehem and all the different churches and ethnic backgrounds that really built Bethlehem through the Steel and just growing up in the City and the people I grew up around and the family I come from, I really hope we can just continue again not only having the time for listening but keeping the dialog going and continue to do whatever we can here locally. We’re not going to change what’s going on in D.C., we’re not going to change what’s going on even in Harrisburg necessarily, as long as we keep doing our part to change what’s going on in Bethlehem.”

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce: “In support of the Black Business Community, we are calling for a Lehigh Valley Black Business Directory.

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What a great, practical, timely idea!

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

June 4, 2020

Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber’s Diversity Councils Supports Launch of Black Owned Business Directory

LEHIGH VALLEY PA:  The last few weeks have shown the significant flaws in our society.  Racial injustices have been pushed to the side for far too long. The entire nation took to the streets, to social media, and we hear your cries. BLACK LIVES MATTER. We stand in solidarity with you.

As we represent the Diversity Councils of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce on a daily basis, it hurts to see a more than deserving community in pain. The Black community needs our support, now more than ever.  Too many lives have been lost at the hands of injustice, and we give our deepest sympathies to George Floyd’s loved ones and to all the other lives taken before him. “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” –Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

We are on the brink of change and everyone is paying attention. Foundational change is not immediate; it takes time, persistence and resilience.  It takes numbers and a never-ending stream of support. Rosa Park’s refusal to give up her seat in 1955, began the Montgomery Bus Boycott, which took 381 days of focused engagement to result in a desegregated bus system. We cannot stop now.

To this end and in support of the Black Business Community, we are calling for a Lehigh Valley Black Business Directory.  During this time, we want to support the Black Business Community of the Lehigh Valley as much as possible.  “Strategic change is created through economic commitment – a commitment to be on the right side of an issue you are passionate about.  Support Black Owned Businesses,” said Joanne Leasure, CEO of Day One Accounting and Financial Services LLC.

As a “Call to Action,” the African American Business Leaders Council of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce has launched #SUPPORTBLACKBUSINESS Black Business Directory.  The open call for businesses to sign up starts now via the Business and Diversity Councils’ webpage: https://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/submit-supportblackbusinesslv.html

The business directory will facilitate supporting black owned businesses by having direct links to their websites and the contact information all in one place and organized into categories.  The directory is open to all African American owned businesses in the Chamber footprint.

“The goal is to have a positive economic impact. We also want to create opportunities to exchange beneficial knowledge and expertise that support the success of the business community,” said Qiana Cressman co-chair of the Chamber’s African American Business Leaders Council and Executive Director, Donor Operations at Miller-Keystone Blood Center.  “It’s our responsibility to promote and help direct as much business as possible to this underserved segment of our business community,” adds Dan Bosket, co-chair of the Chamber’s African American Business Leaders Council and Director at Community Action Development Corporation of Allentown.

In Solidarity,

The Diversity Councils of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce

The dynamic list of Black owned businesses can by accessed here:  https://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/list-supportblackbusinesslv.html

Businesses that would like to sign up can do so at:  https://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/submit-supportblackbusinesslv.html

For more information on the Black Owned Business Directory and the African American Business Leaders Council, please visit
https://www.lehighvalleychamber.org/businessanddiversity.html

Tip o’ the hat to Olga Negron for calling this to Gadfly’s attention.

The Mayor’s statement in the Morning Call

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Donchez 1photo Donna Fisher, Morning Call

Robert Donchez, “Your View by Bethlehem’s mayor: ‘This isn’t a race issue, this is a human issue’.” Morning Call, June 3, 2020.

The Mayor’s statement on the George Floyd killing posted on the City web site a few days ago appeared in the Morning Call and on WFMZ today.

Today’s statement is the same as the original on the web site except that a quote from John F. Kennedy replaces one from Ben Franklin toward the end of the essay:

“John F. Kennedy once said, ‘The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality.’ This is indeed a time of great moral crisis, and we can no longer say it doesn’t affect me — because it does.”

“We have hope . . . Never lose HOPE!”

Olga Negron is a Bethlehem City Councilwoman.

Gadfly:

In Spring 2018 I was trying to convince Nick [Englesson] that we should plant a banana tree outside in our yard (at that point we had two banana trees planted in a pot inside the house), and he said, “Why are we going to plant the tree outside? It will die in the winter.” I said, “true but we will get to enjoy watching it grow, it will be a beautiful sightOlga 6 while it last!” I convinced him, and we actually planted a couple of banana trees and other tropical plants around it. We all really enjoyed it all summer of 2018. Everything did die during winter, but in spring 2019, to our surprise, one of the bananas grew back! That’s what trigger us buying more banana trees and planting more of them in 2019 (six trees total were growing outside). We figured even if they die in the winter, we will plant new ones every year. Just like we plant tomatoes, peppers, etc., we will plant banana trees every year. We did some research and learned about Ohio Hardy banana trees that can resist up to 32 degrees, and, yes, we bought a few and planted them in 2019 and watched them die last winter, but we were hopeful. This year we planned to buy a few more banana trees to plant outside since the ones from last year all died, but spring had a bigger surprise for us, and as of right now we have twenty Banana trees growing back! I’m so excited about this that I wanted to share it with you! Look at the pictures, can you count them? Some banana trees are still very tiny but we have hope!

Never lose HOPE!

Olga

Pandemic, senseless killing, rioting, looting — and even earthquakes in Puerto Rico.
Never lose hope.

Councilman Callahan fosters ideas for opening restaurants for outside service

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Video: City Council meeting May 19
begin min. 54:05

If Gadfly understood Mr. Evans correctly, the City had ideas of closing streets and using parklets to improve outside accessibility to services by restaurants and other of our small businesses, but these plans have been put on hold for now by state directives.

Councilman Callahan strongly supported this idea, indicating that he had sent a letter to the governor (see below) as well as talking personally with the mayor.

  • Some of our most successful businesses on Main St. and Southside are really struggling.
  • Some might not make it.
  • The Home Depots, etc., are open, and we are allowing curbside for restaurants.BCallahan
  • How about closing the roads one-way — one-way traffic — giving more table space and socially distancing space?
  • Can possibly be done in a safe manner: paper goods, non-reusable utensils, etc.
  •  Only family members that live under the same roof at a table, for instance.
  • Others would have to be 6 feet away.
  • Owners realize the virus might come back in the fall.
  • Just trying to get their sales up a little bit to survive.
  • Encourages the City to talk with the business owners and come up with a plan for the right time.
  • Home Depots, etc., are handling the bathroom cleaning issue — could be done here in our downtowns as well.

 

Callahan 1

Callahan 2

City announces summer recreation closings because of you-know-what

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Press Release: Tuesday May 19, 2020 – Bethlehem Pools Will Not Open in 2020

Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez announced today that Bethlehem’s five pools will remain closed this summer. “The State provides significant funding to support our parks and pools programs. As frustrated and disappointed as we all are, we do need to follow Governor Wolf’s guidelines. Currently Lehigh County and Northampton County are still in the red phase. Even in the yellow phase, restrictions do not make it feasible to get the pools opened up. Due to the length of the stay at home policy, we have not been able to get many of our lifeguards certified.” Construction on Memorial Pool, which was shut down for 6 weeks, has restarted and will be completed this summer for opening in 2021.

In addition, Music in the Parks series and Movies in the Parks will be cancelled this summer and Sand Island courts will remain closed. The skateplaza, dog park, basketball courts, pavilion rentals, Charles Brown Ice House, and Illick’s Mill, will remain closed until further notice. Although the neighborhood parks are open, they will not be staffed this summer. The Mayor encourages residents not to use the playground equipment. Tennis courts and walking trails will remain open, as they do allow for proper social distancing and do not involve physical contact. Guidelines are posted at the tennis courts.

As always, please monitor the City’s website at http://www.bethlehem-pa.gov and social media for additional information on City facilities, public meetings and updates on COVID-19

Gadfly in the news, not reporting it

Julia F. Swan, “‘Bethlehem Gadfly’ discusses his role.” Bethlehem Press, May 11, 2020.

Tip o’ the hat to Julia Swan for the nice article on Gadfly’s talk at the Lower Saucon Township Historical Society March 2.

Tip o’ the hat also to Karen Samuels and Ilhan Citak for inviting me.

And doffing that hat as well to followers Barbara Diamond, Steve Diamond, and Bill Scheirer for attending.

Gadfly planned to record this talk about the nature of gadflying and use it for recruiting purposes. Bethlehem has gadflies extraordinaire in the likes of Antalics and Scheirer. And this gadfly’s contract is up after the 2021 primary election a year from now, when, in effect, we choose the next mayor.

So we need to plan gadfly succession.

A sure sign of that is that this aging gadfly forgot to turn on his recorder at the meeting. Therefore no recruiting tool. Damnation. Sigh.

Back to the drawing board.

For every community needs gadflies.

The “photo” always raises questions. That’s Gadfly’s avatar “Edward Scholarhands” from his days exploring the pedagogical possibilities of virtual reality.

Summary/outline of City response to “Ask the Mayor II”

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Mayor Donchez And Department Directors Answer Second Round
Of Resident’s Questions

Did you view the City’s second response to our questions yesterday? Or were you waiting for the Gadfly summary/outline?

Awww, Gadfly had a cluttered Friday afternoon. Here ’tis now.

Mayor Donchez:

  • wear masks, social distant, wash hands
  • City Hall continues closed but that’s reviewed weekly
  • Parking Authority is back enforcing but red-bagging areas for quick pick up, while furloughing 28 employees
  • Governor has jurisdiction over businesses open/closed, essential non-essential (waivers), not City
  • Awaiting policy from governor on large events: Musik-Fest, Blueberry, Celtic
  • Awaiting governor policy on pools, construction on Memorial has begun again but unlikely opening this year
  • Yard waste open, evaluating pick-up policy but closed for now
  • Recycling Center closed, evaluating there too
  • unlikely that overlay of Johnston Dr will take place this year ($650,000-700,000 in a year when the budget deficit may be $4m.)
  • thanks to Wind Creek for payment and food contribution
  • Fire Dept will not be doing birthday visits
  • proud of City work force doing volunteer work
  • Housing Authority and School District are separate entities
  • Awaiting directive from the governor on library opening
  • consult and sign on at City web site for updates
  • thanks to all for cooperation
  • revised yard waste pick-up schedule, consult City web site

Kristen Wenrich, Health Bureau Director (min. 9:44):

  • 591 cases
  • 25-49 age group == highest positivity, 43%
  • 16.6% are long-term care residents
  • 24 deaths, 54% associated with long-term care facilities
  • 1.5-4% daily increase in cases, monitoring trend
  • increase in deaths from people on ventilators at earlier counting and also increase in deaths in long-term care facilities
  • see dashboard — updated daily — on City web site COVID-19 page for numbers
  • need for more research on immunity of those who have developed antibodies
  • we are still in “red” phase, with stay-at-home restriction
  • outlined “yellow” phase and what will get us there
  • wearing mask outside recommended when social distancing not possible
  • outbreaks in 7 long-term care facilities
  • State Dept of Health is looking at a testing program, only aware of one local site testing everybody
  • we do not license local facilities, State does, so our role is guidance and liaison, working with state consultant ECRI on local infection-control practices
  • tracking situations in workplaces and providing guidance there
  • State Health Dept is working with food-production sites, Pa Dept of Agriculture and OSHA also involved in oversight of food-production facilities
  • Working with New Bethany Ministries on homeless, working on post-pandemic plans for homeless too
  • info on Hazard Control program, funding and scope

Bob Novatnack, Emergency Management Services Director (min. 18:29):

  • equipment supply good
  • Police, Fire, EMS strong: no positive cases
  • quick turn-around time
  • info on making non-emergency calls, best to call 911 as quickest way to get a response
  • open burning info
  • following CDC guidelines

Alicia Karner, Director, Community and Economic Development (min. 22:28):

  • continuing in operation, issuing permits, developing Small Business Relief Fund
  • info on building of home pools
  • info on landlord/tenant, evictions

Eric Evans, Business Administrator (min. 24:38):

  • cabinet is meeting twice a week
  • length and depth of financial impact uncertain
  • lots necessarily speculative
  • major income sources: property taxes, earned income tax, casino host fee
  • were ahead when slow down started, 2nd quarter will tell us more
  • shortfall of several million for sure
  • deferring capital projects (equipment, roads)
  • staffing: freeze, some furloughs
  • closures: recycling, etc.
  • decisions of summer programs week of May 18
  • saving $1/2m in personnel
  • fuel prices low
  • health charges down
  • can reduce $1 1/2m
  • good financial shape before: rainy day fund etc.
  • Golf course: opened last week, improvements, well received, new policies

Mayor Donchez (min. 35:24):

  • thanks to dept heads and public
  • be safe

tip o’ the hat!

Gadfly asks the Mayor

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Good people:

My focus of concern is the public health aspect. I would guess you’d love questions that you could answer with a specific fact or a limited response, but please don’t fear to expand. I watch Cuomo, Levine, Maddow, etc., and try to sort things out but not always successfully.

1) Characterize the rate of case growth in Northampton County. Not just the number. But where are we on the curve? It looks like we are still ascending.

2) Characterize the growth in Bethlehem. At one meeting, the number was 325, a few days later 375 (big jump?), now 10-12 days later 576. Earlier 2 deaths, then 3, now 19. A big spike going on? Or nothing unusual.

3) Kristen is quoted in this morning’s paper as seeing an increase in long-term care facilities, and a concern about getting enough people tested. Expand.

4) 2/3’s of the cases statewide are in nursing homes and personal care facilities, how are we doing in that respect. How are we prioritizing attention to these hot spots? Troubling things at ManorCare reported in the paper a week or two ago.

5) I am not clear about our (City) relation to nursing homes and personal care facilities. Some are private. What role do we play? I heard the Mayor of Detroit last night talk about having everybody in facilities in his City tested. Sounded like he had power over such facilities and could go “in.” Do we? I think I heard Cuomo say that the state can go in if there’s a complaint. So I’m not sure about oversight here. A previous comment by you guys about facilitating contact with the state consultant sounded too hands-off. Is that true?

6) A lot of talk now about people carrying the virus before or without showing symptoms. What kind of testing is going on in nursing homes and personal care facilities. Waiting till they show symptoms?

7) I’ve been focusing so far on senior care places, but what about other congregant places? Our high rises? Our warehouses/our big work places?

8) On Maddow last night one of her points was that the Tyson meat-processing owners call the shots in the plants and do not have to follow any guidelines prescribed by the government, CDC, etc.? How about our Distribution Center? Who’s calling the shots there? Is worker safety being monitored?

Ha! 11:58. Noon deadline is on me!

Thanks, Ed

A plug for the Bethlehem Press, a plug for a press in Bethlehem

We need a local newspaper.

I was just very impressed by the amount of data about local events affected by the virus in yesterday’s BP issue.

I have remarked appreciatively in these pages several times about the community feel in the BP.

Gadfly loves community.

Sure, the paper doesn’t have some of the things we might want.

Like how about a weekly analysis of a city-related issue by a serious columnist who takes the city as his/her beat.

But the paper probably doesn’t have the resources for that.

Yet it might have if more people subscribed, he says perhaps naively.

Gadfly thinks everybody should subscribe to the BP.

Frankly, there’s usually very little in the Morning Call that I don’t already know when I take it to the bathroom with me in the morning.

Though I have found it good lately for local virus info.

Frankly again, people compliment the Gadfly for providing a bit more depth or breadth about city activities.

So I think there’s an appetite for more.

I’m old-fashioned, I know, I know.

Facebook and Twitter just don’t do it for me in terms of what I want/need to know about local affairs.

Give me a good local newspaper.

Buck the trail of newspaper death rattles.

Subscribe to the BP and make your wishes known.

Reynolds: the City needs to be the center of creative solutions about the economic and social consequences of coronavirus on our businesses and residents

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In the previous post, Gadfly summarized the coronavirus reports from City Hall at the April 21 City Council meeting.

At this historic meeting, Council also passed the following corona-virus-related resolution by Councilman Reynolds (the entire resolution is here):

Resolution calling upon the City Administration to investigate initiatives to help protect the economic survival of our residents and local businesses in response to the COVID-19 health emergency.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, THAT THE CITY COUNCIL OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM encourages the Mayor’s Administration to investigate any and all feasible options for helping to protect the survival of our residents and local businesses in response to the COVID-19 health emergency, including working closely with the federal and state government, financial institutions, educational institutions, and non-profits to identify and publicize economic assistance options for our local businesses, including without limitation, emergency loan programs and programs to help businesses modify their operations to comply with social distancing and other new public health practices.

Here’s Councilman Reynolds’ statement about the resolution and subsequent discussion (video min. 1:29:20):

Councilman Reynolds sees public health as the #1 priority, and he acknowledged the good work being done by the City in that respect. But this resolution is about priority #2, commingling the City to working on the economic and social consequences of  Reynolds 3coronavirus on our businesses and residents. This resolution is a statement that we need to be creative in coming up with city-wide initiatives regarding the short- and long-term consequences of the pandemic. People will look to us to do more that work on public health. The pandemic has revealed economic problems that can have far-reaching consequences. The City can’t do it all, can’t solve all problems, but it must play a leading role, an organizing role. One specific problem this crisis has revealed is the number of people who don’t have broadband access, without which it is hard to function, and which it is now clear that we must address. The City needs to be the center of creative solutions.