CNN uses the Morning Call for report: “How the decline of local news affect communities”

CNN’s “Reliable Sources” with Brian Steltzer, October 25, 2020

CNN’s Brian Steltzer’s segment on the Morning Call yesterday (click link above) gives us a good opportunity to reflect on the possibility that Bethlehem will become a news desert.

Thankfully, Christina Tatu seems to have replaced Bethlehem veteran Nicole Radziewicz on the Bethlehem beat. For now, anyway.

But the Morning Call, while it gamely moves on, will likely devote less and less coverage to Bethlehem.

Just yesterday afternoon Gadfly and a follower were talking over his back fence about things we would like see covered and need to be covered that are now not being covered.

We do get coverage from lehighvalleylive.com and WFMZ, but it’s not the same as having media based here.

And godhelpus if we have to depend on Facebook and the social media etceteras.

What to do?

  • More than once in these pages Gadfly has recommended subscribing to the Bethlehem Press in greater numbers and pressing for a wider and deeper coverage, with more in the way of analysis, of Bethlehem political issues. A community newspaper must survive. It’s not very expensive.
  • Make sure that there is a replacement for Gadfly, who plans to retire Election Day +1 next May. Applications now being received. Who will step up?
  • Encourage more blogs, more citizen journalism — providing more comprehensive coverage and especially alternate viewpoints. Who will step up?

Be sure to see the wonderful 50-picture photo gallery at the head of the following article. Great pictorial history of the paper.

Clarification: A follower points out that my wording might imply criticism of Nicole Radzievich. Ouch! Did not intend that. I meant to say that it was good to see that the hole left by the long-standing, respected NR was filled and not left empty.

Selections from Jon Harris and Andrew Wagaman, “The Morning Call to vacate Allentown office building after 100 years in downtown location.” Morning Call, August 12, 2020.

The Morning Call has called Sixth and Linden streets in downtown Allentown home since 1920.

One hundred years later, Tribune Publishing, which owns the newspaper, has decided to permanently vacate The Morning Call’s longtime home at 101 N. Sixth St. The news was announced Wednesday in an internal email from Morning Call interim General Manager Timothy Thomas, a decision made amid a pandemic that kept many employees working at home and had the newspaper’s parent company searching for ways to save money as advertising revenue dwindled.

“This decision was not made lightly or hastily,” said Thomas, who has been interim general manager since early 2019. “Instead, amid a pandemic that prevents us from safely returning to the office for an undetermined period of time, the company has decided to formally close our portion of the Sixth Street facility sometime in the near future. Once we have a firm date, we will update everyone.”

It remains unclear whether The Morning Call will find another office for its roughly 100 employees, though Thomas said the newspaper would look for a cross-docking and distribution center nearby to replace the existing operation. Employees are being asked to retrieve personal items from the office by Sept. 15.

“Out of an abundance of caution we do not anticipate having employees that can work remotely coming back into the office for the remainder of the year and into 2021,” Tribune spokesperson Max Reinsdorf said. “With no clear path forward in terms of returning to work, and as the company evaluates its real estate needs in light of health and economic conditions brought about by the pandemic, we have made the difficult decision to permanently close the office.”

History of The Morning Call in downtown Allentown »

The Morning Call’s presence in Allentown dates to 1883 when a Saturday evening newspaper called The Critic was founded. Following a reader contest, the publication was renamed The Morning Call in 1895.

By 1906, growth necessitated more space and equipment, bringing The Morning Call to 27 S. Sixth St. Operations were moved to Sixth and Linden streets in 1920, where the current building was constructed in 1930, though sections were added to it over the years.

The early 1980s, when the paper was still owned by the Miller family, brought plenty of construction.

An 18-month expansion at the Sixth and Linden Street headquarters was completed in 1983, a project that redesigned five major departments to use one of the most sophisticated computer systems in the nation

Two years earlier, on Aug. 31, 1981, the newspaper’s 270-car, three-level parking garage at Sixth and Turner streets was formally opened. Allentown Mayor Frank Fischl termed the new garage “an indication of your dedication to the center-city.”

Gadfly all-abuzz

Latest in a series of posts about the Community Engagement Initiative

Community Engagement Initiative rev July 7

ref: Advancing the Community Engagement Initiative, Police on board

On July 7, City Council passed a resolution “urging the creation of a Community Engagement Initiative in the City of Bethlehem.” You can find the (revised from the original) resolution that passed 7-0 at the link above. You might want to refresh yourself on its contents.

The resolution urges “the Mayor and his Administration” to create the Community Engagement Initiative.

Gadfly was thrilled.

“Good conversation builds community,” sayeth the Gadfly.

Quoth the Gadfly: “The main goal of the Gadfly blog is to provide a space for healthy public dialogue about issues of concern to Bethlehem, Pa., residents. All sides, all perspectives welcome.”

The CEI is the Gadfly blog intentionality writ large.

Gadfly was thrilled July 7.

At the City Council meeting last week October 6, Councilman Reynolds advanced some more information about the Community Engagement Initiative that was approved by Council July 7.

Do you have 5 minutes to listen?

According to Councilman Reynolds, the CEI can be composed of two types of meetings:

  • traditional City-run meetings through Council committees etc. such as the scheduled October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting
  • meetings by various community organizations such as at the Hispanic Center October 27 “Racial Justice for Stronger Community” event

Gadfly has to be frank. He’s not feeling good about the way the CEI is unfolding. And he will simply shotgun almost at random some of his concerns here.

  • The energizing power of the CEI according to the approved resolution (see the link above) is the Mayor.
  • Where is the Mayor in all of this? The voice at the top of the command structure is missing. Especially now that things are beginning to roll.
  • JWR talked about the CEI October 6. The new Police Chief talked about the CEI October 6. The Mayor did not.
  • The Mayor did say at an earlier meeting (August 11?) that he was listening for good ideas. But Gadfly thinks he needs to do more than that.
  • The CEI isn’t going to work if the Mayor is passive. The CEI needs Mayoral force.
  • The Mayor could help stimulate community meetings.
  • The Police Chief takes orders from the Mayor.
  • The Mayor could pledge his department heads to attend Community meetings.
  • If the Mayor isn’t kicking some butt or persuasively making a case, why will the city staff engage?
  • JWR says he talked with the Mayor about publicizing the CEI events. I should hope the Mayor would do that. I would hope there was no question he would do that. But that doesn’t seem enough. Is this the extent of the Mayor’s role?
  • Gadfly doesn’t know what the lead time was, maybe it was prohibitive, but there is nothing about the CEI in the current City newsletter, nothing in the Mayor’s statement therein.
  • Top down is crucial. To Gadfly, so far the Mayor is a missing link. And he doesn’t understand it.
  • Gadfly thinks the Mayor should be leading as envisioned in the resolution.
  • So why is JWR the driving force? The Council voted 7-0 to approve the CEI, but is everybody engaged? JWR’s voice seemed a bit supplicating to his Council colleagues October 6. If this is Council’s baby now, Gadfly would hope for continual visible, vocal support from all other members. At an earlier meeting a couple Council members gave some support though qualifying that they couldn’t promise to make all meetings. JWR was pretty much a lone wolf October 6.

——–

  • But maybe there is something here Gadfly doesn’t see. Gadflies are outsiders. They can only see what they can see. And thus often say dumb things.
  • Maybe that first type meeting JWR described, the October 29 Committee of the Whole meeting, was called by the Mayor. Nothing has been said publicly in any detail about it so far, as far as Gadfly knows.
  • All we know about this meeting so far is “Interaction of the Police Department/Health Bureau/Recreation/Department of Community and Economic Development.”
  • Of course, we might be informed about the meeting at the October 20 Council meeting, but it seems a bit odd to Gadfly to announce it a full 6 weeks ahead and not describe its content or purpose.
  • And it is a meeting called by Council not the Mayor, and it is a Committee of the Whole meeting not an open meeting for the public, so it doesn’t, on the surface, look like a meeting called by the Mayor.
  • And it’s not clear yet how, if we are to see it as part of the CEI, the community will be engaged.
  • What is our engagement at this meeting to qualify it as something different than what we’ve had before and a legitimate part of the CEI??
  • Will the community contribute ideas beforehand, which would seem to be the idea of a CEI, or just make comments after the Council discussion, as the more usual practice?
  • We hope to find out October 20.

———

  • How is the community at large being apprised of this initiative? How is enthusiasm and expectation being whipped up that we’re serious this time that engagement on their part is going to make a difference? How are we selling the idea that the deadly notion that “City Hall never listens” doesn’t apply any more?
  • Are organizations being stimulated, energized to have meetings? Are we suggesting the kinds of topics we would like them to address? Or are we being passive? Are Council members just keeping their ears to the ground and reporting what they hear? Or are they prompting, promoting?
  • A prime concern is hearing from the people we don’t usually hear from. Giving the unheard a voice at the table is the kind of rhetoric we’ve had in descriptions of the CEI. How is that goal progressing? That seems so important, so very important. That group is likely to be unorganized. How are they even hearing that we want to hear them?
  • There was no mention of the promising meeting with the Prof Ochs/CORE group that was thought of so highly that it was amended into the final resolution and with which a meeting was envisioned for this month or next. What’s up there?
  • Gadfly would have liked to hear that the list of monthly events would be published for the public to see on such-and-such a date each month, and therefore Council members — who are the only suppliers of content — have a such-and-such deadline each month. Let’s be definite. Let’s sound organized. “The public can expect the first list of events on____________ and on the _____th of the month every month thereafter.”

———-

  • Gadfly understands the need, desire, value of getting people to talk. For giving voice to the voiceless. He believes in good conversation.
  • But he also looks forward to something done, and he worries about diffuseness and time passing.
  • The CEI can provide a continuing space for conversation and dialogue over time, which is good, but when does action factor in?
  • How, when, will ideas that bubble up arc back to policy makers? The CEI provides a space for talk. There hasn’t yet been any talk of talk arcing to action.
  • The process as described so far seems too open-ended to Gadfly. The goal of all this is to do something. There was strong talk, rousing talk of making change. Where’s that part of the process?
  • Could reports from those meetings, meetings that Council members attended, be made publicly at Council, so there would be sharing, so everybody can hear what’s going on?
  • Could the community organizations be strongly invited to attend Council, report on their discussions/conversations, advance position statements, draft legislation?

———

  • The new Police Chief was all agreeable. But Gadfly would like to hear much, much more about how the police will be engaged before he in any way believes there will be the kind of cooperation and participation that will be meaningful. Call him a Grinch.
  • Gadfly has read over and over that officer buy-in is crucial but hard. A lot aren’t going to think they need community engagement. Gadfly expects some active resistance. He needs to be shown otherwise.
  • Gadfly is skeptical of easy general voluntary cooperation and participation, and he doesn’t believe the Chief can legislate it.
  • The Chief should have been asked to report back on her plan to involve a number of police sizeable enough to make a culture difference.
  • Gadfly can’t believe a high number of officers are voluntarily interested and over a long run in doing this to such a marked degree that it will make a difference.
  • JWR talked of the difference to him when he engaged with the community of his students. But he made it sound like he wasn’t expecting that a lot of officers need engage. But the ones who don’t engage won’t get a chance to feel the difference he did. And if enough don’t engage, what have we gained?
  • There are 154 police officers (now maybe 153). What’s the goal number for involvement?
  • JWR said the key component to the success of the CEI was the “real involvement” of the police department.  There is no plan for this crucial component yet and no request for one.
  • You probably need either a quantitatively lot of general officer engagement or a good number of key officer engagement to make a difference in department culture. Gadfly can’t see this as easy as the Chief made it sound.
  • So the Chief’s words were polyannish to Gadfly.
  • What’s the Union going to say? Some departments Gadfly has read about build community engagement into the work day and have other kinds of incentives. Won’t we need such mechanisms, such carrots?
  • Gadfly senses a lot of work to be done here.
  • The Chief should be made to show a plan. Welcome to Chiefdom!

———–

Ok, ok, Gadfly the Grinch. Gadfly the wet blanket. Enough. Just being honest. He doesn’t feel good about this CEI as its evolving so far.

And he’s ready for his slap upside the head. Maybe on both sides. And on top.

He buzzes because he cares. He sees a “momentous” opportunity here — to quote a follower — and is worried that it will slip away.

What Gadfly expected was something like the organization for the Climate Action Plan. Something like the organization for Northside 2027.  We see something getting done there. Progress. Something like the series of “Summits” one of the Gadfly followers suggested that a Bethlehem-based organization ran in Detroit and which we reported on in these pages. Something more organized by this time, 4 1/2 months after the murder of George Floyd.

Gadfly is fond of quoting Kurt Vonnegut: “There is no reason good can’t triumph over evil. It is simply a matter of organization.”

He doesn’t feel that organization here yet.

And time is passing.

to be continued . . .

Solar is a no-brainer, let’s do it now

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Emely Rodriquez is a student at Liberty High School. Eli Zemsky read Emely’s essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. You can view Eli reading Emely’s work here at min. 27:50.

Solar Energy

Emely Rodriquez

The Lehigh Valley has already made changes to create a cleaner, more sustainable future for our community. For example, Allentown in 2010 installed solar panels on their courthouses, and in 2014 public transportation buses became hybrid electric buses. Yet there is so much, much more our community can do. Becoming a more sustainable community starts with small changes that we make to create a cleaner brighter future.

My proposal is to install solar panels on public government buildings around the Lehigh Valley. We can expand on what has already been done by installing solar panels on the post office, the library, and public schools. Solar power provides a cleaner renewable energy source; it’s a brighter way of bringing a more sustainable electrical source for our community. The cost of solar panels has lowered significantly in the last four decades by 99%. Doesn’t this mean that they are only 1% of what they used to cost? Solar power has become cheaper than coal, natural gas, and any other fossil fuels.

The U.S Department of Energy has always encouraged using solar energy, even recently announcing that they are going to provide 20 million dollars in funding to advance perovskite solar photovoltaic technologies. This technology has shown to have great potential for high performance and low production costs when used to create solar cells. Currently the most effective technology for creating solar cells is monocrystalline; it is very efficient, durable, and has higher costs than polycrystalline and Thin- film. According to statistics from the Department of Energy, the overall annual return on investing in solar panels is more than 20%. In a decade this investment would benefit the community economically, and help the planet with global warming.

Homeowners in the community who have solar panels understand what solar can do and how it works firsthand. It’s a really great way to encourage cleaner energy; It is also a great way to give back to the community. The more solar energy we bring into our community, the less we would be putting harmful emissions into our air. Investing in solar power that is renewable creates surplus income, and the money that will be returned annually could be used to repair old roads, historical buildings, city parks, and plant trees.

We know at first the system would be costly. The solar investment tax (ITC) only benefits homeowners and businesses, which means the city would have to pay full price. And solar energy seems like dependence on the government. But the main reason my proposal is specifically for public buildings is because it benefits everyone in the community. It sets an example and shows the individual homeowner that it is ok to take advantage of those tax incentives. And in that initiative the city government could help support the poorer homeowners by very low-cost loans. But that’s another speech.

To create a cleaner, healthier environment for our community, solar is, as they say, a no-brainer, a win-win.

Let’s do it now.

Sources

How Solar and Wind Energy Are Now Cheaper than Fossil Fuels. (n.d.). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from https://www.altenergymag.com/article/2020/05/how-solar-and-wind-energy-are-now-cheaper-than-fossil-fuels/33132

“Procuring and Implementing Solar Projects on Public Buildings: How to Avoid Common Pitfalls (Text Version).” Energy.gov, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wipo/procuring-and-implementing-solar-projects-public-buildings-how-avoid-common-pitfalls-text

Guide to the Federal Investment Tax Credit for Commercial … http://www.energy.gov/sites/prod/files/2020/01/f70/Guide to the Federal Investment Tax Credit for Commercial Solar PV.pdf.

EnergySage. (n.d.). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from https://www.energysage.com/local-data/solar-panel-cost/pa/northampton-county/lehigh-valley/

“Types of Solar Panels.” EnergySage, http://www.energysage.com/solar/101/types-solar-panels/.

“Solar Panel Incentives, Rebates & Tax Breaks.” EnergySage, http://www.energysage.com/solar/cost-benefit/solar-incentives-and-rebates/.

“Solar PV Cell Cost Has Decreased an Incredible 99% Since 1977.” Inhabitat Green Design Innovation Architecture Green Building, inhabitat.com/solar-pv-cell-cost-has-decreased-an-incredible-99-since-1977/.

History of Solar Power. (2019, July 15). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from            https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/renewable/solar/history-of-solar-power/

Schwahn, Lauren. “What Do Solar Panels Cost and Are They Worth It?” NerdWallet, 1 June 2020, http://www.nerdwallet.com/article/finance/solar-panel-cost.

Joel B. Stronberg, et al. “What Happens When Communities Say No to Solar and Wind?”

Resilience, 13 Mar. 2019, www.resilience.org/stories/2019-03-13/what-happens-when-communities-say-no-to-solar-and-wind/.

“Solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC).” SEIA, seia.org/initiatives/solar-investment-tax-credit-itc.

Explaining the plummeting cost of solar power. (2018, November 20). Retrieved September 08, 2020, from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/11/181120073818.htm

Shaver, Lacey. “4 Ways Local Solar Projects Can Benefit Cities.” World Resources Institute, 26 Mar. 2019, http://www.wri.org/blog/2019/03/4-ways-local-solar-projects-can-benefit-cities.

“5 Advantages of Solar Energy in the Environment.” ZEN Energy, 17 Feb. 2020, http://www.zenenergy.com.au/blog/five-advantages-of-solar-energy-on-the-environment/.

https://www.gusd.net/cms/lib03/CA01000648/Centricity/Domain/53/6.%20OR%20PV%20health%20and%20safety.pdf

https://cresustainabilitypresentation.weebly.com/the-opposing-view-of-solar-power.html

https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy11osti/49930.pdf

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/2019/06/04/climate-change-coal-now-more-expensive-than-wind-solar-energy/1277637001/

Second meeting on Bethlehem’s Climate Action Plan, October 7

Hail to the Chief! “Through challenge comes real change”

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

After her confirmation, new Chief of Police Michelle Kott said a few words and received a round of applause:

“Mister Mayor and City Council, thank you so much for this great honor. I’m so humbled to have this opportunity to serve the community and the men and women of the Bethlehem Police Department. I will not let you down. I know it is a challenging time right now, as Councilman Colon said, but through challenge comes real change. And I’m ready to get started. Thank you so much for all your support, and I look forward to working with all of you. Thank you.”

“You know how dangerous this is to put a narrative like this out there?”

Latest in a series of posts in the wake of the George Floyd murder

“The marchers contend state police have, at every turn, attempted to place at least some of the blame for what instigated the shooting on them.”

Selections from Joseph Darius Jaafari of Spotlight PA and Ryan Deto of Pittsburgh City Paper, “A changing story by police on a rural Pa. shooting helped fuel white vigilantes and misinformation.” Spotlight Pa., September 30, 2020. (printed today in the Morning Call with the headline “Shifting police accounts fuel racist anger against marchers.”)

click through to the article to find a video after the shooting by one of the marchers

It was a bit after 11 p.m. in late August when Frank Nitty and a group of Black and white civil rights activists stopped along a highway in rural Bedford County. The group was on day 20 of a march from Milwaukee to Washington, D.C. . . . On that night in Pennsylvania, with just flashlights and the occasional passing car lighting their way down Lincoln Highway, things got out of hand. . . . Shots rang out. . . . The incident made national news for a day, another thread in the country’s ongoing struggle with racism. But a closer examination by Spotlight PA and Pittsburgh City Paper reveals a changing narrative by law enforcement authorities the next day, the effects those inconsistencies had in how the story was portrayed, and how local community members took up arms in response.

Pennsylvania State Police initially said an “argument” between residents and the marchers “culminated in gun fire.” But by the end of the day, the official story had changed twice. In the final version of events, police said the property owners had called them about a gathering of people in a private business parking lot. Before troopers could arrive, police said, the property owners confronted the marchers, the confrontation escalated, and “gun shots were exchanged.”

But interviews with nine marchers and a review of four videos from the scene do not support those official accounts — namely, the contention that there was some form of confrontation with the marchers before the shots, and the possibility that a marcher had fired first.

The marchers contend state police have, at every turn, attempted to place at least some of the blame for what instigated the shooting on them. In another video taken after a news conference the day after the shooting, and reviewed by the news organizations, the marchers directly disputed the characterization of an “argument” with a state police detective, who then agreed that the “argument did not happen.”

But the narrative that the marchers were somehow at fault took hold. Fueled by social media posts that parroted — and then embellished — the state police’s version of events, white vigilantes wielding guns descended upon their town squares in Bedford Borough and McConnellsburg, sure that they needed to protect their small towns from “Antifa.”

As a result, the marchers faced continued threats in the days that followed, including being threatened with a gunshot a second time, and having to walk on roads chalked with messages such as “n—s suck,” “pick cotton,” and “go home.”

“There’s no way to mentally prepare someone to being called ‘n—’,” Nitty said, adding that getting him and his team through to the Maryland border required “resilience and prayer.”

When they got to Schellsburg, three people in the group went live on Facebook. The videos show that the marchers stopped at the bottom of a hill to prepare for a climb, loading children and older marchers in vans so they didn’t have to make the venture uphill. On one side of Lincoln Highway was a white house. On the other, a towing garage. Both belong to John Myers. . . . “I says, ‘Hey y’all, there’s a guy that’s looking out the door.’ It was dark, dark, dark, dark in this rural part of Pennsylvania, anyway. And after seeing that, I immediately heard gunshots.” The footage shows some marchers questioning what they heard before a second shot is fired. In the video, John Myers emerges from his house after the first shot is fired and then meets his son, Terry, who appears walking down the road toward the marchers. Terry hands an item to his father and then aims a shotgun back at marchers. In one video, the younger Myers yells at the marchers to “get the f— out of here,” before another gunshot is heard. In footage captured by a marcher on a cell phone, Tory Lowe, a marcher who was in front of the crowd, pleads with John and Terry Myers, saying “there’s no need to be violent,” before another round is fired. “This man came out of nowhere and just started shooting,” Lowe said. “I kept screaming that there are children with us, and it wasn’t until I said there was a pastor with us that he stopped shooting.” One marcher was shot in the face, treated at a nearby hospital for minor injuries, and released the next day.

From the beginning, Pennsylvania State Police publicized a similar story to John and Terry Myers’ account. In its first news release, issued early the next morning, state police said that “an area residence and a group of individuals engaged in an argument, which culminated in gunfire.” The account then changed later in the day to an “incident” between the activists and two residents. By that afternoon, the official version of events changed again. “The confrontation escalated, and gunshots were exchanged between the property owners and the activists,” said a press release. But in the videos, the only time Terry Myers can be heard yelling at people to get away is after the first shot was fired.

“I can tell you that we had not interacted with either man before the gunshots rang out,” said Renee Muza, a video producer who was filming the documentary about the marchers and caught the shooting on camera. “We did not speak to, on any occasion, either man. We didn’t even see them.” When asked for the source of the narrative that an argument or confrontation resulted in gunfire, state police spokesperson Ryan Tarkowski said in an email that it was based on detectives interviewing witnesses who were willing to talk. All nine marchers interviewed by Spotlight PA and Pittsburgh City Paper said they told state police similar stories the next morning about a man shooting at them unprovoked. The marchers also said they gave state police the same footage the news organizations reviewed. When marchers learned of the press releases, they confronted state police detectives while streaming live on Facebook. The detectives said on the stream that the narrative about an argument “isn’t coming from us.” Cpl. Aaron Allen, an officer assigned to the unit that responds to hate crimes in the western region of the state, said that he “fixed” the original press release to show that there wasn’t an argument, changing it to an “incident.” An organizer challenged Allen on a live stream, saying, “You know how dangerous this is to put a narrative like this out there?”

As the state police’s story changed, the suggestion that the marchers were, at least in part, to blame took hold on social media, sparking a snowball of misinformation that culminated in new threats to the group on their way to Washington. On Tuesday, the day after the shooting, Facebook users speculated without evidence that the marchers had looked inside the Myers’ property and were threatening to burn down a local Walmart as well as town centers. A Facebook post that has since been deleted said, “All Bedford County Hunters not busy tonight at 6 might want to go to Bedford County Courthouse to help defend it!!! BLM and Antifa are planning on burning it down!!!” Another Facebook post, shared 1,000 times, urged residents to defend their homes after the Schellsburg shooting. “I couldn’t believe it,” the post read. “Right in my backyard. Threats from BLM and Antifa pouring in to destroy buildings and homes… We will not allow you to destroy our towns. This has to end.” The marchers never came, but that didn’t stop dozens of people from showing up at the Bedford County Courthouse on Tuesday evening, wielding military-style rifles and camping out for more than four hours. Some demonstrators told a local TV news crew they were waiting for the civil rights marchers. That same night, while many armed demonstrators were still at the courthouse, a group of other armed vigilantes learned the marchers were staying at the Hampton Inn hotel three miles away. One of them, Jeremy Decker, 43, drove to the hotel and fired a gun into the air outside the hotel. Decker was charged by state police with possessing a prohibited firearm, having a firearm not to be carried without a license, and reckless endangerment, according to a criminal complaint obtained by the news organizations.

On Wednesday at around 10:40 p.m. — two days after the original shooting — as the marchers made their way to the outskirts of McConnellsburg, in Fulton County, they walked over roads chalked with messages including “n—s suck,” video taken by the group shows. Also shown on the video drawn on the street: “pick cotton,” “slaves,” and “go home.” When the marchers finally got to McConnellsburg, around 1 a.m., there were several people waiting there for them, according to live video feeds. Some were friendly and offered water, others were confrontational and argued with Nitty and refused to shake his hand. Alexis Kaleigh, a McConnellsburg resident who supports the marchers and the Black Lives Matter movement, said she joined Nitty and the other civil rights marchers on Route 30 and saw the racist messages drawn on the street. “We wrote ‘Black Lives Matter’ and ‘we love you’ in chalk,” said Kaleigh. “We wrote things to outweigh the hate.”

More voting info

from Senator Casey bulletin

Explaining secrecy envelopes, and other information you need to vote safely this fall

Tuesday, November 3 is the day of the general election, but voting has already begun in Pennsylvania. Voting is a pillar of our democracy and part of our civic duty as American citizens, so I want to make sure you have the resources you need to vote, vote early and vote safely. No matter who you plan to vote for, you can help PA elections run smoothly and make sure your voice is heard by making a plan right now for how you’re going to vote.
Register to vote: You can register to vote online, by mail, in person at your county voter registration office or at PennDOT and select other government agencies. If you’re not sure if you’ve already registered, check your registration status today. The deadline to register to vote for the current election cycle is Monday, October 19.
Voting in person: You can vote in person at an assigned polling place near where you live, open 7 AM to 8 PM on Election Day, Tuesday, November 3. If your name is not in the voter roster, you may have the right to vote on a provisional ballot. Poll workers will be available to assist with any questions or concerns on Election Day.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued guidance for safely voting in-person during COVID-19, including: wash your hands before and after, bring and use hand sanitizer, wear a mask, continue social distancing, bring your own blue/black ink pen and vote at off-peak hours such as mid-morning.

Voting by mail: Voting by mail is a safe, secure and legal way for Americans to practice their constitutional right to vote. Any qualified voter may apply for a mail-in ballot. Tuesday, October 27 is the deadline to request your mail-in or absentee ballotTo ensure your ballot is counted, don’t wait to send your ballot in, as ballots must be postmarked by 8 PM on Tuesday, November 3 and received by your county election office by 5 PM on Friday, November 6. If you are concerned about USPS delays in delivering mail-in or absentee ballots, you can drop off your ballot at your county election office.

  • IMPORTANT: Be sure to double-check all deadlines at VOTESPA.com to ensure that you have the most up-to-date information. You also must carefully follow the directions on your mail-in or absentee ballot, or your vote will not be counted. This includes marking your ballot in blue or black pen, sealing your ballot in the inner secrecy envelope that says “official ballot” and then placing it in the outer return envelope, sealing it and signing it.

No matter who you plan to vote for, your vote matters. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact my office online or call your local office in Pennsylvania, and we will respond as quickly as possible. For additional resources, visit votespa.com or call 1-877-VOTESPA.

Peaceful disagreement is not an oxymoron

Latest in a series of posts responding to the George Floyd murder

selections from Bill Seaman, “Your View: I agree both that Black Lives Matter and that we need to support our local police.” Morning Call, September 27, 2020.
The headline in the print version of the paper was “Peaceful disagreement is not an oxymoron.”

Most of us like to have a way of expressing ourselves and our opinions publicly. We do it through bumper stickers, some of which are wallpapered across the entire back of our car. We do it through a letter to the editor, and an occasional few of us will rent sky banners towed by a small plane to express our love to someone we may be trying to impress.

But the medium of public expression as we lead up to the election is yard signs.

What caught my eye the other day was a “Black Lives Matter” sign immediately across the street from one that proclaimed “Support Your Local Police.” With the number of Black men who have been the victims of quick-triggering or choke holds, many concerned folks are agonizing as to if and how and why racism in our country has permeated even our law enforcement officers.

I recall that an integrated neighborhood in one of our larger cities had BLM signs on every yard or sidewalk up and down the street, and Washington, D.C., has included the slogan on Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the other hand, families of police officers and many others recognize the valor of individual officers and the chaos that would result if a law enforcement component was not present. Another sign calling on us to “Defund the Police” has been prevalent, an unfortunate choice of words generally meant to encourage municipalities to develop alternatives to the unnecessary use of force in situations of domestic unrest.

I would like to put up a two-faced sign, perpendicular to the street that says “Black Lives Matter” on one side and “Support Your Local Police” on the other. I would like to do that because I fervently believe that both need to be said.

Several years ago, I participated in the civilian police training course offered by the city of Allentown. It enabled me to understand much better, not only the training and the commitment of law enforcement officers, but also the real threats they face. They deserve the support of citizens, even while we deserve accountability of individual officers who often face not only disrespect but physical threat.

But I have also come to understand the role that white privilege plays not only in our society, but in my life as well. I enjoy, in some unmeasurable way, a better situation in life, because of slavery and its lingering aftermath that has not allowed for equal valuing of Black lives, Black lives that do really matter.

Is that a “two faced” accommodation, my imaginary back-to-back sign in my front yard? Maybe. But too often in our political, religious and social life today, we find ourselves with an “either-or” mentality, when what is called for is a “both-and” approach. We assume the thoughts of some of us are always right, while those of others are always wrong.

We hear that Democrats want to destroy America, while being told that Republicans really want a dictator. Many of us regard the beliefs of other religious traditions as heretical or, worse yet, fabricate misunderstandings of them that feed into our hatred. We refuse to consider that someone of a different ethnic background or political persuasion or religious conviction may have an insight that we need to hear.

A long time ago, there was a teacher from a dusty town called Nazareth who spoke of loving our neighbors as much as we care about ourselves. Even if that neighbor puts out a yard sign that contradicts our yard sign.

Ideas and beliefs are not necessarily contradictory. Justice and mercy can co-exist. Peaceful disagreement is not an oxymoron. Respect for an individual who holds even fervently an opinion that differs from our own belief can lead to conversations that can be mutually enriching.

All lives matter. But there have been times such as our own in which some lives more than others need to be lifted up because they suffered much abuse. That was true at the time when a Fuhrer in Nazi Germany tried to unify hatred against Jewish people, and it was true in our beloved country when the first residents were labeled as “savages” and treated accordingly.

It is true now, when the demographics of injustice are indisputable to any person willing to think. So Black Lives Matter.

But there is also no question as to the need to “Support Your Local Police.”

Gadfly marks his second anniversary

Gadfly marks his second-year anniversary today and the 2, 275th post.

Gadfly tips his hat to his thoughtful followers.

It’s a Gadfly mission to help you be the best voter you can be, and he looks forward to the next election.

This is a good time to say again that Gadfly plans to end his run after the 2021 election.

But he hopes that someone will take over.

Every community needs a Gadfly.

The blog is consciously set up “impersonally” rather than in my name so that a change-over would be seamless.

Gadfly would be interested in receiving inquiries from people interested in donning the wings.

Ed

Thinking about Columbus in Bethlehem (1)

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

“What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession
of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or
yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”
Washington Irving’s “gigantic question”

Gadfly misses the classroom.

He really does.

Such fun, such serious fun.

Exercises like this.

We have granted Columbus the title of Founder of our country. He is our hero. We celebrate him with a holiday.

Bethlehem has a monument in his honor.

Is Columbus worthy of all these accolades?

A large group of our residents don’t think so and want the Bethlehem monument removed.

How can we decide such an important question?

Well, you know what Gadfly always says, don’t you?

Go to the primary sources.

Here from his journal/diary are Columbus’s exact words on the day of, on the moment of “discovery.”

What do you see?

What can you tell about the man?

Columbus’s Diario, October 11, 1492

“I, that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more easily freed and converted to our holy faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see. They afterwards came to the ship’s boats where we were, swimming and bringing us parrots, cotton threads in skeins, darts, and many other things; and we exchanged them for other things that we gave them, such as glass beads and small bells. In fine, they took all, and gave what they had with good will. It appeared to me to be a race of people very poor in everything. They go as naked as when their mothers bore them, and so do the women, although I did not see more than one young girl. All I saw were youths, none more than thirty years of age. They are very well made, with very handsome bodies, and very good countenances. Their hair is short and coarse, almost like the hairs of a horse’s tail. They wear the hairs brought down to the eyebrows, except a few locks behind, which they wear long and never cut. They paint themselves black, and they are the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white. Some paint themselves white, others red, and others of what color they find. Some paint their faces, others the whole body, some only round the eyes, others only on the nose. They neither carry nor know anything of arms, for I showed them swords, and they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their darts being wands without iron, some of them having a fish’s tooth at the end, and others being pointed in various ways. They are all of fair stature and size, with good faces, and well made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it was, and they gave me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the intention of seizing them, and that they defended themselves. I believed, and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it appeared to me that they had no religion, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses that they may learn to speak. I saw no beast of any kind except parrots, on this island.”

Gather your thoughts, and Gadfly will compare notes with you later.

Surprising support for systemic racism

June 22, 2020

Woodward: “Do you think there is systematic or institutional racism in this country?”

Trump: “Well, I think there is everywhere, I think probably less here than in most places or less here than in many places.”

Woodward:” Ok, but is it here in a way that it has impact on many people’s lives?”

Trump: “I think it is, and it is unfortunate, but I think it is.”

Racism in America is older than we normally think

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

Columbus’ legacy has been shaped by a Eurocentric education system that has
promoted false information, the erasure of Indigenous stories, and the
devaluing of Indigenous life.
petition to the Mayor and City Council

This is the third Gadfly post on a request by a sizeable number of Bethlehem residents to remove a 1992 (500th anniversary of the “discovery”) monument to Christopher Columbus in the Rose Garden. In the letter to the editor published here yesterday, there are 80+ signatures, but we understand the number now is about 120.

The Mayor and Council have soft-pedaled this request. It was mentioned only briefly and cryptically by the Mayor at a recent City Council meeting. The reason is obvious. The issue of historical monuments is — the term is getting good use this morning — a political hot potato. Controversies over historical monuments are a key aspect of the current culture wars, as any of us who only cursorily follow the national news know. The Mayor has apparently done the right thing, has done — ha! — the “politic” thing.  He’s handed the issue off to a committee. Gadfly wishes he knew who is on it.

120 resident names on a petition is not chopped liver, but Gadfly doesn’t sense wider attention to or engagement in the issue. After all, the City has a lot on its plate: discussing public safety, the police chief mess, starting a Community Engagement Initiative, battling systemic racism, and  — oh, yes — the budget. Gadfly is anxiously waiting for an update on how the budget is faring as a result of the bludgeoning effect this pandemic is having on the economy. Lots for us to think about.

But Gadfly doesn’t want the Columbus issue to slide by. He sees it organically tied to the attention we’re focusing on systemic racism and the ideal expressed by Councilman Reynolds of mitigating its presence here.

The petition asks us to see Columbus through other eyes. As the petition says, Columbus’ legacy has been shaped by a Eurocentric education system that has
promoted false information, the erasure of Indigenous stories, and the devaluing of Indigenous life.” Our mainstream heroic image of Columbus ignores his role in genocide. He is a much more complex figure for cultural adoration than our histories, until quite recently, have rendered him.

Gadfly would have you widen your racist lens beyond slavery in the United States to racism’s roots here in our European ancestral tradition at the moment of “discovery” in 1492. Our education in how to think about discovery — and ultimately about ourselves — that the petition references in the quote above goes back to a letter Columbus wrote October 12/13, 1492, the very day of touchdown, which Gadfly will share with you in a later post if he can find it.

For now, Gadfly would have you consider as representative of the centuries-old education of the public about the nature of America the above depiction of the origin moment less than a century after discovery. In America Dutch engraver Johannes Stradanus (1523-1605) depicts a very European Americus Vespucci awakening and bestowing his name on a very naked Sleeping Beauty of a Native American. “Americus rediscovers America,” his motto reads, “He called her but once and thenceforth she was always awake.” This erotic image of the first contact of European Self and American Other demonstrates that America was produced for Europe as a passive vulnerable female waiting for her lover/conqueror. This is our inaugural naming moment.

In the early 19th century, Washington Irving — he of “Rip Van Winkle” fame — asked what he called the “gigantic question”: “”What right had the first discoverers of America to land, and take possession of a country, without asking the consent of its inhabitants, or yielding them an adequate compensation for their territory?”

The Stradanus image provides the visual justification. America was a naked woman asleep till “we” from the powerfully masculine Europe came. America is a beautiful woman ready to be taken, to be had — and thus to be canceled, erased by the New Spain, by the New England, by the New Amsterdam, and the like. America would be nothing without “us.” There was no value in Indigenous culture. The Indigenous people had no worth except to serve and support without consideration of their own needs. And ultimately they were discardable.

This is our history.

Gadfly, who knows his history, can only cringe when he hears People of Color counseled to be patient, to work hard, change is coming, the violence is literally history, you will soon have equal opportunity, we’re working on it.

Gadfly cherishes the thoughtful reminder Joyce Hinnefeld, Clerk of the Lehigh Valley Meeting (Quakers), softly gives each Sunday morning that “we worship together on land that was originally the land of the Lenape people.”

It’s important that we remember what we’ve destroyed and do better.

———-

For a more elaborate analysis of the Stradanus image, see Gadfly’s “America as Sleeping Beauty,” done 20-25 years ago in the very first class in Lehigh’s Digital Media Studio. Please forgive the creaky technology and amateurish presentation as pedagogy entered the digital age.

No value in “lesson or loss” post

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: The Chief’s retirement: a lesson or a loss?

Gadfly,

I have been troubled by this post since I read it. First, there is the comment by Dana, suggesting that people holding divergent views are flying past each other on the highway, which makes the hope of any communication and understanding between them seem impossible. Someone like Dana might actually be able to bridge such a divide, but not if he’s looking at it that way. Second, there is the comment by Lisa Ann Rosa, insisting that her experience of the former Police Chief is the only one that matters. She’s confused why people are upset by the Chief’s behavior but can’t fathom the possibility that there is validity in the views of other people who have different experiences–only hers can be correct because she’s judging a bunch of people with whom she’s probably never had a single conversation. Third, there is the threat in the first post, which fails to convey the convincing reasons and data that those who are critical of the Bethlehem PD brought to bear on the public discussion during the public safety meeting. As someone who would like to see some serious public safety reforms in Bethlehem, I’d like to see the people who are critical of the Bethlehem PD brought into the ongoing discussion, rather than reduced to threat-mongering “radicals,” which this kind of post makes it too easy for people like Lisa Ann Rosa to do. I really don’t see any value in this post. It’s not cleverly descriptive, it’s unlikely to help Lisa Ann Rosa understand why people are upset with the Chief, and it’s unlikely to lend any legitimacy to the empirically backed and well-reasoned arguments presented by members of Lehigh Valley Stands Up at public meetings.

Sincerely,

Breena Holland

The history of West Broad Street streets

logo Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem History logo

Jason’s walking along West Broad St. in this installment–

Jason Rehm, “The Streets of Bethlehem — Part Three.” Bethlehem Press, August 25, 2020.

Prospect Avenue

Leibert Street

Calypso Avenue

Shimer Avenue

Mt. Airy Avenue

Nolf Street

Elliott Avenue

Central Boulevard

Allamanda Street

Ritter Street

Central Park Avenue

 

Discussion about policing should center on how do we do it better

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police logo

ref: Defunding the Police won’t work

Gadfly,

I read this interesting analysis in the Morning Call. How will the remaining 4 officials treat the game of football as they are under-staffed and the game is fast-paced and unpredictable at times? Can they handle the demands with winning and losing at stake in a professional sport where athletes strive to be successful? This leads me to the below pondering.

Let’s look at policing from a different perspective, and imagine that you’re a cop. There used to be 155 of you and now there are 125. Instead of your municipality springing for body armor, now you must buy it. You receive a clothing allowance instead of that municipality picking up the tab for uniforms, shoes, rain gear, etc. Office supplies aren’t as plentiful. Technology? Repairs are infrequent, yet the standards for reporting remain the same. Is training cut back? Repairs to motorcycles and cruisers takes longer. How many added responsibilities have you been assigned because there are less of you? Is there enough time in the day to get everything done?

Now, imagine showing up at a domestic situation (one of the most dangerous for an officer to be in), and you’ve had it, because nothing else seems to be going right. You’re under-resourced, you’re over-worked and under-staffed, and you’re expected to cross your tees and dot your eyes, referee a husband and wife at war with each other, and maybe things aren’t going well at home because your attitude about law enforcement has changed due to the aforementioned conditions. It’s already a stressful job made that much more stressful by things out of your control.

Who will benefit, who will pay the price as a result? How many will decide this is the career for them?

There’s an old saying, “Be careful of what you wish for?” In my opinion the discussion about policing should center on how do we do it better? Morale is almost non existent in city hall already. It is in many places of employment. Do you want to build morale or resentment?

Just food for thought because the solutions to issues are built by analyzing each side, not just one perspective, one that is dominating the talk these days.

Anonymous

Gadfly knows the identity of the poster, who prefers to remain anonymous.