Trap Neuter Release programs for feral cats

Gadfly has several times recommended Bethlehem native Alison Steele’s Radical Moderate blog — always interesting, always substantial.

This week’s subject of feral cats especially caught his attention because every few months we have a moving speaker at Council meetings wondering about City programs for stray animals.

And there are certainly such felines in Gadfly’s neighborhood. How about yours?

Gadfly had never heard of Trap Neuter Release programs.

This info could be useful.

Official responses to the marijuana enforcement differential

logo Latest in a series of posts about the Southside logo

Say, didn’t I just see all of you in line in front of me at Weiss market an hour or so ago?

We posted earlier about the differential in the heavy way Bethlehem police are charging residents and the lighter way Lehigh Police are charging students in front of southside judge Nancy Matos Gonzalez, a serious question, said the judge, of her ability to dispense  justice equitably.

In other words, in this judge’s experience the Bethlehem Police were not very often utilizing the lesser charge option made possible by the ordinance.

And it makes you wonder if Bethlehem police practice is undermining the intent of the recent ordinance decriminalizing the use of small amounts of marijuana, as well as wonder if the ordinance is applied differently in other parts of the city.

At Council January 2, the Mayor reported that the Police Chief will be meeting with the new Northampton County District Attorney Houck about his views on our new ordinance. Remember that the decriminalizing ordinance was not effective in the Lehigh County parts of Bethlehem because the Lehigh County D.A. ruled that Federal law still uniformly applies there. The former Northampton County D.A. ok’d the option for the police to decide whether to make the offense a heavy (Federal) or light (City) charge.

The Mayor’s response seems solely aimed at the question of how the marijuana law is functioning in the context of the split county jurisdiction in our town.

But that’s not the same question as how the police option to bring a light or a heavy charge is working.

Councilman Reynolds’ request to Council seems have the necessary breadth.

marijuana 2

Reynolds’ request for a Public Safety meeting on the issue will be communicated to Council for action at next Tuesday’s meeting.

Gearing up for 2 W. Market again

logo 90th in a series of posts on 2 W. Market St logo

We are coming up on another in the long march of meetings by the Zoning Hearing Board on the 2 W. Market case.

Note that this is the 90th post on this subject. See “2 W. Market” under Topics on the Gadfly sidebar.

Not a case for the faint-hearted.

But fighting for your neighborhood, as Gadfly always says, is a good thing.

Gadfly does not expect his followers to remember all the details, especially because of the long gaps between action on the case.

Nor does he expect his followers to have the overflowing nerdiness to be as engaged in the argument of the case as he is.

Gadfly loves this stuff. Gadfly loves a good argument.

Some followers will remember that, after painstaking consideration of the case presented by both sides (charts, lists, audio, video), Gadfly sided with the neighbors who were protesting the right of the owners to run a business out of their 2 W. Market property in a zoned residential neighborhood.

Gadfly came to feel that the decisions to approve the business running through City committees up to and through City Council were egregiously wrong-headed.

And the Court has agreed when the neighbors appeal to higher authority.

But the owners of 2 W. Market are not faint-hearted either. In the latest phase of this struggle, they proposed a text amendment to the zoning code to allow their business, and that amendment was approved by the City, again rather astonishingly to Gadfly.

Now the neighbors are appealing again. That’s where we are.

The neighbors have the means and the will to continue to fight what they see is a commercial incursion into a neighborhood that is bent on maintaining its residential nature — allowing us to see full chapters of judicial processes.

The beauty for Gadfly in the fact that this phase of the case is moving so slowly is that it is easy to focus on each stage of argument and think along with it.

That’s what Gadfly is inviting you to do.

The 2 W. Market case is important because it is about the control of and the quality of life in a neighborhood. And we all live in neighborhoods.

But the case is also engaging as we think along with the contestants. Playing lawyer is an intellectually fun thing to do.

And maybe most of all the case is compelling because it has produced wonderful models of thoughtful residents fighting City Hall. Such as the examples of Paige Van Wirt and Martin Romeril as portrayed in Gadfly’s previous posts.

We all have to be ready to play those roles if our time comes.

So Gadfly invites you to hang with him for the next few posts as he thinks through the December 11 meeting of the Zoning Hearing Board on 2 W. Market St. in preparation for the January meeting on the horizon.

Ice crystals on concrete, December 19, 2019

logo The Gadfly invites “local color” photos of this sort logo

Alison ice crystals

Original artwork by Sigurðr Fáfnisbani Steele*

The eclectic and erudite and sustainability-oriented Alison Steele is a Bethlehem native, whose Radical Moderate blog Gadfly has often recommended to you. Recently is an interesting post on Christmas cards and their environmental impact. Curious followers are invited to google Sigurðr.

Mayor Donchez: “Bethlehem will remain the jewel of the Lehigh Valley”

logo Latest in a series of posts on City Government logo

Gadfly thinks plenty to smile about here . . .

Robert Donchez,”Bethlehem’s future ‘is as bright as the star on South Mountain’.” Morning Call, January 3. 2020.

Christmas, in Bethlehem, is a wonderful time to reflect on the past year.

As the lights from the tree reflect on the windows of the library and City Hall, I can’t help but reflect on all we have accomplished together this past year with the support of City Council and the controller’s office. The decisions we make today, or fail to make, will determine the future of our city for generations to come.

I am excited about the incredible development that awaits Bethlehem as we enter a new decade with purpose and optimism.

Through fiscal discipline and hard work on the part of my administration, I am proud to say that the city has an A+ stable credit rating from S&P, and our financial outlook is bright. Because of our improved financial position, we have been able to invest more in our infrastructure and emergency services. In 2019 the city spent $1 million on street paving, and plans to do the same in 2020.

In addition, my administration will continue to focus on public safety, keeping Bethlehem one of the safest cities of its size in the commonwealth. All police vehicles in 2019 were fully equipped with dash cams, and police officers with body cams. The city purchased a new emergency medical services vehicle, a new aerial and a pumper for the fire department.

The city’s strong financial position has also allowed us to focus on some long-deferred recreation projects, such as Memorial Pool, the municipal golf course and Friendship Park. With the benefit of state funding, Memorial Pool is being rebuilt and is scheduled to open this summer. The golf course is being returned to profitability. Renovations include a new irrigation system and improved bunkers. In addition, Friendship Park saw the installation of new playground equipment as part of the Northside 2027 Initiative.

In 2019, we saw the completion of many new projects on the South Side including: Gateway at Greenway Commons, a 600-car garage on New Street, the redevelopment of the former Ice House at Fourth and Adams streets, the construction of Lehigh University’s SouthSide Commons, and the first new market-rate apartments on East Third Street with street level retail. In 2020 we anticipate the construction of a second apartment complex with retail and an additional garage next to Northampton Community College.

Wind Creek Casino is proposing a new hotel and the possibility of a water and adventure park in the former Machine Shop Number 2 Building. As the year progresses, we look forward to seeing plans for the former sites of the Steel General Office Building and Martin Tower.

Technology has touched every aspect of our day-to-day lives. The city revamped its website, making it more user friendly and informative. The new site allows for real-time updates by various departments to provide current and relevant information. City Council meetings are now live-streamed on our website and the city’s YouTube channel. To assist residents and visitors who want to report nonemergency issues, the city created the new Bethlehem Service Center. In order to report nonemergency issues call 610-865-7000, email bethlehemservicecenter@bethlehem-pa.gov, or download the new BSC App.

With the start of the new decade comes new obligations. As the year begins, we will tackle the 2020 Census and continue implementing our Climate Action Plan. It’s very important for residents to participate in the 2020 census because it will determine how much money the city receives from the federal government over the next 10 years. Through the Climate Action Plan, the city will look for ways to further reduce our carbon footprint, increase sustainability and become more energy efficient.

One of the most exciting new developments planned for 2020/2021 revitalizes a piece of Bethlehem’s past forged over 100 years ago — the Bethlehem Steel Turn and Grind Shop — a building formerly used to improve the steel-making process. A $1.5 million contribution by Air Products to ArtsQuest will breathe new life into this historic building, transforming it into a 26,000-square-foot contemporary arts facility that will complement SteelStacks.

With new developments continuing throughout the city, the next decade is destined to be exciting for our residents. As we move forward, the future is as bright as the star on South Mountain, and Bethlehem will remain the jewel of the Lehigh Valley.

Election of new Council president at City Council meeting tomorrow night, Monday [note change of day], January 6, 7PM, Town Hall

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Monday, January 6, Town Hall, at 7PM.

Note: Monday meeting not Tuesday this one time in the year.

These meetings are video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Find the Council agenda and documents here: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2020/City-Council-Meeting/50

Note also that there are two meetings in succession here Monday night. In one, Council reorganizes, swears in the “new” members, and elects a president for the coming year. Council rules state, “The President and the Vice President shall serve no more than two consecutive terms” (rule 2). President Waldron has served in 2018 and 2019, so he is due to be released from that bondage.

Gadfly followers know that a stated part of his mission has been to familiarize you with your elected officials so that you are an informed voter.

Now, you can’t vote for Council president and vice president, but you can  (and should!) formally express your preference in at least 2 ways:

  • Either write to individual Council members or write the City Clerk Robert Vidoni and ask that your email be distributed to each Council member. Email contact info for both options are on the Gadfly sidebar.
  • Come to the meeting and express your preference during public comment.

This is an important decision. Gadfly thinks of the City Council meeting as the “face” of Bethlehem City government.

The Council president is the face of that face. Being Council president is a big deal. It’s a big honor. It’s a big responsibility. The president must be a high quality person, one we can be proud of. He or she is a premier representative of the City.

The City operates under a “strong Mayor” form of government in which Council approves legislation, budget, and appointments. Council is top of the food chain but the Administration does the work, so cooperation is key.

The Council president must be able to work with the Mayor and the Administration for the good of the City, but the separation of power in this form of government is meaningful and essential, and, perhaps most importantly, the Council president must be an independent voice and force as well when necessary.

The president must also foster the kind of working relationships that enable Council to move forward on positive measures for the City.

Who are you thinking?

Gadfly will do some winnowing.

Waldron is out per the rules as Gadfly reads them. As a rookie, Grace Crampsie Smith is out unless there is some massive stalemate. Her time will come.

Gadfly is going to venture that Bryan Callahan is out. He has been perceived a divisive figure by four members of Council.

For Gadfly, that leaves Councilpersons Colon, Negron, Reynolds, and Van Wirt.

Pertinent additional factual information in terms of Council experience might be that Negron is current Vice President of Council and Reynolds is a prior president.

Gadfly invites your commentary, your choices, your weighing of skills and qualities, your thought processes relevant to this important decision. Think it out. Talk it out.

And, as always, as long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

Participate. Be informed.

City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, December 17, 7PM, Town Hall

Our next City Council meeting — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — occurs tomorrow night Tuesday, December 17, Town Hall, at 7PM.

These meetings are video-recorded and can be viewed LIVE or later at your convenience on the City’s website after the meeting at https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar.

The YouTube channel for live or archive viewing is “City of Bethlehem Council.”

Find the Council agenda and documents here: https://www.bethlehem-pa.gov/Calendar/Meetings/2019/CityCouncil/40

  • we may hear more about the ethics controversy
  • the 2020 budget will be approved
  • Councilman Callahan is introducing a “wage equity” ordinance

As always, as long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council live or virtually — one way or the other.

Be informed.