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.


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!


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 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