Whatfor art thou, Gadfly?

Paige Van Wirt is a Bethlehem City Councilwoman, physician, and small business owner.

Gadfly, while you are MIA, please refresh your entomology. Your profile picture appears to be a bald-faced hornet. I was stung myself last year by a BFH and still bear the scars. What is this mask, Gadfly? Perhaps a subliminal mistake? (From Wikiwasp) Bald-faced hornets are omnivorous, and are considered to be beneficial due to their predation of flies, caterpillars, and spiders. However, their aggressively defensive nature makes them a threat to humans who wander too close to a nest or when a nest is constructed too close to human habitation. They vigorously defend the nest, with workers stinging repeatedly, as is common among social bees and wasps. However, the baldfaced hornet has a unique defense in that it can squirt or spray venom from the stinger into the eyes of vertebrate nest intruders. The venom causes immediate watering of the eyes and temporary blindness.[6]

Paige

spanking 2Gadfly admits that the extent of his knowledge is 9 uses of the comma. He admits to impostature here and accepts retributive punishment from the good doctor. He just couldn’t find a suitable picture of the real thing. Are there entomological followers who can help Gadfly set the visual story straight?

Can you say “no” to a developer?

(17th in a series of posts on City Government)

Followers might have noticed Gadfly wrestling a bit about how he should feel about developers.

Let me tell you a story.

Gadfly began shadowing city meetings one year ago, January 2018. He described it as “auditing,” as one might do in college, going from meeting to meeting getting a sense of what was going on in each.

He found the historic commissions most interesting of all. Sometimes bigger projects, but sometimes discussion and decisions were about the color of paint, the height of lettering, the script on a sign. Fascinating in the commissioners’ attention to detail.

Immediately in January he watched Philadephia developer Robin Reshetar pitch renovations for the Grace Mansion, 114 W. 4th. Having worked on the Southside, Gadfly knew the property well. There even used to be a restaurant there at one time.

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The developer described his knowledge of and substantial portfolio in historical renovation. Conversations with commissioners was always cordial and thoughtful. Reshetar presented plans on January 22, February 26, especially April 16, where you can find great images of his proposed work.

Gadfly watched the commissioners work with national guidelines (the property has an historical designation) and local historical district guidelines.

Each time, Gadfly repeats, the interactions were cordial and thoughtful. The developer listened and came back twice with revised plans. The commission hesitated on his most developed plans, which included town houses. Take a look.

Gadfly wondered about past history with the property. He assumed that there had been other developers who looked promising but eventually disappointed. Here was one who looked very interested, who had invested in several rounds of plans. As I sat there on the sidelines, I worried that the commission was going to chase him away.

But they stuck to their principles.

And, yes, he disappeared.

I felt a sense of loss. I wondered how the commissioners took it. Would, then, the Grace Mansion continue to decay? Perhaps never to be saved. Would it have been better to bend a bit to save the place?

Must have been on some level a tough decision for the commissioners.

But they stuck to their principles.

And six months later another developer – Dallas Basha, only two years out of college — showed up and now renovation is moving along.

Nicole Radzievich, “What’s on tap for Bethlehem’s other Grace mansion?” Morning Call, November 20, 2019.

Historic Conservation Commission November 19

Lehigh University Brown and White

I’d like the moral of my story to be that you can say “no” to developers for the right reasons, and everything will eventually turn out ok.

Gadfly didn’t see a happy ending here.

Alert on the new Hill-to-Hill bridge!

John Marquette is a retired librarian/archivist, author, historian, and a resident of Bethlehem. His current project is focused on the restoration of the interior of the Archibald Johnston Mansion in Housenick Park.

Gadfly:

One of the big unspoken issues facing the city is the renovation and/or replacement of the Hill-to-Hill Bridge. It’s a big line item in the Lehigh Valley Transportation Study and rumor has it that the engineering firm which handled the renovation of the Fahy has the contract. A right-to-know request to PennDOT led me nowhere in confirming that. The rumor is that the firm has taken office space in one of the NIZ properties in Allentown.

In a casual discussion last year with some low-level city employees on the day that the Lehigh University contract baker died on the H-t-H, tying up traffic for hours, I learned that St. Luke’s wants a temporary bridge in place during the renovation. They are a huge economic engine, employer, and service provider for the region and access to their Fountain Hill campus from the northside cannot be impeded.

Combining the idea of “temporary span” with the existing span’s renovation leads me to think that we’re going to get a two-span solution, with the new span just east of the existing bridge. They’ll tie together into the existing Spur Route 378 at the north bank of the Lehigh just south of my residence on Conestoga Street.

All indications point to a divided highway with sufficient lanes to ensure the smooth flow of traffic onto the Spur Route and some improvement on the south bank of the river.

Why a new span on the east side of the existing bridge? There’s a minimum of eminent domain needed there. Fritch would need to lose the coal silos (though I hope the sign gets moved and not destroyed). If construction were to the west of the H-t-H, we’d lose many townhouses and condos on Lehigh and Spring Streets and have a likely negative impact on the Armory project.

We need transparency here from the city and from PennDOT. We’re only a couple of years away from the beginning of construction. Lehigh County Northsiders need to begin planning and negotiating so we get a safe new river crossing and fair treatment of city residents.

John

The Significance of 2 W. Market for All of Us (44)

(44th in a series of posts about 2 W. Market St.)

So, in routine Gadfly fashion, we don’t jump into judgment.

We take it slow. Reflect. Simmer.

Gadfly posted the audio of the Council decision-making earlier today.

Relax. Listen. Consider.

Then we’ll come back and analyze.

Let’s remember some of the reasons why this “case” is so important, even for those of you followers not directly involved.

  • It’s about close to home. It’s about what’s outside your front door, what’s off your back porch. It’s about who is next door. It’s about neighborhoods, so it’s about all of us. It’s about who controls a neighborhood. CM Reynolds nailed it when he said the disputants hold a “different definition of what it means to live in a neighborhood.”
  • It’s about “law.” Gadfly put “law” in quotes because he is not quite sure that term covers exactly what he means. We have city ordinances — laws (see the links on the sidebar). But we also have city plans — like the Comprehensive Plan (see the link on the sidebar). Are city plans like law? What existential status do they have? Do the plans have power? Or are they guides on the shelf, as it were — persuasive only, not potent in the real world? Can city officials ignore “plans”? Can city officials ignore the intent of laws? Can city officials free-lance?
  • It’s about seeing our elected officials performing the essence of their office: deciding, making judgments, legislating. Gadfly had said to himself at the beginning of this now year-long observation of city government that one of the things he wanted to achieve was the ability to vote in a more informed way next time. The mayors had faces for Gadfly — Callahan, Donchez. But Council members were faceless. I never really knew whom I was voting for. Gadfly got some giggles at a Council meeting public comment a few months back recounting what I knew of the members in order to vote for them. CM Colon engaged me in a pleasant chat at the polls one year. CM Waldron was door-to-dooring on my street — gumshoe politics 101 — and charmed me onto the porch for a chat (I usually retreat, lock the door, pull the shades, talk through the mail slot!). CM Reynolds jogs half-naked through my back alley since he lives down the street. My kids went to school with the Callahans; my grandkids wrestled with Callahans (and not so successfully!). A Martell gave two of my kids work; a Martell was a Lehigh colleague. CW Negron — well, her name is legend. CW Van Wirt — strong recommendation from a trusted colleague. There you go! Is that enough knowledge to make an informed vote? If voting is meaningful, it must be informed. If we want the best city leaders, we must “know” them better. Going to meetings is a way. Getting inside their minds at decision-time is the best. And the audio files in the previous post enable you to do that. Take advantage. See how they think when confronting a tough, complex issue.
  • It’s about democracy. I quipped that the last couple big meetings were “democracy in action” — a phrase that struck some meeting-goers enough to repeat it back to me. I tell you, those full houses packed with passionate interplay filled me with pride. Yes, sensibilities were getting frayed, but sensibilities were not even close to being outraged. But, having said that, the true test of, the final exam of democracy in action is the final act, the closing curtain — the decision. Ha! Not to put too much pressure on Council members, but we want to watch closely how this issue resolves. We want them to know we are watching.

So start doing some homework on the Council statements available in the last post. And we’ll start digging  a little deeper tomorrow or Sunday.

For diversion, I’m going to read around in the Climate material I posted yesterday. And rest — Peace Walk for the Gadfly tomorrow.

Alert! 2 W. Market back on center stage

Good Followers:

Gadfly left you Thursday after moving through a handful of information chunks on the 2 W. Market issue that comes to City Council Tuesday night for resolution.

Gadfly is trying to model good critical thinking. Don’t jump to conclusions. Gather all info. Listen to all sides.

Take time.

Then form and back up your conclusion.

Always be ready to listen to others.

The path he followed (follows, because it is not over) in the parking issue.

You were to be thinking about questions and about where you were leaning.

Remember that this is a significant issue but a knotty issue.

But we have ample information from all perspectives.

Where do you think you stand?

Council is probably thinking about this right now too.

Tonight through tomorrow night, I will share with you my analysis.

Weigh in.

And remember my invitation to come to Council to see what might be the last inning here.

We will pretty much know everything Council does.

Let’s see how our thinking compares.