Gadfly mayoral forum #4: innovative projects

Latest in a series of posts on the Gadfly Forum

The Mayoral candidate comparison chart

Because of the Easter holiday weekend, we’ve pushed our Forum posts back a day, and we’ll continue a Tuesday forum for the mayoral candidates and a Wednesday one for the Council candidates going forward.

This time the Gadfly Forum asks different questions of our candidates.

Once again, a tip o’ the hat to our candidates. Voting is getting closer, and everybody is getting busier. The extraordinary care taken with these responses is obvious.

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The prompts:

Willie:

You have been a City Councilman for a long time. You have a record of achievement that includes Northside 2027, the Climate Action Plan, and the Open Data Portal. You tout that achievement as a basis for your qualifications to be mayor.

Speaking as an average citizen, Northside 2027 and the Climate Action Plan are easy to “get.” I see what Northside 2027 is and understand its value. I see what the Climate Action Plan is and understand its value.

But speaking as an average citizen, I don’t “get” the Open Data Portal. Frankly, I have never gone there till 20 minutes before writing this, and I don’t understand its value except, perhaps, for the green eyeshade type folk who find numbers aphrodisiac and charts of pie delicious.

Here’s what you say on your candidate web site about the Open Data Portal:

“I am proud to have proposed and created Open Bethlehem – our city’s first open data program.  Open data allows citizens access to data related to local government, our community, and our neighborhoods. People throughout the country, when given access to government collected data, have found innovative and creative uses for the data that improve their community. Some applications of city open data initiatives include the tracking of budget revenue and projections, the efficiency of city services, health and code violations, police department statistics, and economic investment information. Bethlehem’s open data program has the potential to transform the ways in which citizens are able to access and utilize public data in an effort to improve our community. Bethlehem’s Open Data portal can be viewed here.

Please make the Open Data Portal interesting and valuable to me as an average citizen.

Perhaps take me to (be clear about how to navigate) and expand upon 2-3 specific examples of data you think an average citizen would be (should be?) most interested in or surprised by.

And, most intriguing of all, is it possible for you suggest or speculate how having access to that data might be useful for individual or groups of citizens striving to improve their community, as you claim?

Thanks for your service.

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Dana:

You were a City administrator for many years. But not lately.

You have told us of significant accomplishments during your significant time with the City. But you have none lately.

What you do have, though, contrary to Willie, are plans for intriguing new projects – such as the small business concierge and the reorganization of parking.

Here’s what you say about these two ideas:

Parking Authority Reform: Bethlehem needs a kinder, gentler parking authority. Many residents and small business owners feel that the Bethlehem Parking Authority is not approachable, and as a result is out of touch with the community that they are attempting to serve. I will address this and will consider moving the day-to-day operation into city hall, with the Parking Authority operating solely as the financing arm of that operation. This would give residents and business owners recourse through their elected representatives.

Small Business Assistance: Small businesses are the backbone of our local retail, restaurant, commercial and service sector. I understand many of the concerns that other small business owners have expressed to me. Small businesses are a critical part of our community’s economic vitality, and city government needs to recommit to providing assistance to current and prospective small businesses in Bethlehem. My administration will create a “small business concierge” to do exactly that.

Please expand on one or both of these ideas (depending on how much you have to say) – the need for them, their purpose, how they would operate, the value for the residents, and the city.

Thanks for your willingness to serve.

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J. William Reynolds

Open data is about transparency, innovation, and collaboration with the community.  It is also about possibility.

  • What is Open Bethlehem now? First and foremost, it is about transparency. If one visits Open Bethlehem, they can track our budget, our revenues, ourexpenditures, and the cost drivers.  Snow operations, street overlays, and pension costs are just a few of the topics one is able to track on a year to year basis. This information provides the structure for our budget every year. Rather than waiting for the budget to come around in November, one can see the revenues and expenditures that control the vast majority of what is included in the draft budget in November and December. This is a huge improvement over the previous process that one would have to undertake to find any of this financial data.
  • What can Open Bethlehem be? The next Administration needs to expand the public data that citizens are able to see. How many housing violations are in my neighborhood? How many building permits are currently active in my neighborhood? What streets are the most traffic tickets given out on? Other cities are leading the way in making this information easily accessible to the citizens of their community.

Open data is also about innovation. Government data has long influenced private sector and institutional decision-making. For example, hospital networks often make decisions on what services to provide in a certain area based on census data. Our City Health Bureau has valuable data that is extraordinarily helpful to our hospital networks. These data sets have enormous short- and long-range consequences and potential benefits for public health in our community. The pandemic has proved the necessity for this type of cooperation. This is only one example of public and private innovation. There are also extensive benefits to working with school districts, entrepreneurs, and social service providers which leads to our next question . . .

  • How do we get to the next stage of Open Data as a community? It starts with asking the community what data sets that they want. Our Open Bethlehem site now is effective if one is looking for information on city finances. We have not, however, even scratched the surface of the capabilities of what we can do with the above mentioned groups and institutions. This will not happen by accident, however. When I launched the concept of Open Bethlehem, I launched the Open Data Working Group that met with hospital network representatives, business leaders, city staff, and interested citizens to talk about the possibilities. The Working Group led to the launch of Open Bethlehem, but it must be empowered to expand the benefits of open data in our city. City staff are unable to know exactly what the private sector, social service providers, and health care networks want. We need to bring them into City Hall to find out.
  • How else do we see the benefits of technology as a city? This is not breaking news, but how well government utilizes technology will be a determining factor in the effectiveness and efficiency of government in the 21st century. Similar to the private sector, we need to invest in technological innovation within City Hall and in our community. Another thing we can do is sponsor community technology cooperation. Tech meetups with our tech community, hack-a-thons to create new city apps, and collaboration with universities and colleges are all examples of the types of initiatives that most cities are doing (and every city will do in the coming years). We should be able to track snow plows on our phones. We should make it easier to get text alerts about snow emergencies.  Adding these types of services must be a priority for us in the coming years if we are going to continue to offer the high-quality city services that our residents have come to expect and enjoy.

As a city, we have started to use technology more efficiently, but we have a long way to go to. Open data is one part of that effort to expand our technological capabilities and improve our ability to deliver services in an efficient and equitable manner. Our success in building a fairer, more inclusive city depends on it.

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I have observed and interacted with several City Councils over the years, both when I worked in City Hall and since then. I’ve witnessed professional and effective.

Council members, as well as unprofessional, ineffective, self-serving ones. Being a resident of the City but not part of its administration for the past 17 years has afforded

me objectivity and given me perspective regarding its government. It’s been eye-opening, and I have at times been vastly disappointed in the decision-making process on Council.

I’ve witnessed a disturbing disingenuousness on the part of publlc officials with regard to issues they do not wish to address: in particular, the Bethlehem Parking Authority. More than once I’ve heard a Mayor or Member of Council tell someone who has a parking question or issue that they can’t do anything because the BPA is a separate authority.

I’ve also listened to complaint after complaint from residents and business owners about the intransigent treatment given to those who feel that they’ve been disrespected or mistreated by the BPA. I recently received a video from a resident showing their interaction with a very surly enforcement officer. Gadfly, you yourself have experienced a chilly reception at a BPA board meeting.

If you believe as I do that government’s function is to provide service and be accountable, then it makes perfect sense to have the city’s parking system responsible and accountable to Bethlehem residents and business owners through their elected representatives.

In order to improve service and accountability I’ve proposed bringing the day-to-day operation of the parking authority under the aegis of the Mayor and City Council. The authority would remain to fund and own the parking authority infrastructure, and the city Department of Parking would remain at the current North Street Parking Garage location. The Director of this department would be a member of the Mayor’s cabinet and attend Mayor’s staff meetings.

This model parallels the structure of the city’s water system, so it’s a very familiar and successful paradigm in Bethlehem city government.

My small business concierge proposal has also come as a result of repeated dissatisfaction expressed by small business owners about their experiences with City Hall, whether as an existing owner trying to draw attention to a matter of importance or a prospective new business owner who has experienced many frustrating hurdles in City Hall as they tried to open a new business.

Having a one-stop shop that can provide a roadmap of assistance will encourage small businesses to locate in Bethlehem and allow existing owners to flourish. Acting on their behalf and walking them through the permitting, inspections and licensing process will encourage entrepreneurs to locate in Bethlehem. The small business concierge will also be able to link existing and future business owners to potential funding sources and assist them in filing applications for that assistance.

Small businesses are the backbone of our local economy. Their success is in all of our best interests.

Both of these ideas came about because I’ve been listening to residents and business owners, as a lifetime Bethlehem resident and small business owner myself.

When issues present themselves, we need a Mayor who has proven that they can find solutions, someone Bethlehem’s residents can believe in, who won’t play politics and jeopardize citizens’ livelihoods or trivialize their concerns.

Lastly, I’d like to touch on a third proposal I’ve made, that of re-establishing the Department of Parks and Recreation. The pandemic has brought people into parks and playgrounds and onto trails, as they seek fresh air, exercise, and solace.

As I visited Bethlehem’s parks and trails, I was dismayed at the lack of attention they’ve been receiving, especially when I saw how well-maintained parks and trails elsewhere were while I’ve been hiking and biking throughout Eastern Pennsylvania.

By restoring this department with an emphasis on maintenance and beautification, we can bring back what were at one time some of the nicest recreation facilities in the Lehigh Valley. Our residents deserve as much.

I believe that all three of these initiatives will benefit Bethlehem residents by providing more accountability on parking matters, improving the business climate in our town, and keeping our recreation facilities well maintained and safe for the heavy usage they’ve been experiencing. This allows all of us to “Believe in a Better Bethlehem.”

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Residents are welcome to fashion reflections on candidate comments, sending them to ejg1@lehigh.edu. On Gadfly we seek the good conversation that builds community, so please be courteous at all times. Gadfly retains the right to abridge and to edit your reflections and to decline posts that are repetitive or that contain personal attacks. Gadfly will publish resident reflections on the week’s Forum at noon on Friday.

Addendum to the Police recruiting post

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

ref: Police announce recruiting season

Gadfly happy to add to his last post that the police will have a table with recruitment information during the April 24 Fiesta Latina! event, and that Chief Kott will also be on the Spanish radio “Mega” for a live interview, and the station will also do a PSA about the recruitment.

Tip o’ the hat!

Police announce recruiting season

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

The police are hiring!

Another reason to lament the absence of a Public Safety meeting and deeper, wider discussion of some aspects of the department.

There were several points regarding recruitment of new officers floated during the GeorgeFloyd summer worthy of battin’ around.

Like what kind of officer are we looking for, “warrior” or “guardian”? Remember the warrior department recruitment video that was online representing the department but disappeared last summer when the greater public became aware?

Like what does our testing of recruits look like? The time to weed out potential “bad apples” is right at the beginning. Training was the subject of much of the testimony at the Chauvin trial yesterday, and it was clear that training certainly has its limits. Are we testing for bias, for instance?

Like do we want to set some goals for the ethnic/racial/gender composition of the police force? Remember that several Council members talked of the importance of the department looking like the city.

Like, as part of a community policing emphasis, do we want to consider incentives for officers to live in Bethlehem?

And etcetera.

172 new apartments up for review

Latest in a series of posts on development

Apartments aplenty! “Affordable” is the question these days.

The first two projects will be familiar to us.

This is the first Gadfly has heard of 404 E. 3rd — across Polk east of Molinari’s, catacorner to Charter Arts.

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selections from Christina Tatu, “Bethlehem planners to review projects that would bring 172 apartments to the city.” Morning Call, April 5, 2021.

The Bethlehem Planning Commission on Thursday 5PM will review site plans for three major projects that, if approved, would bring a total of 172 new apartment units and new retail space to the city.

Skyline West: 143 W. Broad St., a 50-unit apartment project.

The project is proposed by Musikfest founder Jeff Parks and attorneys Dennis, Garrett and Brandon Benner.

Dennis Benner on Monday said he’s already received 30 or 40 inquires about the project, even though construction has yet to start. He believes it is because Skyline West will bring residents within walking distance of the historic downtown.

“I think it’s because of its proximity to the urban core and North Side of downtown Bethlehem. This will be fabulous for the merchants on Main Street,” Benner said.

The project will be five stories set into the hillside. It would also include a 68-space parking deck below the building and amenities such as a courtyard, outdoor deck and gym for residents. Even though plans are being presented Thursday, the project will still need additional zoning and planning approvals, Benner said.

250 E. Broad St.: This project, which would lease space to the Bethlehem Food Co-op, calls for demolishing an existing one-story building and constructing a new, four-story building with the co-op’s full-service grocery store on the first floor and 42 residential units above.

The project is being proposed by Michael Perrucci’s Peron Development. Peron is partnering with Boyle construction on the project.

The Bethlehem Food Co-op had been looking for a space for a community-owned grocery store for 10 years when they announced the new location last month. The store is expected to open some time in 2022.

It will be 6,500 square feet with 4,500 square feet dedicated to retail.

A capital campaign will launch in the spring to raise $1.7 million to build and outfit the store. The funds will be raised from donations, member loans, bank loans and grants. Each of the nine members of the co-op’s board of directors also has signed a “leadership commitment” to financially support the new store.

It will be open to all shoppers. Plans include soliciting local vendors to supply produce and products, as well as the inclusion of bulk bins, a community kitchen, community meeting room, small area for outdoor dining, a bike rack and off-street parking.

404 E. 3rd. St.: Developer Lou Pektor, under Mechanic Street Development Associates LP, is proposing to turn an empty parking lot at the site into a seven-story mixed-use building with first and second floor retail and 80 dwelling units above.

Pektor is looking to “cultivate the perfect combination of captivating retail users and premier residential units,” said a Monday afternoon news release from the developer. “This blend of two commercial/retail floors and 80 dwelling units will be the highest and best possible use for the location.”

Council candidate Bryan Callahan visits the EAC: a proud financial supporter of pro-environment officials

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“One of the things I’m probably most proud of is I have not only supported
very pro-environmental people, but I have also backed it up with large donations.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • voting record on environmental issues is 100%
  • supported the Climate Action Plan
  • instrumental in securing funds for the Rose Garden
  • supported the Appalachian Mountain Club at Illick’s Mill and our Urban Forestry initiative
  • backed up support of pro-environmental people with large donations
  • specifically Susan Wild and Tara Zrinski
  • supported watershed plans

“I gave a $1000 to our Congresswoman Susan Wild, who I think is doing a great job [for the environment], and Tara Zrinski is a good friend of mine. I have been one of her greatest financial supporters. She is one of the largest voices we have when it comes to climate change and the environment in the Lehigh Valley.”

Bethlehem City Council meeting tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 6, 7PM

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

Click for agenda and documents

See below for comment instructions

City Council — the “face” of Bethlehem City government — meets tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 6 at 7PM.

You can watch the City Council meetings on the following YouTube channel: City of Bethlehem Council
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRLFG5Y9Ui0jADKaRE1W3xw

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7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Of interest:

  • There may be more discussion of the stormwater fee.
  • First reading of the Community Development Block Grant Budget.

But there’s always the unexpected.

As long as he has flutter in his wings, Gadfly urges attending City Council.

Be informed. Be involved.

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DUE TO THE COVID-19 EMERGENCY, TOWN HALL ACCESS IS CURRENTLY RESTRICTED. IF YOU WANT TO MAKE PUBLIC COMMENT, PLEASE FOLLOW THE PHONE COMMENT INSTRUCTIONS BELOW.

 PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS

REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council meeting, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Council President announces he will take public comment calls.

If you would like to sign up to speak, email the following information to the Bethlehem City Clerk’s office (cityclerk@bethlehem-pa.gov) no later than 2:00 PM on the day of the meeting: (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the City Council President will call you from (610) 997-7963.

After all signed-up speakers talk, the Council President will ask whether anyone else would like to make public comments. If you want to speak at that time, call the Bethlehem City Council public comment phone line at (610) 997-7963.

NOTES:

Calls to the public comment phone number will only be accepted during the designated public comment period with a 5 minute time limit.

If you call and the line is busy, please call back when the current speaker is finished.

As soon as your call begins, please turn off all speakers, computer speakers, televisions, or radios.

At the start of your call, please state your name and address.

A five minute time limit will apply to any public comments.

The de-escalation strategy of the Christian Hall event

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

The Monroe Co. video of the Christian Hall event

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police
ref: “CJ is responsible for his own death”
ref: Past time for the City to have “The Talk”

Gadfly has said that the Christian Hall shooting is a case study ripe for discussion.

You can see from the post of Bob Davenport and the comments (especially by Michele Downing) to Bob’s and Gadfly’s previous posts on Hall that we go quickly to the politics and the ethics of this case.

But Gadfly would like to hold off as much as possible (it’s hard) on that discussion for a short while.

Right now his primary interest is “academic,” that is, he seeks to know something about de-escalation strategy and training from seeing it applied and in action here.

Apropos of our previous post on trends in policing around the country and many previous posts here on Gadfly about reimagining public safety, Gadfly wants to look closely at the de-escalation techniques employed here in as much an objective manner as possible (it’s hard).

In his video of the event, the Monroe Co. District Attorney obviously is aware of the national conversation about more mental health and related training for police and about police collaboration with mental health professionals by the way he foregrounds the credentials of the two negotiators in the Hall event.

Hall was met initially by two first responders whose basic training for such a call is not commented on. Then the interaction is turned over to two negotiators, one for about 15 minutes, the other for about an hour. The video highlights the apposite training of both these negotiators. These are the right men for the job at hand. Here’s what the video says about negotiator #2 (called in the video Trooper #4):

Now the video is 30 mins. long. The event spanned 90 mins. We do not have the full video record.

But what can we learn about de-escalation strategy from what we have?

To prepare, Gadfly broke the video down into its parts several days ago.

He did another run-through over the weekend, however, adding more detail (so anybody who read the previous post should do it again), and, most importantly, he numbered what he thought he could see as verbal strategies for de-escalating the Hall event.

Gadfly identified 18 verbal strategies aimed at de-escalating a potential suicide.

Here they are:

1) come off the bridge, and then we can talk
2) you are not in any trouble
3) we will do you no harm
4) tell us what your problem is
5) we will find someone to help you
6) we the police are here to help you
7) we can say with confidence our help will produce a positive outcome
8) calls Hall “CJ,” establishing personal connection (not clear if the negotiators gave their names)
9) we’re concerned about your physical comfort/state/welfare (cold? hungry? tired?)
10) we see your pain (empathy)
11) I’ll come out into the open from behind the safety of the police car to talk with you
12) advances on Hall behind ballistic shield
13) I’m asking you to put the gun down
14) what I’m asking you to do is easy to do
15) name something you need, and we’ll get it for you
16) whatever is bothering you is really not as big as you think it is
17) let me remind you of the impact of your death on people who love you
18) you really don’t want to commit suicide

Now go back to the break down post.

To Gadfly these verbal strategies are applied scattershot. He sees no purpose, pattern, coherence in their application. Should there be?

What are the strategies most applied? Seems like #2, #3, #13. Why these?

Are there any strategies that don’t seem appropriate? #16, #18? Should the officer be suggesting that the reason Hall contemplates suicide is no big deal? Will it be effective with a teen who employed elaborate planning (as was learned later) to suggest he really doesn’t want to do this?

Is the approach here keyed to research and experience with an armed, non-aggressive, mostly non-responsive teen in mental crisis/distress contemplating suicide by cop?

Here’s what the video stresses as the key strategy:


We have seen this so many times in these cases. The subject is at fault for disobeying a police order.

But what does research and experience tell us about the efficacy of such a full-frontal strategy with an armed, non-aggressive, mostly non-responsive teen contemplating suicide by cop?

40 times. 40 unsuccessful times.

All Gadfly can hear is Dr. Phil, his favorite philosopher, saying, “And how’s that workin’ out for ya?”

Gadfly must admit that he is troubled by what he has been told is expert police action in this case.

Now with all self-conscious humility, Gadfly recognizes that “academics” are guilty of over-thinking sometimes.

But till better instructed, he is profoundly disappointed if this is an example of the best that training has to offer.

It’s not just that the attempt at de-escalation failed here and a teen was killed. That will happen. Can’t win them all. And Hall was determined to die.

But Gadfly doesn’t understand what the de-escalation approach was here and on what it was based.

As always, he invites enlightenment.

Past time for the City to have “The Talk”

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

“Should police be the ones responding when someone is mentally ill?”

We’re familiar with the phenomenon of “The Talk” that Black parents must have with their children at a certain age.

Gadfly’s been hoping that we as a City would have “the talk” with and about the police department as part of the national reckoning with race in the wake of the George Floyd murder and, without implying anything sinister about our police department, national conversations about reimagining how we do public safety.

Gadfly wonders, for instance, what happened to the part of the July 2020 City Council resolution to engage with the research on local police by Holona Ochs of Lehigh University and her team.

And Gadfly is still stirred by Anna Smith’s call to action at that time: “we are at an important moment in our community’s history, and we have an opportunity to do something truly momentous.”

Lehigh Valley Stands Up

selections from Farnoush Amiri (AP), “States seek more mental health training for police.” Morning Call, April 5, 2021.

The officer who Cassandra Quinto-Collins says kneeled on her son’s neck for over four minutes assured her it was standard protocol for sedating a person experiencing a mental breakdown.

“I was there watching it the whole time,” Quinto-Collins told The Associated Press. “I just trusted that they knew what they were doing.”

Angelo Quinto’s sister had called 911 for help calming him down during an episode of paranoia on Dec. 23. His family says Quinto didn’t resist the Antioch, California, officers — one who pushed his knee on the back of his neck, and another who restrained his legs — and the only noise he made was when he twice cried out, “Please don’t kill me.”

The officers replied, “We’re not going to kill you,” the family said. Police deny putting pressure on his neck. Three days later, the 30-year-old Navy veteran and Filipino immigrant died at a hospital.

It is the latest stark example of the perils of policing people with mental health issues. In response to several high-profile deaths of people with mental health issues in police custody, lawmakers in at least eight states are introducing legislation to change how law enforcement agencies respond to those in crisis.

The proposals lean heavily on additional training for officers on how to interact with people with mental health problems. It’s a common response when lawmakers face widespread outcry over police brutality like the U.S. saw last year following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. But none of the proposals appear to address the root question: Should police be the ones responding when someone is mentally ill?

In California, lawmakers introduced legislation on Feb. 11 that, among other things, would require prospective officers to complete college courses that address mental health, social services and psychology, without requiring a degree.

In New York, lawmakers in January proposed an effort to require law enforcement to complete a minimum of 32 credit hours of training that would include techniques on de-escalation and interacting with people who have mental health issues.

“The training that police have received for the past I’d say 25 years has not changed significantly, and it’s out of date, and it doesn’t meet today’s realities,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington-based think tank. “I mean the last thing a mother wants when they call the police is for an officer to use force. Especially in a situation that didn’t call for it because the officers weren’t trained in how to recognize a crisis.”

The Treatment Advocacy Center, a nonprofit dedicated to getting treatment for the mentally ill, concluded in a 2015 report those with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed during a police encounter than others.

“The solution that would have the most impact on the problem is to prevent people with mental illness from encountering law enforcement in the first place,” said Elizabeth Sinclair Hancq, co-author of the report.

Since that is not always possible, she said, another solution is to create co-responder programs where a social worker or other mental health professional assists officers on such calls.

For families of victims, who now say they regret calling 911 for help, required training and legislative reform are long overdue.

“In retrospect, it wasn’t the smartest idea to call the police,” said Isabella Collins, the 18-year-old sister of Quinto, who died in California. “But I just wanted him to be able to calm down, and I thought that they could help with that.”

Antioch police didn’t release details of Quinto’s death for more than a month. Police Chief Tammany Brooks has denied that officers used a knee or anything else to put pressure on Quinto’s head, neck or throat. An investigation and autopsy are underway.

Quinto’s family filed a wrongful-death claim against the city in February, claiming he “died as a direct consequence of the unreasonable force used against him.”

“I guess it was really naive of me to think that he wouldn’t get hurt,” Collins said.

Mayoral candidate J. William Reynolds visits the EAC: the CAP will touch everything

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

J. William Reynolds for Mayor

“The CAP has the potential to transform the City . . . The CAP is going to
revolutionize everything we do.”
Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • announces release of Climate Action Plan April 12
  • the original idea was that the EAC could be doing things that we weren’t seeing in other parts of the City
  • after November 16 we saw more people wanting to get involved in building a more sustainable Bethlehem
  • the CAP is really going to put Bethlehem on the map as far as sustainability is concerned
  • the CAP will provide a roadmap for our future
  • the CAP has the potential to transform the City
  • we’re going to fight for a director of sustainability
  • the CAP will help create equitable solutions for our community
  • the CAP will create a permanent structure of activists, groups, citizens, city government that can be immediately mobilized
  • we need to hope that the state, the federal government, and the region take the lead on some of these issues
  • the CAP is going to revolutionize everything we do as a City
  • the CAP will be connected with neighborhood revitalization, walkability, development, transportation — will touch everything
  • the EAC will be involved in fund seeking

“We all should be smiling at the City taking on the issue of climate action at the local level.”

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb visits the EAC: the environment’s in his DNA

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Dana Grubb for Mayor

“I’m an avid hiker, trail bicyclist, and nature photographer. The environment is kind of part of my DNA. My experiences in nature will kind of shape the manner in which I will approach environmental betterment and preservation and address the impact of climate change as the next mayor.”

Bethlehem’s Environmental Advisory Council, April 1, 2021

  • his opponent ignored EAC advice on Martin Tower: “duplicitous political opportunism”
  • will propose an heightened awareness and provide realistic achievable solutions for businesses and residents

    Denise Rader photo
  • will ask EAC what resources it needs to better achieve its goals
  • will ask EAC to identify gaps in the Climate Action Plan and prioritize elements in it
  • will re-establish Department of Parks and Recreation to focus attention on regular maintenance of valuable resources
  • will advance legislation for electric charging stations
  • will foster solar panels on large scale buildings
  • will foster onsite parking with energy stations at warehouses to reduce engine idling
  • will seek to limit density, height, and mass on infill development
  • will curtail demolition in historic districts
  • will consider impact of development on a large variety of issues; traffic, dirt, noise, massive buildings, air quality
  • will make preserving quality of life a top priority: walking, biking, feasibility study of pedestrian bridge
  • will, where practical, convert city fleet to renewable fuel
  • will encourage use of biodegradable containers. elimination of single use bags
  • will pursue opportunity for federal funding under American Jobs Plan
  • will draw on experience gained from wide travel

“I have traveled widely and seen the ways in which other cities and other countries have tackled the growing concerns of environmental impacts and climate change. I will seek fresh ideas to achieve a healthier, cleaner, and less detrimental environment as part of my strategy to position Bethlehem as a leader in environmental and climate change initiatives.”

Candidate Reynolds’ presentation coming next . . .

On the Southside, size matters

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Gadfly hates himself for that title.

One reason he’s retiring.

Starting to cater to the prurient interest of his followers.

But there is, he must say, powerful concern about size of construction on the Southside.

The City, bless ’em, is trying to bring zoning ordinances more in line with the historic conservation district ordinances.

For instance, zoning now permits buildings in the Southside CB district (see map) 150ft. high, perhaps 14 stories, whereas, as we have seen abundantly even very recently, the historic guidelines and the HCC Commission are counseling 2-5 stories.

For a good point of reference, the Zest/Benner building at 3rd and New (306 S. New) is 88ft. high, 6 stories, and the Flatiron building is 75ft.

This draft plan proposes dropping the 150ft height allowance in the CB district to 90ft (6-8 stories, cf. the Zest/Benner building) in the section you see carved out by the dotted lines and to 60ft (4-5 stories) in the rest of the district. In addition, the draft plan proposes a “step back” of the top floor in the taller buildings.

Listen to the consultant outline the proposed zoning changes:

Though one developer spoke in favor of keeping the taller height and one resident made a strong case for doing so to create affordable housing, over a dozen residents spoke strongly against the proposed 90ft height allowance in the part of the CB district. Seth Moglen, for instance, spoke for Gadfly when he found the proposed 90ft height allowances “mystifying” from his sense of public opinion on the topic.

This was another one of Gadfly’s favorite occasions — the public spoke fairly and forthrightly against the 90ft part of the proposal, and the meeting ended with a promise that the city and the consultant would revisit the proposal on the basis of what they heard and that there would be further and with hope fuller dialog in the future.

———–

“The latest edition of Southern Exposure which shows what South Bethlehem would look like with all these huge bigger buildings scares me.” (Roger Hudak)

“I really worry about the building heights . . . The more we develop South Bethlehem, the more we lose our little pockets of green space . . . I worry about putting up tall buildings by the really few green spaces that we have left.” (Rachel Leon)

“I would have thought if you interviewed people who live on the Southside, almost everybody would say 90ft is too tall.” (Seth Moglen)

“I wanted to ask about the eastern side of New St. It struck me as strange that that area was included in the 90ft height . . . was that cutout made specifically for the current proposal there?” (Anna Smith)

“It’s almost universal that everybody regrets [the Zest/Benner building] . . . 90ft is too much . . . environmental issues . . . cavern effect . . . will remove the character, the charm, the ambience. (Dana Grubb)

“The 90ft is really too big . . . vista down to the steelworks, an amazing gateway to Bethlehem, a remarkable way to experience the Southside as you come across that bridge, I would really hate to see a bunch of tall buildings thrown up in front of that vista.” (Kim Carrell-Smith)

“When looking at the 90ft proposal zone, it is directly in front of the two bridges that are coming in to the Southside, and so . . . you are going to enter in to a small city that is full of very generic looking tall buildings that hide all the beauty of all of the older, lower-rise buildings. (Joe Lule)

“I’d like to see the role of the Conservation Commission be stronger.” (Anne Evans)

“If you put 90ft across from [Lehigh Pizza and the Banana Factory], you will be in a huge shadow.” (Beth Starbuck)

“Would it not be more feasible and more appropriate to lower the height [to work with developers on density bonuses for affordable housing}.” Grace Crampsie Smith

” I worry if you have a 60ft height limit stacked up along the Greenway right where those parking lots are, which presumably could happen if the city sold those lots, it would really diminsh the quality of the Greenway. (Breena Holland)

“Approve one, it sets a precedent for others. If we let one builder do 90ft, well, then, the next builder is going to want to do the same. My other concern is the amount of additional traffic . . . going to take away the small town feel that Bethlehem is kinda noted for.” (Lou James)

“I really champion your cause for lowering the height of those buildings . . . you have an asset over there, and your architecture is part of it, and I think your future is in the smaller building area.” (Bruce Haines)

City presents draft report on Southside historic core

The latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Seems like a lot of Southside planning going on these days. Which is good. Your tax dollars at work.

Gadfly has tried to cover all the meetings. Click Southside on the right-hand sidebar and scroll backwards to come up to speed.

The City held a public meeting Thursday night April 1 to present the draft of a report on the historic core.

The meeting was well attended (c. 50), but, parenthetically, there were complaints about the meeting not being well publicized. Attendees complained of learning about the meeting late or by chance. Maybe some interested parties did not learn of the meeting at all. The City promised to work on better communication.

Here are a few of the slides from the beginning of the City presentation (sorry, bound to cause eye strain, I know): a summary of a resident survey, identifying concerns to balance, and culminating in the ever growing attention to affordable housing.

Gadfly will come back and focus on what he’s now hearing referred to at meeting after meeting as “the elephant in the room”: building height.

Notice that under consideration in addressing the “serious concerns” about affordable housing is offering the developer the incentive of increased building height.

             

             

             

to be continued . . .

“CJ is responsible for his own death”

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

Bob Davenport is PA born and raised for 25 years. Now a retired railroad (but not the man at the throttle) Engineer, a CE graduate of Lehigh U,  a Catholic attending daily mass and praying for a better world without apparent success. An optimist.

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?
ref: Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police

Gadfly:

An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; in this case the cure was lead.  I don’t blame the officers.  They have a right to protect themselves, and they were backed into a corner. The outcome was predictable once CJ selfishly made the decision to die. The ones who protest this action should sign up to be on call when the next incident occurs and give it a try to do better. Fortunately, CJ took nobody else with him, but the officers who shot will undoubtedly be affected.

What we need is cowboys as portrayed in the fifties who could shoot quickly and always manage to shoot a gun out of someone’s hands, unless the guy was evil, and then he died instantly. Those bullets must have been “smart” bullets.  Alas, this was real not scripted. CJ is responsible for his own death; he chose others to do it for him.

A prayer for all involved.

A similar incident occurred in Atlanta. The film clip is shorter but more intense: https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/georgia-tech-student-activist-shot-dead-campus-police-n802146

An alternative solution may be to start shooting before police think they are in mortal danger, so they can aim for extremities rather than the core. Can you see a problem with that?

These situations are similar to those faced by the military under rules of engagement which were in effect during my time and place in Viet Nam. There were rules that were to be followed before you could use your weapon, which in my situation was kept in an arms room until I might need it. I remember my thoughts that one with a knife had to get very close before you “could” take an action. Indeed when do you get to make a him or me decision?

Drugs being involved is also a common situation. Who knows what impaired people are going to do. There was a situation that was called police brutality because an officer emptied his pistol into someone who attacked him. The answer was “he kept coming.” I heard the .45 cal pistol was used in the military because of the drug-fueled combatants in the Philippines. The round would stop an attacker even if his brain did not get the message that he was hurt. Who wants to be a police officer?

Spiderman and his web may be effective in certain situations, but reality usually precludes anything but a difficult life-and-death decision by a cop, often complicated by the desire of police to protect one another, which may initiate the trigger response even earlier.

If we could turn machine operators into mental health professionals and pay for their services, unemployment would disappear.

Bob

Breaking down the YouTube video of the Christian Hall shooting by the Pa. State Police

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion
ref: Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?

There’s the sacred and the profane.

Gadfly has spent most of his Good Friday in profane activity.

The Monroe County D.A.’s office has provided us with the ability to just about witness the entire episode that ended with suicidal Christian Hall shot to death by the Pa. State police.

“Suicide by cop.”

You have seen Gadfly complain about our lack of knowledge of exactly what kind and how much training our police officers receive.

We are told they receive ample “de-escalation” training. But exactly what is de-escalation training? Don’t know.

Well, here’s a situation in which perhaps the best trained officer that we could expect on our State Police force was in charge of an event that needed to be de-escalated.

The officer is described as a 25-year veteran, with 15 years as a “PSP SERT negotiator,” as a “trained crisis negotiator,” who in this instance used “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.”

Now de-escalation failed in this instance. We will want to talk about that, yes. That happens. Can’t win ’em all. We live in a fallen world.

But Gadfly’s first goal was to see if a close look at the D.A.’s video would enable him to determine precisely what de-escalation strategy is.

So he broke down the video into its parts.

Gadfly doesn’t expect any of you to follow his lead here (well, he hopes for Michele and Bud). But this was a necessary first step in forming his thoughts. Going to the primary source as he always says.

Maybe the next post, after he has gathered his thoughts, will be more user-friendly.

Two officers: the first five minutes of contact with Hall. Hall is standing on top of a safety barrier on an entrance bridge over a major highway. Officers move slowly, arms raised non-threateningly, talking constantly, gradually moving closer and closer to Hall. The officers repeat and repeat requests 1) to come off the bridge to talk and 2) repeat and repeat assurance he’s not in trouble. Also briefly offered by the officers are 3) assurance they will do him no harm, 4) an inquiry into what his problem is, and 5) an offer to find someone to help with his problem. When it’s noticed he’s carrying something, the officers repeat requests he tell them what it is, and when the thing is identified as a gun, they request he put it down. Finally, the officers take cover.

[First two officers, from a distance, slowly moving closer, officers separated, arms in air stretched out] [Hall is on safety barrier.] How ya doin’, Sir? How ya doin’? Can you come here? Can you come here? Can you come here? Just come off. Come off. We can talk. Come off. We can talk. We can talk. Hey sir, we can talk. Come off the bridge. C’mon, man. Sir, we can talk. We can talk, c’mon. What’s goin’ on? C’mon, what’s goin’ on? Can you step down and talk to us? You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. You’re ok. C’mon, man, you’re not in any trouble. Can you get off? It’s ok, let’s just talk. Just step off for us, man, c’mon. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. It’s ok. It’s ok. C’mon man, we don’t have to . . . just . . . Can you step off? Step off. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble, sir. Let’s talk, c’mon. C’mon, you’re ok. We’re not here to harm you. We’re not here to harm you, sir. Can you step off? Just relax. C’mon. Take a seat. C’mon. We’ll sit with you. We’ll talk to ya. Come sit down, man. Take a seat. Sir, we’ll talk to ya. You’re not in any trouble. You’re not in any trouble. (You got your mic on?) Sir, just have a seat. You’re not in trouble. What’s goin’ on, dude? C’mon, man. You’re not in any trouble. We’ll talk to you. (Just watch his left hand. Watch his left hand.) If you’re goin’ though a lot, we can have someone talk to ya. (Watch his left hand.)  [Hall starts moving away from the officers, smoking marijuana, unidentified object in left hand.] [Hall stumbles off safety barrier, then gets back on.] [Object in left hand is identified as a gun.] Lift your hands up for me. (Watch his left hand.) What’s in your . . . What’s got in your hands, man? What’s in your hand? Whatta ya got in your hands, man? C’mon, put your hands up. Hands up, dude. [Officers put their hands up as example.] Whatta ya got in your hands? (Get back, get back, get back.) [Officers retreating to safety.] (He’s got something in his hand. He’s got something in his left hand.) He’s got something tucked in his pants, in his left hand. C’mon, man, we can talk to ya. What’s goin on? (Seems like he has something in his left hand maybe.)  (Were you guys in the same car. No?)  (No, he’s, it looks like he may have something in his hand, did you see anything, I saw black in his left hand. I don’t know what’s he’s doing. Yeah, he’s got something. Back up. Back up. He may have some thing on his . . . Something could be in his left hand, Corp.) (We’ve got an audience down below.) (We think he has a phone.) (Could be something in his hand. I don’t want to rush at him then . . . ) [Hall backs off the barrier then gets right back up on it] (Hey, hey, hey, he’s got a gun. Gun! Gun! Gun! I’ve got a rifle.) [Hall is still on the safety barrier.] C’mon, man, drop the gun.

Negotiator #1 arrives (start min. 10 of video) 5 minutes after the first contact by the two other officers and maintains contact with Hall via a PA from behind police vehicles. This officer has a BA in psych, an  MA in clinical health psych, and has previously worked in the mental health field  for 5 years. He is said to use “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.” He repeats 1) the previous requests to come off the bridge to talk and repeats 2) assurance Hall is not in trouble. He adds 6) that the police are there to help 3) not to harm, but that their help depends on him talking with the police about what’s bothering him, and 7) confidence that their help will definitely have a positive outcome. The desire to help is manifest in 9) concern for his physical state/welfare at the time. The repeated offers to help are a pronounced difference in this interaction. This negotiator 8) addresses Hall by name, 4) asks what his problem is, and succeeds in convincing Hall to sit on the barrier and then to sit on the roadway, but it is not clear when in this interaction this happens, and we don’t hear the verbal interaction that successfully gains Hall’s consent and compliance. Hall faces the officer for a time, as if listening. When #1 is replaced by negotiator #2, Hall is sitting in the roadway. This negotiator #1 is replaced after about 13 minutes of interacting with Hall. Negotiator #1 doesn’t mention the gun at all.

You’re not in any trouble right now. Just step off that over pass and come talk to us. C’mon, man, let’s just talk this out. You are not in trouble. What’s your name? You are going to have to say it real loud. CJ, is that your name? CJ, let’s let’s talk this out. But it’s hard to do that when I’m on a PA and you’re all the way over there. C’mon, CJ, take a step back. We’re here to help you, man. We want to help you, but you gotta tell us what we can do to help you and get you down from there and get you feelin’ better. CJ, nobody wants to hurt you here. You are not in any sort of trouble. We are here to help you. You gotta let us know what we can do to help you. CJ, what’s goin’ on today, what happened, man? You gotta, you gotta fill us in. But it’s hard to do that with you standing up there. We want to help you, man. We don’t want to see this go down like this. We’re here to help you, Bud. There’s nothing goin’ on right now that we can’t help you with, that we can’t get past. I see that you’re looking at me [Hall faces the officer]. Why don’t you just step down there, and we’ll come talk to ya [Hall does step down, sits on the barrier, then sits on the roadway, but it is not clear what he responds to, at what point in their interaction this happens, or why the officer doesn’t go to meet him as he indicates]. We’ll get ya something to get warm, a coat, a blanket, we’ll figure this out, man. Whatever you need, we’ll help you get there, we’ll figure this out.

Negotiator #2 arrives (start min. 12:20 of video), he is a 25-year veteran, with 15 years as a “PSP SERT negotiator,” as a “trained crisis negotiator,” who, like negotiator #1, also uses “recognized crisis intervention and de-escalation strategies.” Conversely, this guy is consumed by the gun. He asks Hall 13) to put the gun down over 40 times, stressing 14) that it’s an easy thing to do. Hall is sitting on the ground when Negotiator #2 starts. Hall is mainly unresponsive but does talk to the officer at least once, and at the officer’s successful urging, he does for a time put the gun on the safety barrier. The officer 16) minimizes Hall’s problem to him. This negotiator 10) tries empathy — I see your pain. He offers 3) freedom from harm, 6) help, 7) the assurance of a good outcome, 9) physical comfort/welfare, 5) contacting someone for him, 17) reminds him of the impact of his death on loved ones, and 18) tells him suicide isn’t what he wants to do. The officer asks him 15) to name something he needs. He 11) comes out from behind the car for a time. At some point, this officer and another 12) advance behind a ballistic shield in an effort to separate Hall from the gun. Their actions fail, and Hall retrieves the gun. After further negotiation, Hall, very slowly and with very short steps, gradually moves toward the officers. The officer repeatedly asks Hall to drop the gun. When Hall positions the gun — which has been mainly invisible to us in front of him as if his hands are in his jacket pockets — facing down on his left leg, an officer shoots at him several times and misses. Physically unfazed by the shots, Hall raises his arms in a “T” with the gun in his left hand pointing out to the side. Still with gun in hand, Hall raises his arms, transitioning into an “I give up” position, and officers shoot him.

[Hall is sitting on the road] Put that gun down on the concrete for me, ok? Put that down and I’ll come over there and talk to you, alright? We’ll get a nice warm cup of coffee and get some place warm to talk. [Hall asks if officers are trained to shoot if shot at and asks several times that they make it quick.] Am I trained to shoot? No, we don’t do that. I’m here to talk to you, that’s all. We’ll let you talk to whoever you want to . . . family . . . friends . . . whoever. Ok? You just have to put that gun down for me. You already did it once. Believe me, I have been doing this now for a very long time. There’s nothing we can’t work out for you. I can see you’re hurting, I see that. I’m here to listen to you, but I can’t do that from this far away, and I can’t come down there while you have that gun. I’ll meet you right there at that line. But you gotta leave that gun where it’s at, ok? I promise, no one will hurt you. You have my word. We’ll talk about anything that’s goin’ on here today, alright? You getting cold? Put that gun to the side. I’ll come down and talk to you. I’ll get you a jacket and stick you into a warm car, ok? Tell me what I can do for you, CJ. [The officer comes out from behind the car, can be seen full body for a time.] [Hall gets up, leans on barrier, remains unresponsive.] CJ, is there somebody I can call you want to talk to? No? You have to talk to one person and that’s me. I can’t carry on this conversation by myself. You gotta talk to me., Ok. You’re not in trouble. Nobody wants to hurt you. You gotta tell me what’s goin’ on, though, ok? CJ, what is it that I can do for you? What is it you want? You ok? Do you need an ambulance? [Hall handles his gun, goes to a backpack, gets and puts on a jacket, gets cell phone charger, and marijuna pipe., complies with request to put the gun down and moves toward the officers.] You get further away from that gun, they just will put their guns away, I promise. [Which means the police guns must be drawn at that time, which he can see, is aware of.]

Let me know when it’s good to come down, alright? You wanna come up a little further to me now? We’ll meet right up there, and we’ll talk, ok? Can I come down and talk to you? Cj, I’m not going to hurt you, I promise. Can I come down there? My partner and I are going to come to you, ok? Don’t run, no sudden moves, ok? I’m just gonna come talk to you, I promise. Stay right there for me? I have your word? [Two officers try to circle around Hall while holding ballistic shield trying to get between Hall and the gun. After 10 mins, Hall picks up gun again and moves back.]

CJ, what can I do for you? C’mon, CJ, you were doing so well before. The longer it goes, the worse it looks for you. Yeah, like I said, this is not the end of the world. I’m not sure what’s going on in your head, but this is not the end of the world, just a little bump in the road. Put that gun down, walk up here, and we’ll talk like men. I promise. Put that gun down and walk up here toward me. That’s all you gotta do. Then it’s done. It’s very easy. [Hall sending suicide messages to x-girlfriend throughout, starts to take short, halting steps toward officers, ignoring 30 pleas to put gun down. When Hall extends left arm along leg with gun in hand, one officer shoots at him but misses. Hall does not flinch. When shooting stops, Hall stretches arms out in “T” — crucifix? — position with gun in left hand. Then raises arms above his head, ignoring more commands to drop the gun.]

Put your gun on the ground and walk up here towards me. . . . I don’t think you want to stay out here all night, right? . . . . Put it down and walk up here toward me. That’s all you got to do. . . . You did it before, you can do it again [that is, you can put the gun down as you did before] . . . You’re not getting any warmer, neither are we. . . . Whatever’s going on inside your head, we’ll deal with it . . . . Put the gun down for me, ok? . . . There’s somebody out there that loves you. . . . You can do it. Put the gun down right at your feet. . . . It’s been an awful year, let’s not end on ??. . . . It’s only going to get colder. . . . You can do it. . . . We’re not going to hurt you. . . . Easy to do. . . . All you gotta do. . . . Put the gun down for me, alright? . . . Put it right down, c’mon man. Nobody’s going to hurt you. . . . I didn’t lie to you, did I? . . . Just drop it right there, seriously. That’s all you gotta do. . . . We’re not going to hurt you, put it down. . . . CJ, you don’t want to do this. . . . It’s not what you want to do. . . . We’re not going to shoot you, put it down. . . . You don’t need it. . . . CJ, put it down, [Hall all this while advancing very slowly toward the police, taking about 24 baby steps over 4 minutes] {Hall dangles the left hand with the gun at the beginning of the walk and dangles it briefly during the walk, so it looks like he had the gun in hand the whole way, not as the narrative has it, which indicates a transfer from waist band to hand that triggered the police shots.] Just a bump in the road, a minor hiccup that’s all [Hall extends left hand with gun along his leg pointing down]. . . . CJ, put it down, put it down, put it down now, CJ [vehemently, adamantly] [Police shoot and miss.] [Hall doesn’t flinch.] Drop it, drop it, drop the gun [Hall immediately raises his arms in a “T” after the shots.] [Brief pause, still holding gun, Hall lifts arms in air in “I give up” or touchdown position.] [Brief pause, then police shoot Hall mortally.]

Taller buildings a key to affordable housing says developer

Latest post in a series on Affordable Housing

The comments here favoring approval of taller buildings by developer Dennis Benner add to what we have reported earlier on the Affordable Housing Task Force and the March 23 Community Development meeting. Gadfly will report later on a meeting with City Planning about the Southside core last night in which building height was a key issue — majority response from the public favoring limiting the height.

selections from “With 1 in 3 households ‘cost burdened,’ Lehigh Valley cities try to tackle the affordable housing crisis.” Morning Call, April 1, 2021.

As Bethlehem Steel took off in the mid-1900s, so did affordable housing, with thousands of modest twin homes and the occasional brick single popping up throughout the city to accommodate the plant’s employees.

There was once more than enough affordable housing for Bethlehem’s working class, but in recent years, not so much. Even as more apartment buildings are developed throughout the Lehigh Valley, many of those units are out of reach for low- to middle-income workers.

A new affordable housing task force in Bethlehem is hoping to change the trend by offering incentives to developers who incorporate affordable housing into their plans. The task force plans to make recommendations to City Council in the next couple of months on how to accomplish that goal.

Renters make up nearly 1 in 3 households in the Lehigh Valley, yet 57% of new rental units cost $1,000 or more per month, according to the latest statistics from the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. Additionally, 1 in 3 area households are cost burdened, meaning they spend more than 30% of their income on housing every month.

More specifically, 51% of renters and 24% of homeowners in the Lehigh Valley are cost burdened, according to the statistics.

Since 2014, projects encompassing 887 apartment units have gone through Bethlehem’s approval process, but none is considered affordable housing, city officials said. Some of those units have yet to be constructed.

“We can’t deny there is a crisis in Bethlehem, in the state and in the country,” said Bethlehem City Councilmember Grace Crampsie Smith, who started the task force.

Crampsie Smith, who works as a counselor for Easton Area School District, noticed more of her students over the last five years becoming homeless and transient. That’s when she began reading about the lack of affordable housing for middle-class workers in America and decided to see what the city could do for its residents.

Bethlehem’s task force started meeting in November. The group includes 10 members, with representatives from the city, Lehigh Valley Planning Commission, Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley and two local developers.

Local developer Dennis Benner, who sits on the Bethlehem Affordable Housing Task Force, said rising costs have presented a particular challenge to him.

Benner is working on Skyline West, a $15 million, 50-unit luxury apartment complex at 143 W. Broad St. No affordable units are planned for the development.

One way to incorporate affordable housing would be to allow for taller buildings with more units so that it’s economically feasible, Benner said. He owns multiple properties in Bethlehem’s South Side, but grapples with how to develop them because he said the city’s Historic Commission, an advisory board, routinely recommends against approving taller buildings.

“Government has to come to grips with density. That’s not just in Bethlehem, that’s everywhere,” Benner said. “Government wants everyone else to fix the problem, but they don’t want to face the reality of what’s needed to be able to do that.”

Candidates speaking to the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Lehigh Valley Stands Up (LVSU) is a grassroots multi-racial working class force for transformative political change in the Lehigh Valley. We empower constituents and public servants alike to address systemic causes of inequity at the heart of our mission, especially the systems that disproportionately impact our marginalized communities, such as Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC); Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Queer (LGBTQIA+); disabled; and otherwise vulnerable residents.

Mayoral candidate Dana Grubb and City Council Candidates Hillary Kwiatek and Kiera Wilhelm committed to the LVSU 2021 Movement Pledge and completed a 9-question questionnaire “intended to help the members of Lehigh Valley Stands Up (LVSU) understand how you view the world and the political issues that face the Lehigh Valley.”

You can find each candidate’s complete questionnaire here: LVSU Dana Grubb, LVSU Hillary Kwiatek, LVSU Kiera Wilhelm.

Question #2, for instance, asked, “What do you believe are the biggest issues facing BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ constituents? How does it fit into your campaign priorities?”

Here’s how our three candidates answered that question:

Dana Grubb: “Two of my priorities are inclusivity and excellence of service; city staff and city authorities, boards, and commissions will reflect the diversity of Bethlehem. BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities are not only under recognized and under supported, they are under utilized. In seeking out the best to serve our community, all constituents will be encouraged, welcomed and considered by my administration for appointments.”

Hillary Kwiatek: “In my conversations with BIPOC community members, I often hear the themes that are common to the experience of BIPOC Americans in general: Racism continues to pose great challenges in access to economic opportunity and generational wealth. Access to quality healthcare (including during the pandemic) and nutritious food is not equitable in our city. The way the police treat BIPOC community members is different than how they treat white community members. I have also heard particularly from Latinx South Side residents that there has been too much focus on higher end rental housing development and not enough focus on the community’s needs. All of these concerns are all aligned with my campaign priorities of fighting for transparent economic development that provides family-sustaining wages, reimagining public safety, expanding municipal public health, and increasing access to affordable housing.

In the LGBTQIA+ community, there are many experiences, including the experiences of those who exist at the intersection of BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ identities. In Bethlehem, our municipal government has passed ordinances of inclusivity, including a ban on conversion therapy. I have heard from my LGBTQIA+ neighbors and friends that they generally feel welcome here, but that may not be the case for all LGTBQIA+ Bethlehem residents.

As the mother of a transgender young woman, I am especially focused on making sure that Bethlehem continues to be a welcoming and inclusive place for her and for all of our LGBTQIA+ residents in the face of the growing movement seeking to stem the tide of progress in our country.

If I am elected, I pledge to greatly increase the amount of interaction city council has with members of Bethlehem’s vulnerable and marginalized communities, including convening town halls and/or hearings on site in impacted neighborhoods.

Kiera Wilhelm: “This question is challenging to answer, because there are so many issues that any BIPOC or LGBTQIA+ individual faces, on any given day. Each at the time will feel—and therefore is—the most significant. Especially as someone who is not a member of either community, my job is to listen, and to learn.

There are foundations of systemic, historic, deep-seated bias that underlie the daily inequities faced by both populations. Challenging this bias is crucial work that extends beyond my run for Council, or beyond any one election. It’s a long haul. Inequities must be addressed, every day, at every level, by me, and by all of us. By challenging our own assumptions; through our interactions with family and friends; by enacting policies that advance justice and equity, and amending policies that do not. By enabling and empowering marginalized communities, and correcting past injustices.

Guided by the lived experiences of those in the BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ communities, I will work, every day, to be a voice on Council that strives to represent their needs and experience; that ensures that they feel safe and heard, and can live without discrimination, harassment, or violence.

Have you done your Christian Hall homework yet?

Latest post in a series on Christian Hall

ref: Case Study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion

So Gadfly has asked you to dig into the Christian Hall case as part of our almost year-long discussion of policing in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.

Hall was killed by police December 30. Law enforcement ruled the killing justified March 30. The Hall family is suing.

Gadfly has asked you to hold off on the family news conference yesterday.

Gadfly wants you to focus first on the Monroe County D.A. press conference March 30 and the 30-minute video of the 90-minute interaction between Hall and the police produced by the D.A.’s office.

The article below has links to 1) a cell phone video by a bystander of the final seconds of the interaction as well as 2) a video of the hour+long D.A. press conference during which the 30-minute video was played.

Here again is a breakdown of the D.A. press conference video:

1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. video)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46

Go to the primary source.

You can watch the whole episode play out and then listen to the D.A.’s “reading” of the episode.

Good stuff.

Let’s talk tomorrow.

————

selections from Peter Hall and Molly Bilinski, “Monroe County DA announces deadly force was justified in fatal state police shooting of man with pellet gun on I-80 overpass.” Morning Call, March 30, 2021.

Monroe County law enforcement officials on Tuesday presented findings of an investigation of the December fatal shooting of 19-year-old Christian Hall by state police, concluding their use of deadly force was justified.

In a news conference Tuesday morning, First Assistant District Attorney Michael Mancuso said Hall carried a replica of a handgun that could fire plastic pellets as he stood atop the Route 33 overpass at Interstate 80 on Dec. 30. Police fired at Hall, striking him three times after he walked slowly toward troopers and ignored commands to put down the pellet gun.

Mancuso called it a classic suicide-by-cop scenario, “fueled by Mr. Hall’s mental state and his desire to end his life.” The troopers reasonably believed that they were at risk of death or serious bodily harm and there was no evidence of ill intent in the officers’ actions, he said.

“At no time did the troopers believe anything but the firearm Mr. Hall was brandishing, holding and putting in and out of his waistband, and ultimately lifted up was nothing but a real firearm,” Mancuso said. “Why was he acting like this gun was real? What did he want to do? What did he want to have the troopers do to him? That’s the mindset that we started to see.”

Lawyers for Hall’s family said they would respond to the investigation’s findings in a virtual news conference Wednesday morning. They have argued that Hall was standing with his hands up when officers shot him, and his killing “should never have happened.”

A presentation of video and audio from two state police vehicle cameras showed the nearly 1 ½-hour effort by troopers to defuse the situation from two different angles.

According to the video, a state police corporal and four state troopers responded, including one trooper with a background in psychological health and another who is a 25-year veteran, trained crisis negotiator and member of the state police Special Emergency Response Team.

The video shows Hall standing atop the overpass wall as traffic passes below on I-80 when the first two troopers arrive. Hall is smoking in the video and the video narrator says a glass marijuana pipe was found at the scene. The troopers approach Hall with hands raised and try to coax him off the barrier.

“We can talk, c’mon off the bridge,” one says. A second trooper warns the other to watch for an object in Hall’s left hand, and as Hall stumbles and steps down to the deck of the bridge, they see it appears to be a gun, according to narration in the video.

Throughout the encounter, officials tell Hall to put down the gun “upwards of 100 times,” Mancuso said.

At one point, Hall placed the pellet gun atop the concrete barrier and troopers attempted to position themselves between Hall and the gun, but were unable to do so before he picked it up again, narration in the video says.

The troopers continued attempts to persuade Hall, whom they addressed as CJ, to put down the pellet gun and walk toward them, the video shows. Instead, Hall slowly took several steps toward troopers with the pellet gun in his left hand next to his left leg. One trooper fired several shots at Hall, but struck the barrier behind Hall.

As Hall continued moving toward the troopers with the pellet gun in his left hand above his head, troopers fired again, striking Hall three times. He was treated on the scene and rushed to Lehigh Valley Hospital-Pocono, but died there that afternoon.

Mancuso said the evidence was “relatively unambiguous” and that an analysis of Hall’s cellphone records showed his suicidal intent. Hall had taken photos from the overpass a week before the shooting, which he paired with suicidal messages. Hall sent suicidal text messages to his former girlfriend during the crisis, Mancuso said.

The investigation also touched on Hall’s juvenile court record because he said to the trooper that he didn’t want to go back to jail. However, neither charges nor convictions were revealed.

A non-law enforcement mental health professional wouldn’t have helped the situation, Mancuso said, noting that he was speculating.

“There isn’t a provision in the law for that or resources for that,” he said, noting the state has to stop cutting back on mental health treatment facilities, as he’s seen an uptick in mental health-based crime. “In this case, I don’t think it would matter only because he was still under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and had been provided all of the treatment for several years … That’s the best our system has to offer.”

There are safety issues involved, too, he said.

“I have never met a mental health professional that would want to be in that situation,” he said. “They wouldn’t mind doing an evaluation, therapy — but not under that setting.”

A number of communities across the country have developed systems in which mental health professionals are at the ready to respond in situations where it is safe to do so. Bensalem Township, in Bucks County, launched such a program last year in conjunction with the county government. Two social workers employed by the county and embedded with the police department are available to respond when police determine a call involves mental health issues, said public safety director Fred Harran.

Since the social workers began responding to calls in January, the number of people who call police regularly for mental-health-related problems has declined, Harran said. That’s because the social workers are able to identify people who need social services and ensure that they follow through. The goal, Harran said, is to address mental health issues in the community before they escalate to threats or violence.

Asked what he would tell Hall’s family, Mancuso said, “We’re sorry for your loss. We can’t imagine the impact that has had on you. We don’t believe you should blame yourself for anything. CJ had a lot of mental health issues and in the end, they were too much for him.”

Morning Call journalists resist takeover by the “Destroyer of Newspapers”

Latest in a series of posts about the Morning Call

“Our goal here tonight is to bring more members of our community into the know about the state of things at your local newspaper with regard to potential hedge fund ownership. . . . We are at a crossroads.”
Kayla Dwyer, reporter and Secretary of the Morning Call Guild

“The boat will continue to sink unless we can find top leadership that cares about serving our communities and whose commitment extends beyond short-term profits.”
Bill White

ref: Reimagining the Morning Call
ref: Reminder: Reimagining the Morning Call

Gadfly attended the “Reimagining the Morning Call” meeting last night.

Kayla Dwyer laid out the purpose of the meeting.

The Morning Call has “shrunk over time.” Industry forces have been “challenging.” The internet has been “a major source of competition.” The Morning Call news staff has shrunk by about 40% over the past few years. The Morning Call no longer has even a physical location. The Morning Call’s parent company is poised to be taken over by Alden Global Capital, known in the media as “Destroyer of Newspapers.” Alden cares nothing about news or serving a community. Its business model is to “extract large profits” by cutting and slashing. The Morning Call Guild of journalists has embarked on a campaign to find an “alternative ownership model,” is looking for a way to bring the Morning Call back under local control. They need community support, and the purpose of this meeting was to start to foster community awareness. Our councilwoman Olga Negron was one of the panelists and expressed strong support for the Guild’s efforts.

Though it was not the purpose of this meeting to elaborate on any of the possible alternate ownership models in detail, Gadfly was intrigued by several mentioned.

Gadfly was also struck by awareness that the future of news might not be in print news but that the key element in whatever future form was insuring the presence of real journalists.

Gadfly is vitally interested in this subject. Followers know that his very existence is the result of a growing void in local mainstream news coverage.

And even he is retiring soon, with no replacement yet secured.

More to come on this important subject.

Heed Bill White’s strong words below.

———–

selections from Bill White, “Why the battle over Morning Call ownership matters.” Morning Call, March 31, 2021.

With so much news breaking lately about the sale of The Morning Call’s corporate owner, Tribune Publishing, I thought I would offer some context on where we’ve been and what’s at stake for the Lehigh Valley.

When I started at The Morning Call in 1974 — I know, I’m old — we considered ourselves a newspaper of record.

Meetings, police news, courts, elections all were covered extensively throughout our then nine-county region. We covered county councils, school boards, supervisors, commissioners, zoning boards, planning commissions, sewer commissions.

As someone who attended a lot of those meetings, I can tell you that many were really dull. The Call eventually came around to the idea that we should be more selective about covering ultra-routine meetings and instead use some of that time to develop more interesting stories in these communities.

But even when there’s nothing much happening, there’s value in the local media’s showing their faces in these communities, at least occasionally. More often than not, our reporters were the ones reminding officials that they were about to violate the sunshine law, letting readers know their government wasn’t functioning the way it should or just reporting community news that might affect their lives.

Our focus on very local news was so great that we at one time had five bureaus, not counting Harrisburg and Washington, and put out five different editions for readers in disparate parts of our circulation area.

Meanwhile, we were producing outstanding investigative and other in-depth stories that made a difference in our communities. Our commitment to excellence was reflected as well in our feature and sports sections, our photography and our innovative approaches to newspaper design.

Now, thanks to wave after wave of layoffs and buyouts and the closure of our bureaus and now even our home office’s building in Allentown, officials in many of our communities are less likely to see a reporter in the audience or stories about their government, so residents often have to look elsewhere for news about what’s happening.

It’s reasonable to blame some of this on the societal changes that have eroded newspaper readership. But I blame a lot of it on our sale to Tribune Co. in 2000. We were saddled with a succession of inept, even vile, corporate leaders who built up enormous debt and tried to slash their way to higher profits, mostly fleeing with millions in golden parachutes while the employees went years without raises and endured wave after wave of layoffs and buyouts.

The talented, dedicated people who have remained have worked valiantly to produce what still is a very good newspaper. But the boat will continue to sink unless we can find top leadership that cares about serving our communities and whose commitment extends beyond short-term profits.

That does not describe Alden Global Capital, which has been stalking Tribune and now is the front runner to purchase it. Its reputation as the destroyer of American newspapers is well deserved. In its quest to strangle profits from newspapers large and small, this New York hedge fund has eliminated the jobs of scores of journalists, leaving behind the bleached bones of once-vibrant news gathering organizations.

The good news is that there are active efforts to rescue the Call and other Tribune newspapers from Alden’s clutches.

How can you help? Letters to the editor would be great, both to help educate other readers and to offer content that can be amplified on social media to a broader audience, including Tribune shareholders.

I recognize that we’ll never return to the days of five editions and the newspaper of record. But there’s still time to save and ideally reinvigorate a critical force for ensuring that people in the Lehigh Valley are informed about what’s happening in their communities.

Councilwoman Van Wirt endorses candidate Reynolds for Mayor

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“This has been the most challenging of years, and as I think about who can be the best Mayor for Bethlehem, I believe that person is J. William Reynolds.

I feel that he has the ability to guide Bethlehem to a future where all citizens are able to see our city as a place of hope, and of opportunity.

I am a strong proponent of fiscal prudence and balanced development, as well the fundamental responsibility of a city to provide excellent municipal services, including community policing.

I believe Mr. Reynolds is fully committed to the future of Bethlehem along that path and look forward to his leadership.”

Dr. Paige Van Wirt, Bethlehem City Council

Affordable Housing, part 3: Looking Beyond Construction

Latest post in a series on Affordable Housing

Anna Smith is a Southside resident, full-time parent, and community activist with a background in community development and education.

ref: Affordable Housing, part 1: What does housing affordability look like in Bethlehem?
ref: Affordable Housing, part 2: Building New Housing

continued . . .

LOOKING BEYOND CONSTRUCTION

While construction of new housing will certainly be a component of any city’s planning, let’s avoid the trap of thinking about construction as our primary affordable housing tool. Construction with subsidy can add a greater supply of units around the median price, which would certainly be welcome in the city. But inclusionary zoning or other attempts to incentivize major private developers to add affordable units are not going to solve our problem. Should they continue? Sure, as long as they aren’t occupying all of our time and preventing us from exploring other possibilities. But we need a broad range of simultaneous, coordinated strategies if we’re going to even begin to address the challenges facing our city.

What are some other ways we can support affordable housing in our community? I’ll throw a few ideas out there, but I’d be interested in hearing other folks’ thoughts. Some are based on best practices, and others are just off the top of my head—feel free to tell me why they won’t work! A few of these things are already going on at some level but, with additional emphasis, could potentially make a greater impact.

  1. Support incentives for small-scale landlords to fix up their properties but then maintain affordable prices. Low-interest loans, tax relief, grants—any time you give a property-owner an incentive, you can mandate that they maintain affordable rents for years.
  2. Work with responsible local developers/landlords to rehab vacant, blighted, or simply run-down homes into affordable housing—many are already doing it, and renting at less than Fair Market Rent. I know several local folks who have invested in a property or two, fixed them up themselves with help from a few specialized contractors, and then rented them out at prices that are more affordable than any new construction could possibly be. There are barriers to doing this—capital for initial investments, technical knowledge to ensure that rehabs are up to code—that city and non-profit programs could address.
  3. Train new developers/rehabbers with a Jumpstart Germantown-style program. Admittedly, this program took a massive investment from a private donor to get started, but could we think about a similar style program here? Recruit folks from the community to learn how to do small-scale rehab and development, pair them with experienced developers to learn the basics, and offer financing through a local Community Development Financial Institution to get them on their feet, as long as they commit to making their units affordable. We could increase our supply of small-scale rehabbers or developers that enter the market with knowledge of the community, training in responsible practices, and a direct connection to our city government. Not only could this help us create more affordable housing, but it could even the playing field a bit, so that a few major developers aren’t the only ones dictating the terms of development in our community.
  4. Convince affordable housing developers to do more renovation and management of rentals. Most of the affordable housing developers who have operated in Bethlehem over the last few decades have focused on owner-occupied housing. Managing rental housing is a large and often unpleasant task, so many organizations with limited capacity prefer to build, sell, and move on, despite the extremely high cost of construction. What if organizations pooled resources to create a stand-alone non-profit property management firm that could serve affordable rentals throughout the city, as well as the income-qualification processes of affordable units in private developments? If we had a long-term management solution for rental housing, perhaps housing development organizations like CACLV, Valley Housing Development, Housing Opportunity Movement, Alliance for Building Communities, HDC Mid-Atlantic, Habitat for Humanity, and any others that I’m missing, would think more seriously about rehabbing and providing affordable rentals in existing multi-family structures or single-family homes.
  5. Loosen regulations for group homes, cooperative housing, SROs, rooming houses, and work with responsible developer/landlords to offer a broader variety of options to renters. More people in the US are living alone than ever before, and our housing stock in the Lehigh Valley was constructed with families in mind. There is a need for increased diversity of housing types to serve individuals who may prefer to live in a group situation, rent a room, or form a cooperative. Due to ingrained prejudices, we as a society tend to have a negative reaction to the concept of renting a room or to a boarding house, but we don’t seem to have that type of reaction when we see a group of four recent college graduates who met on Craigslist sharing a house—which is exactly what renting a room looks like. We need to recognize that individuals of all backgrounds can benefit from a diversity of housing options, going beyond single-family homes and apartments.
  6. Do not let properties sit vacant. The Bethlehem Blight Study highlighted a tool that many communities have used to get vacant residential and commercial properties back into circulation—fining property owners who let their properties sit vacant without a long-term plan. Property owners receive monthly fines until they inform the city of their intentions, and then they have a specific time frame in which to take action before fines begin to accumulate once again. We have a lot of mixed-use properties in our downtowns that have upstairs apartments sitting vacant—if the city could incentivize owners to rent these out as affordable units through loans or grants to help get them into renting shape, we could obtain more housing much more quickly than through new development.

How do we make these things work? Fortunately, our cities receive a decent amount of funding that can be invested in the development of programs like these, although it would likely require shifting some dollars away from construction of new housing. An affordable housing trust fund would be a great way to add some needed cash to that pile—by charging major developers a per-unit fee for any non-affordable housing developed throughout the city, we could increase the city’s ability to subsidize existing programs and support the creation of new ones. Loan programs can keep funds in circulation, fines can generate income, and a non-profit property management firm could potentially sustain itself by taking on some private contracts. However, I think we have some great potential partners in our community that could lend a hand.

Two of the biggest elephants in our community are the local hospital networks. Throughout the country, hospitals are realizing the important connections between social determinants of health, of which housing is a huge one, and the frequency and severity of medical conditions and illnesses of all kinds. Hospitals across the country are supporting affordable housing construction and housing services for their patients – let’s make sure that our major health networks are at the table and directly involved in the discussion.

In survey after survey, affordable housing emerges as a major issue for our community. We need a wide-reaching social movement in the Valley to bring residents together to talk about how housing issues impact their lives, to envision solutions, and to put pressure on the institutions that have the power to make change on a broad scale. The City won’t be able to do it alone, but by doing the groundwork, our city government can offer a well-thought-out path forward.

As Bethlehem’s City Council moves forward with a discussion of affordable housing, I ask that they do so publicly with participation from the entities that build affordable housing, small-scale private developers, and, most importantly, individuals who are struggling with housing costs. Focusing solely on the opinions and ideas of a handful of private developers—and doing so behind closed doors—is not going to solve a community crisis. In fact, I suggest that we marginalize the voices of the handful of private developers who have dominated the scene for the last decade. Up until now, they have shown no interest in affordable housing. Why should we expect them to lead the way? Let’s broaden the conversation to look beyond new construction and think about all of the different components of an effective strategy. The more voices involved in the conversation, the better our result is going to be.

**While writing this piece, I came across a fantastic episode of a podcast on housing and development issues that I highly recommend you listen to, if you have any interest in affordable housing and development trends across the US: http://upzoned.strongtowns.org/e/does-increasing-housing-actually-make-the-housing-crisis-worse/ While it starts out referencing a very specific article and topic (whether or not induced demand is a factor in rising housing costs, i.e.. building new housing attracts folks from elsewhere that could drive up housing prices in a community), most of the episode addresses many of the issues that we as a community are facing and offers some interesting thoughts on a path forward.

Last in the series.

Meet the candidates tomorrow night Thursday at the EAC

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Take advantage!

The Environmental Advisory Council has invited our candidates to their regular monthly meeting.

Thursday, April 1, 7PM.

Contact:
Lynn Rothman, Chair
Bethlehem EAC
Lynn@therothmans.info

LINK TO JOIN
Topic: EAC Monthly Meeting
Time: Apr 1, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting
https://zoom.us/j/95616243255?pwd=amVDMlhsdEVRUmpnWjBJK05RZG5yUT09

Meeting ID: 956 1624 3255
Passcode: 156493

One tap mobile
+13017158592,,95616243255#,,,,*156493# US (Washington DC)
+13126266799,,95616243255#,,,,*156493# US (Chicago)

Meeting ID: 956 1624 3255

Passcode: 156493

Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aBpm39ln8

Case study of police shooting of Christian Hall ripe for good discussion

Latest in a series of posts on Christian Hall

ref: Recent news about troublesome “first contact” situations involving the police
ref: Molly Bilinski and Peter Hall, “Family of teen fatally shot by state police on Poconos overpass announce lawsuit, are being represented by civil rights attorney Benjamin Crump.” Morning Call, February 3, 2021.

————

It was another riveting day yesterday in the Chauvin trial.

But let me focus your attention on a fairly local example of police behavior that Gadfly feels raises great points for discussion about the nature of police training in mental health calls.

Gadfly earlier called your attention to a December 30, 90-minute “first contact” situation involving the Pennsylvania State Police and 19-year-old Christian Hall, who was apparently intent on committing suicide, that took place on an overpass on Rt. 80.

Police killed Hall.

A cell phone video by a motorist stranded on Rt. 80 showed Hall’s hands up (see the video here), though holding what was thought to be a gun, when he was shot, sparking characteristic debate about police propensity for violence and ability (or inability) to handle mental health situations.

Yesterday the Monroe County District Attorney ruled the shooting justified.

At the press conference yesterday, the D.A. showed a video of the incident created by his office to bolster the ruling in a move that even the reporters noted as extraordinary.

Gadfly thinks we can say with confidence that the D.A. took the unusual step of creating that video to get out in front of the controversy bound to result from the ruling.

For here was another instance of police cleared from wrong-doing in a tragic situation involving a mentally distressed person.

And — drum-roll, please — the celebrity lead attorney for the family is none another than Benjamin Crump, attorney for the George Floyd family and other families in similar high profile police shootings.

Hall’s family is holding a press conference today. It will be interesting to see if Crump is there.

But close your ears and eyes.

Resist learning anything about the family press conference today. We can pick it up later.

Instead, spend some time — and it will take a bit of time — watching the D.A.’s press conference and video from the links below.

Remember that Gadfly always encourages you to go to the primary sources yourself and form your own opinions.

Do that.

For Gadfly will want to talk with you about what you find there.

He finds much food for thought and discussion.

Much that relates to reimagining public safety.

Dig in, and meet him back here in a day or two to share perspectives, questions, and judgments.

———-

Sarah Cassi, “Troopers legally justified in fatally shooting man on Route 33 overpass, DA says.” March 30, 2021.
a 30-min. video of the incident from beginning to end from police cameras prepared by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office is linked to this article

Video presentation from Christian Hall use-of-force press conference
This is the 30-min. video on YouTube

March 30 press conference by the Monroe County District Attorney’s office
1:13:46 mins. (contains the 30-min. video)
Start at min. 5:07
D.A. introduction mins. 5:07-12:30
The 30-min. video runs from mins. 12:30-45:30
D.A. presentation mins. 45:30-1:00:15
Q & A with reporters mins. 1:00:15-1:13:46