Developer John Noble commits to preserving our spectacular aerial acrobats

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The initial campaign surge has slowed!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.


selections from Christina Tatu, “For the birds, a Bethlehem developer takes the unusual step to preserve a chimney during demolition.” Morning Call, January 7. 2021.

When Jennie Gilrain saw the massive flock of birds, spinning like a dark tornado over her South Side neighborhood, she made it her mission to track them.

A member of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society, Gilrain and her husband, Mark McKenna, found the birds at the former Bethlehem Masonic Lodge on Wyandotte Street, where she observed them coming and going from the building’s 95-year-old chimney like plumes of swirling smoke.

That was two years ago, and it was the first time Gilrain had seen chimney swifts, a small gray bird named for its favorite urban roost: tall hollow structures like chimneys and smokestacks.

“They are like aerial acrobats. They court in the air and the male will fly in tandem with the female. They swoop together, and when they go into the chimney, it’s the most spectacular sight,” Gilrain said.

The birds have plenty of options in Bethlehem, once an industrial hub with older buildings and former factories. But Gilrain knew this particular building was slated for demolition. When chain-link construction fences went up around the Masonic Lodge and neighboring Wilbur Mansion last month, she asked developer John Noble to reconsider his plans.

“He called me and I just told him about the birds. I was a little scared because I had my own prejudices about developers. I thought he might try to get rid of the birds,” Gilrain said.

Instead, Noble wanted to see the birds’ habitat preserved.

In the past week, Noble and his team have slowed their demolition, taking care to keep the 45-foot-tall chimney intact even as they remove the building it’s attached to.

“More than likely if we were to demo it at a normal pace, the chimney would already be down,” Noble said. “The guys doing the demo are really talented, and it’s made life more interesting for them. They don’t normally tear down a building and leave a staircase or chimney.”

Noble said he was compelled to help after learning about the birds and seeing a video of their aerial acrobatics. Like Gilrain and McKenna, what he saw inspired him to act.

“I’ve got to do something to make sure these birds are impacted in the least amount possible,” he said.

The chimney swifts spend their winters in Brazil, but in April they return to North America to lay eggs. Gilrain would expect no more than five pairs to nest in the chimney this spring since they are territorial during that time.

It’s from August to October, when the birds are migrating back to South America, that they put on a spectacular aerial show, with huge flocks stopping at known roosts along the way. Gilrain counted 2,200 birds coming from the Masonic Lodge’s chimney last year.

The demolition of the building is expected to take another five to six weeks. If for some reason the chimney can’t be saved, Noble plans to construct another one, about 60 feet from the original.

Noble says his redevelopment of the 4-acre property will transform the city’s gateway at the Hill-to-Hill Bridge, with an upscale hotel, apartment complex and new restaurant.

His plans involve tearing down the Masonic Lodge to build an addition to the former Wilbur Mansion at 623 Cherokee St., expanding it to house nine hotel rooms, a 120-seat conference center and 90-seat restaurant and bar. Noble is also planning 50 one- and two-bedroom apartments with a lobby and lounge, exercise room, mail room, storage units and rooftop terrace with fire pits.

It’s not yet clear how much it will cost to preserve the lodge’s chimney.

The Lehigh Valley Audubon Society started a GoFundMe page to raise $50,000 for the preservation. The group hopes some of the money from the “Save Our Swifts” campaign can go toward educating the public about the birds.

“Potentially tens and thousands of birds use this chimney as a secure roosting site at night and without it, they end up on the sides of buildings and trees in the area. And if you have a cold raining night, they can succumb,” said Peter Saenger, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society president.

It’s more critical than ever that the public understands the birds’ importance and their impact on the environment, said Saenger, a biology professor at the Acopian Center for Ornithology at Muhlenberg College.

Some of the factors contributing to their demise include habitat loss, domestic cats and window collisions as more buildings go up, Saenger said. People should be concerned because birds help make our environment more comfortable by removing thousands of pests every day.

A single swift can eat up to 2,000 insects a day, he said.

It’s unclear how many swifts call the Lehigh Valley home because they roost in hard-to-access areas, but it’s safe to say tens of thousands make their way through the area during their fall migration, said Scott Burnet, a member of the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society.

As more buildings are torn down and chimneys capped, Burnet has taken to making “towers” for the birds. He’s built 19 throughout the region, including one in his Allentown yard.

He and other members of the Audubon Society hope to raise enough money for an official count of the population and educational efforts. Gilrain has applied for a grant from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium to organize public forums with the Audubon Society and Bethlehem Public Library.

“It’s so fascinating to me these birds have adapted to an urban environment. Originally they rooted in old-growth forests and hollowed out trees,” Gilrain said. “Now that the old-growth forests are almost completely gone, they have adapted. It’s almost like the swifts have grown up with our city.”


Click here for the GoFundMe page

Councilman Reynolds opens his mayoral campaign!

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

“Bethlehem has always been a wonderful place to live but it is time for us to become something more. We need a clear vision for the future of our city that builds on our strengths and reimagines what our community can be. ”

J. William Reynolds Announcement

Reynolds campaign website

Reynolds Facebook

Saving the swifts: “The miracle on Wyandotte Street”

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

The initial campaign surge has slowed!
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.


Jennie Gilrain, who spearheads the Save Our Swifts campaign, made this impressive presentation to City Council last night (4 mins.):


I want to share an uplifting story in the midst of difficult times! A group of citizens from all walks of life is joining forces to save tens of thousands of Chimney Swifts, a bird in sharp decline, by saving their Urban Habitat, the Masonic Temple chimney at 202 Wyandotte Street in South Bethlehem. Developer and property owner, John Noble, has agreed to save the chimney, while demolishing the building around it, in order to save the birds. I visited the demolition site this afternoon to see the chimney still standing. The Western wall has been ripped away and the steel beams have been cut flush to the chimney’s edge. So far, so good. However, in the end, if the existing chimney cannot be saved, Noble has agreed to build a duplicate roosting tower on the property, 60 feet to the North of the original.

The Lehigh Valley Audubon Society is raising money to support this effort through a Save Our Swifts GoFundMe Charity. According to Peter Saenger, local Audubon President, this level of cooperation between developers and conservationists is extremely unusual and highly commendable. I call it, “Miracle on Wyandotte Street.”


The Lehigh Valley Audubon Society and Bethlehem Area Public Library have applied for a Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium grant to support a series of Public Forums to facilitate discussion about the relationship between development and conservation. I invite members of Bethlehem City Government–the Department of Community and Economic Development and the Environmental Action Committee to join the panels, and I invite the public to participate in the forums. More on this when we find out if we got the grant.


In light of the tremendous community effort to Save Our Swifts, I would like to make a formal request to you, the Members of Council and to you, Mayor Donchez:

Just as many cities around the world and throughout the United States have named particular bird species as their own; and just as so many years ago the State of Pennsylvania named the Ruffed Grouse the Bird of Pennsylvania, I propose we name the Chimney Swift, “the Bird of Bethlehem.”

The chimney swift is not only a beautiful aerial acrobat, but a welcome insectivore, consuming twice its body weight in bugs each day.

Thank you for hearing me and for considering embracing this bird as Bethlehem’s own.

I look forward to your reply.


Jennie Gilrain

Crampsie Smith Affordable Housing Task Force advances

Latest post in a series on Affordable Housing

Back in November Gadfly gave a shout out to Councilwoman Crampsie Smith, who announced that she was forming an Affordable Housing Task Force.

“Affordable Housing” — housing for the middle class, not low income subsidized housing — was a chant Gadfly heard from the very beginning of his tenure.

And here the Councilwoman was taking a concrete step to directly deal with this persistent issue.

At City Council last night the Councilwoman gave an impressive status report on her efforts.

The Task Force has already met 5 times.

Think about that!

Their purpose is to “raise the awareness of all the different entities on the fact that there is a housing crisis in America” and, of course, in our town.

A crisis that our spate of new high-end, luxury condos can’t assuage (wow! great SAT word I don’t often get a chance to use).

The Task Force aims “to come up with a series of best practices of how we can address the lack of housing that is affordable for the middle class, the working class,” that Crampsie Smith will then bring as recommendations to Council.

Gadfly particularly calls attention to the fact that prominent Bethlehem developers — Messrs. Perucci and Benner — are on the Task Force.

Now we’re talkin’!

So we again applaud the Councilwoman and eagerly look forward to the fruits of the Task Force.

Listen in (3 mins.):

Residents register tax pain

Latest in a series of posts on the City Budget

City Council approved the 2021 City budget last meeting, December 15.

That budget, you will remember, included cutting 4 firefighters, cutting 2 Service Center staff, moving money from cash reserves — and a 5% tax increase.

Gadfly did not sense significant resident opposition through the approval process, and he doesn’t recall any resident commenters during the budget hearings.

But at City Council last night two callers reminded us of the hard times to which tax increases contribute.

Garrison St. resident (2 mins.):

She was “shocked” at the  5% tax increase. She wouldn’t have “fathomed” that we’d do it at this critical time, the pandemic and etc. People struggling to pay rent, mortgages, put food on the table. “O, my god, this is crazy.”  “Where’s your compassion and sensitivity during this time?” When you’re struggling to put food on the table, 5% is a lot. This was not the time to do something of this nature. “Everybody’s under the gun.” I thought that our city wouldn’t “even dare” do something like this.

Richard Ellis (2 mins.):

Other places surrounding us not increasing their taxes. Recalls tax increase because of the Hirko law suit. Raised taxes in 2017, 2018, 2019. Getting a 1.3% increase in social security, half of which will go to taxes. And there’s the new water run-off charge. It’s time to stop. He’s a registered, regular voter, and he will “remember Ms. Smith and Negron and Mr. Waldron, who are up for re-election.” “They will not get my vote. Us seniors deserve better.”


Councilman Callahan (2 mins.):

Councilman Callahan is also up for re-election. Note that Mr. Ellis did not mention Councilman Callahan. Councilman Callahan was the strongest voice for cutting during the budget hearings. And he picked up on these phone callers and said that he “felt their pain” and reminded us that he did not vote for the tax increase. And he reminded us that we must “seriously look at” what we’re doing tax-wise or we’ll push out low-income housing. “Every time we have a tax increase, we make our city more expensive to live in.” Everybody on Council is for affordable housing, a “livable city.” If we don’t start making some cuts and stop pushing development away from the city, there’s going to be “tough times” in the next couple years. Councilman Callahan often cites his working-class Kaywin background as a point of reference for the need for fiscal conservatism, and if, indeed, he does run for Mayor, he is staking out a position as a kind of budget hawk.

President’s annual report and comments

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

President’s 2020 Annual Report

Last night’s January 5 meeting was, of course, the first City Council meeting of the new year and the traditional time for the Council President’s annual report.

That report will be online, and Gadfly probably will obtain a copy to share with you (just added, see link above).

The amount of work that our elected part-timers accomplish in the course of a year is always quite impressive, and we need be thankful.

It is not a job that they do for the money, for sure.

So Gadfly begins this day with a tip o’ the hat in their direction.

He very much appreciates those who step up, who fight the good fight.

Here is President Waldron reading that 2020 annual report (8 mins.):

But always of interest as well as the report is any comments the president takes this ritual moment to make.

After reflecting on the past and on the brink of the new beginning, what’s on the president’s mind as the year turns?

For President Waldron, his focus was on Council interaction.

He was talking to his fellow Council members.

In regard to space to speak, President Waldron said he would “never be stricter than necessary for the good of the meeting,” that it was important to hear all perspectives, especially those you don’t agree with.

But he called attention to the negative effect of repetition and indicated that Council members should speak no more than twice on any issue (a Roberts’ rule?), except under new business, where the rules are more flexible.

Council members should avoid personal insults, attacks, name calling, be respectful of the time of others, not be combative.

With an eye to the local campaign season upon us, President Waldron said he would work “to keep politics outside of the room.”

With an eye to the national scene we are all suffering from, President Waldron issued a “call for civility,” suggesting that we could model a thoughtful way to run our business.

As we move forward, President Waldron called for the civility, decorum, and respect lacking on the national level.

A “call for civility.” The words resonate strongly with Gadfly after the long night of the Georgia election and on the morning of this day in which we expect another bleepshow at the national level.

Please.  Good conversation can build community. And a better sense of community in our wider world is obviously what we need.

President Waldron’s comments (7 mins.):


Gadfly will add that he appreciates the flexibility and respect and sometimes necessary patience that President Waldron exhibits toward we public commenters and empathizes with his attempts to be fair to a colleague who can be stubborn and repetitive.

“So you wanna run for City Council”

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

So you wanna run for City Council Game Show!
Lehigh Valley Stands Up
Moderated: Jon Irons
December 10, 2020

As you can see from the previous posts this morning, the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance is aghast at “Slick Willie” Reynolds’ participation in a Zoom event — a “Game Show” — hosted by Lehigh Valley Stands Up called “So you wanna run for City Council.”

It behooves us to learn more about this event and Councilman Reynolds’ participation in it.

You can see for yourself via the link above.

The game was run on Kahoots, which looks like a popular educational tool.

The game was moderated by low-key LVSU member Jon Irons, a familiar public commenter at City Council meetings. There were a dozen participants, two Gadfly knew professionally, and one whom you can see was cooking in her kitchen the entire time. Except very brief comments by winners of the game at the end, participants did not speak.

LVSU compiled 20-some mainly multiple-choice questions relating to City Council membership.

  • Should you run for office?
  • I would vote for a city council candidate who supported which of the following statements.
  • Which of the following are great reasons to run for city council?
  • What professional qualities do you need to run for city council?
  • What qualities make for a successful councilperson?
  • What types of people does it help to have in your network to run for council?
  • What are some skills you should have to prepare to run for council?
  • Add some qualities or ideologies you would like to see in city council members.
  • What’s it like to work for council?
  • What is the most time consuming part of a council member’s work week?
  • What type of career background is REQUIRED to run for city council?
  • What are some responsibilities of council members?
  • How much does a city council member earn for their work?
  • What is another IMPORTANT non-legislative role that city council members have?
  • What is a way that elected officials can engage with and grow from constituent feedback and meetings?
  • What are some fundamentals for thinking about a campaign for local office?
  • How many signatures does it take to get on the ballot for a city-wide race?
  • How many votes are needed to win a city council race in Bethlehem?
  • How much cash money should a candidate raise to fund a city council race?
  • What is one of the most expensive parts of a city council campaign?
  • What are some ways to get started with a campaign for city council?
  • Are you feeling ready or willing to run for office?

Our Councilman Reynolds and Allentown City Councilwoman Ce-Ce Gerlach were present to expand on answers to questions. They had no other role in the program. They participated almost not at all. Here’s an example of Councilman Reynolds responding to a question about time management. (1 min.)

There was no political commentary or discussion during the event.

Information about LVSU’s 3-point political platform was quite brief and presented at the end.  The 3-point platform is police accountability, affordable housing, voting rights. None was expanded upon. There was no overt attempt to proselytize. Invitation to join was offered. (4 mins.)

Should “Slick Willie” have passed on this opportunity to foster active public participation in the political process?

Was his behavior anti-American?

Is Lehigh Valley Stands Up not good company?

What are you thinking about a morning devoted, in effect, to the Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance?


See Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance under topics on the right-hand sidebar.

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance on debunking defunding the police

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

Facebook January 3, 2021

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance

Wanna hear the truth for a change?

Ya know, just for a goof.

Here ya go.

(Don’t let misguided politicians like Willie Reynolds or brainwash professors like Holona Ochs manipulate your mind with their debunked ideology.)


selections from Christopher Young, “A cop debunks four core myths of the #DefundPolice movement.” New York Post, December 27, 2020.

As a progressive who wants to decriminalize drugs and advance the welfare state, I fit in well in my Pacific Northwest community. Except, that is, for my job: I’ve been a big-city cop here for 26 years. Before that, I served in the military. The raging #DefundthePolice movement doesn’t know me and my colleagues at all — and persistent myths about police and their critics do more harm than good.

Four myths especially deserve debunking by an officer who knows.

1) Police are killing large numbers of civilians. That’s simply not true. . . . The reality is that US policing has steadily improved over the past 50 years. In Gotham, officers firing a gun have gone from a daily to monthly occurrence. And the city has become dramatically safer over the same period. In other words, the NYPD has successfully used less lethal means of preserving — and improving — the rule of law.

2) The anti-cop movement is largely peaceful. Again, false. The movement, rather, is akin to the Batman villain Two-Face. Anyone who watched the protests on television would know that the daytime ones were lawful free speech. But the dynamic changed dramatically at night. Protests became intentional ­riots, designed to draw a police response that allowed rioters to claim victim status.

They would begin with insults, shouted at the riot line for hours in the hope that exhausted officers would retort on video; some told officers to commit ­suicide. Then they would throw rocks, shine bright lasers in our eyes and throw fireworks and Molotov cocktails — forcing the police to respond.

Yet the mainstream media adopted the comically false “peaceful-protest” narrative and perpetuated the myth of pervasive police brutality. For activists, it was a successful propaganda operation, encouraging the police to engage with force, then driving the narrative that law enforcement “overreacted” to latter-day Gandhis.

3) Abolishing police wouldn’t lead to lawlessness. Many of the defunders are genuine anarchists, who want no government at all and believe in a society of angels who serve each other voluntarily.

This is nonsense. One of the greatest achievements in human history was creating government monopolies on the use of force. Ancient tribal societies had a violent death rate of 500 per 100,000 people per year. That number dropped to 50 in medieval societies and just one to five in the modern West.

Seattle’s recent experiment with the Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone, or CHAZ, proves this. Police weren’t allowed in the “occupied” protest zone for three weeks. It immediately became a hellscape and led to the shooting deaths of two young black men — the very people the movement claims to want to protect from the police.

4) Today’s police are “militarized.” Wrong, wrong, wrong. As a soldier, I rode in an armored vehicle and sat in a turret with a belt-fed machine gun. My job was to shoot enemy soldiers. In my 26 years as a cop, I have done no such thing.

Contrary to activist complaints, SWAT teams’ armored vehicles, armored clothing and special training help them avoid deadly force, not commit it. A regular cop is often justified shooting someone who threateningly brandishes a gun. A SWAT officer wearing protection, however, will wait longer before resorting to deadly force. In Seattle, our SWAT team recently saved a suicidal young black man with a gun.

Here’s the reality. We need police on the streets.

Social-justice warriors say that policing is hopelessly broken, and the only solution is “defund, disarm and disband.” Take it from a left-leaning cop: Those arguments are either wildly exaggerated or just plain false.


See Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance under topics on the right-hand sidebar.

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance asks a question

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Facebook January 3, 2021

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance


Remember when two-faced Bethlehem City Council members insisted they never publicly stated they were going to defund the police?

Well, on December 10th, current Councilman Willie Reynolds (who we have it on good authority is about to announce his candidacy for Mayor) participated in a “How to Run for City Council” Zoom meeting where he was giving advice to the same local Marxist group that demanded the defunding and elimination of the police.

Slick Willie’s master plan is to become mayor and then pack city council not just with the leftists who already sit there but with Marxist radicals who called the Bethlehem police an evil machine and said they didn’t want to hear from any more white people but we just want your money, frankly.

Are you going to allow Marxist radicals and their puppet to take over the City of Bethlehem?


 See Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance under topics on the right-hand sidebar.

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance issues a CALL TO ACTION

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

Ref: Thinking about the primary election


Facebook January 3, 2021

Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance

See Lehigh Valley Good Neighbors Alliance under topics on the right-hand sidebar.

Bethlehem City Council meetings tomorrow night, Tuesday, January 5, 6:30PM and 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, January 5, Committee of the Whole at 6:30 and regular Council meeting at 7PM.

You can watch the City Council meetings on the following YouTube channel: City of Bethlehem Council


6:30PM: Committee of the Whole meeting:

  • on My Bethlehem PA – New City Service App

7PM: The regularly scheduled Council meeting

Of interest:

  • resolution by Councilwoman Negron to support a Senator Casey initiative to “help bring about racial justice and reduce the number of police interactions involving people with disabilities, often people of color.”

And there’s always the unexpected.

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

Be informed. Be involved.




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 ( 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.


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.

Improving the ride

Latest in a series of posts about neighborhoods

Goals for our city: more walking, biking, taking a bus. Some people in our town have to take buses. It’s a necessity. But, in general, we want to encourage more people to take buses.

And Bethlehem became the site of a “first” in the way of improving busing.

Our Councilwoman Negron (on the right) presiding!

A new kind of bus-stop bench.

This occasion reminds Gadfly about his profitable reading in walkable city guru Jeff Speck two summers ago (another tip o’ the hat to Tony Hanna for the recommendation).

Speck outlined four lacks in much of public transit:

  • urbanity: stops must be in the heart of the action. (The bus from the northside that Gadfly took dropped him at 3rd and Webster when his goal was New and Morton — close to a half-mile walk.)
  • clarity: a simple line or loop, easily pictured in one’s mind.
  • frequency: every 10 minutes a standard for any bus line that wants to attract riders. (Gadfly experienced 30 and 60 minute frequencies.)
  • pleasure: make rides social, fun — the most overlooked element. (Definitely not fun for Gadfly: seats uncomfortable, cramped space, often dirty, etc. The bus terminal was awful.)

Gadfly walked, bused from north to south side for 50 years. He knows a bit about buses. Still much in the way of improvement needed.


selections from Tom Shortell, “An innovative bus bench? LANTA introduces two-seater with touchless lighting for narrow sidewalks.” Morning Call, December 22, 2020.

When people think of innovation, public busing probably isn’t the first thing to rush their minds, but LANTA is hoping the bus bench it unveiled Tuesday may soon become a widespread success.

During a brief ceremony at Broadway and Fiot Street in south Bethlehem, officials unveiled a SolStop Bus Bench. The two-seat bench is built around a light pole that riders can activate without having to push a button. The street furniture is the first of its kind in the United States, LANTA Executive Director Owen O’Neill said, but the public transit organization could install more throughout the region if it’s well received.

Advocates of public transit encourage communities to build bus shelters to make riding the bus more enticing — no one wants to be out on a cold, rainy evening waiting for a ride. But O’Neill said the shelters often don’t fit on the narrow sidewalks in inner cities, where bus routes tend to be most popular. Even regular benches may be too bulky.

The bus bench LANTA installed over the weekend should avoid those problems. while also improving lighting, he said. Most street lights are designed to illuminate the road, not the sidewalk or curbs where pedestrians wait for the bus.

The benches also save LANTA a lot of money compared with a normal shelter, O’Neill said. About $1,500 a pop, the benches cost a quarter of a typical shelter, and are less expensive to install. LANTA has to pay a few thousand dollars in engineering if it wants to install a bus shelter: Host communities need to know the shelter won’t interfere with neighboring properties or pose a public risk. Installing the benches, by comparison, costs a few hundred dollars, O’Neill said.

City leadership needs to demonstrate transparency

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

ref: Several “first contact” cases in the news


We are reminded AGAIN of the 1 Corinthians 12:26 quote roughly, “If one of us suffers, we all suffer.”

Also be reminded that it is our past Bethlehem police Chief that kept the BPD use of force policies/procedures secret even from city council until finally they were revealed — in June, 2020? — after the great pressure created by the powerful and obviously necessary national and local protests following Mr Floyd’s killing this past May.

And Ex-Chief DiLuzio recently, following his resignation, was recognized for his service.

So let’s also recognize that to lead our City there is a great onus on leadership — the BPD, Council, and the Mayor — to demonstrate transparency in its behavior, past, present, and future.

Answering correspondences from citizens is one place to start!

Proactively informing the public of any progress in city/police-public dialogue would go a long way toward building transparency and trust.

And what about acknowledging the LACK of Council/Mayor discussion of appropriate funding of the police budget prior to its approval, even after its demand from the citizenry?

Greg Zahm

Thinking about the primary election

Latest in a series of posts on candidates for election

The last post got me thinking.

Mayor Donchez can’t run again. He’s in the 8th inning of his second term. Still a good bit of time to go. And there will be important things for him to do. He won’t be checking out.

But attention will inevitably turn in the next few months to the next Administration.

Gadfly posted the post below back in September.

Expectation seems to be that Councilmen Callahan and Reynolds will run for Mayor.

And who might be standing on the sidelines with hat in hand poised to throw?

And the terms of current Council members Callahan, Cramspsie Smith, Negron, and Waldron are up in 2021.

Potential for a lot of turnover.

Could/should be lively election.

Gadfly wondered in the post below where are the Republicans in this town? And Independents? And African Americans? And Latinx? And women? And LGBTQ?

Even if current election chances are slim, one could hope for candidates from such constituencies to gain experience for future elections.

Maybe more importantly right now, perhaps we should be thinking about what the key issues and priorities should be for our candidates.

Gadfly would welcome your thinking in this regard.

What needs to be done?

What do you want to see on the platforms for candidates in the May primary?


Originally posted September 29, 2020

Where are the Republicans?

Or Independents?

Gadfly is jogged to ask by this post in Bernie O’Hare’s “Lehigh Valley Ramblings” the other day about the “Bethlehem Democratic Party Machine.”

Hoping to provide a beneficial public service, Gadfly plans to help people be the best informed voters they can be by providing info on all the candidates in next spring’s election.

He’s hoping there will be several Democratic candidates for Mayor, and scuttlebutt indicates there will be.

But where are the Republicans in this town? And Independents? And African Americans? And Latinx? And women? And LGBTQ?

Gadfly hopes for competition, for choice.

That’s the kind of thing we gadflies live for.

Especially as he plans to retire Election Day +1.

Wants to go out with some drama!

Alan Jennings: “There is too much to do”

Latest in a series of posts on City Government

We turned the corner. New year. Time for resolutions. Setting agendas. Mayoral and Councilpersonic elections coming into view. Platforms forming. Gadfly welcomes essays like this. Getting us thinking. What needs to be done? What is it on which we’d like to see local government working?

selections from Alan Jennings, “Strap in Lehigh Valley, we have things to do.” Morning Call, January 3, 2020.

Well, that was the year from hell. Certainly, the worst of my 62.

Let’s just try to move on. There is too much to do.

To be sure, our most challenging problems are national in scope . . .

But there are a ton of issues right here in our own little once-green spot on the planet we call the Lehigh Valley. Here is what you can expect the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley to pursue.

The big project is the completion of a strategic plan for diversity, equity and inclusion. For many months, now, dozens of people from the nonprofit, for-profit and public sectors have been crafting a strategy to finally unlock the doors that have kept far too many from accessing economic opportunity.

It will include better access to markets for minority-owned businesses, elimination of cash bail and other criminal justice reforms, testing (some call it “secret shoppers”) various groups to ensure they are treating people the same regardless of the color of their skin or the language they speak, more participation on boards of directors, and much, much more.

This should be a game-changer, folks.

The condition of our housing stock needs an enormous amount of funding to bring it up to modern (meaning habitable) standards. We are dramatically expanding our work in this area.

The efficiency of COVID-19 in its destruction of small businesses will open many opportunities for new businesses in this market. CACLV has tripled its small business coaching and lending capacity.

The Lehigh Valley has successfully transitioned from an industrial economy to a broader, more diverse economy; and, yet, we have not lost the identity and culture of that past. We have a lot of “hip” going on, with ArtsQuest leading the way. Allentown’s downtown revitalization, the Easton vibe, Bethlehem’s gentility and other factors make it a real, live, developing culture with an enviable quality of life.

We’ve got colleges, top-notch health care systems, a business community that is refreshingly progressive. Even the Chamber CEO is a closet liberal (couldn’t help outing you, Tony).

We’ve got Musikfest (I hope), minor league hockey and baseball teams and a top-notch sports and concert arena.

But we aren’t good enough. With one in eight Lehigh County residents and one in 11 Northampton County residents living below the poverty line, and a marketplace that is merciless, too many are being left behind.

The unaffordability of housing in this market and its substandard condition is worse than a crisis — it’s a disaster. It is a public health problem by causing asthma and lead poisoning. It is an education problem by forcing families to move frequently, disrupting the rhythm of their lives, especially the kids’ educations. And if the schools struggle to teach, it becomes a community development issue if people of means don’t want to live here.

Check this out: 79% of white children who live in suburban communities take the college entrance exams (SAT or ACT). Just 8% of urban Latinos take the exams, and a particularly shocking 4% of urban African Americans take them. Those three data points are all we need to understand why color and class are almost synonymous in the Lehigh Valley; they also explain tidily why there is so much income and wealth disparity in our society.

The weaknesses in our behavioral health services, from detox and residential rehab to the critical shortage of psychiatrists, are known by all, including our two, big systems. COVID-19 is a roll-the-dice complication to all these issues.

“Let us be free, be air!” The poetic origin of Swifts

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

“How could we throw them away”
Matilda Snyder

The campaign to save our Bethlehem Swifts has begun.
Won’t you join with us and contribute?
Click here for the GoFundMe page.



Spring comes little, a little. All April it rains.
The new leaves stick in their fists; new ferns still fiddleheads.
But one day the swifts are back. Face to the sun like a child
You shout, ‘The swifts are back!’

Sure enough, bolt nocks bow to carry one sky-scyther
Two hundred miles an hour across fullblown windfields.
Swereee swereee. Another. And another.
It’s the cut air falling in shrieks on our chimneys and roofs.

The next day, a fleet of high crosses cruises in ether.
These are the air pilgrims, pilots of air rivers.
But a shift of wing, and they’re earth-skimmers, daggers
Skilful in guiding the throw of themselves away from themselves.

Quick flutter, a scimitar upsweep, out of danger of touch, for
Earth is forbidden to them, water’s forbidden to them,
All air and fire, little owlish ascetics, they outfly storms,
They rush to the pillars of altitude, the thermal fountains.

Here is a legend of swifts, a parable —
When the Great Raven bent over earth to create the birds,
The swifts were ungrateful. They were small muddy things
Like shoes, with long legs and short wings,

So they took themselves off to the mountains to sulk.
And they stayed there. ‘Well,’ said the Raven, after years of this,
I will give you the sky. You can have the whole sky
On condition that you give up rest.’

‘Yes, yes,’ screamed the swifts, ‘We abhor rest.
We detest the filth of growth, the sweat of sleep,
Soft nests in the wet fields, slimehold of worms.
Let us be free, be air!’

So the Raven took their legs and bound them into their bodies.
He bent their wings like boomerangs, honed them like knives.
He streamlined their feathers and stripped them of velvet.
Then he released them, Never to Return

Inscribed on their feet and wings. And so
We have swifts, though in reality, not parables but
Bolts in the world’s need: swift
Swifts, not in punishment, not in ecstasy, simply

Sleepers over oceans in the mill of the world’s breathing.
The grace to say they live in another firmament.
A way to say the miracle will not occur,
And watch the miracle.

Anne Stevenson
Poet Laureate for the Swifts

Listen to Jennie Gilrain
commentary by Matilda Snyder.


Save our Bethlehem Swifts on Gadfly:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan
ref: When renovation turns to conservation
ref: S.O.S. GoFundMe page now available

Save Our Swifts GoFundMe page now available!

Latest in a series of posts on the Swifts

Click here for video and to donate

Your donation is tax deductible

Click here for video and to donate

Save our Bethlehem Swifts posts on Gadfly:

ref: Bethlehem’s dolphins of the sky
ref: Gilrain gets scared
ref: The Noble family: “We will do everything we can to make sure that these birds are protected”
ref: Saving the Bethlehem Swifts: this is a worthy cause”
ref: Gilrain on the nest . . . hatching a plan
ref: When renovation turns to conservation
ref: S.O.S GoFundMe page now available
ref: “Let us be free, be air!” The poetic origin of Swifts”
ref: “Saving the swifts: “The Miracle on Wyandotte St.”
ref: Developer John Noble commits to preserving our spectacular aerial acrobats
ref: Surgical demolition needed!
ref: Audobon’s obsession with Swifts

Catherine McCafferty tells a story of The Steel

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem


Catherine McCafferty, TUG! Bethlehem: BAPL Books, 2020

Here’s Catherine:

The most important aspect of writing TUG! was voice. The idea for a children’s book about Bethlehem Steel came from Josh Berk, who is the director of the Bethlehem Area Public Library and publisher of BAPL Books. He suggested a “Storytime with a Steelworker” as part of the Last Cast celebration in November 2020. Knowing that TUG! would be read by a steelworker (Lester Clore) and knowing that TUG, the tow tractor, effectively was a steelworker, I wanted to be sure that his voice reflected his experience. I also had a built-in advantage on this front. As a children’s librarian who’s done many storytimes, I’ve developed a good sense of what works as a read-aloud. Beyond TUG’s voice, I used repetition and the call of his name (“TUG!”) to draw readers into the story.

I’m glad to say that the writing came pretty easily for this book. That isn’t always the case, so I’m always grateful when it happens. Mike Piersa, historian at the National Museum of Industrial Museum, originated the terrific concept of TUG as a character. When I thought about the book, the first thing I heard in my mind was that shout of “TUG!” Everything fell into place after that. For this book, I did a lot of pre-writing: working out in my mind the tone, dialogue, and pace for the story. Piece by piece, the book followed TUG’s story and, by extension, the story of Bethlehem Steel. Mike helped me fill out the heart of the story with factual background, and Josh served as the editor. I was very pleased that from the first draft to the printed version not a lot was changed.

I was also honored to be part of a book that celebrated the local history of Bethlehem Steel for kids. I grew up in Bethlehem at a time when “The Steel” dominated the city. Even now, as people pick up the book at the library, almost every one mentions a family member or friend who worked there. At the distanced/outdoors book signing in December, a steelworker who had driven TUG at The Steel had a chance to sit in the driver’s seat again. And 93-year-old Rudy Garcia, who worked at Bethlehem Steel for 48 years, connected with both me and Mike Piersa at the event. It’s really gratifying to see TUG!—the book and the tractor —connecting the generations.


from Catherine McCafferty, TUG! Bethlehem: BAPL Books, 2020:


That’s what they call me.

And let me tell you, over the years, they called me A LOT.

First time I heard my name, I was a shiny-paint new Tow Tractor weighin’ 16,000 pounds.

“TUG!” they said, in voices that meant, “Comin’ through! This bruiser’s strong enough to push back planes!”

But I wasn’t headin’ to any airport. I left the peachy state of Georgia for a place that was paint-blisterin’ hot and bolt-rustin’ damp, all at the same time.

And BIG! This place had its own railroad! The Philadelphia, Bethlehem, and New England Railroad, they called it.

They put a coupler on me, so I could work the rails where they went into the buildings. That’s right. This place was so big, it had trains runnin’ INSIDE. With my help.

TUG! That’s what I did, hauling train cars past signs that said Bethlehem Steel.


Catherine McCafferty grew up in Bethlehem when Bethlehem Steel was in its heyday. By the time she left for college in Pittsburgh, the industry was declining in both cities. School and work took her onward to the Boston area and Southern California. Not long after she resettled in Bethlehem, Touchstone Theatre marked the loss of Bethlehem Steel with its 1999 production of SteelboundThe “stage” for this Bethlehem Steel version of Prometheus Bound was the abandoned iron foundry, and Catherine can still remember her awe at the scale of the production: it opened with a limousine driving into the foundry and starred Touchstone co-founder Bill George as a steelworker telling his story while chained to a 24-ton ladle. In addition to her work as a writer and editor, Catherine has guided tours at Historic Bethlehem and taught at Northampton Community College. She is now happily surrounded by books at the Bethlehem Area Public Library, where she works as a children’s librarian.

Copies of TUG! are available from BAPL Books.

While ordering TUG!, consider also the BAPL books by Bob Cohen (see here and here) and Matt Wolf (see here).



The virus speaks

Latest in a series of posts on the Arts in Bethlehem

Since I am
I must be
be that what nature has bequeathed upon me
a role not of my choice
but one I am destined to fulfill
for my existence demands you as host
a kindness demanding your demise
and as you know my nature
you plan my demise
and I must be vigilant
to preserve who I am
for me to preserve my nature
such is the way of life
each to be what I am
my role is my destiny

I am referring to the common virus. I have for the moment assigned it our traits. As a dog cannot meow and a cat cannot bark, they are restricted by their nature to act like dogs and cats. So all forms of living beings suffer by that restriction, except we humans who exist as nature’s highest form and as such have privileges such as living outside of our nature. A virus, being a low form, but what if a virus could communicate and be free to tell us that it does not enjoy what is forced upon it but must live within its nature? Have we, as humans, lived within the best which our nature can allow? Is a lower form living within its nature evil by our definition if it wishes only to live to survive? The universe does not need us or really care whether or not we exist. Our egos demand it. We are simply part of a process. How has free will, that special gift relegated to just the highest biological form, served man?

Stephen Antalics

More on local vaccine clinics

Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus

December 31, 2020

The Bethlehem Health Bureau has scheduled additional COVID-19 vaccine clinics through the month of January. These clinics are open to health care personnel (1A priority group) in the City of Bethlehem and in Northampton County. Health care personnel in this group include licensed medical professionals and care staff as well as home health agency staff. To schedule an appointment for one of the upcoming clinics, please click on the registration link for the clinic you plan to attend.
The dates and registration links for the upcoming clinics are as follows:
Tuesday, January 5, 2021 2:00-5:00
Thursday, January 7, 2021 4:00-6:00
Monday, January 11, 2021 10:00-1:00
Wednesday, January 13, 2021 3:00-6:00
Friday, January 15, 2021 3:00-6:00
Tuesday, January 19, 2021 10:00-1:00
Thursday, January 21, 2021 3:00-6:00
January 25, 2021 3:30-7:00
January 27, 2021 3:30-7:00
January 29, 2021 10:00-1:00
The Bethlehem Health Bureau is expected to receive vaccine shipments on a weekly basis. Following the distribution to the priority 1A group, the health bureau will provide vaccines to additional groups, including first responders and essential workers. Timing of the vaccine for the general public is not yet known at this time. The Bethlehem Health Bureau will continue to provide updates as to when the vaccine will be made available to additional groups.

Bethlehem Steel in Latin America

Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem history

National Museum of Industrial History

NMIH virtual exhibit


Dear friends and members of the Bethlehem community,

I’m excited to share with you an upcoming event that presents new research on Bethlehem Steel’s global impact and long-standing relationship with Latin America, which is part of an ongoing project with support from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium.

On January 23rd at 3 pm EST, Dr. Cory Fischer-Hoffman, Professor of International Affairs at Lafayette College and public historian Javier Rojas of La Serena, Chile will present a virtual, bilingual talk entitled Digging up Bethlehem Steel’s History in Latin America: Chile and Transnational Flows of Raw Materials and People at the National Museum of Industrial History.

From 1913 until 1971, the Bethlehem Steel Corporation operated iron mines in Chile, shipping ore to the US through the Panama Canal. Chilean iron ore was essential to Bethlehem Steel’s World War II production, and various engineers, geologists, and Bethlehem Steel executives worked on the Chilean mining projects. Many brought families who lived for years in the mining towns or surrounding areas near La Serena, Chile, and through these connections Chileans also came to study, work and live in the Lehigh Valley. This talk will explore the history of Bethlehem Steel’s iron mining operations in Chile, the transnational flows of raw materials and people and Bethlehem Steel’s legacy in Latin America.

To receive the link to attend the free, virtual event, please visit  to register.

Visit the accompanying virtual exhibition curated by Chilean public historian Javier Rojas, who was born in the mining town of El Tofo, here

If you have memories, memorabilia, or documents related to Bethlehem Steel’s history in Latin America that you would like to share with the project, please visit

We hope to see you on January 23rd! Please feel free to forward this email to anyone who may be interested in attending.

Anna Smith
Outreach Coordinator, Bethlehem – Chile Project

National Museum of Industrial History

NMIH virtual exhibit