Here’s how everybody can help protect the Southside neighborhood

Latest in a series of posts on the Southside

Community Development Committee meeting
Thursday, October 22, 6PM

view on YouTube

call-in number: (610) 997-7963

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


I’m writing to ask you and fellow Gadfly followers for your help to preserve and protect mixed-income neighborhoods with affordable rental and homeownership opportunities for families in South Bethlehem. Following two years of resident organizing and advocacy, the City of Bethlehem has proposed changes to the zoning ordinance to regulate the expansion of college student housing in south Bethlehem. After a comprehensive, community-engaged planning process, the City has finalized a proposal that is now being considered by City Council. Council has asked for community feedback on the proposal at the October 22nd Community Development Committee meeting, scheduled for 6 pm in Town Hall, and virtually.

Over the past two years I’ve been a part of a broad group of neighbors, community stakeholders, City staff, and consultants that have analyzed data, collected stories, learned about best practices from other communities, and shared thoughts on what policy changes could help south Bethlehem remain a vibrant, diverse, mixed-income community. Our City staff have recognized the importance of regulating college student housing in our community, but the implementation of their plan is dependent upon Council’s approval.

We need residents who understand what makes south Bethlehem unique and who value affordable housing opportunities for all residents to tell Council that they support the regulation of student housing in our City.

Can we count on you and your followers to do one or more of the following:

  1. Speak at the October 22nd Community Development Committee meeting in support of the proposal (in person or via phone)
  2. Email City Council members at to express your support for the proposed zoning ordinance amendments
  3. Add your name to a letter to Council from affordable housing advocates throughout our community: CLICK HERE to read and sign.

I will soon be sending you several documents justifying and detailing the plan going to Council that you can share on Gadfly.

I hope that we can count on your support for our neighborhoods!

In solidarity,

Important meeting Thursday on regulating student housing to protect the Southside neighborhood

logo Latest in a series of posts on the Southside logo

Community Development Committee meeting
Thursday, October 22, 6PM

view on YouTube

call-in number: (610) 997-7963

The City Council Community Development Committee is chaired by Paige Van Wirt, with members J. William Reynolds and Grace Crampsie Smith.

Everybody needs to put this meeting on their calendar.

Look at item #1 on the agenda.

Some protection for the vitality of the Southside neighborhood around Lehigh University has been a long time coming.

You can expect landlords — mostly absentee perhaps — to be mobilized against these regulations.

Support from across the city is needed.

More information coming.

But please put the meeting date on your calendar and note the instructions below so that you can participate.


Thursday, October 22, 2020

6:00 PM – Town Hall

Community Development Committee Meeting

Subject:      (1) Zoning Ordinance amendments related to the proposed

creation of a Student Overlay District and including other provisions

to address student housing and revising certain dimensional

requirements and accessory structure regulations; and

(2) Financial Accountability Incentive Reporting Hearing (2020) in

connection with the Article 349 Economic Development Incentive

Reporting and Evaluation Program.



REMOTE PUBLIC COMMENT PHONE INSTRUCTIONS. If you would like to speak during the City Council Community Development Committee Meeting on October 22, 2020, please sign up per the instructions below or call into the meeting when the Committee Chair announces she 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 October 22, 2020 (a) name; (b) address; (c) phone number; and (d) topic of comments. If you are signed up to speak, the Committee Chair will call you from (610) 997-7963.

After all signed-up speakers talk, the Committee Chair 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.


You can watch the City Council Meeting on the following YouTube channel:

Some reflections on the NCC “police-free future” session

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

So Gadfly was instinctively inimical to the idea of abolishing the police, especially as it was sugar-coated in the conference session title as a “police-free future.”

But he was curious.

And eager to hear on what basis you could justify such an extreme idea.

And what put in its place.

He has slow-walked you (and him) through 7 posts in which the case was made (well, as much as you can do in a few conference minutes).

Herewith some Gadfly reflections:

  • Gadfly was glad one of the presenters, the one he has focused on so far (we’ll pick up Lehigh Valley’s Ashleigh Strange later), was, though not local, actually working in the abolition trenches.
  • Abolition — a police-free future — was not an academic or theoretical exercise for Peter VanKoughnett from Minneapolis; it was his primary work.
  • This will surprise you, perhaps — Gadfly was surprised he was not a person of color.
  • Peter was not only the whitest of white, he seemed very young, almost too young, and he exhibited a kind of vulnerability in manner — for instance, remarking how complicated the issues are, how humbled he felt at the complexity, how at times he had doubts regarding what he was representing.
  • Gadfly’s mental stereotype of “the” male bomb-throwing abolitionist was busted.
  • Peter did  not “argue” — there was a softness, a halting tentativeness to his delivery.
  • Cynical Gadfly wondered if that was a strategy to disarm his audience, but, truth be told, the majority of the audience, unlike Gadfly, already leaned toward accepting abolition or something close to it and were looking for models and strategies to implement here.
  • Peter was pretty much preaching to the choir.
  • Also surprising to Gadfly was that the move toward abolition grew out of an in-depth study, grew out of a history of policing in Minneapolis from the very beginning — 150 years ago.
  • In other words, again — though no doubt Peter’s group is allied to national movements — the reason for advocating abolition of policing in Minneapolis was not academic or theoretical. (Nor just being “hip,” as he said.)
  • It was solidly rooted in a place. It was site-specific. It was organic. It was reality.
  • The drive for abolition in Minneapolis grows out of Minneapolis history.
  • It is not imposed on Minneapolis, not layered on from the outside.
  • Gadfly has read the 2017 MPD150 report entitled “Enough is Enough.”
  • That Minneapolis police history is ugly.
  • As one of Peter’s slides indicates, the Minneapolis Police Department is under state investigation for civil rights abuses.
  • And newspaper reports post-GeorgeFloyd indicate Minneapolis City Council members not part of the abolitionist movement using precisely abolitionist language.
  • Not only using it, but acting on it in ways — proposing radical reconstruction of public safety, that is — that Gadfly has reported on before.
  • City Council came on abolition on its own, saying, in effect, enough is enough.
  • In other words, this policing system is unmistakably rotten, attempts to rehab it over time have failed, it’s not worth patching, and therefore it clearly needs to be scrapped.
  • MPD150’s futility cycle grows out of historical analysis; it is no fabrication or fantasy.
  • Enough is enough. The last straw.
  • Gadfly gets it; abolition makes sense for Minneapolis.
  • A third surprise for Gadfly is that abolition doesn’t mean immediate abolition as the word seems to suggest and as fearful critics have envisioned.
  • Abolition is a process. Perhaps “devolving” or “phasing out” the police department would be a better term. Anarchy is not going to reign all of a sudden.
  • But supposing a legitimacy for abolition in Minneapolis raises the question Gadfly has raised for us several times.
  • What’s the situation in Bethlehem?
  • “Has trust between the police department and the community broken down in Bethlehem?”
  • From public commentary so far, Gadfly would have to say the answer is no.
  • And if that trust is not broken, if the police department history is not a trainwreck, then certainly abolition will find no roots here.
  • (Hmmm, parenthetically, a Bethlehem Moment on the inception of our police department seems to be in order.)
  • We in Bethlehem may be in a mood to talk, if at all, about some reform but not about replacement.
  • So, now knowing more about it, Gadfly’s thinking has enlarged to accept abolition in certain “enough is enough” circumstances but not as a general principle.

What are you thinking?

The Gadfly police log

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

So, yes, there’s a little matter of a pandemic.

So, yes, there’s a little matter of a presidential election.

But Gadfly prefers to keep his focus narrowly local, where, as he has often said, he has hopes that a community feeling will act as a kind of adhesive bond as we discuss tough issues.

And, so, Gadfly is focusing on what is or should be our local response to public safety in the wake of the George Floyd murder.

We had a 6hr. Public Safety Committee meeting August 11. The police reported. Public interest was high. 27 people called in. 37 viewers stayed till the end. There were 237 YouTube views in total.

Then there were City Council meetings August 18, September 1, September 15, and October 6.

And we have heard nothing further.

But Gadfly has been preparing as if we are going to hear something, maybe discuss something.

And so he just spent 7 posts slow-walking through a presentation by a Minneapolis activist at the NCC “Peace and Social Justice” conference who is engaged in promoting the abolition of the police in his town.

An extreme position.

Gadfly is glad to understand that position more now.

But before he comments, he’d like to go back to where he started this abolition thread and consider his own personal interactions with the police. How did they turn out? Can he imagine an alternative to the police? Can he imagine a need for an alternative to the police?

He asked you to think about your own interactions with the police. (He’d especially like to hear about traffic stops.)

See how you feel now after hearing the abolitionist make his case.

Remember the question he asked us to think about, “whom do you call first?”

Here are some entries in the Gadfly police log (what’s in yours?):

  • called police because Mrs. Gadfly had fallen, and he needed help: Mrs. G wasn’t hurt, but she couldn’t get up. She has spine and shoulder issues, so the possibility of aggravating injury was on his mind. It was nearly midnight. Gadfly could have called a friendly neighbor even though he was asleep, but, worried about aggravating injury, he felt he needed someone “professional.” Gadfly’s immediate thought was to call the police. Two jovial officers arrived, remarking at how many calls like this they get. They expertly applied a maneuver utilizing a blanket (who knew), and Mrs. G was upright in no time. In calling the police, Gadfly remembers thinking that they would probably refer the call or refer me somewhere else. But police seemed to be natural “first contact.”
  • called because College students 3 houses away were partying outside and playing loud music: Gadfly had 6 children, boys, clustered compactly in age, Irish sextuplets. They were like a wolfpack. They made noise. Plenty of it. You’d think Gadfly would be tolerant. But he got old. And cranky. And he’s pissed that his neighborhood is changing, turning into rentals. Bringing less care to property upkeep. Bringing parking problems. So there’s tension between him and the students. He didn’t relish approaching 15-20 inebriated college students. Calling the police was his immediate reaction. Two officers arrived. They “sauntered” (carefully chosen SAT word, look it up) in a non-threatening manner into the yard party, and it quickly dialed down. The officers reported back to me that the City noise ordinance didn’t kick in for 3hrs, but that they got the students to agree to dampen the noise by shutting off the outside music. Nice work.
  • called because a neighbor had a derelict vehicle parked for weeks on our residential street: friendly, non-confrontational, neighborly banter elicited promises to move the vehicle, but there were always excuses. Issuance of a ticket by a pretty serious imposing no-bullshit looking dude officer on a motorcycle immediately did the trick. Gadfly doesn’t remember thinking there was any other way to deal with this than call the police.
  • called because a rabid cat had gotten into the cellar: well, we didn’t know it was rabid at first. It was just up in the rafters and hissed rather ferociously at attempts to get to it. The kids were scared. Gadfly isn’t sure that he even knew that there might be something called animal control, etc., for something like this, so he called the police. One officer arrived. He said the cat was foaming and obviously rabid. Only one thing to do. He shot the cat and disposed of it, who knows where.
  • called because of “domestic disturbances” at a neighbor’s: Had to do this a couple times. A neighbor family sometimes gets into a gnarl. Loud, so loud that it becomes intolerable if it lasts a long time. And intense, serious, the kind of interaction in which you damn well expect eventual violence. So Gadfly has had to call the police. He is always asked if there are guns in the neighbor’s house. There are, and he says so. Multiple officers arrive, unbeknownst to the neighbors. One circles the house, checking things out. Another knocks on the door, firmly but not especially aggressively. The other officer or officers stand pretty relaxed a distance away. The main officer seems to identify the antagonists pretty quickly, and they voluntarily separate without force, going off to tell their “story” at a distance from each other to one of the officers. The officers hear them out. Gradually things calm down. At times the officers have provided guidance or legal direction about the sources of the arguments. Each of these domestic disturbances has ended well.

That’s a look at Gadfly’s tame life with the police.

Which is why his instinct was immediately antithetical to the idea of abolition but, as well, simultaneously intensely curious about how the case is made.

Would you want to share an example from your police log? Gadfly knows there must be a world of varied experience. He will publish anonymously, if you prefer, as long as he knows who you are and trusts you.

The idea is to think what life would be like without the police.

The Case for abolishing the police (7): “How could we build a police-free future?”

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

Here’s an exercise that PV uses with workshop audiences that gets into the nitty-gritty of abolition and grounds it in reality. PV says the exercise shows you how complicated this all is.

He encourages people to choose a specific issue and then move through the chart, asking questions like what do we want to happen, what might we do to keep the issue from happening in the first place, what institutions might there be to handle the issue?


Then AS gives us a mental health scenario that we might witness and asks us to think it through per the chart.

Suppose you look out your window, and there’s a half-naked guy on your lawn gyrating crazily and singing.

Whom are you going to call?

And what outcome do you expect?

What happens if someone without a gun, a badge, a taser, mace shows up?

How would we expect a police officer to handle this?


The Case for abolishing the police (6): “What are the alternatives to calling the police?”

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

Remember what we’re doing here in this string of posts.

We’re taking our time and listening to a police abolitionist. Hearing his case. So we can know it and have an informed opinion about it.

Crazy, right? Who else does this kind of thing?

in this section of his presentation, PV suggests that we ask ourselves what already exists in our town in lieu of calling the police.

So that the police or 911 is not necessarily the first place we call in certain circumstances.

And then that we put a list together.

Such as you see here below.

And put it on the fridge or home bulletin board.

And put the numbers in our phones.

And then these places would be targets for reallocated money from the police department budget.

Gadfly wonders if such a list is already available for Bethlehem/Northampton County. Anybody know?

Resources by city

The Case for abolishing the police (5): “What about the reforms?”

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

Here PV confronts the efficacy of the “reform” stage in the Futility Cycle.

Our officers have had the much ballyhoo’d body cameras for about a year (considerable cost — were they paid for by a grant?), and it would be good to have a report on whatever impact and effect, if any, the cameras have had.

The abolitionists don’t see these kinds of reforms as particularly meaningful.

PV is quite Minneapolis site-specific here, indicating that Minneapolis has been the poster child for reform. Trying everything. Progressive. Cutting-edge.

But the reforms “haven’t done much at all.”

“Haven’t led to more accountability.”

Camera use “doesn’t lead to justice.”

This time we’re only looking for a minute of your listening time.

to be continued . . .

The Case for abolishing the police (4): “How you gonna stop bank robbers?”

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

Followers should find this discussion familiar.

For it is Councilman Reynolds who in his discussion of systemic racism has asked us to think beyond the police department to other societal and cultural factors that create problems that the police are then asked to deal with.

PV has two responses to such questions.

First, abolitionists take a “deeper view” of how to fight crime. Fighting crime is not about just catching and punishing a criminal after the fact of the crime. It’s taking a “holistic view,” asking why someone is committing a crime in the first place. That is, addressing the cause of crime. We fund the police more than other institutions that support the people and if properly supported themselves would mitigate the reason for crime. But most abolitionists recognize the need that there be a “subset of civil servants” who handle forceable intervention when necessary. Most abolitionists are open to that. Most police don’t actually fight crime or work to stop crime.

Though PV said he has two responses, Gadfly doesn’t see that he gave a second one.

Time for your 2-minute drill again. Aww, make it 3 this time.

So Gadfly was kinda surprised with this part of the presentation. It’s familiar territory that he didn’t expect to find.

to be continued . . .

The Case for abolishing the police (3): “How will we stay safe?”

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

“Defunding the police,” “abolishing the police” are loaded terms.

Bound to raise hackles, bound to stiffen spines, bound to clench fists.

Gadfly wishes he could slap the coiners of these terms upside the head.

So we’re trying to get beyond the knee-jerk reaction to see how the holders of these positions explain themselves.

Here’s a common question.

PV’s answer to this “common fear” is to indicate that there is divergence in the abolition movement about how fast it would happen.

Some think of it as a “snap-your-fingers” kind of happening. Abolish the police and see what happens.

But, PV says, the majority view is that abolishing is a gradual process while building alternate institutions and diverting funds to “other concrete things.”

There’s a kind of sorting process, acknowledging the need to keep some things that police departments do but not others.

There’s a time for figuring out how to protect people, that is, what the police department claims to do and sometimes does.

In short, abolishing the police is a process characterized by careful thinking.

Over time, the current police department would be phased out.

Spend another 2 minutes with PV:

What are you thinking?

to be continued . . .

The Case for abolishing the police (2): The Futile Cycle of Police Reform

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

We’re looking at how the case is made for abolition of the police department at the NCC “Police-Free Future” panel.

Peter VanKoughnett’s chart is the key representation of the need for abolition, of the need for a new structure of policing in Minneapolis.

PV and his group are actively working toward a new structure for the Minneapolis police department. His group formed in 2017 — interesting that this movement to abolish the existing police structure in Minneapolis began well before George Floyd. PV’s experience, his motivation, his research is site-specific to Minneapolis.

PV studied the 150-year history of policing in Minneapolis. He finds it rather sordid. It began in town patrols with an anti-Union function and which harassed working people, the native population, and people of color. These groups gradually became incorporated into the city structure, rough and undisciplined at first but becoming more professional as time went on — but their function remained basically the same.

Especially since the 1960s, his research shows this “Futile Cycle of Police Reform” — the most important finding of his historical research.

  • The police do something obviously bad, some act of brutality, maybe a murder.
  • The public reacts with outrage and protest for change, for reform.
  • Some kind of reform happens, for instance, new training, new techniques, new equipment, a review board, etc., sometimes increasing the size of the department — but never touching the core issues that lead to violence.
  • There follows a period of stagnation and backsliding.
  • Then every 5-10 years there is another outrageous occurrence.
  • And the cycle starts again.
  • So abolition is a way to break the cycle.

PV: “It’s really humbling,” when we see the same things happening over and over again. . . . “It doesn’t feel like we’ve gotten anywhere.” . . . Abolition is a way to break that cycle. . . . “The cycle isn’t working for us. It’s just perpetuating violence.”

Listen to PV for 2 minutes:

Ashley Strange sees the cycle in our neighborhood. After the Floyd murder, there was a clamor for police departments to reform by adopting the well known “8 Can’t Wait” principles. Departments like Allentown (and Bethlehem too) claimed that they were already using “8 Can’t Wait,” and yet, says AS, Allentown quickly saw the incident at Sacred Heart Hospital where the officer had a knee on a guy’s neck. So, she would claim, where did that reform get us? For her, Allentown just witnessed the cycle PV was talking about.

Listen to AS for 2 minutes:

Are you with Gadfly so far?

The basic premise for abolition seems to be that reform is demonstrably futile, clearly pointing to the need for a new structure altogether. Not reform but replacement.

Gadfly, as usual, will wait to critique till he has laid out the rest of the case to be made for abolition.

But he invites your responses along the way.

to be continued . . .

The Case for abolishing the police (1): the presenters

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference

Police-Free Future panel, October 15, 2020

The murder of George Floyd initiated (another) national reckoning with race. Cities around the country are or should be examining how they do public safety as part of that national reckoning with race.

Gadfly has been trying to school himself on the various ideas in the wind (and sometimes on the table) regarding reimagining police departments.

Some of it he gets, some he doesn’t.

The idea of a police-free future (a less immediately confrontational term than “abolishing the police”!) is one of the ideas he doesn’t get.

What can people possibly mean by abolishing the police?

Gadfly’ll bet that many followers have asked the same question in a kind of bewilderment.

So he was very interested in this panel at the NCC “Peace and Social Justice” conference on Wednesday (video link above).

And Gadfly will take a post or two or three to make the case for abolishing the police as he understood it from attending the panel presentation.

Let’s see what we think about it.


First, though, about the panel members:

The presenters were out-of-towner Peter VanKoughnett of MPD150 and the ever more familiar Ashleigh Strange of Lehigh Valley Stands Up. Peter is from Minneapolis — George Floyd ground-zero — and his organization title refers to the 150-year history of the Minneapolis Police Department.

“MPD150 is a community-based initiative challenging the narrative that police exist to protect and serve. MPD150 is a participatory, horizontally-organized effort by local organizers, researchers, artists, and activists to shift the discussion around police and policing in Minneapolis from one of procedural reforms to one of meaningful structural change. It is not the project of any organization. We stand on the shoulders of the work that many organizations have been doing for years, and welcome the support of everyone who agrees with our approach. We hope that the process we are developing will help organizers in other cities establish practical abolitionist strategies.”

MPD150 is

  • shifting the discussion from police reforms to structural change
  • developing practical abolitionist strategies

“The purpose of MPD150 is to change the story of policing in Minneapolis in order to set in motion a process for dissolving the Minneapolis Police Department.”

“Lehigh Valley Stands Up (LVSU) is a grassroots organization formed by leaders throughout the Lehigh Valley. Together we will build a multi-racial working class force for transformative political change in the Lehigh Valley, making a difference on issues and in elections in the years ahead.”

“We are focused on holding our elected and appointed leaders accountable for their actions and exposing corruption in every level of government. We want to divest from institutions that have harmed our communities and invest in equitable solutions that will benefit everyone.”

to be continued . . .

Reminder: film on Black women poets debuts tonight Thursday 6:30

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference
October 13-15

Thursday schedule

Gadfly’s attended 9 sessions of the conference so far. Nothing else is getting done. The dishes are overflowing the sink.

Gadfly’s special pick on today’s schedule is this film at 6:30pm. Several people familiar to the Gadfly blog are involved:

Touchstone’s “Dictators 4 Dummies” online Friday night

Latest in a series of posts on Touchstone Theatre


“Touchstone Theatre is a Bethlehem Treasure”


now online

Friday, October 16, 7PM

An election season retrospective of original political satire. Ensemble Member Christopher Shorr presents a re-imagining of his 2018 musical, now a movie with larger-than-life characters played by action figures voiced by the original Dictators 4 Dummies cast. Plus: a concert of satirical songs from the Touchstone archive, with favorites from Bhudoo and The Pan Show: In Pan We Trust performed live by the Touchstone company. Join us for a comical evening, a musical challenge to complacency . . . and a chilling reminder of the tenuous state of democracy.

After careful consideration of the damp and chilly forecast for the next three days, we’ve decided to convert Dictators 4 Dummies… and more! to a fully online event. We know that many of you were looking forward to joining us in the parking lot theatre, but we believe this will allow us to deliver the best product to as many of our audience as possible, while not hedging our bets on the fickle weather gods.
So – please join us VIA LIVESTREAM, tomorrow (Friday, October 16) at 7pm for Dictators 4 Dummies… and more! The whole show will still be there – with pre-recorded opening acts from Bhudoo and The Pan Show, leading up to the world premiere of Christopher Shorr’s new Tyrants of Tomorrow Telethon MOVIE! Watch at – viewing is free, donations are gratefully accepted (remember – although the fictional telethon is raising money in support of dictators, your donations support Touchstone’s continuing work in building community and battling complacency)



How do the police spend their time?

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

“The share devoted to handling violent crime is very small, about 4 percent.”

So Gadfly is hoping that Bethlehem will take this cultural moment — the death of George Floyd + the installation of a new Police Chief — to do an in-depth review of policing in Bethlehem.

Which is not to suggest that there is something wrong in the department.

But the Floyd murder changed things.

At least for some people.

It was interesting to see at the October 6 City Council meeting that, as reported here earlier, two Councilors viewed a routine matter through a different lens, though one didn’t.

For some of us, the culture moved May 25.

We see the world through a different lens.

It’s time to take stock of what we are doing, public-safety-wise.

Gadfly hopes and would assume that a review of public safety would be an issue in the not-too-far away Mayoral and Council elections.

But before we begin discussing abolition, defunding, re-imagining, it makes sense to ask what the police do.

It might be good to stop and reflect for a minute on examples of situations when you called the police. And to ask if the police were necessary in those cases.

Gadfly remembers recently:

  • calling because Mrs. Gadfly had fallen, and he needed help
  • calling because College students 3 houses away were partying outside and playing loud music
  • calling because a neighbor had a derelict truck parked for weeks on the street
  • calling because a rabid cat had gotten into the cellar

Could that business have been better, more efficiently, less expensively handled in another way?

Ha! Maybe your life is more exciting than mine.

But it makes sense to ask the questions, what do police do, and is it necessary for them to do it.

So here’s a story from the New York Times.

It may be controversial because of the source, or the data, or a narrow vision.

Gadfly invites your response to the article.

But, also, mainly, think of your interactions with the police.


A review of publicly available data in three areas reveals that much of an officer’s job revolves around handling routine calls rather than violent crime.

What share of policing is devoted to handling violent crime? Perhaps not as much as you might think. A handful of cities post data online showing how their police departments spend their time. The share devoted to handling violent crime is very small, about 4 percent.

That could be relevant to the new conversations about the role of law enforcement that have arisen since the death of George Floyd in police custody and the nationwide protests that followed. For instance, there has been talk of “unbundling” the police — redirecting some of their duties, as well as some of their funding, by hiring more of other kinds of workers to help with the homeless or the mentally ill, drug overdoses, minor traffic problems and similar disturbances.

Typical Shift by Officer: Time Spent



Consider “calls for service.” These can be defined as calls to emergency operators, 911, alarms, police radio and nonemergency calls. They mostly begin from calls by citizens, but also include incidents police officers initiate themselves.

Calls for service do not include time spent investigating after an incident; training sessions; administrative duties; and off-duty employment. As such, they are not a perfect encapsulation of how police officers spend all their time, but they do provide a good representation of how police departments interact with the public.

Determining what constitutes a violent crime can be tricky because some agencies don’t differentiate between aggravated assaults (generally considered a violent crime) and simple assaults (an assault without an injury that is generally not considered a violent crime) in their publicly available calls for service data.

The F.B.I. Uniform Crime Report definition of violent crime is more narrow than frequently broader state definitions. For this analysis, we used the Uniform Crime Report definition — homicide, robbery, rape and aggravated assault — to highlight responses to only the most serious of violent crimes. We found 10 agencies with publicly available calls for service data as shown in the chart below. Serious violent crimes have made up around 1 percent of all calls-for-service episodes in those agencies so far this year.

Percentage of Calls for Violent Crime

Serious violent crimes have made up around 1 percent of all calls for service in these police departments so far this year.

Relatively minor incidents such as traffic responses and noncriminal miscellaneous complaints account for a much larger share of calls for service in most of these cities. In Seattle, for example, responses to traffic accidents and enforcement make up over 15 percent of all calls for service in 2020, while 15 percent of incidents in New Orleans fall in the “complaint other” category.
Of course, responding to a murder scene takes far longer than handling a burglar alarm, so the number of episodes does not, by itself, indicate how much time an agency spends responding to violent crime. Fortunately, a handful of agencies include information on how long officers spend on any given incident.

While data is not available on how much time a specific officer spends on scene, a generalized result can be deduced by subtracting the time an incident is deemed “closed” from either when an officer was first dispatched or when the incident was first reported. Incidents without a known start and closure time were discounted, as were calls for service for routine patrol activities like area and business checks.

In New Orleans, officers have spent 4 percent of their time this year responding to calls for serious violent crimes. Gun violence has taken up an even smaller share, with 0.7 percent of time spent responding to homicides and nonfatal shooting incidents. Domestic violence calls that are not violent crimes have taken 7.3 percent of officer time, while roughly a third of time has been spent responding to calls regarding complaints, traffic accidents and noncriminal disturbances.

Similar patterns hold in Montgomery County in Maryland and Sacramento. In Montgomery County this year, officers spent 4.1 percent of their time responding to calls for violent crime, including 0.1 percent on homicides. Officers in Sacramento spent 3.7 percent of their time responding to serious violent crime and 0.1 percent handling homicides and firearm assaults.

Law enforcement has often become a backstop for much of society’s ills, sometimes being stretched thin while dealing with domestic disputes or providing safety for schools. Both the police and their critics have at times questioned whether social workers or other workers would be better equipped for those duties.

As experts continue to debate how best to improve the performance of law enforcement, it’s helpful to first have a clear understanding of how the police spend their time interacting with the public, including how little of it revolves around responding to violent crime.

Lancaster incident: officer acted appropriately

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

ref: “It’s time to stop the war on Police”

Remember this case?  It relates to the kind of deadly incidents people have in mind when they talk about defunding the police, abolishing the police, re-imagining how we do public safety.

Gadfly has been attending NCC’s “Peace and Social Justice” conference the past two days (and today as well) and will be posting on 2-3 of the sessions.

The story here might act as a refresher for Gadfly’s posts about the NCC conference.

See the video (with the Lancaster police contextual description) of this Lancaster event here.

Selected from Mark Scolforo, “District attorney says police justified in fatal shooting of knife-wielding man in Lancaster.” Morning Call, October 14, 2020.

A police officer acted appropriately last month in shooting to death a Lancaster man who was wielding a knife at the officer and chasing him after his sister called 911 for help, a prosecutor said Wednesday.

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said there will not be criminal charges for the Sept. 13 death of Ricardo Munoz, whose shooting outside his home in the city was captured on police body camera footage that was previously released to the public.

Munoz, 27, who was on bail at the time, awaiting trial on charges he stabbed four people last year, was seen on the video brandishing the knife at the unnamed officer. The hunting-style knife had a 5-inch blade.

“Based on my review of the facts and the applicable law, there is no question, no question that the officer was justified in the use of deadly force,” Adams said. She said the four shots that killed Munoz were a restrained response, given the imminent threat to the Lancaster City police officer.

She said one of Munoz’s sisters called 911 to say Munoz was being very aggressive and needed help, that he had punched a car and had “mental problems.” The sister told 911 that her mother was afraid.

Another sister has told investigators that at about the same time, she called crisis intervention in neighboring Lebanon County and the nonemergency number for Lancaster police, Adams said.

The first responding officer parked in an alley a short distance away and came to the door. Munoz soon appeared and came out of the home rapidly, brandishing the knife. Adams said there was no interaction or exchange of words, giving the officer about 4 seconds to respond while Munoz chased him.

“He retreats, he confirms that the threat is still imminent and he reacts” with gunfire, Adams said. The officer had no time or opportunity to attempt to de-escalate, she said.

Michael Perna, a lawyer for the Munoz family, said the prosecutor’s decision dismayed the family but did not surprise them. He called it a “wholly preventable killing” and described the investigation as flawed.

The fatal shooting prompted demonstrations in Lancaster, including rioting that damaged the city police headquarters and other downtown buildings, and an arson fire that blocked an intersection.

Lehigh refines reporting of COVID cases, 63 active off-campus

Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus

Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

Lehigh Brown and White Oct. 14: Lehigh’s COVID-19 dashboard is now reporting active and cumulative cases. There is currently 26 active cases among students living on-campus and 63 active cases among students living off-campus, for a total of 89 active cases. There has been 60 cumulative positive cases among students living on-campus and 129 cumulative cases off-campus for a total of 189 cases since Aug. 7.

Today at the NCC Peace and Social Justice conference

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

The 2020 NCC Peace and Social Justice Conference
October 13-15

Thursday schedule

Gadfly’s attended 6 sessions of the conference so far. Nothing else is getting done. The dishes are piling up in the sink.

Gadfly’s special pick on today’s schedule is this film at 6:30pm. Several people familiar to the Gadfly blog are involved:

But there’s lots more. Take a look at the full Thursday schedule (link above).

“It is uncomfortable to unpack the history of systemic oppression”

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

Here are some documents shared at the NCC conference yesterday.

The Tukeva statement from which title line of this post comes reminds me of the words of Councilman Reynolds pitching the Community Engagement Initiative to us, words that turned the Gadfly on, words that made him buzz bitchily a couple days ago at what seemed a delay in getting the unpacking going:

“Open Letter on Racial Justice,” Michael B. Tukeva, Pocono Mountains United Way

The same organization also produced a wonderful set of resources. Gadfly keeps saying that there’s knowledge aplenty abounding on our national reckoning on race. No excuse for anybody unsensitized to the scope of racial issues that beset us.

See: Racial Equity Resources

Gadfly especially likes Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children,

What are you reading that informs your thinking about racism, about equity, about systemic racism?

Police department involved in a student trauma program

Latest in a series of posts about the Bethlehem Police

This is really the first that Gadfly has heard about the doin’s of the Citizen Advisory Board, an alliance between the City and the NAACP. Gadfly has tried to get agendas and minutes through Right-to-Know but no dice. The CAB is not considered an official City body. Sigh.

This looks good! Wonder why there isn’t more info coming from that group.

register here

Hello! Calling the Health Director!

Latest in a series of posts on the coronavirus

Lehigh University COVID-19 Information Center

Lehigh University COVID-19 dashboard

“We were discussing this. My concerns revolved around the community surrounding Lehigh. Do many of the students frequent local businesses? The same businesses that many residents frequent? Are they places that older residents would frequent?”

Saturday 155 total confirmed coronavirus cases at Lehigh, 101 off-campus.

Tuesday 177 total confirmed cases, 119 off-campus.

According to the B&W Weekly, October 12, “Lehigh has expanded its surveillance testing to include both on and off-campus students. However, students who are not selected for testing have found difficulty receiving help from the Health Center. Students who have been in contact with a positive case have been denied testing.


See also:
Students encounter challenges while in isolation and quarantine on-campus, B & W, October 7.

Hello! Calling the Health Director!

How should we celebrate October 12?

Latest in a series of posts on the Columbus monument

“We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.”
Donald J. Trump

When Christopher Columbus and his crew sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on the Niña, Pinta, and Santa María it marked the beginning of a new era in human history.  For Italian Americans, Christopher Columbus represents one of the first of many immeasurable contributions of Italy to American history.  As a native of Genoa, Columbus inspired early immigrants to carry forth their rich Italian heritage to the New World.  Today, the United States benefits from the warmth and generosity of nearly 17 million Italian Americans, whose love of family and country strengthen the fabric of our Nation.  For our beautiful Italian American communities — and Americans of every background –Columbus remains a legendary figure.

Sadly, in recent years, radical activists have sought to undermine Christopher Columbus’s legacy.  These extremists seek to replace discussion of his vast contributions with talk of failings, his discoveries with atrocities, and his achievements with transgressions.  Rather than learn from our history, this radical ideology and its adherents seek to revise it, deprive it of any splendor, and mark it as inherently sinister.  They seek to squash any dissent from their orthodoxy.  We must not give in to these tactics or consent to such a bleak view of our history.  We must teach future generations about our storied heritage, starting with the protection of monuments to our intrepid heroes like Columbus.  This June, I signed an Executive Order to ensure that any person or group destroying or vandalizing a Federal monument, memorial, or statue is prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I have also taken steps to ensure that we preserve our Nation’s history and promote patriotic education.  In July, I signed another Executive Order to build and rebuild monuments to iconic American figures in a National Garden of American Heroes.  In September, I announced the creation of the 1776 Commission, which will encourage our educators to teach our children about the miracle of American history and honor our founding.  In addition, last month I signed an Executive Order to root out the teaching of racially divisive concepts from the Federal workplace, many of which are grounded in the same type of revisionist history that is trying to erase Christopher Columbus from our national heritage.  Together, we must safeguard our history and stop this new wave of iconoclasm by standing against those who spread hate and division.

On this Columbus Day, we embrace the same optimism that led Christopher Columbus to discover the New World.  We inherit that optimism, along with the legacy of American heroes who blazed the trails, settled a continent, tamed the wilderness, and built the single-greatest nation the world has ever seen.

In commemoration of Christopher Columbus’s historic voyage, the Congress, by joint resolution of April 30, 1934, modified in 1968 (36 U.S.C. 107), has requested the President proclaim the second Monday of October of each year as “Columbus Day.”

NOW, THEREFORE, I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 12, 2020, as Columbus Day.  I call upon the people of the United States to observe this day with appropriate ceremonies and activities.  I also direct that the flag of the United States be displayed on all public buildings on the appointed day in honor of our diverse history and all who have contributed to shaping this Nation.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this ninth day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand twenty, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-fifth.


“On November 19, 1493, during his second voyage, Christopher Columbus arrived in Puerto Rico. The indigenous Taíno culture dominated the island. . . . By
1520 the Taíno presence had almost vanished.”
Yale University, Genocide Studies Program

p.s., tip o’ the hat to Barb Lee

The NCC Social Justice and Peace conference schedule today

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

The 2020 NCC Social Justice and Peace Conference
October 13-15

Wednesday schedule

Gadfly attended three sessions of the conference yesterday with interest and profit. Sorry, he hasn’t had time to cull a few clips for you yet.

Here are the sessions I’m going to try to attend today. I’m just picking the ones that look like they will be helpful if we start into any reimagining of the way we do public safety here in Bethlehem. You may be interested in others.

I know I can’t make the first one below. If anyone can record the 9:30 session, it would be much appreciated. For I am especially interested in this first one. I really don’t get how abolishing the police is going to work. That’s a steep climb. That’s a big stretch. So I’m particularly interested in how that gets pitched. Isn’t that the big one? The one that almost everybody has a hard time getting their mind around. I get the idea of defunding, though I’d need to see a way that it works. But abolishing the police doesn’t compute at all.

9:30-10:45 PANEL: Towards a Police Free Future: Peter VanKoughnett (MPD 150), LVSU – Lehigh Valley Stands Up):In this session, Peter will present an overview of MPD150’s work – a history of the Minneapolis Police department’s oppressions, theories of abolition, and tools to practice abolitionist thinking.  Ashleigh will present on Lehigh Valley Stands Up and particular policies which bring us closer to a police free future.”

11:00-12:15: Black Lives Matter: Black Lives Matter (BLM) Lehigh Valley will be covering issues such as our fight against systemic and oppressive racism within multiple channels, how to make change at the local level, and what defunding the police really means.  Justan Parker (LV BLM)

3:30-4:45: The unspoken emotional effect of “surviving the skin we’re in:” As Black Americans we live under a constant threat in America. And the burden of imparting and interpreting this to our children is unfair.Nah-tarsha Cherry, Mary Elizabeth O’Connor (Bethlehem NAACP)

“The smell needs to go now!”

Latest in a series of posts on the environment

Asad Harrington is a Junior at Liberty High School. Asad presented this essay at the “Speak out!” Sustainability Forum, part of Touchstone Theatre’s Festival UnBound 2020, September 19. You can view Asad reading his work here at min. 42:25.

Health and Safety for the Sustainability of Bethlehem
and Its Surrounding Areas

Asad Harrington

The sustainability issue that I want to improve is the smell that comes from the water facility in Freemansburg. It’s unbearable, unnecessary, and destructive. People can’t even come outside to sit on their porches because the smell is so bad. I feel like that’s unfair for homeowners. It would be hard if they wanted to move and sell their house. It would be hard because of the smell. The smell needs to go now!

When I’m out walking, I love being outside except when I go into Freemansburg. Instead of smelling fresh air, I smell fresh crap! I don’t live there; but whenever I drive by, I smell the foul odor, and it just makes me want to vomit. It’s a huge cancer growing on our community, not just affecting the neighbors. Plaintiffs Robin and Dexter Baptiste, both homeowners in the Freemansburg area, filed lawsuits demanding a total of $5 million dollars. I have an uncle who lives in Freemansburg, but whenever I go to his house, I never smell anything. When I came across the article about the lawsuit, I was highly surprised. Those who can afford to live out from under the cloud, do, Those who can’t, can’t. People must be free to live where they can afford. I understand both sides, but I favor the people who have to live with the smell everyday, which is simply wrong.

Don Hallock, the district manager for Waste Connections, declined to comment on the lawsuit. He’s against it, of course, and doesn’t think any changes should be made. I demand that the water facility do something about the smell or move to where there are no people. The Authority is bringing in a lot of money, and money is the root of why they don’t want to move. They even plan to upgrade the facility, expanding it so more towns around the Lehigh Valley can send their stink there. They have to understand the frustration and annoyance of the people who live around the facility — who can blame them. I wouldn’t want to smell that horrible stench either. But with the new upgrades, I insist that the Authority improve the facility and get rid of the smell.

NCC conference session on the July Palmerton protest at 12:30 today

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

The 2020 NCC Social Justice and Peace Conference
October 13-15

Gadfly attended the “Police Brutality” session at the NCC conference this morning. It was quite informative. Among the 60-some attendees, Gadfly noted several followers, two, in fact, contributing high quality comments. Gadfly hopes to post some clips before the day is out. The technical set-up of the conference is quite sophisticated, enabling various means of participating.

The next session Gadfly is going to try to attend is on the July protest in Palmerton. I understand there’s video to be seen. Bethlehem has had several demonstrations, and we’ve prided ourselves that they were calm and peaceful. Not so in Palmerton, I gather. Should be valuable discussion.

12:30-1:45: PANEL: Local Protesting Spotlight on Palmerton Protest: On Saturday July 18, a anti-police brutality protest was held in Palmerton, PA. After disinformation was circulated, a counter-protest was held in opposition. This counter-protest, of armed and belligerent people, outnumbered the anti-police brutality 5 to 1. This session will be focused on this event and the experiences of those in attendance. Arthur Louis Benson II (Action Town Activists), José Ortiz, Sierra Hahn, Councilwoman Ce-ce Gerlach.

BAPL’s “Black Bethlehem Project” featured on WFMZ, Channel 69

Latest in a series of posts on Bethlehem History

Black Bethlehem Project

We’ve had occasion several times in these pages to high-five BAPL and Rayah Levy for the “Black Bethlehem Project,” only one part of the wonderful programs and resources BAPL has produced to help raise our consciousness about the Black experience and racism at this cultural moment when, in the wake of the George Floyd murder, the nation is again engaged in a reckoning with race..

There’s simply no excuse for not opening our minds to knowledge appropriate to understanding the Black experience locally as well as nationally.

click article title for video

Selections from Frank Whelan, “History’s Headlines: Black lives in the Lehigh Valley.” WFMZ, October 10, October 12, 2020.

Recently the Bethlehem Area Public Library began what it called the Black Bethlehem Project. Headed by M. Rayah Levy, the head of the library’s adult services, it focuses on the history of Black people in the Christmas City primarily in the years from the 1950s to the 1970s. Made possible by an $11,000 grant from the Lehigh Valley Engaged Humanities Consortium, the project, using oral and written interviews and narratives, focuses on the experiences, both good and not so good, of Black people’s lives during that slice of the 20th century in Bethlehem.

Black missionaries could be found in the streets of Bethlehem. When Moravian painter Valentine Haidt painted his “The First Fruits,” he showed Black people both on earth and in heaven. Not all Moravians however shared these views of Black people. Some owned slaves and some sources suggest that Black slaves were used in building projects, particularly in its North Carolina community at Salem.

Few Black people were brought to Pennsylvania. Historians estimate that only 2 percent of Pennsylvania’s population was Black by the end of the colonial era. Most of the laborers coming into Pennsylvania were white, indentured servants from Europe. And there were no large plantations in the colony that required the labor of enslaved people. Most of the slaves in the colony were domestic servants and were living in Philadelphia. They did not come directly from Africa but were from the West Indies. There was no large market for enslaved Black people in Pennsylvania unless they understood English and were trained in housekeeping.

Almost certainly few white colonists were shocked by an ad in the Philadelphia newspaper, the Pennsylvania Gazette of August 28, 1732, by merchants William Allen and Joseph Turner of “a parcel of fine Negro Boys and Girls to be sold,” or one offering for sale “two likely Negroes bred to House Work” that appeared in the May 13, 1736 edition of the same paper. Allen abandoned the slave trade in the early 1750s and later founded Allentown. Probably the first African Americans to be seen in Allentown were Henry, Frances, and Sampson. When William Allen’s son James married in 1767, they were a part of his wife’s dowery. They lived at Trout Hall when the family was there in the summer. James Allen emancipated them in his will when he died at age 37. “I have always been convinced of the horrors of slavery,” he added.

Slavery came to an end in Pennsylvania but very slowly. The slave trade was abolished in 1776. But there was much argument over the law passed in 1780 that finally did so. Much of the opposition came from many of the clergy who had one or two enslaved people as household servants. Many who received little salary found it cheaper to buy a slave than hire a housekeeper. The law of 1780 stipulated that those who were slaves at the time of its signing would be slaves the rest of their lives, their children would be free when they reached 21 and their children would be born free. As a result of this complicated process it would be 1847 before the last elderly enslaved persons in Pennsylvania died.

Some historians believe that the first Black people to come into the Valley in any number that were not enslaved came with the building of the Lehigh Canal in the 1820s. Later, according to the late historian Lance Metz, by the 1830s they were employed as mule drivers on the canal boats. The first Black person in Bethlehem that was recognized in Bethlehem after the West Indian missionaries was Benjamin Rice. In his 1976 history, W. Ross Yates notes that local artist Rufus Grider described first seeing Rice in or about 1842. He described “Black Ben” as “leading a roving life, sleeping in barns.” He was primarily noted for the folk wisdom he dispensed in English and Pennsylvania German. Rice died in 1865 in the Northampton County Poor House following a botched amputation of his foot from freezing and exposure.

The U.S. Census for 1860 listed 32 Black people living in Bethlehem. South Bethlehem, which was then a part of Lower Saucon Township, is listed as having 8 Black residents, five men and three women. Allentown had 16 Black residents. Easton with 85 had the largest number. At that time with nearly 10,000 people it was the population center of the Lehigh Valley. As the nexus of several canals, it most likely offered that kind of employment to Black laborers. South Bethlehem’s Black population began to expand with the arrival of the Lehigh Valley Railroad in the 1850s. Some were domestic servants of the new industrial leadership. Among the first to employ black “domestics” was Tinsley Jeeter, (sometimes spelled Jeter) a Virginia born son of a slave holder who developed in the 1860s and 70’s what became Fountain Hill.

Other Black newcomers were attracted to jobs connected with the railroad and other industries. Historian W. Ross Yates in volume II of his book “Bethlehem of Pennsylvania: The Golden Years” described it this way:

“They clustered together originally in the area around Broadway and lower Brodhead Avenue and the lower edge of Fountain Hill. As their numbers grew, they settled extensively in the poorer sections of Northampton Heights. Eventually they spread the length of the South Side, excluding those sections which remained wholly European, along Second and Third streets, mostly in what used to be Mechanic Street housing and around the coke works near Hellertown.”

From the 1890s Bethlehem’s Black families formed their own institutions, particularly churches. It was one of Jeter’s Black employees who started the drive when she discovered that the Episcopal Church of the Nativity where she had been worshipping did not include her in a list of its membership. On August 16TH 1893 the Moravian newspaper noted the African Methodist Episcopal Church that was forming. “We are glad to note that the colored people of the Bethlehems are likely to have a church before long…Since Spring they have been worshipping in Laufer’s Hall, Third and New Streets, in South Bethlehem.’’ The church eventually opened on Pawnee Street.

The Black Bethlehem Project will add a welcomed new chapter to the history of our own time.