A wind-fall from Wind Creek

(16th in a series of posts on City Government)

The Sands is changing hands. New Owners Wind Creek coming soon.

To tell the truth, the Sands has been invisible to me.

The Gadfly was aware of the hubbub surrounding its approval and construction. But did not feel especially involved one way or the other in the decision.

And he has not been involved since it opened. Though a regular at ArtsQuest/SteelStacks events, Gadfly has never been to the casino, never been to a show – maybe once or twice to the outlets, never even been caught in a traffic jam in the vicinity.

To tell the truth, Gadfly is hardly aware of the Sands’ existence.

So how should I feel about the fact that so soon after it started, the Sands is getting a new owner?

As I read the news stories yesterday, I could not help but remember CM Callahan’s claim at Council a couple of weeks ago that the Sands brings in more money for the City than the Bethlehem Steel Co did in its heyday.

He made me think that not only is the Sands invisible to me but the “good” it does for the City has been pretty much invisible to me as well – tax dollars that fund public services.

So maybe that’s where his thoughts should go when wondering how he should feel about the entrance of a new owner.

Because some serious money will be generated. One-time, not continuing. But a wind-fall from Wind Creek.

The City stands to gain a yet undetermined but significant amount of money from a “casino transfer tax.”

In fact, the City provisionally included $6m income from the casino transfer tax in the 2019 budget (see p. 278 – 7th column from the left).  Remember that is not a fixed number. It could well be considerably less. But the City will receive one-time income from the casino transfer tax when the sale is consummated.

Read down that 7th column and see what the City tentatively plans to spend that “extra” money on if it gets $6m.

When the exact amount is determined, the City and Council will have another conversation about the exact expenditures. But that list will give you an idea what’s on the radar.

For instance, Gadfly knows there are followers who will be glad to see $40,000 for a pedestrian bridge feasibility study and $50,000 for Rose Garden improvements.

So Gadfly guesses that he should be more aware of and appreciative of the benefit that this developer brings to the City.

Here are some links to bring you up to speed on the Sands/Wind Creek situation. Perhaps you will be amused as he is about speculation that there might be a water park on the old steel property. Now that might get Gadfly to break out some old 60s demonstrator duds and posters and take up a battle station on the Minsi Trail Bridge.

Timeline: “It’s been 10 years since the Sands Bethlehem opened: Here’s a timeline.” Morning Call, January 15, 2019.

Five key takeaways: Nicole Radzievich, “What we know about Sands buyer’s plans for Bethlehem Steel property.” Morning Call, January 16, 2019.

Main story: Nicole Radzievich and Jon Harris, “Sands Bethlehem casino buyer pitches $190 million investment, second hotel on Steel land.” Morning Call, January 15, 2019.

Video interview with new owners: Lehigh Valley Live

Public comment: “What they’re saying about Wind Creek’s plans for Sands Bethlehem casino.” Morning Call, January 15, 2019.

BPA-time again! (74)

(74th in a series of posts on parking)

New year. Girding my loins, as they used to say in the old days, for the first meeting of the Bethlehem Parking Authority.

Look at the number here. Gadfly devoted 73 posts in the old year to the BPA.

And didn’t come away unscathed. He was gruffly told he couldn’t question the Board at one meeting. And after another meeting the ticket machine in the parking garage ate his credit card.

Don’t mess with these guys.

They have powers.

I missed the December meeting. They changed the time twice, and I couldn’t make the 3rd time.

So I’m not up to speed on the latest developments.

But here’s what’s on my list:

  • It looks like the parking meter rates did go from $1.00/hr to $1.50/hr on January 1.  I don’t remember seeing any fanfare. Did anybody? Did I miss? For I understood there was to be a publicity roll-out, including keeping the old rate till June 1 if you used an app. Is anybody griping about the 50% increase? Did it go down smoothly?
  • The Mayor promised that the Redevelopment Authority would provide Council with a timeline of their involvement in the Polk Garage saga. I wonder if that happened.
  • The BPA is to meet with Council about funding options for Polk in the first quarter of this year (January-March). So we’ll be looking for that to happen.
  • Decisions about the fines are to happen at the time of the funding meeting as well.
  • The mayor included several things, like investigating variable rate parking, when he approved the meter rate proposal. So we’ll be looking for the status of those things. See the mayor’s letter to BPA:  Mayor Parking Meter Rate Increase.
  • Gadfly was to investigate when and why the strange system that splits responsibility between rates and fines between the mayor and Council started. Gadfly does have info on that which will be coming soon (shameless tease).

Have I forgotten anything?

Anybody have concerns?

 

 

Welcome candidate for City Council Grace Crampsie Smith

(1st in a series of posts on candidates for election)

press release Jan. 14

GRACE CRAMPSIE SMITH ANNOUNCES CANDIDACY FOR BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL

Grace Crampsie Smith, a Democrat and longtime Bethlehem resident, has announced her candidacy for Bethlehem City Council.

Crampsie Smith, who has lived in the city for 28 years, is a school counselor at Easton Area High School.

“I was raised in a family that took its civic responsibilities very seriously,” said Crampsie grace crampsie smithSmith. “I want to continue the legacy of my parents who instilled in me and my six siblings the desire to contribute to the communities where we lived, worked, and played. They fostered in me a strong sense of duty to use my skills and education for the betterment of not only my family but our neighbors.”

Crampsie Smith’s father was a police chief of Summit Hill, PA, and her mother was a nurse. “They taught me early the importance of discipline and compassion,” Crampsie Smith said.

She said she decided to run for office now because her three children, Shannon, Bridget, and Brendan, are in law school, medical school, and college, and she has the time to devote to the many challenges and changes that face the city as it grows and continues to be a vital part of the Lehigh Valley area.

“I want to contribute to the city that I have called home and ensure that smart growth is achieved for the benefit of residents, employees, and visitors,” Crampsie Smith said. “It is important to maintain a balance between preserving the city’s past , honoring the people and businesses that built this city and achieving progress in our diverse community. Bethlehem is a city that has never been stagnant but has constantly re-invented itself in the arts, education, and business while never losing sight of its heritage.”

Crampsie Smith has a masters degree in education and school counseling from Lehigh University and a bachelors degree in sociology and social welfare from Bloomsburg University.

She was a member of the adjunct faculty at Lehigh-Carbon Community College and also worked as an addictions counselor and coordinator of community and early intervention services for the office of Lehigh County Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities.
Crampsie Smith said the advocacy skills she has honed in her job will help her to represent the residents of Bethlehem. “Council members must be mindful that our community is made up of people from all walks of life who have varied incomes, educations, and skills but all want the same things – to provide for their families and have a good quality of life.”

She said her personal and professional experiences taught her to be fiscally responsible, to negotiate with fairness, to be objective and pragmatic, and to have passion for justice. Her top priorities, she said, include the health, safety and welfare of residents and employees, budget efficacy and socially responsible economic development.
Crampsie Smith said it is crucial for City Council members to know the jobs of city employees and the challenges they face for the overall efficiency of city operations. She said that she completed the Bethlehem Police Citizens Academy to get a better understanding of the operations of the Bethlehem Police Department.

Crampsie Smith is a member of the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee and committee person for Precinct 14-1, Northampton County Democratic Committee, Lehigh Valley Democratic Progressive Coalition, Lehigh Valley ROAR, Lehigh Valley 4 ALL, and the University of Pennsylvania and Haverford College Parent Alumni Association.
Her volunteer work has included Ryan’s Tree for Grieving Children, Musikfest, OLPH School, LV Pediatric Cancer Foundation and the American Heart Association. She is a member of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church.

Attention walkers and bikers: LVPC drafting a Regional Active Transportation Plan (5)

(5th in a series of posts on Walkability and Bikeability)

From the Gadfly’s clipping file from December–

Tom Shortell, “Road Warrior: Is biking or walking to work in the Lehigh Valley’s future?” Morning Call, December 7, 2018.

Work/Roll LV

Next meeting Wednesday, January 23, 3:00 – 4:30 PM, Northampton Community College/Fowler Family Southside Center, 511 E. 3rd Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015

LVPC: Walk/Bike Lehigh Valley wikimap

“If you hate your morning commute, would you consider a walk instead? Or a bike ride? I’m not suggesting you quit your job and enjoy a brisk morning stroll, as pleasant as that might sound. But instead of being secluded in steel box, hurtling down the street at high speeds next to stressed out people doing the exact same thing, would you jump on a bike and pedal?”

“For the first time, the Lehigh Valley is getting serious about promoting walking or biking as a way to get around the region. The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has created a special committee to draft a Regional Active Transportation Plan. A final report is due in May.”

“One interesting [idea] being pursued by LVPC, local government and some nonprofits is building a better trail and sidewalk system. It’s a radically different way of thinking about how we use the transportation grid.”

“Since World War II, the Lehigh Valley has been designed around cars. Trolley and railroad tracks were dug up to allow smoother car rides, and rural townships surrounding the cities transformed into suburbs where driving is the only reasonable way to get around. But promoting trails and sidewalks has a certain logic to it. The cheapest way to alleviate congestion isn’t to build more roads but to rely less on cars and more on our own feet.”

‘The culture will need to change, too, for this plan to succeed. If we expect people to bike to work, for example, they’ll need training on how to bike in traffic and how to change a flat tire. Motorists need reminders on how to share the road with bikers.’

“Personally, I don’t expect this to be a game-changing plan for most commuters. The 2010 Census found just 0.2 percent of Lehigh Valley workers biked to their jobs every day. People who walk tallied just 2 percent of the workforce. If this strategy doubles that combined total to 4 percent, we’re not exactly redefining transportation here.”

“But the project can still be worthwhile despite those limitations. Creating a more pedestrian friendly environment can have positive effects on our culture, health, quality of life and economy. And that’s worth exploring.”

 

Shout out to President Waldron!

Gadfly not going to City Council tonight

but wants to give a shout-out to President Waldron for instituting videoing the meetings

so that he can catch up tomorrow by going to the Council meetings page on the City site.

He would have conveyed his thanks during public comment tonight.

(If any other follower is making a comment tonight, you might pass along Gadfly’s shout-out and appreciation.)

Gadfly’s making this a LEPOCO day, just returning from their “Tuesdays with Toomey” gathering,

and heading to their MLK event tonight.

Gadfly’s making a concerted effort to get around to events by Bethlehem organizations

and Bethlehem wings of national organizations.

For instance, there’s a Women’s March event at Payrow Plaza, Saturday, 10-1.

Gadfly welcomes notice of events you think he should know about and might want to attend.

 

 

 

And they’re off ‘n runnin’! (15)

(15th in a series of posts on City Government)

Gadfly got a chance to hear some of the candidates for City Council last night making brief 2-minute presentations at the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee meeting.

We hope we will be hearing more from them on the pages of Gadfly as they make their cases.

Gadfly goal: we want to be the most informed voters that we can be!

Running for City Council that we know of so far are:

Incumbent J. William (Willie!) Reynolds (’08)

Running for his 4th term, JWR thanked everybody at BCDC for their great organizational JWReynoldswork and pointed to his Climate Action Plan, Northside 2027, and Open Data initiatives. His campaign kick-off is Feb 21, 5:30-7:30 at the Brew Works – “All Democrats are invited!”

Incumbent Paige Van Wirt (’18)

PVW pointed to the fresh new energy and perspective she has brought to Council, Van Wirtemphasizing accountability and transparency, and ethics reform as her focus for the upcoming year. She too thanked the BCDC, indicated that she learned a lot from JWR, recounted a collegial atmosphere on Council, and sought a voice of challenge and a voice of concern in new candidates.

New candidate Grace Crampsie Smith

GCS comes from a public service background and pointed to current family members in political positions. Her focus is on socially responsible economic development and her strength advocating for all citizens. Gadfly will be publishing her press release soon.

———-

Incumbent Michael Colon was ill and did not attend.

Basilio Bonilla is also running, and he will speak at the next BCDC meeting.

Most charters are a big negative (2)

(2nd in a series of posts on Education)

Gadfly:

The idea of charter schools as a way to pilot new ideas & approaches was a good idea, because they be somewhat experimental and parents could decide whether it was right for their children. If successful, public schools could then adopt that model.

As implemented, charter schools are a mixture of new ideas and things the school district is already doing or wants to do. Children with special needs are routinely excluded. Profiteering through related companies is rampant. Covert segregation is also often a problem. Although many charters pay staff lower, non-union salaries, their cost to the district is very high due to the way payments are calculated.

Charters could have been a valuable addition to the field of education, but as a result of how they were implemented, most charters are a big negative.

Peter Crownfield

(Peter is way ahead of Gadfly here, who sees most of the news he’s come across on charter schools is negative but wants to withhold judgment till he understands the situation more. Sounds like we are going to need some charter school advocates to speak up if we are going to have a balanced view. If the source of the money is the big negative issue, Gadfly wonders if that is fixable. But, again, Gadfly doesn’t know enough to judge yet and is just trying to understand the problem. He believes that an issue regarding athletic teams — basketball — recruiting — has hit the sports pages: that he understands!!!!)