May 22, 2015

The Allentown Parking Authority Monster

Although the shopping district in Allentown has shrunk down to only Hamilton and 7th Streets, the meter district remains as it did during the heydays of the 1950's. The meters extend from Walnut to Chew, from 5th to 10th, well over 1000 meters in 20 sq. blocks. Parking meters extend out to 10th and Chew Sts, three full blocks beyond the closest store.* These meters are a defacto penalty for the residents, mostly tenants. In essence, it is a back door tax on Allentown's poorest citizens. The apologists claim the tenants can purchase a resident meter pass, however their friends and visitors cannot. To add insult to injury, in 2005, to help finance a new parking deck for the arts district, the Parking Authority doubled the meter rate and fines. Testimony to City Council permitting the rate increase indicated it was favored by the merchants. At that time I documented to the Council that in fact the merchants were not informed, much less in favor. The vote was 5 to 2, with Hershman and Hoover dissenting
* I used the above copy on my posting of October 3, 2007. In the past several weeks the Parking Authority finally removed the meters in the 900 block of Chew St, 50 years beyond their legitimate need.

UPDATE: The post above is reprinted from September 2009. I have published dozens of posts on the Parking Authority. In 2005, I conducted two press conferences on their abuses; One conference was at 10th and Chew Streets, and concerned the oversized meter zone. The second conference, directly in front of their office, concerned the fabricated merchant survey that they  presented to City Council. Old tricks die hard. Forward ahead to 2015, and the Parking Authority will once again penalize both existing merchants and residents.  The new plan is to double the meter parking rate from $1 an hour, to $2, and extend the metering time to 10:00pm.  They claim that the merchants are in favor of this plan. Although I will not conduct my own survey, as I did 2005,  their survey defies logic.  Why would any of the few surviving merchants want their customers submitted to a destination city parking rates in Allentown? Despite the hype,  Allentown is not Miami Beach or N.Y.C.. In reality, just as the taxpayers are subsidizing the arena zone,  now the merchants and residents will be subsidizing the arena plan through punitive parking rates.

UPDATE Memorial Day Weekend 2015: I did end up asking several merchants, and no, they were not surveyed. Eight years from the original date of this post, and the Authority is still up to the same shenanigans.   Reilly's City Center tenants, merchants and customers will get a free pass for the Authority's inconvenient parking lots. Other existing tenants in the NIZ, such as the south side of the 900 block of Walnut Street, will not be eligible for residential parking permits.  Pawlowski's Parking Authority Board Member yes-woman, Candida Afif, is now going to City Council. If you have a problem with any of this, remember, you must now put money in the meter at night, before  complaining to City Council.

May 21, 2015

A Message For Allentown's Pawlowski

I would think that Tuesday's election results may give some pause to Ed Pawlowski's hopes to be a senator. Despite a virtual snow storm of mailers with his endorsement, including both a picture of him and his message of a Renaissance, a quarter to a third of his candidates lost. In terms of his popularity beyond Allentown, his candidate in Whitehall lost; You don't get much closer to Allentown than that. Besides giving Pawlowski pause, his campaign and media manager, Mike Fleck, might need some introspection. The two top vote getters for the school board, Gerlach and Bob Smith, not part of the Pawlowski PAC, were outspent by Fleck tenfold. Even Armstrong, targeted by a separate scare mailer, survived the primary. Here in Allentown, where money was no object for the Pawlowski machine, if he couldn't hit a grandslam, his prospects statewide seem dim. Poor guy might have to settle for being Mayor For Life.

ADDENDUM: I opened today's Morning Call and discovered that reporter Emily Opilo and I were on the same page; We made the same points and used the same examples. Least anyone think I had seen her article prior to posting the above, I must now go one step further. Yesterday, I mentioned to Jeff Glazier, Pawlowski's big winner Tuesday night, that I thought Pawlowski failed by not hitting a grandslam. He thought that winning most of seats was a victory. Maybe Joe Davis would agree with me.

May 20, 2015

Bucking The Pawlowski Machine

Despite Pawlowski's PAC, and it spending $50,000 with a professional staff, CeCe Gerlach dominated the school board race yesterday. She came in first on the Democratic side, second on the Republican ticket, for almost one third more votes than Robert Smith, the second highest vote getter. Both CeCe and Robert Smith were independent of the PAC, Citizens for a Better Allentown. School Board candidates are allowed to cross register with both parties, leaving a total field of 7 candidates for the five slots come November. PAC candidates Charlie Thiel, Elizabeth Martinez and Audrey Mathison will also be on November's ballot, with Thiel being the third highest combined vote getter last night. Also moving forward to the general election are Mark Smith and Scott Armstrong.

CeCe ended her long day yesterday working the poll and phone at West Park. Overall, she had fielded about 60 workers, covering every one of the city's polling stations. Mark Smith also ran an organized campaign, his first foray into elected politics. Scott Armstrong, much to the chagrin of the Teacher's Union, Pawlowski's PAC and card carrying liberals, didn't campaign whatsoever.

May 19, 2015

Say Moo and Vote Pawlowski's PAC

Here in Reillytown, you don't even have to think to vote. Mayor For Life Pawlowski, unless he can get elected to something in Harrisburg or Washington, tells you who to vote for. The Morning Call gets you in the mood this morning by printing two stories glorifying the Renaissance. Women's merchant Sage is moving back to Allentown from the Promenade. They don't tell you that the owners are pushing 70, and looking to wind down their obligations. Second story is about more apartments coming to an old factory at 3th and Gordon. They don't tell you that the developer is cramming in 158 one room studios, which in reality are glorified motel rooms for single mothers and their children. Say moo, while Pawlowski milks your vote.

May 18, 2015

Saving Allentown From Right Wing Extremists

One by one, the oversized slick cards from the Pawlowski Political Machine, Citizens for a Better Allentown, reached the voter's mailboxes. They were sent to all voters, regardless of party affiliation. Each card, separately promoting a candidate for Allentown School Board, also had Pawlowski's picture and message, "We are committed to Allentown's progress. Over the last few years we have achieved so much, safer communities, job creation, and community development. Working together we can continue moving Allentown forward." While Pawlowski tries to associate his chosen slate to J.B. Reilly's new buildings, those living in his Dreamtown know that the community is no safer. If he were more honest, he would have said, "We are committed to now completely dominating Allentown's politics."

The four cards were followed by a fifth, picturing and promoting all four candidates. While the card stated that they would restore fiscal responsibility, the two candidates running for re-election, Martinez and Thiel, grandstanded by voting to hire back 20% more teachers than budgeted for.

If those five mailings were not enough, the sixth was a scare and hit piece against some incumbents. 4 years ago, we were fooled into electing right-wing extremists to the Allentown School Board. Our school board needs true-blue Democrats. The card concludes by saying that our schools should never be used as a political tool... Unless Pawlowski is holding the screw driver.

May 15, 2015

Pandering Politicians And The Pawlowski Effect

The Morning Call reports that last night school board members running for re-election gave the voters more than they expected, or perhaps can really afford. The candidates voted for both a zero tax hike, and adding more positions than sought by the school administration. Also running, but certainly not pandering, Scott Armstrong addresses the decision by his fellow board members.

Pandering politicians and the Pawlowski effect

At tonight’s ASD board meeting politics was on full display. Directors who never saw a tax hike they didn’t like ignored the administration’s recommendation for a 3.6% increase and embraced with full vigor a zero tax increase for next year’s budget. Then with total abandon they engaged in bidding war on how many positions to restore until finally agreeing on the number of 30. So after four years of a fiscal crisis that involved tax increases of $500.00 on the average household and staff reductions of over 20% just to balance budgets, tonight, four days before a primary, prudence was put aside. This evening priorities were more personal. To get their names in the paper as advocates for the taxpayers and the children these directors took the leap of faith that zero tax increases and 30 new hires will not put the ASD right back into the dire position that previous responsible choices had just extricated the district from. In short it was a very depressing night. Can one draw from this that the mayor’s influence is not already being felt ?

Scott Armstrong

May 14, 2015

A Pawlowski School Board Will Have Consequences

Taxpayers should know that a School Board, cherry picked by Ed Pawlowski, will have dire consequences. Presently, he has endorsed a plan to convert a former large factory into 158 apartment. Although the developer states that most will be studio apartments that discourage children, the real market speaks differently. In the real market, studios are less rent, and attract an endless stream of single mothers with children. Allentown has no shortage of that demographic, and the school district suffers from poverty and under parenting. Two years ago, another developer approached the school board seeking a tax free KOZ status, actively represented by the Pawlowski Administration. Those apartments would have resulted in more students with a smaller tax base. The School Board wisely turned down the proposal. What will happen when Pawlowski's Puppets dominate the board? They will be able to approve Pawlowski promoted projects, while separating Pawlowski from the taxpayer cost involved. Mayors always tell you that they have no control over school taxes. The voters would be wise to keep that disclaimer a reality.

May 13, 2015

Zimmerman's Battle With The School Administration

While twelve people battle to get, or stay on, the Allentown School Board, Director David Zimmerman, who isn't up for re-election this term, battles within the school administration. Zimmerman is a statistician and numbers guy, who doesn't abide by the Administrations use of arbitrary figures. Originally disturbed by discrepancies between the preliminary and adopted budget, his frustrations have only grown with the administration's dismissive attitude toward his inquires. He actually filed a Right To Know request with the district, which was denied. In addition to his concerns about the budget, whose fund balance has fluctuated as much as $12 million under different reports, he wants solid revenue projections from redeveloped NIZ parcels. He cannot in good conscience approach a tax increase without knowing how much money is on hand, or how much increased property tax revenue The Pawlowski and Reilly Company Renaissance, is actually producing.

  My concern over these issues arises out of my interpretation of the responsibility imposed upon me by my elected position to fairly and accurately represent the interests of the tax payers and students of the ASD.
David Zimmerman
Allentown School Board

May 12, 2015

Pawlowski Buys Democracy In Allentown

Pawlowski's PAC, Citizens For A Better Allentown, according to pre Primary filings, has raised over $63,000, and spent $43,000 thus far subverting democracy in Allentown. Allentown voters are having their mail boxes filled this week with oversized mailers, promoting Pawlowski's candidates of choice. Most of the contributions are cloaked in separate candidate reports, not yet analyzed by our Harrisburg staff. For instance, Citizens For A Better Allentown received a contribution from Friends of Ed Pawlowski for $23,000, and $10,000 from Friends Of Charlie Thiel. Direct contributions of note include local labor unions for $8,000, and Abe Atiyeh for $2,500. Friends of Schlossberg and Schweyer, combined, contributed $3,500. Please understand that all these Friends Of, are no real friends of democracy in Allentown.

May 11, 2015

School Director Questions Pawlowski's Slate

School Board member Mike Welsh, not up for re-election this year, feels that the candidates not compromised by Pawlowski's PAC money, could best guide the school district.

This year’s Allentown school board race features a large field of candidates and I for one couldn’t be happier that so many have expressed interest and put themselves forward for consideration. Eight candidates have chosen to run independently while 4 have chosen to compete as a slate with the endorsement and fundraising efforts of Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

The Allentown School District has faced many difficult challenges the last few years and I believe better days could be on the horizon. Thanks to real fiscal discipline by our board and the administration of the school district, we are positioned to eliminate the need for layoffs in the coming year and will be offering full day kindergarten in even more of our schools. In the ensuing weeks there will be discussions regarding the possibility of restoring programs previously eliminated in cost savings initiatives by the district, with priorities put on the restoration of arts and music programs, library and physical education. These will be just discussions, however, and it will be important to remember that in possibly rehiring staff in these areas we must we prudent as we do not want to face the challenges of laying staff off again because of rash decisions this year.

Regrettably, while many of us see prospects for a better financial horizon for the school district, Allentown’s economic realities will continue to weigh on our children for years to come. Despite the renaissance that is happening downtown, many of our children live in poverty as demonstrated by the fact that 88% of students receive subsidized breakfast and lunch. Many of our children come from broken and/or disruptive homes and enter school without a basic knowledge of colors and numbers. These are the children we are charged to educate, and the teachers, administrators, and the board itself have maintained a commitment to providing the best education possible under these difficult circumstances. In this election, I want to encourage voters to consider candidates who have a proven track record of fiscal prudence and will be independent in their voting. I am pleased that 8 of our candidates have chosen to seek office independent of any slate out of a concern that those within a slate may be compromised in their voting as a result of monies provided in funding their candidacy. While this may be the standard in most political races, I believe it inappropriate in a school board race.

In my short time on the board I have come to respect the professionals and many volunteers of the Allentown School District. I am humbled by their dedication to the mission of public education. Let there be no doubt that from top to bottom the people of the Allentown School District are here for the right reasons and could make more money in less stressful environments in surrounding wealthier districts. With their continued dedication, and with continued financial progress, I believe there can be better times ahead for the Allentown School District and the children and families it serves.
Mike Welsh 
Allentown School Board Director

May 9, 2015

Allentown School Directors In Dark About Assault

A decade after a student on student indecent assault at Central Elementary School, this past week news broke that another alleged assault occurred at Jefferson Elementary, and parents are again suing the school district. Although I had no intention about posting on this incident, today I received a pertinent comment from a school board member on the lack of communication, between the administration and board members. The comment was submitted to another post, but I made an editorial decision to run it as a separate post.

On Wednesday the board received an email concerning the incident referred to. I know nothing about this event since it seems it did not filter down, to at least this board member, when it occurred. I cannot comment on it. I can comment on ASD administration communications. Often information seems not to make it to the board and when it does, well there is always some logical reason why these issues are never the fault or responsibility of the ASD administration, a statistical impossibility. Personally I find the level of communication and the ability to get information from the administration sadly and woefully inadequate, as a board member and as a parent. Adjust your expectations and be realistic about transparency coming from the ASD administration. At least, to me, they seem to ascribe to the theory legal liability trumps truthfulness. As co-chair of the finance and budget committee they will not discuss $3 million in revenue projections for the current year's budget that never materialized or how they conjure up their doom and gloom projections of the imminent dire depletion of the fund balance of the ASD that has not materialized as well. Maybe they think if they keep silent long enough it will all go away.

David Fehr Zimmerman

May 8, 2015

As Allentown Turns

Allentown's greatly touted NIZ should be named the ROA, Reilly Owns Allentown. While his state house boy recovers in the hospital, and his home boy tries to become a senator, J.B. Reilly said Let There Be Stores. These stores were duly announced this week by the local paper and TV, which will promote them as they open. As he did with the restaurants, J.B. will hand out special J.B. currency to the new office workers, which can be used in the stores. The Plywood Plaza Apartments for the workers, at 7th and Linden, will be completed this fall. The idea of company housing and stores isn't new, cement companies and mines did it back in the early 1900's.

While trying to escape Allentown, first to Harrisburg and now to Washington, Mayor For Life Pawlowski tells us who to elect to City Council and the school board. Meanwhile, the streets beyond the Reilly District are potholed and dirty. Existing residents are being double ding donged at the parking meters. The WPA structures in our parks are crumbling away. Don't despair, buy a ticket for the Classic Geriatric Concert Series at the J.B. Reilly Arena, and enjoy a night out.

May 7, 2015

Courting The Allentown Teachers

Back in my fathers day, students gave the teacher an apple to get in their good graces. In current Allentown, the teachers are courted by the school board candidates, who hope to get into the good graces and recommendation of their teacher's union. One teacher forwarded me this email from Charlie Thiel, which was sent through official school channels.
To All Teachers in the Allentown School District, Thank you for all that you do to change the lives of our students. By creating an attitude of lifelong learning for our students, you are profoundly impacting their lives. I am sure there are some days (perhaps more than you would like to admit) that you ask yourself, “Why am I doing this?” Rest assured that you are changing the lives of young people every day. Do you remember the first time you helped a student have a revelation, where the lightbulb went on? Maybe they finally learned to tie their shoes, or they were able to solve an algebraic problem, or even understand Shakespeare…or you provided a snack when they had not eaten for the last day. The needs of our students are great. But our teachers are greater! Thank you for heeding the calling on your life and choosing the Allentown School District and our students. Happy Teachers Appreciation Week!
Charlie Thiel      School Board Director

 The image below by candidate Mark Smith appears on facebook
Once upon a time, school board candidates appealed to the public and parents, for an opportunity to speak for them on how the school district should be run. Now, it appears that some candidates are appealing directly to the teachers, who are already well represented by their strong union.

ADDENDUM: Mark Smith feels that this post mischaracterized his intent. His reply is contained within the comment section.

ADDENDUM 2: I'm closing comments on this post. Please direct any additional comments on the school board election to the newer school board post,  Allentown School Directors In Dark

May 6, 2015

The $66 Million Dollar Dinner

Yesterday, a couple from Slatington told me that they went to the Allentown Art Museum during the afternoon on Sunday, then walked up to the Hamilton Kitchen, where they ate outside on the terrace. Except for the traffic noise on 7th Street, they had an enjoyable experience, and think that Allentown has changed for the better. Then, he asked what I thought. I told him that his meal cost the taxpayers of Pennsylvania about $66 million last year, most of which was going to the debt service of one private individual. Never the less, he enjoyed his day, and I have heard this story from different people, numerous times. Most people really don't care what the new experience cost, or who is paying for it, or who owns it. Of course, most people don't care how poorly this state is run, and keep electing the same officials, election after election. Then, there are some people who concern themselves with such matters, welcome to molovinsky on allentown.

May 5, 2015

Gilding The Lily, The Allentown Arena

This past Sunday was a usual weekend for The Morning Call, gilding their lily, The Allentown Arena. One feature story told how the perception of center city Allentown has changed, the other dealt with tourism and the higher hotel occupancy in the valley. The center city story mentioned the new restaurants and shops. Although I spend a lot of time downtown, and have frequented many of the new eateries, I have yet to find one of the new shops. Never mentioned  is the arena schedule promoted two years ago; So far this year, by those projections, the venue is about 65 events short. The companion piece on the hotels had even a greater reality void. Neither center city hotel in Allentown was mentioned. The glaring unasked question, which would link both articles, is how is the new arena's Renaissance Hotel doing? Without that question and answer, neither article had any value.

May 4, 2015

Law By Mob Rules In Baltimore

Marilyn Mosby, Baltimore's prosecutor, apparently has decided that her real future is in politics, not the law. On Friday, when announcing charges against the police officers, she told the protestors, "To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for `No justice, no peace.' In regard to the police, she went on to say that nobody is above the law. It appears however,  that the rioters who looted and torched the buildings, might be above the law in her town.  While she had the mob celebrating in the street, the message for the thugs of Baltimore and elsewhere is that rioting pays. Although the charges against some of the police may prove to be warranted,  their implementation was pure street theater,  not normal legal procedure.

ADDENDUM: Tension broke out again in Baltimore today, as police arrested a  gun carrying suspect.  Such problems will be the cost of that city's appeasement.

May 1, 2015

Lehigh, County Of Hypocrisy

While The Wildlands Conservancy was working (they still are) to destroy the picturesque Wehr's Dam, supposedly to improve Jordan Creek water quality, the Lehigh County Authority was studying their option to dump treated sewage into that same creek. The Authority is under the gun by DEP to address sewage problems in the valley. One problem, as discussed previously on this blog, is that sewage overflows into Lehigh Parkway's Little Lehigh, during heavy storms. The other major problem is that Kline's Island Sewage Plant is at capacity. One horrendous option under study is spraying treated sewage sludge onto open land. All that is the known news, here's the hypocrisy. The Lehigh County Authority leased these facilities from Allentown knowing full well that these long standing problems had never been addressed. Lehigh County's Donny Cunningham induced Ocean Spray and other major waste water producers here, knowing full well that the county had a looming problem treating sewage. Kicking the can down the road is bad government, but when it ends up floating on raw sewage, it gets ugly.

Apr 30, 2015

It's Wrong To Justify The Riots, Period

Yesterday, Alan Jennings had an editorial that said yes the riots are wrong, BUT, you must understand the racism behind it. Last night, and today, rallies are occurring around the country, in solidarity with the beleaguered of Baltimore. In their politically correct version, the rioters are now protesters. That CVS and Mall that were looted and torched were subsidized to build there, after the riots of 1968 chased away any private investment. The protesters on Monday night went as far as to burn down a new senior housing development, now there's a political statement for sure.  Racism does exist, but so does lawlessness. Rather than riot over the death of a prisoner, it would be more productive for the neighborhood to examine why so many of its males engage in criminal acts. The apologists and professional advocates will reply that the cause is poverty. Fortunately, there is a growing segment of that neighborhood that is too busy working and bettering themselves, for such self-defeating rationalizations.

Apr 29, 2015

The IDF In Nepal

By 5:00 PM on Monday evening, the Israel Defense Forces had established a field hospital in Nepal, and deployed its famed search and rescue teams. Wherever there's a disaster, Israel doesn't hesitate to lend its resources.

An Inspection Of Hillary

Multiple sources report that independent Bernie Sanders will enter the presidential race this week. Supposedly, he will fortify his entrance by competing as a Democrat, and employing veteran political advisor Tad Devine to run his campaign. Although Sanders cannot wrestle the nomination away from the Clinton machine, if significantly engaged, he could submit her campaign to much needed scrutiny. With no primary opponent and a doting press, she has thus far enjoyed an undeserved cakewalk.

Apr 28, 2015

Obama and The Urban Thug

A segment of this country, and Obama's White House, have been apologizing for the urban thug, riot after riot. After the riots in Ferguson, these apologists blamed the lack of diversity. Time after time, Obama's Justice Department indicted and investigated the police, resulting in a self-imposed restraint. Yesterday, as tension grew in Baltimore, this police restraint had consequences, Baltimore was torched and looted. This resulted not from a lack of justice or diversity in Baltimore, but from a political climate which wants to excuse every urban thug, as being oppressed and lacking in opportunity. Besides those excuses being delusional, they haven't diminished the looting in fifty years.

Apr 27, 2015

The Obama Cult

Obama gave a very good performance at the Correspondents Dinner, he did everything but sing and dance. Of course it was an audience that loves him, the press. The ultra liberal Huffington reported each separate quip in a separate article. The left gushed that he bashed the entire Republican field. What a performance, but, unfortunately, he's President. In that role, objectively, things aren't going so well. We  now have a Middle East policy that's only reactive at best. While terrorism is becoming more and more widespread, he still wants to close Guantanamo Bay, and afford our enemies an OJ defense in NYC. While he himself now calls The Affordable Care Act Obama-Care, and considers it his legacy, doctors are retiring in record numbers, because of the paperwork and reduced compensation. His support is based on personality, not on performance; That is his true legacy.

Apr 24, 2015

The Pawlowski Polka

Yesterday, we learned that Edwin Pawlowski intends to harvest his Polish background as a fundraising technique. His campaign has brought aboard a Polish-American organizer to promote him as their voice in the U.S. Senate. Pawlowski's activism in that community will be a surprise to local Polish Americans. Today, we learn from Easton's Sal Panto that Pawlowski has kept Allentown clean and safe; That will be news to people living in center city. Essentially, his campaign seems to be based on myths, instead of reality. Allentown, under his watch, did tear down a number of buildings and replace them with new buildings. If that replacement revitalized the city remains to be seen. Pawlowski's role in the NIZ is debatable. When telling the story across the state, he will have to be careful not to mention that all taxpayers, state-wide, are paying for things which they neither own or enjoy.

Apr 23, 2015

Your Vote Counts On The Local Level

If you are going to complain about the parking meters, slumlords, trashed neighborhoods, crime, absentee landlords, blight, homeless issue, graffiti, lack of government transparency, lack of city services, illegal dumping, traffic, lack of community engagement, lack of green space, unsafe streets, lack of youth programs, etc then you need to get out and vote on May 19th for the candidates that you feel will do their best to address the issues in the city. It is the local government who makes decisions that can affect your life right here in Allentown. Local elections determine what happens in your neighborhood, from your water to your recyclables, from your public safety to your quality of life. Your vote doesn't matter? Truth is, local elections are where the power of one vote is greatest. Local elections are frequently decided by a handful of votes. This year’s election will be your opportunity to exercise that one vote and have a voice in who represents you in our local government. By Julian Kern, candidate for Allentown City Council

Addendum:  Julian Kern For City Council Website

Apr 22, 2015

Pawlowski Manager Makes Honest Man Of Morning Call Reporter

Mike Fleck has made Daryl Nerl an honest man. I don't mean that they got married, but Fleck has hired Nerl to promote Pawlowski for his senate campaign. As a former reporter for the Call, Daryl did that anyway, making him very unobjective as a journalist. After being laid off by the Call during a major downsizing, he landed at a local AOL Patch. Now, at last, he can apply his political bias as a paid spin doctor, for Fleck's political campaign consulting. In addition to managing Pawlowski's senate campaign, Fleck has the entire Pawlowski stable of candidates; The PAC(s) includes the Allentown School Board, Allentown City Council and Lehigh County Commissioners. These campaigns are being financed by the NIZ Barons, bringing us some of the best candidates money can buy.

Apr 21, 2015

EMAIL From Ed Pawlowski

Dear Friend, We hope this email finds you doing well. We would like to take a moment of your time to tell you about Allentown School Board candidates Elizabeth Martinez, Audrey Mathison, Charlie Thiel and Marc Telesha and their plans to restore the community’s confidence in the Allentown School District. Allentown is becoming a better place to live and work every day, but the community has lost faith in the city’s school district. The staff has been reduced to less than bare bones, school buildings are not as safe as they should be and the quality of education is suffering. We aim to restore the community’s pride and confidence. With the right leadership, we believe we can make this once-great district the best in the Lehigh Valley. To restore the community’s confidence in the district, Elizabeth, Audrey, Charlie and Marc will do the following: 
Work to restore proper student to staff ratios 
Work to improve the safety and security of our students and staff 
Hire a more diverse staff that reflects the community
Partner with business and other government entities to promote programs in the best interests of our students 
Provide support for school athletics, which drives school pride
For more information on Elizabeth, Audrey, Charlie and Marc and the rest of Citizens for a Better Allentown slate of candidates, please visit www.citizensforabetterallentown.com. Thank you for your time and consideration and please don’t forget to vote for Elizabeth Martinez, Audrey Mathison, Charlie Thiel and Marc Telesha on May 19. Citizens for a Better Allentown

Mayor Pawlowski, your letter begs a few questions. You do realize that two of the four candidates that you're promoting are already on the school board, which you apparently find deficient? How will electing your chosen candidates achieve these goals without significantly increasing taxes? Do you honestly feel that these goals are not shared by the existing board, and the other candidates that are running? Do you understand that democracy and the city is better served if not all candidates, on every board and council, are chosen by you? Please stop confusing Reilly's new buildings with a better city. As mayor, please stop saying that quality education is lacking in Allentown.

Lehigh Valley's Political Lethargy

Political apathy in the valley crosses most sectors of the community. If it's inter-city low income people preoccupied with day to day food and shelter issues, or the well heeled in the suburbs, few elections provide choice at the ballot. Last fall, I observed that the majority of incumbent state representatives were unchallenged. Despite the Wehr's Dam controversy, come November, South Whitehall residents will have three choices for three slots. Uncontested elections have almost become the norm in the Lehigh Valley. There are a few exceptions. The Allentown School Board race this year is highly contested. The local Syrian Community tends to vote, and vote en masse. Although election returns indicate higher turnout in the more affluent areas, that demographic seldom produces candidates on the local level. There will be no waiting in line at the primary election next month.

Apr 20, 2015

South Whitehall Clerical Staff Unionizes

molovinsky on allentown was late to press this morning, running down a tip that South Whitehall's clerical staff unionized. Sources verify that this past Thursday the staff voted 9 to 4 to join the Teamsters. Apparently, the idea to organize grew out of a employee dismissal last summer, affiliated with the Tonkin tax embezzlement case. Although no criminality was ever suspected by the affected employee, her competence came into question. This fall the discourse between the employees and commissioners was further heightened by the unanimous vote to change the defined pension system, from benefit to contribution, although only future employees would be affected by the change. The received tip said that the staff unionization resulted from "meddling" by the Commissioners. Although unionizing does indeed seem unusual for a small staff of only 13 employees, it's not clear if "meddling" by the Commissioners is a bad thing. The residents of South Whitehall deserve elected representatives who are engaged, and willing to guard the taxpayers best interests. On a personal note, as an advocate engaged on the Wehr's Dam and other issues, I've had only courteous and helpful responses from all staff members over the years.

Apr 17, 2015

The Morning Call's Pawlowski

There used to be a billboard on the New Jersey border that said You have a friend in Pennsylvania. It can be said that want-a-be senator Pawlowski has a friend in The Morning Call. Actually, it's sort a new friend. Neither current reporter on today's Call article really knows that much about Pawlowski. Although Pawlowski has only been in the valley less than twenty years, the reporters have been here only twenty minutes. Their frame of reference is the Morning Call archives, whose stories were as distorted then, as they are now. If historical accuracy and truth are what you're looking for, this blog is one of the few places that you're going to find it. In today's timeline on Pawlowski, they write that in 05 he beat former mayor Heydt in what was then the most expensive mayoral race in Allentown's history. Actually, there was a third candidate then, a self-funded independent. Although I only got a few percentage of the vote, I attended over thirty events with Pawlowski. Night after night, I suffered through his same power point presentation, and heard his well rehearsed feigned sincerity.

Because Pawlowski has been mayor while Browne and Reilly created the greatest state sponsored private windfall in history, his campaign manager has a story to tell. We here in Allentown know the real story. That story involves dirty streets, crime and no improvement in the quality of life. So, plug your $2 into the parking meter, and listen to the Morning Call's version.

UPDATE:  Ed Pawlowski has officially announced his candidacy for U.S. Senate this morning.  From his website :  I intend to spend the majority of my time calling donors and  doing the hard work required to defeat an incumbent senator.  Ok Ed, but who will be running the city for the next  two and half years of your mayoral term?

Apr 16, 2015

The Honest Broker, Missing From Lehigh Valley

In a previous post, I told how South Whitehall's Christina Morgan would be coming forward suggesting a referendum on Wehr's Dam. Last night, as if on cue, she made her backdoor suggestion, hoping to help the Wildlands still demolish the icon. Also in a previous post, I mentioned that the Allentown Parking Authority presents contrived surveys, to justify their rate hikes. Also on cue, that claim was made last night, to justify doubling the meter rate in Allentown. We were also told that tickets are only reluctantly given, to enforce rules which benefit everybody. As one who has often seen street sweeping tickets give out en masse, with no meaningful sweeping, I know better than that. We live in an area where bureaucrats can say and do as they please, with no scrutiny from the press. The bureaucrats are imbued with arrogance, thinking they know best, certainly much better than the dirty masses. The press is nine to five, satisfied to report what is said, with no need to know the real motives. The public, for the most part, is content with this diet of abridged news. On the national level, they're so conditioned to spin and attitude, that facts no longer count. Who cares if you have to pay $2 an hour to park on empty Hamilton Street on a Tuesday afternoon?

Apr 15, 2015

Benign Neglect, Allentown Park System

Word from East Side warrior Dennis Pearson is that the Allentown Park Department is preparing to tear down the pavilion and other structures at the East Side Reservoir. I don't know if ownership and responsibility has been affected by the lease/sale of the water system to the Lehigh County Authority, but in recent years the park system has adopted a benign neglect policy. A prime example is the Fountain Park Pool. Over a $160,000 filter pump, a pool which would cost $millions to replace was allowed to decay beyond repair. As often documented on this blog, the WPA Structures have received no maintenance, what-so-ever, for decades. Complicating the infrastructure neglect, there has been a secession of out of town park directors with a background in recreation. Unassertive City Council park committees, and cronyism at the Trexler Trust, have also contributed to the demise. Save but for the archives of this blog, the neglect has gone undocumented. Despite the benign neglect of the last decade, our magnificent park system has endured for almost a century. With some care it will serve Allentown residents much longer and better than a minor league hockey arena.

photo courtesy of Dennis Pearson

Apr 14, 2015

Wehr's Dam Challenges Integrity Of The Wildlands Conservancy

Chris Kocher, President of Wildands Conservancy, publicly stated on their website and a Morning Call editorial that Wildlands Conservancy will certainly respect whatever decision South Whitehall Township makes about the dam’s future. The same pledge was also repeated by their director, Abigail Pattishall, prior to the vote on March 18th. This blogger has learned that there is a back door plan under way to still demolish the dam. Prior to voting on the dam, Commissioner David Bond suggested that perhaps the issue should be turned over to the voters in form of a referendum, because of the expense involved in keeping the dam. Bond voted to save the dam, but only after the yes votes were already in a majority. My sources reveal that Commissioner Christina Morgan, who voted against the dam, and the Wildlands' Pattishall, are encouraged by the prospect of a referendum. They know that any question to the voters which increases taxes or expenses always loses.

The entire Wehr Dam study lacked integrity. The million dollar price tag assigned to repair the dam was a blatant scare tactic. Realistically, the repair cost would be only a small fraction of that amount. Unfortunately, this inflated figure has been taken at face value by The Morning Call, and repeated article after article. What Christina Morgan and Abigail Pattishall fail to realize is that unlike their inflated dam study, support for the dam is very real. The thousands of people who signed the petition, while visiting the dam, are very real.

The current Explore issue of South Whitehall Park News fails to mention or honor the dam's retention. Likewise, the Wildlands Conservancy has not acknowledged the decision, and a previous pledge to move on to other projects. Randy Cope, South Whitehall's park director, might be a member in good standing with the Wildlands, but he is failing the citizens of South Whitehall, by ignoring the peoples' wishes to celebrate the dam. Any referendum on the dam,  originated by commissioners, will be a vote against the wishes of the townships' residents.

photograph by K Mary Hess

Apr 13, 2015

Allentown's Uptown Admission

From the crumbs breaking off the NIZ windfalls, it's apparent that no elected position in Allentown is for the little guy anymore, even election to the school board. This event announcement, sent from the Chamber of Commerce email account, shows that $14,000 is being raised on Charlie Thiel's behalf, before anybody even walks through the door. Among $thousand dollar hosts are developers Reilly and Jaindl. Sponsors at $500 include Pawlowski and our state representatives. Nobody gets a sip of wine or bite of cheese for less than $100. We have candidates who will spend three times more on their election than the district spends educating a student. What's the lesson here?

Apr 10, 2015

Whitehall's Hozza Inherits Allentown's Syrians

Back in day, when demolition began to build the arena and Reillytown, Whitehall's Ed Hozza was cutting the ribbons with Ed Pawlowski. At the time, I questioned what he was doing there. Hozza's enthusiasm for Allentown's project quickly waned, as he realized truck after truck was dumping the former ground up buildings into  Whitehall's quarry. If that wasn't insult enough for Hozza's support, within two years Pawlowski would be supporting Hozza's current opponent. Although Hozza may have lost Pawlowski's support, there's a new power broker in Whitehall, the former Allentown Syrian community. The Syrians in Allentown developed their political influence back in the days of District Attorney George Joseph. Voting as a block, the Democratic Club in the ward could be counted on in local elections, and numerous Syrians ended up working in various departments of Allentown City government. Through inter-marriage and relationships, many non-Syrian names became part of the base, even including extended members of my family. Although that power base has shifted north in the last 15 years, it took Pawlowski's refusal to raise the Syrian flag to make the move official. In the future, the flags will be raised in Whitehall.

Apr 9, 2015

Incited Allentown School District Race

Someone or something has incited a crowded school district race, and I believe that it's Scott Armstrong. Thirteen candidates are running for five spots in a race that normally barely has enough candidates to cover the spots. To the ire of the Teacher's Union, Armstrong has consistently and loudly identified the pension issue as the financial problem of the school district. Understand that although it is well known that pensions are bankrupting the school districts and the state, Pennsylvania failed to enact any change, even with a previous Republican Governor and both chambers of the State House. Understand that the failed proposals for change protected all previous and existing employees, and only affected future hires. Never the less, the unions are so strong that nothing more than lip service is ever implemented. Pleading children are used as props to protest teacher and program cuts, resulting from budget realities. While Armstrong has the courage to articulate the facts at the meetings and in editorials, he became a scape goat for some operating only on emotion about music and art programing. Ironically, Armstrong himself was schooled in fine arts, and his work is first rate. Truth is a heavy coat to wear in politics, but Armstrong carries the weight well. If the burden isn't heavy enough, Pawlowski is attempting to influence the results. He and the districts two lightweight state representative, Michael Schlossberg and Peter Schweyer, have started a PAC to push their hand chosen candidates. Out of thirteen candidates, Armstrong offers the homeowners the most mettle for their tax dollars.

UPDATE: The last sentence above as been modified since being published early this morning.

Apr 8, 2015

The Monster Parking Authority


Back in September, I wrote about a center city homeowner exasperated beyond fairness by the Allentown Parking Authority. Here are a few excepts from his letter in that post.



I am writing to express my surprise and dismay upon receiving yet another citation from the City of Allentown.
This time a street cleaning ticket. THIS ONE IS FOR 50.00!! It states repeat offender.
Is this really how to construct a GOOD neighborhood?
Now I am in the pool for the city to collect fifty dollars at a time?
This policy is unbelievable and unconscionable.
I realize that the city is hurting for money, but this is not the way to raise revenue.
Sweep tickets, APA tickets, all kinds of inspections, fees to visit fish, and what else?
I really wanted to have a good experience living in this city.
You must not allow the city to tax/fine/extort this kind of money from cash strapped intercity residents.
I will not pay 50.00 for a street sweeping ticket.
The insult is further compounded because there is no redress to these matters prior to the escalation of the fine fee.
No good will come from the City of Allentown continually stepping on the very citizens that stabilize our neighborhoods.
Respectfully,
Mark's new letter, to the full City Council

Where did this insult of a program (the "repeat offender designation")originate and who supported it?
I am a stabilizing element in my neighborhood and a twenty year plus resident in center city Allentown.
I pay my taxes and my street cleaning fees.
The Allentown Parking Authority makes a profit from street sweeping. I have now been designated as a "repeat offender".
Am I to be subject to this new tax forever? This is certainly another tax.
How about parking tickets? Will they too have a repeat offender category?
I Have to work different hours, and can't always get back to move a vehicle at noon.
I can't park on the north side of my block because drug dealers punch and otherwise dent my and other citizens cars parked in front of their shops.
The Allentown police are working hard to control this problem - tax money well spent.
The police department does not produce income. Why does the Allentown Parking create wealth?
Hammering low income city folks with this predatory penalty driven program to fill city coffers is just wrong.
Living in the center city should be tolerable and maybe even safe and enjoyable for residents.
One more straw on your camels back.
This is how you cause citizens to say "I'm done".
I would appreciate a response. Please tell me how wrong I am and why.
Thank you,
Mark XXXXX
Mark's reward for his protest? While waiting for his day in district court to appeal his "Repeat Offender" status, the Parking Authority mounted the orange boot on his car. While OAPA holds house tours on 8th Street, and $millions of dollars are spent dressing up 7th Street, the salt of our city is punished for living on 6th Street.

UPDATE: The above post is reprinted from November of 2010. As I wrote yesterday, I have posted often about the Authority. A decade ago, I would go toe to toe with the director at City Council meetings and outside her office. It's somewhat awkward now, because I'm friendly with the current director. However, the same essential flaw exists with the Authority. That flaw is that it allows itself to be periodically used by Pawlowski's Administration, to further some other city agenda, at the direct expense of the residents.

Apr 7, 2015

Parking Authority Preys On Poor


Although the shopping district in Allentown has shrunk down to only Hamilton and 7th Streets, the meter district remains as it did during the heydays of the 1950's. The meters extend from Walnut to Chew, from 5th to 10th, well over 1000 meters in 20 sq. blocks. Parking meters extend out to 10th and Chew Sts, three full blocks beyond the closest store.* These meters are a defacto penalty for the residents, mostly tenants. In essence, it is a back door tax on Allentown's poorest citizens. The apologists claim the tenants can purchase a resident meter pass, however their friends and visitors cannot. To add insult to injury, in 2005, to help finance a new parking deck for the arts district, the Parking Authority doubled the meter rate and fines. Testimony to City Council permitting the rate increase indicated it was favored by the merchants. At that time I documented to the Council that in fact the merchants were not informed, much less in favor. The vote was 5 to 2, with Hershman and Hoover dissenting
* I used the above copy on my posting of October 3, 2007. In the past several weeks the Parking Authority finally removed the meters in the 900 block of Chew St, 50 years beyond their legitimate need.

UPDATE: The post above is reprinted from September 2009. I have published dozens of posts on the Parking Authority. In 2005, I conducted two press conferences on their abuses; One conference was at 10th and Chew Streets, and concerned the oversized meter zone. The second conference, directly in front of their office, concerned the fabricated merchant survey that they  presented to City Council. Old tricks die hard. Forward ahead to 2015, and the Parking Authority will once again penalize both existing merchants and residents.  The new plan is to double the meter parking rate from $1 an hour, to $2, and extend the metering time to 10:00pm.  They claim that the merchants are in favor of this plan. Although I will not conduct my own survey, as I did 2005,  their survey defies logic.  Why would any of the few surviving merchants want their customers submitted to a destination city parking rates in Allentown? Despite the hype,  Allentown is not Miami Beach or N.Y.C.. In reality, just as the taxpayers are subsidizing the arena zone,  now the merchants and residents will be subsidizing the arena plan through punitive parking rates.

Apr 6, 2015

Gethsemane 1934


Maria Magdalene (Mary Magdalene) is the Russian Orthodox Church located on the Mount of Olives, in the Garden of Gethsemane in Jerusalem.
The church is dedicated to Miryam of Migdal, a follower of Jesus. Maria Magdalene was the first to see Christ after he was resurrected, and was a crucial and important disciple of Jesus, and seemingly his primary female associate, along with Mary of Bethany, whom some believe to have been the same woman.
The church was built in 1886 by Tzar Alexander III as a commemoration for his mother, Empress Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, in the traditional tented roof Russian style, including seven onion shaped golden domes. Photograph dates from 1934

reprinted from April 2014

Apr 3, 2015

Allentown's Historic Syrian Community


When my grandfather first arrived in Allentown he lived in the Ward, on 2nd. Street. It was around 1895 and the neighborhood was full of immigrants. Some groups came from the same area in the old country, most noticeably the Syrians, from the village of Amar*. They were Antiochian Orthodox, a minority in a Muslim country. The congregation of St. George's Church on Catasauqua Ave., largely is descended from those immigrants. Well known names in Allentown, such as Atiyeh, Haddad, Hanna, Makoul, Koury and Joseph are among their members. They were among one of the first groups to organize, and those organizations still exist. The photo above was organized by the Syrian American Organization in 1944. Note that Jewish, on the left, is treated as a nationality.

* hopefully my Syrian friends will correct any historical errors I have made.

click on photo to enlarge

UPDATE: The above post is reprinted from March of 2010. I have repeated the post several times since over the years, and have written other posts concerning Allentown's historic Syrian Community as well. Although I didn't grow up in the Ward, I grew up with their children, who had by then also lived in other sections of town. Throughout the 1950's and 60's, the organized Syrian community wielded considerable strength in local Democratic politics. I assure you that Pawlowski went hat in hand to their leadership even in 2005. This week at least a portion of the community came to City Council, hat in hand; Pawlowski had denied their request for a Syrian Flag ceremony at City Hall. The Syrian political influence in Allentown has been somewhat weakened by a large migration of that community to Whitehall. I will also concede on Pawlowski's part that the current politics of Syria is indeed very complicated. That reality aside, the large local Syrian community deserves some public recognition of it's historic role and roots.

Apr 2, 2015

Jerusalem


In the city of awe-inspiring sites, the most imposing is The Dome of the Rock. The Dome covers the Rock from which Muslims believe the Prophet Muhammad ascended to Heaven to receive a message from Allah. The Jews believe the rock is the Foundation Stone, from which the world was created. On it, Abraham was prepared to sacrifice Isaac and the Ark of the Covenant stood when the Temple occupied the Mount. The Mount and Temple was enlarged by Herod, during the lifetime of Jesus.

Jews pray at the retaining wall, The Western Wall, which survived the Temple's destruction by the Romans in 70 A.D. The bottom four rows of stones date from Herod, below current street level, there are 17 more layers.

The Church of the Holy Sepulchre is west of the Temple Mount. The first church was built on the site in the 4th century. Christians believe the church encompasses both the sites; where Jesus was crucified, and also buried and rose from the dead.
reprinted from July of 2013

Apr 1, 2015

Lehigh Valley Replay and Repay, The Study Of The Studies

Yesterday, The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission announced a new traffic study for Lehigh Valley. In that article they mentioned how much traffic there currently is, how much is expected, and which routes it will be using. With that information already in hand, what do they expect to learn from the new study? Last night, a symposium on the Valley again discussed our future. This blog in the past discussed Renew Lehigh Valley, the $3.4 million dollar study completed last year, which defined our present and future. Has our future changed that much in the last four months? What we really have is a cottage industry of recycled public bureaucrats, who conduct endless studies on the public's dime. Unfortunately, they're not really cottage, but fully funded organizations, costing the taxpayer extra, for those redundant reports. They in turn hire professional journalists, mostly former reporters, to publicize and legitimize their function. It's not easy for Pennsylvania to have a $30 Billion dollar budget and still be broke. That takes many Commissions, which study nothing new, but recommend another study.

Mar 31, 2015

Suspicions and Aspersions

In the past when I've done a speculative post on two or more subjects, I strove for a cute title, like Bits and Pieces From The Rumor Mill. Those days are past me, this baby now gets the cheap diapers.

Rumor has it that when Pawlowski recruited yes woman Candida Afif to run for City Council, she hesitated because she enjoys much time out of state at a vocation home. Pawlowski assured her that she can continue her lifestyle, and cast votes by telephone. The telephone option has been used in the past by several members over the years,  but only for important votes.

I've written numerous posts about the plans for upscale apartments in downtown, and the realities of that market. I use a dated term, yuppies, for the target demographic. Shown above is Reilly's Plywood Plaza at 7th and Linden Street. I've been informed that the previously hyped P&P Mill Luxury Apartments at 3th and Linden, has turned to Section 8 to fill their vacancies.

Mar 30, 2015

Lehigh County's Good Old Boys Part 2

In yesterday's post, we discuss David Jaindl being nominated to the Regional Planning Board, despite having some history of circumventing local zoning. As the largest land owner in the valley, he is essentially being invited to write the rules which will govern him. We are also watching Allentown's NIZ Baron, J.B. Reilly, write his own rules. Reillytown was created by Pat Browne, with a unique scheme allowing public state taxes to pay for Reilly's privately owned building. Any loose end was exploited by Reilly, such as even the cigarette tax going to his debt service. All along, the enablers were saying that although it's a golden goose for Reilly, the public will benefit from the increased tax base. We now learn that Reilly is appealing his assessments, greatly reducing the public benefit. His brand new buildings, paid for by the public, will pay less tax because that scheme allows him to charge less rent and show less income. Missing from that argument is that the public must make up that state tax shortfall through higher taxes and fees, and other municipalities have lost the tenants and taxes now occupying Reilly's buildings. Meanwhile, back at this circus of public exploitation, our local leaders have a cat eating mouse grin, explaining these calamities to the public. Pawlowski says that Allentown will benefit from a settlement with Reilly. There was never any mention of assessment settlements two years ago, when Pawlowski was cutting the ribbons and running for governor. County Executive Tom Muller supports Jaindl's nomination. There was nothing about that in his State Of The County report.

There really is nothing  new with these shenanigans. Today, we worship Harry Trexler and call him General. Back in his day, he was the largest land owner and developer by far. Cedar Park was actually created to enhance his west end real estate developments, on both sides of Hamilton Street. Although there was no scrutiny back then by local bloggers, I suppose that there was some dissent. Will our great grandchildren call Reilly and Jaindl generals, and picnic by their statues?

Mar 29, 2015

Lehigh County's Good Old Boys

When it comes to politics, I have to admit some naiveté, after all I ran as an independent. Speaking of that effort, several times when I was putting up signs last fall, I was told that Mr. Jaindl doesn't allow signs on his land. I had that experience north to the Blue Mountain, and east to Danielsville. David Jaindl's nomination to the Lehigh County Planning Commission is causing some controversy, because he is by far the largest land owner in both Lehigh and Northampton Counties. To some people, like Commissioner Percy Dougherty, the conflict is self-apparent. Ron Beitler, a Commissioner in Lower Macungie, points out that Mr. Jaindl has a record of development proposals contrary to local development guidelines. I'm curious about the people who nominated him. Sometimes the good old boys are women. After nominating him, LVPC's director Becky Bradley, has no comment other than, We're neutral. We're Switzerland. Isn't that the land of hidden bank accounts? Actually, the other paid development bureaucrats in Lehigh County government pushing for Jaindl, Rick Molchany and Frank Kane, prefer to paint him as experienced, as opposed to conflicted.

Mar 27, 2015

It's Like A Postcard

Last week when I prevailed on some players at City Hall to meet me in Lehigh Parkway, somebody remarked that it's like a postcard. With the creek banks now overgrown, it would difficult to recreate the nationally distributed postcards of Allentown parks from the 1950's. But the old postcards still exist, giving testimony to the beauty that was ours. There will be a formal discussion with the City Council Park and Recreation Committee next Wednesday at 5:00p.m. They will hear about stream velocity theory and habitat from the grant driven new age science crew. I will talk about beauty. I still believe that the parks were created for the pleasure of people.

reprinted from August of 2013

Mar 26, 2015

Bill White Should Stick To Christmas Lights

Bill White can't win with me. I either accuse him of wasting his bully pulpit on fluff like christmas lights and cake contests, or being wrong on more serious topics. Today, he's wrong on Wehr's Dam. Bill's biggest mistake is taking the Wildlands Conservancy and their bought and paid for report as gospel. For his latest column he interviewed the Wildlands Director, but didn't seek comment from one of the dam advocates. He and the director, who had told the South Whitehall commissioners that she would respect their decision and move on, keep referencing the $million dollar estimate to repair the dam. The director, Abigail Pattishall, even says that the estimate is probably on the low side. Anybody who has ever visited the dam knows that it isn't going anywhere. It's a massive concrete wedge, most of which cannot be seen, sitting on a massive concrete shelf. Two years ago, the DEP concluded that overall the dam is in good condition. Wildlands Conservancy and their contracted report by KCI, based the ridiculously overpriced repair estimate on removing all the silt in the mill pond, rerouting the creek, and rebuilding the dam completely from the shelf on up. In reality, for what the report cost, $239,000.00, the dam could have been kept in good repair for the next fifty years. Bill, stick with the cake contests.

Mar 25, 2015

Voodoo Science and The Wildlands Conservancy

Hanover Township and the Monocacy Creek are about to lose some beauty and history to the Wildlands Conservancy, as that grant greedy deceiver rips out another dam. Like the former Robin Hood Dam in Lehigh Parkway, these short decorative dams, less than one foot tall, are no barrier to fish migration. Almost after every rain the dams disappear as the water level rises, giving the fish easy passage. In the drier periods, the low dams help oxygenate the water. The Wildlands Conservancy comes to the municipality with a power point presentation showing how detrimental dams are to waterways. Specifics, such as that the dam is only 8 inches high, are omitted. They point out how Pennsylvania leads the nation in dam removals. We of course would be better off if the DEP concerned itself with the chemicals used by the fracking industry, and other real issues affecting our health. Local college professors are recruited to testify about about the benefits of dam removal, again generalities and site unspecific. It's a sad course of events to lose the beauty and memories enjoyed by so many people for so long in our parks. My associate Bernie O'Hare reports on this latest scheme by the Wildlands Conservancy. He evens seems to buy into their false premise. That's the problem with sacred cows, too few people are willing to see their flaws.

Mar 24, 2015

Robin Hood Bridge, Before and After Wildlands Conservancy's Crassness



                                       photo by Tami Quigley


Last spring I conducted a well attended tour of the WPA structures in Lehigh Parkway for  Friends Of The Allentown Parks. We ended the tour at the last WPA structure built in Allentown, the Robin Hood Bridge. This fall I unsuccessfully tried to save the dam, which was built with the bridge as part of the beautiful setting. The Wildlands Conservancy had a grant to remove the dam, from which they also harvest administrative fees. In a crass act of destruction they removed the dam, and piled the broken dam rubble around the beautiful stone piers, destroying a classic view which Allentown had enjoyed for over 70 years. A naturalist told me the other day that the project even disappointed from his environmental point of view. The stream is no deeper, the silt didn't reduce, and a large portion of the former stream-bed is exposed. Although I recognize and support Friends Of The Parks as a most worthwhile organization, I must respectfully decline their invitation to conduct another tour this coming spring. It is apparent that this Mayor, City Council and even the new park director have no appreciation of the irreplaceable gifts that were bestowed upon our park system so many years ago.  




UPDATE: The post above is reprinted from December of 2013, when it was titled, I must Respectfully Decline. I did relent, and conducted a second tour of the park last summer. The new park director referred to above was only here long enough to approve two dam destructions by the Wildlands Conservancy. The second dam removal, the Trout Hatchery Dam, may well have caused the massive fish kill last year. We now have a third new park director within two years, and another chance for responsible park stewardship, which has been long lacking.

Mar 23, 2015

An Open Letter To Lindsay Taylor, Allentown Park Director, Part 1

Ms. Taylor, congratulations on your confirmation as Director of Allentown Parks. You should take great pride in your new position, for decades Allentown was considered one of the premier park systems in the country. We were blessed that Harry Trexler had one of the leading landscape architects in the United States formulate plans in 1928, before the depression. When Roosevelt created the WPA, Allentown was shovel ready with those plans. Thousands of men worked in Lehigh Parkway, Fountain Park and Union Terrace between 1935-1937. What they accomplished would have normally cost untold $millions of dollars, and taken 50 years to finish.

Unfortunately, the proper emphasis has not been applied in recent years to the iconic park system. I'm sure like your two predecessors, you have already been approached by the Wildlands Conservancy. Pictured above is the former Robin Hood Dam. Your immediate predecessor agreed to its demolition by the Wildlands Conservancy, even before he ever saw the little dam. Although you will now never be able to experience its beauty and sound, you may see its broken pieces, they are piled around the stone piers of the companion Robin Hood Bridge. That broken rubble ruins the former beauty of the piers, which rose straight up out of the water. To those of us with any respect for beauty and history, it was adding insult to injury. Although the dam was only 12 inches high, and no real barrier to fish, the Wildlands Conservancy got its way. As a local historian and advocate for the WPA structures, it saddens me to inform you that despite the prominence of the structures in our parks, not one dollar has been spent on the stone maintenance in years. Major park policy has pretty much been relinquished to the Wildlands Conservancy's agenda, removing historical dams and blocking the view and access to the streams with riparian buffers. The former Fish Hatchery Dam was built directly by Trexler. The Robin Hood Bridge and Dam were the last WPA projects in Allentown. I have the sketch plans of those structures, they were the pride of the city when completed in 1941.

It is my hope that you decide to revive the great tradition of Allentown parks, instead of just settling for a Certificate Of Cooperation from the Wildlands Conservancy.

photocredit: molovinsky

Mar 20, 2015

Saving Wehr's Dam

In today's Morning Call article, the reporter states that he was gobsmacked that the dam was saved. Perhaps if he wasn't the fifth reporter to be assigned to the story in the last nine months, he would have been less surprised. Perhaps if he had attended more meetings he would have credited more people in the effort, notably myself, Bob Schantz and Leroy Schmidt. While that's water over the proverbial dam, there are consequential issues which still need to be addressed. While the dam certainly received a temporary stay from execution, I doubt that the Wildlands Conservancy will stand down. The reporter kept mentioning the KCI report, as if its conclusions were gospel. In reality, it was generalized current dam removal patter, not even applicable to the Jordan Creek and Wehr's Dam. The projected cost to repair the dam was based on conservation methods usually reserved for the Washington Monument and the Statue of Liberty. In the real world, the DEP said two years ago that the dam is in overall good condition. The report by the Wildlands Conservancy, done by KCI, and paid for by a Pennsylvania grant, cost $239,000.00. As a taxpayer, I'm concerned with the channel between the Wildlands Conservancy and Harrisburg, which allowed a quarter of a $million dollars to be spent on virtual propaganda. I'm also concerned with the channel between the Wildlands Conservancy and South Whitehall Commissioner Christina Morgan, which encouraged one of the most significant features of Covered Bridge Park to be threatened. If the Wildlands Conservancy has its way, that picnic table shown in the picture above would replaced with a riparian buffer, which is actually a wall of weeds. It's necessary to realize that our parks were intended for recreation, not the Wildlands Conservancy grant harvesting agenda. The dam must receive some protective status, so that the citizens need not again defend such an iconic place of beauty.
photograph by K Mary Hess