Aug 26, 2008

Vision or Delusion

Over sixty eager beavers met Monday at the center-city Holiday Inn, shown in the background, for the final "Visioning" meeting.*
With help from a grant for $10,000, the following profound statement resulted; ''We envision the Hamilton Street District as the commercial and cultural heart of the Lehigh Valley, an attractive, welcoming community, filled with activity and energy, offering employment, dining, arts, entertainment, shopping, and residential opportunities, supported by culturally diverse and architecturally attractive neighborhoods.'' Mayor Pawlowski said "This whole process.... has been good for galvanizing folks..." Although I used the word "delusion" in the title, actually the process was more of an illusion; a trick making the participants think they have input to the decision making process. When one considers the decision was already made to remove the Lanta bus stops which supported the pre-existing merchants, and all future grant funds of any consequence have already been pre-spent on a couple favored projects, what decisions remain for the beavers? Maybe they can design a new street banner or rearrange a parking meter or two. The fellow in the foreground was not the consultant, but he thought the meeting was silly, so do I.



Anonymous said...

Some might call this exercise B.S.

Joe Hilliard said...

How many studies, initiatives, plans, etc. have been announced by the Pawlowski/Afflerbach administrations?

This is a political dog and pony show to make people feel good. "Somthing is being done! Look what we could achieve!"

Mike, you got it right. It is delusional. Anon has it right also, it is B.S.

How about a radical "plan" or idea? How about if Allentown City Government performs its basic functions in an efficient and competent manner? How about if it produces surpluses without borrowed money?

Now there's a radical "vision" for the future of Allentown!

Bill Weber said...

The wheel is turning, but the hamster is dead.

Squirrel said...

While we live in an urban area, much of center city Allentown is a ghetto. Not in a derogatory sense but to the degree that much of the area is impoverished and is inhabited almost exclusively by one socio-economically challenged ethnicity or race.

This is not a put down of Allentown or a judgment against anyone living in the city it is a fact. We think we have, but do not, the diverse richness and ethnic complexity often found in larger more metropolitan areas.

Many of the planners in Allentown, when they think of a City, perhaps think of the Rittenhouse Square area of Center City Philadelphia or Greenwich Village in New York. These are small specialized niches that cannot exist with out the support of the broader and much larger surrounding metropolis. In relationship to the total urban area they are small in both physical footprint and population.

In Allentown when we people talk of a Renaissance they often seem to refer to one area, 4th St to 10th St and Linden to Walnut. While this may be the "heart" of Allentown, perhaps the most destitute zip code in the Lehigh Valley, 18101, is right in the middle of it all. I know of no other Renaissance area, in any city, where the major population center is a jail/prison.

All this talk of revitalizing Allentown becomes just talk. The visionaries fail to see what they are really dealing with. They live with the illusion that it is something more than it really is. Ironically, I think, many of them dream of this illusion as they sit in their breakfast nooks in the suburbs, Allentown included, and watch a cornucopia of flora and fauna serendipitously co-exist in perfect harmony on a cool sunny late August morn.

Most importantly they fail to seriously consider the wants and needs of the majority of people that are the life blood of this city. This was proved to me when I attended a service, focused on making a statement against violence, at Grace Episcopal Church last Sunday. Expecting it to be jammed with other members of the community, my wife and I and another women were the only ones attending who were not regulars.

The absence of the plethora of movers and shakers in this community is a profound statement. So I am offended when I open the paper and see an editorial comment by a minion of the The Chamber, a degreed arrogant 20 something, with little life experience telling me what I see feel and experience on a daily basis as a resident of this city is not reality.

I work multiple jobs to send my children to private school. ASD, given the recent PSSA scores is one step below juvenile detention. And to those parents who have children who are doing well I must ask: "What are you trying to prove? If they do well at ASD, what do you think they would do in an environment where physical, social and psychological threat of a culture of bullying did not exist.

I will let others live in their ignorant bliss and suffer their existential angst in what little peace they may have. I will focus my life on making what small changes I can, one day at a time. To all those noble visionaries you have my blessing and my prayers as you prattle in your delusion and social schizophrenia. Perhaps one day you will wake up.

Dreams are only good if they are based on reality. If they are not they are simply idle fantasies.


Anonymous said...

Amen, Squirrel, Amen.
That about sums it up in a nut shell.


Michael Donovan said...

Dear Squirrl:

You raise critical issues that I think usually are forgotten.

No economic development plan can work until the underlying human relationships and community challenges are addressed.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Anonymous said...


The challenge downtown resident’s face is that they live in a city that has been badly mismanaged and poorly governed for these past eight years. That is the source of the majority of the neighborhoods problems. Good government is what this city needs. Will it get it any time soon? I doubt it. Can anything else work to improve the city without it? Unlikely.

Scott Armstrong

Michael Donovan said...

Hello Scott:

I understand mismanagement, and I understand good government vs. bad government.

What I do know is that good government is not defined by party, but by talent and skill and dedication and patience and dialogue.

Ideology is not the answer to good government. Analysis, open decision-making, and cooperation is the answer.

Best regards,

Michael Donovan

Anonymous said...

Squirrel: It's never been said better. Thank you!

Anonymous said...


Why don’t you stop talking down to people? Who do you think doesn’t already understand what you have written? Been there done that long before you came to town.

Where has the openness and cooperation been in Allentown for the past eight years? The collapse of Allentown parallels it takeover by local Democrats who are more interested in control than quality leadership.

Scott Armstrong