Jun 30, 2008

Velcome To The Vendig

In 1933, with the end of Prohibition, my grandparents(maternal) started operating the Vendig Hotel. They were the working partners, another immigrant family, here longer, were the silent backers. The hotel was directly across from the current Main Street Depot Restaurant in Bethlehem, which was the old New Jersey Line Terminal. With my grandmother cooking, they became well known for crab cakes and other shelled seafood. What wasn't known, was that she was strictly kosher, and never even tasted anything she prepared. As some may recall, my grandparents came from Hungarian Transylvania (now Romania) in the early 20's. Family lore* says Bela Lugosi visited the hotel. Lugosi was born in the same area of then Hungary, and started his acting career playing Jesus in Passion Plays. In 1931, after immigrating to America years earlier, he got his big break playing Dracula. Typecast as a villain, Lugosi was reduced in later years to drug addiction and playing in low budget monster films. He died in the mid 50's and was buried in his Dracula cape.

* My surviving uncle, who as a boy lived above the hotel, has no recollection of Lugosi. The partner families would later merge through marriage and 40 years later come to own the old vaudeville theater in South Bethlehem known as The Globe. It too is gone.

Jun 27, 2008

Xertek Throws in Towel

Xertek, the well respected and equipped fitness center at 10th and Hamilton has closed, victim of the Parking Authority. Since the meter increase, he has lost hundreds of members. For most members, the cost of parking and fines exceeded the cost of membership. The meter and fine rate were doubled in 2005 to finance the Parking Deck at 6th and Linden, to support a slogan called the Arts District. The Lanta terminal was added to the deck to help finance the project. The consequences of this project has been devastating to Hamilton Street and the long term interest of the taxpayers. Ironically, next to the vacating gym, the city just gave a new cell phone store owner twenty thousand to open. As a activist and candidate I opposed the meter increase, Pawlowski endorsed it. Although our Mayor keeps referring to a vision of Allentown moving forward, the private money investors are packing up. On my previous posting, concerning Rite Aid, several apologists for the Mayor keep their faith. One claims the 7th St. Eckerd is 6.5 blocks away, not 10. Tell you what my friend, go to the Hamilton Street store, and then walk to the 7th St. store, it's a long way from 8th and Hamilton to 7th and Allen. Xertek will now be located at 15th and Green Streets, with plenty of free parking. The owner invested 9 years and $300,000 on to Hamilton Street, I thanked him for that.

Jun 26, 2008

Rite Aid to Close

Hamilton Street's Rite Aid will close it's door July 10th. Although it was against their corporate policy to join me and the merchants protesting the Pawlowski endorsed Lanta Bus changes*, it is also against their corporate policy to tolerate a 40% reduction in revenue. Hamilton Street is on it's knee's. This week three long term businesses announced their closing. Pawlowski was hoping his house of cards would stand until the next mayoral election, it doesn't look like it. All grant money is being funneled into keeping the Brew Pub open. No work has occurred at the former Sal's site for over three weeks. Pawlowski's lack of business experience is beginning to be very costly to Allentown. Many investors, some capable of investing much more, are being abused** by his bureaucracy, while a few select properties are being promoted. These tactics may well result in lawsuits, costing the city even more.

* At the time of the Lanta protest, I respected Rite Aid's corporate position, and didn't dwell on the fact that a national chain was being driven off of Hamilton Street. The Mayor and Lanta board were too self absorbed with their "vision", to understand they were depriving the merchants of the cash flow necessary to remain in business.

** Apartment owners are having their buildings declared unfit for habitation because of some external peeling paint. Commercial owners are likewise being threatened and bullied with inappropriate demands. I will refrain from citing addresses at this time to spare these hapless owners from more harassment.

UPDATE: Channel 69 news reports that Rite Aid is closing because of it's merger with Eckerd, which has a store"several blocks away on 7th St". The Eckerd is almost 10 blocks away. CVS has a store at 12th and Liberty and another at 16th and Liberty. The Hamilton Street store is closing because they lost the prescription and other business from transferring bus passengers. At some point in the future, we will pay a consultant who will make the recommendation to restore the transfer stops back to Hamilton Street.

Department of Misrepresentation

Pawlowski and his Administration routinely serve half truths on their menu of city services. Last December, when the Home Inspection Law was snuck through City Council at the end of the last meeting of the year, three officers from the Realtors Association endorsed the legislation. What they omitted to say, was that they hadn't surveyed their membership, and that the three took it upon themselves to support the proposal. Earlier this week, The Morning Call was provided with information that homeowners spent an average of $353.47 complying with the inspections. What the City omitted to say, was that this was the cost of materials only, with the presumption the homeowner could do the work himself. Misrepresentations, omissions and presumptions should preclude the City from intervening between a homeowner and his buyer.

Jun 24, 2008

AutoZone Political Victim

To any observer of Allentown Government, it was no surprise that the Zoning Board denied AutoZone's request for larger signs. With a room full of opponents, including the Mayor, the Board went through the motions of due process, but a witch in Salem had a better chance. I wasn't looking forward to an autoparts store replacing a charming dining spot, but I am concerned with property rights in Allentown. When zoning rights, or routinely normal variances are compromised to appease public opinion, the slippery slope is justified for more ominous abuses. Should the city building inspection system and permit system also be subject to a political agenda? Sometimes we must tolerate the unpopular and inappropriate, or we give the system a pass to violate everybody's rights.

Jun 21, 2008

Bridge Over Denial

Friday's Allentown edition of The Morning Call had two stories which caught my attention. The first*, was an excellent detailed account of the administration's vision for the future, by Jarrett Renshaw, a new reporter to the Allentown beat. My only issue with the vision, is that the components are anywhere from twenty-five to forty years old; it's actually more like a drug induced flashback. Now there are advantages to repackaging old plans. Mayor Pawlowski already has a power point presentation on these "visions" from when he was Director of Community Development under Afflerbach. In reality most these idea's go back to Dadonna's first term, when both the current Director of Planning and the Chief Planner where hired, forty years ago.

The second interesting article was about replacing the 124 year old Linden Street Bridge**. Readers may recall Candidate Don Cunningham campaigning about restoring the bridge. Immediately after being elected, he restricted the bridge to one lane. Now, two and half years later, we learn he will now rebid the project. The bridge in the picture is called Ponte Vecchio, in Florence, it was built in the 1300's. Europe is full of bridges which are hundreds of years old. They employ this high technology called maintenance. Weeds and plants are not allowed to grow on the bridges. The surfaces are kept as waterproof as possible, and bricks and stones are re-pointed as needed. Here in Allentown bushes grow out the 8th Street Bridge, and reinforcing rods are left exposed. The 15th Street Bridge rails were just painted last week, after being allowed to rust for years.

Allentown and Lehigh County would be better off with less planning, less campaigning and more elbow grease.

* http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/all-b1_5plan.6468433jun20,0,4594474.story

** http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/all-b1_5linden

Jun 19, 2008

Where's the Beef

Yesterday I asked Bill White and John Micek where's the local news? This question, was asked in the same vein, as the elderly lady wondering where the beef was in the hamburger commercial. Bill and John were too busy complimenting each other to answer. This evening I found an explanation buried in the Queen City Blog*:
" Jarrett Renshaw, Atown's new City Hall reporter, who arrived fresh from Easton's City Hall last week, is planning to do more with this in the next few days. Oh, and expect to see Jarrett here at the QCD as soon as he settles in, posting exclusive city news right here."
Hi Jarrett, let me introduce myself. I'm one of the nay-sayers who are responsible for Allentown not moving as far forward as it could because of our criticism. My very words alone, although seldom seen in the Morning Call, produce a negative energy with impedes the good intentions from City Hall from being fully realized. But, more important, let me explain who you are. You are the fourth reporter assigned to this administration since it began. Don't sign a long term apartment lease, because by the time you realize this Mayors' main accomplishment is producing power point presentations on his accomplishments, you will be reassigned to Shamokin to report on parallel vs. perpendicular parking.

*Queen City Blog about joke call Vision Meetings

Jun 16, 2008

Lehigh Parkway Elementary School

Not that many people know where Lehigh Parkway Elementary School is. It's tucked up at the back of the development of twin homes on a dead end street, but I won't say exactly where. I do want to talk about the photograph. It's May Day, around 1952-53. May Day was big then, so were the unions; at Steel, Mack, Black and Decker, and a hundred other factories going full tilt after the war. The houses were about 8 years old, and there were no fences yet. Hundreds of kids would migrate from one yard to another, and every mother would assume some responsibility for the herd when it was in her yard. Laundry was hung out to dry. If you notice most of the "audience" are mothers, dads mostly were at work. I'm at the front, right of center, with a light shirt and long belt tail. Don't remember the girl, but see the boy in front of me with the big head? His father had the whole basement setup year round with a hugh model train layout. There were so many kid's, the school only went up to second grade. The neighborhood had its own Halloween Parade and Easter egg hunt. We all walked to school, no one being more than four blocks away. Years ago when I met my significant other, she told me she taught at an elementary school on the south side, but I would have no idea where it was.

click on photo to enlarge

Jun 14, 2008

Allentown on my Mind

I'm a baby boomer. I was born December 21, 1946. As soon as my mother climbed out of the hospital bed, another woman climbed in. I grew up in Lehigh Parkway. Not Lehigh Parkway North where the cyclists were last week, but the other side of the park, where the Mack and Steel workers lived. That's me on our lawn at the intersection of Catalina and Liberator Avenues, named after airplanes made by Vultee Corporation for the War. We had our own elementary school, or own grocery store, and the park to play in. On Saturdays my older brother would take me on the trolley, and later the bus, over the 8TH Street Bridge to Hamilton Street. There were far too many stores to see everything. After a matinee of cartoons or Flash Gordon, a banana split at one of the five and dimes, we would take the bus back over the bridge to Lehigh Street.

As I drive through town at night I'm constantly fearful of a small child darting out between parked cars. Their parents must be constantly afraid of gunshots and random violence. I wish these children, and their parents could enjoy a bit of serenity, they deserve it.

Profile of Pawlowski Sycophant

I first realized Peter had a political future when I saw him ignore the testimony and plight of the Hamilton Street merchants at the Lanta Meeting. As a staff member for a State Representative, he's a trained talking puppet. Now also doing Pawlowski's bidding at City Council, Peter has introduced important legislation*; residents would be limited to conducting four yard sales a year. Michael Hefele pointed out since the city doesn't have inspectors working on weekends, it would be used to target "selected" offenders. Schweyer based his ordinance after a law in Coaldale, violators would face $500 fines. Pawlowski and Schweyer, moving Allentown forward!

* http://www.mcall.com/news/local/all-b3_5yardsale.6458993jun14,0,7163030.story

Jun 13, 2008

Morning Call Manipulation

Today I received quite an education. No less than 20 people commented they saw my photograph, at least five of which where total strangers. As a candidate for mayor in 2005, my photograph never appeared in the Morning Call, not even once. The reporter assigned to the election, a Pawlowski fan, went as far as not covering my news conferences or group rallies. Although my photo was accidentally on the front page this morning, it now resides at the end of the Mcall gallery section, an oblivious editorial decision. To be honest, as a third generation Allentownian, I still think it's too good of a city to throw away for the political expediency of a Chicago politician. Don't rule me out for 2009.

Walkers' Paradise

Today, The Morning Call features a story about how great our downtown's are for walking*. The feature shows a photograph of a most interesting couple and concludes all three main cities in the Lehigh Valley, including Allentown, are a "Walkers' Paradise." By 6:30 AM, two comments appeared questioning the story, especially the safety of walking in Allentown. A third commentator, Matthew Tuerk, then stated how safe Allentown was and how much he enjoyed walking to work in center city. Matt even mentioned he buys his groceries at the downtown Farmers Market on Wednesdays. Matt forgot to mention he works for Allentown Economic Development Corporation which sponsors that little market and promotes the downtown. Why can't people disclose their self aggrandizing? At least the article showed a really nice couple.

photocredit:harry fisher, morning call


Jun 9, 2008

The Cards You're Dealt

According to Morning Call, the Administration plans to hire part time police officers to supplement the force. Currently the taxpayers paid for nine more full time police officers than are currently employed. Although the mayor offers the excuse that it takes 19 months to train an officer, he's known about the shortfall for over three years. The Morning Call also reports that it will probably be reporting less news than it currently does. When one considers the rising crime and decreased police presence, less news may be a blessing in disguise.

photocredit: molovinsky

Jun 5, 2008

Molovinsky Post goes Poof

Last evening I joined the ranks of poof blogs, and deleted a posting from earlier in the day. Certain aspects of that posting had deeply offended a third party. I made a decision to put that person's feelings ahead of my desire to pontificate on a certain subject. Although deleting a post is nothing to take lightly, it happened. In this current exercise of rationalization, it seems to me there are worst offenses; plagiarizing, lying and misrepresenting. Considering how much of the blogosphere is anonymous, to whom am I apologizing? Although I will not let any comment stand referring back to the original content of the deleted post, feel free to comment on the concept of deletion.

Jun 3, 2008

Pawlowski's Dog and Pony Show

Although I have my reservations about Pawlowski as a mayor, there is no doubt about him being a first rate performer. As Director of Community Development in 2002 under Afflerbach, they instituted the federal program Weed and Seed as their plan to address Allentown's problems. In addition to a large budget, staff, separate office, professional web site* and even a documentary video, the program has everything except perhaps measurable results. Never the less, Weed and Seed was the pony pawlowski rode during the mayoral campaign of 2005. He would say "Weed and Seed, blah, blah, blah." When I called it a slogan and money pit, he bristled, "At least it's a strategy". I think what he meant was at least it's something to produce a power point presentation about and sell as a solution.

Pawlowski is now making the circuit with a new show. Just as Afflerbach hyped the hot shot police chief theory, Pawlowski has his own Kuhn, hired consultant George Kelling, of "Broken Window" fame, a fading fad in police theory**. According to Pam Varkony***, Kelling tells Pawlowski's supporters in five years "Children will be playing on the sidewalks while their parents converse with friends and neighbors from their front porches". Let's see, five years, that would take us into Pawlowski's second term?

*** http://www.mcall.com/news/opinion/anotherview/all-varkony6-1.6431595jun01,0,4235803.column