Nov 29, 2009

Obama's Allentown Visit

Mayor Pawlowski has shocked the Allentown business community, by announcing that President Obama will visit Nikita's Bar, in the 700 block of Turner Street. Allentown is the first stop on the President's White House to Main Street Tour. Pawlowski said it was time for him to "get real".
This is a recovery tour, not a stimulus package tour. I have given the Brew Works every conceivable grant, and then even more in-kind considerations.
It was assumed that the visit would center on the Brew Works, which was the focus of the Mayor's economic development in his first term. The Fegley's, Brew Works owners, declined comment.
Nikita's was scene of an armed robbery last week. The Secret Service, speaking anonymously, said "We can protect the President where ever he chooses to visit".

Nov 28, 2009


This posting is intended to provide an opportunity to comment on any topic, or on an earlier posting.

Nov 26, 2009

Bernie's Court

Although Bernie and the formal legal system partied company about twenty years ago, blogging has provided Mr. O'Hare with a much more suitable courtroom. In Bernie's new Court, Lehigh Valley Ramblings, he never loses. His methods are subject to no scrutiny from a higher authority. He is free to be an blatant sycophant for those he favors, and an assassin against those he doesn't. He revels in using those trial skills so long prohibited. He will take a query and construct and accuse the commentator of a massive insult. He will add words unsaid, and fabricate intentions. In his closing statement, he will inform the defendant that he will not be permitted a reply. The thing Bernie most enjoys about his courtroom, he is not only the prosecutor, he is also the judge. With a simple push of the delete button, he presents, defends and reaffirms only his viewpoint.

There is a sad element on this field trip to Bernie's Courtroom. Although he takes great pride in his skills, these manipulations do not go unnoticed by the readers. His intellectual dishonesty is much more apparent than he would like to believe.

Nov 24, 2009

From The Future

Alien friends of mine have provided me with both a photo and news from the future. Pawlowski announces in early 2010 that he has sold Bicentennial Park to Lanta, and the Park Maintenance Facility (on Linden Street across from stadium) to Muhlenberg College. molovinsky on allentown writes post after post on his blog condemning the sale of these important city assets. Pawlowski dismisses Molovinsky's criticism as sour grapes about not being hired as Joyce Marin's replacement for Community Development Director. Molovinsky applied for the position after learning that her blog, Allentown Good News, was cited as her accomplishment. The photo shown, taken in August of 2010, is the completed walking path in Cedar Creek Park, across the creek from the Rose Garden.

Nov 23, 2009

Selling Easton's Soul

Business, in the center cities of the Lehigh Valley, is a fragile thing at best. Even Bethlehem, considered the most successful, is more charm than dollars. Essentially, these prior centers of commerce have been reduced to three separate economies. The upscale restaurants serve a clientele, mostly in the evening, that has absolutely no interaction with the surroundings. The tourist venues, fixed or seasonal, also provide little revenue for the surrounding shops. Last, but not least, you have an urban population and the bus people. Bethlehem has managed to maintain an upscale demographic living in it's center city, but this post is about Easton. (Allentown only has one such person living on Hamilton Street, she is the Community Development Director)

The Morning Call has published three stories about the High School Sports Hall of Fame, which will occupy part of the new parking deck and Lanta Terminal, several blocks south of Center Square in Easton. Easton Mayor Sal Panto, perhaps hoping to once again see his high school picture, has been cheerleading this effort. Although there is no question that this is a moronic idea doomed to failure, grants are available, and Panto can't resist a grant. The pending failure of the Sports Museum is the good news; the destruction of the bus people economy is the real consequence. Allentown should have taught Panto an expensive lesson. (Lanta doesn't care about lessons or merchants) People waiting to transfer buses, as they do now at Easton's Center Square, will shop if the store is very close and convenient. They will not walk. They will not make an additional stop and wait for another bus. They don't buy much, but there's many of them. Now, they will sit on benches at the Easton Lanta Transfer Terminal and watch school children come to the Al Bundy Museum on field trips. Panto will wonder why business died on Northampton Street.

Nov 21, 2009

Sympathy For The Devil

I suspect that if you engage a search engine with the words Nick Balzano and sympathy, this post will be the lone ranger. Nick became, overnight, a human pinata. The band bashing him, had to add additional wagons. I don't mind offering some defense to someone who stepped on a sacred cow's tail. Actually, the only thing I despise more than Boy Scouts is those pre-Girl Scouts; Brownies are vile. Nick's ill advised comment was four seconds of a 15-minute presentation. He was rightfully frustrated that his union members, the boots on the ground, absorbed all the layoffs in the city, while all the new fifth floor white collar positions were spared. Although his union did decline to re-negotiate their contract, the large increase resulted from concessions made in previous years. Now I'm sure there is much more to this story than I know. I do know it seems that everybody was willing to throw him under the bus, and with his resignation, he apparently fell on the sword as his reward for ten years of leading the local union.

Nov 20, 2009

Penny Wise, Grant Foolish

When the monster, aka Allentown Parking Authority, tutored Lanta about grants, they destroyed Hamilton Street in the process. Lanta was able to harvest a federal grant and provide the last portion of the financing necessary to built the terminal/parking deck at 6th and Linden Streets in Allentown. The first level store spaces were to be rented out to upscale stores, such as a woman's boutique or a private winery outlet. Hamilton Street merchants, viable if not glamorous, suffered a 40% reduction in business from losing the bus transfer stops. Save for a donut shop paying one dollar a year, the terminal retail space remains vacant. (The monster is moving it's office there)

Lanta has now joined forces with Easton's Mayor Panto to duplicate the success there. There is a grant that neither Panto or Lanta has the wisdom to leave on the table. Easton's deck will be built three and half blocks from Center Square, where the transfers now occur. Although no boutique or vineyard is being promoted, Mayor Sal (Panto) has announced that the High School Sports Hall of Fame Museum will anchor the transportation hub. Lanta has clearly stated that the success of center city main streets is not their concern, but Panto should know better. I suggest the Mayor drive over to Allentown and speak with the Hamilton Street merchants about the consequences of losing the bus transfer stops.

Nov 19, 2009

Museum Pimps Park

I suppose the difference between a whore and a call girl, or a john and a client, is one of wealth and sophistication. Here in Allentown, many of our institutions have the same small circle of people on their boards and at their fund raisers. Some of the same faces that dominate the Trexler Trust, also comprise Pawlowski's kitchen cabinet, and are routinely photographed at the Museum functions. Art and politics will merge this spring as SOTA, Allentown Art Museum's Society of the Arts, temporarily takes over a home at Ott Street and Parkway Boulevard owned by the Allentown Parks Department for it's Boutique and Cafe. And it will encourage exploration of the Rose Gardens, which have undergone renovations, including new paths and reflection ponds.

One of the most controversial proposals of the Cedar Park Plan was the conversion of this very house into a cafe. Although quickly rescinded by the city, the Rose Garden neighbors were rightfully concerned about increased congestion and parking problems. Supposedly, one of these cross-board members had a Tavern on the Green delusion, which would actively promote the Garden as a wedding venue. How ironic that the door will now be cracked open for that usage by the Art Museum. Will the neighbors enjoy that bitter pill as a hors d'oeuvre? Although the roses will not be blooming in May, guests may explore the new paths. Although conforming with the American Disabilities Act may well be a good thing, nobody can claim these paths enhance the beauty of the garden. The previously separate gardens are now connected by one straight path, which visually dominates the view. Instead of walking in the gardens, we now have a walkway lined with flowers. The use of this property as a "Cafe" is being justified as part of the traditional Showhouse project, in which a house is redone by leading local designers. The house chosen happens to be about five blocks away, on North 28th Street. Wine and Cheese anybody?

Nov 18, 2009

Monster Changes Diet

The Monster, The Allentown Parking Authority, is changing it's diet. I held a news conference* in the fall of 2005 questioning why parking meters still existed at 10th and Chew Streets. Perhaps appropriate in the 1950's , they are now five blocks and fifty years beyond serving any need, besides punishing center city residents. The Authority has grown into a large bureaucracy with a huge appetite for quarters and fines. I'd like to see it go on a diet and reduce the meter district to reflect current commerce on Hamilton Street, about six meters should do it. Instead the Authority is only modifying it's diet.

Amending article 507 (Traffic control Maps) of the Codified Ordinances of the City of Allentown by removing all parking meters along the north and south sides of Chew Street beginning on the west side of 8th Street continuing west on Chew Street to the east side of 10th Street and establishing a two (2) hour time zone along the north and south sides of Chew Street beginning on the west side of 8th Street continuing west on Chew Street to the east side of 10th Street

Although the meters on Chew Street between 8th and 10th will now be removed, a two hour parking zone will be enforced. The monster, although changing it's diet, will be eating no less. It will continue to prey on the residents who can least afford it, and are already coping with the myriad of center city problems. Welcome to Allentown.

* The press conference was held on the corner of 10th and Chew Streets. It was covered by WFMZ, Daryl Nerl, on behalf of The Morning Call, did not attend.

Nov 17, 2009

Yes We Can

Yes, we can use you for a metaphor, because everybody knows

Well we're living here in Allentown / And they're closing all the factories down

What an inspirational, TelePrompTer speech we're in for. While the local Democratic leadership smile ear to ear, the national media will be looking for scenes to match Billy Joel's images of despair, and they won't have to look hard. Although we have been down so long our local carpetbaggers think it's up, only Obama can profit from our plight. Good Grief !

Nov 16, 2009

Sal Panto Slow Learner

Easton's Mayor Panto fascinates me. This retread, he was Mayor before, doesn't seem to learn. Although Allentown destroyed it's business district by moving the buses, Sal insists on doing the same. Although the new location for the terminal/parking deck is an improvement over the previous absurd spot proposed, which he defended until the bitter end, it's still a half baked idea. The new incarnation will include a high school hall of fame sports museum, OK? Anyway, the reason for this post is Panto's new brainchild, sicing the police on a club owner during peak business hours. Panto told the Morning Call, "We wanted to take him out in front of everybody."

Sal, here's a thought. Since the Easton Police Department seems to pay out millions of dollars each year for one controversial action after another, maybe now is not the time to be grandstanding over someone's possible legal rights?

Fixing What We Broke

During the controversy over the Cedar Park Plans, much discussion centered on the need for Riparian Buffers. These are usually deliberate plantings to restore a stream bank to a natural state. Many advocates for the new plans may be surprised to learn that they are only correcting mistakes made by previous advocates. When Lehigh Parkway was originally designed and completed in the late 1930's, most of the existing paths were not included. Almost the entire stream bank on the north side between Robin Hood Bridge and the Klein Bridge (new metal pedestrian bridge) was retained in its natural state. Except for a small picnic area adjoining the stream's edge (old water fountain remains) the remainder of that side was untouched. It remained that way at least into the 1960's. Like wise, only the north side path between Robin Hood Bridge and North Bridge existed. (Regency Tower end of park). On the southern side of the stream the path stopped just beyond the Stepped Stone Structure. The park lies in a deep ravine. The original builders only built the paths in those area's which had meadow between the slope and the stream, allowing distance between the path and the water and also allowing for over half the park to remain in it's natural state. The extended path now continuing pass the Stepped Structure actually must abut the stream, as with the new portion going west on the north side.

Had not "Park Planners" made these "improvements" in the last few decades, we would have a more natural environment today. Our current "Planners" continue wanting to shove more and more into our parks. Although the additional paths in the Parkway allow the users double the length for exercise, we have compromised the stream banks. Currently we are on the verge of building a new loop within the existing loop in a small area of Cedar Creek, between the Creek and Honochick Drive. I can determine no rational reason for this redundancy. The Park Director claims it will contain different exercise stations than the existing outer loop. Here's an idea, why not just add the new gimmicks to the old path?

Nov 14, 2009

The New Bloggers

One thing about the blogosphere, with the cost of operation, free, it's always expanding. There are several new blogs I would like to bring to the attention of both my readers. By now, both of you have probably noticed that I added a blog link list last month. Blogspot, which hosts this blog, offers several options for the list. I settled on the most simple, arranged in alphabetical order. Although this post will mention a couple others, I will not be updating my list at this time.

Send In The Clowns is published anonymously, as most blogs are, and has been taking some of our elected officials to task.
Allentown Parking Authority has a bone to pick with the Allentown Parking Authority.
Clancularius Introspective has been in business for about a year now, publishing over 53 posts alone in October.
IronPigPen is a sport's buff smorgasbord, with an attitude. Unfortunately, the blog is for sale; Personally, I hope the deal falls through, and the current owners stay stuck with the chore.

For those of you who prefer less controversy, Lehigh Valley Transplant spotlights the valley with fresh, innocent eyes.

The logo used at the top of this post has no affiliation to the mentioned Clown blog, I simply like the image.

Nov 11, 2009

A Sacred Cow

If there was ever a town that doesn't need Habitat For Humanity, its got to be Allentown. CAUTION, THOSE WITH INCURABLE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS, DO NOT CONTINUE READING. Allentown currently boasts the newest public housing in the nation, plus block after block of sub-prime defaults. Back in the mid 1990's, I opposed one of Habitats first projects in Allentown. They wanted to brick over one of the side windows of a property I managed, using one of their stock row house plans. At that time the Zoning Officer didn't even list that outrage as a needed variance. The Director of the Redevelopment Authority testified in their support. After I prevailed at the hearing, Habitat's Director told me "No one ever opposes us, we're such a sacred cow."

The "Cow" is currently at it again, pushing around the people of the St. Paul's Park Neighborhood Group. Over thirty of them showed up recently at a zoning hearing to protest Habitat's new proposed houses on a Walnut Street parking lot. The Allentown Planning Commission declined to schedule their meeting in the evening, to allow input from the working neighbors. Although the Redevelopment Authority owns houses that have been vacant for over a decade, Habitat is still encouraged to build more houses on needed parking lots. People would rather feel good about themselves, than do what's best for the city.

Nov 9, 2009

The Wage of Fame

As a young man in the mid 1930's, Abe Simon worked summers as a life guard at Coney Island. Girls would pretend to be drowning to meet the 6'5" hunk. The former high school star athlete was recruited to boxing by Jock Whitney, future Ambassador to Britain. Although amassing a winning record, absorbing punches from the likes of Buddy Bear, Jersey Joe Walcott and Joe Louis took their toll on Simon.

Simon's brother congratulates him after going 13 rounds with Louis in Detroit in March of 1941, earning a second shot at the Heavyweight Title.

Nov 7, 2009

The Apartment Myth

Over and over, people contribute Allentown's problems to center city houses being converted to apartments, as if this occurred recently. Many will be surprised to know that almost all the converted apartments existed for over 60 years. When the GI's returned from WW2, the trend was for small single family houses with small lawns, i.e. Levittowns. The mass conversion of the row houses took place in the late 40's and early 50's, and more less stopped by the early 60's. These "new" apartments were mostly occupied by either singles or childless couples. The tenants were buyers at Hess's and engineers at PPL. Because of them, Hamilton Street remained viable for twenty years beyond the main street in Bethlehem, Easton and Reading. Allentown was voted during this era the All American City. During those 50 years, 1940 to 1990, nobody complained about the apartments or the tenants. Ironically, more apartment inventory has been added recently, by creating "loft" apartments in former commercial buildings. The Urbanists think they can revitalize Hamilton Street with upper story housing. While the proponents mistakenly think that they will attract a middle class demographic, they are in fact just adding to the total inventory and thus the problem. Beside the urbanists, advocates for low income housing still demand more units. In reality, it's apparent we have an abundance of low income housing. Recently, there has been a trend to built new, center city single housing; attempting to attract a middle class with disposable income to bolster Hamilton Street. Neighborhood parking lots have been sacrificed for this concept. In fact, we are just building tomorrow's rental houses. Allentown, unlike larger cities, is a horizontal community. There is no reason, geographic or otherwise, which compels the middle class to move to center city.

Allentown would currently be better served with a moratorium on new housing of all sorts in center city. Considering that over 7000 units exist, owned by 5000 different owners, deconversion hopes are unrealistic. Strict enforcement of current zoning standards, concerning square footage, parking, etc. would suffice in reasonably curtailing additional living units. By limiting supply, demand can improve the quality of life for everybody.

The image shown is part of a watercolor by Karoline Schaub-Peeler

Nov 5, 2009

SmileBoy and the Christians

Yesterday, fellow blogger Bernie O'Hare patted the blogosphere on the back for it's election coverage. Bernie did provide much information, but some with much more bias than he may concede. I found his coverage of the Cunningham/Ott church housing situation so spinning, I got dizzy reading it. According to O'Hare, Cunningham may have been justified sicing the IRS on Ott, because a church was encouraging it's members to vote for the more spiritual person. My understanding of the sequence of events, was that Cunningham first questioned a church affiliated camp about providing housing to Ott, who was a former employee. The question asked if this indeed was a contribution in kind from a tax exempt church to a political candidate. (I wouldn't think so, because he was living there previously and it was part of a severance compensation) Bernie's spin on the story included humorous distractions, such as Mennonites throwing rocks at Cunningham's house from a horse buggy.

I don't relish the idea of questioning O'Hare's version of a story. We all get tired when Bernie and I go at it. But Bernie's version, spin or not, was about the only coverage on the subject.* BUT WHY BRING IT UP NOW? THE ELECTIONS OVER. Today, in The Morning Call, Brian Callaway analyzes the County Executive election, and Cunningham provides a DIFFERENT REASON for the IRS letter.
Cunningham defended the tactic, saying Ott had based most of his campaign on fears of a tax hike but doesn't pay property taxes of his own here.

This revelation raises several questions. If he really didn't believe the housing situation was a contribution in kind, the letter to the IRS really was vindictive and petty. Does Cunningham think that only voters who pay property taxes are entitled of having an opinion on County policy? SmileBoy should know that some of our Congressional Representatives and Senators are tenants.

* Bernie does link to Ken Petrini and his posts at Examiner.Com Apparently Mr. Petrini also covered the Cunningham/Ott/Church issue.

Nov 4, 2009

Brain Transplant Complete

The City of Allentown has successfully removed, through an innovative laparoscopic procedure, all brain tissue from it's voters. Any brain cells remaining from the previous election in 07, were removed via the ear canal at the designated voting stations. This success at the municipal level has allowed Donny Cunningham to remain smiling, despite being overwhelmingly rejected throughout the remainder of the county. A statue of Dave Bausch will be on display at the Historical Society, the last republican ever elected to Allentown City Council.

Nov 2, 2009

County Executive Race


If you are looking for a political contest that pits a crude political animal against a person of good intention the contest for Lehigh County executive is for you. Don Cunningham the incumbent, a career politician, is seeking re-election with a campaign based on half truths, distortions and exaggerations. All this is delivered to the voters through a completely phony Bethlehem Gomer Pyle persona. Running against Don is Scott Ott, a man of many talents who until recently never thought of running for public office. Scott, a family man and a person of deep faith feels the time is right for a candidacy that proclaims individual liberty over continued government expansion. To concentrate on the campaign Mr. Ott left his job as the director of a church affiliated camp. Apparently, as part of a severance package, his former employer allows Scott andhis family to remain in the house he was renting from the church rent free. Now Don Cunningham has decided to label Scott's family's living arrangement a violation of non-profit tax codes and has asked the IRS to investigate. IRS scrutiny can make even an honest person or institution's life a nightmare. This is an agency where one must prove innocence and that effort can take time and money.
Don Cunningham must think he is so clever, but in fact this act has revealed him as a man so consumed with himself that he seeks an IRS investigation into a church merely because they allow his election opponent to stay in a building they own.
There are plenty of unsavory facts about Don's life that have remained out of public purview. Scott Ott has never attacked Mr. Cunningham's personally or involved his family life in the campaign. That is the mark of his decency. Conversely, Don Cunningham's actions speak for themselves. By this action he has proven himself unworthy of any public office.

Scott Armstrong

Voters Needed

Although a mayoral year in Allentown, the turn out for Tuesday's election may be light. Are the voters dissatisfied with Pawlowski enough to come out and support Phillips? If their not motivated by the top of the ticket, will they come out for the bottom? In the local media, both main stream and the blogosphere, the drums have been beating, but is more than the choir listening? I took this photograph of Lou Hershman at one of his several press conferences. It's hard to imagine a more dedicated man offering his service to the city.