Oct 30, 2010

The Real Heroes

Who the heroes were at Wednesday's Lehigh County Budget meeting is a matter of opinion. Bernie O'Hare has always thought that Don Cunningham can walk on water. When it comes to Dean Browning, The Morning Call's Bill White now joins O'Hare in lavishing praise. I was never impressed with Don Cunningham. When he unionized Cederbrook, as his first act as County Executive in 2006, I knew he was not in the taxpayer's best interest. Although senior citizens will suffer from this current tax increase, that assault pales in comparison to eventually condemning Cedarbrook to Gracedale's current fate. Words and smiles come easy to Cunningham, and he has mesmerized both O'Hare and White.

I was a few booths away in a diner when Browning showed O'Hare the County Budget. Bernie was impressed with Browning's apparent due diligence; I'm not. When you can't find anything to cut out of a $390 million dollar budget, maybe you're not looking very hard. Easy Smile Cunningham keeps repeating that there are less County workers now, than in the 1990's. I'd like to know why then did he purchase the seven story Hamilton Center? Why do we need more space for less people? I know the pretense was the 911 Call Center, but seven stories? The Commissioners suggested an alternative budget with a 13% increase, instead of 16%. This would have eliminated one position and support for $350,000, and transferred $1.6million gambling revenues from the capital fund to the general fund for tax reduction. Cunningham made disparaging remarks about this alternative, and now we have the full 16% increase.

Bill White calls Browning brainy with guts. Only three Commissioners voted for the alternative 13% budget; Glenn Eckhart, Andy Roman and Tom Creighton- that took guts! These guys know that come election time, their opponents can say that they voted for a tax increase. They voted for the alternative anyway; They understand that 13 is less than 16. Dean Browning, with all his financial training, despite all the praise from O'Hare and White, voted against the lower tax rate.

Oct 29, 2010

Easy Smile Prevails

Easy Smile apparently had a good night on Wednesday. Here in the Blogosphere, Bernie O'Hare remains a devoted fan. In the main stream, Bill White is preparing a fan column. Easy Smile, aka Don Cunningham, started out Wednesday with a misconception. He said all cuts would have to be proportional across the board. That said, he could go on to describe criminals running free and judges suing. Why would all cuts have to be across the board? Who says the County has to be into open space and recreation? There isn't much quality of life anyway if our citizens cannot afford to leave their homes. Who says our County must be into community development? How about some concern for the taxpayer's development. The apologists say that the tax increase will only be $2 dollars a week. How about the school tax increase, and the municipal increase? How about no increase in Social Security for the retired. Why is it that 370,000 people must pay more to keep 900+ county jobs? Why is it that only the citizens must somehow always survive on less?

Oct 28, 2010

Holding My Tongue

As I start to write this about 5:30am, my fellow blogger, Bernie O'Hare, has yet to publish his piece on the County Budget Meeting. I learned from The Morning Call that Dean Browning broke ranks with his fellow Republicans, and voted against sending the budget back to Cunningham for a no tax increase version. Cunningham's proposed budget, with a 16% increase, now takes effect by default. Bernie has a dilemma; he likes both Cunningham and Brown. I predict his spin will be that they both these heroes made the responsible choice, and damn the consequences. Fellow Republican Dougherty, joined Brown in also rejecting an alternative budget, with a 13% increase. I must question Dougherty's sincerity about the no increase version; Did he vote yes because he knew that Brown was going to vote no, and kill it anyway? Does Brown and Dougherty feel out of $390 million dollars nothing could be cut; that Cunningham is that good? The speech about convicts running loose on the streets, if the budget is cut, is in my mind a crime in itself. In the course of my business, I must chase after a county worker every month. The message on his County answer machine says if you must talk to a live person, call 610 782-XXXX. I suspect he's not the only dead wood. Like most taxpayers, I did not attend the meeting or study the budget, but hoped that our Commissioners would at least shave the 3% from the submitted budget.

Oct 27, 2010

At your Peril

I generally have steered away from the election on this site. I have let my fellow bloggers crunch numbers and promote candidates. I did watch an interesting panel on C-Span, which warned that the politically sophisticated underestimate the influence and appeal of those they consider less informed. Democrat Harold Ford  mentioned that he sensed many people feel that those with so called expertise, haven't done that well for us anyway. Perhaps Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow will be less condescending Nov. 3. It all depends on who actually shows up to vote.

Oct 26, 2010

Extraordinary Level

Last night the Bethlehem School Board rejected a tax-increment financing (TIF) district for Martin Tower, despite all the king's horses and men. Board members were told that without the tax bond, lesser priced dwellings would be constructed, eventually resulting in less taxes and more rug rats. One board member explained that her no vote was because the project didn't rise to an extraordinary level. The TIF would have given the developer money, while here in Allentown we use KOZ, which forgives taxes for at least a decade. Here in Allentown, apparently everything rises to an extraordinary level; The Allentown School Board has yet to hear a KOZ proposal it didn't accept. While I'm out of town, let me move further east, toward Easton. I'm an advocate for the historical county nursing homes, Gracedale and Cedarbrook. Preserving these institutions does rise to an extraordinary level.

Oct 25, 2010

Noah's Ark

Although Mayor Pawlowski will officially cut the ribbon today on Allentown's new Destination Playground, Sunday's warm weather and only a mesh plastic fence, proved too tempting to about 75 kids and their parents. The equipment is beautiful and obviously from one manufacturer. It appears to be the Noah's Ark of playgrounds. Park Director Weitzel must have ordered two of everything. Only time will reveal how long everything will last, and how much maintenance and expense this playground will require. I can tell you that the kids yesterday were having a ball.

Today's Morning Call has an article about Paulette Hunter and her role in advocating for the playground. I congratulate Paulette on her accomplishment, but must take exception with some points in the article. We, who objected to the comprehensive Cedar Park Plan, did not single out the playground as the only problem; but those who defended the comprehensive plan, did single out the playground, for the obvious reasons of political correctness. In the article Ms. Hunter defends claiming prejudice, saying the objectors referred to "those people." The accusation is as unfounded and unfortunate now, as it was then. The playground is built. I hope it brings many children and their parents much joy for many years.

Oct 22, 2010

Tough Guys

Not too many guys could say that they knocked Joe Louis down, but both of these guys did. Buddy Baer, 6'7", met Tony Galento, 5'9'', on April 8, 1941 in Washington D.C. Galento did not come out for the 8th round, giving Baer the victory, which set up his title fight with Louis. Galento, who trained with beer and hot dogs, had a pulverizing round house left hook, with which he knocked out 51 men. Louis described him as "Absolutely fearless."

Oct 21, 2010

Breakfast with Dent

No, I didn't really have breakfast with Charlie Dent. Matter of fact, I haven't even attended a meeting lately. I've decided that I'm tired of facts interfering with my opinions. Back to the Diner. Tuesday morning, a guy at the counter tells his buddies that Dent opposes ending tax cuts for the wealthy, because it's his job to protect Republicans. His buddy asks if he really said that? Yep, it's right here, and reads the quote. When I stood up to put on my third sweater, I noticed that the reader had a iphone, not a newspaper, and was scrolling up from the bottom of the articles.

Tuesday morning, Bill White had a column in which he fantasized that candidates responded to questions like Jim Carrey, in the movie Liar, Liar. The guy at the lunch counter, reading snips and pieces off his phone, mistook the Dent quote as a real answer to a real question. I'll straighten the guy at the counter out, before the election. Then again, he may not want any facts interfering with his opinion.

Oct 20, 2010

Open Mike

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

Oct 19, 2010

A Taste of Sangria

Bill 64 BUTZ RACP.doc
Amends the 2010 General Fund Budget to provide for a supplemental appropriation of Five Hundred Thousand ($500,000) Dollars to provide for a grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the City of Allentown in the form of a RACP pass through grant to Alvin H. Butz, Inc.

It's good to be Butz

Rachel's Tomb

"And Rachel died, and was buried on the way to Ephrath, which is Bethlehem. And Jacob set a pillar upon her grave: that is the pillar of Rachel's grave unto this day." — Genesis 35:19-20

Up to 60,000 Israeli's are expected to visit Rachel's Tomb today, on the anniversary of her death. Many of those making the trip will be pregnant and childless women, praying for safe childbirth. The site is the third holiest in Judaism.

Oct 18, 2010

My Dysfunctional Family

Last Week, O'Hare had a picture of Harriet Nelson on Ramblings. This weekend the Beaver's TV mom, Barbara Billingsky, passed away. As an early baby boomer, who grew up watching these women, I murmured that they don't make mothers like that anymore; Actually, they never did. As we grew up in the cold, living in row houses and twins, Ricky and the Beaver only ever wore a light jacket as they left their picture book colonial house. Rick's father, Ozzie, never worked, dedicating his entire time to solving family dilemma's. Our father's, fathers of the audience, worked in America's busiest time. Many of the factories in Allentown went 24 hours a day, in three shifts. The boys always got a snack after school, although sometimes Beaver wouldn't come straight home. If Ricky and the Beaver spent a night at the Molovinsky house, they would have thought they were transported back in time to real life Munsters, and would need counseling to get over the experience.

Oct 17, 2010

An Israeli Pilot

Death to Israel

Seventeen thousand people packed a soccer stadium in Bint Jbeil, southern Lebanon, to listen to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad say that the Zionist enemy will be driven from Palestine. Death to Israel shouts could be heard two miles away in Israel. Continuation of the building moratorium in Jerusalem would not dim those shouts.

Oct 16, 2010

Gangsta High

Gangsta High, the alternative school for bad-asses, starts Nov.1, in the old Jackson Elementary School Building.
The final initiative the committee approved was setting up an alternative school for unruly students who are on the cusp of getting expelled. The school will open Nov. 1 at the former Jackson Elementary School near 14th and Allen streets. Students will be sent to the school for up to 45 days of academic help, as well as psychological and emotional help. They will be bused to the school from pre-arranged pick up sites in the city. They will start and leave at different times so they don't interact with Ramos Elementary students who attend school at the same site.
The school will cost about $1.1 million a year, most of which will come from recurring federal funds. The school will have both an academic and mental health component and be staffed by district teachers. It will be led by Principal Jose Rosado.
The district is also partnering with a national youth services company, VisionQuest, to handle some of the counseling and to set up in-school suspension programs at Allen and Dieruff. That contract costs $247,000 and is part of the total cost of the alternative school. The Morning Call

I wrote in the previous post, Fire Him Now, that if they're going to have an alternative school for gangsters, it better be a big building; It is. I'm concerned that attendance at Gangsta High might become a status symbol in the circle of underachievers. If it comes to past that eventually we have a separate academy for the overachievers, how will this effect Allen and Dieruff? We put the bad apples in one barrel, the good apples in another, and leave the remainder where they are? This post, as was the previous one, are only meant as vehicles for discussion.

Oct 15, 2010

Hard Rain's Gonna Fall

About twenty people stood in the rain yesterday afternoon to demonstrate against hydrofracking. I learned about the protest from the Neighbors of Easton Blog. I was glad to attend and show my solidarity, but I couldn't bring myself to hold a sign. Although I oppose the hydrofracking, I know the zombies who walk and drive by 7th and Hamilton couldn't care less. The only question in Harrisburg is if, and how much, to tax the extracted gas. I believe that our children will face unimaginable environmental consequences from this process. The media did not attend.

Oct 13, 2010

Fire Him Now

Margie Peterson did an excellent profile this summer on the Allentown School Superintendent applicants. Who finally got the job, John Zahorchak, would have been my third choice, out of the four candidates. Zahorchak impressed the School Board because he was the Pennsylvania's Secretary of Education. Two other candidates had experience in running large intercity school districts; Zahorchak's previous hands on experience was in little Johnstown. Although we're not a large city, we have the large "intercity" problems. Zahorchak's Harrisburg position was a political appointment by Rendell. I suspect the Board thought he would know the ropes in terms of grants; Apparently he does. Allentown is getting a grant of $2.5 million for a few years. To qualify for the grant, the school district must "fire" principals, either in underperforming schools or those who had a position more than two years. One of those to be "fired" is Allen's principal, Keith Falco. Falco is the glue which keeps the lid on Allen. Falco would be charged with organizing a special school for over-achievers. Zahorchak also wants a special school for disruptive students; that better be a big building.

I'm on a mailing list for school district communications. Zahorchak seems to have a new idea each day. He's very enthusiastic about the Zalamazoo School District. Seems like they have grown 12% in five years. We here in Allentown really don't want any more growth; We had enough lately, thanks anyway. I do know that Falco does an excellent job in discipline at Allen High, which needs it. To relocate him to a gifted honors environment seems to be wasting his talent. To do this, to chase a $2.5 million grant for a few years, or model ourselves after Kalamazoo, Michigan, suggests a bureaucrat who spends too much time reading the Professional Educator Journal.

AllenGrad at 10:58 PM October 12, 2010
I graduated from Allen, under the leadership of Mr. Falko. I went on to attend an Ivy League university and am now in medical school. I would not have made it here without the direct involvement of Mr. Falko in my educational path. Not every “smart kid” will make it through on his or her own, even with supportive parents. There also must be invested teachers AND administrators. In all of my experience in public schools (including extensive tutoring outside the ASD), Mr. Falko is the best principal I have met. He truly cares about his students, understands the challenges they face, and is doing the best job anyone can do to make as many students succeed as possible. He has a tough job, with limited resources and parental support, but he is one of those special people who found his niche. This man was made to run Allen. Taking him out is a tremendous loss for current and future students. Mr. Zahorchak, I hope you understand what you are doing. If you are removing Mr. Falko because you think the poor scores will improve, then you are sorely mistaken. If you are wise, then you won't squander his leadership. Follow Mr. Falko around for a day. See what I’m talking about. See how he makes a difference. Mr. Falko, you have my support. Best of luck and thanks!
comment on Morning Call

Zahorchak said if he doesn't raise the test scores in three years, fire him. John (Zahorchak), we don't really want to fire you now, but we don't care that much about the standardized test scores. What we care about is kids walking home from school and not beating each other up. We care about kids being respectful to the neighborhood as they walk. We care about long term taxes, not short term grants. Slow down on all the ideas, and speak to the neighbors. We pay the taxes and your salary.

related article: Morning Call Story

Oct 11, 2010

For Rent, Security Deposit Required

The Morning Call has offered a significant portion of their first floor for lease. I suppose with the substantial staff reductions and everything else affecting the newspaper industry, it is no surprise that the sprawling building is under utilized. Although the advertisement is geared toward professional office use, they may have to lower their expectations, like everyone else in Allentown. Perhaps a dollar store?

Oct 9, 2010

Parkway Sewage 5K

Since the sewage overflow in Lehigh Parkway, there has been four organized race/walk events, with more scheduled this weekend and coming week. Although lime was placed over the raw sewage, not one sign was posted warning the public about the condition. In addition to the organized events, children have played in the park and people have walked their dogs; Unfortunately, many have done so right in the proximity of the sewage fields. These area's should have been clearly posted as a potential health hazard, perhaps even encircled in crime scene tape.

Oct 8, 2010

Day Late, Dollar Short

Actually the story in today's Morning Call about the Lehigh Parkway sewage leak is six days late, and completely short in acknowledging the source of the story, this blog. Although the reporter was glad to ask me questions, and then quote a water and sewer activist I mentioned in our conversation, the mcall version doesn't even list this blog as a related story. Am I being petty? Probably, but it's not the first time The Morning Call didn't credit this blog for breaking the story.

Oct 7, 2010

Quality of Life

If there was some sort of Emmy or Oscar for blogging, Bernie O'Hare should get it for his post last evening on the Lehigh County budget hearing. He had two video segments on the Quality of Life and More for Children resolutions. The details confuse me, suffice to say the program directors want to keep everything they can get, and plead to restore what was cut away. I got to see the new Art Museum Director, he was pitching for a $14,000 grant for captive children field trips. In one of the video's,  someone suggested the children would be better off staying in the classroom and learning how to read. Another grouch wondered what kind of quality of life the elderly have, after losing their homes to pay for these field trips. One well dressed woman with designer eyewear said these trips were the only culture some kids get, while another less dressed one,  suggested what the kids really need is more parenting. Let me just say this to those working stiffs, with two jobs, being taxed out their house; Designer eyewear is not cheap, wine in bottles and french cheese is not cheap. There's a lot of money invested in that Art District, and your children are going, if you like it or not!

Oct 6, 2010

Nothing from County Commissioners

Last night the Lehigh County Commissioners failed to provide the taxpayers any relief from the upcoming tax increase. Out of a $390 million dollar budget, they couldn't find one (real) dollar to cut.* Dean Browning's non-binding resolution for union concessions are just costumes on the dog and pony.** In reality some union workers will be getting a 9% increase, a good year for them indeed. The handwriting on the wall is the future consequences of Don Cunningham's first act as Executive in 2006; unionizing CedarBrook. The $1.7 reduction from the tax increase is a transfer of gambling revenue from casino taxes, not from any cuts made by the Commissioners; they made none.* I didn't attend the meeting last night, nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn, but I did read Bernie O'Hares excellent post on the meeting, and The Morning Call article by Jenna Portnoy.

* Several Amendments were passed which eliminated three positions and reduced the IT budget, for a total of $1.5 million. However, most likely the Republican controlled Commission will allow the Administration's budget version to pass by default, allowing them to disassociate themselves from the tax increase.

** WFMZ this evening described Browning's union resolutions as recommendations for next year's contract, as yet not negotiated.

Oct 5, 2010

Boat Ramp Launching

Mayor Pawlowski and other City Dignitaries will officially launch the Ott Street Boat Ramp this coming Friday afternoon. The Ramp will provide safe entry for canoes, kayaks and other motor-less watercraft into the Cedar Park flood basin. Permits are required and may be obtained at the Park Office, 3000 Parkway Blvd. The City wishes to again thank the Trexler Trust for it's generosity for this monstrosity.

Those familiar with both this blog and Cedar Park, realize that the boat ramp shown above is actually the new paved path from Ott Street into the former passive west side of Cedar Park. This monstrosity will link the recreational and special event festivals, traditionally limited to the Cedar Beach Pool side of the park, with the rose gardens. The new wide paved paths will accommodate vehicles necessary to facilitate the events. Welcome to the Park Without Limits.

UPDATE: Pictures of Boat Ramp without flooding

Oct 1, 2010

Playgrounds and Feces

As Allentown prepares to unveil it's new destination playground, Lehigh Parkway near the Robin Hood Bridge is covered in feces, tampons and toilet paper. The LCA manhole cover allowed an enormous amount of raw sewage to escape into the park and Little Lehigh Creek, just upstream of our water plant intake. Although Pawlowski is preparing for a major news conference for the playground, he should be in the park right now raising hell about this ecological disaster.

One can smell the sewage as soon as you enter the park off of 15th street.
Hopefully this disaster will prompt Allentown into insisting that the LCA curtail it's expansion, until which time this reoccurring problem is properly addressed.

UPDATE: The manhole cover just west of Robin Hood Bridge, was propelled off during the storm from the pressure in the pipe, projecting the sewage  into the park and creek.

The Buck Stops Here

Opinion Page Letter, The Morning Call, Sept. 30
What action should Governor Rendell take in response to a recent revelation about inappropriate investigations? A wise man by the name of Truman said "The buck stops here." Although he only has a few months remaining in office, and it would only be a symbolic act, I think Governor Rendell should resign.

The resignation wouldn't be just for this one incident, but as an act of contrition for numerous failures to deliver the government he promised. It would be for a casino commission, who managed to award one of a few gambling licenses to a dubious character. It would be for making countless turnpike and bridge committee appointments, while allowing the roads to crumble. It would be for allowing PennDOT to concentrate on proposed toll booths, instead of snow removal. It would be for spending millions of dollars at photo opportunities, and now saying that we're broke.* It would be for worrying about how to tax the gas from the marcellus shale fracking, while ignoring the environmental consequences. It would be for pandering to those interests which made us a leading welfare state. It would for prisons becoming our only growth industry. It would be for loving to hear himself speak, while casting a deaf ear and blind eye to the declining reality of our State. It would be for allowing himself to be distracted as an influence peddler on the national scene, obviously more concerned with his future than ours.

Italicized sentences did not appear in newspaper rendition
*referring to WAM (walking around money) and large cardboard checks