Jun 29, 2011

Zahorchak's Politics Compromise School District


Back in February I wrote an OP-ED piece in The Morning Call questioning Zahorchak's endorsement of Pawlowski's revitalization plans. Somehow, the superintendent's support seemed to me to be potentially in conflict with his job. Allentown never stops asking for KOZ's and other business perks which deprive the school system of needed taxes.
When I read the recent column by Allentown's new superintendent of schools, Dr. Gerald Zahorchak, I thought perhaps the first few paragraphs were written by Mayor Pawlowski. The new restaurants on Hamilton Street were referred to as a renaissance. I hope nobody tells the good doctor that the restaurants were enticed there by massive grants and tax abatement, yielding nothing to the school district. Michael Molovinsky,The Morning Call, Feb.19, 2011
For several months this blog has concentrated on two major themes; The arena and the school system. Those issues now seem to be converging. Yesterday, school board member David Zimmerman used this blog's comment section, to outline Zahorchak's stonewalling of the issue.
Dr. Zahorchak responded, the next day, stating he would look into it. I spoke to him about a week or ten days later and reminded him again. He told me, the next day, he was meeting with Pawlowski and would let me know. I never heard anything. Another email on June 20, 2011 to which there was no response was sent inquiring as to the status of my original request. David Zimmerman, molovinsky on allentown, June 28, 2011

Although Zahorchak expects the school board to approve his budget tomorrow evening, Zimmerman's questions from May remain unanswered. Zahorchak should be putting the interests of the students and their taxpaying parents first and foremost, way ahead of any revitalization scheme by the Mayor.


UPDATE: There is an excellent article in today's Morning Call by reporter Steve Esack, on all the complications caused by Zahorchak's overly ambitious plans. The article ends with an introspective comment by David Zimmerman, But if anything fails, Zimmerman said, ultimate blame lies with the school board for signing off on all of Zahorchak's changes in one school year.

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

Glad you're writing about KOZ xones. Perhaps someone will explain how Brew Works qualifies for two separate xones in one buildin?

michael molovinsky said...

in a shenanigan they subdivided the building into four separate parcels to continue the KOZ. The new loan was granted under the State's blighted property program. Food served in a blighted building? Tomorrow evening, the School board will be asked to cancel KOZ in the arena parcel (north side of Hamilton Street), so that the city can do NIZ, their new development scheme. It appears that Zahorchak serves Pawlowski, and the school board (with some exceptions) serves Zahorchak. This blog serves the taxpayers, and informs The Morning Call.

Anonymous said...

The school board holds the reins on making that site part of the NIZ??? (By canceling KOZ.). I thought the boundaries of the NIZ were already established but not published. Sorry for my confusion, but this is confusing!!! By the way, what is up with the secret NIZ boundaries?

michael molovinsky said...

anon 6:50, good question. it's my understanding that some parcels in the mystery zone were afforded KOZ years ago, meaning that there would be now no tax to divert to arena payments. therefore, the administration has requested that those KOZ's be cancelled by the School Board, which had to approve them in the first place. After The Morning Call reads this post and comments, they will write a longer article, explaining the situation in more detail, but not credit this blog as the idea source for their story. Likewise they will ask Dave Zimmerman to repeat comments he made on this blog's comment section, so that they can avoid attribution.

Anonymous said...

The definition of the NIZ is open to modification i.e capricious and arbitrary designation to meet the needs of the politicians in order to divert ASD tax dollars to provide entertainment for the hockey pucks.

Apparently Zahorchak is a willing partner to this guise and part of the mayors shenanigans.

Guy is a huge disappointment. He bends to politics and all of his rhetoric about the students, apparently was nothing but BS.

Wise Man from West End said...

Apologizing upfront for using actual names, but will there be anyone supporting any of the ideas by Smith/Zimmerman or are we just going to 7-2 votes all night long?

gary ledebur said...

Having seen communities where the school superintendent and the mayor do not agree on major issues, Allentown is fortunate that this is not the case here. If a super picks a fight with a mayor, the children suffer. I can cite many examples.

michael molovinsky said...

gary, i think that there is a difference between picking a fight and carrying water. Zahorchak's Op-Ed piece in February praising the revitalization of Hamilton Street was both unnecessary and ill-informed. the man has been here less than a year, what does he know about it?

Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

From what I know about the NIZ, the zone does not need to be contiguous. I'm also not certain that ANY boundaries were included for the entire 130-140 acre zone (not just the arena project) authorized by the state.

If the boundaries have not been drawn - and knowing that the zone does not need to be contiguous - I have to wonder what property in the city ISN'T potentially available for inclusion in the zone. That is one of the more troubling aspects of the project.

That would also mean that our state legislators are leaving it up to Pawlowski and Council to draw the boundaries. That's like giving dynamite to children.

Anonymous said...

The other interesting thing I noticed in the Calls article was the mention of the eminent domain property being handed over to PRIVATE parties at a later date. If I were representing one of the business owners being kicked out, this would be the key detail in a case against the seizure of their property.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 1:16, the public aspect of this project is the thinnest of veneers. how government can consistently bend definitions is mind boggling. we read of a blighted brewpub and a historic martin tower, both distortions, to enable public money.

Anonymous said...

Go Bulldozers!

ALLENTOWN DEMOCRAT VOTER

Patrick McHenry said...

MM -

Does anyone else find it odd that the very same parcels that were to be revitalized by the KOZ are now going to be revitalized by the NIZ?

Obviously those who approved the KOZ were wrong before, otherwise there would be no need for the NIZ in that same area.

As I see it, the big difference is that if they're wrong this time, someone's going to have to pay off an enormous amount of debt. I think that would end up being the taxpayers of Allentown.

Anonymous said...

Good Lord! It shouldn’t be the superintendent making waves with the mayor it should be the school board. They are supposed to be running the show; they are supposed to be looking out for the district’s best interests.


Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Too funny...

...the teacher commenting at The Morning Call article the other day who stated he/she was for all for the Pawlowski Palace of Sport...

...UNTIL the teacher was presented with his/her layoff notice.

Karma and Payback are both bitches...or so it would appear.

PS, Teacher Commenting At TMC --- no VIP box for you!

All apparatchiks are equal, but some apparatchiks are more equal than others. You should know this.

Sincerely,

LOYAL UNION DUES-PAYER, LIFETIME DEMOCRAT-VOTING TEACHER

michael molovinsky said...

anon 5:55, my title using the word politics is in the loosest sense, not meant to demonize any particular party affiliation. in that sense, probably the layoff's are more contributable to the current administration in harrisburg, which is republican.

Anonymous said...

Thursday
MM
Yesterday the road near Airport Road that cuts through the Coca Cola Park's entrance had what appeared to be illegally deumped building materials along the roadway. Is this a chronic problem? Looks awful.

Anonymous said...

When you mention the Call, here's something odd. In the past few months the editorial desk has published two huge front page Feature stories on its own reporter, Diane Stoneback. What...there's not another woman in the Lehigh Valley who csn test-ridve a boat?

gary ledebur said...

I commend MM for this quote: "... probably the layoff's are more contributable to the current administration in harrisburg, which is republican."

Second with seven city council members and nine school board members cannot you anti-Pawlowski and Zahorchak guys find some allies? Seems strange the sixteen elected officials let two men run roughshod over the city.

Anonymous said...

The time is ripe for someone who has the talent to investigate exactly how the ABW was able to maneuver four KOZ zones.

Anonymous said...

Someone wrote last week that the Fegleys are paying their loans.
Well, it they're paying $7M
back, will anyone here even be alive to witneswsw the final payment?

Anonymous said...

Pawlowski and Zahorchak guys find some allies? Seems strange the sixteen elected officials let two men run roughshod over the city.

June 30, 2011 7:43 AM

Well said. And we still haven't heard how Marin got her job.

michael molovinsky said...

anon 8:07, as everybody but The Morning Call acknowledges, the Marin story was broke here. the source indicated that her hire was a favor to pawlowski by zahorchak

Patrick McHenry said...

MM said:

"in that sense, probably the layoff's are more contributable to the current administration in harrisburg, which is republican."

-------------------------------

MM -

I know we've differed on this issue in the past, but I'll restate my position anyway.

I don't think it's fair to blame the current administration in Harrisburg for actually proposing a budget with spending that is actually balanced with the amount of revenue taken in.

If anything, I think the Governor has been very flexible (maybe too flexible) as to the composition of spending while holding the line on total spending in the budget.

That is a stark contrast with the prior administration that inflated education spending with money that we didn't have and overspent by billions. Doing so is a large part of the reason that teacher salaries have risen beyond a community's ability to pay for them, and district bureaucracies have become bloated.

No rational person - whether superintendent, school board member, politician or teacher - could have expected the "education gravy train" from the state to continue forever.

If anything, I think the legislature cut them a huge break in the final budget. Of course, I doubt the large amount of additional funding ($4-$5 million) that is coming to the ASD will have any impact on lowering the proposed tax hike.

The taxpayers are an afterthought in the school district. We are here to feed the bureaucracy and fund whatever unproven theory the superintendent suggests.

michael molovinsky said...

patrick, if you go the sidebar of this blog, i describe myself in the following way; I prefer to think of myself as a nonpartisan catalyst for policy change in Allentown and the greater Lehigh Valley.
there are some very partisan people who comment on this blog. my comment was in response to a previous comment, which said that the teachers should blame themselves for voting for democratic. i pointed out that the cuts were being made by a republican. i do not assign blame to either party, i'm an equal opportunity critic.

gary ledebur said...

First of all Patrick, Governor Rendell did not spend money he did not have on education. All state budgets are balanced.

Second, Governor Corbott and the Republican controlled General Assembly chose to fully fund prisons and avoided taxing the rich energy companies that are making millions from Marcellus Shale. The resulting education funding resulted in major local tax increases but cut college @ 20 percent resulting in higher tuition and more students leaving the state. Elections do matter. The Rs value business and the affluent, which coincidently fund their campaigns.

Patrick McHenry said...

Gary -

If fully funding the prisons AND schools means that you have to impose a new tax to balance the budget, I would argue that you really didn't have a balanced budget. The ACTUAL results of state government over the past few years would bear that out.

As to the drivel about Republicans valuing business and the affluent, I would note that Wall Street - with their ongoing bailouts - has fared quite well under democrat control. I would also note that at last glance the President seems to be raking in the campaign contributions from Wall Street as well. So the bailouts, with our tax money, seem to be working out quite well for him.

gary ledebur said...

Yes, our President is raking in business dollars. He is in Philly today with the minimum buy-in at the Bellevue at $10.000 and at David L. Cohen's house in Mt. Airy at $35,000. Cohen, a democrat, is the second in command at Comcast.

That being said, Corbett was bought and paid for by the energy folks, hedgefund operators and big business. His agenda reflects their values.

Anonymous said...

Just confiscate everything from the so-called "rich" and be done with it already.

Seriously.

Anonymous said...

Take it all.

The Government is guaranteed to mismanage and squander it all, as usual.

But, whatever.

Anything to end the pathetic and constant Class Warfare.

gary ledebur said...

Toynbee said the history of civilization is the upper class convincing the middle class to pay for the lower class.

In my opinion the rich are laughing all the way to their accountants while the right wing middle class cries "class warfare."

I find it of note that the Congress refuses to cut back on deductions for corporate jets while teachers are being laid off.

Anonymous said...

"The Rs value business and the affluent, which coincidently fund their campaigns."

I will complete that statement!

Te Dems don't value business and expect taxpayers to fund their campaigns. They in turn, give that money to derelicts that contribute nothing to society other than high crime and increases in taxes.
The Rs do value business which hires workers and creates jobs for those that wish to work.