Jul 12, 2015

Criminality and Immorality Merge In Allentown

One thing is for certain, Allentown's mayor Ed Pawlowski will be resigning, even if he isn't charged with anything. Quite a turn of events for someone, less than two weeks ago, who was touting his role in Allentown's revival as a reason to represent the Lehigh Valley in Washington. Today, the Morning Call wonders if the cloud over Allentown might stymie the fast paced development occurring in Allentown. That cloud hovers above Pawlowski, and the people who are benefiting from the $multi-billion $dollar state tax dollar gift called the NIZ, will make him go away, quickly.  Did this cloud come from out of a clear blue sky?

Those familiar with Pawlowski are less surprised than John Q Public about the allegations. The mayor is known to be a vindictive manager. City employees have toiled under that fear for three terms. Furthermore, those of us engaged in policy disagreement know that he doesn't hesitate to publicly defame his opponents. Combine that deficit of character with the NIZ revitalization, and you have the recipe for unbridled hubris. In less than a week, he has gone from stating the investigation centers on city policy, to hiring an acclaimed defense attorney for himself. I do not know if the mayor has done anything illegal. Apparently, the FBI felt that there was probable cause, and executed search warrants. On the other hand, some things that are legal, have profound moral shortcomings.

I believe that some day business and law students will read a case study about the NIZ, and how it legally stole from the taxpayers of Pennsylvania. Over the decades the state devised tax incentives to revitalize certain sites. These plans became more lucrative, climaxing in the absurd NIZ. Everything about the plan suggests that it received little to no oversight by state representatives, who seem universally incompetent. It blatantly only applied to Allentown, which required an amendment to fix. It blatantly overreached on earned income tax, which required an amendment to fix. Its application in Allentown is highly questionable. One individual was loaned a huge amount of money before any plans were submitted to a supposed oversight committee, which was yet to be formed. That individual now owns most of the real estate in the NIZ zone, including almost a square block across from the arena. More astounding, state income taxes and sale taxes are used to finance his privately owned buildings. Even the state cigarette tax can be used, yielding $millions from tobacco wholesalers he acquired. None of the above is illegal, it conforms with a new law, which received no scrutiny by legislators in Harrisburg. How did this money tree come to be?

In the last general election, seven out of eleven state representative were unopposed. The statehouse has become a closed club, where familiarity breeds complacency. Here in Allentown, Pat Browne wisely included the Morning Call building, although it was outside the NIZ map rectangle. News coverage of the arena and construction resembled promotion from an advertising agency. The attitude is that maybe everything is light on fairness, but Allentown's changing for the better.

Although Pawlowski was used as a prop to cut the ribbons, the NIZ was way above his pay-grade from it's start. He tried to use it as a backdrop to first move on to Harrisburg, and now Washington. He's half right, he will be moving. He now is a negative distraction for the Renaissance. The NIZ Barons will pay for his moving van.

58 comments:

Anonymous said...

Even as it unfolds before our eyes it's difficult to fully comprehend the scope and magnitude of the whole sorry state of affairs.
A case study in back room deals, shady politicians and fast money boys.
Astounding!!!

Anonymous said...

You are probably right

Mickie said...

Thank you Michael!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Most troubling to me about the entire 'questionable NIZ scheme with CLEAR favoritism,' is the general consensus of local taxpayers. Even though we are paying dearly for the private payouts we hear a

"So what, who cares. Allentown looks much better downtown" attitude.

Our society is slipping.

Fred Windish

michael molovinsky said...

@8:17, just troll other people's blogs and cyberstalk all day, as usual, we'll clean up after you later. anonymous or not, people know who you are. pawlowski's previous association with you was a preview of his flawed character.

Anonymous said...

Criminals, punks and scam artists----just look at that photo. Repulsive.

michael molovinsky said...

fred@8:39, a philadephia banker expressed that sentiment yesterday to me; he thinks that the progress justifies the inequities.

Anonymous said...

Good observations. Thank you. It will be interesting to see how the impact of this whole affair will change the course of the development process, if at all. This definitely places it in a different context for more folks. Perhaps people will pay closer attention to what is going on in local government and a bit more diligent in their observance of how tax dollars are spent. The Pita interview was telling. Not once did the mayor deny the rumor that he would quit and only responded with the ongoing investigation tag. A more humble and definitely less egotistical mayor who appeared genuinely moved by the uncertainty currently hanging over his head. But this can change in a moment. The future will be interesting.

Anonymous said...

ANIZDA is totally independent from the city.
That's precious.

Anonymous said...

Two weeks ago Michael Fleck was their best friend, now they want to put the entire rap on him and have him publicly executed.
The lack of integrity is only matched by the lack of loyalty.
These creatures have no shame but Schlossberg and the Mayor stand out from this gang as being particularly loathsome somehow.

Anonymous said...

A certain fire performer once got into it with me about Pawlowski. I was speaking about how the NIZ was all a shell game being used to steal money from the taxpayers and line the pockets of a handful of developers all of whom happened to be donors to the mayor. I spoke with him about how the law stated a zone, implying one, and how we had instead four. About how one of these zones was created only to enrich the tax base as it included only an existing hospital, not any surrounding land that could be used for new development. Of how money had been doled out before there was an application process. Of how the main zone was not a simple square but rather a very complex shape that reached it's borders out to include properties owned by two of those previously mentioned donors. Of how the centerpiece of the zone, an arena, had been rented before it was built for a fraction of the cost of such development with a sliding scale that will have a Comcast subsidiary paying only $1 a month for at least 20 ears of the contract and quite possibly 40 years. Of how we already had an arena sized auditorium, one that had once upon a time been the grandest outdoor auditorium on the east coast and it was being neglected for all but one week a year because it did not have the recent retrofittings required for a modern concert to use the facility for anything other then a once a year one off concert series. Of how the lease for the new auditorium/arena would last until the new location needed that same retrofitting and only when it was considered nearly worthless would the city regain any sort of control of it.

After trying to defend Pawlowski I continued to speak to him for quite sometime and he patently heard me out then replied "At least he's trying to do something with the city" I shook my head and we agreed to disagree, we were both performance artists after all and I knew he would never see what I saw, the evil that can masquerade as 'progress' and we were at too many of the same events to feud regularly. Perhaps now he can see what I was speaking of but some people never realize that evil can take many forms.

Here's to hoping that no one is able to do things just for the sake of doing something with the city again.

~Elijah

Anonymous said...

Allentown's problems run very very deep.
It's a sad and scary place.

Anonymous said...

Mike, when do you think the Mayor will resign?

michael molovinsky said...

@9:57, the mayor will resign after the niz barons decide who city council will appoint in his place.

Anonymous said...

Sad but true Mike.

Remember when the mayor was so corrupt that the city adopted a new charter to give more power to the council so they could be a check to the mayors power? Yeah, that worked great didn't it....


~Elijah

Anonymous said...

"At least he's trying to do something with the city"

The reality is that over the past 10 - 15 years there were MANY of us individuals who attempted to "do something" with the city. We didn't have access to City resoures but we moved forward anyway and made some great projects happen in the Allentown community. I personally know people who used their ingenutiy and grassroots support to develop oranizations, annual events, etc which if properly cultivated could have actually led to the positive infrastructure Allentown so definitely desires. Unfortunately, these same people, slowly but surely moved on and away because we all found out that it was just too hard to do business in A-town unless you were in the "inner circles" or were invited to the "poker games". And even then, I know many individuals who attempted to "go along to get along" and STILL ended up with NOTHING.

People, even with all of the discombobulation going on we, ultimately, are responsible for our own City. This dilemma didn't just occur because of a group of men, these actions progressed because only a few of us Allentown citizens attempted to provide any oversight when it came to the dealings of our leadership. These actions were, in reality, hidden in plain sight. We all knew but felt helpless to do anything about it or became apathetic and took the " it is what it is" attitude...

Hopefully, this current state affairs will wake up Allentown residents,


Alfonso Todd
www.epicenterus.com
www.alfonsotodd.com


Anonymous said...

Mike,

Did you see Schlossberg's quote in today's paper. "No matter who is investigated or thrown in jail". Talk about a Freudian slip. One might think he like the opportunity to call those words back.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott@10:51, schlossberg purports to be a media expert, perhaps he trying to put some distance between himself and the scandal. in reality, he's been part and parcel of the niz, which was corrupt by design

Anonymous said...

Mr. Molovinsky, I looked at the list publisned by the Morning Call several times.I did not see the City Controller's office nor Butz Construction on the list.Was this an error on the Call's staff or were they not involved?

michael molovinsky said...

anon 11:16. why are you or anybody else directing such questions to me? you might want to address it either directly to the FBI, the morning call, the controller's office or butz company. i personally wouldn't conclude guilt, nor innocence, to any name included or excluded from any list. in my opinion, the entire NIZ is morally challenged. they, and the paper have patted themselves on the back unceasingly for two years, let them now bear some long overdue scrutiny.

LVCI said...

A previous 'Morning Call' article stated-- "Three of ANIZDA's nine members are appointed by the mayor, the six others are appointed by the state senator and state representative whose districts include the zone."

This may or may not hold up legally as to whether the ANIZDA is separate and independent of the city, but it's far from ethical in my view. Some of these board members had previous business ties with a few businesses now located within in the NIZ.

It seems to me when taxpayers' $1b+ is in play the public should have gotten a larger role in selecting who the deciders on the ANIZDA should be. If nothing else it would have distanced these three further from the predicament they now find themselves in today. Some accusing (rightly or wrongly) these three of hand picking puppets.

In business & politics it's called CYA ('cover your ass'). When it came to these appointments obviously they did not do that well and may suffer the consequences thereof. I don't think there's such a thing as too much transparency. Something they might want to reconsider if it's not too late.

One last point. When this kind of crap hits the fan everybody's going to try and CYA. I suspect future articles appearing in paper will not be as kind to the NIZ. I'm waiting to see in the future if they will distance themselves or report whether they may have or have not benefited in some way. I have no way of knowing. Just asking?

Bernie O'Hare said...

One of your most eloquent posts ever.

Julian Kern said...

I am seeing some comments that ANIZDA is a separate authority from the city about the ongoing FBI investigation. Even though that is true look at the board members and compare the facts. Here is some interesting information from a Morning Call article dated March 4, 2014. "One of Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s most generous campaign contributors has been nominated for a position on the board that governs development in the city’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone." "Also nominated is Nelson Diaz, a property manager who already sits on the board." "Foucek would join several ANIZDA members who contributed to Pawlowski’s gubernatorial campaign. Chairman Sy Traub gave $1,000 and Diaz contributed $2,500. Bill Grube Jr. donated $500. Foucek’s $5,000 donation recorded in December was among the 10 largest Pawlowski received from private contributors."
You have to admit it is interesting that those who were nominated to the board donated to Pawlowski's campaign. Is this another sign of pay to play politics in Allentown?

Anonymous said...

This unfolding story goes beyond fascinating. Can't wait to read the next chapter!

In reality, there can never be some form of closure until some INDIVIDUAL(S) is penalized in some manner, or resigns. No actual crime necessary. People need to have something to move on 'from.' We're not there yet.

That person(s) who 'pays' for creating this damaging taint needs to be substanstial to the eye. That's NOT Mike Fleck, as he worked too much in the shadows. Even if it's JUST the Mayor who fails, mission accomplished. Don't worry about him. He'll land on his feet, but with a bruised ego.

The best solution for everyone (except the Mayor) is for the Mayor to resign this week. I think he will, even if he portrays stepping-down as his 'what's best for Allentown sacrifice' for the city. A potential hero move to ensure progress will continue.

So. . . . about that politician ego?

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

BOH is still not quite ready or willing to scrutinize the self appointed man of the people who has so freely and eloquently glided through this whole scene providing moral support, fawning media support and his sanctimonious imprimatur every necessary opportunity.
A simple case of "bad judgment" I presume.

Anonymous said...

"The mayor will resign as soon as the ANIZDA
ring leaders deside who they are going to replace him with."
Quote of the week, paraphrased.
MM

Steven Ramos said...

Elijah and Alfonso tapped into two attitudes I too have encountered.

One - hopelessness: we must continue to remind people that as long as we can vote we have the power to guide the affairs of our city but that vote must be an informed vote. No longer can we vote without considering the candidates. I as a GOP'er have helped many on the other side because I knew they at least had our residents concerns at heart.

Two - at least he's trying: this attitude is very dangerous and I warned voters of the danger of allowing grand designers this type of power and how it places all of our rights at risk. If they can take the Hamilton Street merchants property or harass them enough to sell they can take ours too.

Too many of us live as if we are tenants in one large apartment building. Our city needs each of us to contribute to make it a great city; from helping to keep the neighborhood clean to participating in some civic associations to serving in local government to taking a risk and starting a business. I encourage all of you to keep doing your part to make our city great.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Mr. Ramos, I busted my ass for well over two decades. I've had it with this shithole.
I'm going to drive over to Easton this afternoon and enjoy the wonderful community activities going on.

Michael Donovan said...

I think what is sad is that the NIZ as a tool had great potential. So many policies and laws have been in place to favor suburban development with taxpayer money. State educational policies that ignored the plight of urban regions is typical. Old infrastructure in an urban core needs rebuilding. The NIZ was not unique. Many similar tools have been used successfully around the country with good results. When they failed, often it was because of exactly what happened here. Insider favoritism.

Frank Concannon originally asked me to think of running for council in late 2006. The mayor thought he saw an opportunity, but failed to understand that to me urban policy was not about cronyism. It was about solid thinking, broad deliberation, fairness among groups, best practices, and the common good. Sadly, and I admit it, I was naive about him, his friends, and various leaders around the community who thought about themselves and not the people they represented. As the years went on, the mayor and I clashed often.

Most notably, it was about community development policy, or the lack of it. Economic policy is easy. Community policy is complicated and requires breadth. When I first learned about the NIZ at AEDC, I told the mayor that I did not want 50 white guys being the only beneficiaries (boy was I wrong on the count). AEDC actually was not going to front the research money, but I convinced the board to vote approval. I really did think this was good policy, and I do not regret that.

As the early months went on, I demanded of the administration, the council, and AEDC the need for a community development plan associated with the NIZ. I suggested a Community Development Agreement, and no one in power seemed to know what it even was.

Market and development research was promised within 100 days. 125, 150, 200 days later I asked where was the research, and learned it had been available but only to certain eyes. The first report I did see would have received a C or D in any class that I teach.

When membership of ANIZDA was being considered, I sat in a meeting and offered several categories from which to draw. When I mentioned someone with an independent, national reputation in urban development and social policy, the Economic and Community Development Director said, "why?" I knew then just how badly this was going to turn out. The final selection of board members was no surprise. And Alan Jennings was a complete disappointment.

I know that Mr. Molovinsky and others think that the NIZ itself was a bad thing. I do not think so. What was bad, and existed long before the NIZ was ever in development was the classism, racism, and cronyism that exists in Allentown (and even throughout the valley).

I once asked a fellow government official when did he figure out Pawlowski. "Day 4," he said. It was a little earlier in me. However, the really sad part is while Pawlowski was pretty obvious, everyone else (but a few) piled on the bandwagon and would not challenge him. This was particularly true on City Council. Whether it was a question about budgets or community development, I could not get seconds or support from my colleagues. One Allentown resident once chided me when I said on an early blog entry, "you get what you vote for." Well you do.

Again, the NIZ was a good tool. Unfortunately, it was exploited. Call me naive, but frankly, elsewhere, my way of thinking would be called good government.

Oh, and I have no desire to run for Mayor again. I don't want to do what is necessary to do. Bullshit people.



Anonymous said...

You got what you hoped for, Michael, well less than fifty white people benefited.

michael molovinsky said...

mr. donovan @6:00pm, but what decision or policy in allentown had you believe that this program, or any program, would be implemented in a fair way? as a student of allentown government, i haven't seen anything fair in 45 years. you didn't want to see it benefit only 50 people, actually it's only been 2 so far for center city, and three more for the water front; total 5. the NIZ was a bad thing because it's potential for abuse was so great, and in allentown it's chance for fairness so small. as for community benefit, even jennings cited the tickle down policy.

however, i know that you're totally sincere. you would certainly be on my short list for pawlowski's replacement.

Michael Donovan said...

Actually, I believed that a group of leaders would be "a little aware" of reality, and not just look after themselves. That is the really sad part. The cronyism is pervasive and insidious.

Pawlowski was a given. I already knew what he was like, and that he needed to be fought, which I tried. What I failed to see was the number of people who fell in step to his siren call.

My bad. I know that. It is that naivety that makes me know I would not want to pursue the position again, but I thank you for the complement.

Michael Donovan said...

@6:48. I don't see the connection in your comment, but you know, one does have to try, which I did. Did you?

michael molovinsky said...

donovan@7:59, actually i'm going to delete comment 6:48 and others. comments which anonymously disparage people or businesses by name, may either not appear, or appear with a very short shelf life. although my posts and comments are also often less than flattering, they are always signed.

Rich Fegley said...

With the exception of Councilwoman Eichenwald, all other City Council members should resign. They are puppets of the Mayor. They voted most recently to raise parking rates in the downtown. They voted yes with nothing to show the public, no survey, no study and no plan. The City, the Chamber of Commerce and the Parking Authority LIED to the public and said that studies and surveys were done. Not one Council member had any information to back their yes vote. I feel they voted yes because the Mayor told them to. They all need to resign when the Mayor resigns. They have failed the citizens of Allentown.

Anonymous said...

Do you know if the Facebook page "Allentown: City Without Limits" is staffed by public employees? Because even the most civilized of questions/comments about the current scandal are deleted and their authors banned.

If it's privately funded, I suppose that's "fair" enough, but if it's publicly funded in whole or in part, it seems like we have an interesting First Amendment question in play...

Anonymous said...

Who were the idiots that approved the water authority deal that gave the mayor $220M to pay bills and will end up costing taxpayers $800,000,000. What till you get those water bills for the next 30 years.......

Anonymous said...

Rich Fegley @11:35PM

you forget about Louie Hershman. The palowski robo calls worked and checks and balances went out the window, and here we are......Louie has been signing pay and play since 2006.....and no one listened......and here we are....

Anonymous said...

I think the talk of the Mayor resigning is optimistic, at best. Yes, he should resign, and in a sane town that would happen. However, we’re witnessing a class in Political Cover-Up 101:

Release bland statements, say nothing off-the-cuff, and then just wait for the whole thing to blow over. Hope that some other event happens that will distract people from the wrongdoing. Get your accomplices in the media to print pieces about how applying justice to your situation might harm the overall progress made, and other articles about how much you care about the entity you serve.

These are techniques that have been honed in Harrisburg and Washington, and now we’re seeing them here. We need to wake up to that.

So what do we do? Demand answers from those in office about what went on and what they’re doing to prevent it. Also, demand the same answers from any candidates for office not currently serving. Corruption in City Hall should be the number one issue for this election.

Demand the immediate start of a public investigation by City Council about the City’s contracting process, which we all know is the flimsiest excuse Pawlowski could use to explain away the reason for the FBI probe. There is no reason why the City must or should wait until the FBI finishes their probe. Something is obviously wrong, and the public deserves answers now. Council has subpoena power for a reason, and this is the occasion to put it to use.

Ironically, although Pawlowski is in the middle of everything that’s come out, he has thrown this back on City Council, although I’m not sure they realize it yet. By stating that the Feds are looking at the contracting process, Pawlowski has made it an issue of policy. Well guess who’s supposed to be in charge of policy? That’s right, City Council.

In addition to Council starting their own investigation, they should make sure that Pawlowski can do nothing to hinder it. They should be leading the call for him to step down.

To me, the longer Council members refuse to talk to the press, and the longer they refuse to investigate, the more I’m convinced that they have something to hide or are willing accomplices in what’s happened.

The same goes regarding the NIZ contributors. I’m inclined to believe there’s nothing criminal there on most of their parts, but the longer they keep backing Pawlowski in office, the more I think I might be wrong.

Rich Fegley said...

I'm not sure what you are trying to say about Lou Hirschman. I just want the rubber stamping City Council members to resign.

Anonymous said...

It's always been Eds plan to be long gone from Allentown to his next political level before those big water bills started to come due.
Schlossberg and Schywer last required rubber stamp was the Great Water Sell Out deal.
This will resonate through generations.

Guy Williams said...

Cant help but wonder if our history includes a repeat of one man owning half the town [Trexler] and now [o'reilly]. Cronyism sadly in many forms seems to be a natural fit for our political way of life. What trips us all up is we tend to be idealistic when viewing from the sidelines then fall victim to deal making among friends when we are in charge. No political party in our history escapes this practice. Then of course we all love the drama that unfolds when politicians take a hit justified or not.

Anonymous said...

I'd say there's a big difference between Trexler & Reilly.

Trexler invested his personal wealth, which I believe came from the profits from his various business interests, into a city that he loved and wanted to see succeed.

While I wasn't around back then, I don't believe that there was a special tax zone from which he and other developers benefitted.

michael molovinsky said...

guy@11:58, i knew harry trexler, and j. b. is no harry. seriously though, trexler provided jobs through the cement company, the lumber yard, the transit company, the farms, etc. reilly is acquiring real estate through the niz mechanism, being financed by public taxes. apologists say that anybody could have applied, or that we who complain do so from jealously. i can accept incentive programs, but the niz went way too far, and involved way too much insider information.

Anonymous said...

Rich Fegley said...
"I'm not sure what you are trying to say about Lou Hirschman. I just want the rubber stamping City Council members to resign."

July 13, 2015 at 10:51 AM

The rubber stamp council is the fault of the voters, period. The collective "You" put them there. then councilman Hershman ran for controller to restore some accountability, and "You" all got robo-called into voting for Hoffman. the day Lou Hershman lost the controller's bid, was the end of accountability in Allentown. Eichmann and Donovan tried hard, but no one knows the numbers like Louie!


Anonymous said...

Alan Jennings fulfilled every expectation this observer had.
It will be interesting to watch his spin as this plays out.

Anonymous said...

JB studied the art of using OPM at the knee of the past master of the fast development scam,
Charlie Snelling.
Tragically Snelling isn't here with us today to watch his students enormous success.

Anonymous said...

What a photo!

Anonymous said...

Has anyone noticed that if one asks a question (an entirely civilized, polite, but inconvenient one) on Facebook's "Allentown: City Without Limits" page the comment i deleted and the commenter banned. I've spoken to more than a few people to whom this has happened.

Does anyone know if the page is staffed by public employees? If so, I'd think we have a First Amendment issue.

michael molovinsky said...

@6:57, you posted the same comment yesterday. a comments loses it's "politeness" when it's repeatedly submitted.

Anonymous said...

hey Mike, wonder how much money the city needed to back the NIZ, this process just didn't start on its own??

Anonymous said...

Point of information: OPM=Other People's Money.

michael molovinsky said...

@7:54, it was a state devised program by pat browne. national penn loaned reilly and the niz board the start up money, our state taxes are meeting the debt obligations, even though the buildings are privately owned. the city did not invest anything, but does have expenses, such as police overtime, etc.

Anonymous said...

Looks like our Mayor will be resigning the day of His guilty plea

Ed De Grace said...

No matter what transpires in this saga, Mike Molovinsky, Bernie O'Hare and Scott Armstrong are insignificant! Vociferous, obnoxious, recalcitrant and futile contrarians. One and all!

michael molovinsky said...

i doubt that the above comment is from ed de grace, the name handle was just created last night; i was the first to visit the profile. however, there is somebody in the lehigh valley who also hates o'hare, armstrong and myself, among many others. he does regularly assume other people's names to use with his insults. like de grace, he is an apologist for the administration.

dreaming_of_justice said...

funny how those "contrarians" won't need to hire a lawyer, huh.