Sep 9, 2015

Sitting Down With Alan Jennings

I sat down with Alan Jennings yesterday, to discuss some of the criticism coming his way from comments on this blog. He wanted to elaborate on his proposed Inclusionary Housing Policy for the Neighborhood Improvement Zone. Generally, it's the hubris of people of influence to think that if you don't agree with their proposal, you must not fully understand it.  As if on cue,  Jennings started out by handing me a printout of his proposal; Introduction-The Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority is dedicated to vibrant, diverse communities where parents can spend time with their children...blah, blah,blah.   In the proposal's details, in addition to making a percentage of the units affordable (5 to 10%), the developer can opt-out, by creating the affordable units elsewhere in the city. These would have to be either through  the Allentown Housing Authority, or any non-profit organization selected by ANIZDA, which is the NIZ board. An obvious question would be if this non-profit would happen to also be Alan's organization? I upped the ante on Alan, and suggested my own molovinsky opt-out recommendation for future apartments in Allentown. As one of my readers recently noted, and I had stated in previous posts,  Allentown apparently already has too much affordable housing.  I believe that Allentown could really improve itself by insisting that builders can only develop new units, by eliminating an equal number of distressed existing units. In a city where many row houses sell for only $20 thousand and less, that would not be an unrealistic burden. After all, if the new units are going to be truly upscale, what's 20K more? Anyway, enough Molovinsky, back to Jennings.

Even though I put aside his printout without looking at it,  Jennings was very open to my questions.   He thinks that people who criticize him for being so corporate, don't understand his strategy for successfully helping people.  He believes that he must interact with the movers and shakers, if he and his organization are going to have the ways and means  to benefit the community.  He defended his falling out with CUNA as having offered that organization his inside status, to achieve the same goals for Allentown's less fortunate. He had requested to be on the NIZ board, through his friendship and rapport with Ed Pawlowski. He claims that his real concern is not the NIZ district itself, but how it affects the greater surrounding neighborhood. He sees himself not as another human services guy, but as an economic developer, for the underclass. He believe that the best way to improve poor intercity neighborhoods is to help the most ambitious of those residents achieve ownership, so that they stay there, and help improve the area, instead of just moving up and out. He seems introspective and somewhat realistic about the NIZ and Allentown. Realism is a relative term, needless to say, he doesn't have my view on things. On the other hand, he is willing to submit himself to a critical blogger like myself,  he called me,  albeit with an agenda.  He offered that I should call him if I have further concerns about anything,  I won't.  He will have to read about them here, just like everybody else.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

SYSTEMATIC RENTAL INSPECTIONS! Mike, I know we disagreed on that issue but he was a big supporter then became quiet as a church mouse when Ed eliminated the program. How does one go from vocal advocate for a program then say nothing when the Democratic mayor pulls the plug on it? In light of this failure to defend a program/law many viewed as key to reducing poverty in the city and improving the downtown neighborhoods aren't we right to question his integrity? Sure he will have a good excuse, but it will in the end be just that.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

I have known Alan for a long time, consider him a well intended person and believe that many of his past efforts have lead to very positive results for the Lehigh Valley. His "corporate" approach for example has been a major factor in getting wealthy people and private businesses to devote resources necessary to create and sustain assets such as the Second Harvest Food Bank, several shelters and transitional housing facilities, and social service efforts that have proven successful track records in assisting people in need. Unfortunately Alan's overall approach that works well in the social service field does not succeed at the same level in terms of economic and urban development. That is largely due to the fact that well functioning marketplaces, not just subsidies and grand plans are the final determining variables that sustain a vibrant urban economic community. Alan's recent statement on the need for more activity at the PPL Center is an example of this. ANIZDA spent more money than necessary in an attempt to create an upscale arena but no amount of planning and subsidized construction spending can create a local customer base with enough disposable income to support attendance at expensive events 5 to 6 nights a week. The same false logic exists in overbuilding subsidized office space, restaurants and other physical improvements. You can subsidize construction and rental rates but you can't create the real economic growth necessary to sustain all these operations through paying customers and tenants. The market place has to generate real growth of wealth to create increased numbers of these customers to make more retail, restaurants, shows and events at least break even for the owners, landlords and promoters. The NIZ is not a generator of real economic growth but rather an effort that largely just reshuffles and relocates existing businesses to the benefit of center city Allentown with no real immediate regional effects. Finally what Alan largely fails to acknowledge is that the NIZ subsidies have to come from somewhere. In the case of the NIZ that "somewhere" is the fiscally unhealthy Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. In an ideal world where the state is prosperous and a NIZ creates real growth, the NIZ transfer of taxes might have created positive growth incentives without negatively impacting people including the poor. In the reality of 2015 Pennsylvania the impact of this artificial shifting of tax revenues has made a bad situation worse. The result once a state budget is finally passed will be that all people including Alan's poor constituency, who I believe he truly wants to help, will pay higher regressive sales and income taxes in addition to the highest gasoline tax in the nation. It will take a lot of trickle down economic benefits to counteract that. Nothing in the above should be construed as a personal attack on Alan Jennings. I like the guy and respect his many contributions to life in the Lehigh Valley. I simply wish that as a self defined mover and shaker he had a better idea of what really creates vibrant urban economic growth and not totally bought into the NIZ that does far less at a huge cost to everyone.

Anonymous said...

I had the great pleasure of servings on several CUNA committees. I witnessed Alan destroying the hard work and heartfelt contributions made by a group of fine dedicated people.
Our group was based on study and democratic participation, there were no hidden agendas, no profit motives, no egos.
I harbor no ill will toward Alan, but I no longer respect him or see him as representing common people in any honest capacity.

michael molovinsky said...

@12:31, i have passed on printing some vitriolic comments this morning, sent anonymously. i think that your criticism, and that of others, would have more value if signed. i assume you didn't serve on those committees with a bag over your head. jennings didn't destroy CUNA, he just didn't support it. I write in a very succinct style. my conversation with jennings was quite extensive. he feels that CUNA is over analytical, almost to the point of paralysis. that said, i will host civil criticism of jennings and his policies. the less civil your comment, the more it may require your signature to appear.

Anonymous said...

There are many cities in the US that have a severe shortage of affordable housing, and where this policy would make sense. Allentown is not one of them. Allentown's problems (and the problems of the School District) mainly arose because we had so much more affordable housing that other cities, which attracted tens of thousands of low-income residents with limited education. That influx caused massive out-migration of middle income residents from Allentown, including many long-time homeowners.

Anonymous said...

I believe the post above said Alan Jennings destroyed cunas hard work.
That, I'd suggest, is s matter of fact.
cuna was Thurrell, dedicated, and could not be bought for any price.
In other words a pain in the butt for the mayor and the money boys.
They had to go.
Mr Jennings insured their departure.
(This writer will use his own name when the current cabal is locked up or otherwise gone.)

michael molovinsky said...

@2:33, my limited experience with CUNA was back when there were still merchants on hamilton street, but the city was starting the eminent domain threat.. when i approached a representative to start advocating for the merchants, he scheduled a meeting for the following month; they appeared slow and too parliamentary for me. CUNA has had three years to win or earn some community benefit, jennings didn't stop them. as for your name, i doubt if you will use it then. understand that i and others who do use our names own businesses, many even regulated by the city. i can count the number of people who use their name on here, or on ramblings, on one hand.

Anonymous said...

With notoriously slavishly compliment boards,
CACLV was never encumbered with a participatory process.
That's for sure.
Mr. Jennings always had the luxury of the acting quickly, decisively, and totally at the behest of the big shots snd the powers that be.
Let us not forget in this moment of transition that Michael Fleck recently and proudly served the CACLV board.

michael molovinsky said...

@3:52, as i indicated before, my sit down with jennings was candid. jennings spoke of his friendship with fleck and pawlowski. lets be honest, until july, mike fleck was a influential member of this community. i believe that jennings was part of what i called the poverty magnet in 2005, and i still do not relate to the premise performed by much of his organization. however, i never felt that jennings served at the behest of the big shots, but rather cultivated them, for his own purposes.

Anonymous said...

1) Jennings was never in it to line his own pockets.
2) Poor and working people had no need to speak when Jennings was on the scene.
That was his role.
3) He has done some good over a long career.
4) He hangs with the suits, and will be remembered as much for his hypocrisy as his advocacy among those who know the score.

It's time for him to gracefully step aside.

Anonymous said...

Alan would have LOVED to be a close friend and confidant of a United States Senator.

There's little doubt about that!

michael molovinsky said...

@5:08, I seriously doubt that jennings thought that his friend pawlowski was actually going to be elected senator, or even beat sesak in the primary.

Anonymous said...

As a community leader I found CUNA impossible to work with. They said flatly, "we don't work with community groups". That was their model and they were going to stick with it Hell or high water. What a shame. They could have made a difference.Perhaps Alan had a hand in bringing down CUNA, but the truth is they were their own worst enemy.

Scott Armstrong

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jennings turned his back on the Systematic Rental Inspection he had worked for when Fed Ed gave the word.

Mr. Jennings led the PR campaign to sell off the citizens of Allentowns Water and Sewer capacity for generations.

I don't know what motivated him, but that he aligned himself with money and power is simply a matter fact.

When the authentic advocates for the homeless for the poorest of the poor, Mr. Jennings is AWOL, again and again.

Anonymous said...

Like you MM, I am born and raised in Allentown.
Like you I'm pushing 70.
I wouldn't trade one honest Rich Fegly for a dozen Alan Jennings.
His latest attempt at damage control, low and moderate housing for Center City is positively pathetic.

michael molovinsky said...

@7:12, jennings isn't responsible for systematic inspections or any other city function. truth be known, pawlowski has increased the layer of chiefs at city hall, but never added more indians, who actually do the work.

when i spoke against the water lease at city council, j. b. reilly was standing behind me to speak for it, but to my knowledge, jennings wasn't there at all. he certainly did NOT led the campaign to sell the water.

@7:24, rich fegley and his significant other, diane teti have been doing great work for a few years now. jennings has been doing work for the underclass for decades.

perhaps because jennings has been doing so much work for so long, people expect a saintly response from him on every issue. grow up.

i don't particularly like responding to comments, further misinformed, anonymous shots will not appear.

Anonymous said...

Michael @4:08
Try telling the good people of Easton Mike Fleck was a respected member of the community until
July, 02, 2015.

Anonymous said...

Post it or not.... Jennings brought the big corporations, the community colleges, prestigious organizations, and others to the table to support the shameless water selloff.
Riley's presence was part of the plan just as Jennings absence was.
You're simply wrong on this one.

Anonymous said...

.....and of course Jennings wasn't "responsible"
for Systematic Rental Inspection,
He did have a leadership role exactly as Scott said.

michael molovinsky said...

@8:18, i was very involved in the systematic rental inspection debate, as was scott. although scott's influence ended when heydt left office, i remained a landlord. if you think that jennings was responsible for it being instituted, or for it now not being as ramped up as some people would like, you're mistaken on both counts. furthermore, with the new point of sale inspections, and so many rentals changing hand in the last five years, there still has been a lot of inspections done, in addition to the on going systematic rental inspections.

Anonymous said...

Banks and development types need to give a pence to the disadvantaged.
That's written into the game, but dealing with real low income people or coalitions that represent them in a participatory fashion can be messy and time consuming, you know, in the way democracy can be.

Enter Alan Jennings. No need to soil oneself
dealing with pesky poor folks or church types,
Mr. Jennings represents them all.
HE is their voice, and local TV and press fully understand that.

Jennings IS the representative of Gods most needy here in our valley.

In playing this role so effectively (and with such humility), Mr. Jennings, and a compliment press,have robbed two generations of low income and working people of any real voice in the public dialogue.

This is his greatest legacy, to his everlasting shame.

michael molovinsky said...

@11:26, i agree that the low-income (largely hispanic) are under-represented in the public dialogue, but to blame this on jennings is simply an untrue construction. they under-represent themselves by not voting, but, people concerned with keeping a roof over their head, and food on their table, often cannot afford the luxury of politics.

Anonymous said...

Jennings makes it his business to keep ANY authentic independent voices out of the newspaper and away from the table.
Witness the ANIZ board, and the pols and $$$
boys appreciate his efforts.
Pathetic!
Absolutely indefensible.

Anonymous said...

Jennings refused to work with CUNA because CUNA was not CACLV. "I don't use other people's models. I use my own. We are going to create a demilitarized zone." He needed the credit. He has funders to please. CUNA only had poor people.

Anonymous said...

MM...if you were at the big meeting at Zions Church in April of 2012 that was packed, you might remember that real people from the neighborhood were talking about their struggles. Those are the voices not present in any meaningful way when the table is set by Jennings, Pawlowski, et al. I think that might be what 11:26 means.

Chris Cocca said...

I wonder where Mr. Jennings would weigh in on the crossing guard issue. If Bob Smith is a 100% reliable narrator, we have a situation in which the Mayor of Allentown (that so-called miracle of renewal) is threatening and basically blackmailing his city's school district, one of the poorest in the area if not in the state, because he, the Mayor, even despite having all these rich friends and all of this NIZ development and all of this water deal money, is in a tight spot to cover the City's budget. If ASD won't cave, he'll yank the special resource officers. All the while trying to sway the elections for ASD school board with his bogus PAC, a PAC that went totally dark seconds before Mike Fleck went down to Georgia. Alan, what do you have to say about all or any of this?

Anonymous said...

Jennings always, but always, comes down on the side of Edwin Pawlowski.
That's where the power is.

michael molovinsky said...

i have chosen not to post directly on pawlowski's current status, but after today's headlines (actually for the last 2 months) i doubt that anybody dependent on a public reputation, which certainly applies to jennings, comes down on the side of edwin pawlowski. that's where the power is now NOT

Anonymous said...

MM, with all due respect. Would you like to reconsider your last comment after Alan Jennings pathetic reconstruction of events in yesterday's Sunday paper?

Even in this sad town that screed was an exceptional piece of puffery by Alan Jennings,
chief cheer leader for the Crony Capitalist in Chief.

I'm aware this sounds like a bad joke but one really could not make this stuff up.

michael molovinsky said...

jennings was friends with both pawlowski and fleck, he certainly doesn't deny that; he isn't trying to rewrite that personal history, he provides an insider glimpse. i had no sense that he was opining on either's guilt or innocence.

Anonymous said...

"Fleck made me do it."
Edwin P.

Geez, what a farce.