Oct 8, 2015

The NIZ As Etch A Sketch

When I sat down with Alan Jennings last month, he complained about the things mentioned yesterday in his resignation from the NIZ board. Other NIZ news besides Alan, is that the board cleared the way for Talen to move to the waterfront. What that means is that they unilaterally declared that state income taxes from Talen employees can be divided for both the arena debt, and for Jaindl's debt service by the river. Pat Browne, author of the NIZ stated;
"This is the result of a many-months-long public-private collaborative effort to balance the language of the NIZ program with its financial expectations,..."
Normally, if a law seems to have some leeway, I might say that it was written in pencil. However, in the case of the NIZ, it's an etch a sketch, they make it up as they go. Who knew that you could arbitrarily balance the language of a law? One of the reasons that Jennings resigned from the NIZ board is the lack of financial reports. State taxes will be diverted to pay for $1 Billion and counting in development, and nobody is counting the beans. Bills are accepted as presented, and the public coffer is dinged accordingly. Even Alan, whose own organization spends $millions of public money each year, was offended by the lack of accountability. According to Jennings, the Allentown NIZ is essentially a one man show, run by Sy Traub. The idea of a question seems to offend him. Personally, I don't solely blame Browne or Traub, I also blame the worms in Harrisburg called state representatives. They passed a law that they didn't know anything about, and continue to sanction an obvious work in progress, which works for the progress of just a few connected individuals.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amazing how this scheme is allowed to keep going. Shows how inept and uncaring our government representatives have become.

If this open pillage and deceit only affected Allentown, its residents, and that single municipal budget, I would be far less concerned. Unfortunately, this abuse of funds is on the backs of EVERY Pennsylvania taxpayer. That's the connection not enough people make. Pennsylvania has no surplus of funds it can use for such lavish gifts.

I am convinced, all incumbents need to be tossed out. We might lose 1-2 decent representatives, but the net change HAS to be better than the slug-filled groups we have locally and beyond.

Fred Windish

Anonymous said...

I'm with you,sir, Messers Brown and Traub are blameless.

michael molovinsky said...

@5:49, your comment raises a point. i could have, and still might, have put my statement about not blaming browne and traub more artfully. certainly, they deserve some blame, but overall, the NIZ reflects poorly on the whole statehouse.

michael molovinsky said...

the original sentence, Personally, I don't blame Browne or Traub, I blame the worms in Harrisburg called state representatives was modified to read, Personally, I don't solely blame Browne or Traub, I also blame the worms in Harrisburg called state representatives.

Jamie Kelton said...

Sooner or later, someone is going to have to pay for all this.

Elijah LoPinto said...

Much better with that sorely lacking solely added. I put much of the blame on Browne as he got the ball rolling (the wrecking ball if you were a merchant on the 700 block of Hamilton half a decade ago.) And while the rest of our "representation" is also on the hook for passing the law it is clearly Pawlowski who is behind much of the Cronyistic choices for NIZ funding.

This is where I remind your readers (I know you remember) that J.B. Reilly and Joe Topper gave Pawlowski $10,000 each in a non election year only to be granted 20 million in NIZ funds before there was a way to apply for them. Since ANIZDA was formed that number has jumped quite a bit and now that two more of their NIZ projects have been approved in the last few months they are approaching 3/4s of a billion just for their City Center Development projects.

Not only have they had money thrown at them to create the new rich people only downtown vibe, they have moved their respective businesses into the new taxpayer rent subsidized office spaces with the first two big NIZ business scores (for them, not our tax base) Joe Topper's Lehigh Gas and the formerly led by Reilly Lehigh Valley Health Network. I will admit LVHN at least paid lip service to ethics as J.B. resigned from his post a (very) short time before their board of directors voted to move to a City Center space but Joe Topper is given a free pass on NIZ bribes to often and is still CEO of Lehigh Gas. While Reilly is listed on the subpoena neither City Center nor Joe Topper is.

Ultimately the NIZ is going to do the most harm because as you point out our state government is not doing their job to legislate properly but we can not place all the blame on them. Those who abuse Harrisburg's inability to pay attention to their own laws are just as much if not more so at fault.

~Elijah LoPinto

michael molovinsky said...

elijah@8:34, i agree whole heartedly with your premise, but think that you're mistaken on some details. i believe that lehigh gas was absorbed by a larger company, and that topper recently retired from his involvement in that firm. i personally believe that lvhn was ill advised to locate a satellite at 7th and hamilton, and that it's presence there is nothing but cronyism. i understand that being assigned there is almost considered a penalty. lastly, i do not believe that reilly was in fact listed on any subpoena.

Anonymous said...

J.B. Reilly's time at L.V.H.N. was well spent.
It was there he was schooled in the fine art of
the utilization of OPM (Other People's Money),
by the now departed grand master, Charles D. Snelling. Master and student both enjoyed many an evening chatting about tech nique and application, theory and practice.
At these entertaining sessions the baton was passed from one generation to the next, with great success.

Anonymous said...

The common man lost a voice on the NIZ board.
It's a sad day.

Anonymous said...

MM -

Reilly was on the list. I couldn't find the original article but found a subsequent one detailing the similarities between the Allentown and Reading probes:

http://www.mcall.com/news/local/allentown/mc-allentown-reading-fbi-subpoena-20150715-story.html

If you go to the bottom of the article, Reilly is clearly listed as being on the Allentown but not Reading subpoena list.

Anonymous said...

Jenn Mann always seems to get off easy.
She's one smart cookie.

Anonymous said...

Regarding Jennnings' resignation - What a crock!

He thinks he'd be more effective on the sidelines? He said there's a certain decorum and loyalty to your colleagues that you have to honor as a board member?

Come on! He's supposed to be speaking out if the NIZ Board isn't operating publicly. Not waiting until he resigns to do so. Will he now use his knowledge of what's going on behind the scenes to extort contributions for CACLV?

He was great at advocating for programs and contributions that would benefit his own organization, not for much beyond that. Serving on that Board should be about being open and honest with the people that are paying the bill, not making sure you get your share of the goodies for your little area of interest.

The Call article references the WFMZ reported on a possible conflict between an unnamed NIZ developer and a CACLV donor. That's more likely the reason for the resignation. But of course there's no further digging on that subject by the Call.

I don't particularly like bashing the guy, but the Call portrays him as some sort of saint.

Certainly no fan of the NIZ Board, but I'd love to know what they have in their bylaws about the NIZ Board doing business with or contributing to organizations owned or operated by Board members. If they don't have such a bylaw, they should pass it along with a provision that specifies a period of time before the Board can have any relationship with organizations owned and operated by FORMER board members.

Naturally, I have no faith that the NIZ Board has or would pass such a bylaw, or that we would find out about it if it existed.

Rich Fegley said...

You wanna know about the NIZ? You really wanna know about the NIZ? Let me tell you about the NIZ...

First thing, don't tell anyone who is on the ANIZDA Board. Never post any record of the names of the members of the ANIZDA board.

You got that? Tell no one.

Allentown Neighborhood Improvement Zone Development Authority (ANIZDA)

Anonymous said...

Alan is a great man and a pioneer.
Any one can make an occasional mistake.

Anonymous said...

Rich -

The other thing missing (besides the names of ANIZDA members) from the website are the minutes of any meetings.

Not exactly open and transparent.

michael molovinsky said...

i commend jennings for both being a member of NIZ board, and now resigning. he couldn't had resigned if he wasn't first a member. his resignation helps shine a light on shortcomings of the NIZ, in terms of a community benefit, for those who need it most.

Anonymous said...

It's all available on a need to know basis.

Anonymous said...

Joyce Marin would be the ideal person to fill the NIZ slot vacated by the principaled Alan Jennings.
Mrs. Marin knows the current administration as a past Community Development Director, has been a center city resident, and generally possesses all the necessary qualifications....but most of all, she cares.

AuH20 said...

Jennings knows all the ins an outs of the NIZ. He will now act like a graduate of the Jesse Jackson/Al Sharpton school of extortion.

Anonymous said...

ANIZDA board members needs short, fixed term limits. You're on the board for two years tops.

It needs a website where all the agendas, minutes and financials are published.

It needs a staff independent of the city.

It's public money, none of the above is unusual or ridiculous to request.

Anonymous said...

@Oct.8, 5:06

Indeed, Joyce has all the necessary qualifications for a NIZ board appointment,