Jan 20, 2013

The Morning Call's Lost Memory

A lead story in today's Morning Call features the temporary construction jobs created by the arena, which will end by 2014. Although the article was written by two reporters, and included proud quotes from the city's community development director, none of them know or appreciate the thousands of jobs that block provided for over 100 years. The Palace of Sport and False Hope is not being build on previously vacant land, but on Allentown's mercantile history. While the reporters wrote about what the job means to one construction worker, they never showed the same sensitivity toward the displaced former merchants. Ironically, over the years, those 34 demolished buildings  provided the paper with many advertising dollars. We will see how revenue comes to The Morning Call from the arena.


Michael Donovan said...


Assuming that implementation would focus on the 118,000 people who live in Allentown, as you know, conceptually, I have supported the NIZ from the beginning. What I have not supported is the point you raise here: benefits to a targeted group of people, whether it is the developers or the construction workers.

Nothing has been done to consider the long term effects that the NIZ initiative could produce when looked at holistically. I know that you have not been a supporter, for many good reasons, linked in ways to the disappointment I describe. I sit in the middle, upset with the cheerleaders who show no remorse to those left behind in Allentown, as well as those who ignore that investments like this can have broad reaching and fair results if performed ethically.

I found myself cringing as I read the article for the reasons you state: celebrating one person's good fortune, while forgetting the tragedy of many others. I found the director's comments typical of her inability to understand long-term development (note that I did not include the descriptor, "Community"). She has never demonstrated acumen in that area. The fact concerning who introduced the Mayor is also very telling.

The cheerleaders continue to use language that suggests "hope" that the people they do not like will mysteriously disappear upon the opening of the Arena. I laugh because they do not understand cities, and their biased attitudes toward people of certain background actually worsen the situation by ignoring the human and social capital needs necessary to sustain a livable and trusted urban environment where people live together. The grip of separation and mutual hatred simply tightens across the region.

I have enjoyed your recent historical visits to an Allentown that no longer exists. I appreciate what once was, as I do about my home town. However, time does not stand still, and the question is always what is one going to do in the face of change. The clock cannot be turned back, but one can go forward with sound strategies and fair approaches, something this administration is incapable of doing.

Best regards,


Anonymous said...


So the government creates incentives/handouts/taxpayer cash for poorly run municipalities to build/fund things few people want. In the short term some jobs are created and this is trumpeted as success. It is a live for the moment country. Boy have we lost our way.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

i expect as much from pawlowski, who has been benefited from union contribution. i don't resent the union enthusiasm over the project, or that worker finding construction closer to home; but, for not one, but two writers who were here for the displacement to ignore that aspect, needed a notation.

ironpigpen said...

I just don't get it, Mr. Molovinsky ...

I watched a game from the ISS Dome in Duesseldorf this weekend. The place, which opened in 2006, holds a maxiumum of 13,400 spectators and cost 70 million Euros to build. Converted today, that construction figure works out to $ 93,267,974.

The projected price tag for the Pawlowski Palace of Sport is reputedly $ 172.0 million dollars or so ... but those throwing haymakers on Hamilton Street will be doing so in front of a maximum of 8,500 cash-paying people.

Forget about the difference with respect to arena capacity ... I want to know if Inflation really is THAT bad nowadays?


Michael Donovan said...

I do not ignore the displacement, and the challenge of displacement is that it occurs correctly, which it was not. My words describe that overall disappointment, even if you feel that I am not specific.

Scott, you cannot say "no one wants," and the basic premise of redirecting tax dollars to make intelligent investment is ok in my book, but then I believe government does have a role in society. And for poorly run, yes, I would agree, and I tried to change that, and also a yes, some in my party did not like the way I approached things, but worse some in your party did not like it either. I must have been in a good place.

The saddest part of this episode was the selfishness that would not go away.

That's how I feel, and I stand by that.

michael molovinsky said...

michael donovan, my comment wasn't referring to you, but to the MC reporters. however, although i appreciate your current position, i suppose in retrospect we both wish you had voted no at the time.

Anonymous said...

Anybody else remember when Pawlowski's Palace of Sport was an "investment" costing only $ 80.0 million dollars?

When does the Hustle stop?

Anonymous said...

Allentown got VERY lucky with this scam on Pennsylvania taxpayers.

Does anyone really believe taxpayers in Altoona understand they are helping to fund free money, instant equity, to PRIVATE citizens in Allentown?

How in the world does a new office building, owned and controlled, by a private citizen equate to building roads, funding state police, state parks, etc.?

It doesn't, and this is where we have come as a country.

Anonymous said...

Mike D.

Good to hear from you.

Where are the independent market studies to that demonstrate a viable market for this arena? It is my understanding they don't exist. Talk about ""hope".

Scott Armstrong

Michael Donovan said...


When I finally, finally, finally got hold of various reports months after they were promised and even a few months after they were actually available, I was satisfied with a few technical reports, but not the one market report I saw.

Quite frankly, I was disappointed with it, and strongly expressed my displeasure in several meetings, to which I was criticized for being critical. In that report there were minimal financial projections. The market projection was based on a single technique, and when I applied my own analysis against that technique, I could not match their numbers. There was an explanation, which made sense, but it was only a reasonable, qualitative explanation that needed backup data.

This was near the end of my term, a year ago late September. I withdrew my support of implementation (not the project) at that time in letters to AEDC, the Mayor, and City Council.

I continued my effort, which had started with the NIZ announcement in March of 2011, for a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA), which were common in major projects like this around the country. Some had been successful (Pittsburgh) and some not so successful (Brooklyn is sometimes cited).

But no one around here seemed never to have heard of a CBA. "What is that?" I heard often. When I suggested that someone with strong urban policy experience be placed on the NIZ, I got "why?" That question did not surprise me, but certainly proved that virtually few in Allentown government (and maybe only a few within the Lehigh Valley) understand modern urban economics, sociology, and public policy.

No, it appears to be merely politics from Tammany Hall.

Michael, I would not change my original vote because I do believe that the NIZ project could be still a good one. It can still be maneuvered into policy that favors Allentownians as well as those in the suburbs. IF those in charge jettisoned their selfish "build it and they shall come" in favor of a combined strategy that focused on both buildings and people.

michael molovinsky said...

michael m, the devil is in the details, and the details were quite clear to me, even with less information than you. the reality is that CUNA and a community benefit were thrown overboard for the feel good alan jennings and company. his programs will get a few peanuts, but the greater community of which you speak was never in the picture, and will never be. in reality they are perceived as a cancer, and the project the cure. at some point i would think you would realize that what could be, and what is, are never going to meet.

Michael Donovan said...

And thus, Michael, one never tries?

I withdrew from politics because of the attitudes that existed that made me believe that "doing good" was not possible. I have pulled back even more because after 40 years in the private and public sector, I concluded that this Valley was an anachronism when it came to policy. Only a very few seem to be aware of what is going on elsewhere around the world.

In almost every policy topic I put forward - from finance to community to social - I got push back. And many of these policies had conservative tendency. It was like, "I never head of that." It was frustrating.

The NIZ could have been a good thing if, if enough people recognized what was possible. I tried to bring that message and was ignored, but I do not regret doing so.

What I regret is the assumption that the Lehigh Valley ever entered the 20th Century when it came to economic, political, and social policy. Like I said, this is not true about all opinion leaders here, but certainly is true about many.

If that is viewed as an indictment, you are right. My neighborhood, my home value, my peace of mind, my employment are all predicated on an urban environment that is managed wisely. That is the self-interest that I and 117,999 others have.

I doubt that I will ever reenter the public realm in any capacity because it is not worth the stress and frustration to be whistling in the wind.

I respect your love of Allentown and what it once was. I know you are frustrated with how you are treated and the fact that your ideas are ignored. I disagree with some of your views, but I like you because you are thoughtful, honest, and respectful. You and I have always been able to discuss issues politely.

For that I am grateful. Have a good day.

Anonymous said...

Mike D,

Hence my comment "a project no one wants". There really is no proof of demand, there never was, it is going forward on "faith".
Tammany Hall is exactly what we have in Allentown now and it will get the city nowhere. Sad.

Scott Armstrong

Michael Donovan said...

Actually, Scott:

Within the field of marketing, there is never "proof" of demand, just statistics with an assumption of a link between numbers and a product or service.

In this case, the product (hockey) and office space have merit in a region of close to 1,000,000 people. Your assumption about demand is that people will not come into Allentown. I am not so sure of that if a variety of policies (not currently followed) would be put in place. I think they can be put in place, and that the NIZ investments would work, not as currently designed because I believe there has to be investment in training and education, but they could work.

I simply criticized the reports, again not the concept.

Let me just say that many reports that I see around here, public and private, do not match the expectations that I have given my career experience. I expect much, much more.

I have great faith in cities because I know an economy does not work without them. I respect the issues that come with cities, a phenomenon that has existed for thousands of years. I know that urban areas can be managed well, when power is shared and racism is diminished. I know that Allentown can be a good place, once we get people who do not just make assumptions.


Anonymous said...


people make careers on marketing. Business and capital rely on sound studies. Apparently(and you confirm) this was not done here.

Scott Armstrong

michael molovinsky said...

scott, such studies are done by private enterprise to protect capital investment. this is just a glorified tax payer funded project, no such due diligence needed.

Anonymous said...


Excellent point. It's become very common in America to play "free and loose" with taxpayer dollars, hasn't it?

I look at the current Allentown as a mini version of the United States. Scary stuff.