Apr 14, 2017

Wrestling With Lehigh Valley Indifference

It's not  easy wrestling with the indifference of the Lehigh Valley. Once three cities of concerned citizenry, we're now an area of newcomers. The large growing Hispanic demographic is isolated from local issues by both language and poverty. The wealthy suburban migrants didn't move here to bother themselves with local politics. Consequently, we have an upcoming mayoral election with nine candidates, headed by our own Boss Tweed.

Our newspaper, once owned by a local family, is now part of a national media company.  Its building is now owned by the largest property owner in center city, and principal beneficiary of the largest tax incentive program in Pennsylvania's history.

Advocates who fight for issues, especially against local sacred cows,  are mostly reduced to private soapboxes, to publicize their cause.  Whether you're a blogger trying to inform the public that a municipality is trying to subvert the results of a referendum,  or a former president judge rallying against excessive profits from a tax-free hospital,  the sacred cows are protected by the media.  Furthermore,  the media is very indignant when you point that shortcoming out.  Never the less, there are a few of us who continue to dive into the ring.


Jamie Kelton said...

In my brief life living in and later in the Allentown area (despite that, I consider myself and my husband Allentonians), I've seen two Boss Tweeds, Daddona and Pawlowski, both the head of the Democratic machine that has run Allentown since the 1960s I suppose. Yes, we've had Republican mayors, occasionally, only Heydt managing to be re-elected. Pawlowski now is in full campaign mode, flirting with turning Allentown into a sanctuary city, clearly pandering to the Hispanic voters to counterbalance the west end and south Allentown where he's losing support. The Hispanics are the most recent wave of immigrants into Allentown anyway, following the Europeans starting with the Germans and all of the other ethnic groups that have settled here since the Civil War..

Something needed to be done with Hamilton Street, and there really wasn't any private capital willing to make the massive investment in it to renew a lot of the buildings with for rent signs on them. The Colonial looked bad and that blight was eventually going to affect a lot more parts of downtown. The NIZ may not have been the best way to do it but it did give the city new buildings and there are people working in them. But it's not the same as when it was a shopping and commerce center. Now it's a business park at best. Pawlowski though can be blamed for the arena ... Heydt wanted to put it where Hess's was.. so he can be partially blamed for it but Pawlowski was the one who really put it on center square. If he didn't, Reilly would have probably put up more office buildings there.

Afflerbach put the city in the hole financially, Pawlowski at least stopped the red ink. But he also has filled city hall with more bureaucracy.. I'm not aware why we needed a city manager.. isn't that what the mayor is supposed to do? Even if Pawlowski wasn't under investigation, after three terms, it's time for new blood in the Mayor's office.

The Morning Call is simply becoming less and less relevant for news, even the ads there are becoming less and less important in the world of e-commerce and UPS delivery of things we used to go shopping on Hamilton Street for. We all know Bill White's a Trump hater and still in denial about Hillary losing.. which goes for much of the newspaper which I really only read online anyway any longer.

When the city lost it's industrial economic base, it lost it's wealth and now it really doesn't have an identity. Nope, it's not my parent's Allentown any longer :(

Welcome to Twenty-First Century Allentown.

doug_b said...

I think in much simpler times people were more involved with candidates. Today there are so many distractions (iPhone / TV / Movies / Computer Games / endless Sports) that important matters (like who's running the show, falls by the wayside.

I do quite a bit of consulting with high level management. The other day I mentioned Gorsuch, the manager didn't know who that was!

Joseph de Maistre wrote: "Every country has the government it deserves" and "In a democracy people get the leaders they deserve."

Mark Twain wrote: "We have the best government money can buy."

Lastly for Allentown's condition, and the Democrats. Attributed to Alexander Fraser Tytler:

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the majority discovers it can vote itself largess out of the public treasury. After that, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits with the result the democracy collapses because of the loose fiscal policy ensuing, always to be followed by a dictatorship, then a monarchy.""

JoshLCowen said...

Two thoughtful comments above. Doug_B's final paragraph makes me think about a proposal heard not long ago. No doubt it would not pass Constitution muster but worth thinking about: Government employees should not vote in elections that directly affect their employment. People should not be permitted to vote for their 'meal tickets.'
I might add individuals who receive more than half their income from public assistance programs. (No, that does not include Social Security recipients.)

TRENT HALL said...

No, it wouldn't pass Constitutional muster. Since the right wing 5-4 majority Supreme Court ruled in Citizens United, even corporations, in addition to citizens, have free speech/to influence the vote (i.e. unfettered right to make campaign contributions without limit)rights.

However, the federal Hatch Act, prohibiting government employees from campaigning for candidates on government time or using resources of their office to do so, has not been over-ruled so far (Now that Gorsuch is on the court and the 5-4 majority restored, Republicans want to repeal it so that Republican government officials can raise money/campaign with the imprimatur of their position as leverage).

Hence, while Josh's suggestion couldn't prevent local government workers from voting per se, a Hatch type Act for municipal workers prohibiting them from campaigning during the work day or using their official resources to aid campaigns probably would pass muster if enacted, and undoubtedly would impair the Mayor's electoral efforts.

doug_b said...

We call the individuals who receive all types of entitlements the FSA (Free S**t Army). What's really a crime are the politicians who expand the entitlement programs to get elected.

Robert Trotner said...

All very petceptive comments. Since the beginning of our country a lot of people didn't vote, either because they were statutorily excluded or because they just were apathetic. But 8-10% turnouts and so many people just tuning out of all government news has become epidemic since the late '80s, a combination of often Democratic government failure to work for the common good and political attacks on the institution of government by Republicans beginning with Newt Gingrich's rise at that time. People who weren't born in earlier times have trouble imagining that governments functioned much more successfully in times past so they can't appreciate its potential.

A dynamic, incorruptible, committed, and knowledgeable mayor in Allentown mayor might well change all that but the catch is that we have to get the current mayor out before that can happen. On the other hand if few people in Allentown know about the FBI investigation and a distinct plurality of registered voters still think he doesn't deserve reelection (according to the Morning Call poll), I'm very confident that the 8% who follow the news and will actually vote will throw him out fairly decsively.

There is another mayoral debate Tuesday night at 6:30 at Resurrection Life Church, 9th and Chew Street, Allentown. It will be streamed live on Facebook Live by Power Northeast, and I hope e everyone will listen.