May 25, 2018

A Park Problem In Allentown

Ray O'Connell invited me to his office this week to talk about problems with the WPA structures in the park system.  My invitation was a long time coming.

In 2009, I started conducting a series of meetings at the Allentown Library, to inform the public about the deteriorating condition of the WPA structures.  In subsequent years, I organized a group effort to unearth the Boat Landing, which was buried decades earlier by a former park director.  I convinced the former water shed director to unearth the Spring Pond, which was allowed to become overgrown.  I unsuccessfully attempted to save the miniature dam, which was built to complement the Robin Hood Bridge in 1941. The city foolishly allowed the Wildlands Conservancy to destroy this charming accent.  I conducted tours of the Parkway, both public and private.

This week I proposed to Mayor O'Connell that the park department simply spend $25 thousand each season(out of their $3 million dollar annual budget),  and have one structure repointed. Two years ago, Karen El-Chaar from Friends Of The Parks, secured a grant through the Trexler Trust for $25 thousand.  With that modest amount she had the steps repointed at Fountain Park.  El-Chaar attended my meetings years ago, and became interested in the cause.  Unfortunately, the city government works in a much more bureaucratic fashion. Also in attendance this week was park department foreman Rick Holtzman, who elaborated on the process.  Work is preceded by an engineering study, which can end up costing as much as the work.  Bids are then put out, and responding stone masons must be bonded in order to be eligible to bid.  Consequently,  very few contractors bother to bid, and the prices are much, much higher than they need be.  However,  that is Mr. Holtzman's dilemma....  My mission is to point out what needs to be done,  and publicize the progress, or lack thereof.

For over a year I have been lobbying for the landings to be repaired on the double stairwell in Lehigh Parkway.  If these landings are not repaired this season, the steps themselves will be jeopardized.

I appreciated Mayor O'Connell's time.  The park department, despite the bidding process,  is managing to open a dog park and build a skateboard park.  Several years ago they managed to spend over  $1.5 million buying two unnecessary new parcels.  Since I started advocating for the WPA over a decade ago, the park department has built numerous new features, and spend many $millions of dollars doing so.  In all those years they have not done one thing for the WPA.  They rebuilt part of the Parkway wall,  but only after it fell down from neglect, closing the park entrance.  It is now time that they start maintaining the structures which first made this city's park system a destination.

May 24, 2018

Allentown's Water Joke

When former mayor for life Ed Pawlowski decided to lease* the water department,  I cringed.  Water was the only component of the city that operated in the black.  Because of the huge capacity no longer needed for industry,  Allentown had a surplus to sell to the growing suburbs.  Unfortunately, because of his success dictating policy to city council, the only question left was to whom it would be sold.  At the time I felt that the LCA was the lesser of the evils, because at least it was a local authority, as opposed to an outside for profit business.

The fact that the LCA wants to substantially raise the rates for Allentown customers should be of no surprise to those who now govern.  Mayor O'Connell considers the increase unconscionable.  When he was a councilman there were those who felt that the lease of the department to the LCA was also unconscionable.

If you think Allentown tap water is expensive,  the story gets worse.  Former county executive Don Cunningham invited NestlĂ© to the valley.  Some of you now buy our own local water in little plastic bottles, paying a $dollar a pop, somehow thinking that it's better.  That's a real joke.

* The water department was leased for 50 years, but I doubt that the city will ever have it back.

shown above an early postcard of the Allentown Water Works

May 23, 2018

Best By Test

Growing up in Little Lehigh Parkway, now called Little Lehigh Manor by the Realtors, the milkman was an early morning fixture.  Almost every house had the insulated aluminum milkbox.  The milk trucks were distinctive, and the drivers wore a uniform, indicative of their responsibility.  Freeman's milk was the best by test, or so the slogan said.  Their trucks were red and immaculate.  The dairy building  still stands, a quarter block north of 13th and Tilghman Streets.  They competed with a giant, Lehigh Valley Co-Operative Farmers.  That dairy, on the Allentown/Whitehall border, just north of the Sumner Avenue Bridge on 7th Street, even sported an ice cream parlor.  Milk, up to the mid 50's, came in a bottle.  The milkman would take the empties away when delivering your fresh order.  In addition to white and chocolate,  they produced strawberry milk  in the summer.  About once a week the milkman would knock on the door to settle up;  times have changed.

Occasionally the bottle, and later the cartons, would feature themes and advertisements.  A picture of Hopalong Cassidy would entertain young boys as they poured milk into their Corn Flakes.  Earlier, during the War, (Second World) bottles would encourage customers to do their part;  buy a bond or scrap some metal for the war effort.

reprinted from January 2013

May 22, 2018

The Union Terrace Train

The Conrail engine backs across Walnut Street, as it delivers a flatbed of large granite slaps and blocks to the former Wentz Memorial Company, by 20th and Hamilton Streets. Years earlier, the spur route extended across Hamilton Street and terminated at the building across from school district stadium, now occupied by the park department. On it's run to Wentz's, it went through the auto junkyard, continued on past the now closed Allentown Metal Works, and crossed the trestle in Lehigh Parkway. At Union Terrace the track was next to the former ice skating pond, behind the WPA Amphitheater Stage Mound. This photograph was taken by Dave Latshaw in the 1979, and is part of the Mark Rabenold collection. Rabenold is a local train historian, specializing in Allentown's former branch lines.

reprinted from March of 2016

May 21, 2018

The Train Of Lehigh Parkway

When the 15th Street Bridge was closed, as people detoured over the  Schreibers stone arch bridge,  few were aware of the industrial past surrounding them. The Barber Quarry railroad branch line crossed the road, just south of the bridge. On the left was the Union Carbide's Linde plant, the concrete loading dock is still visible. Although the last train ran in the early 1980's, the wooden railroad trestle is still there, to the west and south of the bridge. The area is now used as part of the disc golf course. The photograph was taken by Dave Latshaw in 1976, and is part of the Mark Rabenold Collection.

reprinted from previous years

May 18, 2018

Allentown's West End Train

The Lehigh Valley Railroad operated a train branch line which served Allentown's commercial west end. It ran along Sumner Avenue servicing the scrap metal yards, warehouses and numerous coal dealers located there. The line then crossed Tilghman Street on a diagonal at 17th, before looping back east by Liberty Street at the Fairgrounds. The line ended at a rail yard now housing the small shopping center at 12th and Liberty. Although many of former commercial buildings still exist, all now house more retail type businesses. The B'nai Brith Apartments occupy the site of the former Trexler Lumber Yard. These historical shorts are difficult to write. Most current residents have no frame of reference to our former commercial past. True historians, such as the local railroad buffs, cringe at the lack of detail and specific location of the tracks. Suffice to say, that once upon a time, the mid-section of Allentown had much more commerce.

photo of train crossing Tilghman at 17th Street taken by Kermit E. Geary in 1974, from the Mark Rabenold Collection.

reprinted from March of 2016 and earlier

May 17, 2018

NIZ And The Allentown Budget

Budgets for Allentown show a structural deficit of 4 to 5 $million annually in the current five year projection.  This is in spite of almost a $Billion dollars of publicly funded, privately owned new buildings.  I believe that it is fair to say that financial data for the NIZ, at the clearest, is obscure.  Although, over $33 million a year in state taxes is going for J.B. Reilly's debt service,  there may be substantially more going his way.  Another $30 million goes for the arena,  and where Reilly's portion begins and ends is unknown.  For instance, although the first floor of the arena facing Hamilton Street is considered public arena,  the second floor and up belongs to Reilly.  How the prorations were assigned, nobody knows. Furthermore,  nobody scrutinizes the tax money distribution back to Reilly and the arena board.

What we do know is that despite all this construction and expected increase in property taxes,  Allentown is in the red.   If all this new construction hasn't produced a windfall,  and the homeowners endure tax increases,  what is the public benefit of the NIZ?

May 16, 2018

Lehigh Valley Election Expectation

Recently, I referred to the Morning Call/Muhlenberg Poll as a broken clock.  I have been making the same accusation since 2005,  when Muhlenberg had the mayoral election wrong by 26 points.  Although they have been wrong ever since,  and were wrong again last night about Susan Wild and John Morganelli, this morning the paper still quotes their pollster as if he is a genuine authority. It's amazing to me that The Morning Call keeps going to the same sources.....I suppose that they value loyalty over accuracy.

Talking about loyalty, yesterday I referred to the machinations of Bernie O'Hare,  in his campaigning for John Morganelli.  Although he started out polite enough toward Susan Wild,  he became a virtual hit man as the campaign progressed.  He excused his metamorphosis on Wild breaking a promise to Morganelli.  He seems to value loyalty over decency.

For the fall campaign expect the Morning Call/Muhlenberg Poll to continue being a broken clock.  Expect Bernie O'Hare to continue bashing Susan Wild, but now acclaim himself as a non-partisan.  Expect molovinsky on allentown, when necessary, to point out local nonsense.

May 15, 2018

Pawlowski's Political Legacy In Allentown

Recently Robert Trotner, a local political activist, asked me...Do you think Pawlowski and his sympathizers still wield much in the way of direct power in Allentown? If so, how much?...

A considerable amount of power still resides with his former associates, because during  his tenure over three plus terms, (since 2006) he made so many appointments and filled so many positions. However, I never favored the clean broom approach, because the city would lose so much institutional knowledge. I think that over the last two years most employees have put as much distance as possible between themselves and the former mayor.  Furthermore, I question how many of these employees are his sympathizers. For the most part they are people who appreciate having a job, and hope to contribute some value from doing it well. Once he is sentenced this chapter in Allentown will really be over.

Today is primary election day.  Readers may notice that I have not beat the drum for or against any  candidate in the primary.  I urge readers who feel properly informed to vote.  Being properly informed , now a days, is a research challenge in itself.  It certainly doesn't come from campaign mailers or even in the local blogosphere,  such as with Bernie O'Hare's machinations.

above 1962 postcard showing the new Allentown City Hall

May 14, 2018

Examining The Morning Call

The Morning Call has announced that in July they will conduct a journalism course. My question is who is going to evaluate the Morning Call? Their recent article about the new United States Attorney for Eastern Pennsylvania once again associates Pawlowski with Allentown's $Billion dollar buildout. The paper can't seem to understand that he was only an accidental tourist on that train, not the conductor.

In fairness to the paper they have some excellent reporters who do good work.  This isn't New York City in 1950, with five newspapers competing for readers.  This is small-town USA, with one paper trying to survive. The paper is further restricted by outside corporate ownership,  dictating staff size and budget.

Fortunately, they have an examiner apprising them of their shortcomings... you're reading him now.

May 11, 2018

Political Blogging In Allentown

Blogging in Allentown isn't as easy as it may seem. It requires rising early and usually having the post ready by 5:00AM. In the case of this blog, it is fueled by caffeine. molovinsky on allentown is a non-monetized political blog, also featuring local history and advocacy for the iconic park system. Although the suburban turnout was large because of the presidential primary, the election reveals that locals are not so interested in state politics.  Someone with no experience or knowledge of state government can win a state rep nomination by sending out four mailers. The candidate doesn't even have to know about the issues mentioned on his own mailers. While one candidate for United States Senator can literally walk across the state to meet and listen to the voters, someone else can win by simply having ads on television a few days before the election.  In the city itself, Pawlowski could still influence an election.  I suppose I should be grateful that at least I don't have to print this on paper, and deliver it to houses in the morning.

above reprinted from April of 2016

UPDATE MAY 11, 2018: I'm certainly getting a lot of mileage out of Frankenstein's monster. First I use him to personify the Parking Authority, now myself. One of the regrets of being a registered independent is that I did not receive campaign mailers for the primary next week. I did see a few of them, and know that they would have brought welcome entertainment to my kitchen table.

May 10, 2018

The Allentown Parking Authority

The Allentown Parking Authority Officer shown here is by far the most productive person they have, he may well be the most productive city worker period. I estimate he easily writes over a $half million dollars a year by himself. He spends the day hopping from one fertile hot zone to another. You can see him everyday, several times working Chew Street, between 16th and West. That block, because of the hospital, has time restricted parking. He's like a fisherman, a very good one, who knows the good spots. For those less familiar with this blog, please use the search engine on the upper right; type in parking authority. Along with taking them to task numerous times, I documented fictitious data they provided to City Council to justify doubling the meter rate and fine structure. I also 
"They're acting like a vampire sucking the blood out of downtown," Molovinsky said of the authority.
conducted a news conference, covered by Channel 69, on unnecessary parking meters as far out as 10th and Chew. Those meters were finally removed, only this year. Some comments on the previous post suggest that there is justification for the Authority and their policies. As a student of this bureaucracy for years, I can tell you that it has actually had a negative affect on center city commerce. It's simply a back door tax, mostly on those who can least afford it. The cars shown are being ticketed for not moving for street sweeping, despite the snow.*

*photographs from 2007, Parking Authority supposedly no longer gives "sweep tickets" during snow storms.

This is a reprint from September of 2010 and March of 2014.   I was told by the former Authority director that although the regulations haven't changed, they now use discretion concerning enforcement during snow hardships.

May 9, 2018

Allentown's Frankenstein, The Parking Authority

The monster, aka Allentown Parking Authority would be hard pressed to pass a polygraph test. In 2005, the former and current director of the Authority, testified in front of City Council that the majority of the merchants wanted the meter rate increased. They lied*. The Authority has always functioned for the betterment of the BIG BOYS on the backs of the smallest among us. In 1991 the Authority purchased the 13 parking lots owned by the declining Park N Shop for well over market price. Profiting from the buyout was Morning Call owner Donald Miller, Department store heir John Leh the 35th, Harvey Farr, and a few other good old boys. Keep in mind Hess's and Leh's department stores had their own parking decks, and the meters penalized the small merchants. Today the monster feeds on Allentown's poorest residents. Meters still extend out to 10th and Chew, 5 blocks well beyond the closest store. Over 100,000 tickets a year are issued to Allentown's poorest, mostly the intercity tenants. Now, 15 years after serving the needs of the BIG BOYS, the Authority again schemes for the connected. Now they give away the lots so that developers can have free to cheap KOZ opportunities. The new housing at 8th and Walnut was at the expense of the existing homeowners who used those lots as off street parking. The protest which came from a neighborhood group out of St. Pauls Church was labeled as naysayers to moving Allentown forward. Years ago the Authority paid millions for the lots, paid for them by aggressively ticketing the poor, and now are giving them back to the rich. The current plan is to "sell" a lot at 7th and Linden, used by the Verizon employees, so a developer can make a few bucks on unneeded townhouses.
Easton is beginning to realize their Parking Authority needs scrutiny. If they thought about it more, they may wonder why a town that size even needs an Authority at all. Please join me this wednesday Feb. 27, 4:00 pm at the Monsters house, 10th and Hamilton Sts., to support the Verizon workers attempt to retain their safe and convenient parking.

* I conducted a survey at that time, 40 out of the 47 merchants were opposed to the meter increase.

reprinted from February of 2008

May 8, 2018

The Morning Call/Muhlenberg Poll

The Morning Call/Muhlenberg Poll is like a broken clock, but it might be right in the race for the new 7th Congressional District.  The poll has Morganelli besting Wild and Edwards,  with a  good chance of winning in November. In the Republican Primary, it has Nothstein prevailing over Browning.

With Morganelli being more of centrist, and Dent demonstrating over the years that this political  philosophy resonates in the valley,  he may well win the Democratic primary.  Furthermore, to Morganelli's advantage,  I see the dedicated  progressive vote being split between Wild and Edwards.

While the new district gives the Democrats a slight advantage for November,  enormous sums of money will come into play for that election. Large sums have already come into play for the primary.

The Morning Call's Bill White, while wearing a virtual pink hat against Trump, has remained neutral in the primary.  Here in the local blogosphere I remain neutral, while Bernie O'Hare campaigns for Morganelli by bashing Wild.

The fall campaign will be hyper-charged by the special election to represent us for two months.  I expect the primary winners to also be the appointed candidates for that election.

The above photo of the Edwards/Sanders rally at Symphony Hall was taken by Kim Schaffer

May 7, 2018

Clean and Green Misunderstood

Leave it to The Morning Call and the local liberal establishment to denigrate a good program and promote a bad one. Recent articles, especially a pictorial essay, gave the impression that Clean and Green provides tax relief to mansion dwellers at the expense of the working homeowner. The legislation actually doesn't pertain to the dwellings, but rather the surrounding land that is actively farmed. Without such a tax break,  farming would be economically unfeasible. Ironically, the same factions opposed to this practical act endorse Farmland Preservation, which really does reward the landed gentry to keep land that they never intended to sell in the first place.

Our county governments have been falling over themselves to provide more and more of our tax dollars to the politically correct and popular Farmland Preservation,  while ignoring such realities as a surplus of farmland and a shortage of farmers.  But since when does reality factor into government?

While the Morning Call examination of Clean and Green was extensive, involving numerous right to know requests and analysis,  they have turned a blind eye to the NIZ in their own backyard.  The Clean and Green tax benefit derived by all the participants in Lehigh and Northampton Counties combined, does not equal the amount of state tax siphoned off and given to J.B. Reilly, the main NIZ beneficiary.

photo by The Morning Call

May 4, 2018

A Daily Dose Of Truth In Allentown

From deep in a bunker somewhere in the Lehigh Valley, molovinsky on allentown provides a daily  dose of truth. Unlike the local newspaper which is overzealous in its promotion of the NIZ, this blog reports objectively  on that program, which is siphoning off our state tax dollars. Unlike other local blogs, this blog doesn't carry a torch for any candidate, in any race. Unlike the other media in the valley, this blog doesn't cater to any of the sacred cows, which normally receive no scrutiny elsewhere.

The blog is not monetized, directly or indirectly, in any way.  This commentary is produced five days a week.  Reader comments are accountable to their actual name or established pseudonym.

In the course of producing this blog, as outlined above, I have offended numerous people.  This is an unintended consequence, which does give me pause.  However, unless this blog can provide something unique, not otherwise available, there would be no justification for all the time and effort required.

ADDENDUM: While I was sketching out the above post yesterday,  hundreds of people were gathering at 6th and Hamilton for the ribbon cutting of Tower 6.  The paper reports today that J.B. Reilly said...Many employees are expected to live in downtown Allentown.... Despite all the previous new construction and ribbon cuttings, last night center city still appeared deserted. The restaurants were virtually empty.  Although some worry about downtown becoming gentrified and displacing people of lower income, I believe that is a fear that they need not concern themselves with.

UPDATE 7:00p.m: I have made a  revision in the second sentence of this post. bed with the NIZ has been changed to overzealous about the NIZ.  The former wording unfairly implied a quid pro quo arrangement.

May 3, 2018

Pawlowski And The NIZ

The Morning Call yesterday reported how a Pawlowski co-conspirator, James Hickey, was sentenced to 18 months.  In the article it states... The verdict (Pawlowski's) prompted Pawlowski to resign, bringing to an end a four-term tenure during which Pawlowski presided over a $1 billion rebirth of Allentown’s downtown. Say what you will about Pawlowski, but don't say that he presided over a rebirth of Allentown. That is the distortion which Pawlowski was hoping to use in his political  runs, first for governor, than senator. Although the NIZ happen during Pawlowski's third term, he had nothing to do with it. He didn't sponsor or promote the legislation. Even the nine contracts investigated by the FBI, not one had anything to do with the NIZ.  The NIZ was always completely above Pawlowski's realm. He was permitted to cut a few ribbons, that was all.

I don't expect The Morning Call to be very forthcoming about the NIZ. They have benefited directly from it. Many of their articles about the new buildings are virtually press releases provided by the developer(s). However, they should at least strive not to provide gross misinformation. Pawlowski's lawyer tried to sell the jury on the misconception that Pawlowski was the father of Allentown's revitalization. Apparently, only a Morning Call reporter believed it.

Not one business represented in the photo above still exists.  Photo, promotion and distortion of the NIZ,  all by The Morning Call

May 2, 2018

The Lehigh Valley At War

If you lived in the Lehigh Valley during either World War, you knew that those victories required an enormous amount of equipment. Mack Truck was under control of the War Department during both conflicts, starting in 1915 and then again in 1942. The Queen City Airport on Lehigh Street is a vestige of the second war. Mack Truck and Consolidated-Vultee Aircraft joined forces to produce planes and plane parts. Mack's biggest contribution was its trucks during WW1, establishing their reputation for durability. The naval gun shop at Bethlehem Steel was one of the largest in the world when built. With barrels up to 14 inches, it was capable of providing up to 30 guns a day.

Mack Trucks for War Department 1918

above reprinted from January 2013

UPDATE May 2, 2018: Mack Defense, a division of Mack Truck in Macungie, was just awarded a Defense Department contract for $82 million to produce trucks through 2023.

May 1, 2018

Saving The Spring Pond

As a small boy growing up in the twin homes above Lehigh Parkway, I would go down the steep wooded ravine and cross the Robin Hood Bridge. The stone lined spring pond and miniature bridge was just the first in a series of wonderful WPA constructions to explore. Last year, when I organized the reclamation of the Boat Landing, my memory turned to the pond. Although overgrown with several inches of sod, I knew the treasure was still savable.

In the spring of 2010 I met Mike Gilbert of the Park Department, and pitched the idea of a partial restoration. On May 26th, I posted A Modest Proposal, which outlined my hopes for the pond. By July, Gilbert had the Park Department clear off the remaining stones, and clean up around the miniature bridge.

Park Director Greg Weitzel  indicated to me that the pond features uncovered will be maintained. Any further clearing would be at the discretion of Mike Gilbert. In our conversation he also stated that there are virtually no funds available for the preservation of the WPA icons.

I will attempt to organize a group and contributions for this most worthy cause. Between the Spring Pond and The Boat Landing there was once a bridge to the island. Wouldn't it be nice if a small boy could go exploring.

above reprinted from previous posts

UPDATE August 2013Mike Gilbert has retired, and the Park Department has a new director. Although grass and sod are starting to again cover the remaining stones that surround the pond, the miniature bridge is still visible. I will make it my mission to again pitch the new personnel.

UPDATE June 18, 2014. The grass and sod has reclaimed the stones that surround the pond. Only the very top of the miniature bridge is still visible to those who know that it's there. Unless there is an immediate intervention, it's days are numbered.

UPDATE February 2017:In 2015, in cooperation with Friends of Allentown Parks, I supervised college volunteers to clear the new sod off the pond stones, and the new bush off the miniature bridge. Allentown is on its third park director since this post was first written, and has acquired two large parcels to create new parks. To be planning additional parks, when our existing park features are left to abandonment, is incredibility poor management.

UPDATE May 1, 2018:  This past weekend the pond, miniature bridge and spring channel to the creek were once again cleared.  The work was done by volunteers from Faith Church, Asbury Church, Igesia De Fe and Salem Bible Church.  Although the park department provided assistance in the two clean ups over the past several years,  they have  not provided ongoing maintenance to the site.  Understand that in the past few years they have constructed the exercise area at Jordan Park, the cement disc golf pads in the parkway and other recreational features. It is long overdue that the WPA structures be returned to the regular park budget and schedule.

Apr 30, 2018

When Beauty Ruled Allentown Parks

When I grew up, beauty was the hallmark of the Allentown Park System. The parks were featured by picture postcard makers, and were sent out across the country by visitors who came to marvel at our unique park system. This is not to say that they weren't played in and enjoyed by the residents. Kids passed footballs while their fathers fished along the willow lined creek edges. As I grew up living above Lehigh Parkway in Little Lehigh Manor, I can testify that hundreds of kids played in the parks all day. The parks were designed for both beauty and enjoyment.

Last weekend hundreds of tree saplings were densely planned along the creek at the rose garden. This was done to permanentize the Phony Riparian Buffer. I call it phony because in Allentown the storm water is piped directly into the streams, bypassing the buffers anyway. All that the buffers do is deny both access and visual beauty of the creeks to the public. This access and beauty was the main design feature of the Allentown Park System, and it is why the parks were placed along the streams.

The buffers are promoted by the Wildland Conservancy,  a local sacred cow which I stand alone against when defending our traditional park system.  On Friday I had my first talk with the park director since the man who hired her got convicted.  I realize that I will never succeed in having the stream banks fully restored as they were designed to be.  It is my revised mission to get sections of the banks kept mowed,  where a father might show his daughter the beauty of the creek on a spring day.

Apr 27, 2018

Annual NIZ Sleight Of Hand

Yesterday The Morning Call came out with their annual NIZ sleight of hand report.  It states that the NIZ is a success, because in addition to generating the taxes that center city paid previously to the state,  it earned an additional $53 million, which was used to pay $20 million for the arena and $33 million to J.B. Reilly's privately owned, but publicly financed real estate empire.

This year's report is written by a different reporter,  because the previous one spun so well he is now working for the tax funded county development agency.

What the report doesn't tell you is astounding.  Not one job or tax dollar is new to Pennsylvania.  All the businesses were poached from elsewhere in the state, many from South Whitehall.  A large percentage of that money isn't from jobs at all, but actually from the cigarette tax, which previously was used for  CHIP,  the children's health insurance program.

Understand that the sleight of hand report was written in the Morning Call building,  now owned by Reilly,  by a reporter whose own states taxes now go to Reilly.  Finding truth in this valley is becoming more challenging.  Don't assume it's in the newspaper,  or even elsewhere in the local blogosphere.

Apr 26, 2018

Allentown As The All American City

To we who are native Allentonians, the recent announcement of Allentown being nominated as an All American City once again is amusing. Last time we received that designation(in 1975) there were real things to hang that hat on, but now there are just facades embellished by press agents.

The requirement states that To apply, municipalities must show that they include all segments of their population in community decision-making, including diverse ethnic, racial, socio-economic and age groups, according to the National Civic League. The city must also be able to show “demonstrable, significant and measurable” achievements from the last five years.  Needless to say the city is offering the rebuilt Hamilton Street (NIZ) as its entry for the contest.  I can tell you that the public, and certainly any ethnic public, had no input what- so- ever in the NIZ. I met with the former merchants of Hamilton Street when they were being bullied by strawbuyers to sell their lifetime of work in short order,  while being threatened with eminent domain.

Our local politicians are beaming about Allentown again being nominated. They will send a delegation to Denver when the winners are announced in June.  I suspect that they won't pick me to represent the city.

Apr 25, 2018

A Tale Of Two Bridges

In the mid 50's, it was a big deal to us southsiders when they opened the new 15th Street Bridge. Prior to that, we had to either go over the 8th Street Bridge, or use the old stone arch bridge by the fertilizer plant. The fertilizer plant is long gone, but the old stone bridge is still there. Schreibers Bridge was built in 1828, and rehabilitated in 1920. The new 15th Street bridge was built in 1957, and is now restricted to south bound only, until which time it can be completely replaced. So the new bridge lasted 54 years, while the old stone bridge is still in use, 182 years later.

Recently, I urged Donny Cunningham not to replace the stone arch bridge on Reading Road. His project manager, Glenn Solt, insists that the historic bridge must be replaced. He stated that stone arch bridges look nice on the outside, but inside, they're filled with "crap." Thankfully, Don and Glenn didn't target Schreibers Bridge, because we're really going to need it with the new 15th Street Bridge out of commission. Hopefully, they will reconsider about stealing our history on Reading Road.

above reprinted from November of 2010  

ADDENDUM APRIL 25, 2018:   The 15th Street Bridge has been replaced.  Historic Schreiber's Bridge will now be closed to repair the north side entrance wing, which was damaged by a truck during the new, new bridge replacement.  I did manage to save the Reading Road Bridge.  Hopefully, I can now prevail upon  the new mayor, Ray O'Connell, to save the endangered Monumental Double Stairway in Lehigh Parkway.

Apr 24, 2018

Congressional Candidates Night In Bethlehem

Brith Sholom, the largest Jewish congregation in Bethlehem, is holding a conversation with the 7th District Congressional candidates tomorrow evening at 7:00 p.m..  Although all Democrats and the Libertarian are expected to attend, both the Republican candidates had prior commitments.  Marty Nothstein will be at the Lehigh County Commissioner meeting. The candidate's views, especially in regard to Middle East affairs, will be a topic of special interest.   Members of the general public are welcome to attend.
                         WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2018, 7:00p.m.
                                    Congregation Brith Sholom
                          1190 West Macada Road, Bethlehem, Pa.

Apr 23, 2018

Morning Call Editorials

In his column yesterday, Lehigh Valley congressional candidate Marty Nothstein owes League of Women Voters an apology, Bill White took Marty Nothstein to task for dodging the League Of Women Voters debate. This is the League's debate focused on the new 7th Congressional District primary, which invited all the candidates. White's complaint against Nothstein's decision is fair in its own right. However, Bill White's column is now the de facto political editorials for the paper, and the paper's record is questionable, at best.

For example, in 2005, although I was the first independent to run for mayor in two decades at the time, the Morning Call excluded me from their sponsored debate with Muhlenberg College, televised by Channel 39. Every day for two weeks they promoted the debate, running a quarter page photograph of both Pawlowski and Heydt in the paper. The paper's circulation was considerably larger back then, and those debate advertisements essentially told the public that there were only two candidates running for office, not three. They justified that action by claiming a poll by Mulhenberg showed my support below their threshold for inclusion. At the time the paper's other columnist, Paul Carpenter, ran a column about the inequality of that decision.  I can appreciate that my complaint sounds egocentric, but I assure you that over the years the paper has marginalized many other  candidates as well.

I can accept that Bill White now writes the editorials for the paper, but he should know that at least one local blogger will scrutinize them.

Apr 20, 2018

Spongebaths For The Homeless At Starbucks

Starbucks, in their yearning to be politically correct,  has probably irrevocably degraded their brand, at least in the urban markets.   The policy of restricting restroom use to paying customers is standard procedure in large urban areas.  A white middle class woman told me that she was denied use of the restroom for not being a paying patron at the same Philadelphia Starbucks at the center of the controversy.

Apparently, it is a Starbucks CEO tradition to let PC race ahead of common sense.  Last year they promised to hire 8,000 immigrants.  While nobody is waiting for the immigrants before they buy their latte,  the homeless will start availing themselves of the restrooms.  While my liberal readers, all six of them, will welcome the better restroom facilities for the homeless,  their tune may change next time they use the bathroom in a Philadelphia Starbucks.

If Starbucks' corporate reaction to the incident wasn't enough,  now the Philadelphia Police Commissioner is walking back his previous support of the arresting officers.  He has apologized to the two men arrested, who refused to leave as instructed by the responding officers.  While only reinforcing victim mentality,  I don't see anything productive in these reactions.

photocredit: Bryant/Philadelphia Inquirer

Apr 19, 2018

Dent Turbocharges Congressional Election

With Charlie Dent announcing that he is resigning within weeks,  chances are that a short term incumbent will be running in the November election for the new 7th Congressional District.  With the primary elections coming up in about a month,  the winners will most likely be chosen to compete in  the special election which Governor Wolf will call for after Dent's formal resignation.  The winner of the special election will complete Dent's current term in the 15th District.

Pundits of the cynical nature will assume that Dent is resigning to enhance the chances of his chosen successor to win the November general election.  As it stands right now, I believe that Nothstein and Morganelli are their respective party favorites.

Dent's resignation, for whatever reason,  will not be popular locally in the short term.  However,  he has served his constituents on both the state and federal level for many years,  and he will be appreciated for that long service.

Apr 18, 2018

Bill White's Artificial World

I hate it when Bill White compels me to review him,  as he did yesterday while writing.... since the only people who buy into his propaganda(Hannity) at this point are Trump true believers who are beyond caring about the actual truth of what’s happening.  White was criticizing Sean Hannity at White's Morning Call blog about not disclosing that he (Hannity) had received legal real estate advice from Michael Cohen.  White went on to question both the journalistic integrity of Hannity and Fox News.

Therefore, according to Bill White, a lot of Morning Call readers don't care about the actual truth.  Perhaps Bill should concern himself more with actual truth in the Morning Call's little world.  His paper might be more forthcoming about Allentown's NIZ, and its(The Morning Call) landlord, J.B Reilly.  While the FBI investigation and indictment of Ed Pawlowski finally brought an end to the paper's bromance with city hall,  it continues to praise the NIZ, as if Allentown's revitalization is real, as opposed to a richly subsided staged production at taxpayer expense.

In our era of reduced newspaper circulation, the Morning Call survived because of corporate affiliation, not journalistic merit.  Although White, now after so many years is a senior tenured employee for the outside management,  he needs to realize that journalistic integrity should start with the home paper.

Apr 17, 2018

Allentown, Syria and Trump

Allentown has one of the largest Syrian Christian communities in the United States.  Most members of that community attend St. Georges Orthodox Church, and have been in Allentown for three or more  generations.  Like other ethnic groups they settled in the 6th Ward in the early 1900's.  Although a minority in Syria,  they are protected by Assad and his father before him.  The Morning Call has been featuring their defense of Assad and their objection to the recent missile attack by the United States.  It is their position that the gas attack was anti-Assad propaganda,  and not carried out by the Syrian Government.

The Syrian civil war continues to be a tragedy.  With over 400,000 deaths and 5 million refugees,  a missile attack on possible gas production facilities is the least of Syria's problems.  Putting aside the  Syrian Christian objections,  the attack has also become a political football with other factions.  The anti-Trumpers find fault with it, or anything he would do.  Because both Britain and France participated in the military action,  the opposition parties in those countries accuse both Theresa May and Emmanuel Macron of kowtowing to Trump.

United States and its allies cannot turn a blind eye to the use of gas and poison even in the most horrendous of wars.  Likewise, the coalition cannot be deterred by threats from Russia.  The response was both measured and appropriate.

photocredit:April Gamiz/The Morning Call

Apr 16, 2018

A Meat Market In Easton

When I was in high school my father owned a small meat market in Easton.  It was called Melbern, and was on South 4th Street. That small row of old buildings was replaced in the early 1980's by the current KWM Insurance Agency.  I spent my high school summers working in the meat market,  and exploring Northampton Street on my lunch breaks.

Recently, I returned to retrace my steps. Back then I would walk down to the circle for lunch,  usually stopping to visit a friend who worked at the lunchmeat counter in the five and dime.  The circle is still busy with a lunch crowd,  even without a NIZ subsidized by Pennsylvania taxpayers.

The buildings, for the most part, are original and charming.  Easton is up and coming,  because it wasn't lucky enough to become revitalized with sterile towers of architectural mediocrity.

I even stopped in to visit Sal Panto at the new city hall. I suspect he saw me coming through a surveillance system,  because his secretary assured me that he wasn't in.

photo of Easton Center Square, 1948

Apr 13, 2018

The Morning Call's Unbashful Cheerleading

The special section in this weekend's Morning Call is called Great Expectation,The Story of Allentown's Renaissance. In this 36-page special section, The Morning Call will take a closer look at the urban renaissance underway in Allentown, the projects that will bring thousands of workers and hundreds of new residents to the city's downtown... Less than 48 hours ago this blogger wrote that molovinsky on allentown was turning the corner on the arena, but I didn't mean that I would condone unfettered cheerleading by the press. In the first of four sections each Morning Call reporter writes an essay referencing Allentown's past, although none of them have any actual memory or experience of that era, beyond the paper's archives. The second section promotes the new businesses arriving and refers to center city as a boomtown. The article omits the reality that taxpayers across the state are subsidizing Allentown's transformation. Section C is about The People Behind the Transformation. Although the paper writes that they are the engine of change, it can also be said that they are the private beneficiaries of public money. The last section may be the worst. It is supposedly essays by civic leaders. Some of them are bystanders, and some of them had absolutely nothing to do with any of it. All four sections are packed with paid advertisements, with the biggest ads coming from those benefitting the most. Yesterday, I reached out to several current and former members of our political establishment, for their opinion of the paper's special edition. They all agreed that it ranged from unbalanced to outright promotion, dressed up as journalism.

 above reprinted from March of 2014

ADDENDUM April 13, 2018: Four years later and the paper is now Reilly's tenant, and pimping the NIZ and his buildings more than ever. Today's paper features that two more tenants are coming to Reilly's new Tower Of Taxpayer Subsidy. The last lines of the article explain that space is still available, and actually provides contact info for Reilly's rental office. Although, The Morning Call has often used Reilly's press releases as news articles, they usually remember to remove the rental contact info.

Apr 12, 2018

The Greg Edwards Mission

My introduction to hearing Pastor/Candidate Greg Edwards speak was at the Hip Hop forum last week.  He spoke eloquently, staying on topic within the time allotted him.  To his credit, he did not mention the campaign, even once.  Edwards is running for the new 7th Congressional District, which for the most part is Charlie Dent's old 15th District.

He has built his non-demoninational  Resurrected Life Community Church into a local social/political force for minority empowerment.  He is CEO of the Resurrected Community Development Corporation, which developed from the church's social and educational ministries.   He is also president of the board of directors for Power Northeast  which sought to remove the previous Allentown school superintendent and replace him with one of their liking.  They succeeded in that task.

I don't know if Edwards will succeed in his quest for congress,  but he is certainly becoming a strong voice in the community.

photo from campaign website

ADDENDUM: An earlier version of this post misidentified POWER NORTHEAST as a component of the Resurrected Life Community Development Corporation,  they are affiliated with Alliance For Sustainable Communities.

Apr 11, 2018

The Hamilton Street Bridge

The current Hamilton Street Bridge was completed in 1959, replacing the former steel trestle bridge. With the new Hamilton Street entrance ramp aligned further to the south, a small portion of front street and a few houses were vacated. Additionally, an entrance ramp was added from Union Street, which previously ended at Front Street. The photo above shows a portion of the earlier bridge and the former A&B meat packing plant, beyond their office building.  The office building has been incorporated into the America On Wheels Transportation Museum.

lower photo shows entrance to former steel trestle bridge, with entrance ramp skirting A&B Packing House.

above reprinted from May 2013

UPDATE APRIL 11, 2018: My father's meat market was at the end of Union Street, before you went over the bridge. At that time there were still houses, people, luncheonettes and train traffic in that busy neighborhood.  I will take advantage of this time, between the former Pawlowski regime and the new O'Connell administration,  to revisit some of my blog posts about Allentown's industrial era.

Apr 10, 2018

Stairway To Shame

In the mid 1930's, Allentown, and especially its park system, was endowed with magnificent stone edifices, courtesy of the WPA; Works Progress Administration. This was a New Deal program designed to provide employment during the aftermath of the depression. Stone masons from all over the country converged on this city and built structures which are irreplaceable. The walls and step structures in Lehigh Parkway, as the Union Terrace amphitheater, are legacies which must be protected. Pictured above is the grand stairway from Lawrence Street (Martin Luther King Drive) up to Jackson Street, built in 1936. The steps are in a state of disrepair. They lead to the great Jackson Street Retaining Wall, thirty feet high and two blocks long, which was completed in 1937. I call upon the Trexler Trust and Allentonians of memory, to insist these steps are re-pointed and preserved. The current Administration knows little of our past.  It's important to save the things in Allentown that matter.

The City of Allentown is embarking upon a $3.8 million dollar capital plan to change the nature of our parks, funded in large part by the Trexler Trust. Although a number of fads will be accommodated, not one dollar is earmarked to preserve the existing WPA treasures. General Trexler envisioned the parks as a reserve for the passive enjoyment of nature. Among the new Disney-World type plans are a wedding pavilion in the Rose Garden, and the largest playground in eastern Pennsylvania to be built in Cedar Park. The trail through Cedar Creek Park will have lights installed, and the picnic areas will be expanded. Anybody driving past Cedar Beach on a Monday morning sees the trash generated currently by only a few picnic tables. How many more park workers will be required to deal with the consequences of these new plans? The playground is being billed as a "Destination Playground", who will pay to keep that clean? Allentown should build and monitor numerous playgrounds throughout center city, within walking distance for children and parents. The Trexler Trust and The City of Allentown have a responsibility to first repair and maintain these iconic stone edifices which are unique to Allentown.

photo info: the dedication stone is on the Union Street wall. The steps shown in the photo here go through a tunnel in the wall and climb up to Spring Garden Street. They are in total disrepair. This posting is a combination of two previous posts, which appeared on this blog last September.

above reprinted from June of 2015 and years earlier

UPDATE APRIL 10, 2018: My campaign to save the WPA structures has been on going  for over a decade. About 10 years ago, I organized meetings at the library to bring attention to the neglect inflicted upon these structures. In the process I tutored Karen El-Chaar, from Friends Of The Parks, on the issues. She then was able to obtain a grant from the Trexler Trust,  and repoint the Fountain Park Steps. I organized efforts to dig out and reveal the WPA Spring Pond and Boat Landing, both of which were discarded decades earlier. Because of the neglect, the Lehigh Parkway wall collapsed, but has since been partially rebuilt, to allow use of the entrance road into the park. In cooperation with Friends Of The Parks,  I conducted tours of Lehigh Parkway, featuring its history and WPA structures. During the Pawlowski regime I offered my advice to City Council on the traditional park system and WPA, but it was rejected.  I again make the same offer to Mayor O'Connell and the new administration.

Apr 9, 2018

Another Blackeye For Allentown

The front page of the Sunday Philadelphia Inquirer, and three full inside pages, were devoted to numerous women telling how they were sexually exploited by the director of the Allentown based Cadet Drum and Bugle Corps.  The women, spurred on by the current Me Too movement, paint a sordid picture of what was considered a local success story.  It takes enormous courage for a woman to speak out and have her name and photograph end up in the paper.

Although, both he and his attorney deny any criminal wrongdoing, and he resigned on Thursday, this abuser had been band director since 1982.  Some of the victims were teenagers at the time of the alleged assault. Considering how long he was in that position of power,  expect to see more women come forward.

ADDENDUM: Those interested in the sordid details of this story can find such in Sunday's Inquirer.  My interest is the backstory, that the Cadet board was informed back in January of the allegations. That allegation was made anonymously, and demanded that the director resign back then, or the story would be made public.  Furthermore, a comment in the Morning Call suggests that the local newspaper may also have been previously informed of the allegations.

UPDATE: The above post was published at 5:03 this morning.  At 7:05 am,  two hours later, The Morning Call came out with a second apology from the Cadet board,  acknowledging that they could have shown more sensitivity to the victims in their initial statement.  Perhaps, The Morning Call will divulge if the newspaper indeed had prior reports of these abuse allegations?

Apr 6, 2018

In The Allentown Trenches Blogging

When you're a non-partisan blogger in Allentown, you end up pissing everyone off, sometimes in the same week.  Such was the case this week.  I started the week by pissing off the liberals disclosing that Cynthia Mota worked for Hasshan Batts, whom she was nominating for Mayor. Although Bill White's column implies that his paper made that revelation,  we know better than that.

My post on the Hip Hop Forum annoyed some conservatives by giving voice to something they consider to have no redeeming value.  Although, the progressives approved of it,  a previous post on the concert itself was vilified by them.

Yesterday's post on the Rescue Mission annoyed everybody.  While the Mission has sacred cow status in Allentown, especially with the liberal Democrats,  Republicans sit on its board of directors.  The bottom line is that they're top heavy,  receiving only a 66 out of 100 rating from Charity Navigator. They spend over $800,000 a year fundraising.

My only safe ground for the week was my post on the threat to the architecturally iconic post office,  which  resulted in no less than two groups starting an effort to preserve it.

This blog has no allegiance to any politician, party or organization.  I call it as my institutional knowledge indicates.  Although I regret when a post offends someone,  I cannot walk on eggshells and produce a meaningful blog at the same time.

Apr 5, 2018

Indentured Servants of The Rescue Mission

Long time subscribers to this blog know that I have a problem with the Rescue Mission and other assorted sacred cows.  Fifty years ago the Mission gave a cot and bowl of gruel to forty or so men a night and was run on a shoe string.  Today, they still give the cot and gruel to about 60 men,  but take in over $3 million dollars a year..  Although they fundraise endlessly, they're sitting on almost $6 million in the bank.

While I have blogged about them being overfunded before, I wasn't really tuned into their slavery program.  As Pawlowski's trial began,  City Council awarded them a three year contract to clean Hamilton street for $845,000.  The Mission turns around and uses this contract to solicit more donations, by advertising that they provide employment and job training for the downtrodden.  What they do not reveal is that they deduct for room and board from the wages they pay,  making their workers something between indentured servants and slaves.

These sacred cows in the valley make the donors feel good about themselves.  Gunther looks like a hero making meatballs for an annual spaghetti dinner at a local church.  Those who bid on a meatball feel good about themselves.  Don't let  a cynical blogger like myself ruin your appetite.

Apr 4, 2018

Hip Hop At The Library

Last night Cheryl Johnson Watts of the Allentown NAACP was the MC of a free wheeling symposium on Hip Hop at the Allentown Library. A full house was treated to the history, philosophy and business aspects of that genre. While some described hip hop as an urban musical expression rooted in inner city oppression, others saw its cross demographic appeal as an agent of change. Local promoter Mark Hunt, pictured above, promised to bring more hip hop to the PPL Center.

In addition to defining hip hop, the panel was a stage for showcasing local leadership. Pastor James Rivera of Ridge Avenue is a longtime agent of change in the 6th Ward. Rev. Gregory Edwards hopes to represent the community in the 15th Congressional District.

Allentown Police Captain Glenn Granitz explained the challenges of the city providing entertainment and public safety at the same time. John Moser of The Morning Call wrote a detailed report of the meeting. The last speaker, and the only white member of the panel, was activist Robert Trotner. He simply stated that he really knew nothing about hip hop, but learned a lot last night.... I'm in his group.


Apr 3, 2018

Barbarians At Allentown Post Office Gate

In the 1930's, the "New Deal" was good to Allentown.  Our park system was enriched by monumental stone construction under the WPA. We also received one of the architectural gems of our area, the magnificent art deco post office. Constructed during 1933-34, no detail was spared in making the lobby an ageless classic. The floor is adorned with handmade Mercer tiles from Doylestown. Muralist Gifford Reynolds Beal worked thru 1939 portraying the Valley's cultural and industrial history.

Unfortunately for history and culture, this architectural gem is now being targeted for NIZ private/public enrichment.  Several architectural treasures were demolished for the arena, along with Allentown's mercantile history. The Postal Service has signed off on the building, and the developer is chomping at the bit. The real tragedy is that the other new buildings are not even full, but with private construction being funded by taxpayers, there is no need to worry about such details as occupancy rates.  Efforts to save this irreplaceable building may start and end on this blog.  The Morning Call, itself a partner in the NIZ,  has taken a back seat on such matters.

The 83 year old photograph, part of my private collection,  is the contractor's documentation of the project's progress. The back of the photo states; Taken Sept 1 - 34 showing lobby, floor, screens, desks, completed & fixtures hung  

Apr 2, 2018

Time For Cynthia To Resign

The time has come for Cynthia Mota to resign from Allentown City Council. Although she works for Promise Neighborhood of Lehigh Valley, which is directed by Hasshan Batts, she didn't disclose that connection when she voted eleven times last Thursday to make him mayor. Cynthia appears to have zero conception of what constitutes a conflict of interest.

In late January Batts met with councilwoman Mota to discuss the needs of families in Allentown.  By early February  Promise Neighborhoods hired Mota as Community Manager.  Apparently, Mota and Batts are also concerned with their own family needs.

In addition to reaching out to the city, Promise Neighborhoods is reaching out to the state, to see what resources they can harvest there.  They seem to be forming the perfect vehicle to become a depository of politically correct funding.  Care to make a donation?

ADDENDUM: Emily Opilo of The Morning Call writes on Twitter at 2:50 pm: So Allentown Councilwoman Cynthia Mota does work for Allentown Promise Neighborhood and was hired by Hasshan Batts, the same candidate she voted for in 11 rounds of voting for mayor. But that doesn't appear to violate the city's ethics ordinance. I'll have a story explaining. 

Will the paper provide proper attribution to this blog?

UPDATE:The Morning Call story on Mota is out. Mota should be ashamed for not disclosing that she worked for Batts, and The Morning Call should be ashamed for not disclosing that this blog broke the story.

UPDATE APRIL 3, 10:45 AM.  I have been assured by the Morning Call reporter, despite the timeline, that her report was derived completely independently of mine.

Allentown's Minority Divisions

In my post on Friday I wrote about some minorities complaining about being underrepresented in the city government.  An irony is worth noting:  In a large part, minorities elected Ed Pawlowski last November.  Photographs at his campaign victory parties, in both the primary and general election, except for his family, show mostly people of color.

I'm not a politically correct person, nor particularly sensitive.   On Thursday evening environmental activist Dan Poresky told council that he has known Hasshan Batts for months,  and how capable Hasshan is of keeping multiple balls in the air.  Poresky has involved himself in local politics since before 2005, when he supported Pawlowski.  Dan is connected to Joyce Marin, who is on the board of Promise Neighborhoods, which employs Hasshan Batts as director.  Hasshan, with his expedited online doctorate, is apparently the current darling of the enlightened private/public funded salary trough of United Way/Renew/Pool Foundation and other Lehigh Valley bastions of feel good about yourself liberalism.  How contrived to support someone from that trough,  rather than candidates like O'Connell and Thiel, who have spend decades involved within the Allentown community.

A comment placed on the previous post by the local NAACP  indicates that they thought Hasshan Batts received far too much attention, and that Cheryl Johnson Watts received too little.  There are apparently various subgroups in both the local Hispanic and black politically active populations. Although my perspective as an outsider is somewhat limited,  I appreciate that their influence is growing year by year.

ADDENDUM: Cynthia Mota is employed by Promise Neighborhoods Of Lehigh Valley.  On Thursday she was in essence voting for her boss, Hasshan Batts.  SHE SHOULD HAVE DISCLOSED THIS CONFLICT OF INTEREST TO THE CITIZENS OF ALLENTOWN.