Feb 16, 2018

Issues With The NRA

I'm a supporter of the 2nd Amendment. Although that is a right which I defend, as an engaged citizen I appreciate living in a society of laws. There are rights and laws, and we can all live within them. I do not blindly consider every regulation as a curtailment of my rights, or as a slippery slope which will erode them, as does the NRA.  I can exercise my rights in a responsible manner, without purposefully provoking those who feel differently about this issue.

Each November the NRA sends its current and former members a card telling them whom they should vote for in their district, to protect their 2nd Amendment rights. Although their member magazine often features hunting rifles, the organization must also think of their members as sheep, who should only care about one issue. As Americans we should guard our right to own firearms,  but never tolerate being told how to vote.

I support Americans For Responsible Solutions, the group started by Mark Kelly and  Gabby Giffords.  They both value their right to own a fireman,  but appreciate the need for greater controls against irresponsible ownership.

Shown above is a 38 special, gifted upon Frank Sinatra by the Miami Beach Police & Firemen's Association.  

Feb 15, 2018

Fools For Pawlowski

In yesterday's post I wrote about tiptoeing through the Pawlowski minefield. We will see a parade of character witnesses testify that their contributions were made because of Pawlowski's leadership and accomplishments, not to gain the work which they received.  What else can they say and not incriminate themselves? Pawlowski's attorney, Jack McMahon, organized the parade,  composed of some of Allentown's most prestigious attorneys.  The downside for them is that everybody knows that Pawlowski was at best just a self-serving opportunist. Those who testify they felt that Pawlowski moved Allentown forward know full well that he was only the ribbon cutter for the NIZ, not the engine behind it. Those who say that they thought he was governor or senator material only erode their credibility even farther.  It is their hope that the trial end soon, and that their testimony be forgotten; For the most part it will be.

photocredit: The Morning Call

Feb 14, 2018

Tiptoeing Through Pawlowski's Minefield

If the witnesses who haven't pleaded guilty seem to hem and haw about what expectations they had for their contributions or services to Pawlowski,  understand that they do not want to openly admit that they participated in a pay to play scheme.  Although they may be offered immunity from prosecution,  they still have their careers to consider.  Some may be attorneys, and others may even have their own political plans.  Their objective is to get into and out of the federal courthouse with as little damage to their own reputation as possible.  If their evasive answers result in Pawlowski being acquitted, in their mind that's better than sacrificing their own future.

A problem for Allentown going forward is the people who supported him this last November.  Although most of them are not policy makers,  some have their own ambitions for elected office.  Imagine the ethics they would bring to the table?

photocredit: The Morning Call

Feb 13, 2018

Pawlowski's Theft Of Service

If Ed Pawlowski ends up convicted of pay to play in his federal  case remains to be seen.  Since the investigation of his corruption by the FBI began in 2013 or so,  the law has changed.  In a case called McDonnell vs. United States,  the Supreme Court ruled that a specific favor for a specified contribution must be linked and documented.  So,  although I cannot predict the trial's outcome,  I do know that he stole honest services from the taxpayers of Allentown.

From court testimony we learn that most contracts given out in Allentown were decided not by what was best value for the city,  but by which vendor would contribute to Pawlowski's campaigns.  Unfortunately,  the consequences are even worse;  Because Pawlowski was mayor for three full terms,  this corruption impacted almost every department's integrity.

Hopefully, when Pawlowski is finally gone,  Allentown can begin to clean this culture of corruption from city hall.

photo from Morning Call video

Feb 12, 2018

Survivors Of The Pawlowski Era

While Celeste Dee's current website heralds her experience as a campaign strategist, there is no mention that she got the experience working for Mike Fleck's H Street Strategies.  H Street promoted Pawlowski and his stable of yes men and women. In light of the Pawlowski trial, and Fleck's guilty plea,  her omission is understandable.  She testified that she was well aware that city vendors were being burped for campaign contributions.

Candida Affa went with Celeste and her spinoff agency; She was perhaps the last member of City Council to cut ties with Pawlowski.  Celeste will be able to survive and prosper in Allentown's Democratic world;  She is treasurer of the local party.

The Pawlowski era and lack of ethics so permeated local politics that there are no players that were not tainted by it.

photo of Celeste Dee in front of Federal Courthouse by WFMZ Channel 69 News

Feb 9, 2018

Pawlowski's Defense In Action

Although Molovinsky On Allentown's mission is to provide informed commentary rather than being another reportage site,  I felt it might be useful to witness Pawlowski's famed defense attorney in action.  I observed his cross examination of Matt McTish.  While the prosecutor seemed meek and barely audible,  McMahon was strong and commanding.  He produced an email that McTish sent his lobbyist,  Jennifer Mann, complaining that his contributions to Pawlowski were not being productive.  To use McMahon's words,  there was no bang for McTish's buck, nor quid pro quo established.   He made McTish confirm that contributions to various politicians were a common business expense for his engineering firm.  Furthermore, he revealed that McTish additionally paid Mann $60,000 a year to assist him in securing business, with both government and private sectors.

McMahon had succeeded in taking a prosecution witness and scoring  points for the defense.   When Pawlowski left the courtroom for a recess,  he was clearly pleased with his attorney's performance.

Let me clarify that this snippet involves only one cross examination,  in what will prove to be a long complex trial.

court rendering from earlier in the trial by The Morning Call

Feb 8, 2018

Lanta's Snow Hysteria

Yesterday's snow wasn't expected to slow down the earth's rotation.  Never the less,  Lanta put in effect their Snow Emergency Routes.  Standing outside in the cold for a bus isn't the picnic Lanta thinks.  On their website they state that you can access information free of charge on your iPhone.   Nice of them to make the information free,  and of of course we must assume that everybody has an iPhone,  even those low income bus riders.

What would motivate them to implement snow detour routes for less than 2" of snow? Perhaps they have a special position for such decisions,  and he/she feels less useless by declaring the emergency routing.

At the end of the day, or I should say the beginning, it's quite a kick in the teeth to wait for a bus not coming. 

Feb 7, 2018

Pushing Pawlowski Back

I grew on Liberator Avenue. Liberator and Catalina Avenues, and Coronado Street, were named for Vultee-Consolidated WW2 planes, and are next to the airport built as part of the war effort. Vultee Street was built to connect the hangers with the Mack 5C plant, which was given over to Vultee-Consolidated for plane part manufacturing during the war. Vultee Street was the runway, and Lehigh Street would be closed off if a plane was landing. Today, this small airport now known as Queen City, has been under relentless threat by Mayor Ed Pawlowski, now a member of the Lehigh Valley Airport Authority. This past Tuesday, fellow board members started pushing back against Pawlowski.
"You're not the mayor of the Lehigh Valley International Airport." board member Frank Kovacs to Pawlowski
The board voted to build a new taxiway, indicating there's not much consensus to sell the airport, which has been Pawlowski's objective. Pawlowski wants to add to Allentown's real estate glut, for a short sighted tax gain. Matt Assad, from The Morning Call, wrote an excellent article explaining the arguments to both sell and keep Queen City. He also provides quotes of the tense discussion between board members and Pawlowski. This blogger is not surprised by Pawlowski's position, but questions Don Cunningham's judgement in appointing him to the Authority.

 reprinted from April of 2012

ADDENDUM FEBRUARY 7, 2018: My pushback against Pawlowski started in 2006. In 2007 when I started this blog, he and his enablers were still being defended as good for Allentown, even by fellow bloggers. This blog is fact based. I have no politicians whom I support. I am loyal only to issues, not elected officials.

Feb 6, 2018

Under Pawlowski's Bus

Although it's reprehensible, one can understand Pawlowski's Philadelphia mouthpiece throwing the mayor's former associates under the bus. But apparently that's not enough for Mayor Ed, he reprints that line on facebook himself.

 Now here's the problem, Pawlowki is still mayor of Allentown.

He is in essence telling all city employees that they could also become a sacrificial lamb when needed.  He is apparently more concerned with his reputation on facebook than the operation of the city.  Although   his supporters are limited to the uninformed,  the contrary and the unethical,  and the election is over, he is still more concerned with them than the operation of the city.

Credit city managers and workers for anything being done right in Allentown.  The mayor's office is worse than empty, it's actually working against morale.

Feb 5, 2018

Allentown's Lost Innocence

A posting like above appeared on an Allentown facebook discussion group this past weekend.  Forty two people liked the message, among them a newly elected member of the Allentown School Board. I suppose that these people belong to several groups, none of which is good for Allentown. In the first group you have the totally uninformed. They are probably the least destructive grouping, and likely do not even vote. Secondly, you have the contrarians. There will always be people like them,  and they seem to love facebook groups.  The last group is what scares me the most for Allentown. They know that he abused the system, yet still admire him for it. They know that in order to profess his innocence, he is impugning the reputation of his subordinates, who only followed his directions. Although a few of the nine who pleaded guilty are indeed co-conspirators to his plots, most were sucked in by a greedy and ambitious boss.

Although Pawlowski might be found not guilty because the prosecution cannot reach the current burden of proof, he surely is not innocent. Although I do not care about Pawlowski's future, I do hope that those members of the third group come to realize that government shouldn't be about what you can get out of it for yourself. My hope is probably naive. Greed has become part of large urban politics, and Allentown seems to have lost its innocence.

Feb 2, 2018

Fly In Allentown's Soup

If I saw a shrink for my frustration about Allentown, I would have to be in therapy all day. If I took sedatives, I wouldn't be able to stand up, instead I run for office and blog. Pawlowski announced his plan to restore the city on Friday; continuously inspect every inanimate object in Allentown. This professional advise came from a former Philadelphia housing guru, of course a fly in the soup is that Philadelphia is the corruption and murder capital of the world. Allentown's Rental Inspection Law failed to upgrade the city; while you end up legitimizing slumlords with certificates of occupation, you cannot legislate pride of ownership. Many local conscientious owners sold out rather than submit to the bureaucracy, increasing the frequency of inspections will again backfire. Although Pawlowski (and Cunningham) campaigned about their grand plans and communication skills, neither even knew the Allentown School System was going to demand reassessment; It's time for the taxpayers and citizens to reassess who they elected.

reprinted from November of 2007

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2, 2018:  Apparently when it comes to corruption, Philadelphia didn't have anything over us after all.  During the course of the trial this week, it was reported that Pawlowski used some Allentown inspectors as his personal goon squad,  rewarding donors and penalizing those that didn't pony up.  A number of years ago several landlords complained on this blog that they were indeed mistreated by the inspection program.  In my limited exposure to inspectors they have been professional.  I'm sure the testimony this week is not pleasant for that department's personnel.  They will however continue doing their job,  and move beyond the stigma of the Pawlowski scandal.

Feb 1, 2018

A Salty Tale In Allentown

The prediction of light snow early Tuesday morning proved to be correct.  By Wednesday morning the streets were white, however it wasn't snow, but salt.   For a city which just enacted a stormwater fee, largely because of salt runoff,  you would think that a more prudent use of salt would be in order.

Despite the federal mandate to clean stormwater running into the streams,  I have doubt that anything significant will be changed for many years.  Understand that the city was under federal mandate for over a decade to correct the leaking sanitary sewers which actually contaminate the Little Lehigh with feces during storms.  The city didn't do anything, and now the Lehigh County Authority has inherited that mandate.  Those who complained that the Stormwater Fee was actually a backdoor tax increase were correct.

photocredit:Rich Schultz/The Morning Call

Jan 31, 2018

If Pawlowski Is Acquitted

If Pawlowski is acquitted,  Allentown will be the outlander for the next four years.  While the prosecutor could fail to convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that his exploitation of the city bid system rose to a level necessary for conviction,  everybody now knows that city hall was essentially corrupt.  Regardless of the trial outcome, neither he or Allentown would be considered innocent.

Although Pawlowski would be personally insufferable,  his effectiveness as a leader would be completely neutralized. Nobody on City Council, or other local governments, would want to be seen as his ally.  He would spend the next four years preaching to his small congregation of deniers about his innocence.  Those invested here could only hope that the current caretakers in place are left to run the city with little interference by him.  The mayoral campaigning for 2021 would begin in earnest immediately.

Jan 30, 2018

Ce-Ce Rocks The Block

Ce-Ce Gerlach rocked South 16th Street this afternoon with a block party to raise funds for school uniforms. The block was packed with people enjoying several carnival attractions, music and food. From all reports, the new Allentown school uniform policy seems to have gotten off to a good start, but one issue is the cost of the  clothes.  With a large, low income student body, this can become a family hardship.  I'm sure Ce-Ce's organizing abilities  will help with this problem.  I've had a couple of conservations with Ce-Ce this past month, and I believe she will be a factor in Allentown's future.
To donate to the school uniform fund, make check payable to RCDC, 144 N. 9th St. Allentown, Pa. 18101.   Write Uniforms on memo line.

above reprinted from September 7, 2013

UPDATE January 30,2018: Last evening I attended an early kickoff for Ce-Ce's campaign for Allentown City Council in 2019.  I've known Ce-Ce for years, and am glad to see her again offering her time and energy to Allentown.  In this sorry time we need people with her sincerity and integrity.

In regards to this sorry time,  it's my understanding that the prosecution against Pawlowski had a strong showing in court yesterday. Numerous witnesses, including former city employees, described bid rigging and a pay to play culture. Supposedly, the defense attorney seemed exasperated, and Pawlowski himself somewhat forlorn.

Jan 29, 2018

Pawlowski's Campaign Soliciting

Ed Pawlowski published the above post last Thursday, the fourth day of his federal trial for corruption. I don't know if he has unshakable faith in his defense attorney, or if he is plain nuts. But at any rate, this post is about a contributor to his senate campaign. A week or so before the FBI raid at city hall, Pawlowski phoned a Democrat I know and hit him up for a contribution to his senate campaign.  This fellow sent in his check shortly before the raid. I bumped into him a few days later, and when I asked him for his opinion about the raid, he told me about his contribution. Trial notes  indicate that Pawlowski knew what was coming down the pike, and was actually soliciting contributions at that time for his upcoming defense, not a senate race.  I think that such deception speaks of his character.

Although Pawlowski is sitting in court every day, all day,  his early morning facebook posts imply that he is still involved in running the city.  I suppose that they are directed at his current supporters who voted for him last November;  Truth isn't an important  point with them.

Jan 26, 2018

The Boat Landing

Getting to the Boat Landing, for six year old boys who lived above the park in 1953, was quite an adventure. There were three other wonderful WPA structures to navigate on the journey. Unfortunately,  poor foresight by a previous park director has erased some of the WPA's monuments in Lehigh Parkway. As the postcard from the mid-50's above shows, the Boat Landing (my name for the structure) was a source of pride for the city and park system. It is located at the end of the park,  near Regency Apartments. I use the present tense because remnants of this edifice still exist,  buried under dirt and debris. Other attractions lost in that section of the park include the Spring Pond near the Robin Hood parking lot, and the bridge to the "Island", plus the mosaic inlaid benches which were on the island. ( Island halfway between parking lot and boat landing). Neither the Mayor or the Park Director knows that these centerpieces ever existed. These are irreplaceable architectural treasures well worth restoring.

UPDATE: The above post was written in May of 2009. Later that year I organized a small group of volunteers, and we unearthed a portion of the boat landing. The next year I prevailed on the Allentown Water Shed Foreman, Michael Gilbert, to expose the remaining stones around the Spring Pond and remove the growth hiding the Miniature Bridge.

Trexler Smiles, Landing Revealed
I believe that today, for the first time in decades, General Trexler had something to smile about. Most people never understood why three steps were near the lower entrance of Lehigh Parkway; they seemed to lead nowhere. This morning eight people joined a grass root effort to unveil, for the first time in decades, the structure I called the Boat Landing.
Buried under the dirt and grass were several more steps leading to a landing. Chris Casey was the first to arrive and cleared these steps and the first landing himself. A second set of steps led from the landing to the main landing on the creek. These second steps had a foot or so of ground and plants.
The quality and condition of the stonework is excellent, as was all our WPA icons. I will be polite and say only that it was a crime to have let this neglect occur. On the main landing the accumulated earth was two and half feet thick. The crew dug out the curving retaining wall several yards in each direction, and cleared off the top of the wall.
Eight people working four hours managed to reveal about one third of the landing at the bottom of the steps. It was a thrill to realize we were standing at creek's edge as the WPA architects had envisioned. I stood there often as a boy. There still remains a large portion of dirt to remove at the steps base, but you can now experience the Boat Landing.
The retaining wall and the landing continue for fifty feet or so in both directions. Unfortunately a huge tree has grown on the landing to the right, but the left appears reclaimable.
We who worked there today, hope to return and clear off the remainder of the dirt at the bottom of the steps.

Perhaps others will be motivated to clear off the remaining portion of the landing to the left. Now that might even be an idea for the City; imagine restoring an irreplaceable icon instead of buying something from a catalogue. I'm most grateful to all those who helped today, and will reveal their names with their permission.

ADDENDUM:Michael –

I just wanted to thank you for organizing today’s cleanup at the “Boat Landing” in the Lehigh Parkway. It’s not often that one gets to help unearth a treasure while barely leaving home, but that’s exactly what happened today.

It was truly impressive what big difference a small group of people can make. I can’t even estimate the amount of dirt that was moved with nothing more than a few shovels and a lot of hard work.
We can only hope that the City and the Trexler Trust will become aware of this location and start giving all the great structures in the Parkway the care they deserve.
However, the best part of the story for me came after we all left. I got home and my daughter Lucy (age 7) wanted to know how things went. We hopped in the car and soon we were walking up to the stairs leading to the landing. The sun was shining, and the sunlight trickled through the trees and onto the freshly-exposed stairway.
Lucy asked if she could go down to the landing by the water and next thing I knew we were both there at the waters edge, standing on what had been buried only a few hours earlier and marveling at the beauty of the location.
We spent a few moments there - a father and daughter both enjoying something completely “new” to us (even though the landing is over 70 years old). We talked briefly about what was – and more importantly what could be again.

Thank you for making that moment possible, and I hope many others take the opportunity to visit the landing in the near future.

Mike Schware
P.S. – After visiting the landing, Lucy and I walked further upstream and saw the remnants of the bridge to the island (near the water fountain). The remaining supports of the bridge confirmed what you had told me earlier about the island being much smaller years ago.

I organized the excavation shown above in 2009. We did return and remove the remaining dirt at the bottom of the steps.
reprinted from two separate posts combined

Jan 25, 2018

Award Shows Getting Tired

I'm not much for the pretty boy and girl awards.  There is no end to the red carpet of these self promoting shows.  The Academy Award, The Golden Globe Award, the Screen Actors Guild Award,  the I'm So Lucky Award That They Picked My Pretty Face Over Thousands Of Other Pretty Faces Award.  Now I don't watch such nonsense,  but see the articles about them.  I know that Meryl and Oprah were upset at the last show that some men mistook their younger sexy counterparts as sex objects. Meanwhile on the screen,  it's hard to find a production without nudity and guns.

These awards are of course intended to keep these lucky pretty faces in the public's eye.  In the most recent, Melania Trump was snarked Sunday night for not doing more about cyber-bullying.  While that criticism was totally unnecessary, it shows that Hollywood feels empowered to promote their liberalism and that hatred of all things Trump.  This hate-fest didn't receive its full audience because it was competing with the Philadelphia Eagles.  However,  the next one will be soon enough, and you can bet that the theme will again be that Trump is bad and that women are treated like sex objects.  Expect more low cut black dresses.

Jan 24, 2018

Pawlowski Is Allentown's New Billy Joel

Francis Dougherty, Pawlowski's former Managing Director, minced no words yesterday describing how Pawlowski steered city contracts to those bidders who could help him most with his political ambitions. While this comes as no surprise to we who watched him operate for the last decade, what does this say about Allentown's future? If he is convicted and taken away, we're still left with about a third of the voting population who were not fazed by his questionable ethics. His supporters now serve on numerous boards and commissions.

Those supporters were not deluded about his innocence,  they were simply hoping for a small piece of the plunder.  Although it would be nice to think that justice will prevail,  and that Allentown will be purged of these parasites,  the truth is that we will never again be the city pictured on postcards.

Billy Joel was a lightweight compared to Pawlowski tainting Allentown's reputation.

Welcome to Molovinsky On Allentown. This blog is produced every weekday to illuminate local politics. I am an independent monitor and an occasional activist, when necessary. Your comments are welcome and your readership is appreciated.

Jan 23, 2018

Pawlowski Could Walk

The first day of the trial went very well for Pawlowski.  It was determined that Pawlowski can indeed testify in his own defense.  In stage presence, the prosecution seems no match for Jack McMahon,  Pawlowski's high power Philadelphia lawyer.  While the judge did demonstrate that he wouldn't allow McMahon to bully,  his extensive courtroom experience was never the less apparent.  Although the tapes played clearly showed that Pawlowski was annoyed about how little some contributors ponied up,  there was no quid pro quo arrangement demonstrated , which is necessary for a conviction.  Although Pawlowski's expectations about contributions was clear enough, again from a legal threshold, the statements were implicit, short of a required explicit arrangement.  Even the Eagles victory worked for Ed yesterday, with the Philadelphia media being a no-show for day one.  If it had been a one day trial,  Ed would have walked.  While it is not a one day trial,  it was a very important day, the jury's first impression.

I did NOT attend yesterday's proceeding.  This report is based on feedback from several people whose power of observation I know and trust.

illustration for The Morning Call by Bill Ternay

Jan 22, 2018

Pawlowski Pre-trial Musings

Today Mayor Pawlowski's long awaited trial actually begins. As I scanned the defense witness list I wondered what would motivate most of these people, besides the subpoena,  to cooperate on Ed's behalf.  Then it occurred to me that it was an opportunity to publicity disavow any knowledge of any wrongdoing.  Now there are a few of these people who consider themselves friends of Ed,  and  would  testify for Ed's sake.  Alan Jennings would be among that group,  but I believe most on the list are on the public disavow side.  I suspect that at least one person, who was propelled into the public money income stream by Ed, wants to show that she can be counted on to be discreet.

On a city issue facebook site,  a reader wondered why people complaining about Pawlowski re-elected him?  Actually, most people aware enough to participate on such a site, didn't directly vote for him. However, many did write-in the name of a third candidate, which resulted in Pawlowski's victory.

In my previous post I discussed the psychology of  Pawlowski's facebook posts.  I would think such insertions by him violate the intent of the court order for him not to discuss the case.   Convicted or not,  prison assigned or not,  a good therapist might be in order.

Welcome to Molovinsky On Allentown.  This blog is produced every weekday to illuminate local politics.  I am an independent monitor and an occasional activist, when necessary.  Your comments are welcome and your readership is appreciated.  

Jan 19, 2018

Pawlowski On Facebook

I find Ed Pawlowski's posts on facebook rather remarkable. He seems to have two kinds; One version is his activities in Allentown, completely ignoring his upcoming trial. Understand that I have anxiety even over a haircut appointment, much less federal prosecution. His second kind of posts deal with the law. Although the law has changed since the investigation began into his shenanigans, and he could be acquitted, nine people already pleaded guilty to abetting him in his intent, which was alledgedly  to shake down contributors.

His facebook posts are indeed quite a pyschological profile.  The election is over, and the jury was selected in Philadelphia. Pawlowski took his wife and children along to Philadelphia,  where she was admonished by the judge for chatting up potential jurors.  One must wonder who he is trying to convince with his facebook posts?  Perhaps himself.

Jan 18, 2018

Chris Kocher Reneges On Pledge

Chris Kocher's letter to the editor,  which appeared in The Morning Call on December 7, 2014, assured the public  that the Wildlands Conservancy will respect certainly whatever decision South Whitehall Township makes about the (Wehr's) dam's future.  It was of course just a public relations gesture, knowing full well how much influence his organization welded over the township.  In reality, the Wildlands have written the township's Master Park Plan, which called for the dam's demolition.

When the Commissioners were presented with over 7,600 signatures, actually collected at the dam itself, they felt publicly pressured not to give the Wildlands permission to proceed with the demolition.  However,  they declined to proclaim the dam saved, or grant it historical designation. Likewise,  despite Kochers gesture in his letter, he made no subsequent statement.

The Commissioners then decided to hold a public referendum on funding the dam's repair, believing that the public would never vote themselves a tax increase to save the dam.  Once again they underestimated the public's regard for the beautiful historic structure.

Although Chris Kocher publicly stated that the Wildlands would back away from the dam's demolition if the Commissioners voted to save it, he never has afforded the residents of South Whitehall the same respect.  On the contrary, the Wildlands has written the state, claiming that the dam is in poorer condition than the state inspection indicated. It is now morally incumbent upon the Wildlands Conservancy to respect the wishes of the public, as affirmed through the referendum.  After writing his letter to the editor back in 2014,  hopefully Kocher has the integrity to now publicly repeat his commitment to the residents of the township.

reprinted from May 2017

photocredit: K Mary Hess

Jan 17, 2018

A Crime By The Wildlands Conservancy

photo by Tami Quigley

The top photo shows the Robin Hood Bridge, before the Wildlands Conservancy demolished the little  Robin Hood Dam, just downstream beyond the bridge. The dam was only about 10 inches high, and was built as a visual effect to accompany the bridge in 1941. It was the last WPA project in Allentown, and considered the final touch for Lehigh Parkway. Several years ago, the Wildlands told the Allentown Park Director and City Council that it wanted to demolish the dam. The only thing that stood between their bulldozer and the dam was yours truly. I managed to hold up the demolition for a couple weeks, during which time I tried to educate city council about the park, but to no avail. If demolishing the dam wasn't bad enough, The Wildlands Conservancy piled the broken dam ruble around the stone bridge piers, as seen in the bottom photo. I'm sad to report that the situation is now even worse. All that ruble collected silt, and now weeds and brush is growing around the stone bridge piers. I suppose the Wildlands Conservancy considers it an extension of its riparian buffer.

reprinted from June 2016 and earlier

UPDATE JANUARY 2018: The Wildlands Conservancy should be made to remove, piece by piece, all the rubble that they piled around the bridge piers, despoiling the bridge's beauty. City Council should refrain from ever again permitting The Wildlands Conservancy to alter our park designs.

Jan 16, 2018

The Morning Call Inadvertently Enables Deception

The Morning Call continues to inadvertently  support deception by one of its favorite sacred cows, The Wildlands Conservancy.   Last year I provided documentation to the paper demonstrating that the Wildlands was working with South Whitehall Township to ignore the voters referendum saving Wehr's Dam.  The paper continues to ignore this violation of the voter's trust,  and refuses to print my op-ed on the topic.  Yesterday,  the paper had a story about road salt getting into our waterways,  and  once again presents the Wildland Conservancy as the local authority on the problem, and the corresponding solutions to it.  The Wildlands recommends riparian buffers to help filter the salt from the streams.  What the Wildlands fails to divulge is that they get grants to design buffers in the parks, but that the storm sewer systems are piped directly into the streams,  bypassing the buffers.  This is the sort of  omission  and deception regularly used by the Wildlands to justify the grants that they use for these projects.  They are allowed to use a percentage of the grants for administrative purposes,  providing a revenue stream for their salaries.

The consequences of their distortions have been substantial.  Lehigh Parkway lost its beautiful decorative Robin Hood Dam, which was the last WPA construction in the park.  The removal of the Fish Hatchery Dam resulted in a massive trout kill during the next major storm.  They continuously cite current generalized environmental trends, but ignore the specifics related to a particular site.

In fairness to The Morning Call, circumstances help the Wildlands  pass off these deceptions. For instance, the Wehr's Dam controversy which stretched out for two years, was covered by five different string reporters.  There is no regular reporter assigned to the South Whitehall Township meetings. Allentown has City Council members, a park director, and a mayor who are not native Allentonians,  nor are they very familiar with the park system.  Never the less, the paper should be committed to protecting our icons,  before promoting any organization's agenda ahead of our history.

photo of former Robin Hood Dam, demolished by The Wildlands Conservancy

Jan 15, 2018

The Saga Of Ed Pawlowski

Tomorrow the corruption trial of Ed Pawlowski starts in Philadelphia, where a jury will be selected. The trial itself will then take place in Allentown.  Although Allentown will be a media circus for the trial,  this blog will not be covering the trial details.  In my mind Allentown has already been rightly found guilty.  What does it say about a city that elects someone with fifty four counts of corruption filed against him?

I suppose that the trial will be good for downtown business.  All those reporters to feed and house, while Ed's lawyer proclaims his innocence. Although I will not report on the trial per se, I may opine on the accompanying circus.

Allentown's new construction will finally get the exposure which it craves.  Although the Morning Call has been promoting the NIZ, its reach was limited.  Credit Ed Pawlowski for bringing the national press to town.

Jan 12, 2018

Sheftel & Malenovsky

In 1920, two brother- in-laws bought a truck and started dealing in cloth scraps from the many sewing factories in the Lehigh Valley. By 1950 the firm was called A. Sheftel and Sons, but scattered throughout the valley were still buildings with the older Sheftel and Malenovsky banner painted on the side. Other families also traded in the by-products from the large local needle trade industry, mainly the Levines and Pearlmans. Although the sewing factories declined locally, the Sheftel sons grew the business nationally, and today it is operated by the third generation. In the minds of old timers, the Sheftels and Malenovskys are still linked. By coincidence, less than 24 hours after a previous posting concerning my maternal grandfather's citizenship paper, I received a call from the Sheftel family. They had no real knowledge of me, much less my blog. They had discovered that in their possession was a copy of my paternal grandfather's citizenship paper, Aaron Moloviensky. My family in the 1930's had attempted to "Americanize" our name, by changing it from Moloviensky to Molovinsky, it didn't work. Apparently, at sometime in the past  after a local Jewish History exhibit, someone had placed the Moloviensky document in the Sheftel-Malenovsky folder.

reprinted from 2007 and 2010

Jan 11, 2018

Urban Renew, A Temporary Solution

Urban renewal projects are nothing new to Allentown. Every couple decades some Mayor thinks he has a brighter idea. In a previous post, I showed the historic Lehigh and Union Street neighborhood, totally destroyed by city planners. Today, an under used Bank calling center sits awkwardly alone on that Lehigh Street hill. The picture above shows another hill of merchants and residents, fed to a mayor's bulldozer. The picture is from 1953, and shows Hamilton Street, from Penn Street down toward the railroad stations. At that time we still had two stations, The Lehigh Valley Railroad and The New Jersey Central. The current closed bar and restaurant occupies the Jersey Central. Everything on Hamilton Street, west of the bridge over the Jordan creek, with the exception of the Post Office, was demolished up to Fifth Street. Government Center would be built on the north side of the street, and a new hotel on the south, to accommodate the many anticipated visitors. Recently we had to remove and replace the facade of the county courthouse, which leaked since it was constructed. The hotel is now a rooming house.

Unannounced plans are underway for a new hotel to service anticipated visitors to Pawlowski's Palace of Sports. It will be up to some future blogger to document how that hotel becomes a rooming house.

reprinted from December of 2013 and 2011 

ADDENDUM JANUARY 2018: Reilly's new NIZ funded Renaissance Hotel doomed the former Hilton Hotel at 9th and Hamilton, once a new jewel in a former urban renewal scheme. The hotel, most recently with a Holiday Inn designation, is now in Reilly's vast City Center Real Estate portfolio.

Jan 10, 2018

Park And Shop

Downtown Allentown boomed for about 100 years. During the prosperity years following World War II, the two car family emerged. Several business leaders of Allentown realized both the parking problem and the potential to enhance sales. Park and Shop was begun by Harvey Farr, Donald Miller and John Leh. The current small parking deck at 10th and Hamilton, above the Parking Authority Office, was the first deck in the country. To make the parking lots, shown in the postcard above, houses were purchased and torn down. Merchants would stamp the parking tickets, providing free or reduced cost parking. As the suburban shopping malls eventually eroded the commerce on Hamilton Street, both Hess Brothers and Lehs competed with the mall convenience by building their own connecting parking decks.

As the viability of the Park And Shop enterprise declined, The Allentown Parking Authority was conveniently formed, and it purchased the lots.

Although business hardly still exists on Hamilton Street, The Parking Authority, through demonic enforcement, has become a growth industry. Because of the converted apartments, and our one car per person society, parking remains an issue in center city. Unfortunately, the current Administration has prevailed upon The Parking Authority to sell several essential neighborhood lots to a contractor for new housing.

Although the gentlemen mentioned in this article profited from their influence, they always provided solutions for the betterment of the community. They seemed to belong to a bygone era.

reprinted from August of 2009

Jan 9, 2018

Bill White Loses His Mind

Bill White wrote that there were tears running down his cheek during Oprah's speech on the Golden Calf Awards. At first I thought that he was kidding, but as I read on I realized that he was serious.
                   She’s smart. She’s eloquent, She’s compassionate. She’s classy. 
                   It would be a nice change.                                                     
 I think that perhaps he should just start wearing a pink hat while he's at it.  It wasn't that many years ago that a Morning Call reporter lost his job for being the grand Marshall in a Gay Pride Parade.  Reporters could always get away with slanting the news, but they were not supposed to be the news. They were not suppose to wear their politics on their sleeves.

The award show itself deserves an award for hypocrisy.  Spare me the pretty boys and girls dressed in black. Spare me the delusional grandiosity. It is an industry based largely on sex, both appeal and fantasy.   Spare me, but thank you for the Halle Berry's with their peek- a -boo dresses, but in black of course.

Bill White thinks that Oprah would make a good president.  What a gift her candidacy would be for the Republicans come 2020.

Jan 8, 2018

1953 In Allentown

In 1953 you could escape the crowds on Hamilton Street by walking down beyond the third department store, Zollinger Harned, to the 500 Block. The malls in Whitehall were still two decades away, and Hamilton Street was where the Lehigh Valley shopped. Although the photograph above shows a trolley and a bus, the last trolly would run in June of that year. South side Allentown was bustling with Mack Truck and General Electric. The first supermarket, FoodFair, opened that year on Lehigh Street, now the Parkway Shopping center. In addition to the three department stores, downtown Allentown boasted three five and dimes and five movie theaters. Ike was our President, and Brighton Diefenderfer was our mayor. In the scene above, Man In The Dark is playing at the Colonial Theater. In that 3D movie, a criminal gets a second chance if he submits to an operation to excise the criminal portion of his brain. In 2018, could we give our elected officials that option?

reprinted from May of 2012

Jan 5, 2018

2nd and Hamilton

Up to the mid 1960's,  before Allentown started tinkering with urban redevelopment, lower Hamilton Street still teemed with businesses. The City had grown from the river west,  and lower Hamilton Street was a vibrant area.  Two train stations and several rail lines crossed the busy thoroughfare.  Front, Ridge and Second were major streets in the first half of the twentieth century.  My grandparents settled on the 600 block of 2nd Street in 1895, along with other Jewish immigrants from Russia and Lithuania.  As a boy, I worked at my father's meat market on Union Street.  I would have lunch at a diner, just out of view in the photo above.  The diner was across from the A&P,  set back from the people shown on the corner.  A&P featured bags of ground to order 8 O'Clock coffee, the Starbucks of it's day.
please click on photo
photocredit:Ed Miller, 1953
reprinted from October 2015

Jan 4, 2018

Christmas No Good For Parkway Santa

This Christmas wasn't so good for the Parkway's Santa,  Michael Adams.   Adams was evicted from the Log and Stone House in Lehigh Parkway.   He had an understanding with Pawlowski that in exchange for upgrading and maintaining the structure,  he could live there rent free.  This fall, out of nowhere,  Pawlowski's henchmen appeared with an eviction notice for back payment of rent.   Although their arrangement was never put into writing, facts on the ground support Adam's case.  He lived there for ten years without paying rent. Among many improvements to the property,  he installed a new roof, a new heating system, and new electrical wiring.

While visitors drove past the house this Christmas,  lit up as part of Lights In The Parkway,  little did they know the true scrooge story behind this year's display.  Hopefully,  there will be some justice for the Parkway's Santa.

Jan 3, 2018

O'Connell's Bad Bet

Ray O'Connell made a bet last fall that seems to have turned out bad for both him and the city.  As a highly promoted write-in candidate in the mayoral election,  he effectively blocked Nat Hyman from being elected mayor.   Pawlowski's win insured that Allentown will essentially be rudderless at least  well into 2018.  While O'Connell didn't believe that he would win the election,  he did think that Pawlowski would likely resign in a plea deal,  rather than face trial.  It appears as if Mayor Ed is willing to take his chances in the courtroom.  Furthermore, O'Connell believed that if Pawlowski went to court,  when convicted the then acting mayor, Daryl Hendricks,  would step aside after 30 days and that council would appoint him (O'Connell) mayor.

Last night it was Hendricks who stepped aside,  allowing Roger MacLean to become council president and mayor,  if Pawlowski happens to be convicted.  I do not believe that Pawlowski's conviction is a certainty. In many ways Allentown has already lost.  Pawlowski has formed a political block from a segment of the minority population, that proved this past November that it doesn't consider ethics a priority.

ADDENDUM: If MacLean happens to become mayor,  either by Pawlowski's resignation or conviction,  he is well qualified to lead Allentown out from under the cloud of Pawlowski's indictment.

Jan 2, 2018

The Cloud Above Allentown's Good News

Often when I read articles praising Allentown's revitalization I wonder on what planet the author lives? But I can understand how the out of town cub reporters can misinterpret the construction boom occurring in center city. After all, who could imagine an incentive program like Reilly's NIZ? Recently, Allentown was featured in an article noting its increase in home ownership. Once again,  I'm afraid that there is a gap between the article's conclusions and the local reality.

The housing bubble burst in 2008 because far too many unqualified buyers were being approved for mortgages. In today's center city housing market there is another time bomb, seller's assist. People are buying homes with absolutely no skin in the game. There is a school of thought where urbanists think that homeownership provides the marginally qualified with roots. I'm not sure if that philosophy really helps a city in the longterm, but we seem to be inadvertently embarking down that path.

Jan 1, 2018

The Winter Of My Discontent

With the forecast of another snowstorm coming Wednesday evening, my memory turns to the winter of 1993-94. I was living on a long corner on Union Street, in Hamilton Park. By this time in 1994, the path from my front door to the sidewalk was like a snow tunnel, with walls over three feet high. The busy intersection had a crossing guard, and it was important that I kept the corner clear, constantly digging through the plow curl from two directions.  The reason I remember that winter wasn't because of my house, but at the time I maintained buildings in center city. My days consisted mostly of salting, chopping and shoveling, one property after another, from one snowstorm after another. Driving my station wagon, filled with 50lb. salt bags, up the alleys was like a kiddie ride at Dorney Park, the ruts would steer the car, no hands were necessary. This post and the previous one are somewhat unusual for me. I have for the most part maintained a privacy wall between my business and my blogging. Tomorrow evening, The Tenant Association of Allentown will complain to City Council about slumlords; I thought that in the interest of balance I would give a glimpse into conscientious landlording. Although the meeting might be cancelled once again because of the snow, Allentown's many good landlords will still be out shoveling the sidewalks.

photocredit:The Morning Call/Dumping snow off the former Linden Street Bridge into the Jordan Creek

reprinted from February of 2014

Dec 29, 2017

Allentown's Pending Cold Winter

2018 promises to be a cold winter in Allentown. The city is being governed by a mayor facing over fifty charges of corruption. He was elected by plurality in a three way election, mostly by Allentown's newer Hispanic population. If he is forced to resign because of a plea or conviction, Ray O'Connell expects to be selected mayor by city council.

The photograph shown above is from 1958. It was taken in Little Lehigh Manor, the 1940's era housing development located above Lehigh Parkway's south ridge. I had the pleasure of growing up in that neighborhood. In yesterday's post the hill favored by the kids of that neighborhood was featured. Other popular sledding hills in Allentown were behind Cedar Crest College, and Ott Street, between Livingston and Greenleaf Streets. Years ago a bridge crossed the creek by the park office at 30th and Parkway Blvd., with a parking area for sledders by the Cedar Crest hill.  The Ott Street hill was closed to cars by the city, as an accommodation for sledders.

None of these hills are now accessible to a kid with a sled. The current mayor has no memory of those times, and might be too preoccupied to care much about sledding this winter.

photo courtesy of S. Williams.

Dec 28, 2017

A Park Protestor From The Past

`Green' Curtain Blocks Sledding And The View
January 09, 1992|The Morning Call
To the Editor:

Hold your sleds girls and boys! Others, too, on the alert! With the planting of a dense cluster of 60 evergreen trees and the erection of a "No Sledding" sign, creating a veritable iron curtain, the park and watershed people have once again undertaken their repetitive effort of the past 45 years to eliminate a most popular sledding slope in Lehigh Parkway. The motive -- crass self-interest in defiance of public good. The effect -- an impassable barrier and concealment of a magnificent vista of "one of the finest valleys in Eastern Pennsylvania."

Children and adults from the 400 homes with longtime and easy access to the slope and others arriving in cars have enjoyed sledding here after school and into the night and throughout the day and night on weekends. Yet sledding is but one of the attractions of this enduring slope. In summer children and teachers from Lehigh Parkway Elementary School have enjoyed a walk down the slope and into the park for a break from book and blackboard. Birders, joggers, hikers and others on a leisurely stroll engrossed in their particular interest have found the slope irresistible.

For a host of others, this opening into the park after a long stretch of woods presents a charming vista and urge to descend. Interest is immediately evoked by the sight of a mid-19th century log house  and a historic wagon trail leading past the site of a lime kiln to tillable lands of earlier times.

The view takes in an expanse of meadowlands, now groomed, to the Little Lehigh River and up the western slope to Lehigh Parkway North. Indeed, a pleasant view to be esteemed and preserved for generations to come. It was distressing on New Year's Day to see a family and their guests intent upon a walk down the slope suddenly stop in amazement and shock as the closure became evident.

The cost in dollars through the years of the park peoples' fixation on destroying the Parkway slope must be staggering indeed without dwelling on other deliberate depletions. Typically, the placement of the 1991 "No Sledding" sign employed a team of four men with three vehicles -- a backhoe, a panel truck, and a super cab pickup truck, the latter furnishing radio music.


Burt Luckenbach was a park activist, who wrote this letter in 1992. Few remember sledding on that hill above the Log & Stone house, but I do. The open hill was located at the end of Lehigh Parkway South, near the intersection with Coronado Street. The Wagon Trail has been blocked off for years by several large fallen trees. I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Luckenbach, but like to think that he would approve of my efforts regarding the parks.

reprinted from January of 2015

Dec 27, 2017

Blogging, The Last Watchtower

Anybody who buys The Morning Call on a Monday knows what slim pickings are. The paper is produced on Friday, with a one man weekend crew, to cover the police blotter. There's hardly enough paper to cover the bottom of a bird cage. That leaves the news junkies forced to read the likes of me.

 I'm fascinated with how much Allentown has changed within the last 50 years, and find the railroads  a good metaphor. In my youth the city was serviced by several rail branch lines with dozens of sidings, supplying many industries with raw materials to produce products distributed all over the country. Those industries fostered a large middle class, and a high standard of living. We were the truck capital of the world, we were home to the first transistors, and a retail legend. The tower shown above in 1963, and the gas tank in the background, were on Union Street. Although they are both now gone, this blogger will continue to combine history, news and commentary for those of us who still remember a different era.

reprinted from November of 2013

Dec 26, 2017

Molovinsky Christmas Tour

Yesterday I posted about Bill White's recommended Christmas Light tours.  I hope that caravans of  new SUV's are taking White's tours, because he publishes his recommendations every year.  Bill, after all these years,  has his job down almost on autopilot;  Christmas light tours,  Eating his way through Musikfest,  Cake contest at fair, Grammar columns,  Hall of Shame, Worst sentence writer. etc., etc.

Anyway, I recommend that nobody take my light tour,  it's in the hood in center city Allentown. Actually, the block shown has had its share of crime in recent years. The alley is narrow,  so there is no passing another car.  The double parkers get very annoyed if you beep your horn.  Best to stick with White's tours out in suburbia, with the inflated decorations that are flaccid during the day.  Personally,  I prefer the center city house decorations.  There is something so much more inspiring about decorating a low income house, many of which are rentals.  It makes me feel better and more hopeful about downtown.

Dec 25, 2017

Bill White's Christmas Lights

I was never on Bill White's Christmas Lights tour, but all I could think of was Chevy Chase, putting together the plug in his Christmas Lampoon Movie. I imagined that in Bill's mind, the more the better, aesthetics aside. Yesterday the newspaper showed photographs of some of the houses; Yep, I was right. Now, I understand the appeal of wattage, especially for children. As a child, my father would drive us by a house on Union Street, just beyond Union Terrace. It was a ranch house with easy access to the roof. This man did the whole shebang; roof outline in lights, Santa sled and reindeer on roof, and lots of lawn ornaments. As the gentleman and his display aged, less would appear each year. Fortunately for children, Santa, although no spring chicken and fat, never gets too old to deliver.

Blogger's Note: Christmas lights are enjoyed by people of all ages and faiths. Bill White and his crew have spent many hours locating those houses which best give what he calls the gift of WOW. Pictures and directions for the light tour can be found on The Morning Call Website.

reprinted from December of 2010

Dec 22, 2017

The Trains Of Allentown

As a blogger, at the moment, I need a rest from those bureaucracies which I find so exasperating, and perhaps visa versa. I suppose it would be a good time to stop and reminisce some more about trains, both model and real. Shown above was the real deal when the 0 gauge was king. Before I go too far, let me state that growing up I never had a train. For a few years I had a friend whose father, looking back, was rather obsessed with the hobby. He had the transformer shown. It was 275 watts, and could operate four trains and an assortment of accessories. For many years, Bloch's Hobby Store, in the 400 block of 7th Street, was a model train expert. Trains were also sold at Pollard's Firestone Tire Store, also on 7th Street.

I've presented a number of Barber Quarry branch line photographs in previous posts. The one below shows the siding at the former Traylor Engineering Plant on S. 10th Street, now owned by the AEDC. About 20 years ago the track was removed for the entire  length of the former rail line.
  photogragh by Mark Rabenold, 1987

reprinted from April of 2013

Dec 21, 2017

Christmas Time In Allentown

The other day Kenneth Heffentrager announced that he was interested in being appointed to the Redevelopment Authority. Ken has a dilemma; Such appointments are made by the mayor, and Ken is a grass roots street level organizer. Pawlowski historically has appointed certified yes men to his boards. It is for that reason that often one person will serve on several boards in Allentown. Although Ken is a founding member of the Allentown Tenant Association, he has also been somewhat of a thorn in Pawlowski's side, advocating for more housing inspectors. Although he is completely qualified for the position he seeks, this blog post isn't really about him.

Ken made his pitch for appointment on facebook. One of the readers wished him well, but then commented that she did not want to concern herself with such matters during the Christmas season. Politicians count on such reactions. Add in those that concentrate on Thanksgiving, Easter and their summer vocation, and you can end up electing an indicted mayor.  Another reader, who herself was appointed by Pawlowski to another commission, wondered if Ken would be able to function objectively,  considering his past tensions with the mayor.  I think that citizens should wonder if someone who is an avid supporter of Pawlowski could function fairly in such a position?

While my interest in local politics isn't reduced by holidays, the recent election results were very discouraging. Perhaps that is why this blog has been concentrating on its other component, local history. On that note,  I have used this old A-Treat Seasons Greetings as today's illustration. The A-Treat Company, after closing several years ago,  has been purchased and restarted by the Jaindl family.

Dec 20, 2017

The Butchers Of Allentown

Those coming here today looking for a story about sloppy civic leadership will be disappointed. This post is literally about butchers, more specifically, some butchers at Allentown Meat Packing Company. A few days ago, while at the Fairground's Farmers Market, I learned that Bobby had passed away. Bobby was the "kid" who worked at my father's meat market on Union Street. Bobby grew up in an orphanage, a hardship which my father respected. One meat cutter that I knew nothing about was Lamont, other than he lived at the WestEnd Hotel. He was a bear of a man, who could carry a beef quarter from the cooler with no effort. I never saw Lamont in the market portion of the shop, he always remained in the back, either in the large cooler or the adjoining cutting room. While my father insisted that people working on the counter change their meat coat and apron several times during the day, no such rule was imposed upon Lamont. Although he would look over the trays of meat before being taken out to the display cases, he never spoke. Last time I spoke to Bobby, he told me that he appreciated that my father had taught him a trade, which he used throughout his life.

reprinted from June of 2015