Nov 25, 2015

Bridge To Nothing But Higher Taxes

Mayor Pawlowski was preening on his facebook page that the new American Parkway bridge is #4 in the country, so I clicked on the link. I still don't know exactly what that refers to. Allow me to quote the author of the article in LV Business, When it opens, drivers will be able to travel on one road from the east side of Allentown near Coca-Cola Park and go over the Lehigh River to the city’s bustling downtown. I have a confession, I never understood the American Parkway, it's the road to nowhere. The new bridge, while being planned for 60 years, is of cookie cutter design, devoid of any uniqueness. All that it accomplishes is bypassing Union Blvd, and taking commerce away from the businesses there.  The Morning Call writes, At last, a link between Route 22 and downtown Allentown. I though that 7th Street already did that,  both quicker and shorter.  The photograph of Pawlowski and city council cutting the ribbon refer to them as dignitaries, which is better than defendants. That $36 million spent on the new bridge would have been better spend maintaining existing bridges. Both Pennsylvania and Allentown neglect their bridges until the point of no return, then build a new one.

Elsewhere in the news,  the midgets, aka state representatives and senators, voted down eliminating school property taxes, but will go ahead increasing your income and sales tax, what a surprise. The voters richly deserve this,  for voting for the same incumbents, election after election.

photocredit:Emily Opilo/The Morning Call/November24,2015

Nov 24, 2015

Time Travel In Upside Allentown

A promotion group has released a new video showing the nightlife in Allentown. Those wanting to partake in the party will have to manage a little time travel, to either the opening night or best night of each venue shown. For the rest of us, we can get a small taste, but it's pricey, and sometimes not so good. I've received another bad report about dining at the Dime, now 0/5 in the Molovinsky Guide To Fine Dining. 

Between hockey season and more concert dates being announced, hopefully, this winter will have some real buzz downtown. However, that will require the city to step up the snow removal game. Climbing over dirty snow and ice mounds to plug overpriced meters, isn't so chic.

Nov 23, 2015

Allentown's Posturing and Reality About Refugees

Occasionally, Bill White thinks so much of his column, he has it placed on the front page, such was the case yesterday. White's headline was that fear about the Syrian refugees dims America's beacon of hope. White writes about a Iraqi refugee he met almost ten years ago. Last night,  Pawlowski told an interfaith gathering that as long as he's here, he'll do everything he can to support the refugees.  Six months ago, he wouldn't allow the Syrian community to raise their flag.  An article, which never made it to the Morning Call's hard copy edition, refers to the fears and doubts of current Syrian Americans, about the new arrivals. Also, according to Philadelphia news accounts, again never reported in the Morning Call,  over two hundred new  refugees arrived this weekend in Allentown.

While White and Pawlowski posture on about hope,  there was some news that should help reassure the local fearful. The local mosques, both Sunni and Shia, demonstrated against the terror in Paris this week. While the local Syrians of Christian background may be less involved with new Muslim arrivals than anticipated, the local mosques are well established, and very sensitive about perceptions from the greater community.

ADDENDUM:  The missing Syrian Christian refugees, according to Jonathan Witt, in The Stream

Nov 20, 2015

Will Trexler Trust Honor General's Memory?

As a defender of the traditional park system in Allentown, there are some realities that I have to deal with. The Trexler Trust, as a contributor to over half the park department budget, has enormous influence. The second influential group is the Wildlands Conservancy. After battling them over two dams, I know that their hubris is not above manipulating, distorting and outright lying to further their agenda.  Currently, the park department is hiring a consultant to make a recommendation about the pond dam in Trexler Park. This of course is nonsense, let me translate; The Wildlands wants the dam gone, and the park department is cooperating to justify it's demolition.

Years ago, a park director wanted to demolish the Trexler greenhouse, supposedly to save money.  But, he then turned around and spend $750,000 to plant a native species wet lands along a section of the park's creek. Last year, the park department completely cut down all those plantings. We truly lost the greenhouse for nothing. The Trexler Trust had to sign off on the greenhouse's demolition, because it was specifically mentioned in the General's will. Although, perhaps not mentioned, the pond never the less was very important to the General, and is the heart of the park. Having seen the same deception while fighting for Wehr's Dam, I know that nothing need be done to the Trexler Park Dam, except that the Trexler Trust must step forward, and respect their benefactor's memory.

ADDENDUM:  After a sit down with the park director, a phone conversation with the parks supervisor and an on site inspection,  an update is in order. The pond and dam supposedly under study is not the main pond shown in the old post card above, but rather the smaller adjoining pond. However, with that smaller pond virtually empty from a supposed sinkhole,  the dam wall of the main pond above is completely visible, and it shows decades of neglect.  I hope that they take the opportunity from the smaller pond being empty, to repair the main dam wall.

Nov 19, 2015

Agenda Journalism By The Morning Call

Regular readers of this blog know that I often complain about the Morning Call. If it's an infomercial for the NIZ, or regularly giving some serial Israel basher space in Letters To The Editor, I'm not shy about complaining. I think that the paper again took some liberties with yesterday's article titled, Allentown teacher: Schools are in chaos. In the web version it was titled, Allentown Teachers Speak Out: Disruptive Students Run The Schools. The reporter tells us that she sat down with 20 teachers from all the grade levels, from schools across the city. One must wonder how she coordinated the meeting. From the title, we know that the school administration didn't set it up, that would leave only the union, which is currently negotiating it's contract. One school board member, Scott Armstrong, confirmed that it was believed that the meeting with the reporter was set up by the union. Consequently, one reader of my post yesterday suggested that teachers should receive combat pay. Another solution suggested by yesterday's Morning Call article would be more teachers. What we appear to have is the newspaper, inadvertently or not, promoting the teacher's positions in the contract deliberation.

A number of years ago The Morning Call did away it's editorial page. Although readers may assume that there would be a firewall between news and outright opinion, perhaps that's an assumption that should no longer be made about the Allentown paper.

Nov 18, 2015

Allentown Goes To The Sweathogs

I describe myself as a Fonz type delinquent in high school. However, when I didn't respond respectfully enough, I was at the vice-principal's office within a minute. After being sent there more than twice, I was suspended. After the second suspension, you were expelled. Welcome Back Kotter was a fictional TV show, about school in the urban jungle, where delinquents were managed, and education was an afterthought. Who would have imagined that forty years later, Allentown would be making national news for student fights, and assaults on the police.

We just experienced an incredibly spirited school board race with candidates promising solutions. We have both the teachers and police exasperated by the violence. Truth is everybody will just trudge on, we have become the urban jungle, we have gone to the sweathogs.

Nov 17, 2015

Allentown and The Syrian Refugee Issue

When my grandfather first arrived in Allentown he lived in the Ward, on 2nd. Street. It was around 1895 and the neighborhood was full of immigrants. Some groups came from the same area in the old country, most noticeably the Syrians, from the village of Amar*. They were Antiochian Orthodox, a minority in a Muslim country. The congregation of St. George's Church on Catasauqua Ave., largely is descended from those immigrants. Well known names in Allentown, such as Atiyeh, Haddad, Hanna, Makoul, Koury and Joseph are among their members. They were among one of the first groups to organize, and those organizations still exist. The photo above was organized by the Syrian American Organization in 1944. Note that Jewish, on the left, is treated as a nationality.

reprinted from previous posts

ADDENDUM: As a result of the Paris attack, a backlash seems to have developed against accepting refugees from Syria. The governor of Michigan, which has a large Arab-American population, rescinded his previous invitation, along with other governors. Allentown has one of larger Syrian American populations in the country, going back over 100 years. While most of the Syrians here are Christian, most of the refugees are Muslim, as are the victims in the current Syrian civil war. With both Pawlowski and Wolf extending an invitation, Allentown may see a significant number of the new refugees.

Nov 16, 2015

A WPA Monday

A month ago Mondays, I climbed the steps at Fountain Park to speak to the stone masons repairing that iconic structure. The steps were built in 1936, and would soon serve thousands of men walking down from center city to the Mack factory, to produce trucks for the war effort. It took me ten years to get the masons there, but by now I had another pressing objective. In the last couple of years, the top of the wall at the double stairwell at Union Terrace had become open, threatening that structure with potential catastrophic damage. After learning that the masons had no assignment beyond the Fountain Park steps, I drove over to the Park and Recreation Office.

Lindsay Taylor, the new park director, has been fairly cordial to me, considering my reputation as a mauler of city bureaucrats. I explained that the top of the Union Terrace wall was open, and that I had serious doubts about it surviving another winter of freeze and thaw cycles.  I requested that the masons make an emergency repair on top of the wall, while other repairs needed there could be delayed. Taylor agreed to consult her park supervisor, Rick Holtzman, about my request. Later that morning, I spoke with Holtzman, who agreed that it would indeed be appropriate to reassign the masons.  The masons were replacing missing steps and repointing the Fountain Park stairwell,  through a grant from the Trexler Trust. The grant had been written and requested by Karen El-Chaar, from Allentown Friends of the Parks. El-Chaar had attended my meetings years earlier on the WPA structures, and I had since  conducted tours of Lehigh Parkway in conjunction with her organization. Holtzman requested that El-Chaar clear the repair at Union Terrace with the Trexler Trust, since their funds were designated to be spent at Fountain Park. The Trust gave their permission for the masons to be temporally reassigned.

By the weeks end the masons spend a day at the Terrace, and repaired the top of the wall. I'm grateful that Lindsay Taylor and the Trexler Trust responded to stabilize that structure, and optimistic that their commitment to  our WPA history will continue.  I will  in turn  continue on,  when necessary, mauling the bureaucrats.

The photograph above shows the WPA steps being built in Seattle. I'm sure an identical sight could be seen on Lawrence Street in 1936.

Nov 13, 2015

Israel Bashing, A Morning Call Tradition

Pray for France, but also pray for Israel, where it's Paris everyday

There's a long tradition of Israel bashing at Letters To The Editor, in The Morning Call. Over the years the writers change, but the tradition continues. Currently, most of the letters are written by Vincent Stravino, of Bethlehem. Let me share a letter exchange between myself and the current editor at the Call.

To the editor, Suffice to say that Bethlehem resident Vincent Stravino is no friend of Israel, his letters always portray that country in the most unflattering of terms. However, his letter which appeared on November 11, was something that would normally only be seen in the Arab press. Despite numerous Israeli civilians being stabbed, Stravino describes Israel response as Nazi-like. He paints Netanyahu and Israel as demanding, pretending and undeserving. Stravino letters are often signed at the end associating him with some organization that sounds sincere about peace, but in reality, are anti-Israel. After years of his letters, I know that Mr. Stravino doesn't have much use for Israel, but why does the Morning Call keep giving him space for repeating the same point of view, over and over?  Michael Molovinsky

Michael, Your letter essentially attacks Stravino and doesn't offer any counterpoints to what he said. Thus we will not publish it.
Editor, Letters Page 

I had the same exchange with the editor concerning previous letters from Mr. Stravino on Israel. Although, it is indeed normal Morning Call policy that letters should address the subject matter, and not the author, Stravino letters aren't normal, or about facts.  Instead, they intentionally invoke negative emotions about Israel and it's people,  through adjectives and stereotypes. When the paper prints the repetitive letters of someone motivated by hate, but limits replies to scant factoids,  they are inadvertently condoning that hate. Sometimes, motives do matter.

ADDENDUM: To me, the points brought up by the letter writer are just a pretense or excuse to bash Israel.  I've been reading such letters long before Netanyahu was prime minister.  I've been reading such letters before Israel gained control of the West Bank in 1967, or the Gaza Strip.  Putting aside anti-Semitism, hatred of Israel has existed since modern Israel was created in 1948, and so have letters to the Morning Call reflecting it.  For that reason, I declined to offer counterpoints to what is just the latest letter, but chose instead to address the larger issue.

Nov 12, 2015

Allentown's Phantom Rejuvenation

Yesterday's Morning Call had a story on the PennDot study, which recommended four different options to handle the onslaught of traffic to rejuvenated center city Allentown. It's truly amazing how little $1Billion buys now a days. Believe it or not, despite the endless use of adjectives by the paper, the town is as dead as ever. PennDot, realizing that the study wasn't necessary, is never the less proceeding as if it was. One recommendation was actually for a bike lane on 7th street. When is the last time you saw a bike on 7th Street? Their consultant, from King of Prussia, thinks that patrons are going to ride their bikes down 7th Street to a show at the arena; I couldn't make this stuff up, where would I get such an imagination? Meanwhile, Pennsylvania has been ranked as one of the worst run states in the country, maybe it's because we hire consultants who recommend building bike lanes on 7th Street, to accommodate invisible arena patrons. So far, the best arena night hasn't come close to duplicating the traffic on a Thursday night,  back in the days of Hess Brothers. What we have is a bunch of new buildings, of no architectural significance, and a medium size arena, which gets  half full, 40 nights a year.

Nov 11, 2015

Reilly's Cigarette Tax and The Planning Puppies

When it comes to the paper's beloved NIZ, even my current favorite reporter at The Morning Call, Emily Opilo, can't really relay the zone's obscenity. In today's article about Reilly's cigarette bonanza, after reporting that Reilly's new warehouse was approved by city planners, she writes, "In the one-of-a-kind NIZ, many state and local taxes can be tapped by developers to help pay for construction that creates jobs. Of those taxes paid, the cigarette tax is among the largest." It's unclear if she is referring to construction or permanent jobs, but at any rate, the NIZ was designed to create untold wealth for J.B. Reilly, not to create jobs. Furthermore, there's no news about Allentown Planners approving a Reilly project, it would only be news if they didn't approve. As usual, one of the planning puppies asked a token question, what due diligence, give him a treat. While you're at it, with Opilo still an exception, give the reporters their treats also.

Also in the bizarro world of Allentown, NIZ designer, State Senator Pat Brown told the Morning Call that this experience (being accepted into the first time offender program for his third drunk driving offense) will make me stronger, and make me a better legislator. Not sure what that means, but J.B. Reilly thinks he's pretty good as is, drunk or sober.

Nov 10, 2015

Naysaying In Allentown

An apologist, who is in a profession to profit from the current development, wrote these kind words about me recently; Why would they spend 20 million in a new apartment building if the Strata 1 was not filled? Business people make business decisions. Strata 1 is full, don't be fooled by the incessant haters and naysayers... Of course the answer is simple. Because the taxpayers are paying the construction costs and debt service for these privately owned buildings, there are no normal business decisions being made. With nobody currently questioning the bills or figures submitted, or the taxes grabbed, the chosen developers would be stupid to stop building, while this environment remains unregulated.

But lets move away from the lucrative nuts and bolts of the NIZ, and examine me, as a naysayer. I first heard this term applied toward me and this blog by Pawlowski, about eight years ago. His majesty, at the time, wasn't used to any scrutiny. With an adoring press and public, I was writing heresy. At that time, even my fellow blogger from Nazareth condemned my criticism of Allentown's administration.

In recent weeks, Pawlowski's face was used on numerous mailers to personify corruption. I actually take no pleasure in his fall from grace, and wish him a soft landing in his current predicament. This blog's raison d'exister is to cast light on those decisions which unnecessarily depreciate our life. If normal business decisions were being made, or our park treasures were being properly maintained, and citizens questioning local officials were shown appropriate respect, I could write more posts on history, and less about politics.

Nov 9, 2015

The Night Of Broken Glass

In 1938,  on the nights of November 9 and 10, the Nazis whipped up anti-Jewish riots in a pogrom now known  as Kristallnacht.

During these two nights,    synagogues were set on fire and  thousands of Jewish shop windows were broken.

Ninety one Jews were killed.  30,000 were arrested and taken to camps, a harbinger of the Holocaust.

reprinted from previous years

Life Not At Strata

Just when I thought that The Morning Call was through with the Strata Flats infomercials, they doubled down with Life At Strata. Impressive arena, trendy restaurants, and flourishing downtown are the adjectives just from the first two sentences. They profile three tenants; Young professionals who moved from Austin to teach at Muhlenberg, a full time arena director, and an older empty nester couple. The article is a hoot. The happy campers mention the name of their favorite restaurants, some of which have been open now for three whole weeks. Traditions, gotta love traditions. It's good that they love these restaurants, because it's a long way to Wegman's to go grocery shopping. If the reporters writing these articles are offended by my criticism, perhaps they should consider the other 60,000 tenants living downtown, it's called, Life Not At Strata.

Nov 6, 2015

Allentown's NIZ vs. The Real Local Economy

Economically, this area has become the Tale Of Two Cities. Every day we read of a new NIZ development in Allentown, but also of some company in the valley either closing or cutting back. On the front page we read about City Center Development Company building more apartments, but inside we learn that Kraft, Mack, Air Products and Brown Printing are having setbacks. Because this seems confusing to many, I have decided to provide some clarity.

On the front page we're  reading a J.B. Reilly wealth management report, it has nothing to do with us. There are no new office jobs, just jobs transferred from somewhere else. At first, the transferred jobs came from other towns in the area, like PennNational from Boyertown. More recently, jobs are just moving from other places in Allentown, like Buckno Lisicky from the Masonic Temple Building, and Morgan Stanley from the Frederick Building. The restaurants hoping to serve the transferred office workers are new, but there are too many, and they are withering on the vine, quicker than they open.

When you balance Reilly's private portfolio vs. the real economy, we seem to be heading toward a downturn. There is no comparison between a Kraft production job, and selling popcorn part time at the arena. But my friends,  don't allow me to depress you with reality, tonight is First Friday in Reillyville. Boogie on down to center city, and toast Reilly's City Center, you're paying for it.

Reilly's proposed Five City Center, on Hamilton to Walnut, between 7th and 8th Streets.

Nov 5, 2015

A Russian Political Cartoon

Empty Nesters Flocking To 7th and Linden

According to Matt Assad of The Morning Call,  millennials and empty nesters are flocking to Strata Flats to rent the apartments.  I suppose that they like the ambience of the 7-11, which is catty corner from the apartments.  Demand is so great that Reilly will build additional apartments across from Symphony Hall, which is next to the Hook Restaurant, formerly the Cosmopolitan, once the project gets through city planning.  Sure hope the city planners go along with Reilly, I know that they're tough on him.  Wonder if they will allow him to use wood frame like he did on the first building?  You will also be surprised to know that Alvin Butz's new NIZ Phase 3 passed city approval.

This is the second infomercial that Assad has written for Reilly, promoting his apartments.  It's apparent to me that Reilly has found a way to harvest NIZ money from residential tenants. If he isn't somehow tapping their  state income tax,  I would then be suspicious of  the prorations between the residential and commercial portions of the buildings;  Understand that nobody checks the NIZ figures, nobody produces or checks financials, and nobody cares.  All is fair in love and the NIZ.

shown above Plywood Plaza, aka Strata Flats

Nov 4, 2015

Lehigh Valley Voters; Spun, Diced & Chopped

As I start this post for Wednesday, it's early Tuesday morning, the polls just opened. I'm less interested in the results, as I am in the process. Those of us who thought that this would be an inexpensive election were mistaken. Yesterday provided another stream of mailers, including the bizarre specimen above. Talk about a fall from grace, Pawlowski went from endorsing in the primaries, to personifying corruption in less than six months, and he hasn't yet been accused of a crime. Although i'm no fan of Pawlowski,  this mailer is particularly offensive.  In addition to a mailbox of mailers, the phone rang with a slew of robo-calls. Vic Mazziotti's voice reminded me that the Results Team passed another tax cut. He didn't mention that the old folks at Cedarbrook are still dragging themselves down the hall to a communal bathroom, from 1940, thanks to his refusal to approve any renovation at the nursing home. Tuesday's newspaper headline story tells us that a former Olympic athlete is available for county commissioner, as if that is any sort of relevant qualification.

It was announced in the recent entertainment news that a Walking Dead movie would be filmed in Allentown. I commented on facebook that it would be cast by Allentown voters.  Apparently, some of these zombies stopped to vote on the way to the audition.  Although the Democrats tried to cast Roger MacLean as part of their candidate slate, he is an outsider.  Roger was formerly a Republican, who realized that the party has become essentially unelectable in Allentown.  As top voter-getter yesterday, I have some optimism for Allentown. He would make a great candidate for mayor when Pawlowski starts his sentence.

Although Nothstein's election to the county board of commissioners is testimony to the voter's lack of sophistication,  with Hartzell elected and Vic Mazziotti gone,  that board can only be better.  Mazziotti was disingenuous about Cedarbrook, which may now receive some reconsideration.

Nov 3, 2015

An Independent Allentown City Council

With the exception of Jeanette Eichenwald, the current city council has rightfully been referred to as a rubber stamp. However, with Ed Pawlowski now tainted by the FBI investigation, the counter politicos hope the time is now ripe for change. We will see, come Wednesday morning. While Eichenwald has indeed been independent with her decisions on council, the late Emma Tropiano set the standard. Not only did Emma vote for the people's interest, she managed to rally citizens to her point of view, and fellow council members.

In the race for school board and county commissioners, I have recommended bullet voting, casting your ballot for just one choice, to multiply its effect. My choices are Scott Armstrong for school director, and Dan Hartzell for county commissioner. For city council, I would vote for two candidates, MacLean and Hershman, and write in the third, Fegley.  Steven  Ramos would receive my vote for controller.

Although there are no national races, today's election is very important. Will Allentown rise above the bondage of the Pawlowski administration? Will the voters save Cedarbrook, the county nursing home?

Nov 2, 2015

The Changing Face of Delinquency At William Allen

When I was at William Allen in the early 60's,  I was considered a delinquent. I got sent to the vice-principal's office once too often, and had to seek an alternative education. But my offense was speaking out in class, not knocking a policewoman to the ground. A month ago, the news was filled with a student walkout, supposedly protesting institutional racism.   I discounted that accusation then, and now,  but feel the real  problem reared its head last week. Student fights are nothing new, but what is new is students being enthralled by gangsterism.

 The school board candidate race is more intense than it's ever been in previous years. The liberal candidates have campaigned that some of the incumbents are too conservative.  The conservative candidates have countered that some of the liberals are tools of Pawlowski,  and have emphasized that connection.  In my opinion, it's not the school district that needs to be reformed, but rather some of the  values of the prevailing student culture.  Such changes will benefit the students much more in their life than any new curriculum, or different administrators.

Oct 30, 2015

Flyer For Lou Hershman and Steven Ramos

Mailer For Bob Smith and Scott Armstrong

Tomorrow, some Allentown voters will receive a mailer promoting Bob Smith and Scott Armstrong. Ed Pawlowski had targeted both incumbent school board members, by supporting a PAC with alternative candidates. While I took the Result Team county commissioners to task for evolving Pawlowski against Dan Hartzell, I find the using the Pawlowski association appropriate in the school board race. Pawlowski had stated that Bob Smith wasn't right in the head, and also personally demeaned Armstrong in the past. Both incumbents are dedicated to the education of students in the district. Yesterday's fights and student attacks on police officers, only emphasizes the importance of keeping these disciplined members on the board.

Dinner With Allentown's Write- Ins

I don't go out much at night. Between usually writing this blog around 4:30AM, and the family bakery, I have the schedule of a three year old. Truth be told, the bakery closed 35 years ago, but it's my normal excuse for going to slept at 8:00PM. With the election on Tuesday, and Rich Fegley and Shane Fillman running as write-ins, I'll try to catch up with them tonight in the little apple. Between my rosacea and shiny nose, I usually have my butler powder my face before I go out.

ADDENDUM: I invite any candidate for Tuesday's election to join me this evening, 6pm, at the Hamilton Street BreWWork

Oct 29, 2015

My Vote For Dan Hartzell

Come this Tuesday, I will cast one vote for county commissioner, it will go to Dan Hartzell. While in previous years my votes went to the current Republican Result Team, previously called their Reform team, they lost my support over Cedarbrook and the budget. As I posted earlier this week, although they claim support for Cedarbrook, they declined to approve a proven formula in the nursing home industry for a rehab unit. While their first handout card indicated support for the nursing home, two recent mailings from them make no mention of the facility. I find the most recent card (shown above) quite offensive, it's a hit piece against Hartzell. While hammering Hartzell for accepting a $3,000 contribution from Pawlowski last spring, they don't mention the cost or source of their own two mailings this week. Frankly, the four Republicans responsible for this card, Holt, Osborne, Mazziotti and Nothstein should be ashamed. While Nothstein's campaign mentions his gold metal, it apparently didn't involve sportsmanship. Holt campaigned on her efforts toward a fair redistricting map, how about fair campaigning? While I never expected to be voting for a Democrat next week, I'm even more surprised about the next paragraph.

I want to commend Geoff Brace for his lone vote against the commissioner's amended county budget. Brace refused to endorse a token tax decrease, while the county has a deficit spending budget. Muller today issued a partial veto, along with this statement:
 “The Happy Meal tax cut, which amounts to $12.80 per household on average, was a move designed to confuse voters into believing that campaign promises of the past have been met,” said Muller. “It is not prudent fiscal management but I am opting to leave the Commissioners running for election with their political spin and only veto what I consider to be the five most ill-advised amendments.

While the ethics of Pawlowski are certainly fair game for a discussion of  City Council and school board candidates, whose decisions interact with the city,  those questions are not relevant to the election of county commissioners.  The hit piece mailer shown above, only reflects poorly upon those who sent it.

The Good Ship Allentown Losing Credibility

The blogosphere has been buzzing since yesterday afternoon about Sara Hailstone leaving, and the budget being delayed until after the election. Although, The Morning Call associated her with the $billion dollar Reilly development, she had absolutely nothing to do with it. Although director of the paper tiger NIZ board, that too is just a legal requirement for the Reilly Development Company. Her departure, like the police chief, is a hope to be gone before they bring in the handcuffs. What we need to discuss here;   How can a city with a $billion dollars of new development needs a tax increase? Making Reilly's empire has not been cheap for the taxpayers. The development required considerable infrastructure improvements, and police protection. Need a cop, there's almost always one present by the Artwalk, along by Shula's and the new stores there. Although he does you no good, shut up, and pony up two more mills in city tax. Reilly is being treated to a $billion dollars worth of real estate at taxpayer expense,  while the same taxpayers get a tax increase?   By the way, that tax increase will not be announced until after the election, as to not hurt the Pawlowski endorsed candidates on Tuesday. Those candidates would be Glazier and Affa for City Council, and Koval for Controller.   Only in Allentown,  pass the arena popcorn please, we're paying for it.  

Oct 28, 2015

The Pawlowski Bitch Slap

Who's your Daddy now?
We, who write and read blogs, overestimate the general public. We assumed that Pawlowski's support with his PAC in the spring, would come back to haunt those candidates, after the FBI investigation. I pretty much dismissed that logical reasoning, until today's article in the Morning Call, by Emily Opilo, FBI cloud darkens Allentown election. The article makes that logical reasoning public, making it a reality, seven days before the election. The article associates Thiel, Glazier, and Affa with the Pawlowski/Fleck/FBI fiasco. Then again, I may now be overestimating the influence of the Morning Call's article. But, at the very least, it's a well deserved bitch slap at those who gladly kissed Pawlowski's ring last spring.

Oct 27, 2015

The Cedarbrook Myth

It's funny that with one week to go before the election, candidates are now suddenly supporters of Cedarbrook. Understand, that as a registered independent, I don't get most mailings sent out to the party faithful. One mailing I did receive was from Dan Road Warrior Hartzell. As someone who has addressed the County Commissioners on Cedarbrook, I don't remember seeing Dan there. That's another funny thing, seeing some candidate attend a meeting or two for the first time, after they decide to run for the office. Dan also claims on his card that he used to cover the meetings for the Morning Call. I assume that he did, but I don't remember that, and I remember too much. Anyway, the only thing sadder than Dan's funny card, was the Republican Results Team card. The team, Holt, Osborne, Northstein and Mazziotti, also pledge their loyalty to Cedarbrook. Results Team is dedicated to contining Cedarbrook's mission of care and excellent services in a fiscally sustainable manner with a clear and measurable strategy. In reality, the record shows that they apparently never found a clear and measurable strategy, as they voted against every reasonable proposal to modernize and save Cedarbrook.

ADDENDUM: As often the case, I get a message from some candidate I criticized, asking if I would kindly phone them, so that they could more fully explain their position, which perhaps I misunderstood.  In the case of the Republican Results Team, allow me to elaborate on my condemnation.  When you decided against remodeling the D wing for a profitable rehabilitation unit, you demonstrated your lack of commitment to Cedarbrook.  When you stated that perhaps instead you should get even more studies, or build a new nursing home, you demonstrated just how disingenuous you are on the topic.  That said,  I will host any comment from any candidate.  

photograph by K Mary Hess

Oct 26, 2015

The Business of Cedar Park

As an advocate for the traditional park system, I find commercial companies leasing Cedar Park a complete exploitation of the park.  On Saturday, the park lent itself to the second for profit company this year, The Color Run. (The first was Slide The City) These companies donate a small portion of the proceeds to a local cause, creating the misconception of community benefit, while the traveling shows are actually for their own profit.  Slide The City was really ironic, considering that Cedar Beach Pool was closed because of neglect.  After a long season of one scheduled event after another, one would think that the Rose Garden neighborhood deserved a respite, but not in this administration's commercial mind. I cannot tell you exactly from where the music was being broadcast early Saturday morning, but you could hear it from Cedar Crest Blvd. to 17th Street. These commercial add on events may be fine for a park system with no scheduled recreation, but that's not the case in Allentown, especially Cedar Park.

I don't write much about Pawlowski's trouble with the FBI, that's above my paygrade, but I can tell you I consider him a park criminal. His main crime against the parks is the neglect of the WPA structures, resulting in the collapse of the Lehigh Parkway wall.  Allowing the Wildlands Conservancy to demolish the Robin Hood Dam, to garner a grant, was another crime.  While the park system infrastructure crumbles, Pawlowski brags about people paying to be sprayed with colored powders.

Oct 23, 2015

Allentown's Pawlowski Girl

When Louie Belletieri ran in the 2005 Democratic primary against Pawlowski, he was supported by his fellow business person at 12th and Chew, Candida Affa. When Pawlowski won the primary, Candida switched her loyalty to him, and has never looked back. Pawlowski, in turn, has rewarded her devotion with numerous appointments, and she has never failed to support the company policy. This year she was recruited to run for City Council, and supported by the Pawlowski PAC, until political manager Mike Fleck disappeared, in the Pawlowski-Gate scandal. While other candidates are trying to distance themselves from Pawlowski, Candida doubles down. "What the mayor needs now is more support..." It's unclear to me if it's blind loyalty, or she may be oblivious of current events. I believe that in all the years of pushing Pawlowski agendas, she has only attended one council meeting. She personifies what's wrong with Allentown politics.

Downhill On Lehigh Street

During the early 1970's, Allentown demolished the entire neighborhood between Union and Lawrence Streets. It was, in a large part, home to the black community. How ironic that we destroyed the cohesion of a neighborhood, but renamed Lawrence Street after Martin Luther King. The only remnant of the neighborhood is the St. James A.M.E. Church. Going up the hill today we now have a vacant bank call center on the east, and the Housing Authority Project on the west. A whole neighborhood existed in from both sides of Lehigh Street, including black owned shops. The houses were old and humble, but people owned them, many for generations. Some blacks at the time wondered if the project was Urban Renewal or Negro Removal?

 reprinted from January of 2011

Oct 22, 2015

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 November 2011

Oct 21, 2015

Leasing Allentown Municipal

I know nothing about golf, last time I was on the city course was as a 11 year old caddy.  However, I know something about Pawlowski. The problem with leasing the course golf, simply put, is that Pawlowski and this administration doesn't have the trust to continue making such decisions. Even before the recent FBI investigation, the golf course restaurant lease was political. While the administration justifies the proposal because the course lost $163,000 in 2014, please remember that we paid Atiyeh $1.4million for land that we didn't need, to expand a park system that we can't take care of, as is. The current pro, under job duress, is an interested bidder in Pawlowski's quick lease scheme. I'm sure that if council nixes the leasing, that gentleman will make sure that the course is in the black next year. However, that would involve council doing something new for them, saying no. After ten years of Pawlowski, that's a power that they seem to have forgotten that they process.

Oct 20, 2015

Molovinsky on Weddings and Elections

On Friday night I stepped out, by myself, to attend the Fegley Wedding Bash at the Brew Pub, the Mrs. couldn't go, she was tied up. Steven Ramos asked me if I was there to cover the event for the blog, and I said "no," just to smell the wedding flowers. Steven is running for city controller as a Republican. Who would expect a Hispanic to be a Republican in Allentown? His opponent, Mary Ellen Koval, is the incumbent hand picked by the Pawlowski/Fleck PAC. She has been busy lately gathering documents as ordered by the FBI subpoenas. Come election day, in two weeks, Steven is the integrity that this city so desparately needs. I would also strongly recommend the groom himself, Rich Fegley, for city council. Fegley is not on the ballot, but is running a write in campaign. The new electronic voting machines have a keyboard, which makes the write-in option easier. Voters only need to type FEGLEY to begin changing this city for the better.

Oct 19, 2015

WPA, A Work In Progress

On Labor Day in 2011, The Morning Call ran a story about my efforts in regard to the neglected WPA structures, and announced my upcoming meeting at the Allentown Library. Among those in attendance at that meeting was Karen El-Chaar, director of Friends Of The Allentown Parks. Later that year, I took El-Chaar on a tour of the WPA structures throughout the park system. In 2013, I conducted my first tour of the WPA in Lehigh Parkway, in conjunction with Friends Of The Parks. This year, El-Chaar successfully secured a grant from The Trexler Trust, which is currently being used to restore the steps at Fountain Park. The grant is being supervised by Lindsay Taylor, Allentown Park Director. The work is being done by Dietrich Stonemasonry, and managed by parks supervisor, Rick Holtzman.

Although much work remains to be done, it's my sense that all the decision makers mentioned above, are developing a greater appreciation of the unique gift that the WPA bestowed upon the Allentown park system.  I'm hoping that both that interest and work continues this coming spring and summer, especially in preserving the remaining portion of the wall in Lehigh Parkway.

Oct 16, 2015

Guarding Allentown City Hall

I've been intrigued by a recent report, by Emily Opilo in The Morning Call, by actions seeming to complicate the paper's discovery about the Ciiber contract,  which is apparently an object of the FBI investigation.  The city solictitor, Susan Ellis Wild,  refused to release documents requested under the company's former name,  Five C. This obstacle required the paper to file a new right to know request, under the new name, Ciiber.  Furthermore,  Susan Wild then responded with a thirty day delay, to review the second request.
Wild said she canceled the city's contract with Ciiber on July 16 after the company failed to provide the city with proof of liability insurance. Wild said she contacted city directors who would have been affected. None, she said, was opposed to canceling it. Wild said she also consulted with Managing Director Francis Dougherty before pulling the plug but did not speak to Pawlowski about the cancellation. "I got concerned about their responsiveness in general," Wild said of Ciiber. "If they couldn't respond before the contract, how would they respond after [it was executed]."
What is startling about this whole sequence is that the contract was only cancelled after it became an object of interest by the FBI.  Although Wild does serve at the Mayor's pleasure, she stated when all the commotion began, that it isn't her job to defend the mayor or any person at city hall. Although I understand the technicality that  Ciiber never satisfied the insurance requirements,  decisions to institute or cancel contracts are not normally made by the solicitor, although that office might consult, and send such notices. Additionally, Wild went out of her way to not have the mayor involved with her decision.  Wild is certainly appearing to be injecting her office defensively on the mayor's behalf, against both the ill fated Ciiber contract,  and the paper's attempt at scrutiny of city hall.

Oct 15, 2015

As Allentown Turns

Linden Street is reduced to one lane today, as a private contractor installs stencils on the street for the bike lane. I had forgotten about this idiotic plan. Let us hope that the projections for the arena's success are more realistic than their vision for the bike lane's use. Also observed on my patrol today was the unbelievably slow progress of the 15th Street Bridge project. More concrete and steel is completed in one day on the arena and City Center buildings, than has yet to be completed on the bridge. The entire southside of Allentown remains prisoner to misplaced priorities. Talking of misplaced priorities, yesterday the Administration applauded itself for starting the eastside fire house, a year and half late.
UPDATE: ABOUT THIS POSTCARD- Earlier this week I used a postcard of Lehigh Parkway in the Give A Damn, Save A Dam post.  Both cards have a similar coloration and were photographed by Harold Becraft in the early 1950's.  Becraft was a photographer from Suffern N.Y.,  who produced many of the images used in the postcards of Allentown's parks.  These cards were produced locally by E.H. Schall Co.  In addition to Becraft's name on the front, they're also marked Kodachrome.  Although Becraft did many park scenes for Schall, the image shown above is one of his few cityscapes.

reprinted from May of 2013

UPDATE OCTOBER 15, 2015: We seem to have two types of government, slow or greedy. The entire square arena block was built before the 15th street bridge was completed. While two and four men worked on the bridge for two years, 300 men worked around the clock on the arena. The old 15th Street Bridge, built around 1953, was a study in neglect. One city administration after another deferred maintenance,  because there was a plan for a new bridge, although the plan took decades to come to fruition. Then the contract, to save money, wasn't time sensitive. The greater NIZ arena project, including affiliated buildings, which allows the developers to reap an unaccounted for money stream of public taxes, was built as if money was no object, because it wasn't.  So, while a city was inconvenienced by a snail pace public bridge project, our state taxes were used for overtime, to speed up a bonanza for the barons.

Oct 14, 2015

Allentown Internment Camp For Homeless

According to Rich Fegley, who is a write-in candidate for Allentown City Council this year, the city will use the Fountain Park Pool House as a homeless shelter this winter. Although pool house sounds like a cabana, it's actually a stark concrete block building from the 1940's, where you could change into a swimming suit. This barrack opens to a high fenced in area, where the idle empty pools sit in a state of dilapidation. During the day, if they're physically capable of it,  the homeless can attempt to climb the steep steps, going three block straight up toward Walnut Street. Only a few years ago, the homeless lived under the 8th Street Bridge, in a small shantytown. The First Lady of Allentown, Lisa Pawlowski, had that demolished, and the hapless homeless ended up at Alliance Hall last year, after spending a couple of winters in a church basement. For whatever reason, perhaps Alliance Hall is too close to the downtown renaissance, the hapless will now be back on Martin Luther King Drive.

ADDENDUM: The Morning Call has picked up on the story.  According to them,  the pool house is currently under renovation.  However,  the paper also had the parkway wall collapsing while under renovation.  Nothing had been done to the parkway wall for 80 years prior to the collapse, and nothing has been done since.  So far,  the same invisible city crew has been working at the pool house.

Oct 13, 2015

WPA Labor Bears Fruit

I can't exactly tell you how long I have been advocating for Allentown's WPA structures, probably at least a decade. I can't tell you how many blog posts I've written, many dozen, or letters to the editor, dozens also. I have conducted meetings at the library, given tours of the structures, and excavated structures buried in the 1980's. I have lobbied several city councils and am currently tormenting a third park director. I'm now pleased to announce that for the first time in many years, some work is occurring on these irreplaceable icons of our park system. The stone steps have been reset and re-pointed in Irving Park. Currently, the missing steps at Fountain Park are being replaced, and by next week, I believe that the Union Terrace staircase wall will be repaired. I'm not known for praising, but next week I will try to properly thank the people authorizing these repairs.

reprint from The Morning Call, May of 2009

Oct 12, 2015

Another Morning Call Infomercial

As an advocate for the park system, seeing the above photograph from the Morning Call article on the Lehigh River parks, was a harsh joke.  The article is subtitled, Insider's Guide To The Lehigh Valley. It actually is an outsider's guide. The reporter states that he has never been to these parks previously, and his tour gulde is Pawlowski.  I'll go further, and doubt that any of recent park directors have ever been to Canal Park, which is in a condition somewhere between neglect and hazard.  Before I go further, let's be clear that the Morning Call asked Pawlowski, whose negligence allowed the iconic Lehigh Parkway entrance wall to collapse, to be it's tour guide in the parks.  Nothing has been done in Canal Park since Pawlowski was elected as mayor in 2005, or before that, when he served as Community Development Director, under Mayor Afflerbach.  Pawlowski even refers to the train line through Canal Park as a problem.  Someone should inform him that it is the main west line of Norfolk Southern, and more relevant to Allentown than he is, certainly at this time. As if that wasn't enough irony, Pawlowski is considering a new park to neglect,  for boat launching. All this attention about the river is part of the paper's hype for the new NIZ construction, soon to begin by the Tilghman Street Bridge. In a recent exchange with a Morning Call writer/editor, he defended the informercials
concerning the NIZ. Although I have been sending notes to the paper about the deplorable conditions in the existing parks, they choose instead to engage in a puff promotion for the NIZ, featuring a future indictee. Pass the Tums.

ADDENDUM: In regard to an earlier post, regarding emergency repairs needed at Union Terrace, shared by somebody on facebook,  Joe McDermott commented, "Fine, who is willing to pay more taxes to make those repairs, Mike Molvinsky, maybe?"  This is disturbing, because McDermott is a former Morning Call reporter who now pens for Pawlowski.  So, although this administration paid Abe Atiyeh $1.4 million dollars for land it's not using or needs for the park system, it employs a hack to link park maintenance with higher taxes.

photo by April Bartholomew/The Morning Call

Oct 9, 2015

Shame on LCCC, Again

When the NIZ was in the planning stages, before we, the unwashed public, knew about it, Lehigh Carbon Community College was already playing ball with the big boys, at the expense of their students. Those compromises started when their dean didn't object to the bus stop being removed from in front of it's Hamilton Street building. The college had no problem with their students walking from the transportation interment camp on 7th, beyond Linden. I phoned their dean at the time, and posted about it here on molovinsky. My next post concerned their willingness sell out to Reilly's plans to own the entire 700 block of Hamilton Street. They justified that compromise by saying that the building no longer served their needs. Now, that Reilly really has slowed down, seems that the building is again adequate enough. Although J.B. put on the smiley face about Talen going Jaindl, he's really not a happy baron about that. What has irritated me enough to write this third complaint about LCCC, is their program to train workers for the new NIZ restaurant jobs. I'm a proponent of community colleges, I see them as an opportunity for more students to continue their education. Although, I expect to see a lower bar on student admission standards, I expected that the deans and administration should be professional. Colleges, even community colleges, shouldn't stoop to training peanut vendors for the arena.

Oct 8, 2015

The NIZ As Etch A Sketch

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

Oct 7, 2015

Allentown As A Bustling Downtown

Just as people who visit Disneyland know that they're not really in the west or the future, visitors to downtown Allentown know that it's really not bustling. Bustling was a gift word bestowed on J.B. Reilly's City Center Public Tax Funded Empire, by The Morning Call. The Morning Call itself is struggling. Yesterday, their mother ship The Tribune Corporation, offered a buyout plan to it's senior workers. Unfortunately, most of the people at the paper are just a little too young to retire, and too old to land somewhere else. Most will pass on the offer, hoping to keep their seat when the musical chairs start playing again. In the meantime, we readers will be treated to words like bustling, even as reality starts to set in, before the paint is  dry on the new restaurant walls. While Grain opens this week, the pickings are slow at Roar. Too many restaurants already for the thin event schedule, and quick lunch times available for the imported office workers. J.B. will have to again prime the pump with another round of gift cards for the esteemed office workers. The Morning Call will have to review another restaurant, and coin yet another word describing excitement at Allentown's Disneyland.

Oct 6, 2015

Allentown's WPA Watchmen

Being a self appointed watchman over Allentown's WPA structures is an act in frustration. Since I started posting about the neglect of the structures in 2008, I have seen nothing of substance done. Actually, besides the steps at Irving Park being rebuilt, I have seen nothing done at all. While rebuilding that small staircase was positive, many negatives occurred in the meantime. The meantime has been over seven years. Also in the meantime, another set of steps were removed from Irving Park. The staircase at Union Terrace is deteriorating to the point where that structure is in jeopardy. The repair to a remaining staircase at Irving was done with a $25,000 grant from the Trexler Trust. In the last seven years, the park department's budget has been over $25 million dollars. The playground at Cedar Beach cost $1 million. Pawlowski has rejected my offer to be a liaison on behalf of the WPA structures. I'm pictured above standing over the former WPA wall, after it collapsed this summer, closing Lehigh Parkway's classic entrance. This city's history and future are tied to our park system and other quality of life issues, not just some private/public new buildings. I know there's no big money or national attention to be gained in fixing an old wall, but we have a responsibility to the things which made this city unique.

Oct 5, 2015

Mr. Pawlowski, Build Up This Wall

From a distance, the double stairwell off of St. Elmo Street, down into Union Terrace, looks pretty good. As you get closer, the disrepair becomes more apparent. The neglect and demise of this icon is nothing new, I have been writing about it for years. Union Terrace was the last major park developed by the WPA, and without a doubt, the most ambitious. The amphitheater and raised stage is separated by the Cedar Creek, an incredible symphony of landscape design. The park is now called Joseph Daddona Terrace, but I always use the original names, they have more meaning and history. The top of the main wall of the staircase is missing numerous cap stones. As this winter weather begins, water will seep down into the middle of the wall and freeze. This freezing and expansion cycle can destroy the irreplaceable wall in short order. Let us hope that a city with a $billion dollars of new development can find a few dollars to seal the top of this wall.

reprinted from November of 2014

ADDENDUM: Although, I have been writing about the need for maintenance at Union Terrace for years, the above post appeared last November, under the title, Emergency At Union Terrace. Unfortunately, since then not only has nothing been done, but the condition of the structure has significantly deteriorated. The flagstone on the landings has become dislodged. Pieces of the flagstone and stones from the wall, are being strewn about in the park. I have serious doubts if the wall can survive another winter, as water seeps down from the open top,  freezes and expands during the cold weather. If this irreplaceable structure is to be saved, the city must act now.

ADDENDUM:Earlier this morning I first titled this post, Ms. Taylor, Build Up This Wall. Lindsay Taylor is the current park director. I have decided instead to address the post to Mayor Pawlowski. Mr. Pawlowski has cut many ribbons opening businesses that have come and gone. Let up hope that he will turn his attention to a imperiled structure, that has graced Allentown since 1939. Let us hope that there was a lesson learned from the collapse of the WPA wall in Lehigh Parkway.

Oct 2, 2015

Nonsense In Allentown's Future

Above is some nonsense on Charlie Thiel's facebook page, about the American Parkway Bridge. By November, drivers will be able to travel on one road from the east side of Allentown, a baseball throw from Coca-Cola Park, to the city’s bustling downtown. Last year, I did a series of posts on Allentown's next mayor, in which I featured Sam Bennett and Charlie Thiel. This of course was well before the FBI visited the city's bustling downtown, and the reality that a new mayor will be coming sooner than later. Since then, Sam Bennett has been silent on all issues, except for fabricating a role in West Park's Historic District history, that she had no part of. Charlie, on the other hand, has become such a cheerleader of Allentown's nonsense, that he also has no credibility.

I've never seen Allentown's bustling downtown, but since I'm on Hamilton Street between 5th and 10th most days, perhaps Charlie can show it to me sometime. In the meantime, despite The Morning Call, Sam Bennett or Charlie Thiel, welcome to the real Allentown, as showcased at molovinsky on allentown.