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August 2, 2005 Meeting Minutes
BETHLEHEM CITY COUNCIL MEETING
Tuesday, August 2, 2005 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall
2. PLEDGE TO THE FLAG
3. ROLL CALL
President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Father Nicholas Knisely, of Trinity Episcopal Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 6. Joseph F. Leeson, Jr. was absent, 1.
4. APPROVAL OF MINUTES
The minutes of July 19, 2005 were approved.
5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances
and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)
6. OLD BUSINESS
Foulk Lumber Company – Sprinkler Installation
Mr. Donchez affirmed that the issue of the required installation of a sprinkler system at the Foulk Lumber company is an issue that the Fire Commissioner, City Council, and the Administration have talked about for a period time. Mr. Donchez asked Christopher Spadoni, City Council Solicitor, if he would have a recommendation by Friday as far as what City Council and the Administration should do so the issue can be resolved. Mr. Donchez said personally he is in favor of perhaps a deadline within four, five, or six months or the end of the year, but with a fine after that period of time. Highlighting the fact that the City has granted extensions to the company, Mr. Donchez stressed he thinks the City has “to put the hammer down” to make sure that they fulfill the agreement that was reached a few years ago. Mr. Donchez expressed the hope that there can be a fair compromise but a strong recommendation that can be supported.
President Schweder, noting that John Spirk, City Solicitor, sent a memorandum to him with respect to the issue, suggested that whatever is recommended is driven by the Fire Department and no other considerations. President Schweder, recounting the issue has been going on for two and a half years, highlighted the fact that Eugene Novak, Deputy Fire Commissioner, sent a memorandum to him questioning who else should be next exempted from the fire regulations of the City if this is allowed to happen. President Schweder, expressing the hope that there is input from the Fire Department, stressed he thinks that is really the only input that matters, and certainly in view of the waivers the company has received in the past.
A. LVIP – Zoning Text Amendments – HI and IR Districts; and Zoning Map Amendment – East Fourth Street/Route 412 Vicinity – HI to IR
The Clerk read a letter dated July 27, 2005 from Justin C. Ryan, Business Development Manager, Lehigh Valley Industrial Park, Inc. (LVIP), to which was attached a petition for Zoning Text Amendments in the HI – Heavy Industrial and IR – Industrial Redevelopment Districts, and a Zoning Map Amendment for the East Fourth Street/Route 412 vicinity from HI – Heavy Industrial District to IR - Industrial Redevelopment District.
President Schweder referred to the matter to the Planning Commission and Lehigh Valley Planning Commission.
B. Intermunicipal Liquor License Transfer Request – Starter’s Riverport
The Clerk was directed to read additional Communication 7 B into the record, as follows. The Clerk read a letter dated July 29, 2005 from Attorney Francis O’Brien, on behalf of Starter’s Riverport, Inc., requesting an Intermunicipal Liquor License Transfer of License Number R-9237, presently in the name of Raymond Pavan t/a Segatti’s Tavern, One West Main Street, Pen Argyl, Pennsylvania, to Starter’s Riverport, Inc., 11 West Second Street, Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.
President Schweder advised that a Public Hearing will take place on Tuesday, August 16, 2005 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall.
8 . REPORTS
A. President of Council
1. Administrative Order – Debra Pilorz – Sister City Commission
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Debra Pilorz to the Sister City Commission effective until August 2008. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,659 to confirm the appointment.
2. Administrative Order – Philip Pilorz – Sister City Commission
Mayor John B. Callahan appointed Philip Pilorz to the Sister City Commission effective until August 2008. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,660 to confirm the appointment.
3. Administrative Order – William Meila – Fire Civil Service Board
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed William Meila to the Fire Civil Service Board effective until February 2009. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,661 to confirm the appointment.
4. Administrative Order – Robert Curzi – Parking Authority
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed Robert Curzi to the Parking Authority effective until March 2010. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,662 to confirm the appointment.
5. Administrative Order – Richard Horvath – Electricians’ Examining Board
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed Richard Horvath to the Electricians’ Examining Board effective until July 2008. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,663 to confirm the appointment.
6. Administrative Order – Merl Turzanski – Electricians’ Examining Board
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed Merl Turzanski to the Electricians’ Examining Board effective until July 2008. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,664 to confirm the appointment.
7. Administrative Order – Marilou Cummings – Fine Arts Commission
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed Marilou Cummings to the Fine Arts Commission effective until July 2008. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,665 to confirm the appointment.
8. Administrative Order – Joseph Hoffmeier, Jr. – Parking Authority
Mayor John B. Callahan reappointed Joseph Hoffmeier, Jr. to the Parking Authority effective until July 2010. Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,666 to confirm the appointment.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 8 B 1 through 8 B 8: Mr. Arcelay,
Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr.
Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
C. Finance Committee
Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held July 20, 2005 on the following subjects: Transfer of Funds – CDBG Budget – Street Overlays; Transfer of Funds – Mechanical Bureau – Overtime; Transfer of Funds – Mechanical Bureau – Equipment Repairs – Fleet; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Norfolk-Southern Right of Way Acquisition; Hiring Replacement Firefighter; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – PennDot Grant – Sidewalks on Linden Street and Eighth Avenue, and Removing Pedestrian Bridge on Eighth Avenue; Transfer of Funds – Bioterrorism Grant – GIS Project; 2004 Parking Authority Audit; 2004 Bethlehem Authority Audit; 2004 City Audit; Report to Management – 2004 Audit; Balanced Budget – Proposed Ordinance; Sewer Assessment Fund – Repayment; Bond Issues and Grants – Review; and Police Memorial – Payment of Outstanding Invoice.
9. ORDINANCES FOR FINAL PASSAGE
A. Bill No. 33 – 2005 – Amending Article 927 – Eliminating Sewer Rate Quantity Discount
The Clerk read Bill No. 33 – 2005, Amending Article 927 - Eliminating Sewer Rate Quantity Discount, on Final Reading.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 33 – 2005, hereafter to be known as Ordinance 4333, was declared adopted.
10. NEW ORDINANCES
A. Bill No. 34 – 2005 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Norfolk-Southern Right of Way Acquisition; PennDot Grant – Sidewalks on Linden Street and Eighth Avenue, and Removing Pedestrian Bridge on Eighth Avenue
The Clerk read Bill No. 34 – 2005, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – Norfolk-Southern Right of Way Acquisition; PennDot Grant – Sidewalks on Linden Street and Eighth Avenue, and Removing Pedestrian Bridge on Eighth Avenue, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
THE 2005 CAPITAL BUDGET FOR NON-UTILITIES.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr.
Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 34 –
2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
B. Bill No. 35 – 2005 – Amending Article 121 – Finances – Requiring a Balanced Budget
The Clerk read Bill No. 35 – 2005, Amending Article 121 – Finances – Requiring a Balanced Budget, sponsored by Mr. Leeson and Mr. Mowrer, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ARTICLE 121 OF THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES ENTITLED,
FINANCES, BY REQUIRING A BALANCED BUDGET.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 35 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
C. Bill No. 36 – 2005 – Reimbursing Sewer Assessment Fund
The Clerk read Bill No. 36 – 2005, Reimbursing Sewer Assessment Fund, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer, and titled:
AN ORDINANCE OF THE CITY OF BETHLEHEM,
COUNTIES OF LEHIGH AND NORTHAMPTON,
COMMONWEALTH OF PENNSYLVANIA, AMENDING
ORDINANCE 4029, AS AMENDED BY ORDINANCE
4061, FOR REIMBURSEMENT OF THE SEWER
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. Bill No. 36 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.
Considering Resolutions 11 A through 11 D As A Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 A through 11 D as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Donchez, 6. The motion passed.
A. Transfer of Funds – CDBG Budget – Street Overlays
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,667 that transferred $5,000 in the Community Development Budget from the East Fifth Street – Phase II Account to the Street Overlays Account to provide additional funds needed for street overlays.
B. Transfer of Funds - Mechanical Bureau – Overtime
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,668 that transferred $6,000 in the General Fund Budget from the following Accounts: $4,000 - Parks – Plant Maintenance, $1,000 -Buildings – Plant Maintenance, $500 Recreation – Operating Supplies, and $500 Recreation – Special Programs, to the Mechanical Maintenance – Overtime Account, to cover the cost of stand-by pay and estimated emergency call-outs for the remainder of the year.
C. Transfer of Funds – Mechanical Bureau – Equipment Repairs – Fleet
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,669 that transferred $15,323 in the General Fund Budget from the Unforeseen Contingency Account to the Mechanical Maintenance – Equipment Repairs – Fleet Account for repair of the 1997 Sutphen Aerial.
D. Transfer of Funds – Bioterrorism Grant – GIS Project
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer sponsored Resolution 14,670 that transferred $51,012 in the General Fund Budget from the Bioterrorism Account to the Equipment-Bioterrorism Account to provide funding for the purchase of a GIS Server and related equipment for public health call centers.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 A through 11 D: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
Considering Resolutions 11 E through 11 H as a Group
Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to consider Resolutions 11 E through 11 H as a group. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
E. Certificate of Appropriateness – 22 West Fourth Street
Ms. Szabo and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,671 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to install signage at 22 West Fourth Street.
F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 423 Wyandotte Street
Ms. Szabo and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,672 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the façade at 423 Wyandotte Street.
G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 111-113 West Fourth Street
Ms. Szabo and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,673 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to renovate the exterior of 111-113 West Fourth Street.
H. Certificate of Appropriateness – 709 East Morton Street
Ms. Szabo and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,674 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the windows at 709 East Morton Street.
Voting AYE on Resolutions 11 E through 11 H: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The Resolutions passed.
12. NEW BUSINESS
Financial Analyst for City Council
Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee, recounted that, at the Final Budget Meeting on the 2005 Budget, City Council discussed the idea of a financial analyst for City Council on an as-needed basis, not a new employee or part-time employee. Affirming the matter was further discussed at the June 29, 2005 Finance Committee meeting, Mr. Donchez confirmed that two Proposals were received in response to the Requests for Proposals that were issued, and a third proposal came in a few weeks later following a newspaper report. Mr. Donchez explained that, after a lengthy discussion at the June 29 Finance Committee meeting, the feeling was that, since the rates contained in the proposal from Public Financial Management of Philadelphia ranged from approximately $50 to $250 an hour, the amount of money allocated in City Council’s Professional Services Account would probably be used very quickly, even on an as-needed basis. Observing that the matter was an attempt for City Council to see if there were any interest in assisting with review of bond issues, refinancings, and so on, Mr. Donchez restated the amount of money budgeted would not go that far in hiring a financial consultant on an as-needed basis. Mr. Donchez advised that the feeling of the Committee was to send the matter to the full City Council for discussion. Mr. Donchez expressing his opinion that Council should not move on the matter. Mr. Donchez advised he would personally be in favor of using some of the money in the budget line item for additional software since Mr. Mowrer, Mr. Leeson and other Members of Council have talked about how the City’s Budget format could be revised over a period of time to make it more consumer friendly rather than having a Budget comprised of all numbers. Mr. Donchez added that the budgets from the City of Harrisburg and the Lehigh Valley International Airport have been offered as examples. Mr. Donchez reiterated it was the feeling of the Finance Committee that City Council should review the idea of a Financial Analyst.
Mr. Donchez and Mr. Mowrer moved to table the hiring of a Financial Analyst on an as-needed basis. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 6. The motion passed.
Certificates of Appropriateness Information
Ms. Szabo recalled that City Council has received in the past the application information associated with Certificates of Appropriateness so that it could understood what was being requested. However, this practice has stopped and Council may be voting blindly on something in the absence of having the full story of what the work looks like or what is happening. Ms. Szabo asked that Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, look into the matter and have the process of sending the application information reinitiated.
Mr. Hanna stated that he will check into the matter.
13. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Joseph Trovato, 2641 Madison Avenue, noted he has been a resident for about 21 years and as a dentist for the first 13 years. Mr. Trovato said he would like to speak in support of the proposed Ordinance to prohibit gambling in the Heavy Industrial, Industrial Redevelopment, and Industrial Redevelopment-Flexible Zoning Districts that would bar casinos from the former Bethlehem Steel Corporation land. Focusing on twisting of language, Mr. Trovato remarked there are “scheming people that like to call something that it’s not what they think it is.” Mr. Trovato stressed that for the word gaming “what they really mean is gambling.” Turning to the issue of the host fee, Mr. Trovato thought it is an impact fee in that the City of Bethlehem is being offered $10 million to host the casino “when in actuality the $10 million is probably going to be used to upgrade the Police force, and augment the social services to handle the impact of gambling on this town.” Mr. Trovato expressed his opinion that it seems like an indirect admission of “something’s going to go wrong.” Mr. Trovato, asking City Council in good conscience whether or not they can accept $10 million of somebody else’s hardship because the money did come from somewhere, said he believes some money probably came from a suicide victim, or a broken family, or a problem gambler who decided to spend food or rent money intended for the family. Communicating it is more of a philosophical basis, Mr. Trovato remarked he was quite sure that any business that plunks $200-$300 million expects a return. Mr. Trovato continued on to say as a business owner he might spend 1% at least with a marketing strategy and that would involve a number of people who get paid to formulate a plan to attract people. Mr. Trovato said he feels a little intimidated that someone is going to be putting upwards of $2 million to plan a way for people to lose money, specifically money that does not stay in the City but gets siphoned away. Mr. Trovato commented that fear seems to have a common thread that came about when people were speaking at the July 5, 2005 City Council Meeting. Mr. Trovato, saying that fear may also indirectly be communicated to citizens from perhaps City Council, questioned why is the proposal not being put up for a public referendum. Mr. Trovato wondered if there is a fear that the public may come about and say no. Expressing that he realizes a referendum has little to do with what actually gets done, Mr. Trovato asserted it really does make the point that the public are allowed to speak and he would submit “that this could be the hottest issue this town has seen in a hundred years.” While commenting he knows City Council wants to act in the best interests of the City, Mr. Trovato queried “but what are those interests if you have $200 to $300 million of other interests mixing in. Maybe we’re going to get assaulted by quite a bit of strategy involving perhaps the largest weakness known which is temptation.”
Police Cruiser Cars
Dana Grubb, 2420 Henderson Place, mentioned that he noticed the new design of the Police cruiser cars, complimented the Police Commissioner, Police Department, the City, and anyone involved in the project, and communicated that he thinks the new cruiser car design looks very nice.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Mr. Grubb said one of the things he has been considering over the past several weeks is that a lot of people have been likening what is proposed to happen in Bethlehem to Atlantic City and Las Vegas and those kinds of gambling towns. Mr. Grubb thought it would be very important for everyone to look at the stand-alone casinos in the areas where they are located. Advising he has been in Green Bay, Wisconsin, Mr. Grubb noted the United Indian Nation has a single casino there which is about the size of Allentown. Continuing on to note he has been to Foxwoods, Mr. Grubb thought it might behoove people to look at the impact of Foxwoods on the locality. He cited as another example an Indian reservation near Los Angeles where there is a casino.
Mr. Grubb, referring to a newspaper article in last Friday’s Morning Call concerning the City’s grants management processes, commented in some ways it questions some of the practices that were implemented during his tenure as the Grants person responsible for oversight of City grants, and said he wants “to set the record straight on a number of items. Out of my 27 plus years with the City I did spend 17 years on grants management. And that came about as a result of recommendations from the City’s Auditors in 1990 where they felt administrative oversight of all grants should be consolidated under one office. I went from managing fewer than ten grants to eventually annually managing a range of 40 to 50 grants each year as a result of this centralization. I was given assistance in the form of Grants Coordinator Stacy Milo in February of 1997 as a part time employee to address this increased work load. And then, in January of 2000, I was assigned the additional administrative responsibility for six bureaus and divisions within the Department of Community and Economic Development…, this is in addition to the grants, making me responsible for operations involving over 90% of the entire Department’s staffing. At the same time, the Grants Coordinator became a full time City employee. Health grant invoices were never hand written. Health grant invoices, as indicated by the Health Director in this article, were prepared in my office based on submissions of documentation from the Health Bureau, and if those submissions were incomplete, and proved complete, the invoices to the various agencies (sic). So, it would behoove that we would get complete sets of documentation which often was not the case. I did spend a number of hours with her as well as with prior Health Directors to try to mitigate these ongoing concerns, but it still continued. Medicare reimbursements were never, ever assigned to the grants administration office. There seemed to be some linkage in this article. It had absolutely nothing to do with grants management. Their preparation and submission should have been solely the responsibility of the Health Bureau, and had we been assigned that responsibility it probably would have been akin to us handling all of the ambulance billings for the City as well. It was not our responsibility. The Administration knows that all Recycling grant reimbursements were submitted in a timely fashion. There’s no doubt about that. Any delays associated with the receipt of those revenues were a direct result of delays at the State level, and in particular because of positions that were eliminated who reviewed and processed those applications. There certainly is no correlation from last year to this year because I no longer hear that the revenues are up. We just happened to get the performance grant earlier than we normally do. We happened to get other grants and get caught up through the Pennsylvania DEP so the monies finally came in. It’s also important to note that the City can only invoice for costs that it actually incurs. So, if revenues are up, expenditures are up. There’s a direct correlation between the two, and so if Police grants, or Health grants, or any other grant has a higher revenue return this year, it’s because expenditures are up. It’s important also to note that almost every grant program does operate on a reimbursement basis. And this is very important because the City is pretty much at some risk with the process of these reimbursements because everything can be done in a timely basis and there can be delays at another end of that whole reimbursement process. I think it’s important that the City be in a position to be able to float those costs when in fact the actual receipt of the grant monies is entirely out of their hands once the grant reimbursement requests are submitted. We’ve got to recognize that and be prepared to deal with that particularly in cases like the Recycling grants where there were such long delays. I would also point out the Director of Community and Economic Development and the Health Director have no significant grants expertise at all with the City of Bethlehem, and based on this fact I personally would seriously question either of their abilities to assess grants management practices within the City of Bethlehem. Calling the new process for handling grants, saying it’s not decentralization which essentially is what it is, is in my opinion disingenuous. And, I believe that the City should heed the cautions expressed by the Auditors, Parente Randolph. For 15 years, grant process was handled in a centralized position, it was based on Auditor recommendations, and it was also Administration mandated. All of a sudden now it’s going to be decentralized. I will admit mistakes were made. If you’re not working, you’re not making mistakes. But mistakes were remedied very easily by either submitting revised invoices, or submitting invoices the following month. So, it was very easy to pick up any errors as the numbers were crunched. With Ms. Milo’s resignation and my earlier retirement you lost almost 30 years of grants management experience in the City of Bethlehem within an eight month period. So, I think there’s something to be concerned about there. On top of that, the City Administration’s decided to dump the City’s long-term CD consultants who might have been able to help bridge this transitional period and provide some continuity. We’re going to be dealing with a firm now that their primary experience, according to their website, is in the State of New Jersey. I think it’s also important to continue to recognize that in the last four years the entire Economic Development staff has turned over. We’re on our third Economic Development Director. We’ve lost a Health Director and a Medical Director to resignation, a great deal of staff who were extremely dedicated, had a high level of integrity and commitment to their jobs. I think people should be asking why. And, lastly, I’d like to thank everybody personally who, and they were all unnamed in the article, who praised Ms. Milo for her abilities because I felt the same way. I felt everything would be in good hands the day that I would eventually leave. Her dedication, her ethics and integrity were to be admired. And, I’d like to point out that I’m the one who trained her.”
Peter Crownfield, 569 Brighton Street, with reference to the earlier discussions about the Harrisburg budget format, remarked, although some things could be learned from the format, “but not their process, please, midnight passage and nobody getting a chance to read the laws before they’re passed. They could learn something from our process here.”
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Mr. Crownfield, recalling that somebody accused Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson of trying to impose their morality on the citizens of Bethlehem said he does not think that is the case at all. Mr. Crownfield thought all the Members of City Council and the Administration for the most part of simply trying to do what they think is best for the community. Acknowledging all may not always agree on what is best for the community, Mr. Crownfield communicated that alleging these ulterior motives is wrong. Expressing there are valid moral concerns, Mr. Crownfield noted many of them have been addressed. Mr. Crownfield continued on to say he thinks things need to be looked at on a more practical, pragmatic level. Stressing there is a reason why people are spending millions of dollars to get gambling approved, and why the people who are spending that are in Las Vegas, Mr. Crownfield said “it’s because they know that hundreds of millions of dollars are going to come out of…[Bethlehem] and go to them. They’re not going to go to us…So, they’re willing to spend 2% on their impact fee…so that they can take a huge percentage out of the City. And, sure, $10 million sounds good. A lot of jobs sounds good, but the numbers are very ambiguous and uncertain, and remember that many of them are going to be minimum wage jobs unless Bethlehem, of course, would pass a living wage ordinance, as some of our more enlightened cities around the country have done, to guarantee that people who work full time can at least live on the pay that they earn. But what are the strengths that attract people to Bethlehem, including the casinos. It’s the strengths of Bethlehem that are attracting them here, the historic district, the sense of community, the strong local business presence, stronger than many cities of this size, the vibrant arts community, particularly on the South Side. And, I think there’s ample evidence from other cities that these things are adversely impacted, all of them, by the presence of gambling. I think it comes down to the question…do we want to attract…some potential and some known problems here, or continue to emphasize the honest, creative efforts that have made Bethlehem strong.”
Atomic Bomb – 60th Anniversary
Mr. Crownfield recited a short history lesson written by David Krieger in 1945: “August 6th - dropped atomic bomb on civilians at Hiroshima. August 8th – agreed to hold war crimes trials for the Nazis. August 9th – dropped atomic bomb on civilians at Nagasaki.” Mr. Crownfield, observing that individually maybe they made sense, remarked but it really looks strange taken in the context of those three days. Mr. Crownfield read a poem written by a student who was a sophomore at George Mason University at the time titled Nine, as follows: Nine seconds of red air crashing through blood and bones, melting gold caps and wire glasses, twisting every bite for as far as you can see, if you can see. Burning flesh driven by blind eyes into the relief of scalding water. Nine fingers on a new-born’s hand. Mother’s milk sour with radiation crying into ears burned deaf. Doctors who will never recover from what they’ve witnessed in melted-over empty eye sockets, dangling from arms like a shedding dog with three legs. Nine suns on one spot of earth. A man coughing ashes. Grey and white bone flakes that wear old people apart on scorched wings. And we gag at Hitler’s crematorium. I was taught that Hiroshima was the symbol of American triumph. The A-bomb made a mushroom cloud when World War II ended. There was no discussion. There were no pictures of people rising in agony, mutated babies, eyeless witnesses. Only a black and white mushroom cloud reminding me of cotton candy. In college I learned those who cannot learn from the past are condemned to repeat it, and I’m wondering now why someone taught me nine was just a number, and the bomb was victory.” Mr. Crownfield highlighted the fact that, as people probably remember, it is 60th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, recalled that at the July 19, 2005 City Council Meeting he addressed the proposal of Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Leeson to amend the Zoning Ordinance to prohibit gambling in the HI, IR, and IR-F Districts, was directed to read the transmittal communication that accompanied the proposed Ordinance that set forth the thinking, and affirmed that he did. Mr. Antalics read from the memorandum as follows: “The impact of legalized gaming on the community could be significant, and a full and complete public assessment is needed.” Mr. Antalics asked the Members of Council what in their estimation is a full and complete public assessment of the issue. Mr. Antalics advised there are 40,879 registered voters in Bethlehem “which would be full and complete assessment if you ask them.” Mr. Antalics asserted “if you say something as an official, then follow through what you said. So, to me, the issue is getting out of hand. The Moravian Church says gambling is intrinsically evil. The Roman Catholic Church says gambling is not intrinsically evil. We’ve got two moral opinions diametrically opposed on an issue which should not be a moral issue. We see people from clergy here with signs. It’s polarizing the community. It’s going to turn into a circus, picketing, petitions…we’re going to have yes/no T-shirts, and we’re going to have people in Bethlehem at odds from a religious point of view on an issue that’s not moral. The State legislature when it approved gambling took out the moral issue. Morality does not enter into local government. Morality is an individual feeling, based upon their religious conviction. So for a clergy or others to be here is unfair to the people because the issue of gambling now becomes either legal, economic, or commercial entertainment because the State made it that. So what is the answer…”. Mr. Antalics queried how should the full and complete public assessment be obtained.
Mr. Mowrer explained the proposal will go through the same process as every other zoning related matter that Council deals with.
President Schweder affirmed that correspondence has been received from the Bureau of Planning and Zoning that the probable date for review of the proposal by the Planning Commission is August 24, and the time and location will be determined.
Mr. Antalics, stating that Town Hall will be filled with approximately 100 to 200 people very polarized and opinionated on moral grounds, asserted that is not a full and complete public assessment. Mr. Antalics asked if anyone on City Council will make a motion to make this issue a referendum to be put on the ballot for the citizens to say yes or no, rather than the seven Members of Council, and stressed then there will be a full and complete public assessment. Mr. Antalics said “logic’s on my side, and courage is on yours.”
President Schweder observed what Mr. Antalics has stated is flawed in the sense that he has determined by what rational process someone can arrive at a decision or belief that they have, and if in reaching the point based on moral determination that somehow they have polarized the community and have less right to speak because they arrived at that point through a process that may not be the same as Mr. Antalics or President Schweder would follow. President Schweder thought that was unfair to people who come to speak before City Council. President Schweder continued on to note that no one on Council has ever questioned the logic or the rationale that people have, or how they have answered things, or presented them at a Council meeting. President Schweder communicated it would be wrong to start that process now. With respect to placing the issue before the voters as a referendum, President Schweder advised that he spoke with the City Council Solicitor and it is being researched whether the City Council can do that or not. President Schweder informed Mr. Antalics it can be done under the law by initiative by Mr. Antalics or other people petitioning for it, but it is unclear whether it can be done without an initiative from people within the community.
Mr. Antalics suggested that in the interest of public opinion to prevent polarization of the community the bill be tabled until some sanity comes out of it.
President Schweder notified Mr. Antalics that according to State and City laws once the proposal is initiated it is then on a timetable and cannot be tabled now.
City Cleanliness and Gambling
Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, affirmed that he has been bringing up the issue of the cleanliness of the City repeatedly and it is simply to remind individuals of what can be done. Mr. Rodriquez observed there are not many residents who are willing to participate. Mr. Rodriquez said he would like the City to join him in his efforts, with police protection for the participants, and with the required tools such as gloves, shovels, and so on. Mr. Rodriquez stressed this City-community effort does not have to wait until the City has its annual clean-up, and asserted it will also teach people how to keep the City a lot cleaner. Mr. Rodriquez thanked Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, James Smith, Streets Superintendent, Police Commissioner Donchez, the Public Works Department, and Health Bureau for their help in the community. Mr. Rodriquez said it has to be a continual thing. Mr. Rodriquez explained he sees what can happen to someone who is troubled throughout their lives, and explained he had a troublesome youth himself. Remarking that he loves Bethlehem, Mr. Rodriquez stressed again that what is going to happen to the City is his main concern. Mr. Rodriquez advised there are a lot of people who oppose gambling. Mr. Rodriquez stated that he joins those who are against gambling because it will bring what he has been saying all along: crime, violence, litter, rats, infestation, gangs, and drugs. Mr. Rodriquez communicated that he is a proud Bethlehem resident, and cares about what is going to happen to the City if people do not stop and think what could happen to the City in the future. Asking Council to listen to what people are telling them, Mr. Rodriquez said evidently and obviously it will drive out a lot of Bethlehem residents, and will take along its businesses. Stressing that money is the root of all evil, Mr. Rodriquez remarked that is what will be brought into the City by gambling in general and it will affect everyone and the way they live. Mr. Rodriquez, commenting that he feels sorry for those who are making those decisions that they will bow their heads in shame for the mistakes they are making, said “think again.” Mr. Rodriquez restated he will do his utmost best to oppose gambling. Mr. Rodriquez asked that he be notified of the August 24 meeting.
Steep Slope Ordinance
Jeffrey Zettlemoyer, 1304 E. Sixth Street, expressed that he wanted to make City Council aware that the Steep Slope Ordinance “by caveat is being routinely overrun by the Zoning Hearing Board.” Advising that he lives on a steep slope, Mr. Zettlemoyer said he sees what the force of water does, and has had over $3,000 in damage to his home because of development happening in his back yard. Mr. Zettlemoyer highlighted the fact that there are three proposals before the Planning Commission to increase slopes, increase water runoff, and then after the fact work with the Public Works Department to put in catch basins. However, Mr. Zettlemoyer thought the catch basins should be much larger because of the flow of the water. Mr. Zettlemoyer, informing the Members that the neighbors have seen many of their properties ruined by the development that is going on next door to his property, noted there is mud and rocks. Mr. Zettlemoyer continued on to say that at Sixth and Edwards Streets and William Streets one can see rocks in the middle of the street that sometimes are thrown around by youth. Affirming “we do have a problem,” Mr. Zettlemoyer reiterated that the Steep Slopes Ordinance should be revisited and “be incumbent upon your Zoning Hearing Board not to just grant variance after variance on this issue.” Mr. Zettlemoyer, advising he has been to three of the Zoning Hearing Board meetings and spoke against all three proposals, pointed out that the Board still voted for the proposals 2 to 0 and 3 to 0, respectively.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Mr. Zettlemoyer noted that in the area of planning City officials have asked for the citizens help on the South Side, and there is a Greenway on which a lot of time and money was spent. Turning to the issue of gambling, Mr. Zettlemoyer highlighted the fact that there have been countless hours spent by South Side residents who spent time working with the developers behind the scenes, and stressed that over 3,000 hours were spent by various members of the community who have tried to bring this to fruition. Thanking City officials for asking the South Side community for its help, and advising they will do it again, Mr. Zettlemoyer explained “we just don’t want to see some project go by the wayside.” Mr. Zettlemoyer added that is something else to consider when the whole gaming aspect is looked at.
Stating “we looking for jobs on the South Side,” Mr. Zettlemoyer recalled that years ago one could work at Bethlehem Steel Corporation for $12 an hour, and pointed out that now there are not many jobs on the South Side. Mr. Zettlemoyer thought “it’s incumbent upon this Council, as they have since 1965, to be involved in our neighborhoods, when the first project of the Redevelopment Authority was to tear down most of the Heights in the guarantee that there would be always jobs at Bethlehem Steel. Mr. Zettlemoyer confirmed “we no longer have a Bethlehem Steel, we no longer have the jobs, we’re a service related industry, and until you bring somebody big in that can provide that level of jobs, we’re all out there collecting.”
City Employment Duties
Mr. Zettlemoyer, stating he would like to corroborate some of what Dana Grubb will be telling City Council about, noted he was on staff at City Hall for 13 years. Mr. Zettlemoyer stated, as the former compliance officer for the City of Bethlehem, when he left the employment of the City he had 14 job titles, and further advised of that one of them was to be in the grants administration area. Mr. Zettlemoyer explained his job in the Community Development Department was segmented and he was placed in the area of personnel, something he was not qualified to do, and he ran the safety training program for the City of Bethlehem, among all the other things he did for CDBG. Stating that one of the major recommendations of HUD was to document all compliance issues and that was part of his job, Mr. Zettlemoyer said he did it with fervor and vigor, and he got the facts sometimes. Mr. Zettlemoyer, continuing on to communicate that other departments were not as cooperative, stated “this problem precedes this Mayor’s Administration, precedes the Mayor before him, and it precedes the Mayor before him. Sometimes it’s personality, but sometimes you’re asking questions people don’t want asked…[w]e say as grantsmen if you want the money, live with our rules. If you don’t want the money, don’t live with the rules, do what you want…That’s the kind of rapport sometimes staff has to have with recalcitrant people who do not want to give you facts, figures, statistics that you need to develop your reports. I can tell you that it cost me my employment with the City. And, I can tell you that the adjunct job that I was given was not a recommendation of the consultant that they paid $25,000 to recommend to have a safety compliance officer. They wanted somebody completely separate. But, the Administration said no, we can dump it in their lap, and we’ll just let Jeff do it because he does such a great job doing the compliance with the City’s CDBG funds.”
Weeds and Other Neighborhood Issues
Mr. Zettlemoyer thanked Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, for cutting the weeds on Williams Street, and added he has been bringing it to the attention of the City for a while. Mr. Zettlemoyer advised there are some other neighborhood issues that citizens would like to address with Members of City Council at the next Southeast Block Watch meeting about which he gave to the Members a letter of notification.
Community Policing Task Force – Police Civilian Review Board
John Morganelli, 835 Barnsdale Road, Northampton County District Attorney, noted that the Morning Call on June 22, 2005 and the Express Times on June 26, 2005 reported the release of Mayor John Callahan’s task force concerning community policing in the City of Bethlehem. The newspapers reported that the Mayor’s 23 member Community Policing Task Force had drafted goals for the short, intermediate, and long term to improve police interaction with the community. The press further reported that volunteers, City Police, code enforcement officials, as well as City Council Members made up the Task Force. Mr. Morganelli continued on to say, “in the same news article, however, the local press also reported that Councilman Ismael Arcelay had suggested that the Mayor’s advisory board as presently constituted be enhanced and upgraded from an advisory board to an oversight board that would in essence have supervisory authority over the Bethlehem Police Department. Councilman Arcelay’s suggestion, as reported in the press, was to institute what is known as a police civilian review board here in the City of Bethlehem. Councilman Arcelay was specifically quoted as stating ‘we most definitely’ need such a review board. He cavalierly indicated that he was investigating allegations of Police misconduct and/or abuse, and that such allegations made the case for a citizen commission empowered to police the Police. I come here tonight to speak out against Councilman Arcelay’s proposal. Quite frankly, I am stunned that an elected official in the City would make such allegations against this Police Department without any details of the allegations. I note that on the night of the [Public Safety Committee] meeting, [Police] Commissioner Donchez asked Councilman Arcelay to bring him the details of these alleged misconducts. As of this date, to my knowledge, nothing has been brought forward, and I did speak directly to the Commissioner this morning. The idea of a police civilian review board has been around since the early 1960’s. There is hardly any study or any evidence demonstrating their effectiveness. The people who press for police civilian review boards are generally those who have a bone to pick with Police. They are often disgruntled former Police Officers, or those associated with individuals who feel they have been treated improperly by Police Officers. They are often forced upon Police Departments via pressure from the media and minority viewpoints. They are almost always reactive. Some have had a short life span of only two or three years. In general, there is a great deal of resistance by Police Officers to civilian review boards. Police civilian review boards undermine Police autonomy, generate Police antagonism, and reduce employee morale. Police civilian review boards are often given the power of subpoena to call witnesses, conduct hearings, and initiate investigations into Police misconduct. The question that’s always asked is what qualifies these individual board members to investigate and evaluate Police actions. In the profession of law enforcement, a Police Officer is not even considered to be a seasoned veteran until he or she has about five years of patrol experience. In other words, even a newly initiated Police Officer who has completed the Police Academy may not be qualified to pass judgment as a police review member. Further, these police civilian review boards often conflict with legitimate inquiries into Police conduct. All Police Departments today are presently subject to review by internal affairs, the Office of District Attorney, as well as the Attorney General, and Federal authorities. When a Police Officer does wrong, there is ample experienced agencies to review the conduct. During my tenure as District Attorney, we have prosecuted dozens of Police Officers for committing offenses. We have also referred cases involving Police conduct to the Office of Attorney General. In addition to the official agencies who review Police conduct, of course individuals always have the right to resort to the civil system. Citizens can bring civil rights actions in civil court when Police abuses occur. The creation of a civilian review board is clearly redundant. Laypersons lack a sufficient understanding of Police practices and operating conditions to knowledgeably perform meaningful evaluations. Cities who’ve utilized civilian police review boards often pay more dollars in civil settlements simply because the civilian review board did not agree with the Officer’s tactics, and so on. Let’s also consider what a civilian review board could possibly accomplish in Bethlehem. Would it have the ability to terminate an Officer? Obviously not. Would it have the ability to prosecute an Officer? Obviously not. We in law enforcement are well aware that there is always a difference of opinion with regard to almost every Police action. Those who receive Police services may or may not be satisfied. Their satisfaction or lack of satisfaction may be influenced by past experiences, expectations, influence by the media, personal prejudices, drug and alcohol influence, mental instability, personal relationships, and the list goes on. There are enumerable factors that often taint and distort the perception of Police actions. And then, of course, the recipient of enforcement by Police is rarely happy with the Officer. It would be counterproductive for these kinds of matters to be the subject of investigations by a police civilian review board. My office routinely reviews complaints about Police. In cases that are warranted, we have prosecuted Police Officers. There is no need for a public witch hunt that often occurs with the work of police civilian review boards. Police Officers are uniquely charged with performing a myriad of services, and upholding volumes and volumes of law. They are expected to do so flawlessly each and every time. They are expected to bring the unwilling and the uncooperative into compliance and custody without injury or violent appearance. They are expected to master weapons and defensive arts but never employ them against aggressors. In short, they are expected to fulfill the expectations of everyone everytime in spite of the fact that nothing will satisfy most of those who call upon them because an overwhelming majority of those they come in contact with created the situations they find themselves in by their own choice. A civilian review board is an absolutely ideal way to discourage those few members of our society who have chosen a noble profession. Police Officers are not against the citizens, but citizens are the reasons why Police Officers take their oath to protect and serve. Let me say in closing, Mayor Callahan’s efforts in bringing community input into Police-citizens relations is commendable. The work of the present advisory board that was headed by Bill Fitzpatrick, chairman, was work that was important, it was thoughtful, and appreciated. The recommendations of the Task Force I know are being seriously considered by the Mayor and Police Commissioner. I support wholeheartedly Mayor Callahan’s efforts in responding to block watch groups, etc. I am a frequent visitor of block watch groups in Bethlehem and throughout the county. I am a supporter of citizen input. I support Citizen Police Academies. And, I support Police-citizen relations and block watch organizations who are our eyes and ears in the community. I do not support an independent commission of civilian review board with investigative powers, subpoena oversight of one of the best departments in Pennsylvania. And, let me say that I don’t say that lightly. In year…2004 I traveled the State as a candidate for State-wide office, and I served as president of the State D.A.’s association. And, I can tell you that the Bethlehem Police Department has one of the finest reputations in this State. It’s an excellent Department, it shares its experience and training with many Departments throughout the State. These are Officers that are dedicated. And when a Police Officer has misused his authority he is held accountable as I mentioned earlier. I’m here tonight to request that this Council disregard Councilman Arcelay’s suggestion that we move this advisory group beyond its present mission to a new mission of Police oversight. Councilman Arcelay’s idea will destroy this Department. And, lastly, as Easton struggles with numerous problems, we should not move Bethlehem into an area that will damage the ability of this Department to operate. I feel strongly about it. And, lastly let me say that I’m amazed that this was even brought up in a public way with innuendo that there are unfounded allegations against our Police Officers out there. My office is the place to bring these complaints. We look into them. And, I just say to you Councilman Arcelay since it was your idea that as a lame duck Councilman leaving office at the end of this year I just can’t believe that you would want to trust a morale-destroying agency that will have a budget that will have to be funded by City taxpayers, believe me, those budgets run in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, and will ultimately divide this City and not unite out City.”
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Mary Pongracz, 321 West Fourth Street, said she is at the meeting to defend the Bethlehem Works project. Ms. Pongracz stressed she cannot believe what she is hearing here tonight. Ms. Pongracz communicated “we would destroy the Bethlehem Steel, founder of the Industrial Revolution in America, we would destroy BethWorks because we do not like a casino. I can’t believe that people would say it’s alright to just give up the project because we don’t like a casino. I’ve not seen anybody caged…and taken to a casino to gamble. I gamble when I want to which is rarely. That’s my decision. But to take this whole thing and concentrate on something the size of that little light over there as opposed to a national museum that’s affiliated with the Smithsonian, to the restoration of the four blast furnaces which will not be torn down, we are giving people another reason to come to Bethlehem to see something that is historically…viable. To me, the preservation of the Bethlehem Steel property is something that every citizen in this town should get up and support. Gambling does not bring crime into town. We don’t have gambling now but we sure have crime. So what is your motive to say that. Oh, we have a casino and the crime will increase. I don’t believe that. Secondly, we’re talking about jobs. The security police in the casinos will be local citizens. They will be trained. This corporation that wants to build a casino has not gotten to where it is because they’re ignorant. They want to be a good neighbor. They know how to be a good neighbor. If you choose not to gamble, that is your choice. But you cannot, and will not, shall not tell the rest of the people in this City what they may or may not do. That is totally un-American and a restriction on my freedom, and I resent that. If you choose to gamble, fine. If you choose not to gamble, it’s a personal choice…”.
Apartment Development – Parking Requirements
Dave Sanders, 69 East Goepp Street, referred to a newspaper article he read this morning about a developer who wants to build ten apartments with 20 parking spaces and 50 bedrooms, with five bedrooms in each apartment. While expressing his understanding of the need for apartments in the City, Mr. Sanders thought this was overcrowding. Mr. Sanders, observing the proposed development is about four blocks from where he lives, said what really concerns him is across the street is a development where 170 units will be built but the developer made sure there is off-street parking, and he is a proven developer. Mr. Sanders stated if this does come before City Council he would ask that City Council look into this because there would be 20 parking spaces and 50 bedrooms, and there could be two people in each bedroom. Mr. Sanders recalled that a landlord licensing Ordinance was adopted, the City has tried to have apartment dwellings turned back into single homes, and has tried to upgrade apartments so that they are taken care of by absentee landlords. Mr. Sanders, saying he thinks “this is a wrong development,” expressed if apartments are to be put there then it should be made sure that the parking is also adequate.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Mr. Sanders questioned whether a casino in Bethlehem can be stopped. Mr. Sanders, noting that people have invested, pointed out that a person has spent $2.5 million to build a casino where it was zoned for it. Mr. Sanders wondered whether the project can be stopped after that amount of money has been spent. Mr. Sanders, reiterating the property was zoned so that a slot parlor could be put there, remarked “now we’re going to turn around and say no we don’t want it. This man’s already spent two and a half million dollars on our City.” Mr. Sanders added it looks like the project will bring some jobs. Referring to a meeting held at a church, Mr. Sanders said he heard the individual has some great plans, and thought people should listen to him.
William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, said he wants to put in a plug for assessment as in full and complete public assessment. Commenting there is going to be some polarization because it is an important issue and some people are going to get emotional about it, Mr. Scheirer expressed that the answer to polarization in a sense is the word assessment, a full and complete assessment with all the pros and cons. Mr. Scheirer, stating this does not preclude a referendum, said “as you know I favor a referendum and I think it’s necessary. But the referendum is not necessarily an assessment. It’s an assessment in a political sense…but not necessarily in an analytical sense.” Mr. Scheirer thought both a referendum and assessment are needed. Mr. Scheirer said the proper place for the assessment is at the City Council Meeting. He added it will be taking place at every Council Meeting until the issue is resolved.
Judy Ruth, 2017 Ridgelawn Avenue, stressed she does not see “where [gambling] can’t not possibly be a moral issue.” Expressing her opinion that anything that affects people in a negative way has to do with morals, Ms. Ruth said the overwhelming evidence of research shows that gambling has a negative impact on people. Ms. Ruth, acknowledging there are gambling addictions, continued on to say it brings in crime, gangs, and drugs. Ms. Ruth asserted anybody who does not think there are negative effects of gambling need to take a serious look at the situation. Ms. Ruth, saying that government is involved in making moral decisions, exemplified there are laws that state one is not allowed to steal or kill or other things that affect other people negatively. Communicating that government has a trust to protect people, Ms. Ruth remarked what is the point of government if it is not going to protect citizens. Ms. Ruth, likening gambling to cancer, asserted “when you allow a cancer to come into a City and start destroying the citizens of that City, even if it’s less than 2% [who] become addicted gamblers, that’s less than 2% too many. People’s lives are important. Children’s lives are important. Children are going to be coming from broken families. And, any government that is going to approve and allow something like this to come into the City has betrayed its trust. I’m here to ask you to please seriously consider zoning gambling out of this City completely.”
Lucy Lennon, 24 E. Third Street, said she heard some myths tonight that she does not want Members of City Council or the public going away with. Ms. Lennon, noting she is against the gambling proposal for economic reasons, stated she has a restaurant on the South Side. Ms. Lennon, advising she has spent weeks on the issue, pointed out that eight years ago fund raising started for the museum. Ms. Lennon, referring to the press conference she attended when there was a ribbon cutting, stated she heard a gentleman make the remark that “we were the first affiliates from the Smithsonian to get this designation.” Ms. Lennon said “well, since Bethlehem did, 144 have opened since…including a 200,000 square foot museum in Pittsburgh…[for] which it took them four years to raise the money. So, maybe it’s not Bethlehem Steel or the developers that are stopping that are going to make or break this museum, but maybe they need to do a little bit of cleaning house up there where they’re raising the money. In eight years to raise $12.5 million, and that’s not all cash, some of that is promised donations. And…there is a website called Save Our Steel and it has a list of all the different newspaper articles [in] chronological order from both the papers, and when the first plans from BethWorks Now when Mr. Perrucci…unveiled his first plans on…December 15th or 16th there was no plan for a museum there. Now, these are people that spent millions of dollars, which is what they do for a living, but according to the newspaper article the very next day they were fully committed. They just forgot to put the museum there…They’re fully committed, and this is pretty much the quote, to preserving as much of the steel as they can and allocating space for a museum. That’s not money, that’s not support, that’s saying…you can have this building over here if you raise the money for it. Well, they haven’t raised the money in eight years. So, I think if you’re looking for a casino, and this would be the same casino that last year shut down their Guggenheim exhibit in their casino but they opened a…wax museum…”. Ms. Lennon, focusing on jobs, pointed out that in Mississippi when the casinos were opened the unemployment rate was 15.1%, and a year later it was 14.6%. Ms. Lennon remarked “that’s not a huge uprising in employment.” Turning to wage scales, Ms. Lennon said the average dealer’s salary is about $13,000 a year, the average black jack dealer’s salary is approximately $15,000 a year, and a housekeeper’s salary is $18,000 a year. Stressing “they’re not making the big bucks,” Ms. Lennon stated “they don’t pay their employees a lot of money, that’s why they make the money. In the year 2000, Exxon was the biggest moneymaker in the world at $200 billion. That same year, gaming represented $60.3 billion. They’re big money. They are not good cultural neighbors. They are not warm and fuzzy. They are here to make money. They were not part of the big plan if you look back on BethWorks. When BethWorks came into town it was we are going to, according to Mr. Perrucci…, create a city…that people will drive into and they will not leave. There will be shops, there will be restaurants, there will be homes. Nothing was ever said about gambling. They bought the place on December 15th, I think. December 16th they were lobbying in Harrisburg. Then it went from three to five years for the project. Now, they’re telling us if we don’t have gaming it’ll be 15 years. Do they really want to tie their money up for 15 years. I don’t think so. So I ask that before anybody makes any kind of a decision, if you don’t have a computer at home, go over to the Library. If you need information, I am more than willing to pass [it] along…But I find it very hard to believe, and I heard different people say this, there was a Council Meeting that a Council Member here was in an uproar about a Wawa [saying] quote unquote where there’s a Wawa there is gangs and drugs…But a casino’s going to be a really good neighbor. So before anybody makes decisions, I think they really need to do more research…, you have to do the research on your own because, like myself, who ever is standing up here presenting something, they’re going to present their point of view. And, I think it’s also very important that each and every one of you reads the National Gaming Impact Study that was set up by President Clinton, years of research, and they all agree, in an area where there’s strong economic development a casino is not the place to be. It can only destroy what the City has built. And, according to what I read in the press, and with the projects that I see going on, we are a strong economically developed community. So why are we going to pass it all off.”
Mural - South Side of Fahy Bridge - Pedestrian Tunnel
Mark Ruzicka, 757 Hawthorne Road, said he is a pastor in the area, and is at the meeting to thank the Mayor and the Administration for a project in which he was involved of a mural on the south side of the Fahy Bridge at a pedestrian tunnel. Mr. Ruzicka continued on to thank Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, and Carl Bruno, Recreation Coordinator. Mr. Ruzicka informed the assembly that the mural project was an initiative led by his Christ Church UCC, along with the Unitarian Church, added the YWCA was involved, and a grant was received through St. Luke’s Hospital. He noted that children coming from camp helped to paint it. Mr. Ruzicka pointed out that is what can happen when people pull together for the benefit of the community, and explained he wanted to let people know it is there.
Maple Street and Union Boulevard – Stop Signs
Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, inquired about the status of the stop signs at Maple Street and Union Boulevard. Michael Alkhal, Director of Public Works, informed him that the situation is being monitored.
Mr. Bruch stressed that enough parking spaces should be provided for apartment developments. Turning to the development at Broad and New Streets, Mr. Bruch observed there is digging through bedrock, and pointed out that 20 parking spaces are required. Mrs. Belinski entered the conversation to advise that 28 parking spaces are required underneath the building. Mr. Bruch, pointing out that visitors will have to park in the parking garage, questioned “where is the rationale in this,” and further asked if the Planning Commission was involved in the decision.
Mayor Callahan expressed the belief that the lot is zoned CB which has no parking requirements, and advised there are parking garages in the downtown to accommodate parking for various buildings.
Mrs. Belinski informed Mr. Bruch that the Walnut Street parking garage is filled to its maximum capacity.
Mr. Bruch said there are many good things going on in the City that people do not hear anything about.
Proposed Casino in Bethlehem
Mr. Bruch, focusing on gambling, explained he wants to know what happens when things go bad, and queried “are you going to buy it, sell it, what are you going to do with it.” Mr. Bruch, remarking “do what the people want, and let the people decide on it,” asked City officials to think about the future. Mr. Bruch said the week that the Foxwoods casino opened it was so crowded with people that the State was called and a special exception was given for the casino to stay open all the time. Mr. Bruch inquired about establishments other than casinos that cannot serve liquor all night. Mr. Bruch, querying “what happened to making money the good old fashioned way,” suggested that money be made through wise investments and work.
Mr. Bruch asked if the casino will have a mercantile license. Dennis Reichard, Business Administrator, responded that based on the mercantile laws the tax is based on gross sales. Mr. Bruch queried whether gambling comes under the mercantile tax.
Mr. Bruch said he bases his opinions on “what problems that we have now, what problems that we can increase or decrease…”.
Mr. Bruch, focusing on a steel museum, wondered “where’s all the drive and the money that we’ve earned and the put up front money to have something like this come about. I don’t see it.” Mr. Bruch pointed out that at its inception the steel plant was an iron foundry. Mr. Bruch felt the blast furnaces are not needed, and questioned who is going to paint them. Mr. Bruch suggested that a mule driven river boat be started in Bethlehem.
Mr. Bruch asked Council “to do the right thing, not in your mind, the will of the people.”
City Solicitor – College Class Speaker
Mrs. Belinski, noting that John Spirk, City Solicitor, is now in attendance, asked if Attorney Spirk could go to the podium as she had a few questions to ask of him. Mrs. Belinski asked if Attorney Spirk teaches at DeSales University. Attorney Spirk replied yes. Mrs. Belinski said she believes he is the head of the Criminal Justice Department at the University. Attorney Spirk advised that he is Chair of the Department of Social Science. Attorney Spirk further informed Mrs. Belinski that a sub-department is Political Science, Criminal Justice, Psychology, Law, and Society. Mrs. Belinski asked if, in that capacity, Attorney Spirk will ask guest lecturers to come to teach his class. Attorney Spirk replied “not to teach. I teach.” Mrs. Belinski observed that in the recent past Attorney Spirk has had a guest lecturer. Attorney Spirk replied yes he has. Mrs. Belinski advised the information she has received is that Attorney Spirk’s guest lecturer was John Karoly. Attorney Spirk responded “your information is correct.” Mrs. Belinski said the subject of his lecture was the Hirko trial, and how the Bethlehem Police Department violated Mr. Hirko’s civil rights. Mrs. Belinski, highlighting the fact that Attorney Spirk is the City Solicitor, affirmed that Attorney Spirk’s clients are the Bethlehem Police Department. Mrs. Belinski continued on to say that, “as of now, as far as I know, Mr. Karoly has instituted three additional lawsuits against our Police Department, your clients, and you are entertaining him as a guest lecturer in your classroom.” Mrs. Belinski queried what was the purpose of Attorney Karoly speaking about the Hirko case. Attorney Spirk informed Mrs. Belinski the class was Current Issues in Criminal Justice, a Master’s program, CJ506, and there are three topics in the class that he deemed news worthy, relevant, current issues in criminal justice for students getting their Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice. Attorney Spirk continued on to say one of them is the interplay between the media and criminal law, and the second topic was civil liability of the police “because in any criminal justice textbooks or studies, you’ll see that that’s an area that criminal justice courses have never paid attention to. They focus on Miranda warnings, and the definition of homicide, but the civil lawsuit side and what it means to work in the criminal justice system gets very little academic attention. So I found…a textbook on civil liability of police, and I thought that would be an interesting topic for students getting their Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice to learn what’s involved in the court system when someone’s actually getting sued for doing their job and putting their life on the line, and what the ramifications on that are, and what you’ve got to prove to accomplish that. So, this textbook laid it out very clearly, and it so happens that of the 18 students in this class, fully seven of them are criminal justice/law enforcement professionals -- FBI, Bethlehem Police, South Whitehall Township Detectives, things of that nature, and they’re thrilled to learn the details of how the Section 1983 civil rights lawsuits work, and they are also thrilled to have their shot at the guest lecturer that night. And, they had their shot at him. Mr. Karoly, you think trials are a search for truth, do you really care about the truth in your presentations, Mr. Karoly…and…it was a really lively exchange…Because education isn’t all about just hearing one view…You see…real education is not just about hearing what you want to hear, or hearing one viewpoint. Real education is to broaden your mind and be exposed to lots of viewpoints, even the ones that you may find distasteful, and to engage those opinions that are different from yours, and to debate it, argue about it, and learn. At least that’s my philosophy as a teacher. So, my classes don’t always hear the party line. My classes don’t always hear what I want to believe...”.
Mrs. Belinski said, “in this case, Mr. Spirk, my personal opinion is you used extremely poor judgment. At the very least, such insensitivity I can’t even fathom…Mr. Karoly has filed three additional lawsuits against your clients, the Bethlehem Police Department. How can you be expected to do your best on their behalf when you have their nemesis in your classroom.” Attorney Spirk stated “everything I said before still applies to that question. And, second of all, how could that in any way impact my ability to represent my clients…How do you think it could possibly help. Can you think of a way it could help. For example, when he said he thinks from talking to the jurors after the Hirko case that the key thing in their minds, he thinks, that led to their decision was how he focused for the first several weeks of the trial at calling the very Police Officers, the people who were not his own witnesses but his adversaries, by calling them to the stand as a cross examination, and being able to question them carefully about mountains of depositions that they had given over seven years which he had prepared on blow-ups on a screen. And, so every time there was an inconsistency in their statements on the stand from what they maybe said several years ago, he could point that out to the jury. He felt that after three weeks of that over and over and over again he had planted in the jury’s mind a seed of doubt about everything they said…Maybe he’ll try that next trial. Maybe the Police Officers and their lawyers from the insurance company will be better prepared for that next time. Maybe they’ll go over those depositions in sickening ad nauseam…detail so that when he comes out with his overhead projector and spends three weeks doing it…maybe it won’t be so effective this time…I think that would help me better represent my client next time, knowing that at least one civil rights plaintiff’s lawyer uses that as a frequent tactic. That actually might help me. But…what I said earlier, that’s not why I brought him. It wasn’t to gain some kind of advantage, wasn’t to entertain him, it was to educate my class.”
Mrs. Belinski stressed that Attorney Spirk could have had his choice of “I don’t know how many people. You know we have professors from Muhlenberg, from Lehigh, said they were willing to come here and educate our Police Department. One of the things in the settlement wasn’t just the money, [it] was to hope we would have some additional training of our Police Officers in civil rights. You wanted to spout off civil rights in your class, you could have had anyone. Why on earth would you pick Mr. Karoly. Very, very poor judgment.” Attorney Spirk, pointing out that not only professors can teach, said he thinks students can learn from a lot of people other than teachers. Attorney Spirk continued on to say that is why “I often bring into my class practitioners from the field who aren’t teachers. In this case I could have brought a lot of professors in too, but I thought it best to bring a practitioner.”
Mrs. Belinski questioned “don’t the by-laws of DeSales University, if you are an employee, as a full-time employee teaching at the University, you are?” Attorney Spirk replied “absolutely…”. Mrs. Belinski continued on to note “the by-laws say that if you are a full-time teacher there you’re not allowed to have other gainful employment.” Attorney Spirk explained “when I was hired by Father O’Connor, he said to me I hope you’ll be able to continue in the practice of law representing clients because we want our faculty to stay current in their field. We don’t want them to have achieved their degree twenty years ago, or in my case, more, and just have them [sit] back and rested on what they learned. We want to make sure they’re current. We want to make sure they keep current in the trends in the field that they developed. I think he said to me that if you stay active in the practice of law, if you’re able to manage that, that would be a great benefit to us, a great benefit to your professional development, and a great benefit to your students.” Mrs. Belinski said “you don’t in fact have a private legal practice, do you?” Attorney Spirk responded “I have an office that I almost never get to, between my full-time teaching and the work I do here.” Mrs. Belinski noted that Attorney Spirk has the part-time job as City Solicitor, and a part-time job as Assistant County Solicitor. Mrs. Belinski stressed “I say again, Mr. Spirk, I wanted you to answer my questions. I think it’s incredibly insensitive and very poor judgment for you to bring Mr. Karoly into your classroom.”
Mrs. Belinski advised there is a member of the Executive Board of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) in the audience, and asked the individual to come to the podium. Mrs. Belinski thanked Mr. Haubert. Mrs. Belinski said the reason she brought this up tonight, besides having calls from the Police “who are appalled at Mr. Spirk’s lack of sensitivity. He is supposed to be representing you. You are his clients. And, he’s entertaining in his classroom, as I’ve said…, your nemesis. Would you please tell me, can you speak on behalf of the FOP as a member of the Executive Board how your people feel about it.”
Police Officer Wade Haubert said “as the Executive Secretary for Star Lodge 20, I don’t feel I’m going out on a limb when I say I’m speaking on behalf of the members of the body when, upon revelation of this information, it brings into serious question the motives behind Mr. Spirk. The body feels that it opens up door for suspicion as to anything related to our dealings with him. I don’t think I’m going too far when I say that the body doesn’t have trust in the matters that he may be involved in. A perfect example would be the Officer Ogrodnick case where the charges were thrown out, and subsequently the City Solicitor was able to refile that to open the door for another lawsuit by Mr. Karoly. It makes people wonder if there was a backroom deal on the Hirko trial. You know, he doesn’t have to justify his friendship or professional respect to Mr. Karoly in that case to us, but we think he does have to justify that friendship and professional relationship to the taxpayers. There are plenty of other attorneys that he could have talked to that practice civil law. You know, it’s a slap in the face when we expect to have faith in an attorney that’s going to represent us. I don’t think so. The City had a position for eight years where they supported Officer Reidy in that trial. We still stand behind Officer Reidy. It makes us wonder if the City Solicitor still stands behind him.”
The meeting was adjourned at 9:45 p.m.