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PRESIDENT OF COUNCIL

2021 Bethlehem City Council President’s Report
 
During 2021, Bethlehem City Council held 24 regular meetings and 16 Committee and budget meetings, adopted 231 Resolutions, and passed 41 Ordinances.  Below are some highlights from Council’s 2021 legislative year.
 
In 2021, our City government continued adapting to the Covid-19 pandemic in order to protect public health while continuing to provide the highest quality services to our residents and surrounding municipalities. City Council commends former Mayor Robert Donchez and the Health Bureau for their exemplary leadership and hard work during this pandemic, which is now entering the third year.
 
In order to increase transparency, City Council started live streaming Council meetings in 2019 and that has been made permanent as Town Hall is now wired with the necessary audio visual equipment to allow for future streaming of council and other government meetings from Town Hall.   
 
City Council reviewed and took action on several financial matters during 2021.
 
Council approved the Mayor’s proposed 2022 budget after amending it to add an additional $1.5 million dollars into the City’s American Rescue Plan Community Reinvestment Allocation. Council also conducted an oversight hearing on funding related to the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, and reviewed and approved related budget adjustments and funding allocations.
 
Moreover, Council authorized a grant to fund renovations at the Bethlehem Public Library and a PA Infrastructure Investment Authority grant to fund work on the City water system. Additionally, Council passed Administration-initiated bills modifying water rates and charges along with certain EMS fees.
 
In 2020, Council passed an Administration-proposed ordinance that established a user fee for stormwater collection and management, and in 2021, Council passed an ordinance implementing a fee credit and appeal system to enhance equity and provide a mechanism for appeals. 
 
This year, Council conducted its fourth annual Financial Accountability Incentive Reporting hearing to evaluate the effectiveness of economic development incentives and increase transparency. These annual hearings are conducted in the Community Development Committee to review administration reports submitted to Council pursuant to Article 349 Economic Development Incentive Reporting and Evaluation, established in 2018.
 
The Public Safety Committee reviewed a planned reorganization of the Bethlehem Police Department and Council members made a number of inquiries related to a new program where the Health Bureau and the Police Departments work together to assist vulnerable individuals going through mental health and other crises by providing more effective social service referrals.
 
After review in the Community Development Committee, Council passed an ordinance establishing an affordable housing Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance program in the City of Bethlehem. The program is designed to incentivize private development of affordable housing units in the city and to fund housing and rental assistance-related programs.  Council also adopted a resolution approving the City’s Analysis of Impediments to Fair Housing Choice and passed an Administration-initiated bill amending Article 1739 related to inspections of regulated rental units.
 
In 2021, Council considered several zoning map and text amendments including text amendments related to the former Martin Tower site, establishing a student housing zoning overlay district, first floor commercial uses in the CB and CL zoning districts, and pertaining to multi-family dwellings in the CB and CL zoning districts.
 
Council conducted several Public Works committee meetings on a new stormwater management fee program, a proposed responsible contractor ordinance, a proposed bid preference ordinance, and city land transfers. Council also approved a street vacation ordinance vacating portions of Luna and Bushkill Streets.
 
Council also authorized a number of contracts, use permit agreements, and certificates of appropriateness, and approved Councilmanic Appointments and Administrative appointments to various City boards, commissions, and authorities.
 
Moreover, in 2021, Council adopted a resolution urging the City to incentivize operation of a grocery store at the Ahart’s Market site in order to promote equity and protect the health and well-being of individuals and families in South Bethlehem and also adopted a resolution urging passage of legislation in the PA House to address the widespread nuisance of fireworks in the city.
 
Finally, after a groundswell of community attention, City Council adopted a resolution designating the Chimney Swift as the official Bird of the City of Bethlehem.
 
Adam R. Waldron
President of Bethlehem City Council
January 3, 2022