In December, a lame duck Northampton County Council voted 5-4 to kick in $10 million toward a $130 million tourist attraction proposed in downtown Easton. The DaVinci Science Center’s Lin Erickson claimed that her project was educational, but its real draw was a shark-infested 500,000 gallon salt-water aquarium.
On JaN. 4, just two days after being sworn into office, Executive Lamont McClure nominated eight people to serve on his cabinet. He even introduced them to the public from the courthouse rotunda. Exactly two weeks later, on January 18, McClure’s cabinet picks were confirmed with almost no muss or fuss.
For years, good government groups like the League of Women Voters have lobbied state legislators to end the gerrymandering that occurs every ten years when state and Congressional districts are redrawn. This has been attacked as a rigged system by which our legislators pick the voters instead of the other way around. It provides incumbent protection, providing job job security for legislators who toe the line with party leaders while punishing any who dare rebel. It is also partisan, slanted in favor of whichever party - Democrat or Republican - is in power.
One incumbent and two newly elected Bethlehem Township Commissioners were sworn in on Jan. 2 by Magisterial District Judge Pat Broscius. They are Mike Hudak, John Gallagher and John Merhottein. Hudak was also re-elected President of the board in a 3-2 vote, with Malissa Davis and Tom Nolan dissenting. Tom Nolan was unanimously elected Vice President.
Gallagher is a retired architect who became interested in Bethlehem Township government when developer Traditions of America sought approval of a senior community at Green Pond. He is a Democrat.
Lamont McClure was sworn into office Jan. 2 at 3:30 pm Over the next two days, he nominated most of his cabinet. In addition, he filled most of the Deputy positions. He announced these appointments in his county council report on Jan. 4. And in a sign that he will be a very different executive than his predecessor, McClure also announced these appointments in a very public news conference earlier in the day. Every one of his nominees was present, too.
On Jan. 2, before a standing room only crowd of over 300 people packed into Historic Courtroom One, Lamont McClure was sworn in by President Judge Stephen Baratta as the eighth Northampton County Executive since the inception of Home Rule in 1978.
On Dec. 22, shortly before students were being released from school, Justin Kephart, age 35, emptied 11 bullets into his mother, Marylouise Meixell-Moyer, as she left a family home on Dennis Street. Officer John Meehan was the first police officer on the scene, along with neighbor Douglas Wallace. They were forced to duck behind a car as they both began taking fire.
One of the bullets fired at Meehan whizzed between his hand and head.
After two nights of testimony, Bethlehem’s Zoning Hearing Board Dec. 12 cleared the way for a 70-unit apartment complex at what used to be called the Floyd Simons Armory on Second Avenue. The board voted 3-0 to grant numerous dimensional variances The biggest of these allows the project to move forward with 99 on-site parking spots instead of the required 123. Voting in support were Bill Fitzpatrick, Jim Schantz and Attorney Mike Santanasto. Two other members of the board, Gus Loupos and Attorney Linda Shay Gardener, were unable to participate.
Mary Toulouse teaches French at Lafayette College. But on Nov. 30, as president of Bethlehem’s Mount Airy Neighborhood Association (MANA), she gave a history lesson to the city’s Zoning Hearing Board. It concerned the Armory, a National Historic Landmark located at 345 Second Ave. Peron Development is seeking a special exception and 11 dimensional variances for a four-story, 70 unit apartment complex at the 2.57 acre site. There will be 50 one-bedroom and 20 two-bedroom units.
One of the biggest issues in November’s election was Executive John Brown’s plans for a new jail at Gracedale. Did he want to build there or not? Brown had told council last spring that he had visited a dozen different locations and had ruled out a new jail in Easton. He would build on a greenfield. In July, prison advisory board chair Dan Christenson called Gracedale a great location.