Most people in Northampton County politics know Joanne Messenlehner as a Democratic activist, a two-time party chair who has orchestrated numerous campaigns over the years. What many don’t know is that she grew up on Bethlehem’s Southside. A Stofko, she was the first member of her family to go to college. She went on to become a teacher and swim coach in the Bethlehem Area School District, and moved her family out of the projects.
In recent years, Lehigh Valley International Airport (LVIA) has been a source of disappointment. Though it once boasted over 1 million passengers a year, it served under 600,000 in 2013. An unwieldy board of governors was slow to act as a $10.4 million judgment grew to over $26 million.
Sporadic budget shortfalls occurred as management yawned at a $1 million Hooters Air Fuel bill. But in an upbeat presentation to Northampton County Council at its Aug. 4 meeting, airport Executive Director Charles Everett, Jr. said the airport is once again flying high.
Next to the executive, the most important position in Northampton County is the director of administration. The administrator supervises numerous county departments, negotiates union contracts and handles relations with council and other municipalities. The person who now occupies that position is someone with four tax liens. Her home is in foreclosure, too. Her education consists of a high school diploma. Aside from her 18 months of county experience, she worked in a two-man insurance office in which the other person was the boss.
Bethlehem Township fared poorly on grants from the state’s Commonwealth Financing Agency this year.
It was passed over on grant requests for its Athletic Center’s controversial $250,000 bathroom and storage center. It was denied funding for four police cruisers, though several other communities were approved. Funding for a parks master plan and even stormwater planning were ignored.
Problem solving courts deal proactively with the underlying reasons for criminal behavior. A person with mental illness might harass his or her neighbors. A drug addict might steal from family and friends. Both can and are often sent to jail, but unless the addiction or mental illness is addressed, jails become revolving doors for repeat offenders. It does them or their victims no good. It costs the rest of us money.
Celebrating ‘the Main Street mayor’ - Over 350 people brave 90-degree temperatures to pay their respects to the late Gordon Mowrer
Bethlehem said goodbye to Gordie Mowrer, known as The Main Street Mayor, in a memorial service July 26 at Bethlehem’s Central Moravian Church. Over 350 people braved 90-degree temperatures to pay their respects, but Mowrer, a former Moravian Pastor known for his gentle humor, had a surprise for them.
Bethlehem’s Town Hall, an aging and poorly lit rotunda, may very well be a public health hazard, especially for older citizens. Whether it is city council, the planning commission or zoning hearing board, members of the public often trip when entering the room. They also often lose their footing when approaching a microphone. The most recent example of this occurred on July 27, just as the zoning hearing board was about to consider four matters.
In Pennsylvania, it costs $36 to register your car every year. An effort to raise that fee to $41 in Northampton County failed at council’s July 21 meeting.
For the measure to pass, five votes were needed. There were only three. Bob Werner, one of two sponsors for this rate hike and was “all for it.” But he was absent. Mat Benol, who originally called it a “good idea,” changed his mind.
Residents from farming communities in the Mount Bethels and Plainfield Township challenged Executive John Brown’s commitment to farmland preservation at Northampton County Council’s July 8 meeting, accusing him of “plundering” the half mill of real estate taxes set aside 10 years ago for open space.
But Brown said he is the victim of “misinformation out in the public sector” and that his resolve remains unchanged.
By a narrow 5-4 margin, Northampton County Council voted July 8 to defeat a rate hike sought by weights and measures, the county department that makes sure you’re really getting a gallon of gas and that a pound of balogna is not just baloney. Three members of council – Hayden Phillips, Seth Vaughn and John Cusick – made clear that they would like to abolish the department.