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.
Bethlehem’s Zoning Hearing Board was scheduled to hear four cases June 22. Meetings can get pretty crowded, but it was still a surprise to see a big tent pitched outside city hall before the hearings started.
Fortunately, the 150 people within the tent had no interest in variances or nonconforming uses. They were there for a Ramadan dinner and included people of all faiths – Muslim, Jew and Christian. The meal, completely free of charge, was for anyone interested in interfaith and intercultural dialogue.
At their June 22 meeting, Bethlehem’s Zoning Hearing Board voted 3-0 to support dimensional variances that will permit Bethlehem Attorney Garrett Benner to build a 33-unit apartment building at 124-128 W. Union Blvd., next to the Old Brewery Tavern (OBT). The property is currently owned by the Casilio family, but is under agreement of sale to Benner’s B-Land Company.
A Holy War is raging in Bethlehem. It’s not Christians against Jews, Jews against Muslims, or Muslims against Hindus. It’s actually a battle within one denomination and at one church.
The congregation of the First Presbyterian Church of Bethlehem, which has existed for the past 141 years and includes 2,600 members, has voted overwhelmingly (76 percent) to break away from the Presbyterian Church USA. It has opted to join the Covenant Order of Evangelical Presbyterian Church (ECO).
By a narrow 3-2 vote, Bethlehem Township commissioners voted at their June 20 meeting to seek a $250,000 grant from the Commonwealth Financing Agency for combination bathroom facilities and a storeroom at the Northside Athletic Complex. It’s the same grant that commissioners sought almost exactly one year ago in another 3-2 vote. Township Manager Melissa Shafer explained that a second grant request was necessary because of last year’s state budget impasse. Because it took so long to adopt a state budget, the first grant request is in jeopardy.
When you fill your tank with 10 gallons of gas, how do you know you’re really getting 10 gallons? Is the gas station ripping you off? Or how about when you order lunch meat at the deli? Are you getting a pound of balogna or is it baloney? When you plug a meter for an hour’s worth of parking, how can you be sure that you get it?
Nearly every news release coming from Northampton County describes it as a “$1 billion economic engine” that provides “opportunities for its residents to thrive and succeed in the community in which they live.”
But its Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) is under intense criticism. Its director, Diane Donaher, was one of Executive John Brown’s first cabinet picks, but abruptly resigned May 5 after several miscues, including a botched attempt to seize control over $500,000 in tourism grants awarded every year with money from hotel taxes.
Bombastic. Humorous. Bold. Empathetic. Domineering. Inclusive. These are just a few of the adjectives describing Lehigh Valley civil rights pioneer Esther Lee, whose distinctive church lady hats and booming yet eloquent voice make her instantly recognizable. After spending a lifetime fighting for social justice in the Lehigh Valley, Lee was honored by the IBPOEW, or Black Elks, at their state annual convention at Bethlehem’s Best Western Hotel on June 6.
Northampton County has no director of administration. Luis Campos abruptly resigned from that position June 3, the day after a relatively quiet county council meeting.
Rumors had circulated all week that Campos was no longer employed by the county, but Executive John Brown failed to respond to requests for information. Human Resources Director Amy Trapp also declined comment, calling the situation a personnel matter. But in response to a Right-to-Know request, the county provided Campos’ letter of resignation.
Omar Mir Seddique Mateen, 29, killed 50 people and wounded another 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando early Saturday in what is being called the worst mass shooting slaughter in the last 34 years. In a call to 911 shortly before the rampage, the gunman swore allegiance to the Islamic State. But if his intention was to strike fear into the hearts of the gay community, the would be terrorist failed.