Lehigh County Commissioners had some political moments Wednesday as agenda items were floated, then after sharp questioning by fellow commissioners, sank beneath increasingly turbulent political waters.
Bethlehem City Councilwoman Olga Negron wants the city to adopt an ordinance that would reduce penalties for possession and personal use of small amounts of marijuana. However, the proposed law was not voted on Tuesday when it was placed on the agenda for a “first reading,” but instead council members decided to refer the matter to the Public Safety Committee for further review.
Lehigh County Authority’s effort to have its charter extend to 50 years collapsed Wednesday when Lehigh County commissioners voted 6–3 to reject a proposed amendment to LCA’s articles of incorporation.
The decision seemed to catch LCA’s CEO, Liesel M. Gross, by surprise. Gross had spoken to the Commissioners in support of the resolution.
“I want to know the path forward,” Gross said to commissioners following the vote to deny the amendment extending the water and sewer authority’s charter.
“Our children are dying!”
A cold April wind whipped through Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park in South Bethlehem Wednesday as, in impassioned oratory, Rayah Levy exhorted a small crowd in the sun-dappled park on Carlton Avenue.
“Our children are dying every day not through natural causes, but through an infectious disease called miseducation. They are dying because society has polluted their minds with hatred and bigotry,” Levy declared.
She recalled King’s analogy of a blueprint that serves as a pattern for a solid building, but that “we have become complacent.”
After hearing in detail vociferous objections to extending the charter of the Lehigh County Authority, the Lehigh County Commissioners, on the advice of County Director of General Services Richard Molchany, passed a resolution to schedule an information-gathering hearing prior to the next regular meeting.
“There are some scary numbers here,” said Marty Nothstein in support of Molchany’s suggestion. Nothstein is president of the Lehigh County commissioners.
“We need to take as long as necessary,” said Commissioner Amy Zanelli. “I’m not going to rush this kind of decision.”
The vacation of Filbert Street and part of Second Avenue was approved March 20 by Bethlehem City Council in a 6-1 vote. Councilman Bryan Callahan abstained because his brother, former Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, works for the developer who asked for the change in street usage.
The action facilitates the development objectives for the owners of the historic Floyd Simons Armory who plan to redevelop the armory and adjacent lots into 70 upscale apartments and a business located at Prospect and Second avenues.
Lehigh County Fiscal Officer Tim Reeves spoke to the Lehigh County Commissioners March 14 and explained the county’s budget at the end of 2017. He described the budget in terms of a “checking account” – the Operating Fund, and the “savings account” – the Stabilization Fund.
Judge Stephen G. Baratta swore in new city council member Dr. Paige Van Wirt in a brief ceremony at the beginning of the regular meeting of the Bethlehem City Council Tuesday. Van Wirt was accompanied by Council Vice President Olga Negron. Dr. Van Wirt was appointed to replace Eric Evans, who resigned his council seat to be the new business manager for Bethlehem; Van Wirt took her seat immediately following being sworn in.
“Please know that I am so very humbled that the voters trusted me to manage our county over the next four years,” Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong said, addressing a crowd of county officials, politicians or their representatives and other guests Feb. 22 during his State of Lehigh County address.
Armstrong, speaking at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, introduced his remarks by assuring the attendees he and his administration are interested in putting progress over politics.
Business as usual hit a speed bump Feb. 27 when county commissioners attempted to approve a couple of routine professional services contracts. Commissioner Amy Zanelli objected to the boilerplate anti-discrimination provisions of two proposed agreements – one with Election IQ LLC and another with Alfred Yacoub, Esquire for professional services with the County of Lehigh.
Zanelli, elected in 2017 from District 3 to her commissioner office, noted the proposed contracts did not contain language that protects “sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, or disability.”