City Council

Council Minutes

May 3, 2005 Meeting Minutes

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Tuesday, May 3, 2005 – 7:30 PM – Town Hall


President J. Michael Schweder called the meeting to order. Father Anthony Mongiello, of St. Anne’s Church, offered the invocation which was followed by the pledge to the flag. Present were Ismael Arcelay, Jean Belinski, Robert J. Donchez, Joseph F. Leeson, Jr., Gordon B. Mowrer, Magdalena F. Szabo, and J. Michael Schweder, 7.


The minutes of April 19, 2005 were approved.

5. COURTESY OF THE FLOOR (for public comment on ordinances and resolutions to be voted on by Council this evening)

Rezoning Easton Avenue Vicinity – RG and RT – Residential to CL – Limited Commercial

Kenneth Achey, 2135 Rodgers Street, with reference to the Public Hearing at the April 19, 2005 City Council Meeting on the proposal to rezone properties in the vicinity of Easton Avenue from RG and RT – Residential to CL – Limited Commercial District, expressed that Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, is supposed to be working for the benefit of the City and the citizens to do what is good. However, Mr. Achey said he was concerned when he saw business people talking to her. Querying whether the proposal to rezone the land to Commercial is being pushed by business people, Mr. Achey expressed the feeling that the City has made enough mistakes in past years regarding the uses in the area that residents are paying for. Mr. Achey, communicating he is concerned for those who are not even born yet who will be living in the City, wondered whether they are going to be paying for this matter. Mr. Achey questioned if the proposal to rezone the neighborhood land to commercial is good for the City or for the residents. Mr. Achey further asked whether the City is working for big business or for the residents. Mr. Achey stated that Ms. Heller’s presentation focusing on allowable uses did not highlight barrooms or other objectionable uses that were brought up by one of the neighborhood residents if the land were rezoned to commercial. Mr. Achey, wondering whether Easton Avenue will in the future have to be paid for such as Stefko Boulevard, stressed the present residential district there is nice, is what the residents want, and the residents want to be happy. Mr. Achey stressed that is why there are City officials to work for the benefit of residents, not for big business. Mr. Achey expressed the hope that City Council does right and keeps the Easton Avenue vicinity Residential.

Marijane Johnson, 2536 Easton Avenue, stated she is at the Meeting to continue what she started two weeks ago and that was to ask all Members of Council not to allow the proposed rezoning to go through. Mrs. Johnson stressed that she and her husband chose this area to live because they liked it here, they did not want to live in Allentown or Easton, and she did not want to go back to where she came from. Mrs. Johnson advised she plans to stay where she is, she is firmly rooted, and she is not going anywhere.

Keith Johnson, 2536 Easton Avenue, commented he basically has the same thing to say. Mr. Johnson noted he came here twenty some years ago. Informing the Members he works in Reading, Mr. Johnson advised he travels every day and should move there but he does not want to. Mr. Johnson stressed he wants to stay where he is. Mr. Johnson said he hopes Council does not pass the rezoning proposal.


Beth Works Now Development and Ownership - Slot Machines

Mrs. Belinski, advising that she recently found out some information, commented she will read a statement, and has a few questions about the potential of slot machines coming to Bethlehem. Noting that a new development has occurred in connection with Bethlehem Works Now, Mrs. Belinski informed the assembly it is her understanding that the Venetian gambling casino has now purchased a 55% controlling interest in the Bethlehem Works Now partnership. Pointing out that the Venetian is a publicly traded company owned by stockholders, Mrs. Belinski said she is concerned about the potential for the development of the Bethlehem Works property beyond just the mere existence of a gambling facility. If the majority owner of the Bethlehem Works property is a publicly traded company whose focus will be on consumer profit, Mrs. Belinski stressed she is worried about whether that company will have adequate motivation to reinvest and redevelop the rest of the Bethlehem Works Brownfields site. As a publicly owned company, Mrs. Belinski pointed out the Venetian’s first priority will be to its stockholders and in maximizing its profits from gambling activities. Mrs. Belinski questioned whether such a company will have an interest in reinvestment and redevelopment of the Bethlehem Works Brownfields lands beyond the development of a gambling facility. Mrs. Belinski pointed out that, by contrast, the former majority owners of Bethlehem Works Now, Mr. Perrucci and the Newmark Real Estate Company of New York, bought the property with an original focus on real estate development. Slot machine gambling seemed to come as an afterthought for them.

Mrs. Belinski asked whether the Director of Community and Economic Development is aware as to whether the Venetian has purchased a 55% majority interest.

Tony Hanna, Director of Community and Economic Development, replying it is his understanding that they have a majority interest in the development at this point, said he believes that interest was sold to them by the original developers. Mr. Hanna advised that, as far as Mrs. Belinski’s other questions, they can be answered in some detail although perhaps not at this forum. Mr. Hanna explained that every meeting held with the original principals of Beth Works Now and the new partners, Las Vegas Sands, Inc., the publicly traded parent company of the Venetian, they have indicated they are very committed to the original redevelopment plan that was originally set out by Beth Works Now, and parts of it set out previously by Bethlehem Steel Corporation when they had their original redevelopment plan. Mr. Hanna thought that, if one looks at Las Vegas Sands, Inc. and the Venetian’s track record in terms of development, they have done more than just develop gaming facilities. Continuing on to point out they have also developed retail facilities, etc., Mr. Hanna thought it is their intention to make a strong commitment to the entire redevelopment plan even outside of the gaming facility. Mr. Hanna expressed it is a total comprehensive plan that they are proposing. While affirming the Administration is aware of the fact that it is believed they have a majority interest in the development, Mr. Hanna said he has not had any direct confirmation of that, and it has just strictly been conversational.

Commenting it is worrisome, Mrs. Belinski asked if it is true whether Mr. Hanna thinks the company will have adequate motivation to redevelop the rest of the Brownfields in Bethlehem Works. Mr. Hanna, replying he thinks they are very motivated, communicated he thinks they are very motivated to develop a facility that goes well beyond a gaming facility and they are looking at the entire comprehensive aspect including residential, retail, entertainment, restaurants, and gaming.

Mrs. Belinski expressed her thought that since this seems to have been going on behind the scenes it is time to bring it out to the public that there has been a slight change in ownership. Mrs. Belinski noted it is by no means a done deal as far as whether gambling will come to the site in South Bethlehem and it is up to the Pennsylvania Gaming Commission. Mr. Hanna added it is up to the Supreme Court at this point in terms of determining whether or not it is legal. Mrs. Belinski stated “we do have to consider all of the ramifications.” Mr. Hanna responded “we shall.”

Wastewater Treatment Plant Capacity – Bethlehem Township Request

Mrs. Belinski, noting there have been articles in the newspaper about the City’s sewerage treatment capacity, commented unless there has been some intervening cooperative developments, it appears this matter is on a collision course. Mrs. Belinski, adding it is always an unfortunate development when two government entities fight with each other, said there are no winners and the taxpayers lose. Observing it could be that the City wants to be uncooperative, to inhibit development in Bethlehem Township, and direct development towards the City, Mrs. Belinski commented if this is the case she questions the wisdom of the strategy. Mrs. Belinski, while stating she agrees that development is more suited for the inner City areas than for the green space, said it would be inappropriate to think that the City can control or inhibit development in Bethlehem Township. Mrs. Belinski suggested exploration of a solution used in Lehigh County a number of years ago that has recently come to her attention. Mrs. Belinski noted when attempted development strived to occur in the Trexlertown and Fogelsville areas there were questions at that time about the ability and capacity of the City of Allentown sewage treatment plant to accommodate the flows. However, there was great interest on the part of the community in encouraging development in the Trexlertown and Fogelsville areas. A compromise was reached, and the developers helped to pay for a sewage pre-treatment facility. The facility pre-treated the waste, and this made it possible for the City of Allentown to accommodate the flows at the sewage treatment plant. While acknowledging she does not know whether a pre-treatment plant in Bethlehem Township would be feasible or even useful, Mrs. Belinski observed it is an option that she would suggest be explored. Mrs. Belinski said she would like the engineering talent to describe the nature of the pre-treatment process, but she knows it was done successfully in Lehigh County. Mrs. Belinski noted, at a time when the City is short on revenues, this is also a potential revenue source for flows from Bethlehem Township. Mrs. Belinski stated she is hopeful a win-win situation could be devised between the City and the Township rather than an intermunicipal fight where everyone loses. Mrs. Belinski encouraged the Mayor and his Administration to look at this concept to see if it is at all feasible.

Beth Works Now Development and Ownership - Slot Machines

Ms. Szabo questioned, in light of what Mrs. Belinski announced, when did this happen that the Venetian became a 55% owner.

Mayor Callahan responded these are questions that Council could direct to Beth Works Now with the Venetian individuals and perhaps they could answer the questions. Mayor Callahan said he is not aware of when exactly that transaction took place.

President Schweder commented that Council could send questions, in light of what Mrs. Belinski talked about, to Beth Works Now and await a written response.

Ms. Szabo, commenting she hopes Council would, said apparently some people knew about it.


A. Director of Human Resources – Amending Police Civil Service Rules – Physical Fitness Requirements

The Clerk read a letter dated April 19, 2005 from Jean A. Zweifel, Director of Human Resources, requesting that a Public Safety Committee Meeting be scheduled to discuss a change to the current physical agility requirements for police applicants. The Police Civil Service Board approved the change at its meeting of April 19, 2005.

President Schweder referred the matter to the Public Safety Committee.

B. Economic Development Liquor License – Sun Inn

The Clerk read a letter dated April 27, 2005 from Forrest O’Brien, President of the Sun Inn Preservation Association, requesting a Public Hearing for the creation of an Economic Development Liquor License under provisions of Act 141 of 2000 and Act 10 of 2002, for the Sun Inn, 564-572 Main Street, Bethlehem.

Mr. Donchez and Mr. Arcelay moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall. Voting AYE on the motion: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

C. Economic Development Liquor License – Starter’s Riverport

The Clerk read a letter dated April 27, 2005 from Francis X. O’Brien of F.X. O’Brien Associates, LLC, on behalf of David J. Rank, requesting approval of an application for an Economic Development Liquor License for Starter’s Riverport, 11 West Second Street, Bethlehem.

Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski moved to schedule a Public Hearing on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 7:30 PM in Town Hall. Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.


A. President of Council

Committee of the Whole

President Schweder stated that City Council met as a Committee of the Whole Meeting this evening, Tuesday, May 3, 2005, at 6:30 PM in Town Hall to receive an update on the activities of the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce.

Executive Session

President Schweder announced that City Council will meet in Executive Session on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 at 6:30 PM in the Mayor’s Conference Room on Pending Litigation.

B. Mayor


C. Finance Committee

Mr. Donchez, Chairman of the Finance Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held April 26, 2005, on the following subjects: Amending General Fund Budget – Purchase of Vehicles; Transfer of Funds – Wastewater Treatment – Overtime, Differential Pay, and Meal Reimbursement; Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2005 Allocation; Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – PPL Grant – LED Traffic Lights; Amending General Fund Budget – Injury Prevention Program; Amending Community Development Budget – Housing Rehabilitation; Amending Community Development Budget – HOME Program; and Amending CDBG and HOME Programs – 2005 Reductions.

D. Public Works Committee

Mr. Mowrer, Chairman of the Public Works Committee, presented an oral report of the Committee’s meeting held May 3, 2005 on the subject of the Bethlehem Authority Land Donation to Tunkhannock Township.



A. Bill No. 20 – 2005 – Rezoning Easton Avenue Vicinity – RG and RT Residential to CL – Limited Commercial

The Clerk read Bill No. 20 – 2005, Rezoning Easton Avenue Vicinity – RG and RT Residential to CL – Limited Commercial, and titled:


After receiving affirmation from the Clerk that there were no sponsors for the Bill, President Schweder asked whether there are any Members of Council wishing to sponsor the Ordinance. Seeing none, President Schweder stated that Bill No. 20 – 2005 is defeated and dies.

B. Bill No. 21 – 2005 – Amending General Fund Budget – Purchase of Vehicles and Injury Prevention Program

The Clerk read Bill No. 21 – 2005, Amending General Fund Budget – Purchase of Vehicles and Injury Prevention Program, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 21 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.

C. Bill No. 22 – 2005 – Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – PPL Grant – LED Traffic Lights

The Clerk read Bill No. 22 – 2005, Amending Non-Utility Capital Budget – PPL Grant – LED Traffic Lights, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 22 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.

D. Bill No. 23 – 2005 – Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2005 Allocation

The Clerk read Bill No. 23 – 2005, Amending Liquid Fuels Fund Budget – 2005 Allocation, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 23 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.

E. Bill No. 24 – 2005 – Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME

The Clerk read Bill No. 24 – 2005, Amending Community Development Budget – CDBG and HOME Programs, sponsored by Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski, and titled:


Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. Bill No. 24 – 2005 was declared passed on First Reading.


A. Authorizing Execution of Use Permit Agreement – 2005 Borinquenfest

Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,600 that authorized the execution of a Use Permit Agreement between the Puerto Rican Cultural Coalition, Inc., and the City for use of the area beneath the Hill-to-Hill Bridge for the 2005 Borinquenfest for the time period June 20, 2005 to June 30, 2005, according to the terms of the Agreement.
Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

B. Authorizing Records Destruction – Police Department

Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,601 that authorized the disposition of the public records of the Police Department, as listed in Exhibit A, according to schedules and procedures for the disposition of records as set forth in the Municipal Records Manual approved on July 16, 1993 and Resolution 13,076.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

C. Approving Vehicle and Surplus Property List – City Auction

Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,602 authorizing the proper officials to conduct a public auction of the Vehicles and Surplus Property described on the lists attached.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

D. Transfer of Funds – Wastewater Treatment – Overtime, Differential Pay, and Meal Reimbursement

Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Donchez sponsored Resolution 14,603 that transferred $5,400 in the Sewer Fund Budget as follows: Wastewater Treatment – Overtime Account - $5,000, Wastewater Treatment – Differential Pay Account - $300, and Wastewater Treatment – Meal Reimbursement Account - $100, to the following: Wastewater Laboratory – Overtime Account - $5,000, Wastewater Laboratory – Differential Pay Account - $300, and Wastewater Laboratory – Meal Reimbursement Account - $100, to pay for personal services through the end of the year.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

E. Transfer of Funds – Community Development Budget – Housing Rehabilitation

Mr. Donchez and Mrs. Belinski sponsored Resolution 14,604 that transferred $28,000 in the Community Development Budget from the Redevelopment Authority Account to the Housing Rehabilitation Account to allocate the Redevelopment Authority’s funding for delivery costs associated with Housing Rehabilitation.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

F. Certificate of Appropriateness – 308 South New Street

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution 14,605 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to replace the existing awning with an awning sign at 308 S. New Street.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The Resolution passed.

G. Certificate of Appropriateness – 4 West Church Street

Mrs. Belinski and Mr. Arcelay sponsored Resolution No. 14,606 that granted a Certificate of Appropriateness to remove a stone boundary wall and metal fence to create off street parking at 4 West Church Street.

President Schweder stated that he would recuse himself from voting on Resolution 11 G.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, and Ms. Szabo, 6. The Resolution passed.


Rescheduling Second City Council Meeting in May

Mr. Mowrer and Mr. Donchez moved to reschedule City Council’s second meeting in May on Wednesday, May 18, 2005 since the Primary Election occurs on the normal meeting date of Tuesday, May 17, 2005.

Voting AYE: Mr. Arcelay, Mrs. Belinski, Mr. Donchez, Mr. Leeson, Mr. Mowrer, Ms. Szabo, and Mr. Schweder, 7. The motion passed.

Broughal Middle School - Preservation

Mr. Donchez commented that as an elected official he has to take a position on an issue that deals with the School Board rather than City issues directly. Mr. Donchez stated he opposes the possible construction of a new Broughal Middle School on top of South Mountain. Mr. Donchez, expressing the belief that Broughal Middle School is a neighborhood school, communicated it belongs in the heart of the South Side and does not belong on the Mountaintop Campus. Mr. Donchez, noting he attended the school to ninth grade, pointed out it is a school that provides many services before and after school to people of needs, and belongs in a neighborhood in South Bethlehem. Remarking he thinks it is a mistake moving it to the Mountaintop Campus, Mr. Donchez stressed that the people of the South Side deserve a first class school but not on the Mountaintop Campus. Mr. Donchez, commending Mayor Callahan for coming up with a third approach for a compromise, communicated that hopefully that will be considered by Dr. Lewis and the School Board. In view of factors involving the location, the public safety issue, the fact of busing, students walking in the morning and after school, and use of the school facilities, Mr. Donchez thought it is a mistake to relocate the school. Mr. Donchez reiterated his hope that Dr. Lewis and the School Board will give consideration to the Mayor’s proposal or to another site in South Bethlehem. Mr. Donchez restated his belief that the Mountaintop Campus is a mistake, and he opposes it.

Mrs. Belinski said she wants to back Mr. Donchez 100%. Noting that her mother went to Broughal School, Mrs. Belinski stressed it is a beautiful and historic school, and it would be foolhardy to tear the school down. Mrs. Belinski thought the school should be kept. Mrs. Belinski recounted when she served on the School Board for two years the Board was too quick to gut schools and seemed to care more about the outside appearance of the schools than what was going on inside. Mrs. Belinski commented that if Broughal Middle School is not large enough, then the School District can build an addition. Mrs. Belinski added that the School District should not touch Broughal Middle School or give it over to Lehigh University or anyone else. Mrs. Belinski, asserting the school belongs to the people of Bethlehem, pointed out that the architecture could never be duplicated.

Mr. Mowrer informed the assembly that his mother also went to Broughal School, he wrestled against Broughal at its present location when he was in junior high school, and he taught at Broughal School when he was getting his master’s degree in education at Lehigh University.

Complimenting Director of Community and Economic Development

Mr. Leeson, recounting that a few weeks ago a minor potential economic development project came to his attention, noted he contacted Mr. Hanna and asked if Mr. Hanna would make sure that the prospective developer got all the information he needed and received help and guidance through the process. Mr. Leeson said he wants to compliment Mr. Hanna and his Department. Mr. Leeson, continuing on to say the Department responded promptly and very thoroughly, advised that the developer was very satisfied with the information, cooperation, and assistance given to him. Mr. Leeson, observing it is not known whether a developer will or will not come to the City, stated the developer is off to a very good start and he thinks a lot is due in part to Mr. Hanna’s fine work. Commenting he is the first to criticize when something goes wrong, Mr. Leeson said he also wants to be the first to acknowledge somebody when they do a good job.


Broughal Middle School - Preservation

Kenneth Achey, 2135 Rodgers Street, said the Broughal Middle School building has been on the South Side for years and will never be duplicated if it is ripped down. Observing that
perhaps 30-40 years from now people are going to say that was part of our City and ask whether it can be rebuilt, Mr. Achey stressed the structure will never be rebuilt the way it is now.

Gambling in Bethlehem

Karl Fluck, 312 Summit Street, stated he has prepared remarks. Mr. Fluck related that “on July 5, 2004 Governor Rendell signed House Bill 2330 and thus was born Act 71, or as it is more commonly known, the Gambling Act, which decriminalized a felonious activity, and spawned its sibling, Act 72, the Homeowner's Tax Relief Act, which subsequently put Bethlehem in the vortex of an emotionally charged debate; namely, how appropriate would a gambling center be in the Christmas City. The government propaganda machine has exploded into high gear. Our State Representatives, in conjunction with the Governor, have resorted to threats for daring to question and challenge their respective gubernatorial and legislative actions. How did our town become embroiled in controversy over a three quarter billion dollar development for a gambling casino, and tax relief in the form of a rebate from school districts that is basically scored on how much money people are willing to lose.” Mr. Fluck said that he rises “tonight to speak in opposition to the Gambling Act in general, and specifically its offensive presence in the Christmas City.”

Mr. Fluck stated the first issue is how did the gambling act become law. Stressing it is important for the citizens of Bethlehem to know the history of the Gambling Act, or Act 71, Mr. Fluck denoted that, according to one legislator, it is the engine that runs Act 72. Mr. Fluck continued on to enumerate that “on June 25, of 2003, Republican Senator Tomlinson rose in the Senate to introduce an amendment to HB (House Bill) 623, in its original form a ten page document, an amendment to Title 18 of the criminal code, ‘providing for deceptive and fraudulent business practices’. According to the Legislative Journal of the Senate, Senator Tomlinson's amendment, A2402, was an entire chapter entitled "Racetrack Gaming," and expanded the original ten page document to one of over 170 pages. The Senate passed his Gambling amendment 27 to 22. On July 18 of 2003, the State House of Representatives considered HB 623 which was a racetrack and casino slots bill, and was the culmination of several years of dickering between the House, the Senate, and the governor's office, for the benefit of the Pennsylvania horse racing industry by allowing slot machines at Pennsylvania's existing four racetracks only. It authorized the construction of 5 more tracks with slot machines, and additionally casinos in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia for a total of 11 venues generating supposedly one billion dollars. Quoting Democratic Representative Samuelson's, eloquent speech in opposition to gambling, ‘If you doubt that this vote on slot machines today will lead to other forms of gambling in the future, just look at how this proposal has expanded, from 4 tracks to 5 tracks to 8 tracks to 11 venues. The original proposal of 2,000 slot machines at 4 tracks entailed a total of 8,000 slot machines. Tonight, potentially, we are talking about 5,000 slot machines at 11 different locations", for a total of 55,000 slots. HB 623 ultimately was passed in the House 120 to 81, but it expired as a gambling amendment bill. HB 623 reverted to its original form, as an amendment to Title 18 for deception and fraud, and was signed into law by the Governor in November of 2004 as ACT 234. (Legislative history of HB 623.) On Thursday, July 1, 2004, almost a year to the day later, the gambling forces, again led by Republican Senator Tomlinson, resurrected the gambling bill in the Senate in the form of amendment A3055 attached to House Bill 2330. HB 2330, in its original form, was an innocuous one-page bill, which was introduced in the House on February 3, 2004.

Five months later on Thursday, July 1 at approximately 8:15 PM, Senator Tomlinson introduced his massive amendment, A3055, that comprised approximately 150 pages consisting of 6 Chapters, 83 sections, with 183 lettered subsections and 228 numbered subsections that completely eradicated and replaced the original title of HB 2330, as previously noted, with, ‘An Act Amending Title 4 (amusements), and authorizing certain racetrack and other gaming; etc.’ The new title and bill was a blatant attempt by the leaders of the House and Senate to bypass constitutional procedures of appropriate consideration by the members of the General Assembly, parties of interest (school boards) and the people of this Commonwealth. This was but one of the reasons that gave rise to the cause of action before the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. HB 2330 also added 3 more sites throughout the Commonwealth, such as [Bethlehem], for a total of 14 venues in the Commonwealth, intending to generate the same amount of money as the 11 venues in HB 623, one billion dollars.

Originally, only 500 slot machines were considered at the four existing Pennsylvania racetracks in order to bail out the struggling Horse Racing industry. However, senior and powerful
leaders in the House and Senate with racetracks in their districts transformed HB 2330 into a full blown gambling industry with the authorization of the creation of five more race tracks with slot machines, slot machines at resorts, and Category 2 slot machines (Section 1304 (a)) in ‘Revenue or Tourism Enhanced location (Section 1103 Definitions)’, like Bethlehem, at the sole discretion of the Gaming Board. The Gaming Board is a plenipotentiary council created by the Act with massive, unfettered, and far reaching powers, not the least of which is to grant it the power to situate a casino wherever they deem appropriate by usurping the power of the local zoning laws. This is another issue in the case pending before the Supreme Court.

Between July of 2003 and July of 2004, debate and compromise was made between senior legislators of both parties, from both houses of the General Assembly and the Governor's office with whoever had a race track in their district and wanted slots, and/or legislators who wanted a racetrack built in their district so they could get slots, and/or with legislators who didn't have room to build a racetrack and wanted independent stand alone slot machine casinos.” Mr. Fluck said, in other words, “for the Christmas City to be considered for a casino site, the legislature had to increase the number of sites authorized from 11 to 14, eliminate local debate, and eradicate local zoning laws across the entire Commonwealth, provisions that were not included in HB 623.” Mr. Fluck informed the assembly that “HB 2330 was passed by the Senate with a vote 30 to 20 at approximately 2:30 in the morning of Friday, July 2, 2004, sent to the House for concurrence and debate, and ultimately passed and [was] signed in the House and Senate in the early morning hours of Sunday, July 4. HB 2330 became Act 71 when it was signed into law by Governor Rendell on Monday, July 5, 2004. All of this was done with the acquiescence and support of Senator Boscola and Representative Rooney.”

Mr. Fluck asserted that “if the Supreme Court of this Commonwealth sustains Act 71, then they will join with the legislature and the Governor for a clean sweep by our three branches of government for the destruction of our rights under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. If the Supreme Court overrules the legislature and voids Act 71 as repugnant to the Constitution, then Act 72 is inoperable and the need for the saber rattling by the governor, members of his administration and local representatives is rendered moot.” Mr. Fluck said “I respectfully submit, that in the middle of Friday night, without the benefit of public scrutiny, while most of the citizens of this Commonwealth were asleep, on Saturday while most of the citizens were engaged in parties, picnics, and fireworks and celebrated the birth of our independence and right to free determination, and while most of us were in church on Sunday, July 4, Senator Boscola, Mr. Rooney and most of their colleagues decriminalized a felony and thereby created a State sanction of a well-known public vice.

The mere utterance of a public official does not make it true. Furthermore, it is an obligation and our constitutional right to challenge and question public officials for their actions whoever they are. We are under no obligation to accept as true their declarations of the financial benefits of gambling casinos and may dispute them. I categorically and unequivocally oppose gambling in the Christmas City and resent the way in which it has been thrust upon us.” Mr. Fluck remarked that, moreover, he resents “public officials using the power and authority of their office to exact punitive action against their citizens such as when the Governor ordered the publishing of the phone numbers of school administrators when he should have known that it is not the administration but the elected school boards that make the decision to participate in gambling revenues. Prior to July 1, 2004, I respectfully submit there was no public discussion about authorizing slot machines anywhere but at racetracks, Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, and I further respectfully submit…that the local school boards and the public were deliberately omitted from any debate. I respectfully submit that all of the debate since the passage of Acts 71 and 72 throughout the Commonwealth, including personal appearances by the Governor, his administration and legislators, is evidence that the school boards and the people wanted to be included and not excluded and they knew it. Furthermore, it is arrogance that motivates our legislators to threaten us with the force of legislation to submit to their demand that we support Acts 71 and 72 whether we like it or not. Our Supreme Court should take judicial notice of such behavior. If, in fact, Acts 71 and 72 were indeed historic as claimed, then why did the legislative leadership find it necessary to wedge into 72 hours of debate in the middle of the night and on a Sunday morning beyond the eyes of their constituents.”

Mr. Fluck communicated he is “not seeking the moral high ground here because that is better left to those in the City who oppose gambling, and possess greater interest and expertise in the morality factors. I oppose gambling in the Christmas City because it is a gigantic square peg in a little round hole. It just doesn't fit. I also believe that every candidate for public office in the City of Bethlehem should publicly declare whether or not they support gambling in the Christmas City. Also, and more importantly, we are recognized as the Christmas City of the United States. We have signs all over the City, and we advertise freely that is what we are, a small ecumenical community founded by Moravians on Christmas Eve in 1741, and represented by numerous churches of different faiths. It should be noted that it was a Sephardic Jew, Mr. Vernon Melhado, the head of the Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce during the depression, who initiated a successful nationwide campaign to have us declared the Christmas City of the United States. People from all over the world send cards and letters to our post office for the special Christmas stamp and cancellation. We possess some of the oldest and most beautiful churches in the country. Some of them…are like cathedrals, for instance, Holy Ghost Church in South Bethlehem which is my parish. ‘Christmas City’ is our brand, it is our trademark that has evolved for over half a century…The purpose of maintaining a brand or a trademark is to distinguish and differentiate itself from other products, and it can be a name, it can be a symbol, or it can be a term. But…I respectfully submit that The Christmas City is more than merely our brand, it is our heritage and our property right, thanks in no small part to the heroic efforts during the depression of Mr. Melhado and the countless citizens of voluntary and professional organizations who have continued his work to protect and nurture its growth. I submit…that we have a responsibility to continue that work. While there may be other towns in this great nation who possess the name of Bethlehem, there is no other Christmas City USA. There is certainly nothing about our heritage and our name that would, or could in any way, be construed as an endorsement of the development of a gambling industry that entrusts the reliance of education on the backs of those who participate in a vice at their whim or pleasure…Our brand, Christmas City USA, does not belong to any one individual, nor can any one individual cede that right to any one entity regardless of their position. Neither the Mayor, the City Council, local legislators, nor the Governor, nor our legislature may trade, sell or otherwise deprive us of the protection of our brand and property right to Christmas City USA, nor may they in any way do harm or tarnish our Christmas City Brand merely because they are public officials.”

Proposed Wawa Development - Easton Avenue and East Boulevard

Rebecca Dean, 2215 Rodgers Street, read from a letter she received from Tracy Samuelson, Assistant Director of Planning and Zoning, as follows: “Please join me at this site on May 5, 2005 at 3:30 PM for a meeting with the Wawa representatives to discuss possible site improvement to the Wawa plan that was tabled at the April 14, 2005 Planning Commission meeting. The site is the proposed Wawa on Easton Avenue and East Boulevard.” Ms. Dean noted that, as she stated at the April 19, 2005 City Council Meeting, she was at the Planning Commission meeting which concluded with a member asking the Wawa representatives if they would meet with members of the community. Ms. Dean, informing the assembly “they flatly refused”, advised that is how the meeting came to an end. Ms. Dean continued on to relate that today she called the office of Darlene Heller, Director of Planning and Zoning, and asked her why did the letter not come from Wawa. Ms. Dean noted Ms. Heller explained because a member of the panel suggested that Wawa meet. Ms. Dean said “that means Wawa should have gotten in touch with us and they didn’t. So, again, I find the actions of Ms. Heller to…be suspect and untoward, too. Noting she asked Ms. Heller why is the meeting at 3:30 PM this coming Thursday, Ms. Dean highlighted the fact that she works during the day. Ms. Dean stated at the Planning meeting when the issue of the Wawa development was discussed, she took off a half day from teaching at Northampton Community College and missed her night class and it is taken away from her sick days. Ms. Dean informed the Members that when she asked Ms. Heller why the meeting was at 3:30 PM she received no answer, and heard silence at the other end of the phone. Stressing she cannot take off more time from work, Ms. Dean asserted the scheduled time of the meeting “is unacceptable. All of us there work for a living which means the only people who can really attend this meeting with Wawa, which they refused in the first place, are either retired, or myself and others here will have to take off from work without pay. Last I asked Ms. Heller why is it that only a handful of us received this letter in the mail, and [Ms. Heller] said that only certain of us signed to speak [at the Planning Commission meeting.] And, I would like my fellow citizens to know that please sign everything…or you’re going to be left out of the loop, because [Ms. Heller] said if we don’t sign to speak, or if we don’t sign in in some way, we are not included as being involved in what is happening. And so certain of my…fellow citizens in my area did not receive this [letter], had no idea when I phoned them, and certain of us did receive the letter. And, I wanted to inform this [Council] and the Mayor that this is the…disingenuous fashion in which Wawa and Ms. Heller decided to bring the citizens and that corporation together.”

President Schweder, recalling one of the things that was stressed to him when he first was on City Council, recounted he was of the belief that certain committee meetings and other things would be held during the day. However, President Schweder advised it was a long tradition presented to him which convinced him that should not be done. President Schweder, while commenting he is curious about City Council never receiving a copy of this proposed meeting, asked what would be the reason to have the meeting on site at 3:30 in the afternoon as opposed to an open meeting in City Hall.

Mr. Hanna responded he was aware of the fact that the meeting was being scheduled because he believes that Mr. McIntyre, a member of the Planning Commission, suggested that a meeting might be in order between representatives from Wawa and the neighborhood. Mr. Hanna, saying he concurs, thought the meeting could be changed to accommodate the residents and commented he would talk to Wawa about that. Mr. Hanna noted that the meeting could be probably an early evening meeting, and stated that the invitation list could be broadened so there could be better input. Mr. Hanna said he is not sure how the letter went out to who was invited, but thought that perhaps some of the adjacent property owners might have been invited in addition to those who signed in. Mr. Hanna commented that the situation will be remedied and the meeting will be rescheduled, and added that Council will be advised as well.

President Schweder suggested that, in addition to Wawa, the developer of the property also be present to answer questions. Mr. Hanna expressed that the Department can try to have the original developer who was proposing an Eckerd Drug Store at the meeting as well. Mr. Hanna noted that Wawa has an equitable interest in the property at this point and may have an agreement of sale. President Schweder, commenting he will talk to the City Council Solicitor as well, pointed out this gets to the essence of the problem there in that what was proposed was one thing, and then after the approval was granted it became something else. Advising that the Planning Commission Solicitor is looking into the matter, Mr. Hanna explained what was proposed was a by-right use, and what was approved was a by-right use with some dimensional variances granted by the Zoning Hearing Board. Mr. Hanna continued on to explain what was subsequently proposed was also a by-right use of a shopping center. Mr. Hanna noted there is some question as to the validity of the variance and whether or not that really applies to the Wawa. President Schweder stated what he is going to look at over the next several months is to find a way that developers are going to have to keep their word to the people in the neighborhoods and the people of the City in that when developers make a commitment to do something in the community they are bound to do the proposal that was presented. President Schweder observed, if not, then the City’s zoning laws really mean nothing.

Broughal Middle School - Preservation

Stephen Antalics, 737 Ridge Street, read a letter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, Bureau for Historic Preservation, advising that the completed Pennsylvania historic resource survey form for Broughal Middle School has been reviewed and the property is eligible for listing in the National Register for Historic Places. The next step in the nomination process is the submission of a National Register form to the Bureau for Historic Preservation. The property will then be scheduled for review by the Historic Preservation Board. If approved, the National Register form will be sent to the National Parks Service for approval and listing in the National Register. Mr. Antalics advised that is why he asked people to be part of the Citizens Coalition for the Historic Preservation of Broughal Middle School.

St. Joseph’s Church - Bethlehem

Mr. Antalics related that, in researching the origin of St. Joseph’s Church on the South Side, he went at the time to the archives of St. Charles Bormeo. Mr. Antalics was then told to go to the Diocese of Allentown for the records but they did not have them. He went to the Croatian Custody in Chicago but they did not have them either and it was suggested he e-mail the Vatican. Mr. Antalics read from the response of the Vatican who suggested he contact the e-mail address of the protector in the Holy Land. Mr. Antalics read the response from the Holy Land and explained that although he was talking about Bethlehem, Pennsylvania it was thought he was referring to Bethlehem in the Holy Land.

Broughal Middle School, Madison Park, Weldship, Police Lawsuits, Daly Avenue, and Dissemination of City Information

Eddie Rodriquez, 436 Pawnee Street, expressed his agreement that Broughal Middle School should be kept on the South Side. Mr. Rodriquez wondered if something could be done to alert people about prevention and education in the City. Mr. Rodriquez thought people should be more alerted as to what is happening in the City, and to help them come to City Council Meetings. Mr. Rodriquez remarked it is at the last minute that people find things out, they are really afraid to attend the Meetings, and added that citizens should be provided with informational flyers or letters. Mr. Rodriquez, stressing that the situation at Madison Park must be straightened out, said he is again asking for bicycle Police and narcotics agents. Mr. Rodriquez advised that residents in the area are afraid to come out of their houses. Mr. Rodriquez highlighted the fact that there is graffiti on the walls, and individuals are hanging out after 11:00 PM. Mr. Rodriquez, advising he spoke with people from Perkins Restaurant, Weldship, and St. Luke’s Hospital, commented he did not think Weldship can be accommodated. Mr. Rodriquez, questioning why would someone want to move a place that has hydrogen and other gases in an environment where there are people on a daily basis, said he does not understand the philosophy of moving underneath the Hill to Hill Bridge, particularly if there were a fire or explosion. Mr. Rodriquez queried if the City is in a position to be involved in another Police lawsuit, and stressed that the City cannot afford another lawsuit. In response to Mr. Rodriquez, John Spirk, City Solicitor, expressed that both Bethlehem Township and the City of Bethlehem were named in the lawsuit. Mr. Rodriquez notified the Members that he spoke with Charles Brown, Director of Parks and Public Property, about Daly Avenue and the retaining wall and tree. Mr. Rodriquez asserted that the amount of expense under the Greenway program is going to be enormous. Mr. Rodriquez expressed the hope that the residents of the City and the Administration can work together.

City Council

William Scheirer, 1890 Eaton Avenue, noting he counted 13 votes this evening that were 7 to 0 and the 14th was 6 to 0, said he has been hearing recently that City Council needs to be more unified. Mr. Scheirer remarked if City Council were any more unified than it is, it would be in danger of being boring.

Potholes, Street Lights, Broughal Middle School, and State Legislation

Dean Bruch, 625 Hawthorne Road, asked if the potholes will be fixed. Mayor Callahan, responding in the affirmative, highlighted the fact that the pothole hotline is open for the pothole season. Mr. Bruch added he would like the ripples in the roads to be fixed also. Mr. Bruch stated he would like to see streetlights positioned a certain number of feet apart because of the electricity that must be paid. Mr. Bruch said he, too, would like to see Broughal Middle School saved. Mr. Bruch took exception to a State legislative practice of adding bills to legislation in order to get them passed. In addition, Mr. Bruch communicated that lawmakers should vote legitimately instead of on Sundays or Saturdays.

Broughal Middle School - Preservation

Mrs. Belinski, in view of Council Members sentiments about preserving Broughal Middle School, queried whether at the next Meeting a Resolution could be considered containing a message to the School Board.

President Schweder noted the precedence has been to not do Resolutions directly for other political subdivisions.

Mrs. Belinski asked whether a letter could be sent. President Schweder, stating that would be appropriate and is something Council has done in the past, commented that each Member could be given the option of whether they wish to sign it. President Schweder agreed that a letter containing appropriate language could be drafted.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:45 p.m.