Saturday, August 23, 2008
From the Mayor,
Saturday, August 23, 2008 10:17 AM
It is with great sadness that I report to you the passing of one of our Easton family members. Nadine Loane, champion for all West Ward residents and respected sate-wide for her leadership of our Weed and Seed Program, passed away last evening after a courageous fight against so many ailments. Her passing at this time makes us wonder how hard she fought to get past her highly successful Summer Nights Program. She was so dedicated to the children and families of her program that she fought even harder to see the program through another year.
Our sympathies go out to her husband Bob, her family and the thousands of lives she touched.
To say she will be missed is an understatement.
Salvatore J. Panto, Jr.
Mayor, City of Easton PA
1 South Third Street
Easton, PA 18042
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
Monday, April 07, 2008
And sorry... Only one agenda.
February 27, 2008 (42 minutes 49 seconds 4.9Mb)
March 12, 2008 (48 minutes 26 seconds 5.5Mb)
March 26, 2008 (58 minutes 22 seconds 5.9Mb)
Agenda March 12, 2008
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Bernie’s post titled Norco Council Does Its Best to Discourage Citizen Volunteers was all about an issue we are in the midst of here at the city level. Apparently, there was some debate surrounding the approval of people for County authorities, boards, and commissions (ABCs). According to Bernie’s report, two Councilpersons (Charles Dertinger and Diane Neiper) expressed concerns over having to confirm candidates in the manner that they were asked. At the County Council, members are given resumes and the candidates seeking approval are present on induction night.
NOTE: Bernie also mentioned the Council's poor treatment of the appointees. He pointed out that the appointees remained standing as the Council members debated their issues with no apparent regard to the appointees presence or condition. I agree whole-heartedly with Bernie's assessment that poor treatment like that is very discouraging to anyone seeking to voluteer their civic services. (added 02/26/08)
Interestingly, Bernie and I (both huge proponents of open government) do not seem to agree on the level of vetting necessary for (re)appointments to ABCs. O’Hare takes the stand that, “It’s hard enough to get volunteers” and that the posts are “thankless”. Those reasons just happen to be the exact rebuttals we (Bad Apple and me) get any time we advocate for in-person interviews and confirmations of ABC candidates. Last week Councilwoman Elinor Warner was quoted in the Express-Times saying that she does not want to see the process become a “Supreme Court confirmation”.
I disagree with all of those statements. Saying that it is difficult to find candidates for ABCs should not be allowed to end the argument. That rhetoric should not reduce us to the lowest common denominator—accepting whatever names are presented by the administration. First, the solution does not accurately address the problem; it by-passes the problem. A true solution would be geared towards increasing the willingness to participate and increasing the candidate pool. It stands to reason that if we are not getting competition for positions, then we may not be getting the best potential. We need to explore some different approaches to fix this inequity. It is our position that the number one reason for the City’s low level of interest is communication. The methods used to recruit people for ABC positions are underwhelming and lack imagination. We DO NOT and HAVE NOT issued press releases; We DO NOT and HAVE NOT posted vacancies on the web; We DO NOT and HAVE NOT listed vacancies in the Bugler; and most importantly we DO NOT and HAVE NOT publicized what our ABCs do or need.
Labeling civic service (not to be confused with hired civil service) as “thankless” is, in itself, discouraging; and communicates a message that is in direct opposition with the promotion of ABC service.
At best, the reasons are crutches. At the very worst, the reasons serve as gatekeepers; the basis to maintain certain levels of status quo. We have seen over and over again the damage that a King’s reign over appointments can result in. Last year former Senator John Edwards said he wanted to propose what he called "Brownie's Law" requiring that “qualified people, not political hacks, lead key federal agencies” (http://www.reuters.com/article/politicsNews/idUSN2721144820070828). We can look a lot closer than New Orleans for examples of appointment discretion gone astray due to the lack of controls that protect the people (“the people being the citizenry not the appointees). Recently we’ve been in the midst of issues with the Easton Housing Authority (junket abuse, HOPE VI housing ratios, and attendance) and the Easton Parking Authority (Riverwalk debt) that center on the qualifications, conduct, and judgment of members. The Mayor himself sites the Zoning Board’s tendency to make decisions that are not in-line with the City’s strategic plans when he discusses the need for ABC improvements.
In October 2007, Mayoral Candidate Panto was asked, “how can we better ensure that the nominated appointees [to ABCs] are qualified and representative of the needs of taxpaying residents?” He answered, “…we will advertise openings by all means possible to recruit as many applicants as possible. We will interview each candidate to review their commitment to the position and the skill set they bring to the appointment. When a decision is made the individual’s name will be submitted to City Council for their approval.”
Then Council Candidate El Warner’s answer to the very same question sums up our viewpoint well. She answered, “…council needs to ensure that openings on the ABCs are somehow advertised – on the city website, in the Bugler, etc. – so that all interested residents have a chance to come forward. Rather than just passing a name onto council for approval, the mayor should be asked to also pass along a list of qualifications, and a letter of interest from the candidate. If necessary, council should also meet with the candidate for a discussion. Strengthening this process should not “scare” away interested citizens, but instead help strengthen the membership of these ABCs.”
And as a Council Candidate Roger Ruggles also states in his response that, “council needs to interview each candidate and identify their expectation of the individual being nominated for that position.” (http://eastonundressed.blogspot.com/2007/10/candidate-question-8-authorities-boards.html)
The first part of that question addresses the importance of the twenty plus ABCs, and it points out the fact that they are “sanctioned city government subdivisions”. The million dollar Parking Authority tab, the two HOPE VI denials (with board conduct sited in the denial correspondence), and the large number of converted single-family homes are definitive proof of how important ABC positions are. We can ill afford to further offend every other Eastonian by trying to avoid offending a person asking to be responsible for our City’s well being. We have the right assess anyone who believes that they are deserving of such public trust.
How can we be assured that every citizen is given proper consideration if we are only presented with the successful applicants? There needs to be a method in place that shows the public exactly how many interested parties apply and proves that each applicant is given the same due diligence. The process of voting for the names presented at Council actually brings appointees closer to being like members of the Supreme Court, because the practice makes it easy for people to be reapproved (with the tiniest of scrutiny) for life.
Some people have expressed concerns over how “open” municipal government should truly be. There are concerns that “opening” means taking control away from the elected officials. It doesn’t. Informing the people and allowing the people comment does not take away the electorate’s responsibility to decide. The politicians will still have to decide; responsibly or otherwise.
Thanks for the text box Bernie!!!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
The weather started getting rough the Riverwalk project was tossed,
If not for the courage of a fearless few,
More money would be lost,
More money would be lost.
Our City Controller Tony Bassil reported the results of his audit on the finances of the Easton Parking Authority. His findings; It bleeds!
Somebody's got some 'splainin to do. And your guess is as good as mine as to who it will be. People want heads to roll. But that's just the people. The cockroaches have already started to scatter away from the light on this one.
Another significant item was the tabling of several reappointments and an appointment to various authorities, boards, and commissions. The appointments were slated to be rubber stamped, but upon discussion it was decided that a two week waiting period will be used instead of a public confirmation process. The Mayor said, "I don't think it should be brought before the public. Frankly, we have enough of a hard time to get people to serve on these boards and commissions and authorities. If you start bringing people through here, and having them dragged through the public arena I don't thing we'll get people to be here."
I believe we should bring people through. But that's just me. I want to bear witness to a candidate's (for appointments) qualities and desire to serve.
If you listen reall close, when the Mayor says, "Dragged through the..." you can hear a Councilperson say "the mud". I do apprieciate the Mayor's tact. But I can not get on board with keeping civil service in the shadows. Let the sunshine on the process. Protect us from future Easton Parking Authority debacles.
Heck of a job, Louie!
NOTE: On August 28, 2007, Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards proposed what he called "Brownie's Law" requiring that "qualified people, not political hacks", lead key federal agencies. (Michael D Brown's Wikipedia page http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_D._Brown)
Audio Regular Session(3 hours 9 minute 21.6Mb)
Agenda Regular Session
Saturday, February 02, 2008
Audio Conference Meeting (44 minutes 15 seconds 5.06Mb)
Audio Regular Session(1 hour 1 minute 7.03Mb)
Agenda Conference Meeting
Agenda Regular Session
Monday, January 21, 2008
I Have a Dream.
I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.
Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of captivity.
But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize an appalling condition.
In a sense we have come to our nation's capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check which has come back marked "insufficient funds." But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check -- a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to open the doors of opportunity to all of God's children. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.
It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment and to underestimate the determination of the Negro. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. There will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.
But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred.
We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force. The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny and their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom. We cannot walk alone.
And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.
I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.
Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.
I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal."
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit down together at a table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state, sweltering with the heat of injustice and oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor's lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.
I have a dream today.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.
This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.
This will be the day when all of God's children will be able to sing with a new meaning, "My country, 'tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the pilgrim's pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring."
And if America is to be a great nation this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York. Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania!
Let freedom ring from the snowcapped Rockies of Colorado!
Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California!
But not only that; let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!
Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee!
Let freedom ring from every hill and every molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.
When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Monday, January 14, 2008
The first bit of tension to be to be touched upon was the legal question surrounding Mrs Panto's appointment/reappointment to the Charter-made Council seat. We were taken all the way to the end of the table for the ruling. Now keep in mind that the appearance of familiarity; the appearance of a conflict; or the appearance of collusion are not against the rules or the law-- so they may not (of course) be key considerations as we make decisions. And they weren't... Furthermore, any talk of such nonsense will be duly ignored. Mrs Panto's appointment was cleared by the Assistant Solicitor (you see for this ruling the "Solicitor" was too close to the Mayor).
I feel so stupid.
Later in the meeting Roger Ruggles was appointed to Councilman Dan Corpora's vacated seat. There was angst and controversy surrounding the procedure used there to. Mind you, all of the protest, angst, and controversy was sponsored by the same group of advocates/trouble makers (depends on your vantage point).
Now, we could have appointed both Mrs Panto and Mr Ruggles with the very minimum discomfort with just the tiniest bit of thought.
First; the procedures and steps to fill the vacancies should have been posted and made available for everyone's review shortly after the elections.
Second; the charter transition committee should have been convened to go over the FIFTY ONE PAGES of the charter, and address the transition issues like 2.05 (c).
Third; Roger Ruggles should have been voted into the Charter-made position.
Fourth; Pam Panto should have been voted through the vacancy Dan Corpora created.
Yes, there would have still been grumbling over Mr and Mrs Panto serving together, but there would be far fewer elephants in the room.
Audio (1 hour 27 minutes 10Mb)
Thursday, January 03, 2008
Last night City council held two meetings. The beginning of the session was the farewell meeting of the City's Third Class City Code Council. The ending was the reorganization meeting for the City's first Home Rule Charter Council.
The evening was mostly ceremonial. The only uncomfortable moments swirled around the appointment of Pam Panto to the newly-made (Home Rule Charter) Council seat.
Now, let me just interject some for-the-record editorial...
For me, the issue has never been Pam Panto serving on Council. The issue is Pam Panto being APPOINTED to City Council WHILE her husband is in-charge of it. As I said to Mrs Panto on election night, it would be different and less controversial if she ran in two years.
Appointments to political positions are arguably the most abused of all political processes. We see it time and time again. Just this last cycle we saw it in D.C. (remember the fine job Brownie did in Louisiana?) and we got a good slaterin' of it at County Council with the appointments of McClure and Branco (the party politics choke hold).
It would have been a hugely symbolic gesture if we could have avoided the appointment of Pam Panto as an issue. It would have made it obvious to any doubters that power was not an issue. As I said to WFMZ, "I know and trust the Pantos and so do hundreds of others, BUT there are a lot more people that have no idea what they are like personally." So for the Pantos to say things like "we're individuals and we think for ourselves" works fine for me, but what about everyone else?
If someone like John Stoffa (whom I do not know personally) told me to trust him enough to appoint his wife (whom I also do not know) to County Council, should I just turn off my scrutinizer and say OK because of his words?
Bottom line. Liking someone is not enough for me to allow them to do something that I would not allow someone I did not know, like, or trust to do.
I accepted the fact that Pam Panto was going to get appointed. And I am fine with it, because I like her and respect her a lot. Is that enough?
What I did not like was the way that Council handled the voting. Nominating one candidate from a field of five (when you have to favor two anyway) injures the democratic notion of one-man one-vote. It creates one-candidate no-vote. The Charter Commission had the foresight to protect Council members' votes from losing significance by instituting the rolling roll-call (the voting order rotates through the members). And, one more thing, when a vote is of that magnitude it would serve us all a lot better if everyone made a statement with their vote. Last night's voting was very discouraging. It was uncomfortable when only one person was nominated the first time, but it was insulting when Jeff Warren nominated Ken Brown. Hmm, the new guy appoints the Vice Mayor. That was a demonstration of power that I hope to never witness in city Hall again.
OK, I wish only the best to our new Council and the Mayor. Mayor Panto's vision for the city is shared by us here at EU.
One more, one more thing... I am officially never giving anymore TV interviews. two minutes of talking about the Charter gets me 10 seconds of somewhat out of context airtime. And as most of you know I can hardly afford the 10lbs that TV adds.
Farewell Session Audio(30 minutes 30 seconds 2.49Mb)
Reorganization session Audio(52 minutes 12 seconds 5.97Mb)
Wednesday, January 02, 2008
Council ratified the 2008 budget at a rare 10am session. There was a short 20 minute break for an Executive Session on a "personnel matter". And a resolution was passed directing the City Controller to audit the Easton Parking Authority's finances.
The audience comments centered on the Easton Parking Authority.
Audio(47 minutes 24 seconds 5.42Mb)
Saturday, December 29, 2007
The candidates were interviewed in this order:
J. Spike Rogan
As many of you may have heard, Spike's used his time to make a very well thought out and mannerly political protest statement. His statement was against having Mayor Sal and Councilwoman Pam Panto serve on the new Council.
Audio (1 hour 10 minutes 8.06Mb)
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Here are the last three City Council meetings.
November 14, 2007
The Mayor presented the administration's budget proposal.
Allan Raisman, of Lafayette College, presented his "One-Word" project before Council. Several Lafayette students performed readings of submissions to the project. My personal favorite was the submission for the word "Eventually".
Audio (1 hour 19 minutes 1.02Mb)
November 28, 2007
John L. Boscia's (a retired City employee) passing was recognized in a resolution.
The Easton Rumblers soccer team was recognized for their undefeated season.
The Planning and Economic Development Director (Barb Kowitz) gave an update on the progress of the Palmeroy and Lincoln Textile projects. Some council members seemed less than satisfied with the report on the projects. There was also vigorous discussion on the obstructed sidewalk in front of the Palmeroy building. The Mayor reported on his meeting with the developers. He was as confident and as supportive as ever in the developers' intentions. There was a good deal of discussion on the development projects and the taxpayers liabilities.
Audio (1 hour 18 minutes 8.96Mb)
December 12, 2007
Council discussed presenting a non-binding resolution to have the Easton Parking Authority cease spending in relation to the Riverwalk project until a pending financial audit is completed by the City Controller.
The sledding ban was lifted.
Audio (2 hours 2 minutes 14Mb)