Thursday, October 26, 2006
The quick and dirty on the Mayor’s proposal is a 3 mil (16%) tax increase; double the parking meter fees; cut 5 public works employees, 3 police, and 2 fire; only open Eddyside pool for a short season, and increase garbage fees while allowing less garbage at the curb.
The meeting was just over 2 hours long. Audio 14.7Mb
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Got a little historical reading assignment for us. Click the link to read how our mayor and his top aide presented the City's financial status to the press, residents, and the police arbitration board back in April of 1981.
My personal favorite is when he stated that "...the city would be bankrupt in four or five years" and then went on to say, "I may have overstated the case because we were in arbitration."
The more things stay the same, the more they stay the same.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
9. Don't you worry your pretty little head about issues.
8. Offering you the best consultants that money can buy.
7. We'll give you real economic development even if we have to ignore every resident in the City to do it.
6. Let us show you just how much we DON'T know!
5. I lived in the West Ward for a few days.
4. We won't address any problem until we absolutely have to.
3. I won't pay any fee, fine, or tax that I expect you to pay.
2. We guarantee that we will fill each City director's position (at least) twice.
1. We promise you less service and higher taxes.
My apologies neighbors, I forgot to post last week’s City Council meeting.
The meeting was started with the second of two Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) public hearings. There were public comments concerning the proposed distribution of the CDBG funds vis-à-vis charity organizations and the City. There was discussion over whether it was necessary to purchase a vehicle for the Fire Department that was to be used mainly for Public Works.
The pre meeting public comments were dominated by trash talk. Recycling and the new contract were issues. The contract with Raritan Valley got a positive vote. A lawyer from one of the competing garbage companies made statements questioning Raritan’s bond solvency.
During the final public comment session at the end of the meeting a Council member answered a residents cry for enforcement and assistance with criminal activity and loitering by (once again—different Council member) suggesting the resident look into starting a block watch. Good answer! Thanks for the help and wisdom. The most unusual, entertaining, and ironic public comment was made by a “Super American” from Bethlehem Township who approached the podium wearing a sleeveless Minutemen tee-shirt that read, “Americans defending Americans”. His issue was immigration and he pointed out the workers working on the Sweet Shop while talking about unsafe working environments.
The meeting is 2 hours and nine minutes. Audio (14.7Mb)
Monday, October 16, 2006
I make it a rule to mix problem solving in with any problem I point out. And BA and I have stated time and time again that we believe press conferences are the proper venues for relishing and praising, while Council meetings are the most important venue to find and fix problems.
That being said, I have to agree with my critics, people need to see and hear about Easton’s best. While I will still contest that this type of recognition should not overshadow issue resolution at City Council meetings, I think we at EU need to concede more space towards promotion of the place we love—Easton, Pennsylvania.
I’m sure at least one of the two of you reading this is wondering what brought on this change of heart. Well, to put it simply—lunch. I would guess that seventy five to ninety percent of my week is spent in the City. I live here; I work here, my wife works here, and my daughter goes to school here. I, naturally, eat; drink; shop; and recreate within the city limits a whole lot.
Last week I had to purchase a gift for an Easton charity event. We decided that a $50.00 gift certificate from one of the City’s restaurants was appropriate. So, I chose Sette Luna. I decided to make my trip a two-for-one and took care of the day’s lunch.
This turned out to be one of the most unexpectedly pleasant meals I have had in a while. I pride myself on my lack of pretense, and I am not very easily impressed. At Sette Luna I needed to be neither pretentious nor easily impressed. That was because I was in a place that “just does it right”. The food excelled in every way—“just enough” and uniquely appetizing. My meal started with their calamari which was served in a very tasty peppery-flavored tomato sauce. The sauce is so good that you instinctively use the aromatic house-made bread to sop it dry. I followed that up with one of the restaurants signature Panini sandwiches, The Eastonian. The sandwich was by no means a “gut buster”, but the owners must possess some secret sating formula, because it was” just right”. It was made up of the “just right” mix of Italian meats, cheese, and some greens with a small cucumber-tomato salad that helped each bite of the sandwich taste like a first bite.
The service only made things better as it was pleasant and subtly detailed. The room did not make me feel like a stranger in Easton, and it gave a comforting ambiance for touring visitors. I have eaten at Sette Luna a couple of times prior to this visit. Each of those times with company, and I had not the slightest hesitation at eating there alone (As a matter of fact, I had lunch there by myself three days later). The music was not obnoxious, and it did not make me feel either unrefined or unhip. They did things “right”. The servers are polite, accessible, and not in your face. I was most impressed as I witnessed an owner casually bus a table as if it were no big deal. They get it—“just right”.
While not easily impressed; I was easily impressed with the service provided by our neighbors at Sette Luna. And if I were pressed for an improvement criticism, I would ask for a children’s’ menu (the Little House of Crayons doesn't dig spices).
I love Easton, as well as many of you. So, from now on I will regularly pimp some of our goods, greats, and bests. That is, of course, in between working towards our mission.
To provide a clean, crime-free, and safe environment with competitive services
that allows residents to enjoy a high quality of life, while providing commerce
an environment to thrive.
219 Ferry StreetEaston, PA 18042
Mon. - Tues.: 11:30 a.m. - 9 p.m.
Wed. - Thurs.: 11:30 - 9:30 p.m.
Fri.: 11:30 - 10:30 p.m.
Sat.: noon - 10:30 p.m.
Sun.: 4 - 9 p.m.
Thursday, October 05, 2006
You have answered my query. I agree in some ways. I think that having a city run water authority will bring in more money to the city (via water leases) and have the added benefit of removing some overhead and liability that the current system does not provide. I am not sure, though I fear some flaming may arise from this comment, why having the union is necessarily a good thing. I understand that unions help protect workers and help to negotiate when employers are being unfair. However, there comes a time when the union becomes a blind protector - fighting for things that seem dubitable at best. The city workers in this case would get to keep their jobs, as you state. But the new water authority, as a separate entity, would be allowed to create new hiring practices or keep it union or try some. The cry of privatization prevents the real issue from being heard.
First off let me just say, Latin Teacher I have read your profile, and I would like to welcome you to our great city. I, like you, am a transplant (Philly native), not to be confused with a carpet bagger.
I agree with your "blind protector" statement, and if that were the case I would be the first to fight it. But that is not the case with any of the citys 3 labor unions. Let me restate something I posted to the tag board a couple of days ago:
OK one more blurb about Unions. I did not mean to imply that all unions are doing good for the people. Because some have been divisive in their stinginess and have run prices through the roof and industries out of the country. Some have been too obstinate to promote changes in their industry's business model (B. Steel) and let their futures fade away. IN EASTON, the 3 bargaining units/unions we have are still on the useful side of the labor continuum. They protect against short cuts and unfair practices. BUT WE MUST TAKE HEED OF THIS, when our unions are no longer filled with people that have a vested interest in Easton's financial well being, we stand the chance of being fleeced (food for thought). Make Easton more livable, and employ a good number of residents. posted 4 Oct 06, 06:42 PM
You make the assumption that the city has hiring practice issues related to the water plant and the workers represented by AFSCME Local 447. That is not the case. Yes, the City does have hiring practice issues, just none related to this topic.
The current administration champions shortcuts to financial solvency. Every solution to any problem we have experienced has involved cutting or selling off assets. There are council members onboard with this philosophy too; Council President Vulcano has stated to me more than once that the City is not in the real estate business. That has been the guiding thought process behind the selling of a considerable amount of City owned property. The Mayor's office is working to cut employees/benefits. Their issue is that a overwhelming majority of the City's funds are spent on employees. We say, "No shit, Sherlock!" And here we come again to one of EU's major points-- Easton is A CITY. The purpose of city government is to return tax dollars to residents in the form of ESSENTIAL SERVICES. And this is where our disconnect is with the City leaders.
Mind you, this issue is not one of us complaining without offering solutions. We offer the same solutions over and over. We need to generate revenue, modernize, and enforce. The city is owed in excess of one million dollars in unpaid water bills. The number was $1.6 million a year ago. This is the elephant in the room. We don't enforce any ordnances that can drive revenue. BA has been lobbying for years to get the fire department to recover funds from insurance companies. The Bussiness Adminstrator's reasoning for not wanting to accept credit card bill paying was that the "City would have to pay a percentage". We gave away free parking for a week days after closing a swimming pool and cutting 3 fire fighters, 3 police officers, and 3-5 public works employees. And we fought for two years to convince the other four council members that then Councilman Mike Fleck's idea to reinstitute the Amusement and Mechanical Devices Tax was a good financial decision (too bad we screwed that up too-- $252,700). Close the pools, cut police, cut fire, cut public works, lease the water plant, sell the trash trucks, HIRE CONSULTANTS.
No Latin Teacher, the issue is not organized labor. The issue is essential services. We do NOT get what we pay for.
Thanks for the comments,
Tuesday, October 03, 2006
It is my suggestion to all here in the EUniverse to reread and absorb Our Neighbors’ last post entitled The EU Manifesto. After nearly 8 weeks of unscheduled hiatus, I am back reading the tag board and am not amused. Not because the writers don’t have a right to state their endless complaints, but because they offer no solutions. If we here in the EUniverse are going to change things we have to offer up a pound of wisdom every now and then-- Concrete, viable solutions. When we go to City Council meetings are we offering resolutions to the problems for which we complain? I’m Just Asking.
On the street, I am told that EU is a bunch of people talking about nothing. Well folks, this isn’t Seinfeld. The masses can’t get past the tag board before they click onto their next order of business. If we as a group are going to go on and on, let’s give the readers real statistics from real sources, then solutions that the Council can use. We can be a forum for endless ranting or a forum for change. What’s it going to be folks?
I’m Just Asking.
The first from LatinTeacher asks, "So, do you agree with the Union position or with the proposal?"
This comment was posted to the August 23 Council meeting post. We assume that the question is refering to the proposed "water lease".
Our answer is niether (totally). We like something in between. We see no reason why the city should cease to employ the 20 or so water employees in their current jobs. Their jobs will still exist in the same capacities under Surburban Water. And since we keep hearing how this is in no way a privatization, because the Authority is a City agency, it makes a lot of sense to share the responsibility and keep an active grasp on our asset-- The water plant.
The union employees in both water and sewage have been managed by outside agencies for years. So, an arguement that management other that the City's over the City's employees is moot.
Making those employees choose between working at their trained positions or leaving the union is union busting as an aside. For the Administration it is a back door win-win. If they remain in the bargaining unit the workforce will allow positions to exist until attrition eliminates them, or if they keep their jobs the staffing immediatly disapears from the City. Well, what does that leave us the taxpayer with... A depleted bargaining unit (AFSCME Local 447) that can no longer stand up for the safety and fairness of working people. Translation, fewer and fewer people to maintain our parks, streets, City vehicles, and monitor codes. Not a win for my house. WE NEED THE WORKERS OF AFSCME LOCAL 447, AND WE NEED MORE THAN WE HAVE NOW. Our basic City services are failing or have failed.
The jobs are filled, and the workers are organized... Let them stay that way. It really does protect the City.
The next question is from r.moshki and r.moshki asks, "How do you plan to carry out your "mission"? "
We work EVERYDAY to accomplish our mission. BA, our contributers, and I concentrate on being involved and helping others to be involved. Our continual participation in City Council is to set an example to other residents. People need to know that those meetings are a real resource to accomplishing better living in Easton. Our stalwart presensence is also an example of strengths of persistence-- people need to see that sometimes it takes a bit more that just popping in on one meeting to get results.
We communicate and encourage communication through editorials. We stand up against bad policy, abuses of ethics, blight, and crime; and we stand beside our neighbors when they do the same. We actively participate in worthwhile community events, and we spread the word to help the events flourish.
In short we are active good neighbors.
As I write this we are planning a EU community summit that we want to be a City crime symposium. So stay tuned.
Thanks for the questions.
We look forward to being a good neighbor to you soon!