Sunday, December 31, 2006

NET Events Planning Meeting

Ever have an idea for a NET event? Want to be involved in the event planning process? Come share your ideas and talents to help with NET events for the future. Whether you want to be involved very little or very much we could always use a hand. Ideas always welcome!

When: Sunday, Jan. 14, 4 p.m.

Where: Wired Cafe, 520 Main Street, Bethlehem 18018

Admission: FREE!!

Contact: Wendy Gerlach at

More information.

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

First Time Homebuyer Seminar Series

All the classes they start at 8:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. three Saturdays consecutively. If you miss one you can make it up whenever you have the chance. When you completed the 3 Saturdays you receive a certification in the mail. One on one appointments are available to check your credit report and your debt to income ratio to see how much of a house you can afford and what work you need to do in order to get approved by a bank.

There are many programs to help with down payment and closing.

When: 8:15 a.m. - 1 p.m., Jan. 13, 20, 27

Where: Allentown

Admission: FREE!!

Sponsored by Community Action Financial Services.

Friday, December 29, 2006

NET radio appearance rescheduled

The NET's radio appearance has been rescheduled for Friday, January 5th at 4 p.m. on WGPA AM 1100.

Representatives from the Network of Young Professionals will be guests on AM 1100, at 4 p.m. Friday, January 5th. President Abraham Nemitz (, and Vice President Wendy Gerlach ( will be discussing affordable housing on Real Estate Riches.

Be sure to tune in! You can also listen online.

Allentown's Mayor year in review

An interesting interview appeared today in the Morning Call with Allentown's mayor, Ed Pawlowski.

Q: What would you say is the most difficult thing you accomplished in the past year?

A: I think there were (several) things that were difficult that we were able to hurdle. First off we had to restructure the entire budget and come in under our initial projections, which was a huge accomplishment for us. To come in $3.8 million under a budget that was already cut by $2.2 million was an amazing feat of discipline and determination on the part of the staff here at City Hall.

The second thing was the FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) contract. At the same time that I lost a quarter of my police force, I had to basically sue the city police and the FOP, which was a major challenge. Everybody told us we didn't have a chance, we had no chance of winning, it was an impossible task. We took on the task anyway. We put together a top legal team of Max Davison, who understood the local legal dynamics here, as well as Ken Jarin, who was the top notch labor lawyer in the entire state. We took on an established union structure that was perhaps the most powerful in the state and we won. We got retirees to give back part of their retirement benefits, we restructured some basic premises of the contract, and we saved the city real money. ...we are going to save $16 million over the next 20 years. That is pretty significant. At the same time we had to rebuild the police force. So I walked this very fine line of suing the police union while we were asking them to do more and trying to encourage police morale and efficiency on the street, which was an incredibly difficult task.

We took it on and at the same time we started rebuilding our force, putting in a new police command structure that has really proved beneficial and building up the performance and morale of the force. They made some significant drug busts this year. They have really attacked head on some of the gang infrastructure that had taken root in the city and they are making some significant strides at weeding it out, even being down a quarter of the force. They have made just as many arrests this year with a quarter less police officers and that was the struggle. To go after the union because of budgetary reasons at the same time trying to work with them and develop a more proficient police force. Those were really the major struggles this year...

Q: Allentown fell short in its bid for a casino. How will that effect the city's financial health?

A: I never counted on [getting an influx of revenue from a casino] when I took this job. Our goal will be the same, to rebuild our economy and use whatever resources we have in our broader community. We have some great resources in our corporations, to try to rebuild this great city in a way that will bring it back to the prominence it once had in the Lehigh Valley. We cannot let the city continue to decline. I don't care how well Bethlehem does, if Allentown, which is literally joined at the hip, continues to decline, it will drag everything down with it. My goal is to make sure that doesn't happen. I think we have a great city. I think we have a lot of potential development on the horizon that will have some significant impact to bring the city back, and the goal will be to continue that process as we started from day one to rebuild our economy to bring us back solid fiscal discipline and rebuild performance in City Hall, increase our economic development activity and stabilize our neighborhoods. We are going to do that with or without a casino. That was the goal from the beginning, it is going to be the goal going in.

I think we have a great city. I think Allentown has a bright horizon. We have a city that is the third largest city in the state , that has a strong south side and east side and west side. We have some struggling neighborhoods in our downtown but this city is going to come back and it is going to come back with or without a casino. We will have a much harder road to hoe here, but this city will come back and we have a lot of great opportunities we are going to continue to pursue, and our goal is to see this city come back to its former prominence that existed in the past.

Q: What about the crime problem? The most recent FBI crime statistics show violent crime in Allentown is on the rise. Is it frustrating that is not a problem you can easily fix in an immediate way?

A: I think we are having an impact. The problem is we don't have the resources to really impact it the way I would like to. Remember, we are down a quarter of our officers. We are, quite honestly like most cities in this country, in a war. We are really in warfare against the drug dealers and gangs that are really trying to take over our neighborhoods and pedal their products to kids in our communities. We are fighting this as a war. We are going to take down their communication, we are going to disrupt their recruiting efforts, we are going to go after every one of their strongholds, we are going to push them out of town, and that is our goal, and we are doing that even with the fact that we have been low on manpower.

Our guys have really been stepping up to the plate. They have (been) working hand in hand with our district attorney. Just a couple of years ago, there was open warfare between the Allentown Police Department and the district attorney. I think we have the best relationship we have had, and we should have because we have a great district attorney who is doing a good job in prosecuting our criminals.

But I am going to take whatever resources I can and work with whatever departments I am going to work with to address this issue. We have restructured our police department. I think we have a good command team. We have more patrols out. We are doing joint operations with the state police on a more consistent basis. We collaborated with other cities and got money for the first time to go after gang intervention and prevention activities.

After rebuilding our force, we are rebuilding our vice as well. We are going to have our (surveillance) cameras, which will have a dramatic impact on the ability to do these crimes out in the open. We are going to expand our network as far as we possibly can expand it over the next year, and we have close to $1 million allocated not only for downtown but for all the neighborhoods surrounding the downtown.

Do we have a way to go? Absolutely. But we have taken some huge, huge bites out of this network. Almost every homicide has been solved. We are solving homicides from last year. We are solving them in record time. The message I want to get across is if you get caught in Allentown, you are going to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

I think we are going to see a dramatic decrease going into next year. We are taking (crime) on strategically just like we are taking on the budget. We are taking it on piece by piece by piece, going after these criminals and we are starting to have an impact, we are starting to have a dent in crime.

There is crime, but I think the perception far outstrips the reality in many cases. (Without reversing that) we are never going to get true economic revitalization in the city. This is something I will continue to focus on.

Q: Closing thoughts?

A: We have a lot of challenges on the horizon, and I have been open and honest with the citizens about the challenges that exist. But we also have a lot of potential on the horizon too. I think this is a great city, it is a city that is really coming back, it is a city on the precipice of redevelopment. We are going to get over that hill to the light on the other side, and this city is going to become a great city again.

More here.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

NET on the radio tomorrow - 12/29

Representatives from the Network of Young Professionals will be guests on AM 1400 WEST, Easton at noontime tomorrow. President Abraham Nemitz (, and Vice President Wendy Gerlach ( will be discussing affordable housing.

Be sure to tune in over lunch!

January 19th Street Film Series

Jan. 2 - 7:30 p.m.
Off the Black

Jan. 9 - 7:30 p.m.
The History Boys

Jan. 16 - 7:30 p.m.
Come Early Morning

Jan. 23 - 7:30 p.m.
The Last King of Scotland

Jan. 30 - 7:30 p.m.

Where: 19th St. Theatre

Cost: $7, or $5 any Tuesday night movie for NET members.

Not a member? Join now.

Betcha didn't know...

In July 2006, Money magazine included Bethlehem in its list of "Top 100 Places to Live."

Allentown Art Museum's Art After Hours: Junque or Jewel?

Have a rockin’ good time as we gaze at gorgeous gems, talk collectibles, and taste fine wines. Harry L. Rinker of Rinker Enterprises, HGTV celeb and host of the nationally syndicated antiques radio call-in show Whatcha Got, will please the crowd with witty insights into collectibles, while C. Paul Stubbe, G.G. of Charles Paul Gem Designs shares his knowledge of gems and jewels. Sip the fine wines of Franklin Hill Vineyards under the guidance of Elaine Pivinski, owner. We’ll make sure you don’t lose your glass by guiding you in making your own wine glass charm! Shake off the winter chill—and heat up at the Museum.

When: Thursday, Jan. 11, 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Where: Allentown Art Museum

Cost: $10 for NET members, $15 for non-NET members

Not a member? Join now.

Lehigh Valley Housing Market continues to cool slowly

Home prices in the Lehigh Valley are retreating slightly after three blockbuster years in which homes appreciated 10 percent or more on average. At the peak of the housing market in 2005, homes sold in a matter of weeks. The market was bolstered by strong demand from home buyers moving to the Valley from more expensive towns in New York and New Jersey, and, to a lesser extent, the Philadelphia area.

Valley homes in the lower range continue to sell quickly. But houses in the mid to upper range are lingering on the market for a few months or more. On average, homes are staying on the market for 47 days, or about seven weeks. Compared with previous years when the market was sluggish, that's brisk. For example, in the fall of 2000, homes stayed on the market for 67 days on average.

But a year ago, homes were moving more quickly, with an average market time of less than six weeks.

The slowdown also has affected the price for newly constructed homes, which skyrocketed in recent years. The average price of a new four-bedroom home with 21/2 baths rose 1 percent in November to $388,000, compared with the same period last year.

Lehigh Valley real estate agents and others observers of the housing market stress the market for homes in the Lehigh Valley remains healthy . They say t he feverish pace of sales and the skyrocketing prices of the past three years was not the norm.

But many sellers are reluctant to lower asking prices despite the fact that homes are sitting longer than last year.

''I think if people are really serious, they have to take a hard look at what they are asking,'' said Lehigh Valley appraiser James Keim. ''For the most part, it has really leveled off.''

More here.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

NET Organizational Meeting

This is when we discuss the business side of the NET. Have a good idea? Want to volunteer? Have questions? Please attend to discuss.

All Members and non-members welcome.

When: Wednesday, Jan. 10, 7 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Where: Wired Cafe, 520 Main Street, Bethlehem 18018

Admission: FREE!!

More information.

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

NET Guerilla Marketing Night

In honor of January being our Membership Month, we have come up with an event to help us make a name for ourselves.

We will be hitting the streets, Guerilla Marketing style, to get the word out about the Lehigh Valley Network of Young Professionals.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to blanket the Lehigh Valley with NET posters and postcards. Each group will be armed with tons of marketing materials and a disposable camera to take pictures of each local business you commandeer. All pictures will then be posted here for all to see! To sweeten the pot a little more we will even give each participant a FREE (yes, we said FREE!) NET T-shirt.

We will meet in the Wegmans parking lot on Rt 512 in Bethlehem to distribute materials at 6:30 pm and then re-group afterwards.

When: Tuesday, Jan. 9, 6:30 p.m.

Where: Wegmans (5000 Wegmans Drive, Bethlehem, PA)

Admission: FREE!!

Contact: Wendy Gerlach at

More information.

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Ethnic Eats: Nawab Indian Restaurant

Nawab Indian Restaurant
13 E 4th St
Bethlehem, PA 18015
(610) 691-0388

Food type: Indian

Monday, December 25, 2006

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Eight-year-old Virginia O'Hanlon wrote a letter to the editor of New York's Sun, and the quick response was printed as an unsigned editorial Sept. 21, 1897. The work of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church has since become history's most reprinted newspaper editorial, appearing in part or whole in dozens of languages in books, movies, and other editorials, and on posters and stamps.

"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measure by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding. No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from
now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Friday, December 22, 2006

So you want better public transportation? Now is the time to speak out.

Our bus company, LANTA, is at a pivotal point, and the future of regional public transportation is at stake. Ridership is growing fast: up 60% since 1997, up 10% in the last year alone. This past October ridership was up 21% over October a year ago with 85,000 more rides in October than the same month last year. At this rate, LANTA will soon -- for the first time in its 30 year history -- run buses often enough and to enough places to convince a significant number of car drivers to ride the bus. This will mean less traffic congestion, decreased pollution/greenhouse gas emissions; slower suburban sprawl; increased urban vitality and greater economic competitiveness.

However, LANTA started the process this week to raise fares and cut service during 2007, despite the bus company's own projection this will mean sharp drops in ridership.

What can you do?

Start by riding the bus. CAT, your transit advocacy organization, encourages you to support LANTA during this crisis by riding at least once a month. To encourage new riders, the last Friday of each month is set aside as a special Try Transit Day.

If you want to make a larger commitment to public transportation, ride the bus more often. Buy a multiple-ride bus pass, providing more cash for LANTA during this crucial time.

But get on the bus. LANTA buses are clean, on time and, by far, the safest form of transportation on the road. It's hard to be a transit advocate if you don't ride the bus.

Both county executives support public transportation. However, the two county leaders need to hear from you, so they can gauge how important this issue is now for the public.

Contact Lehigh County Executive, Don Cunningham (610-782-3001) or e-mail him Attn: Don Cunningham at, and Northampton County Executive, John Stoffa (610-559-3191) or e-mail him at

We need state legislation that provides a reliable funding stream for mass transit before July 1, 2007. If funding is not granted, emergency funding is needed to prevent the service cuts proposed for our bus company in fiscal 2007-08.

Call or write your State Representative and Senator immediately. See for contact information.

Mark your calendar for one of LANTA's public hearings on the fare increases/service cuts, January 30 in downtown Easton; January 31 in downtown Allentown; and February 1 in downtown Bethlehem. All meetings are at Noon.

Because, if you want better public transportation in the Lehigh Valley, now is the time to speak out.

Steve Schmitt, Director
Joyce Marin, Vice President

CAT-Coalition for Appropriate Transportation, 610-954-5744.

Network of Young Professionals Supports Local Businesses through Discount Program

Attention all business owners! The NET is currently seeking Affiliate Partners to participate in its membership discount card program. NET Affiliate Partners provide in-kind services to the organization and its members. An ideal way is giving a discount or special offer to NET members who show their membership card.

NET partnership delivers significant benefits:
  • Exposure to an important demographic. Working with the NET is an ideal way to increase awareness and build relationships with young, professional people in the greater Lehigh Valley region.
  • NET members have disposable income. They make large purchases like cars, electronic gear, and homes. Partnering with the NET offers excellent exposure to this hard-to-reach audience.
  • Incremental revenue. Involvement with the NET discount card can spur incremental sales that can be tracked.
  • Regional economic vitality. The NET exists to keep young people active and interested in this region. When businesses support the NET, they make an investment in the future economic prosperity of the greater Lehigh Valley.

Some discounts given in the past include: application fee waivers, discount admission, 10-20% off purchases, and free food or drink with purchase.

The NET’s membership discount program is open to all small, locally-owned businesses. To find out more contact Erin Gruver, Partnership Coordinator at 610-821-8054 or

Good news young professionals, housing prices down a bit

Average home prices in the Lehigh Valley fell year-over-year in November for the first time in more than two years.

The drop is small: the average cost of an existing home in Lehigh and Northampton fell 2 percent to $208,000, compared to November of 2005. That's still an extremely healthy figure.

Nonetheless, it's a key sign that the hot housing market of the past two years - in which properties sold in days, and home prices rose 10 percent or more year-over-year - is a thing of the past. This means buyers, have their pick of properties, and can negotiate prices down.

Allentown weighs options on casino site

Tropicana Pennsylvania's failure to win a slots license for an Allentown casino might open the door to a regional convention center and potentially even a minor league hockey arena on the city's east side.

At the very least, the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board's decision Wednesday to award a slots license to Sands BethWorks Gaming, not to Allentown, will put 18 acres of valuable land adjacent to the proposed IronPigs' minor league baseball stadium back on the market.

Lehigh County Executive Don Cunningham and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski both embraced the backup plan, which offers some salve for the wounds the gaming board inflicted on the city. But it won't come close to replacing an estimated $11.5 million in annual revenue for a city facing significant financial hurdles.

Allentown will have to settle for an annual $3.3 million — the loser's share of a slots revenue-sharing deal with Bethlehem.

Cunningham said he had been hedging his bets and talking with developers, including Asbury, N.J., developer James G. Petrucci, about converting the Tropicana land into a regional conference center with restaurants and perhaps a minor league hockey arena.

''I think having all the components of the Aztar [casino] proposal without gambling, next to a baseball stadium, is in a lot of ways better,'' Cunningham said. ''Our ultimate goal and vision in this is to make this a family destination and a center for business and recreation in the Lehigh Valley.''

Pawlowski said he and the administration of former County Executive Jane Ervin started talking with Petrucci about the project about two years ago, enticing him to purchase an adjacent 26-acre parcel.

''It is something that is definitely needed in the Lehigh Valley� '' Pawlowski said. ''My hope now is the state will give us some money to make this happen, since there was a pretty big portion given to Bethlehem this week. I think Allentown deserves a little bit to help us with this project.''

Cunningham said the county and IronPigs owner Gracie Baseball will buy the 18 acres from Tropicana under a pre-existing agreement for about $450,000.

The county will outline how it would like to see the land developed, then put the property up for grabs using a request for proposals as early as the first quarter of 2007, Cunningham said. Any development would have to consist primarily of private investment dollars, he said.

Without the promise of millions of dollars in gambling revenue, development will probably take longer to materialize, Pawlowski said.

A group of minor league hockey investors has approached the county about putting a hockey arena next to the baseball stadium, Cunningham said. That proposal is in the very early stages, he cautioned.

''Ultimately, we would like for this not to be a government-owned parcel of land,'' Cunningham said. ''We would like to see this be a private development. Because of [Petrucci] owning the 26 acres across the street and his willingness to be a partner with us, it opens up options.''

Tropicana has not decided how it will dispose of an additional 5.6 acres it acquired nearby in preparation for the project, spokesman Mark Nevins said.

The area still has plenty of development potential, said Petrucci, who has completed a variety of substantial projects in the Lehigh Valley. He said he has done some planning for a convention center, but will wait to see what happens with the newly available Tropicana land.

More here.

SteelStax, other projects gear up

n a funky third-floor cafe, a microbrew-sipping crowd watches alternative rock sensation Death Cab for Cutie belt out a tune no one will ever hear on local pop stations. Bethlehem Steel's blast furnaces, now festooned with lights, tower behind the glass wall at the back of the stage.

A few floors below the cafe, children scurry to theater practice, and just down the street some people leave their new condominiums to amble through high-end shops such as Polo Ralph Lauren, Barneys New York and Tommy Hilfiger.

And, of course, a couple of blocks away, thousands of people are dropping money at the recently opened casino in south Bethlehem run by Las Vegas Sands.

That's what ArtsQuest President Jeffrey Parks sees for 124 acres of former Bethlehem Steel lands come 2009. It's a vision that came into clear focus Wednesday when the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board issued Sands BethWorks Gaming a license to operate a casino on the site.

While the glitzy casino has garnered most of the attention in the past year, it is the mix of music, performing arts and shopping that could make Bethlehem the kind of attraction Lehigh Valley people have been traveling to New York City, Philadelphia and Baltimore to find.

Now that Sands BethWorks Gaming has been approved to move forward with a casino on the east side of the lot, Parks said he will quietly begin a capital campaign to raise $49 million to build the first phase of the SteelStax performing arts center.

Gov. Ed Rendell on Monday awarded ArtsQuest, which also runs Musikfest, a $5 million state grant for the new complex.

And it's not the only nongambling project that kicked into gear Wednesday. Barry Gosin, a partner in Sands BethWorks Gaming, said he will immediately begin a $50 million to $60 million project to transform the former Bethlehem Steel headquarters building on Third Street into neighborhood shops, apartments and condominiums.

By 2009, what is now a barren collection of rusted steel buildings stretching along the south bank of the Lehigh River would be a nearly $700 million casino and hotel complex that would include homes, shops and a cultural arts center.

From east to west, the 124-acre property is to include:

A $350 million casino complex with a 300-room hotel tower and a 100,000-square-foot gambling floor with 5,000 slots machines. Room for poker and other gaming tables could be included to accommodate plans by some state legislators to approve table games. To be open in July 2008.

A 200,000-square-foot mall of shops and restaurants. Already signed are Polo Ralph Lauren, Barneys New York, Tommy Hilfiger, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Adidas, Rockport, Torneau jewelers, Reebok, Eddie Bauer and Salvatore Ferragamo Italian fashions. Other retailers that could sign include an Agassi Enterprises 24-hour fitness center, the Cheesecake Factory and restaurants affiliated with Wolfgang Puck, Emeril Lagasse and Thomas Keller. Grand opening as early as July 2008.

Refurbished blast furnaces. The massive task of turning the rusted icons into a brightly lit spectacle has been estimated to cost anywhere from $5 million to $20 million. Work will start in January, said Andy Abboud, Las Vegas Sands vice president of government relations.

''We're still working out who will pay what portion of that renovation, but we consider it key to the property,'' Abboud said. ''No one else has anything like this. We're going to get it done.'' Scheduled for July 2008.

The National Museum of Industrial History. The $22 million museum, affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution, would be in the former Electric Repair Shop.

A redeveloped Bethlehem Steel headquarters on Third Street. Gosin said he plans a $50 million to $60 million project to transform the complex into about 200 apartments and condominiums. Gosin believes its location at the edge of the BethWorks property will be attractive to upscale professionals looking to live in the middle of the action. Could open as early as May 2008.

''What we are about to build will not only be the coolest place in the Lehigh Valley, it's going to be the coolest place in the state,'' Gosin said of the entire development.

SteelStax performing arts and broadcast center. The $49 million complex is to include a three-story performing arts center with a theater, several education rooms and the third-story Musikfest Cafe, with a view of the refurbished blast furnaces through a glass wall behind the stage.

The 450-seat cafe would host 150 concerts for the type of alternative and progressive music featured at World Cafe Live in Philadelphia.

''That sounds very, very cool,'' said Bruce Warren, a program manager for WXPN in Philadelphia, which caters to an audience similar to what SteelStax will be targeting. ''If these are the same people who do Musikfest, then I'm sure it's going to be something special. That's a world-class event.''

Across the courtyard, a new 40,000-square-foot PBS 39, WLVT-TV headquarters would include state-of-the-art studios wired to broadcast live concerts, plays and dinner events from the performing arts center.

The link between the two operations, and the collection of new classrooms, would allow PBS 39 — which goes into 2.5 million homes — to expand its education programs, said General Manager Pat Simon.

''Our education programs are exploding, but we just don't have the space to handle it all,'' Simon said of the current studio on South Mountain. ''We're out of space, the roof is leaking and this building is falling down around us. We're going to be able to serve the community so much better from SteelStax.''

It also would enable PBS 39 to give SteelStax national exposure.

''People overlook the importance of PBS-39,'' said Tony Hanna, Bethlehem's director of community and economic development. ''The venue is great, but PBS gives them the ability to transmit all of those activities to the world. That's huge.''

A capital campaign has already begun, and construction could begin in 2008, with a grand opening in late 2009, Parks said.

A second phase of SteelStax would be a 3,500-seat venue called Festival Hall, capable of hosting big-time acts such as Elton John and John Mellencamp. The complex also would have a glass wall with a view of the brightly lit blast furnaces behind the stage.

When big acts are not in town, the space could be converted into a 1,000-seat venue that would host about 100 dinners, private parties and conferences a year. The campaign to raise money for that won't start until after the first phase is funded, Parks said.

All told, SteelStax is projected to draw 300,000 to 500,000 people a year, in addition to the nearly 5 million expected to visit the rest of the casino and entertainment site each year.

Parks said he expects the complex to become a nationally known spot that will attract the attention of Lehigh Valley corporations.

''That is probably the aspect most overlooked,'' Parks said. ''Corporations won't have to travel to New York or Philadelphia to entertain their clients.''

But that ambitious vision means a lot of work over the next three years. Abboud said Las Vegas Sands will begin filing site plans after the new year, and the city expects to hire more planning bureau workers to handle the flurry of activity. A $70 million widening of Route 412 from Interstate 78 will begin this year and continue through 2009.

And if you own a business, or just have a lot of money, you should expect to see Parks on your doorstep very soon.

''In three years, I think we will have something very special down there,'' he said. ''But until then, things are going to get crazy.''

More here.

Lehigh County joins study of regional health service

After years of unsuccessful attempts to launch a county health department, Lehigh County commissioners have voted to join Northampton County in studying the feasibility of a regional or multi-county service.

By unanimous vote Wednesday, Lehigh County commissioners passed a resolution that would add Lehigh to research being conducted by the University of Pittsburgh Center for Public Health Practice.

''It's about time we got something going here,'' said Lehigh commissioners Chairman Percy Dougherty. ''I think the stars are in the right position.''

Work being done by Pittsburgh researchers suggests a regional approach will provide the ''optimal level of services with the least amount of fiscal burden.''

In a prepared statement read at the meeting, Dougherty said, ''because of the expense of setting up a health bureau, it is my opinion that we can only do so on a regional basis.

''There is a cost saving in a larger scale health bureau that cannot be met by a city or county on its own. The logical match is with Northampton County.''

The Lehigh Valley is stagnated by the number of operational government facilities in Lehigh, Northampton and Carbon Counties - about 14 institutions per 100,000 people compared to a national norm of 6.1 per 100,000 people. According to the Brookings Institution Center, this fragmentation complicates coordination, exacerbates unbalanced growth patterns, and undercuts the region's ability to compete economically.

Regionalized approaches to service delivery could result in major economic savings, more coordinated and organized service delivery and an increase in service quality including health and emergency response services.

More here.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Betcha didn't know...

The Liberty Bell was hidden in Allentown by the Second Continental Congress during the Revolutionary War. As the British were attempting to seize Philadelphia in 1777, the Liberty Bell was moved north and successfully hidden in the basement of the Old Zion Reformed Church, in center city Allentown. Today, a shrine in the church's basement marks the exact spot where the Liberty Bell was hidden. It features a full-size official replica of the Liberty Bell, flanked by the flags of the original thirteen colonies, and is the only replica of its type.

NET January First Thursday

If you've heard about the NET and would like to see what it's about, this is the event for you. Come meet and network with NET members.

January is Membership Month so First Thursday will be FREE to all attendees regardless if they are members or not. This is a prime opportunity to check out what the NET has to offer.

Those individuals that join or renew their membership in January will receive a 10% off the current membership dues of $30. Click here to take advantage of this offer.

Already a dues-paying member? No problem. The current dues-paying member who refers the most individuals to sign up for membership in the month of January, will receive one year of NET membership for free. Just have your friends put your name in the appropriate field.

Come alone, bring your friends, introduce someone new to the NET, introduce yourself to someone new. Expand your network.

When: Thursday, Jan. 4, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

Where: Starters Riverport, 17 W. 2nd Street, Bethlehem

Admission: FREE!!

More information.

To get the latest news about NET events and more sign-up for our weekly e-mail list here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bethlehem, Mount Airy win casino

Slot machines, a multi-million dollar tax windfall and the specter of gambling are headed to Bethlehem thanks to a vote cast moments ago in Harrisburg.

The Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board picked Sands BethWorks -- located on 124 acres of former Bethlehem Steel Corp. land in the city's southside -- for a slots license this morning.

In doing so, the board rejected Allentown's competing proposal for a slots casino on former Agere Corp. land in east Allentown.

Similarly, the board picked Mount Airy over Pocono Manor. Mount Airy proposes a slots casino in Paradise Township. Pocono Manor's would be located in Tobyhanna Township.

Earlier, a group led by billionaire developer Neil G. Bluhm and Connecticut-based Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation won a slot-machine casino licenses in Philadelphia.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Ethnic Eats: Paolos

102 W. Susquehanna St.

Food type: Columbian

From Beyond Scrapple:
"Oddly, reminants of the Italian menu still reside on the menu. But what my ethnic eating buddy, Rob, and I wanted was Colombian food. We were not disappointed."

Bethlehem area scores $18 million in grants from the state

He wasn't wearing a red suit or white beard, but Gov. Ed Rendell arrived in Bethlehem on Monday with a sack full of $18 million worth of presents for an area that's clearly on his nice list.

ArtsQuest and PBS-39, WLVT-TV must have been very good this year because Rendell left a $5 million grant for the SteelStax performing arts and broadcast center planned for former Bethlehem Steel land on the South Side.

But that present sat atop an unprecedented stack that included a $5 million present for the South Side campus of Northampton Community College, which has its main campus in Bethlehem Township. The governor also dropped off a $4 million grant for St. Luke's Hospital and its proposed Route 33 campus in the township.

And Rendell left a $2.5 million grant for Historic Bethlehem Partnership to maintain its Colonial Industrial Quarter along Main Street, and a $1.5 million grant to build a technology center in Lehigh Valley Industrial Park VII in south Bethlehem.

As Rendell passed out the giant cardboard checks, all that gift-giving took on a festive tone, complete with singing elves and a Bethlehem mayor who looked very much like a child tearing open his Christmas morning haul.

''We all want to ride in the governor's limo,'' said 8-year-old singing elf Tajaliah Wheeler, who performed at the event with the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre.

''I want to ride in the governor's limo, too,'' Mayor John Callahan joked back. ''Maybe there's more checks in the trunk.''

There weren't. But Rendell had already dropped off more state Redevelopment Assistance Capital money in Bethlehem than the city previously received in the entire 14-year history of the program, according to the mayor.

Rendell explained that the Bethlehem area didn't get on his nice list by chance.

''We assess the potential of every region,'' Rendell said. ''This is one of the regions with the biggest upside of creating good-paying jobs. Instead of a [Bethlehem Steel] brownfield, this site will come alive with culture, entertainment and excitement.''

The gifts came two days before the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board is scheduled to decide whether Sands BethWorks Gaming will get a license to build a casino on the same 126-acre Bethlehem Steel site. But Rendell said that was merely a coincidence, and he originally planned to deliver the checks in October, but delayed that because of the elections.

A look at the gifts left under the Bethlehem area's tree Monday:

$5 million to help build the SteelStax performing arts and broadcast center. The $49 million complex is to include an ArtsQuest performing arts center with a glass-walled concert cafe that would have a view of the Bethlehem Steel blast furnaces, and a state-of-the art PBS-39 studio. It would be a year-round concert venue and education center run by Musikfest's parent, ArtsQuest. The PBS-39 studio would be a three-story, 40,000-square-foot headquarters.

$5 million for Northampton Community College to help with its $15 million renovation of a former Bethlehem Steel office building. NCC moved into the first two floors of the six-story building last year, but completing the renovation will allow more than 4,000 students to take classes in the Third Street building as early as next year.

$4 million for St. Luke's Hospital-Fountain Hill to begin building its cancer, surgery and hospital campus on 200 acres at Route 33 and Freemansburg Avenue.

$2.5 million for the Historic Bethlehem Partnership to help it maintain 19 buildings and 40,000 artifacts at its 20-acre site just off Bethlehem's Main Street.

$1.5 million for the city to build a technology center on the LVIP VII property in south Bethlehem. The technology center is part of an overall plan by the city to sell two operating technology centers near the Fahy Bridge, and begin building a series of tech centers on the LVIP VII site.

For Tony Hanna, city director of community and economic development, the haul from Rendell hit every corner of the city's vision for the South Side.

''It shows the commitment we've made for arts, history, preservation and technology development,'' Hanna said. ''It's a balanced formula, and today the governor bought into every part of it.''

The flurry of checks came during a festive news conference at ArtsQuest's Banana Factory in south Bethlehem. While city, county and state officials lined up to have their photos taken with Rendell and his giant checks, those 15 elves from the Pennsylvania Youth Theatre kept asking him for a ride in his sleigh, er, limo.

As they guessed the governor's age to win the ride, Rendell resisted his urge to award the prize to the elf who guessed 39. He awarded the prize to 8-year-old Madison Cerniglia of Nazareth, who guessed 57, and her friend Heather Goff of Bethlehem, who was celebrating her ninth birthday. They got a ride around the parking lot.

Then, as Rendell rushed to his limo, blaming his next appointment for his haste, he said, ''I hope everyone in the Lehigh Valley has a great holiday season.''


Financial Planning 101: How much should I save?

OK. So you've officially decided that you are going to buck national trends and save. Good for you! What a great New Year's resolution. But how much should you really save? Good question.

David Bach, author of "The Automatic Millionaire" of Oprah fame, suggests that you sock away one hour of pay every workday before taxes. That works out to be about 12.5%. He takes the idea of "pay yourself first" to a whole new level. This makes sense, because as you earn more, you save more.

So where should that money go?
Then it depends on your financial situation and what your priorities are.
  • If retirement savings are of primo concern open a Roth IRA and put in the maximum contribution of $4,000.
Building an emergency fund for a rainy day isn't a bad idea. Experts suggest saving for 3 months of living expenses. Some say you should save so that you wouldn't have to change your lifestyle at all, if god forbid you or your spouse looses their job suddenly. Others say just the essentials like food, housing, utilities, car etc. You decide what you're comfortable with.
Save for the next big thing. Whether it be a car, house, project, vacation or new business venture we all have financial goals we need to reach to get there.
  • Start a fund for your next big purchase and depending on when that may be create a high-yield savings account or open a CD where returns are higher, but the time commitment is longer.
If saving just seems too out of grasp for you, re-examine your expenses. As Bach would say, "Find your Latte factor." We all have those guilty pleasures that we spend our money on that could be better spent on our financial goals, or not spent at all. Bach calls this our Latte factor. Many of us grab that morning coffee and don't think twice about spending that $1.50 for it. If you just cut that small thing out of your routine and grab your coffee at home, you'll save nearly $550 a year! (Not to mention interest.)

To find your Latte factor track your expenses for one week. You'll really get a good picture of where your money is going, and it may shock you.

Other ideas to cut back are to limit eating out to once a month (like the NET's monthly dine-outs) or looking at your cable. Do you really watch all 150 channels? Perhaps there some money hidden in your cell phone bill. Can you switch to a better plan and save? In addition, many times just by calling your utility providers you can lower your bill. It's a competitive market out there, and if you're a good customer, the provider will want to keep you. This has worked from newspapers to cable bills.

And limit your impulse buying. Remind yourself that by purchasing that book, shirt or gizmo you are preventing yourself from getting something you really want, like a house. Ultimately you have to decide what's important to you.

For more tips and tricks on how to save go to David Bach's website.

Allentown launches Web videos

Allentown has launched promotional videos on the city's website. The videos feature attractions, recreation and relocation information among other things.

Mayor Ed Pawlowski said he also plans to post a weekly or monthly video message on the city Web site. The goal is to help Allentown put on its best appearance for tourists, business leaders and future residents considering relocating to the city.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Give back this holiday season

The Morning Call recently published requests of nonprofits in the area. Items include food, toys, toiletries and other goods. Check it out here.

NET needs you!

The NET is actively seeking people for the following positions:
Other, smaller commitment volunteers are needed like hosting one business card exchange. Only site coordination and a few hours of your time at the event are needed. This is a great way to start small.

Many exciting changes are occurring with NET that will catapult it through the next year including:
  • Potential hiring of a full-time NET employee
  • New additional regular events
  • Amazing Race intern program
  • Representation at local job fairs
  • Reaching out to area young alumni college groups
  • Continued involvement with Renew Lehigh Valley
Make a positive impact on the Lehigh Valley, build your resume, and make new friends.

If you are interested in any of the positions listed above, e-mail Vanessa Williams, Marketing Chair at and she will see that it reaches the appropriate person.

January is NET Membership Month

In honor of the new year, NET is hosting membership month in January. Those individuals that join or renew their membership in January will receive a 10% off the current membership dues of $30. Click here to take advantage of this offer.

Already a dues-paying member? No problem. The current dues-paying member who refers the most individuals to sign up for membership in the month of January, will receive one year of NET membership for free. Just have your friends put your name in the appropriate field.

NET membership is the key to NET’s fantastic social, educational, and cultural events. In the past year, we’ve had political roundtables, professional development seminars, community volunteer opportunities, and recreational outings. And of course, we’ve hosted lots of social events including our regular First Thursdays, which are free for NET members.

In addition, the NET membership card is a gateway to discounts at businesses throughout the Lehigh Valley. We currently have over 100 participating businesses, and with our aggressive new campaign, that number is rapidly growing.

Local merchants, insurance companies, theaters, and restaurants all recognize that suave little card and those who carry it. Click here for the most up-to-date listing. With only a handful of uses, through these discounts the NET membership card easily pays for itself.

Our newest Affiliate Member, Lehigh Valley Style, will be providing a free subscription to all NET members.

As a dues-paying member, you are able to vote in NET elections, run for the NET board, and serve as committee chair. To find out more on how to become further involved in the NET come to our next organizational meeting.

Most importantly, your membership fee helps fund the NET, making all that we do possible.

Thank you in advance for your support of the NET.

Southside Bethlehem visitors center planned, if casino comes

At the foot of the old Bethlehem Steel furnaces, Bethlehem is planning a visitors center that would tell the city's story and orient tourists with cultural and entertainment offerings if a casino is built at the old Steel site.

Kiosks for attractions like the proposed National Museum of Industrial History and SteelStax concert hall would dot the inside of the 7,600-square-foot center, while space would be set aside for films, a souvenir shop, refreshments and restrooms.

Community leaders say the center, on par with what one may find at a federal park, would capture tourists who come for gambling and introduce them to other cultural opportunities in the area, such as the Moravian Industrial Quarter north of the Lehigh River or the America on Wheels Museum in Allentown.

''This makes an awful lot of sense,'' Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan said. ''This is a stop where people can get a quick look at the history of our city and everything that it has to offer.''

The city has been working on the visitors center plan for three or four months. It is still too early in the planning stages to attach a price tag, Callahan said.

Michael Perrucci, of BethWorks Now, developing the Steel land around the casino, said the visitors center is a deal he readily wanted to make because it helps the various components of the project work together.

The center would be housed in the stock house, the oldest building on the Bethlehem Steel site. Built around 1863, the building once was used by the Bethlehem Iron Co.

Jeff Parks, president of ArtsQuest, said the visitors center project would help the other cultural components to help one another.

''This will preserve the old building, interpret the city's history and show everything that the city has to offer,'' said Parks. ''This is an ideal use.''

More here.

Congratulations on being person of the year!

Time magazine's Person of the Year is (drum roll please) YOU! Yes you, me and everyone else who is part of this information age we live in.

"(2006) is a story about community and collaboration on a scale never seen before. It's about the cosmic compendium of knowledge Wikipedia and the million-channel people's network YouTube and the online metropolis MySpace. It's about the many wresting power from the few and helping one another for nothing and how that will not only change the world, but also change the way the world changes.

The tool that makes this possible is the World Wide Web. Not the Web that Tim Berners-Lee hacked together (15 years ago, according to Wikipedia) as a way for scientists to share research. It's not even the overhyped dotcom Web of the late 1990s. The new Web is a very different thing. It's a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it's really a revolution.

And we are so ready for it. We're ready to balance our diet of predigested news with raw feeds from Baghdad and Boston and Beijing. You can learn more about how Americans live just by looking at the backgrounds of YouTube videos—those rumpled bedrooms and toy-strewn basement rec rooms—than you could from 1,000 hours of network television.

And we didn't just watch, we also worked. Like crazy. We made Facebook profiles and Second Life avatars and reviewed books at Amazon and recorded podcasts. We blogged about our candidates losing and wrote songs about getting dumped. We camcordered bombing runs and built open-source software.

Who are these people? Seriously, who actually sits down after a long day at work and says, I'm not going to watch Lost tonight. I'm going to turn on my computer and make a movie starring my pet iguana? I'm going to mash up 50 Cent's vocals with Queen's instrumentals? I'm going to blog about my state of mind or the state of the nation or the steak-frites at the new bistro down the street? Who has that time and that energy and that passion?

The answer is, you do. And for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game, TIME's Person of the Year for 2006 is you."

So for all us bloggers, online social networkers and web 2.0 participants here here. Three cheers for you!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

First Night Bethlehem for New Year's

This is a citywide alcohol-free event celebrating New Years complete with two Fireworks displays.

When: Sunday, Dec. 31

Where: Bethlehem, multiple locations

Cost: Outside events, like the Fireworks, free, buttons $15 for performances

What are you doing New Year's Eve?

Friday, December 15, 2006

What to get the boss or coworker for the Holidays

Ok, so this is going to be our shameless plug of the year, but why not get a NET membership for the young professional you work with? Coworkers are the hardest to shop for. Generic gifts don't work anymore. No one wants a plant, or cookies when they're trying to loose a few pounds. NET membership is a great gift. It's a great donation to an organization doing good things in the community (brownie points for you) and the recipient will be pleased to know that that powerful little card gets them over one hundred discounts at area businesses. Not to mention a subscription to Lehigh Valley Style magazine. Mega brownie points.

Click here to order one now.

Come socialize virtually with NET

In order to give members and non-members another avenue to network, the NET has groups on both myspace and facebook. Check it out. Make sure to invite all your friends!

A Big Thank You!

As the writer here at The Afterwork Chronicles, I wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelmingly positive feedback about the blog these past few months. It is much appreciated. I also am happy to see more and more comments popping up.

For those of you who haven't commented, don't be shy. You can even comment anonymously. No logging in required! We love to hear from you.

Don't forget you can also share blog posts with your friends by using the little envelope icon on the blog.

Love The Afterwork Chronicles? Then subscribe to it via RSS feed or via e-mail here.

And, if you really like the NET, sign up for our weekly e-mail to get the latest news about events and more.

Looking ahead, I am always open to ideas and suggestions, about the blog and other NET marketing efforts. And I am always looking for volunteers. Please feel free to contact me anytime.


Vanessa Williams
NET Marketing and Public Relations Committee Chair

Wing night anyone?

Coming out of our organizational meeting on Wednesday, a NET wing night was suggested. So now the NET is on a quest for the best wings in the Lehigh Valley. What's your favorite? Only independently owned local businesses will be considered.

Christmas Light Tours Across the Valley

It's here! The long and eagerly awaited Christmas Light tour put out by Bill White at the Morning Call. He highlights the best Christmas Light house displays across the Valley and puts them conveniently into well-organized tours. It's a great way to snoop around neighborhoods you've never been to before, and get to know your way around the Valley better. I don't know about you, but I always have trouble connecting different neighborhoods together. I've been on his tours before and have had more than a few eureka moments when I realized how to get from one section of town to another. Best of all you can see some of the best lights in town for FREE!! So grab a few friends, some hot chocolate and hit the pavement. You won't regret it.

Click here for the tours.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Betcha didn't know...

Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem was named one of the best holiday markets in the world by Travel and Leisure magazine.

Financial Planning 101: Save on autopilot for retirement

You can put almost any task on autopilot: making the morning coffee, driving on a stretch of highway and paying bills.

Automatic investing also could become commonplace, especially for twentysomethings (that's us).

A study last month by Prudential Financial Inc., a financial services firm based in New Jersey, found that 66 percent of workers ages 21 to 30 would like to be enrolled automatically in a defined-contribution plan at work, such as a 401(k) or 403(b). (Go us!)

The same number of young workers also favored having their rate of contribution increased automatically every year, as well as have the asset allocation — the mix of stocks and bonds — adjusted for them.

Granted, Prudential, which manages 401(k) plans, has an interest in seeing more people contribute to retirement plans.

But the study indicates that young workers understand the importance of saving for the golden years — and that they may need a little help doing it.

''They've seen [from the generations in front of them] that the traditional do-it-yourself approach isn't achieving the retirement security needed,'' Deanna Garen, senior vice president of strategy and planning at Prudential Retirement.

''They want to be in an autopilot program that's making decisions for them so they don't have to worry about, 'Gosh, do I really know everything I need to know here?''' she added.

A federal law passed this summer makes it easier for companies to put a 401(k) or 403(b) plan on autopilot for workers. In fact, in a separate survey in October, Prudential found that 87 percent of companies for which it manages 401(k) plans were interested in adopting automatic features.

If your employer doesn't yet, here's how to make investing for retirement as effortless as possible:

  • Sign up for your 401(k) today. The advantage of participating in your employer's retirement plan is that the money comes out of your paycheck automatically before you get a chance to miss it. Ideally, put in the maximum amount matched, usually 3-5% of your pay before taxes. You double your money automatically. I can't think of a sweeter deal that has a 50% plus return. It's free money. If it's just too painful to bear, sign up for the plan when you get your next raise which is usually 3% or more if you're lucky. You'll never miss the money.

And thanks to the power of compounding, the more time you have to invest, the less money you need to put away.

Say, for example, you shuttle $40 every other week to your employer's retirement plan for 40 years. Assuming your investments earn an 8 percent return annually (which is about right if you have a good mix of mutual funds), you'd accrue nearly $270,000 by the time you're ready to retire. And $40 is a little on the low end, most of us can spare a bit more.

Wait a decade to start making contributions, and you'll have to sock away more than double the amount each paycheck to get the same sum.

  • Invest in a target-date retirement fund. If you need help allocating your investments, consider a target-date retirement fund.

Here's how it works: You pick a fund whose date matches when you want to retire, such as 2030 or 2040. The fund invests in bond and stock funds based on that retirement date, automatically adjusting the mix so that you don't carry too much risk as you get ready to retire — or invest too conservatively when you're just getting started.

In other words, it's a way to have professionals manage the portfolio for you without having to pay the steep costs.

Plus, more employers now offer this type of fund.

  • Don't worry that you're not a pro. Finally, some young workers wait to jump into the market because of inexperience. Don't let the market intimidate you.
Another way to save for retirement is to open a Roth IRA. Currently if you meet the requirements (which most of us as young professionals should) you can contribute up to $4,000. The benefit of the Roth IRA is that even though you pay taxes on it now, as it grows you won't pay taxes on it later. This makes perfect sense for young professionals who are usually in the lower or middle income tax brackets.

More here.

Allentown makes plea for Casino

In an impassioned plea for financial aid to one of the state's most cash-strapped cities, Tropicana Pennsylvania and public officials Wednesday implored state regulators to license a slot machine casino in Allentown.

Pawlowski said the struggling city desperately needs the tax revenues a casino would generate. ''Allentown needs these jobs,'' he said.

Projected to create 1,300 jobs, the $550 million casino complex would be built in phases on about 23 acres formerly owned by Agere Systems off Union Boulevard in east Allentown.

In its first phase, the casino would include a gaming floor of 100,000 square feet with 3,000 slot machines, a 250-room Marriott hotel and 11 restaurants and lounges. The first phase would not have retail space, so casino visitors would be encouraged to patronize nearby businesses.

We want to work with the downtown, not put them out of business,'' said Aztar Corp. Chief Executive Officer Robert Haddock, who testified on behalf of Tropicana.

Aztar has five casinos, including one in Las Vegas and its flagship Tropicana resort in Atlantic City, N.J. The company is being acquired by Columbia Sussez Corp., which owns several casinos and dozens of hotels.

Tropicana anticipates its first phase would open at the end of 2007, which would make it one of the first stand-alone slots parlors in the state to be up and running. The first phase, estimated to cost $325 million, would be completed in September 2008.

The second phase, expected to be finished no later than five years after the first phase, would add a day spa, 10,000 square feet of retail space, nine more restaurants and lounges and up to 2,000 more slot machines.

Tropicana's testimony lacked the glitz of some of its stand-alone competitors, including its nearest rival, Bethlehem's Sands BethWorks Gaming, whose officials gave elaborate video presentations and came armed with sketches and models of their projects.

But Tropicana's testimony included some of the most zealous pleas for a license. Proponents argued that Allentown is in more dire financial straits than its competitors, and because of its prominence in the Lehigh Valley, has a greater impact on the region's economy.

''The bottom line is Allentown needs this project,'' Pawlowski said, adding that the city lacks Bethlehem's economic revival opportunities and has a higher level of poverty.

Moreover, Allentown's financial problems affect the rest of the area, and if those problems aren't fixed, Bethlehem and other local communities will also suffer financially — even if Bethlehem is awarded a casino.

A tax-sharing plan lawmakers passed this year will ensure that both Allentown and Bethlehem reap tax benefits regardless of which city hosts a casino. But Pawlowski pointed out, ''The benefits are clearly weighted to the host city.''

The two proposals for Lehigh Valley casinos are competing against each other, two proposals in Monroe County and one outside Gettysburg. Pocono Manor wants a casino in Tobyhanna Township, Mount Airy wants one in Paradise Township, and Crossroads Gaming wants one in Straban Township, Adams County, near the Civil War battlefield.

Two stand-alone casino licenses are available for sites outside of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. Most gaming experts believe one of the licenses will go to the Lehigh Valley, because the area is expected to generate some of the largest gaming revenues in the state. Only one of the Valley projects will get a license, because state law requires stand-alone casinos to be at least 20 miles apart.

Wednesday marked the last day of licensing hearings, one of the final steps before casino licenses are awarded Wednesday.

More here.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The real scoop on online dating sites

Consumer Reports:

Of the five sites — AmericanSingles, eHarmony,, True and Yahoo Personals — only True states that it checks the background of applicants at registration, screening information against a criminal database and public marriage records.

With each site, you start by answering questions about yourself and your potential mate, checking boxes to indicate a wide range of preferences. Each site also adds a space where you can describe yourself and the person you seek.

Three sites — eHarmony, True and Yahoo Personals — offer a compatibility test, which they use to try to pair members based on far more than likes and dislikes. The computer-processed tests are optional at True and Yahoo Personals and required at eHarmony. At eHarmony, you can be deemed unmatchable, and rejected.

You can peek into each of the five sites before opening your wallet. All of them offer advice — what to post in a profile, tips about online-dating safety — that is free to anyone. Basic one-month subscription fees range from $25 (Yahoo Personals) to $60 (eHarmony).

As for privacy, the site's policies varied. Although a spokeswoman for AmericanSingles told us the company ''does not sell its members' personally identifiable information,'' neither does the site promise that that information ''will always remain private.'' states that it may share your personal information with other companies whose names are displayed on the site, who in turn may use it ''in accordance with their own privacy policies.'' For its part, True has been certified for privacy and security protection by more than one independent group. All the sites, meanwhile, let you block e-mail from certain members or report bad behavior.

All the sites, too, renew your subscription automatically unless you cancel directly. Most, however, won't grant a refund if you bow out early. What's more, your profile could remain active and viewable on these sites until you notify customer service to remove it permanently.

Which site best meets your needs? That depends on what you want out of the relationship:
  • If Internet dating gives you pause, try True, whose screening of members and customer-friendly privacy policy make it especially reassuring.
  • If you favor matches close to handpicked, eHarmony is a good bet. (Although NET has heard that eHarmony is being investigated for fraud.)
  • If you just want the basics, try (The one promoted and approved by Dr. Phil) or Yahoo Personals, which have a simple, well-organized setup.
For more about online dating and valuable tips and tricks click here.
More here.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Ethnic Eats: Touch of Thai

Touch of Thai
123 N. Second St.

Food type: Thai

From the Morning Call:
"With dishes such as ''kang khew wan'' (chicken, eggplant, mushrooms and bamboo shoots in green curry over white rice noodles) and a fruit salad of jackfruit, longon, lychee and rambutan, there's nothing typical about this eatery, at least in the Lehigh Valley."

Quakertown foundry site to become park

Quakertown leaders have finally decided to take the borough's largest undeveloped piece of land, once an environmental blight, and add it to the park system.

The board voted last week to set up a new park planning committee to review the 15.3-acre parcel and make recommendations for things such as landscaping, walking paths or a band shell.

No structures will be permitted on three acres, according to the vote, so the borough can keep land in reserve for other possible uses in the future.

The borough purchased the property in 1987, three years after the old Krupp foundry stopped production.

A new post office was slated to be built there, but when workers began digging footings they found contaminated soil. The Krupp site ended up on the state's hazardous sites cleanup list, and eventually was subjected to a multi-million dollar cleanup.

More here.

Monday, December 11, 2006

The NET's Ultimate Holiday Special Guide

So all your favorite shows, Lost, Grey's Anatomy, Desperate Housewives, House are all on hiatus and there is absolutely nothing on TV right? Wrong! Yearly, the month of December delivers all those holiday classics we've all grown to know and love. From those great claymation classics, to new favorites - we've got em all. Here is the best complete listing we could come up with, if we missed any please add them! Print it out and keep it by your remote. Happy Holidays!

The NET’s Ultimate Holiday Special Guide

Mon. Dec. 11
8:30 pm Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
9 pm The Year without a Santa Claus NBC

Tues. Dec. 12
12:30 am Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
7 pm The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus ABC Family

Weds. Dec 13
7 pm Rudolph’s Shiny New Year ABC Family
8 pm I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus ABC Family

Thurs. Dec. 14
7 pm The Little Drummer Boy ABC Family
7:30 pm The Little Drummer Boy Book 2 ABC Family
8 pm The Polar Express ABC Family
9 pm What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
10:30 pm The Polar Express ABC Family

Fri. Dec. 15
1 am What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
7 pm The Year without a Santa Claus ABC Family
8 pm Santa is Comin’ to Town ABC Family
A Christmas Story TCM
9 pm Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys ABC Family

Sat. Dec.16
7 am Dear Santa ABC Family
8 am Jingle all the Way ABC Family
10 am Scrooged ABC Family
12 pm Mr. St. Nick ABC Family
2 pm Santa Baby ABC Family
4 pm Christmas in Boston ABC Family
5 pm White House Christmas HGTV
6 pm Three Days ABC Family
Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
8 pm Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
Prancer AMC
Home Alone TBS
10 pm Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
Prancer AMC
12 am Picking Up and Dropping Off ABC Family

Sun. Dec. 17
8 am Prancer AMC
9:30 am Richie Rich’s Christmas Wish ABC Family
11:30 am I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus ABC Family
1:30 pm Once Upon a Christmas ABC Family
3:30 pm Twice Upon a Christmas ABC Family
4 pm A Christmas Story TCM
Home Alone TBS
5 pm What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
5:30 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
7 pm A Charlie Brown Christmas ABC
7:30 pm Santa Clause 2 ABC
8 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
10 pm National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
10:30 pm Rudolph and the Island of Misfit Toys ABC Family

Mon. Dec. 18
2:45 am Prancer AMC
7 pm Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town ABC Family
White House Christmas HGTV

Tues. Dec. 19
7 pm Frosty’s Winter Wonderland ABC Family
7:30 pm Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey ABC Family
8 pm Prancer AMC

Weds. Dec. 20
6 pm What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
7 pm The Year without a Santa Claus ABC Family
8 pm Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
A Christmas Carol TNT

Thurs. Dec. 21
8 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer CBS
10 pm Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas ABC Family
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS

Fri. Dec. 22
10 am National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
7 pm Rudolph’s Shiny New Year ABC Family

Sat. Dec. 23
7 am Blizzard ABC Family
9 am Snow ABC Family
11 am Christmas Do-Over ABC Family
1 pm A Mom for Christmas ABC Family
2 pm A Christmas Carol TCM
3 pm A Christmas Romance ABC Family
8 pm Eloise at Christmastime ABC Family
10 pm Home Alone III ABC Family
10:30 pm National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
12 am Scrooged ABC Family

Sun. Dec. 24
4:30 am Holiday Affair TCM
5 am A Christmas Carol TNT
8 am Christmas Story Marathon begins and runs until 7:30 pm on Dec. 25th on TBS
10 am Eloise at Christmastime ABC Family
12 pm The Little Drummer Boy ABC Family
12:30 pm Leprechaun’s Christmas Gold ABC Family
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation TBS
1 pm Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July ABC Family
3 pm The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus ABC Family
4 pm The Story of the First Christmas Snow ABC Family
4:30 pm Nestor, the Long-eared Christmas Donkey ABC Family
5 pm Pinocchio’s Christmas ABC Family
6 pm Jack Frost ABC Family
7 pm Frosty’s Winter Wonderland ABC Family
7:30 pm Twas the Night Before Christmas ABC Family
8 pm Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town ABC Family
9 pm The Year without at Santa Claus ABC Family
White House Christmas HGTV
10 pm Rudolph’s Shiny New Year ABC Family
Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
11 pm The Little Drummer Boy ABC Family
What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
11:30 pm The Little Drummer Boy Book 2 ABC Family

Mon. Dec. 25
1 am White House Christmas HGTV
2 am Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
3 am What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
6:15 am A Christmas Carol TCM
8 am Holiday Windows 2006 HGTV
10 am What’s with that Christmas House? HGTV
12 pm The Christmas Secret ABC Family
White House Christmas HGTV
2 pm The Christmas List ABC Family
4 pm A Holiday to Remember ABC Family
6 pm Three Days ABC Family
8 pm The Polar Express ABC Family

Friday, December 08, 2006

Inexpensive wines just in time for the holiday season

Consumer Reports taste tested them all and came up with the following reasonably priced wines:

Our highest-rated cabernet sauvignon from this year's tests — and the only CR Best Buy — was Columbia Crest Grand Estates Columbia Valley 2002. This Washington state wine sells for $11 a bottle and impressed our expert tasters with its full flavor and ''big'' sensory presence. Other very good cabs were: Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Puente Alto Concha 2004 ($19, from Chile); Sterling Vineyards Napa Valley 2002 ($25, from California); Franciscan Oakville Estate Napa Valley 2003 ($28, from California); and Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Sonoma, Napa, Mendocino 2003 ($16, from California).

Merlots that retain our recommendation from previous tests are top-rated Gallo of Sonoma Reserve Sonoma County 2003 ($15, from California) and four CR Best Buys: Bogle Vineyards 2004 ($9, from California); Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo 2005 ($9, from Chile); Jacob's Creek 2005 ($8, from Australia); and Yellow Tail 2005 ($7, from Australia).

Plaza at PPL in Allentown purchased for $83 million

The building at the epicenter of Allentown's fledgling downtown revitalization effort has gone global.

A syndicate of domestic and foreign investors led by a New York City-based investment group has purchased the eight-story Plaza at PPL Center from the Malvern, Chester County-based Liberty Property Trust.

The building sold Nov. 27 for just over $83 million.

Completed in 2003 at a cost of $60 million, the award-winning, environmentally friendly green building at Ninth and Hamilton streets is on the site of the former Hess's Department Store and is still an anchor of the city's commercial district.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski said he was encouraged by the sale price of the building, which he said demonstrates a $23 million gain in value in three years.

''It shows there are investors from all over the country and all over the world who are willing to invest in Allentown and the Lehigh Valley if given the opportunity,'' Pawlowski said.

Besides PPL offices, the building is home to a newly opened Amazon Cafe restaurant and KNBT Bank branch. A restaurateur has been trying unsuccessfully to open a Tex-Mex eatery called Johnny Manana's in another first-floor retail space. That remains in the works.

More here.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Las Vegas Sands presents Bethlehem casino proposal to the Gaming Board

The battle to operate a Lehigh Valley casino heated up here Wednesday as Sands BethWorks promised to spend $600 million on the first phase of its project — more than its Allentown competitor would spend on its entire site.

The ambitious project would open 3,000 slot machines in summer 2008 with plans to eventually expand to 5,000 slot machines. That's more machines than many casino applicants say they would operate.

But the bulk of BethWorks' $600 million project — proposed for 126 acres of the old Bethlehem Steel plant — would not actually redevelop the rusting steel buildings that sprawl across south Bethlehem. It would turn the ore bridge into the casino's entrance, refurbish the high house, and stabilize and light the blast furnaces.

The rest of the money would go toward constructing buildings for a casino, retail shops and restaurants on vacant land near the Minsi Trail Bridge. Other Bethlehem Steel buildings, such as the machine shop, which BethWorks hopes to convert into retail stores, would not be developed during the first phase of the casino's construction.

Sands BethWorks, like most slots parlor applicants, plans to build its casino in phases. When the other phases would be complete and how much they would cost are not known, said William Weidner, president of BethWorks' parent company Las Vegas Sands, adding he is committed to building out the project as much as possible.

When board members questioned what would happen to the steel brownfields if the casino generated less money than anticipated, Weidner said, ''I can't honestly tell you we can guarantee that the rest of the site gets developed.''

Still, Weidner said he believes Sands BethWorks would make more money for the state — which would earn money from slot machine taxes — than its nearest competitor, Tropicana Pennsylvania in Allentown.

And when board member Chip Marshall asked why Weidner plans 5,000 slot machines when ''very few [other casino applicants] think they're going to get to 5,000,'' Weidner responded, ''I don't know what they're thinking.''

He said he believes additional machines will help ''suck in every customer we can.''

The Tropicana, which plans to open at the end of 2007, would build 250 hotel rooms and operate 3,000 slot machines in its $350 million first phase, and add an additional 250 hotel rooms and 2,000 slot machines within the next five years. The total cost of the Tropicana project is estimated at $550 million, $50 million less than Sands BethWorks would spend in its first phase.

In a video that the casino presented to the board about the death of Bethlehem Steel — complete with shots of vacant buildings and heart-tugging music — Sands BethWorks highlighted its supporters, including Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan, ironworkers and community activists. Most were taped as they talked about the need for jobs in Bethlehem.

A group of casino supporters wearing red T-shirts cheered as the video played during Wednesday's hearing.

But Mark Nevins, spokesman for the Tropicana, and a handful of Sands BethWorks opponents who showed up for the licensing hearing, pointed out that the Sands project has drawn some of the greatest public opposition of any casino applicant facing the board.

Weidner brushed off comments about public opposition, insisting it was only a small percentage of the public, and saying he believed much of the opposition came from the Moravian Church in Bethlehem.

''It is impossible to convince people if they believe that gambling is immoral,'' Weidner said.

Later he added, ''The Tropicana does not have more public support than we do. We simply have the Moravian Church, which is opposed on moral grounds.''

Bethlehem resident Bruce Haines, a part-owner of the Hotel Bethlehem, said he found Weidner's comments offensive.

''The opposition is much greater than just the Moravian Church,'' he said, adding he opposes the casino because of its proposed location near residences and Lehigh University.

The two prospective Lehigh Valley casinos are competing against one another as well as against two casinos proposed for the Poconos and a fifth casino planned in the Gettysburg area. The gaming board will award only two slots parlor licenses.

Most gaming experts believe one of the licenses will go to the Lehigh Valley because the area is expected to generate some of the largest gaming revenues in the state. However, only one of the Lehigh Valley projects will be awarded a casino license. State law prohibits both casino applicants from receiving a license because stand-alone casinos must be 20 miles apart.

The gaming board, which expects to issue licenses on Dec. 20, will hold a licensing hearing for Tropicana Pennsylvania on Wednesday.

More here.

Voter Hall of Fame

Today, an article in the Morning Call talks about the Pennsylvania Voter Hall of Fame for those individuals who vote for 50 consecutive general elections.

"I think it's an honor and a duty (to vote)," said Marie Sholtis, a Carbon County resident recently inducted.

House Majority Leader Keith R. McCall, a Democrat who represents Carbon County, lauded Sholtis and the other supervoters.

''I am inspired by your patriotism,'' McCall said during a ceremony at the county courthouse.

McCall said every time people vote, it demonstrates ''belief in the state and the country'' despite its faults.

The NET would like to challenge its members to become supervoters so that perhaps many years from now our members will be inducted into this prestigious hall of fame. Until then, keep on voting.