Friday, November 10, 2006

Christkindlmarkt starts Nov. 24th

Modeled after the open-air markets held throughout Germany during the Christmas Season, Christkindlmarkt Bethlehem features 75 artisans from across the country, an array of live holiday music, food, and jolly, old St. Nicholas.

Located in Bethlehem’s charming downtown historic district, it’s the perfect place to experience the magic of the holiday season and the Christmas City!

Click here for a buy one, get one free ticket for Thursdays and Fridays.

When: Nov. 24-26, Nov. 30 - Dec. 3, Dec. 7 - 10, Dec. 14 - 17; Thurs. - Sat. 10 a.m. - 8 p.m., Sunday 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Where: Northside Bethlehem

Cost: $6 or $10 for a season pass

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Fitzpatrick concedes to Murphy

In what could be a watershed event in Bucks County politics, an emotional U.S. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick conceded defeat Wednesday to Democratic Iraq war veteran Patrick Murphy after an excruciatingly tight race that drew national attention.

The Republican came up about 1,500 votes short in the 8th Congressional District — meaning he lost by less than 1 percent of the almost 250,000 ballots cast. If the unofficial results stand, it would be the closest election in the district in a quarter-century.

More here.

Pa. House control hinges on Chester County Race

Control of the state House of Representatives came down Wednesday to a single race -- the contest for a Chester County seat left open by the retirement of a 15-term Republican.

Republican Shannon Royer was clinging to an unofficial 19-vote lead over Democrat Barbara McIlvaine Smith, but county elections officials said poll workers mistakenly failed to count about 250 absentee ballots on election night and that about 40 provisional ballots also were uncounted.

It could be more than a week before all the votes -- along with overseas and military ballots -- are included in the results, Chester County elections director Linda Cummings said Wednesday. The seat was held by Rep. Elinor Z. Taylor for three decades.

In House races called Wednesday by The Associated Press, Republican Carl Mantz beat Democrat Archie Follweiler in the race to succeed Rep. Paul Semmel, R-Lehigh; Democrat David Kessler beat Republican Billy Reed for the seat held by Rep. Dennis Leh, R-Berks; and Democrat John Hornaman unseated Rep. Matthew Good, R-Erie.

Democrats needed to take eight seats away from Republicans to regain control of the House after 12 years in the minority.

They had a net gain of six seats and their candidate was leading in a seventh race in unofficial returns Wednesday. Democrat Bryan Lentz had a 51 percent-to-49 percent lead over incumbent Rep. Tom Gannon, R-Delaware, with votes yet to be counted in four of the 44 precincts.

In two other competitive districts, Democratic candidates were narrowly trailing Republicans in races to replace retiring Reps. John Fichter, R-Montgomery, and Robert Flick, R-Chester.

If all the candidates who are currently leading win, Republicans will control the House, 102-101.

Betcha didn't know...

That the Southside Film Festival shows independent films for free every third Thursday of the month at Deja Brew in Bethlehem. Who said a night out had to cost you? More information can be found here.

Rumsfeld resigns - surprising many

Yesterday Bush did something he hadn't done in six years of Republican dominance in Washington: He gave the Democrats what they had been asking for and got rid of Donald Rumsfeld, who may yet become the longest-serving defense secretary ever.

Getting rid of Rumsfeld was not an expected maneuver by the president — just last week, pre-election Bush pledged that Rumsfeld would have a job as long as Bush did.

But less than 12 hours after the last polls closed in Hawaii, that promise was broken in the face of wide Democratic gains that gave them control of the House and potentially the Senate, depending on the outcome of the Virginia Senate race, where they hold a slim lead.

At first blush, Democrats did not seem to have a problem with Gates, who served as CIA director under the first President Bush and is currently president of Texas A&M. Gates has released a letter to Texas A&M.

More here.

Democrats Senate win certain says AP

An Associated Press survey that tabulated the votes from Virginia's 134 localities has found that Democrat James Webb will win the state's U.S. Senate contest, giving Democrats the sixth seat they need to win control of the Senate and Congress.

The campaign of Republican incumbent Sen. George Allen has not commented on the AP report, but sources suggest he might concede the race as early as today.

The AP contacted election officials in all 134 localities where voting occurred, obtaining updated numbers Wednesday.

About half the localities said they had completed their post-election canvassing, and nearly all had counted outstanding absentees.

Most were expected to be finished by Friday. The new AP count showed Webb with 1,172,538 votes and Allen with 1,165,302, a difference of 7,236. Virginia has had two statewide vote recounts in modern history, but both resulted in vote changes of no more than a few hundred votes.

More here.

Bethlehem merchants unveil 12 Days of Christmas shopping

Bethlehem's downtown merchants on Wednesday announced a catchy promotion that combines the city's Christmas and musical identities.

At least 40 downtown merchants have planned to decorate their windows using a theme from the traditional holiday favorite, ''The Twelve Days Christmas.'' Each has picked one of the day's gifts described in the song upon which to build their display.

Granny McCarthy's Tea Room, for example, will build a display around a ''partridge in a pear tea,'' a play on words from the song, said Lucy Lennon, president of the Downtown Bethlehem Association, which has organized the promotion. The Starfish Brasserie is painting ''five golden rings'' in its window.

Some merchants are planning to perform their Day of Christmas ''live'' on Saturday — a planned downtown Christmas shopping preview — or on Nov. 18, Lennon said. Rumor has it that Mayor John Callahan has a permit request on his desk from one merchant hoping to bring a cow downtown for ''eight maids a milking.''

No word on whether anyone has made a similar permit request for ''seven swans a swimming'' or ''six geese a laying,'' lest they run afoul of the city's recent ban on chickens and other birds outside of agricultural zones.

On the city's South Side, a similar window promotion which we mentioned a few days ago, is planned around the theme of rock 'n' roll albums and songs such as Prince's ''Purple Rain,'' Elvis Presley's ''Blue Christmas,'' and the Eagles' ''Hotel California.'' Lennon, the owner of the Dancing Fish restaurant, is planning to develop her display around the Beatles' ''Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.''

South Side merchants are calling the coordinated window displays the ''Miracle on 3rd and 4th Streets'' and plan to unveil them on Nov. 17. At least 20 South Side shops are participating with help from Lehigh University and Northampton Community College, Lennon said.

"Shopping downtown Bethlehem is an authentic experience,'' Mayor John Callahan said.

More here.

Only two days left to sign up for NET Ski Club!

We are down to the wire folks, there are only a two days left to sign up for the NET Ski Group. November 10th is the last day you can sign up to take advantage of the great discounts available to ALL young professionals. Each year we welcome more and more participants of varying abilities, from complete beginner to near Olympian. Various packages are available. More here.

It's a good day for open space

In Lower Saucon, 2,202 voters supported a plan to preserve farms, woodlands and historic areas with an earned income tax hike, according to Tuesday's unofficial results. Residents approved the measure by a count of 3,659 to 1,457

Because of the referendum, the earned income tax rate in Lower Saucon will increase from 1.0 percent to 1.25 percent for the next five years, raising nearly $4 million to prevent open areas from being developed.

Other townships that voted yes for open space initiatives can be found here.

Summary of a Morning Call article.

Bethlehem pumps up its noise ordinance

The changes, passed by a unanimous vote without discussion, speed up the time it takes to cite motorists with loud stereos. It also adopts state noise levels to measure the sound coming from illegal mufflers.

Motorists are souping up their cars with expensive stereos that can carry bass levels of 160 decibels — louder than a shotgun blast. Some cruise the neighborhood in their ''boom cars,'' shaking the walls of the homes they drive past.

Meanwhile, other motorists are modifying their mufflers to make their engines sound more powerful.

The noise has been the subject of block watch meetings for at least the past year, illustrating the effectiveness of block watch groups. More discussed here.

Police have said they have had a hard time enforcing the law because, even if neighbors report the noise, the vehicle is gone by the time help arrives. Under the old regulations, even if police witness an infraction, it often took them 25 minutes to cite the person — time taken away from more serious offenses.

The changes move the violation from the crimes code to traffic regulations, thereby reducing the time it would take — five minutes — to that of a traffic ticket.

The other change to the noise ordinance addresses mufflers. The city adopted state standards for muffler noise, requiring cars to have working mufflers or another sound suppression system, and setting a decibel level for the first time. Using a formula including speed, the state's threshold for a car traveling under 35 mph — the speed limit in many neighborhoods — is 78 decibels and 82 for a motorcycle going the same speed. That is about the roar of a vacuum cleaner. The average car in Bethlehem puts out about 66 decibels.

First time offenders will be fined $50 to $100, and second-timers $100 to $300.

More here.

Crime watch groups can help fight crime and create a sense of community

An article in the Morning Call today discusses crime watches. The article was spawned from a crime watch group in Bangor.

Bangor's block watch program is nearing a year old. Its approximate two dozen members patrol the streets keeping and eye out for illegal activity and also try to spread the word about the group. The hope is to increase membership.

Bangor Police Chief Glenn Kerrigan said watch groups ''can be very effective'' if the information they give police pans out.

Jean O'Neill, director of research for the National Crime Prevention Council, stressed that sometimes some small problems left unattended can be dangerous for a community. She used a metaphor to describe how neighborhoods decline.

If someone breaks a window of an empty house and no one fixes it, it sends a message it's all right to break more windows, she said. That can send the message that it's all right to break into the house, she said.

"It transmits the message that the rules are off the table,'' O'Neill said.

This idea is often referred to as broken window syndrome. The theory was created from a book entitled Broken Windows authored by James Q. Wilson and George L. Kelling in 1982.

A successful strategy for preventing vandalism, say the book's authors, is to fix the problems when they are small. Repair the broken windows within a short time, say, a day or a week, and the tendency is that vandals are much less likely to break more windows or do further damage. Clean up the sidewalk every day, and the tendency is for litter not to accumulate (or for the rate of littering to be much less). Problems do not escalate and thus respectable residents do not flee a neighborhood. The theory thus makes two major claims: 1) further petty crime and low-level anti-social behavior will be deterred, and thus 2) major crime will be prevented.

Crime watch groups thus, often do much more than watch crime.

O'Neill says that watch groups need to expand beyond just crime to stay busy and viable. They need to focus on things like safety, or making sure the borough's codes get enforced.

''We've been able to keep people because we're active,'' said Bill Leiner, mayor of Coplay and part of the borough's block watch.

Initially, he said, Coplay fell into the traditional trap: after several burglaries in the early 1990s, ''people got fired up'' and formed a crime watch. But ''once things settled down, people stopped coming.''

In 1995, residents started a new crime watch, although it now focuses on more than just crime, Leiner said. They've established ''safe houses'' for kids on their way to and from school, they hold an annual bike derby, and have begun to look at the borough's feral cat population.

They've also worked with other similar organizations in Lehigh County, such as the watch groups in Catasauqua and Whitehall.

Like its counterpart in Coplay, Whitehall has expanded its focus. The group campaigns to get speed limit and ''watch children'' signs placed around the township, and has held fingerprinting sessions for kids.

Interested in learning more? Seek out your local crime watch. If you don't have one, consider starting one.

The National Crime Prevention Council says:
  • Talk to your local police department and seek its advice and support.
  • Work in teams and wear identifying clothing — T-shirts, caps, vests or jackets — or reflective clothing and patches.
  • Never carry any kind of weapon, and never challenge anyone you encounter.
  • Have members carry a pad and pencil as well as a flashlight after dark.
  • Be courteous and helpful to residents in the neighborhoods you patrol.
  • Keep a log and file reports with your local law enforcement agency.

Six-lane waterslide to be added to Wildwater Kingdom

A six-lane, open-air water slide called a mat racer will be Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom's newest attraction next year.

Dorney Park has asked South Whitehall Township for permission to build the mat racer, a downhill slope that works a little like a sledding hill without the snow. Riders lie down on a mat and race down the water slide, trying to beat each other to the pool at the bottom.

The mat racer will replace the Torpedo Tubes, a pair of enclosed corkscrew-style water rides that had been at the park since 1988. Park spokeswoman Heather Kramer said the Torpedo Tubes have been taken down. The mat racer will not be built on the former site of the Torpedo Tubes. Instead, it is slated to be built on a nearby hillside, next to the wave pool.

More here.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Democrats win Senate...maybe

The votes are in and Democrat Tester has won Montana's Senate seat.

Democrat Jim Webb has claimed victory in Virginia by fewer than 6,000 votes. Opponent George Allen has not conceded. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Webb had 1,151,230 votes, or 49.57 percent, to Allen's 1,145,511, or 49.32 percent making a recount certain.

There are no automatic recounts in Virginia, but state law allows a candidate who finishes a half-percentage point or less behind to request a recount paid for by state and local governments.

With a margin greater than that but less than 1 percentage point, the trailing candidate can also seek a recount, but would have to pay the costs if the results are unchanged.

A final count, including all absentee ballots, was expected later Wednesday; no exact numbers on outstanding absentee ballots were immediately available.

Both parties have teams that plan to monitor and intervene in the event of a recount, anticipating the process could stretch into next month.

More on Virginia here.

Election Results

It was a good day for Democrats and good day for open space. Democrats have taken the House by a whopping 27 seats, leading to the first female Speaker of the House, Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California. Two very close races in Montana and Virginia determine who controls the Senate. Democrats have gained 4 seats, and need to win both seats to gain control.

All of the open space questions were passed in: Lower Saucon Township, New Hanover Township, Upper Dublin Township, Upper Pottsgrove Township, Whitemarsh Township, Springfield Township, Warwick Township, and Wrightstown Township. That's good news for local young professionals who have proclaimed open space as one of their top priorities in moving forward with smart growth in this area.

Election results as of 10:30 a.m.:

PA Governor - Ed Rendell (D)

US Senator - Bob Casey Jr. (D)

US Congress - Pennsylvania

6th District - Too close to call

7th District - Joe Sestak (D)

8th District - Too close to call

13th District - Allyson Schwartz (D)

15th District - Charlie Dent (R)

16th District - Joe Pitts (R)

17th District - Tim Holden (D)

Pennsylvania Senator

2nd District - Christine Tartaglione (D)

4th District - Leanna Washington (D)

6th District - Robert Tommy (R)

10th District - Chuck McIlhinney (R)

12th District - Stewart Greenleaf (R)

16th District - Too close to call

18th District - Lisa Boscola (D)

20th District - Lisa Baker (R)

24th District - Rober Wonderling (R)

26th District - Edwin Erickson (R)

36th District - Michael Brubaker (R)

44th District - John Rafferty (R)

48th District - Mike Folmer (R)

Pennsylvania Representative

13th District - Arthur Hershey (R)

18th District - Gene DiGirolamo (R)

26th District - Tim Hennessey (D)

29th District - Bernie O'Neill (R)

31st District - David Steil (R)

53rd District - Robert Godshall (R)

61st District - Kate Harper (R)

70th District - Too close to call

122nd District - Keith McCall (D)

124th District - David Argall (R)

125th District - Tim Seip (D)

126th District - Dante Santoni Jr. (D)

128th District - Sam Rohrer (R)

129th District - Too close to call

130th District - David Kessler (D)

131st District - Karen Beyer (R)

132nd District - Jennifer Mann (D)

133rd District - Joseph Brennan (D)

134th District - Doug Reichley (R)

140th District - John Galloway (D)

141st District - Anthony Melio (D)

142nd District - Chris King (D)

143rd District - Marguerite Quinn (R)

144th District - Katharine Watson (R)

145h District - Paul Clymer (R)

146th District - Thomas Quigley (R)

147th District - Bob Mensch (R)

148th District - Mike Gerber (D)

149th District - Daylin Leach (D)

150th District - Mike Vereb (R)

151st District - Rick Taylor (D)

152nd District - Thomas Murt (R)

153rd District - Josh Shapiro (D)

154th District - Lawrence Curry (D)

156th District - Too close to call

157th District - Carole Rubley (R)

158th District - Chris Ross (R)

159th District - Thaddeaus Kirkland (D)

160th District - Stephen Barrer (R)

161st District - Too close to call

162nd District - Ron Raymond (R)

163rd District - Nicholas Micozzie (R)

164th District - Mario Civera Jr. (R)

165th District - William Adolph Jr. (R)

166th District - Greg Vitali (D)

167th District - Too close to call.

168th District - Thomas Killian (R)

170th District - George kenney Jr. (R)

172nd District - John Perzel (R)

173rd District - Michale McGeehan (D)

174th District - John Sabatina Jr. (D)

175th District - Michael O'Brien (D)

176th District - Mario Scavello (R)

177th District - John Taylor (R)

178th District - Scott Petri (R)

179th District - Tony Payton (D)

180th District - Angel Cruz (D)

182nd District - Babette Josephs (D)

183rd District - Julie Harhart (R)

184th District - William Keller (D)

185th District - Robert Donatucci (D)

187th District - Too close to call.

188th District - James Roebuck (D)

189th District - John Siptroth (D)

190th District - Thomas Blackwell (D)

194th District - Kathy Manderino (D)

198th District - Rosita Youngblood (D)

201st District - John Myers (D)

Monitor coverage here, here and here.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Allentown brownfield site sees redevelopment

An Allentown brownfield site at 601 S. 10th St. will see construction of a new 90,000-square-foot industrial building to be built in in 2007 by Bethlehem developer J.G. Petrucci Co. Inc. The building will be designed when a tenant is confirmed.

Help set the Lehigh Valley's Tourism Agenda

The Lehigh Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau is holding a series of public meetings to get input from area residents and businesses for the development of Tourism Master Plan in 2007.
The two upcoming meetings include:
Plan to attend and give your two cents. Unable to? Submit your comments online.

Easton Riverwalk plan concerns some residents

The $27 million Riverwalk condominium, parking and bus facility proposed for the Easton's downtown has some citizens concerned.

Mayor Phil Mitman said he's not surprised some residents have concerns, but he's only received about a half dozen phone calls on it.

''Our community has never dealt with anything this big,'' Mitman said. ''It's Easton's biggest project ever, so it's bound to bring up a lot of questions.''

Plans to build a parking garage and bus terminal in Easton began cultivating about seven years ago under then Mayor Thomas F. Goldsmith. But many changes, including the location, have been made to arrive at the final plan for the 12-story project slated for Riverside Drive now under city review.

The Easton Parking Authority, Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission, and the state and federal governments have pledged $14 million to the project. Developer Arcadia Properties will be using its own money to build about 140 condominiums on top of the 500-space parking garage and bus terminal.

The Historic District Commission is slated to review the Riverwalk plan for a second time at its 5:30 p.m. meeting Nov. 13, and the Planning Commission may approve it at a 7:00 p.m. meeting Dec. 6 .

No matter how the Historic District Commission votes next week, City Council has the final vote on whether the building fits into the downtown historic district.

More here.

Bethlehem City names new director of economic development

Kathy Vossough, who most recently was the executive manager of community projects at Rutgers University, has been selected as Bethlehem's next deputy director of economic development.

As the new deputy director, Vossough will direct and coordinate planning, organizing and implementing projects and programs to attract businesses and keep them in the city. The division oversees a $251,000 budget, not including the money for programs funded by Community Development Block Grants.

Vossough will replace Laura Burtner, who stepped down earlier this year after serving a year and a half in the position.

Vossough has more than a decade of experience in city and regional planning in the public and private sector.

Vossough graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor's degree in environmental planning and design and a master's degree in city and regional planning.

Highlights from Vossough's resume include work for New Jersey Transit in Newark; Louis Berger & Associates in East Orange, N.J.; the Center for Urban Policy and Research in New Brunswick, and PARS Environmental Consultants in Robbinsville, N.J.

More here.

Monday, November 06, 2006

NET needs you!

The NET is actively seeking people for the following positions:
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.

Don't forget to vote tomorrow!

Young voters have a notoriously low turn-out at the polls. Don't become part of that statistic! Vote tomorrow and make your voice known.

Not sure where to go or how to vote? Click here to find out.

It's not too early: Start searching for entry-level summer jobs and internships now

Employers are showing up at college campuses as early as fall, recruiting not just for full-time entry-level positions but coveted summer internships. And while an internship always enhances any resume, it has also become a serious gateway to receive a job offer post graduation.

University career advisers and employers alike say that regardless of the labor market, finding the right internship still requires effort. Here's what to do:

Start early. While the majority of employers don't start filling internships until January, companies in competitive industries, such as financial services, arrive on campus as early as September or October.

As a result, if you haven't submitted your resume to your university career center, do so now. Even if you have no desire to crunch numbers at a major accounting firm, you'll gain access to all internship postings.

The earlier you visit the career center, the more time you have to get help with drafting a resume and identifying career interests.

Hone your search. The easiest way to find an internship is to go directly to the company's Web site.

If you don't have a specific list of companies, head to your school's career and internship fairs, many of which take place at the start of the year. Also, talk with professors, alumni and upperclassmen for their input.

Finally, look online. Many companies list internship opportunities on the Web, said Randall Hansen, founder and publisher of He recommended the following sites: , and .

Good luck!

More here.

LV Inflation finally under control, jobs 'plentiful', and housing market cooling

The Lehigh Valley economy has reached cruising speed, with inflation and home prices moderating, while the job market remains strong.

Annual inflation was running at 4.7 percent in the third quarter, according to The Morning Call/Kamran Afshar Consumer Price Index.

While 4.7 percent inflation is higher than the average 3.2 percent the Valley has experienced over the past decade, it's far better than the 7 percent annual inflation in the second quarter of the year. That was the highest annual inflation ever measured in the history of The Morning Call/Kamran Afshar CPI.

Just 18,500 people were counted as unemployed in September, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry . That's the second-lowest reading in five years. Meanwhile, layoffs, as measured by first-time unemployment claims, dipped below 3,000 for only the second time in the past decade.

Those factors helped knock down the unemployment rate to 4.5 percent, the lowest in six months. The state and national rates were 4.6 percent for September.

Top job-growth sectors over the past year include professional and business services, up 1,900 jobs; accommodation and food services, up 1,300; retail trade, up 1,100; and education and health services, which was led mostly by health care jobs, up 1,200.

After dramatic increases over the past few years, prices of Lehigh Valley homes have slowed to a crawl. The average sale price of an existing home in September was $221,000, just 3.3 percent more than last year, according to the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors.

That's the third-straight month that home prices have risen less than overall inflation. That hasn't happened since the spring of 2002.

More here.

Carbon County seeks grants for open space planning

Carbon County will spend at least $143,400 to hire a company to draft an open space plan and update the county's 10-year-old comprehensive plan for future land use.

The apparent low bid of $143,300 came from Urban Research and Development Corp. of Bethlehem, which is working with a consortium of municipalities in the Palmerton area to draft a regional comprehensive plan.

Commissioners Chairman William O'Gurek said the county would apply for funding for the project from Gov. Ed Rendell's Growing Greener initiative. County Planning Director Fred Osifat said Carbon solicited the bids to determine how much to seek from the state.

Osifat said a grant would supply 75 percent of the project's cost. The money would be funneled through the state Department of Community and Economic Development and Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

The open space-greenways plan would catalog native plants, animals and water features, and identify specific land for permanent preservation.

The county would accept land donations for preservation or could raise money to buy land to protect, Osifat has said.

More here.