Friday, January 19, 2007

Buy Local: Sign up now to get fresh veggies and fruit every week

Did you know the average average meal in the United States travels 1,200 miles from the farm to your plate? Buying locally saves fuel and keeps money in our community.

One way to buy local is to sign up for a weekly share of fruits and/or vegetables. Here's the skinny. You pay one, up front fee. Then you get a portion of whatever the crop is that year. These are the available programs in our area:

Clear Spring Farm
FULL SHARE $475.00 in full or $237.00 now and $238.00 by 5/1
1/2 SHARE $250.00 in full or $125.00 now and $125.00 by 5/1

Approximately 30 different vegetables - harvested from June through November.

Covered Bridge Produce

$675 for ten fruit or organic vegetable items each week of the growing season which runs 23 weeks from early June to early November. Pick up in Allentown or Bethlehem on Tuesdays.

14 Acres Farm
$600 for June through November. A typical bag will contain 6+oz. of high-end spring mix, bunches of beets and carrots, onions, garlic, potatoes, peas or beans, a loaf of organic bread, one or more specialty vegetables with recipe cards, and an assortment of herbs.

Don't miss out on January's membership discount!

Time is ticking away, and once January ends, you will no longer be able to purchase a NET membership at $27. Don't miss out! Join the many new members who have joined NET this month.

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 officer positions, 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.

Great turnout at Riverport Condos last night

Over 60 people attended the NET's business card exchange at Riverport Condos last night. Young professionals mingled, exchanged business cards, and sipped on wine at a jam-packed condo.

Don't miss out on the NET's upcoming events. We have a dine-out tonight at Nuts About Ice Cream. And next month's highlights include a trip to the new restaurant Melt and a great Italian restaurant Sette Luna in Easton.

Townhome plan ok'd for Cross Country Clothing factory site in Northampton County

Developer Joseph C. Posh won over officials with his plan to put 40 townhouse-style condominiums on the 4.5-acre property at 27 W. 21st St., capping a struggle with the borough that's lasted since 1999.

Most of the Cross Country property has been unused since the factory was razed in 1998, three years after it closed.

Posh Properties built and still owns a CVS Pharmacy and Redner's Quick Shoppe on the part of the site closest to 21st Street, leaving the remaining 4.5 acres undeveloped while Posh struggled with borough officials.

More here.

Townhomes planned for Martin Tower development

Martin Tower would be redeveloped into 266 condominiums and its surrounding property would give rise to another 552 new homes, according to a sketch plan released Thursday.

The sketch submitted this month to city planners shows the homes built around seven pocket parks on the 53-acre site, including two designated for dog walking. Paths would connect to the Monocacy Creek trail at the Burnside Plantation and to the Monocacy Park ball fields off Schoenersville Road.

A clubhouse with pool and parking garages for some of the site's 2,124 parking spaces are also planned, as is 13,000 square feet of retail space. Bethlehem-based developer Lou Pektor said he envisions neighborhood retailers such as dry cleaning, a coffee shop and salon.

The submission of plans marks the first tangible sign of progress on the roughly $300 million project since city council rezoned the property last March. The new zoning allows homes and retail while requiring the preservation of Martin Tower, built in the 1970s as Bethlehem Steel Corp. headquarters.

More here.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

February NET 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.

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

When: Thursday, Feb. 1, 7 p.m. - 9 p.m.

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

Admission: FREE to NET members, $3 for non-members

Not a member yet? Join now!

Rendell unveils "Prescription for Pennsylvania": A New PA Healthcare Plan

Gov. Ed Rendell wants Pennsylvania businesses to offer basic health insurance to all workers and a statewide ban on smoking in workplaces, restaurants and bars under a sweeping plan unveiled Wednesday. There are nearly 600 restaurants that have banned smoking Valleywide already.

With medical costs outstripping both inflation and wage growth and the prospects for relief from Washington remote, Pennsylvania can no longer ignore its uninsured, Rendell said in the first major policy speech of his second term. Paying for them, he said, costs state taxpayers $1.4 billion annually.

Rendell stopped far short of calling for the kind of single-payer health care espoused by progressives within his party, but he described his ''Cover All Pennsylvanians'' plan as universal because it would benefit most of the 767,000 adult residents who lack medical coverage.

The sweep of Rendell's proposal made its prognosis difficult to determine. Final action on any facet seems at best months off. Four-dozen pieces of legislation, federal and state approval and a host of regulatory changes are needed to implement the program fully.

Funding for Rendell's plan would come from several sources. First, the state would impose a ''fair share'' tax — equal to 3 percent of payroll — on the roughly 100,000 businesses that do not cover their employees. In the program's first year, the first 50 employees of those businesses would be exempted from the levy, with the threshold declining each year.

Second, the state would boost its $1.35-per-pack cigarette tax by an undisclosed amount and impose a new tax on cigars and smokeless tobacco. Administration officials are withholding details until Rendell's annual budget address Feb. 6. Tobacco taxes would earn the state federal matching money.

Essentially, Rendell wants to expand the state's adultBasic insurance program, which covers people age 19 to 64 who can't afford private insurance and who don't qualify for Medical Assistance, as Medicaid is known here. He would partially subsidize insurance costs for businesses that can't afford to offer benefits to their employees.

Rendell would expand income limits under adultBasic from 200 percent of the federal poverty level to 300 percent, or from about $40,000 to $60,000 for a family of four. Those people would pay monthly premiums of $10 to $60.

Businesses with fewer than 50 employees earning less than the state's average yearly wage of $39,000 would purchase coverage at $130 a month. Their employees would pay $70 a month in premiums, but they could claim a rebate depending on their income.

Self-employed individuals earning more than 300 percent of the poverty level could purchase coverage by paying the full, unsubsidized premium of $280 a month.

Rendell called for other reforms aimed at reducing health care costs while improving the quality of care. These include expanding the Insurance Department's ability to regulate rate increases, encouraging more schools to fight childhood obesity, allowing nurse practitioners to perform more medical procedures and reducing the use of hospital emergency rooms as walk-in clinics for the uninsured.

More here.

Allentown city council rejects immigration bill

Allentown City Council shot down Councilman Lou Hershman's proposal to fight illegal immigration, forcing supporters to try collecting the signatures of 2,000 city voters to put it on the ballot.

Hershman wanted to order the city Police Department to train officers in immigration law and to sign an agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement to ramp up its local enforcement activities.

But a majority of council felt the city already was cooperating adequately with federal immigration agents and that the city police force had plenty else to do.

More here.

Ethnic Eats: Dynasty Chinese Restaurant

Dynasty Chinese Restaurant
620 State Ave.
Emmaus PA
610-967-6110; 965-2771

Food type: Chinese

Morning Call review:
"There are strong reasons why the Cheng family's Dynasty restaurant in Emmaus has stayed a dependable favorite of the west Allentown/Emmaus/Macungie crowd for more than 20 years, despite its strip-mall location and the availability of so many other Chinese restaurants."

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Rail renaissance occuring nationwide and here in the Lehigh Valley

NET and RenewLV co-sponsored a very well attend forum on passenger rail last night. Over 200 people packed Hotel Bethlehem to hear a representative from the Brookings Institution speak, as well as Sen. Rob Wonderling.

Morning Call reports:

Young professionals, students, elected officials, representatives from local bus companies and retirees came to hear Robert Puentes, a transportation expert from the Brookings Institution, who said, ''It's not hyperbole to say there is a rail transit renaissance going on across the country today.''

Rail service is gaining in popularity because the face of America is changing, he said. Retirees, childless couples and immigrants want more of a range of housing options than can typically be found in suburban single-family residential developments. They increasingly want neighborhoods that combine commercial and residential construction. (Not to mention young professionals want this as well.)

Puentes talked about current rail initiatives across the country that include light rail, monorail, subway and trolleys.

He said passenger rail service ''is not a silver bullet,'' but combined with other changes to land use planning, it can help areas thrive.

RenewLV believes connecting Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton to each other and to Philadelphia and New York by rail could bolster the Valley's aging cities by concentrating development, and preserve open space. (Rail service tends to concentrate population that is already there.)

But the event's organizers said the strong attendance shows a lot of interest. RenewLV's co-chairwoman, Emmaus Borough Councilwoman Joyce Marin, said it's likely a coalition of groups that support passenger rail will form.

The issue has come to the forefront as officials from Bucks and Montgomery counties study whether to restore rail from Philadelphia to the Quakertown area, and eventually up to Center Valley. New Jersey is examining whether it would be viable to extend the state's train service to Phillipsburg.

State Sen. Rob Wonderling, R-Montgomery, who spoke at the forum, has been involved with the efforts to extend passenger service from the Lehigh Valley to Philadelphia. He said the Valley can't depend entirely on the public sector to revive passenger rail service here. He is working to attract private investment.

Separately, some people have proposed building a light rail service between Phillipsburg and Allentown.

RenewLV is a coalition of local organizations and individuals formed after the Brookings Institution issued its report on Pennsylvania in 2003. The 120-page report said suburban sprawl is killing many of the cities here, and the state faces a severe brain drain because young professionals are graduating from Pennsylvania colleges but fleeing the state for jobs elsewhere.

The rail forum sprang from an informal poll by RenewLV to find out how young people (that's us) thought the Valley could be improved. The top suggestion was restoring passenger rail service.

As the Valley's population has grown and roads have become more crowded, questions about mass transit have resurfaced. Officials in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, for example, are jointly looking at ways to ease congestion on Interstate 78. The amount of traffic on I-78 near the Lehigh Valley has increased more than 30 percent since 2000, and is up 66 percent over the past 10 years.

The North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority, which is overseeing a study of I-78 traffic, doesn't favor adding lanes to the road. One phase of the study will look at extending one of the NJ Transit rail lines to Phillipsburg. That would allow Valley residents to take a train from Phillipsburg to Newark, N.J., where they could get another train to New York. New Jersey officials say most of the track is in place all the way to Phillipsburg.

Officials in Pennsylvania and New Jersey have been cooperating on a joint plan to restore service from New York's Penn Station through northern New Jersey into the Poconos and to Scranton.

Efforts to restore the line have gained momentum and political support in recent years, largely because of Monroe County's population growth, which has helped fuel daily congestion on Interstate 80 in New Jersey.

So the big question remains what can I do?

Well, first and foremost tell your officials–city, county, state, and federal–that you support rail service as part of a greater transportation solution in the Lehigh Valley.

Secondly, sign the petition to show your support. By showing officials that you are interested in the rail system, they will be much more likely to vote for means to support it, and hopefully the seed money needed for people like Sen. Wonderling, and Rep. Freeman to attract more private funding - a key for the rail system to come to fruition.

Also, remain active in groups like the Network of Young Professionals and RenewLV so you can be part of the conversation.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Betcha didn't know...

Allentown Symphony Hall, built in 1856, and home to the Allentown Symphony Orchestra, was once one of the leading burlesque halls in the United States. In 1912, both Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson spoke here. Today, top notch primarily musical acts are brought in.

Winter Classic: A Gathering of the Celts

For the last 20 years the Celtic Cultural Alliance has brought you the Celtic Classic, which for two and half days brings the finest in Celtic arts, food, music, athletics, piping, and more to eastern Pennsylvania. Each year you have told us that having Celtic Classic only once a year is not enough, and honestly, we would have to agree. Therefore, with great excitement we bring you the inaugural Winter Classic, with all the sights and sounds of Celtic Classic, brought indoors for two days to Stabler Arena!

Highlights of Winter Classic:

Two stages of continuous Celtic music and dance entertainment, featuring the following performers:
- Eileen Ivers and Immigrant Soul
- Solas
- The Glengarry Bhoys
- The Laura Cortese Band
- John Whelan
- The Barley Boys
- Killen Thyme
- Seamus Kennedy
- Burning Bridget Cleary
- O’Grady-Quinlan Academy of Irish Dance
- The Campbell School of Highland dance
- and the MacKay Pipe Band from Bethlehem, PA.

Other happenings include:
- Highland Athletes present to personally answer your Heavy questions, demonstrate the Sheaf toss, and talk about the world of Highland athletics.
- A diverse marketplace of Celtic crafts, merchandise and collectibles.
- Traditional Celtic food and a wide selection of beer.

: Friday, February 2 - 4:00 pm to Midnight, Saturday, February 3 – 10:00 am to Midnight

Where: Stabler Arena


In Advance
Friday $15
Saturday $18
Both days: $30

At the Door
Friday $17
Saturday $20
Both Days $35

Purchase tickets online or call toll-free 877-77CLICK.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Starbucks coming to Bethlehem

Bethlehem's first Starbucks coffee shop was given official approval by the city's Planning Commission, but plans for the city's third McDonald's were deep-sixed Thursday.

Facing an apparent deadline from financiers and pressure from the commission, developers of a lot at the southwest corner of Schoenersville Road and Avenue C abruptly proposed a change to its building plans to win conditional approval.

More here.

Say so long to trans fat

For 40 years people have flocked to Richard's Drive-In in Palmer Township, a bubble gum-colored fast-food shrine that dishes fries, hot dogs and cheesesteaks so laden with grease that their white paper wrappers become translucent. Patrons lovingly dubbed it Greasy Dick's, and one smitten online food connoisseur awarded it three grease spots for gastrointestinal greatness.

So it's ironic, to say the least, that the three families who jointly own the drive-in are at the forefront of the latest culinary revolution: ridding their fare of cooking oils that contain trans fats, artery-clogging stuff so bad for the human heart that New York City has banished it under penalty of law. Other cities, including Chicago and Philadelphia, may follow suit and many chain restaurants, including Starbucks and Taco Bell, have taken the same step.

Richard's isn't the only business embracing the trend. A small but growing number of Lehigh Valley restaurants are going trans fat-free by eliminating hydrogenated oil, the durable stuff used in heavy doses by the fast-food industry that is the chief source of trans fats.

Bethlehem Brew Works eliminated trans fats from its menu in April, a month after one of the owners, David Fegley, died from heart disease at the age of 33.

''It wasn't the trans fats that killed him; he had heart problems, but it made us look at what we eat every day,'' said Mike Fegley, David's older brother. ''It's a couple more thousand dollars a year'' for trans-fat-free oil, he said, ''but we wanted to do the ethical thing.''

So far, major fast food chains such as Wendy's, Taco Bell and KFC are using oils that don't contain trans fats, but McDonald's and Burger King are still dragging their feet, said Jeff Kronin, spokesman for the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Science and the Public Interest.

Stephen Yeager, chef at Ye Olde Limeport Hotel in Limeport, lost about 30 pounds two years ago in part by eliminating trans fats from his diet. ''I didn't feel right that I was cutting this stuff out in my personal life and not at the restaurant,'' he said.

So, he got busy trying to find a tasty alternative and settled on canola oil after regular restaurant patrons Roger and Judy Butterfield gave four stars to trans-fat-free fish and chips during a taste test.

Do you know of any other trans-fat free restaurants in the Valley?

More here.

Immigration a hot topic in Allentown

After debating illegal immigration off and on for months, Allentown City Council faces three choices Wednesday night in what could be its climatic meeting on the controversy:

Order the Police Department to put a stronger focus on immigration enforcement by training officers and signing a cooperation agreement with the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement office.

Pass the buck and ask city voters to decide by putting the question on the ballot.

Say no to both proposals and do nothing.

If it chooses the last option, Councilman Louis Hershman has promised to mount a petition drive to put the question on the ballot by voter initiative. He would need to collect the signatures of 2,000 registered voters.

''We arrest people for selling drugs and guns under federal laws,'' Hershman said. ''What's wrong with this? Do we pick and choose what federal laws we enforce?''

But opponents of Hershman's proposal — a toned-down version of a previous ordinance that would have punished landlords who rented to and employers who hired illegal immigrants — say putting the issue before the city's voters would simply create ethnic tensions.

''The issue is divisive,'' said Councilman Julio Guridy. ''Then what is going to happen is you are going to have people voting for it because they don't want Hispanics.''

Guridy said an immigration ballot question might energize the Latino vote too, but said he'd prefer to see voters turn out because they were excited about a candidate.

City officials have raised other objections to Hershman's proposal.

Police Chief Roger MacLean has said forcing his department to enter into an immigration enforcement agreement with the federal government would strain the city's already shorthanded Police Department. He said the police force already works with immigration officials when it arrests suspects that may be in the country illegally.

Councilman Michael D'Amore said MacLean's presentation should serve as a conclusive argument against the proposal.

Hershman brought the matter before City Council in July after Hazleton passed its own ordinance making it illegal for landlords to rent to and employers to hire illegal immigrants.

Opponents of Hazleton's law filed a federal lawsuit, calling the law unconstitutional. In the meantime, the courts have ordered that city not to enforce the anti-illegal immigration measure.