Saturday, September 13, 2008

The Lehigh Valley Blog List

We're starting a new feature to The After Work Chronicles: a LV blog list. Just take a peek to your right. I've listed several blogs that have LV connections that I read on a regular basis. If you have any to add (or if you own one of these blogs and would prefer not to have extra readers head your way), leave a comment so we can add more in.

Whether you are a "local-yocal" or new to the LV, the many blogs written by LV residents will surely give you new ideas and new perspectives on our community.

LV Wines...and more!

Good wine doesn't just come from places like Napa & Bordeaux. It's not too late to experience a little of the LV wine culture. And, don't fret if you can't make this weekend's events. You can always experience the LV Wine Trail whenever you please.
"Harvest Weekend - The Butcher, The Baker & The Winemaker"
Presented by the members of the Lehigh Valley Wine Trail
Saturday, Sept. 12, 10 am to 5 pm
Sunday, Sept. 13, 12 pm to 5 pm

The LV Wine Trail will be partnering with other PA product manufacturers to showcase the "Pennsylvania Preferred" program. Food, music, vineyard tours, wine pairings and many more activities to keep you busy.

Young Professionals' Night Out at the State Theater

A night of comedy with your peers...
Wednesday, Sept 17
Young Professional’s Night Out at the State Theater
NBC's 'Last Comic Standing' Live Tour starring the top five finalists including the season six winner!

• one ticket to the Last Comic Standing performance

• a pre-show happy hour reception with free appetizers

• 1 free drink coupon

All for only $43!*(Save $10 on tickets alone)
Happy hour: 6pm-7:30pm in the State Theatre second floor lobby
Showtime: 8pm

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Celebrate Allentown!

Looking for a way to learn a little more about the cultural diversity of the LV? Perhaps try a little bit of all the great food our area has to offer?

The City of Allentown and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce proudly present Celebrate Allentown, a multi-cultural celebration taking place on Saturday September 13th from 12 noon to 8 pm. This event will feature music, food, crafts, art and children’s activities that showcase the different cultures that make up our wonderfully diverse Allentown community.

Besides being a fun event for the entire family, it will also be educational and provide community building and ultimately, be an experience that will leave a lasting impression on all the attendees.

Celebrate Allentown will feature a variety of musical genres from around the world and will bring the PPL Plaza to life. The line-up includes:

12:15 – 1:15PM The Hometown German Band
1:30 – 2:45PM The Great Djembe Jam
3:15 – 5:00PM Haki Haki
5:30 – 6:30PM Emerald City
6:45 – 8:00PM Hector Rosado Y Su Orquesta Aché

This diverse combination of musical groups represents some of the many cultural groups that make up our Queen City of Allentown. It will expose attendees to a variety of musical sounds, including Celtic, German, Kenyan, and Latin Jazz and Salsa music.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dog Day at the Allentown Arts Park
Saturday, September 6, 12-3 PM

Have you gotten a chance to visit the William Wegman: Fay special exhibition at the Allentown Art Museum? Up for a good day out with your pooch? Head to the Allentown Arts Park to enter your dog in the doggie costume contest (with prizes) and let him/her be walked by volunteers from RFurry Friends while you visit the exhibit at a discounted rate (discount only for those who bring a dog to be walked).

Registration for the costume contest will be held from 12-1 PM, and the parade and judging will begin at 1:30 PM. Mingle with representatives from Lehigh Valley animal shelters (Lehigh County Humane Society, Linda Ann's Greyhound Rescue, RanToo Slow Greyhound Adoption), meet and greet their pooches, and get information from various vendors offering services and products for petowners (Jen Howard Art, The Spotted Dog Barkery). This is one official Dog Day of summer you won't want to miss!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

You don't have to go all the way to NYC to see some fashion...

Lehigh Valley Fashion Weekend
Friday, September 12, 2008 at 7:00 PM
Allentown Symphony Hall
23 North 6th St.
Allentown, PA 18101

A true celebration of people in fashion, LV Fashion Weekend is a two-day charitable event that attracts the most beautiful crowd in the Lehigh Valley and showcases the latest fashion trends and styles while offering a first-class philanthropic resource.

The opening night of Fashion Weekend will be an exclusive gala event, one not to be missed - only tell your best friends. Leading into Symphony Hall there wil be a red carpet champagne reception -- watch out for the paparazzi!! Then get upclose with the hottest fashions walking down the catwalk from your favorite designers. After the show VIP's escape to the ultra private Rodale Room where you can indulge in the great culinary tastes from local eateries, meet and greet with celebrities, models, and artists all while enjoying chic entertainment, atmosphere, and a premium open bar. Mingle, Dance, Relax, Enjoy.

Day two of the LV Fashion Weekend we start off by offering special discounts at local participating retailers, where a percentage of your purchases goes toward Allentown Symphony Orchestra Children's programming for charity. This fun day of shopping is designed to support local business for a charitable cause. Shop in the name of charity!

Tables $195 : includes cabaret table for 3 guests closest to the stage, with complimentary drink, hors d'oeuvres, meet and greet in the Rodale Room after the show.

VIP Seats $65 each in the boxes: includes complimentary drink, hors d'oeuvres, meet and greet.

Premium Seating $50: seating in the house includes admission to meet and greet. QTY limited.

General admission: $30 house seating

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Interested in the history of transportation?

America On Wheels Road Jamboree
Saturday: August 16, 2008
10:00 am—3:00 pm

-Free Admission To “Outside” Jamboree
-Wide Variety Of Vehicles
-Live Music
-Kid Friendly Games and Rides
-Food Vendors
-Live Radio Broadcast
-$5 Museum Admission (Regular $7)

Located near the Lehigh River, where Hamilton Street meets Front Street, our museum is both easy to find and easy to get to.

Looking for something to do in Allentown?

The City of Allentown Department of Parks & Recreation presents Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns - at Valania Park in Allentown (On Union Street between 5th & 6th)- Movie begins at dark (around 8:30pm) - Join in one of Allentown's best new activities - movies under the night sky on our large outdoor movie screen. Bring your family, friends, a blanket or some lawn chairs and enjoy a great movie in the beautiful downtown Allentown parks.

On August 23rd you can enjoy a catered dinner in West Park, followed by the movie "Grease" which will be projected on our large screen in the band shell . To make dinner reservations please contact the West Park Civic Association at 610-434-0657.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Are you looking for some musical entertainment in the Valley this evening?
FREE SUMMER CONCERT SERIES Presented by the Easton Main Street Initiative

Friday July 25th, 7:30-9:30 pm
Centre Square

Savor the timeless sounds of Jazz Indigo, performing a sizzling blend of vocal jazz standards, bossas and blues. Suzanne Pisano-Vocals, Ed Ronco-Sax, Chris Boyce-Piano, Mike Wolf-Bass.

Dine in downtown Easton before or after the show!

Catch our other Shows this Summer... August 29th The New Groove Sept. 26th Vocal Artist, Michele Bautier

Thursday, July 03, 2008

4th of July Festivities

Are you looking for some ways to fill your holiday weekend! Here's a list of local events to keep you busy...
Thursday 7/3

Summer in the City - at the PPL Plaza - 11:45 - 1:15pm (Allentown)
-Back by popular demand, Summer in the City features the Lehigh Valley's best musicians in
a variety of musical genres. From Jazz to Folk and Classical to Celtic,you will be entertained every Thursday during lunch, from 11:45am -1:15pm, right at the PPL Plaza. Come early and grab a seat, or bring your own lawn chair! This week you can enjoy music with the Fusion Jazz Trio.

Young@Heart - at Civic's Theatre 514 - 7:00pm - $6-8
-You may have seen hilarious, though out-of-context, clips of the Young@Heart vocal choir performing on YouTube, but you have not yet seen the full, uplifting story of twenty-plus senior citizens daring enough to sing songs born in the same years as their grandchildren. This Stephen Walker documentary follows the group over six weeks of rigorous rehearsals, in which they attempt music by the Clash, the Ramones and James Brown, among others. Riotously funny in its portrayal of the generation gap between the songs and the people singing them, but unflinchingly real in its portrayal of heartbreaking loss, Young@Heart is a pragmatic portrait of senior citizens refusing to fade into oldage.
-This film is part of the 19th Street Film Series.
-Visit for more information.

Son of Rambow - at Civic Theatre - 7:30pm - $6-8
-A strangely beautiful love letter to cinema in general, Son of Rambow follows Will Proudfoot, a reserved young boy whose family is part of the Brethren, a religion that shuns the outside world and prohibits Will from having friends at school or watching TV. Will gets caught up in the world of Lee Carter, however, the school terror who wants help in making a homemade version of the Sylvester Stallone film First Blood. After watching the original, Will writes his own sequel and casts himself as the son of Rambo. The whole school soon wants in on this unlikely project, including a suave French exchange student who threatens the integrity of the production and the friendship between Will and Lee.
-This film is part of the 19th Street Film Series.
-Visit for more information.

Lehigh Valley Beer Meet Up - at the Allentown Brew Works - 7:00pm
-Come for an early celebration of Red, White and Blue - Blueberry, that is, at the Allentown Brew Works this Thursday! Come join the Lehigh Valley Beer Meetup for a free beer tasting of the Blueberry Belch at 7pm at the main bar. See for more info and RSVP to

Pioneer Band- 4th of July Concert - at West Park - 7:30pm
-Enjoy a free band concert admist the natural beauty of Allentown's West Park.

IronPigs vs. the Yankees - at Coca-Cola Park- Game starts at 7:05pm
-Hot dogs, locally brewed beer and BASEBALL -- in a brand new stadium...the perfect way to spend some quality time with family, friends or co-workers.
-Visit: for more information and a complete schedule.

Friday 7/4

"Let Freedom Ring" National Bell Ringing Ceremony - at Liberty Bell Shrine Museum - 1:30pm -Join in this Independence DayCeremony. The ceremony begins at 1:30pm. Allentown's Liberty Bell will be rung, and bell ringing will take place across the nation at 2pm. "Pip the Colonial Mouse" will be there too!

Son of Rambow - at Civic Theatre - 1:30pm - $6-8
-See description above.
-This film is part of the 19th Street Film Series.
-Visit for more information.

Independence Day Celebration- J. Birney Crum Stadium
-Gates open at 6 pm. Entertainment by the Marine Band begins at 7:30pm. Skydivers will make their first appearance at 7:45pm followed by a second flight at 8:30pm and a third flight just before the fireworks begin. TheMarine Band will play additional sets beginning at 8:15 and 8:45pm. Mayor Ed Pawlowski, Police Chief Roger MacLean and Alan Raber will offer remarks and the Marine Band will play the national anthem just prior to the expected 9pm start of the fireworks.The show will include nearly 3200 shells and is expected to last 30-to-45 minutes. A donation of $5 per family and $2 per adult is requested to defray expenses of the approximately $20,000 show.

Fever Friday - in the Silk Lounge at Allentown Brew Works -10pm-2am
-Dance the night away in the Silk Lounge with DJ Sweetlife.This would be a great way to continue the night after Dancing in theStreets.

Saturday 7/5

Son of Rambow - at Civic Theatre - 1:30pm - $6-8
-See description above.
-This film is part of the 19th Street Film Series.
-Visit for more information.

Jay and the Techniques - at Buck Boyle Park- 5pm
-Enjoy a free concert celebrating the holiday weekend at the beautiful Buck Boyle Park.

Hot Nights in Silk - in the Silk Lounge at Allentown BrewWorks - 10pm-2am
-Dance the night away in the Silk Lounge with DJ Maze.

Sunday 7/6

Son of Rambow - at Civic Theatre - 1:30pm - $6-8
-See description above.
-This film is part of the 19th Street Film Series.
-Visit for more information.

Gospel Brunch - at the Allentown Brew Works - 11am-4pm- $5 cover

Bike Night - Art N Soul Studios - 4-7pm

IronPigs vs. the Bats - at Coca-Cola Park- Game starts at 5:35pm
-Hot dogs, locally brewed beer and BASEBALL -- in a brand new stadium...the perfect way to spend some quality time with family, friends or co-workers.
-Visit: for more information and a complete schedule.

Municipal Band Concert - at West Park - 7:30pm
-Enjoy a free band concert admist the natural beauty of Allentown's West Park.

Monday 7/8

Yoga in the Park - Allentown Arts Park - 5-6:30pm
-Stretch out and do something good for your body and enjoy the beauty of the Allentown Arts Park while you're at it. Suggested donation of $5-10.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Free Jazz in Easton this Friday, 6/27!

Calling all you jazz fanatics!
Jazz in the Square
Presented by the Easton Main Street Initiative

Friday June 27th, 7:30-9:30 pm
Centre Square
Duet Jazz Fusion with guitarist, Frank Belinc and pianist, Patrick Poladian playing a soulful mix of rock, jazz and funk. Bring a lawn chair or blanket and enjoy "summer in the city!"

Dine in downtown Easton before or after the show!

Catch our other Shows this Summer...
July 25th Jazz Indigo
August 29th The New Groove
Sept. 26th Vocal Artist, Michele Bautier

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Local Author Day at the Moravian Bookshop this Saturday, 6/28

Here's a way to beat the summer heat and meet some local authors; the Moravian Book Shop will be hosting a meet and greet with 5 local authors this Saturday (6/28) from 1-3 pm.

You can spend your afternoon with...

Vince Chiles: Happiness in Five Minutes a Day teaches the reader how to find happiness through five one-minute exercises, so that even the busiest person can discover his or her innate ability to achieve and maintain happiness. Vince has fused his education, personal growth, and professional work experience as a hospice supervisor into a common sense guide to finding happiness in everyday life.

William Jennings: Controversies surrounding the first three chapters of the Bible are the focus of Storms Over Genesis: Biblical Battleground in America's Wars of Religion. Feminists say the chapters do women much harm, some environmentalists see the seeds of our environmental crisis, and creationists think the chapters are a bulwark against theories of evolution. The Midwestern Book Review gave the book five stars, calling it "an enlightening study." William H. Jennings (Ph.D., Yale) is Professor of Religion, Emeritus, Muhlenberg College.

John Ketwig: John Ketwig's ...and a hard rain fell is being celebrated in a new, updated 20th Anniversary Edition. This book has been praised for more than twenty years because it is one of the most honest and thought-provoking war books of all time. From the country roads of upstate New York to the jungles of Vietnam, and finally to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., ...and a hard rain fell is a gripping and visceral account of one young man's struggle to make sense of his place in a world gone mad. A former Book of the Month Club feature selection, Kirkus called it "a searing gift to his country."

Larry Kimport: What ever happened to Huck Finn? Here's Clara Waltz's loving account, in the novel A Small Harvest of Pretty Days. An 1890's Pennsylvania love story, as vast and true as the human heart itself. Author Larry Kimport grew up in north-central Pennsylvania. For the past 22 years, he has coordinated an alternative educational program for at-risk teens in suburban New Jersey.

Joey Negron: 1Zero9 is a coming-of-age story that will take the reader on a roller-coaster ride of laughter, sadness, anger, love, empathy and realism. The book is a chronological recounting of life events that are connected, tied and branded by the numbers 1, 0, and 9. Joey works as a Mobile Therapist/Behavior Specialist Consultant for children and adolescents that have mental health disorders ranging from Autism to Conduct Disorder.

Blues, Brews & Barbecue This Saturday 6/28

If you're looking for something to do this weekend

Blues, Brews & Barbecue
800 Block of Hamilton Street and the PPL Plaza – noon-8pm

This first year event is just what it sounds like – “Blues, Brews & Barbecue” the epitome of summer in one incredibly tasty, superbly soulful and outrageously fun event. This day will be full of barbecue competitions with the promise of finger-lickin’ good recipes, refreshing brews and music that will have you feelin' good. Hosted by the City of Allentown and the Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce this event will incorporate several restaurants and barbecue vendors including the Allentown Brew Works, Federal Grill, Grumpy’s Barbecue, Johnny Mañana’s, Tex’s Smokin’ Bar-B-Q, and Vicky’s Sweet Spot that will compete in contests (with celebrity judges like Mayor Pawlowski and others who will be announced soon) and sell delicious food – like brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken and more to the public. There will be several talented musical acts to entertain the crowd like BC & the Blues Crew, the Sarah Ayers Band, The WilyGoats and more. This event will fill the 800 Block of Hamilton Street with activity.

Give your feedback to Lanta!

How many of you use the LANTA system regularly? How many of you would like to, but the current system does not meet your needs?

Take 5 minutes and help the Regional Transportation Planning Advisory Committee get the information they need to improve public transportation in the Lehigh Valley. There are two surveys.

If you currently ride LANTA, click here to take the riders' survey.

If you do not currently use the LANTA system, click here for that survey.

More information can be found on the LANTA website or through the Moving LANTA Forward blog.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bethlehem Restaurant Week

For all of you young professional foodies, this week is Bethlehem Restaurant Week! Go to your favorite place or try someplace new. With very reasonable pricing ($5-$15 for lunch and $10-30 for a 3 course dinner), you can try a new cuisine or restaurant without worry. 23 restaurants in Historic & South Side Bethlehem are participating, so there are plenty of choices. And you don't even need to worry about paying for parking; Historic Bethlehem restaurants will validate your parking for both garages, and South Side ones will give you tokens for the meters. Reservations are not required for many places, but they are strongly suggested since many places are extremely busy this week.

To see the list of restaurants and more details, visit

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Insurance, Taxes, and Savings

The New York Times has a great Primer for Young People Starting Their First Job. Make sure to take a second to read this. It offers a simple breakdown of the things you should be looking for in what can be a really complicated benefits package. There's advice on health insurance, taxes and income, and retirement packages.

Have fun.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

PBS 39 documentary visits Allentown's past, present and future

Without Allentown, there would be no Liberty Bell and man may never have walked on the moon. Plays would have flopped on Broadway and Billy Joel would be short a hit single. Who knew that the Valley housed such a crown jewel?

Amy Burkett, executive producer for PBS 39's ''Communities'' documentary series, was sure of that when she started production on ''Communities: Allentown,'' the third documentary in the station's ''Communities'' series that also includes New Hope and Bethlehem.

''It's one of the largest, most important cities in the region with many exciting things to both look back upon and look ahead to,'' she says. It's no wonder that filming took more than 11 months.
From Sodexho Vice President Bob Wood recalling his days at ''Ritz Barbecue'' to former Allentown High School (now William Allen) principal Jack McHugh declaring that ''you got dressed up!'' to go to the ''Great Allentown Fair,'' PBS staff interviewed 69 people to weave together the stories that are Allentown.

''It's a city rich in a sense of community; it's the people that make it great,'' says Burkett.

The project, which began filming in March 2007, highlights the birth of Allentown in 1762 and follows its transformation from a small summer get-away to a thriving metropolis.

''Folks in Allentown call it the Golden Age,'' booms narrator Grover Silcox, calling us back to the early 20th century, when people flocked to Hess's Department Store to shop for the latest fashions and mingle with stars like Rock Hudson and Zsa Zsa Gabor. Broadway stars like Bing Crosby and Bob Hope stopped in Allentown to try out their shows. Iron, silk and cement industries employed the masses and Solomon Dorney opened an amusement park to keep them entertained.

Allentown's Western Electric birthed the transistor, ultimately used in the equipment that helped man land on the moon.

And as the city grew, so did tradition. Allentown families became entrenched in their livelihoods and businesses.

Yocco's, ''The Hot Dog King,'' opened in Allentown in 1929, when Theodore Iacocca (a relative of Lee Iacocca, better known for his Chrysler Corp. revival) replaced cigars with hot dogs in his shop on Liberty Street.

Today at Ninth and Hamilton streets, Alvin H. Butz Inc. stands as a testament to the hard work of five generations of builders dating back to the 1920s.

But tradition isn't always tied to profession. Allentown resident Catharine Michael talks about putting ''your whole heart and soul'' into something, much like she and her daughter-in-law do with the Allentown Garden Club. It's those same sentiments that drive the members of the Allentown Pioneer Band, who have been keeping up the beat of Allentown since 1889.

The film features Symphony Hall, Civic Theatre and the Allentown Art Museum as sites where residents can continue to both partake in and add to the city's colorful cultural heritage. And that's the goal of PBS 39, says Burkett -- ''to preserve the rich heritage of our entire region because there isn't any other outlet to do so.''

Burkett says she and her staff ''picked the brains'' of city residents to make Allentown's ''hidden treasure stories'' come alive. They boiled 100 hours of footage down to one hour, but she feels the result is a portrayal of Allentown as ''a city of promise and work in progress.''

Burkett, whose resume includes three Emmy Award-winning documentaries in PBS 39's ''Living History'' series -- ''Hollywood on Hamilton: Remembering Hess's,'' ''Bethlehem Steel: The People Who Built America'' and ''Make a Joyful Noise: The Bach Choir of Bethlehem'' -- believes she can help further that progress through the story of tradition, pride and potential.

Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski and State Rep. Jennifer Mann, both featured in the documentary, are equally optimistic. Pawlowski says the city's revival is far from ''impossible'' and tells viewers that ''Allentown is going to come back. It's going to be a city people are proud of. It's going to be the queen city again.'' Mann agrees, asserting that people have a reason to ''keep fighting'' to make Allentown better.

From a new ballpark to a $175 million development on the Lehigh waterfront, they're sure Allentown's future looks rosy, as citizens keep making history.

Preserving land may depend on local leaders

If there's one broad trend some Lehigh Valley conservationists can agree on about the future of their work, it's that the initiative rests with local government.

''What we've found is there's a lot of interest in these smaller communities,'' said Scott Everett, trail manager for the Delaware & Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.

''With growth in the Valley, we're seeing rising interest in preserving what's left,'' he said.

Everett was one of several people at a meeting Saturday of ecologists and concerned citizens of all stripes that congregates yearly at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center north of Slatington. The group has no set agenda beyond sharing information.

Everett's organization maintains a trail that follows the Lehigh River along the Lehigh County border, and soon plans to surface the section of its trail that runs along the Lehigh Canal towpath from Bethlehem to Freemansburg. It gets most of its funding from the federal government, which usually involves a substantial amount of bureaucracy, Everett said.

''The lower the level [of government], the easier it is to get funding and the quicker we can make things happen,'' Everett said.

But although local governments are often willing to participate, just reaching them all is a mighty task, said Jennifer Heisey, a recreation planner for the Appalachian Mountain Club. The AMC is working to conserve areas within a region called the Pennsylvania Highlands, which is north of Philadelphia and stretches from the borders with western New Jersey and northwestern Maryland. It includes much of Lehigh and Northampton counties.

''It's becoming [environmentally] fragmented, because it's a heavily populated area,'' Heisey said. ''If you have fragmented forest, that will decrease the water quality. A lot of people don't get that. That's the big kicker for preserving the land.''

Heisey said although many local governments understand the need to conserve forested land in this region, getting the large number of governments in the area to work on a coherent strategy is difficult. But as development progresses westward from New Jersey, she's seeing changing attitudes among Pennsylvanians.

''They're starting to see the changes happen where they live, and they're starting to take action,'' she said.

New street lights for Hellertown?

Hellertown Borough Council agreed Monday night to study the possibility of purchasing the hundreds of streetlights in the borough.

''If we decide to participate in this streetlight purchase program we'll get a lower rate on the electric that we use,'' said Borough Manager Charlie Luthar. ''Over the long haul, it will be less expensive.''

Luthar reported that the cities of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton all participate in the program and that he has received positive feedback concerning their participation in the program.

''We initially received a proposal concerning this a few years back and were recently contacted again,'' Luthar told council. ''At the time, we didn't think it was viable but the concept of municipal-owned utility equipment has become more popular.''

Councilwoman Jennie McKenna said that Hellertown owning the streetlights and supplementary equipment such as the poles the equipment is mounted on offers the borough a lot of potential. ''Owning the streetlights and utility poles would allow us to possibly offer wireless Internet throughout Hellertown.''

Luthar said that the proposal the borough received indicated a purchase price of approximately $550,000 for the more than 500 units. He added that these proposals are growing in popularity with smaller towns such as Hellertown.

''They're making some inroads in the smaller communities. Luthar said. ''Let's take a look at it and see if it makes sense.''

Council directed solicitor William Corriere to review the proposal and report his findings at a future meeting.

Allentown's Council and Mayor working together after a bumpy start

Allentown's new City Council president hopes a meeting with the mayor last week will improve communications between the two branches of government and end frustrations that arose only two months into his term.

''I'm feeling more enthusiastic about where we're headed,'' President Michael D'Amore said Friday in a joint interview with Mayor Ed Pawlowski, in the mayor's office.

Earlier in the week, D'Amore and council Vice President Tony Phillips had publicly complained about Pawlowski and his staff being unwilling to answer questions.

'It's been increasingly difficult to get information from the administration,'' D'Amore had said at a council committee meeting, which no city administrators attended. ''Our right to get information has been limited lately.''

D'Amore, who was elected president in January, a day later used stronger language.

''It just seems obviously clear to me that the mayor does not want to share power with City Council,'' he said. ''This isn't about power. This is what checks and balances are all about.''

He said he'd been stonewalled when asking for phone numbers and for information about programs and contracts, such as one that will expire for a private company to run the city garage.

As a result, he said, in an effort to fight back, he had delayed some council action and budget transfers until the administration answered his questions.

Pawlowski rebutted D'Amore's claims. He said his administration has provided more information to council than previous ones, held an orientation session for new council members and created a monthly report to council on city activities and finances.

''I don't think that's ever been done in the history of the city,'' said Pawlowski, who called the meeting with D'Amore on Friday after learning of his concerns.

The other five council members said they have had no problems getting information from the mayor and his staff. As council president, D'Amore has more frequent contact with them.

After meeting with Pawlowski, D'Amore said he was ''more hopeful'' about the relationship between the city's legislative and executive branches. He said perhaps he felt ''more disconnected'' than he really was.

Pawlowski said he and D'Amore just need time to ''figure out how to work together.''

D'Amore and Pawlowski, both Democrats who worked on each other's 2005 campaigns, describe themselves as friends. They said they intend to meet weekly and communicate by e-mail more often.

Pawlowski said he has monthly meetings with interested council members, but Phillips has refused to meet.

Before the meeting with the mayor, D'Amore said he believed the mayor was having trouble adjusting to a new council that is more active and more aggressive at challenging his administration.

''I think that he had a council the first two years, for various reasons, that were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt,'' D'Amore said.

In just two months, the new council has criticized a plan to charge fees to reserve wedding and photo times at the Rose Garden at Cedar Creek Park, and has formed a committee to review a new law requiring pre-sale inspections of residential properties. The outgoing council approved the law late last year, at Pawlowski's request.

Phillips, council's vice president, questioned how council can make tough decisions without knowing details. For example, he said he is waiting for information about the policy on which city employees have the authority to read other employee's e-mail.

Pawlowski and D'Amore said, while they never will agree on everything, they will work harder to communicate because that's what residents deserve.

''If there was a bump in the road here, it's up to us to work through it and get the will of the people done,'' Pawlowski said.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Happy 100 years West Park!

In 1908, when work on Allentown's West Park was completed, the area around it was wild and open. The electric streetcar was changing that part of town, however, and the city's wealthy residents were beginning to build their new houses around it.

The highest elevation in Allentown at the time, the area on 16th Street between Linden and Turner, once was designated as a site for a reservoir. Instead, it became a park with the help of the late Gen. Harry Clay Trexler, Allentown businessman and philanthropist. Trexler donated $13,055, and paid for the band shell, the cast-iron fountain and the trees. When the park opened to the public, the Allentown Band played a week of concerts.

To celebrate a number of events are planned for this year. For a full list, see the civic association's Web site at .

Friday, January 18, 2008

Navigating taxes in 2008

Taxes are never a fun topic. And as we enter tax season, navigating taxes this year has been confusing and a learning experience for myself and my husband. As a first-time home owner, living in a dual income household, there is a lot going on in the tax front.

  • With a recession looming the feds are working on a plan to send out tax rebate checks in the next few weeks, officials say. How much is currently up for debate. Democrats in Congress are proposing $500 per household, but President Bush is pushing for $800 per single person, and $1600 for married couples.
  • Most school districts have come out with their proposed budgets. Almost all have promised some sort of property tax hike, some as high as double digits. But it's not all gloom and doom. The state's casino revenue has exceeded expectations and has surpassed the $570 million mark, letting the state give relief to property tax payers in Pennsylvania. What this means for tax payers is that those tax hikes could be eliminated, or their taxes even lowered. Keeping tabs on the situation is important, because homeowners will be responsible for notifying their mortgage holders to adjust their escrow accounts accordingly. Final numbers per school district are to be released in April. More info to come.
When you go to file your taxes this year be sure to check on the following for tax breaks:
  • Energy Efficiency improvements on your home
  • School loan interest
  • Private Mortgage Insurance
  • Points paid on the mortgage
  • Property taxes
  • Childcare costs
  • Healthcare costs
  • Moving costs
  • Work-related costs that were not reimbursed
  • Donations
Any other tips or suggestions are greatly appreciated. I'll keep you posted on things as I learn about them!

Vanessa Williams

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Counties surrounding Lehigh Valley slow in creating greenway plans

The state had hoped all 67 counties would have adopted plans to identify and preserve greenways -- corridors of meadows, forests and other undeveloped land used for recreation and conservation -- by the end of 2007.

But several counties, including Carbon, Berks and Bucks, have yet to file Comprehensive Greenways Plans. The plans are expected to be in place by the end of 2008, according to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

Lehigh, Northampton, Monroe, Schuylkill and Montgomery counties all have completed their plans.

Carbon County Commissioner Chairman William O'Gurek said his county is doing its greenway plan in conjunction with its comprehensive plan, which maps development, economics, traffic and land use.

''One of the concerns of all three commissioners is that open space and farmland is fast being gobbled up by developers,'' he said. ''We're very much aware of that. The county needs to have smart growth, and we think the best way to do that is to have a comprehensive greenways plan in place to guide government in making decisions in the future.''

Bucks County Commissioner Chairman Charles H. Martin said Bucks has had greenway plans of varying types over the years, including one that would connect county parks by acquiring rights of way to the land between them.

Bucks residents want safe places for recreation, and developing a Comprehensive Greenways Plan will provide that, he said. Residents want the greenways for recreation and for the scenery, he said.

The state is giving 50 percent matching grants, averaging between $50,000 and $150,000, to counties to complete the plans, which it refers to as ''greenprints for growth.''

O'Gurek said Carbon has applied for $72,950.

The program aims to establish a network of greenways that will link ''natural, historic, and scenic landscapes, as well as our cultural and recreational sites,'' according to DCNR.

''The whole theme of greenways plans is connections,'' Williamson said. ''Matching up trails, linking communities with rail-to-trail systems and connecting resources.''

Northampton County Municipalities struggle to work together

A plan that could improve emergency services and help bring state money to a dozen Northampton County municipalities has hit a snag because they don't agree on how to organize themselves.

For a year, the municipalities have discussed forming one of the Lehigh Valley's biggest confederations -- a group that would cover roughly a third of Northampton County and represent nearly a quarter of its population.

But some of the potential members still don't agree on how the group should be set up or whether all the municipalities must first become part of the existing Nazareth Area Council of Governments.

That plan has already turned off supervisors in Lehigh Township, who are interested in forming a regional group but recently rejected joining the Nazareth Area COG, Township Manager Alice Rehrig said.

The Nazareth Area COG plan may also be a tough sell in Northampton, though Borough Manager Gene Zarayko stressed that borough officials ''have an interest in moving forward.''

In December 2006, Northampton Area School District officials proposed forming a new council of governments to help the district's seven municipalities (Lehigh Township, Allen Township, Northampton, Bath, Chapman, East Allen Township and Moore Township) communicate.

Bath, Chapman and the townships of East Allen and Moore -- are part of the COG with Nazareth and Tatamy boroughs, and Lower Nazareth, Upper Nazareth and Bushkill townships, all of which are in Nazareth Area School District.

Joining all these municipalities in a regional supergroup would give local officials a louder voice when dealing with state officials, said Bill Brackbill, the Nazareth Area COG's secretary and business administrator. That could lead to bigger state grants or even to the state Department of Transportation focusing harder on local traffic projects.

Forming a group could also mean better coordination during regional emergencies. The Nazareth Area COG's members have drafted agreements that will make it easier to share fire and police resources, and they're working on a regional emergency management plan, Brackbill said.

Given the Nazareth Area COG's resources and experience, it makes sense to add Northampton and its neighbors to the existing group instead of starting from scratch, Brackbill said.

''The present members of the Nazareth COG are welcoming in these members with open arms,'' he said.

Allen Township and Northampton have both pledged to pay their dues and join the group, though Zarayko said Northampton officials had believed it was going to be only ''a branch or an arm of the Nazareth COG'' instead of the Nazareth-based group itself.

Northampton officials turned down an earlier offer to join that confederation, partially because Northampton seems to have more in common with an adjoining borough like Catasauqua than it does with Nazareth, Zarayko said.

Getting Lehigh Township and Northampton to join the existing COG might be easier if it weren't named after a borough 10 miles away. Brackbill said a name change is ''something that can be considered.''

Despite the rejection from Lehigh Township supervisors, Brackbill has continued to invite that township's representatives to meetings, and he's eager to move forward with all willing municipalities.

''Some people might think the progress is slow,'' he said, but he pointed out that the Nazareth Area COG also took years to build. ''It's a process that eventually will work out.''