Wednesday, December 31, 2008

May we Remember


Our friends and family

The love and truth they provide

The joy they bring to our lives.


May we remember

The lessons of 2001

Who heroes really are

What freedom really means.


May we cherish each day

Each person as an individual

May we enjoy life, like it is our last day.


May God bless the New Year

May God grant love, tolerance, and happiness

May humanity have the courage to find peace.

David Billings

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Jacob's Dinner

Trinity Episcopal Church held a Jacob's dinner at the 3rd Street Alliance in downtown Easton on Christmas day. The sole purpose of the dinner is to provide a warm comforting meal on Christmas day. We served about 60 people and families on Christmas day. The most amazing aspect of the day was the ordinary families that were seeking help for the first time.  It was very sad.

I had the honor and privilege to help warm-up the meal prepared by Wegman's and making gallons of gravy. It was fun and fulfilling, as I got the chance to give back to our community. As I have blogged many times, I believe we have a  responsibility to support the less fortunate in our broader community.  We do not live in isolation in our townships, but we live in the greater Lehigh Valley, where we face many issues together (crime,gangs, and the homeless).  It is time the various townships start to work together to solve these common problems.

The Jacob's dinner was started by as single person that believed everyone should have a warm meal on Christmas day. This is a great example how a single person can start a program that draws people from the City of Easton, Forks Township, Bethlehem Township, and Phillipsburg, NJ to support a common cause. These people recognized a critical need in our broader community and were willing to spend a few hours together on Christmas Day to provide support and comfort for the less fortunate.


Get Involved -Every voice counts!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Happy Holidays

We wish you and your family a safe and wonderful holiday season.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Does Forks Need a Open Space Referendum?

I attend a Open Space Referendum workshop in Lehigh County. The purpose of the workshop was to share the process and techniques required to launch a successful Open Space initiative.  A couple of points were discussed during the workshop:

1. A successful open space initiative is led by private citizens, not the township.

2.  A private citizen committee should be formed to create a campaign strategy, rally volunteers, coordinate election day activities, and help spread the word about the benefits of a open space initiative.

3. The township BoS may publicly endorse the initiative.

4. Sometimes it takes at least two attempts to get a Open Space referendum passed.

According to the FAC Website,  the Klein Farms was accepted for preservation by Northampton County. This is very exciting news. Now, this positive development raises a interesting question.  Does the township prepare a 2009 Open Space referendum to help all farmers?  Do we have a private citizen or group that is willing to lead the effort?

I think it is clear we should leave the decision whether to fund a open space initiative to the voters.  Additionally, I am hoping a private citizen or group takes the lead in crafting and leading an Open Space Referendum.  We have very few farms left, so it critical we made a decision ASAP.

Just for your information, I have included the Upper Saucon Township Open Space Referendum language from the November 2008 election.

“Do you favor the imposition of an additional Earned Income Tax at the rate of 0.25% by Upper Saucon Township to be used to finance the acquisition of real property or interests in real property to preserve open space?”


The purpose of the ballot question is to determine whether the voters of Upper Saucon Township desire to increase the rate of earned income tax in order to provide funds for the Township to acquire and preserve open space lands.
Revenue generated by this tax may not be used to acquire real property or interests in real property through condemnation.

Approval of the ballot question would allow the Board of Supervisors of Upper Saucon Township to increase the earned income tax rate by 0.25% (one quarter of one percent) on an annual basis. Such additional tax revenue could only be used for the purposes allowed by state law to acquire and preserve open space lands. More specifically, revenue from the additional tax received may only be used to retire debt incurred to purchase interest in real property or in making additional acquisitions of real property for the purpose of securing an open space benefit or benefits under the state law for Open Space Lands Acquisitions and Preservation or the state law known as the Agricultural Area Security Law, or to pay transactional fees which are incidental to acquisitions made in accordance with the state law for open space lands acquisitions and preservation.

Revenue generated by this tax may not be used to acquire real property or interests in real property through condemnation.


If the majority of the voters of Upper Saucon Township vote in favor of the ballot question and the Township Supervisors enact an ordinance to increase the earned income tax rate, then the Township will use the revenue from the additional tax to:
1. acquire agricultural conservation easements;
2. finance the acquisition of open space;
3. finance the acquisition of land for historic or recreation preservation purposes; and
4.acquire property development rights.

Revenue generated by this tax may not be used to acquire real property or interests in real property through condemnation.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

So what did happened on December 18?

It seems the local governments and school boards were busy at work spending our tax dollars. The Easton Area School Board approved a $80M capital plan. The capital plan will provide for a new elementary school in Palmer, new high school renovations , energy upgrades to four elementary schools, and improvements to the high school pool.

The Express-Times is reporting the Cheston Elementary School and former Easton Area Middle School on Northampton Street will receive energy upgrades, including new heating, ventilation, air conditioning and lighting during the summer of 2010. The Forks and Tracy elementary schools will receive the same energy upgrades during the summer of 2011.The expansion for the high school or the new Palmer Elementary school will start in in 2011. Finally, the high school pool will receive about $849,000 in renovations.

I was hoping the school board would vote to delay the capital spending until 2011, as we recover from these troubled economic times.  The original plan was passed by a vote of 9 to 0. However, three members of the board did vote no to the administrative building upgrades.

The plan to re-district 600 students was also approved by a 8 to 1 vote, despite objections from some parents.  The basic concept is to create a neighborhood school structure. This means Forks students will attend the two Forks Elementary schools,etc.

The Fork BoS approved a .5 Mill (5.1 to 5.6) property tax increase.  This will cost the average taxpayer about $39 per year based upon a $100,000 of assessed value for a house. This another 10% increase in taxes for Forks citizens. The new 2009 budget has only $49,000 in budget cuts, while the board approved a 10% tax increase. 

The frustrating part of the township budget review process is the lack of transparency of the budget decisions and the lack of accounting notes for the published budget. It is very hard to do an independent analysis of the township budget when these critical pieces of information are missing.

I know  Northampton County will not raise taxes in 09, but I am waiting for the final 09 school board budget to be passed.  We had a 20% total tax increase in 2008 and we have at least a 10% tax increase in 2009.  So far, we have seen about 30% in tax increases in the last two years. Yikes!


Get Involved - Every Voice Counts!

Friday, December 12, 2008

December 18, 2008 will be a busy day!

You may buying your last gifts of the holiday season, or just starting your holiday shopping. It seems the local governments are hard at work finalizing their 2009 plans. Here is a quick summary of the December 18, 2008 meetings.

EASD  Board Meeting - The Facility Utilization Committee will make its final presentation to the school board. The committee will be presenting the re-districting plan and the 6 year capital program. This program includes $83.5M in capital spending over the next 6 years. Most of the money will be spend between 2009 and 2014. Additionally, the committee recommended about $1.1M in the administrative building improvements and $849,000 for the EAHS 25th street pool. I did vote for the capital plan recommendations. Given the state of the economy, the school board should delay the capital expenditures until the credit markets are restored to some sense of normalcy.  The meeting  is scheduled for December 18, 2008 at 7:30 PM. The meeting will be held at the high school senior cafeteria.

Forks Township BoS - The board will be considering the 2009 budget and hold a  Conditional Use hearing for The Brake Shops of Lehigh Valley, Inc proposal to operate a automotive repair facility in Forks Township.  Additionally, the BoS will discuss the 2009 budget. The proposed 2009 budget has revenues $7.365 with expenses of $7.49M. This will result in a net income loss of $126,543.  The meeting  is scheduled for December 18, 2008 at 7:30 PM in the Forks Township municipal building.

On a personal note, the mighty Rovers of the Easton High Swimming and Diving team will face one of their arch nemesis - Emmaus High School.  This meet will feature some of the top swimmers in the state. The meet is schedule for December 18, 2008 at 4:00 PM.  The swim meet will be held at Emmaus High School.

Go Rovers!

Get Involved - Every Voice counts!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Cheer in Forks Township

The township Christmas Tree was lit on Sunday night at the Forks Kiwanis tree lighting ceremony.  Additionally, it was announced the township will be collecting canned food this week at the Forks Municipal and Community Center for those in need this holiday season.

Additionally, Arndt’s Lutheran Church will hosting a Outdoor Live Nativity scene on Saturday December 13, 2008.  The Live Nativity scene will be held from 5:00 PM to  8:00 PM.  The following is a list of planned activities.

1. Live Animals (Burro, goats, sheep, calf, alpacas)
2. Nativity Scene posed by children and youth
3. Music (Caroling at 7 pm)
4. The Christmas Story, narrated
5. Celebration fire, hosted by Boy Scout Troup 29

The church will be providing hot chocolate and cookies. If you decide to attend the celebration, please bring donations of non-perishable foods for our local food bank. 

All the Easton area food banks need our help this Holiday season. Please be generous!

Get Involved - Every person can make a difference!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Forks Donates to Safe Harbor

On a 4 to 1 vote, the Forks Township BoS voted to donate $2000 to Easton Safe Harbor shelter. This donation was in response to a request from the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley to donate $5634 to support 9 Lehigh Valley homeless shelters.

Just a quick reminder of the facts.  The donation of $2000 or $5632  is less than .1% of the total Forks Township expense steam in 2008 or 2009.  In the grand scheme of the Township expense budget, this is not a large donation, just a generous one.

I am grateful the Forks Township BoS found the courage and wisdom to provide a donation to the Easton Safe Harbor shelter. We always have the responsibility to help the less fortunate in our broader community. The decision is help the Easton Safe Harbor shelter is the right one!

Get Involved - Every Voice Counts

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Should a Township Support the less fortunate - Yes

Yesterday, I posed a question on whether Forks Township should make a donation to support the 9 homeless shelters in the Lehigh Valley. The Lehigh Valley Coalition on Affordable Housing  was seeking a donation of $5633 from the BoS.

Basically, this donation would be less than .1% of the $7.3M the township collects in revenue and less than .1% of our $7.4M in yearly expenses.  

I am strongly urging the Forks BoS to pass a resolution to donate $5633 to the coalition at the December 5, 2008 meeting.  If they can not find the money, then I have a few suggestions for the BoS.  But, that is a topic for another day.


Get Involved - Every Voice Counts

Monday, December 1, 2008

Should a Township support the less fortunate?

During the Thanksgiving holiday, I got a chance to watch a CNN program honoring 10 heroes. These 10 ordinary people were honored for doing extraordinary things. They proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that a single person could change the world.  

So, I was wondering whether a Township could change the lives of the less fortunate in the Easton area. This question was posed by  a representative from the Lehigh Valley Coalition on Affordable Housing who made a presentation about the homeless situation in the Lehigh Valley.  The purpose of the presentation was to ask our township to make a donation to support 9 homeless shelters in the valley. The coalition was seeking a donation of $5633 from the BoS.  This donation would be less than .1% of the $7.3M the township collects in revenue and less than .1% of our $7.4M in yearly expenses.  

So, here is the question. Should the Forks Township BoS vote to donate $5633.00 to support 9 Lehigh Valley homeless shelters in these tough economic times?

I would like to hear your thoughts!

Get Involved - Every Voice Counts