John Callahan Not Backing Down on Single Trash Hauler Plan

Solid political strategy from John Callahan- bid out the contract to get the actual numbers, offer seniors an additional $70 discount, insist on passing all the savings back to residents instead of taking the $500,000 fee for the city budget:

A day after Bethlehem City Council axed his proposal to for a citywide trash hauler from next year’s budget, Mayor John Callahan said he will move ahead to bid out the contract and could have a proposal before council as early as February.

He said he is following cues from Monday’s council meeting, when members said they wanted hard numbers, options for a senior citizen discount and more time to consider the matter.

And now that hauling is not part of the budget, Callahan suggested that council could decide to pass all of the savings on to residents instead of collecting fees to fatten city coffers. His administration, which calculated the hauling service would bring $500,000 into next year’s budget, also argued that a single hauler would save the average household $110, clean up the city and cut down on the number of trash trucks rolling through a neighborhood on any given day [...]

He said Tuesday the city could negotiate a special senior citizen discount of an additional $70.

Showing seniors that they’ll save more money under the single hauler plan, and then buying them off with an additional discount blows up the political coalition that keeps the haulers in business. Plenty of dead-enders will of course refuse to believe they’ll save money even in the face of hard evidence, but the proof of savings plus the special senior discount should suffice to deactivate a large segment of the plan’s opponents.

This is exactly the kind of political imagination I am hoping to see from Mayor Callahan in the County Executive campaign.

(Thanks: Nicole Radzievich)

Use the Alleys

Probably my most favorite place in the Lehigh Valley is the corner of North Sitgreaves and Lehns Court in downtown Easton. Ever since high school I’ve always wanted to fix up the building on the corner of that alley with the yellow facade across from Phyllis. The Lehns Court alley is a really beautiful spot, despite being dense with bars now, and North Sitgreaves is also very nice.

One thing I think would make Sitgreaves even better though is paving the alley with bricks the same way they did with the alleys on Bank Street. I’ve seen lots of people using the Sitgreaves alley to get back and forth between the restaurants on Ferry Street and Centre Square. It would be cool if the city gave Sitgreaves the Bank Street treatment from Ferry all the way up to Bushkill.

In general, the idea of upgrading city alleys from gritty undefined spaces to well-landscaped pedestrian walkways is appealing to me.

One of my favorite Michael Molovinsky posts was about the makeshift lunch spots and hangouts that used to be in the alleys around Allen High School. Encouraging people to buy up small alley garages and turn them into shops and restaurants is an awesome idea that probably wouldn’t fly in today’s fussier regulatory climate, but maybe blogging and politicking can persuade elected officials that the older generation had this right.

If you walk around Easton alleys (and Allentown, and Bethlehem), you’ll see a lot of underused space – garages and parking lots that are not really considered viable for development, since they’re not easily accessible by car. But maybe there is an opportunity to change that by identifying a few especially scenic alleys, investing in some proper landscaping, and coordinating with developers to turn underused parcels and garages into pedestrian-sized commercial spaces.

Nazareth Councilman Carl Fischl Wants to Collect Rental Data

Carl Fischl seems to be among those who mistakenly believe an increase in the renting population is a problem, but kudos to him for wanting to collect better (or any) data on the rental market. This really seems like a job for the Lehigh Valley Research Consortium, to be undertaken in partnership with the two County governments and the Lehigh Valley Association of Realtors.

The Coward Era of Bethlehem Politics

Opponents of John Callahan’s single hauler trash plan never made any persuasive arguments against the Callahan administration’s claims that it would 1. save most residents on their garbage bills 2. improve the efficiency of trash collection or 3. make the city cleaner. I’m sure they never read Palmer Township’s report on best practices in garbage market design either. They didn’t care that the economics behind single hauler are solid or that other cities save money this way. They voted against it anyway, because they got a couple dozen angry phone calls.

If Bob Donchez or Willy Reynolds gets elected Mayor, you’re not going to have an administration that’s actively pursuing changes to make Bethlehem a better governed, more pro-growth city. You’re going to have a Go Along to Get Along administration that cares first and foremost about ducking controversy at any cost.

It’s depressing. The reason Bethlehem doesn’t look like Youngstown or other dying post-industrial cities is that it’s politicians and civil society were not afraid to take policy risks when the Steel closed. They had confidence in their plan, and enacted it in spite of controversy. That’s leadership – doing what you are convinced is the best thing for everybody, regardless of whether or not it’s popular.

I’m reminded of what Bane’s said while he’s kicking a weakened Batman’s ass in Dark Knight Rises: “Victory has defeated you.” Bob Donchez, Eric Evans, David DiGiacinto and Willy Reynolds are content to laze around in the better world Don Cunningham and John Callahan made for them and aren’t hungry enough to take up the fights that would take the city to the next level of greatness.