Sal Panto easily refutes Mike Krill’s dumb accusation that he’s ignored Easton’s neighborhoods in an interview with Samantha Kimball at the Elucidator:
SK: Could you talk a little more about how the city can better support the neighborhoods?
SP: We do a lot in the neighborhoods. All of our parks last year received an upgrade. We spent over a million dollars on parks last year, neighborhood parks, and that’s not counting the waterfront. I’m talking about neighborhood parks – Heil Park, Milton Street Park, Nevin Park, Sullivan Park. Upgrades to Centennial Park. A lot of effort has been going into Eddyside Park. We’ve been putting a lot of effort into the neighborhood parks because people need a place to recreate, whether that’s passive or active recreation.
Our housing programs, I think, are award-winning. When we can’t get a developer to develop one of our really blighted properties we do it ourselves. Most recently, we were just doing the exterior of Chidsy Street, but we did 540 Berwick Street. It was a duplex, the other half was so beautiful and this half had porch was torn off, the windows were blown out, the property was just so blighted. No one would buy. We couldn’t sell it for a dollar. So I came up with this program called City Directed Residential Rehab We don’t use it in the downtown; its only used in the neighborhoods. We did three of them that we sold last year; we have currently five under construction now and we just expect to expand that even more. The more we sell, the more money we have in that to do that.
This year, we’re looking to start in-fill construction, where we have vacant houses and there’s a missing “tooth.” We now want to not just rehab existing homes, but build in-fill construction. This not only gives us better neighborhoods and provides a better quality of life for neighborhoods, but also gives the city more taxables. If you don’t want to keep raising taxes like they were prior to my administration, you have to have new income and therefore you have adaptive reuse of downtown buildings – Lipkins, Pomeroy, the WEST Building, the A&B Tile Buildings – but in the neighborhoods, you have new buildings.
Additionally, in neighborhoods we do spend a lot of other money in a lot of areas. Like through the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership, like through the Weed and Seed, through the extra police officers. We’ve gone from 52 officers when I took office in 2008 to 63 officers today. Those extra officers – we do not have any extra officers downtown – they’re in the neighborhoods, because that’s where we want the quality of life to come back. Our UCR-1 crimes [rape, robbery, aggravated assault, etc.] are down to 1970 levels in three years. We are really happy that not only has crime gone down all three years, but the most violent crimes are down to 1970 levels.
Now, the perception may not be that, and that’s what we keep working on is the perception with activities and festivals and restaurants and events and the State Theater and Crayola. They bring people downtown from the outside and all the sudden they come down and say “gee, I wasn’t raped, robbed, or mugged. I had a great experience in downtown Easton. Wow, this place is really nice.” We have to get over that [negative] perception and we’re working on that because the more fun things we have for people to do in the city, the more people will come to the city.