Two Questions for the Bethlehem Mayor Candidates

It hasn’t been in the news for a while, but it’s important to remember that the Allentown NIZ legal controversy was not resolved the way Bethlehem’s politicians wanted, and they think that it puts them at a disadvantage in the competition for real estate investment. I’m not sure it’s as big a deal as some people are thinking, but if you believe this story then the implication is that Bethlehem needs to do even more to make its high-growth areas attractive to developers. The recent zoning rewrite is basically already obsolete.

So two questions I’d like to see addressed by the candidates for Bethlehem Mayor are:

1. What can Bethlehem do to compete with downtown Allentown for real estate investment?

2. What can Bethlehem do to cooperate with Allentown on mutually-beneficial public goods?

The main idea I have is free Bus Rapid Transit along W. Broad/Hanover Ave to cut travel times between downtown Bethlehem and the Allentown waterfront and downtown areas, and increase infill development along that corridor.. What else?

Comments

  1. John says:

    The NIZ does put Bethlehem at a disadvantage – you now have the government competing with the private sector for tenants. So you need to rephrase your question – it’s not downtown Allentown that Bethlehem is competing with , it’s the NIZ.

    And go figure, your idea is something that is “free”! Giving away more of someone else’s money is your favorite past time isn’t it?

    Jon, there won’t be any cooperation between the cities. Pawlowski got real ticked off that Callahan spoke the truth about the NIZ, and no one trusts Pawlowski because of the NIZ. Sorry.

    • joebethlehem says:

      Bethlehem has plenty of public subsidies. How about 378 and 412? Half the buildings at Lehigh were built with public money and the State constitution was ignored to allow a casino.

      • John says:

        True Joe – but did Bethlehem politicians lie, cheat and steal to get their funding as Pawlowski and Allentown did?

  2. Bottom Dollar Blvd says:

    Valid point, however, Sands was given exclusive rights for gaming. They then used this advantage to enter the retail business. Why didn’t the Lehigh Valley use the gaming share for economic development all across the Valley? Imagine the work LVEDC and LVPC could have done with a few $M a year.

    I wish the NIZ was more regional and targeted key brownfield properties in both Counties. Kind of like the Envision effort.

    While we can questions the reach of the NIZ, it is time for Allentown to get a boost. Pawlowski should be commended for having vision and efforts on Allentowns behalf. He is doing his job.

    • John says:

      Bottom Dollar, millions in gaming revenue flows all over the Valley. Allentown itself receives almost $5 million annually.

      Vision is one thing. Trying to steal tax revenues and tenants from other municipalities is a whole other ballgame. Pawlowski had the chance to be a visionary leader, instead he’s a liar/cheat/thief.

  3. Jon Geeting says:

    If the incumbent politicians decide not to work together out of pique, that’s a great argument for electing different politicians.

    Paying for BRT with value capture instead of fares would simply capture back the windfall that the public investment gifts to landowners along the route. Totally fair to take the land windfall back to pay for the service.

    • John says:

      Agreed – and you have to start with the incumbent politician who lied, cheated, and stole. Until Pawlowski is gone nothing else matters, and I hope Bethlehem politicians aren’t so gullible as to try to do a deal with a liar/cheater/thief.

      Trust matters Jon. It matters a whole lot.

      • Jon Geeting says:

        Obviously we disagree about the legitimacy of the process that birthed the NIZ, but there’s no point in rehashing that. That argument is dead, and the NIZ is here to stay. All that matters going forward is what Bethlehem’s politicians do. Are they going to respond by changing their land use and development policies to better compete with downtown Allentown and the waterfront, or are they going to let Allentown eat their lunch? Are they going to try to make the best of things by better integrating the two city economies, or are they going to let some arbitrary political borders fool them into mistaking Allentown for some different faraway economy?

        • John says:

          Agreed – my comment was that I hope Bethlehem isn’t stupid enough to try to deal with Pawlowski on anything else. He can’t be trusted, and Callahan called him on it.

          Again, trust matters. It matters a whole lot. How can you try to work on anything when you can’t trust the other guy? Life is too short to try to defend yourself against the 500 ways he’s trying to cheat you when he’s trying to come up with #501.

          Bethlehem should work with Easton and just either ignore Allentown or try to take advantage of the NIZ without giving Allentown any more than they already have.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            You can work with him because there’s one thing he clearly cares about – improving Allentown’s economy. It’s not like they want to go it alone. They’re forced to because everybody else has yours and Kelly’s attitude. That’s not new, and it’s not because of the NIZ. The Fuck Allentown mindset has persisted for decades.

          • John says:

            It’s not like they want to go alone????

            You have to be kidding me.

            Pawlowski had an opportunity here to be truly visionary and a leader. Instead he chose to be a slimy piece of shit. We’ve gone over the dozens of ways this could have been a grand slam for both Allentown and the Valley, and he chose to make it adversarial on every level.

            Sorry, your guy fucked it up royally.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Where was ANYBODY offering to partner with Allentown on more development over the past 30 years? You’ve got to be fucking kidding me!

          • John says:

            Allentown’s wastewater treatment plant is regional – and the burbs helped Allentown greatly here as that asset is worth apparently $150-$200 million.

            The eastern burbs could have partnered with Bethlehem, and the western burbs could have worked with LCA to build their own. They didn’t.

            LCA working with Allentown to buy water instead of drill new wells. Coca Cola Park.

            I’ll ask another question – when did Allentown ever approach the burbs with a specific request?

            So you have go to be fucking kidding me. Grow up and realize that when you act like a fucking dirtbag piece of slime, no one wants to work with you. Why is that so hard for you to comprehend?

          • Jon Geeting says:

            So the suburbs buying artificially cheap water from Allentown is helping them, not underpaying them? The net impact of the decision to build water and sewer lines out into the greenfield areas of the township was terrible for Allentown. It enabled all kinds of ugly sprawl development that sucked the life out of their economy.

          • John says:

            You do understand the concept of wholesale pricing, don’t you? Allentown’s water rates to its citizens include the cost of the water and maintenance of the infrastructure. Since Allentown isn’t maintaining LCA’s infrastructure the cost of the water is cheaper.

            No on expanded into the suburbs with the intent of fucking over Allentown. That expansion happened because that’s where people wanted to live. It’s not a crime to want a yard Jon.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            The expansion happened because of political decisions about land use policy. It’s certainly not a crime to want a yard. Yards are great. The issue is, are homeowners and water consumers paying the full cost of the water and sewer infrastructure. The answer is definitely no.

          • John says:

            We’ve been over this before Jon, here you’re wrong.

            In LCA’s footprint the answer is a definite yes. LCA amortizes its debt so that the full cost of water and sewer infrastructure is in fact paid for by its customers.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            The full lifecycle cost of maintaining the infrastructure is priced in?

          • John says:

            Yep. And the rates to customers vary based on the finances of that section of the system, its age and condition.

            LCA is very well run, their financials and capital plan are all on their website:

            http://www.lehighcountyauthority.org/index.cfm?pag=19

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Interesting, I’ll check it out.

          • John says:

            It is interesting.

            You also operate under the assumption that gross mismanagement and neglect happen everywhere, when in fact most of it is in the cities.

            You really want to get alarmed? Think about the the unfunded exposure in NYC with its 100+ year old gas and water lines/tunnels. Just the Delaware Aqueduct repair alone is budgeted at $1.2 billion – meaning when it’s done the costs will be closer to $3 billion.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            It’s also the country’s most important economic engine, so easily worth spending the money on maintaining the infrastructure.

          • John says:

            And it’s NY’s responsibility to pay, no one else’s. There shouldn’t be even $1 of Federal money in this.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Disagree!

          • John says:

            You’re also not hearing me. They’re not maintaining anything, they’re only reacting when something breaks (you know, what you rightfully accused UGI of doing).

            What happens if several major items break at the same time?

            You think taxes and utility costs in NY are high now? Just wait.

          • John says:

            Of course you disagree, your MO is “someone else should pay for it.”

            Grow up already.

  4. Kelly says:

    We don’t want to compete with Allentown. A-town is a wallowing piss hole that can fall in the river and wash out to the Ocean for most residents of Bethlehem are concerned. How does a bus route benefit property owners? Bus service doesn’t increase property values. Also isn’t Lanta privately owned? Don’t think their going to be all Giddy about giving their business away. And why would I give a short stick about a candidates thoughts on the progress of Allentown when they are running for mayor of Bethlehem? unless they know how to have that stolen tax money returned to our coffers to develope our own city more.

    • John says:

      Wow!

    • Jon Geeting says:

      That’s the sort of parochial attitude I hope no one who gets elected this year shares with you. Every study of transit and property values shows that transit boosts the value of adjacent land. LANTA is managed by the two Counties. They’ve been very willing to work with cities on stuff like this before – the Loop shuttle in Bethlehem for example. It’s not a very well designed transit system, but the point is that they’ve been a willing partner when politicians want to work with them on projects.

  5. Kelly says:

    Yeah it was a bit over dramatic lol. but my point is we dont care about Allentown. bethlehem is its own unique city and few of us venture into Allentown when we have any other choice. Ill probally attend the hockey games when the arena is built but im not a fan of how it was paid for or taking tax revenues from surrouning towns. The loop btw is not free. Lanta charges its patrons to ride any of thir buses its how they make revenue. What the next mayor thinks of the NIZ is pretty far down my list of concerns especially when Bethlehem has its own golden egg in the Steel Lands and how they are developed.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Right, the problem with the loop is that it’s not free, and that it doesn’t come often enough, and the trips take too long. Fares aren’t the only way to pay for transit. My preference would be to tax the land around bus stops to pay for it.

      My point was that, seeing how the NIZ will draw development, what will Bethlehem do to reduce overhead costs for developers? They could tax only the land parcel and not tax improvements to the parcels. They could eliminate their wage and business privilege taxes and various fees and throw it all on the land tax.

      • Joe Public says:

        Geetting said “Tax the land parcel and not the improvements”… So when these properties are developed, you want the home owner to pay for infrastructure upkeep and public services but not the land developers? What is the next suggestion….Home owners subsidizing wages?

        • Jon Geeting says:

          I’m not sure what you mean? Residential property is already cities’ main tax base. Which is fine. They receive the public services, and those services are worth paying for.

          Under this proposal, the vast majority of property owners would see their taxes go down, as they did when Allentown started taxing land at 5 times the rate of buildings back in 96. 75% of Allentown property owners saw a tax cut.

          The people who would pay more are land speculators, owners of vacant lots and blighted buildings in the downtowns, people who own big ugly surface parking lots in expensive areas of the city, people with huge yards, etc. Anybody with an especially large land-to-building ratio. It would basically shift the tax burden onto Bethlehem’s wealthier households and people who are using land wastefully in the CBD zones.

  6. Bottom Dollar Blvd says:

    You say millions of gaming money all over the Lehigh Valley, but in reality it is $9M for Bethlehem, $4.5M for Allentown, and $500K for Easton. I wouldn’t hardly call that “all over the valley”

    • John says:

      In 2012:

      Upper Saucon received $75k
      Fountain Hill received $58k
      Salisbury received $15k

      That’s what I’ve found so far. I know for a fact that all municipalities that border Bethlehem receive funding so that would expand the list to include Hanover, Catasauqua, Freemansburg, and Bethlehem Township.

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