Bethlehem City Council Candidates, From Best to Worst

1. Karen Dolan
2. Bryan Callahan
3. Adam Waldron
4. Chris Morales*
5. Steve Melnick
6. Eric Evans
7. Dave Sanders**

Karen Dolan’s positions on single trash hauler and Martin Tower are completely correct, undiluted by muddled economic thinking. To the extent that everyone else copies her positions, they’re worth supporting. The next most likely candidate to support a single trash hauler is Adam “Soft No” Waldron, who did not seem to be familiar with the publicly available information. He said it would cost some people less and some people more, as if those numbers are evenly balanced. That’s wrong, the vast majority of people will pay less than they do now. Hopefully he will apply his small business acumen to this decision, and make the most economical choice for the most people once he familiarizes himself with the details.

Hillary Kwiatek storified the whole thing, and here’s the best line on single hauler. This is the view of leadership every politician should aspire to:

Councilwoman Dolan’s view is also closest to my own on Martin Tower:

* Chris’s 4th place position is tentative, conditional upon him pushing this model mobile vendor ordinance

** Hillary Kwiatek has persuaded me that Dave Sanders belongs on the bottom.


  1. Thanks for the shout out. I’m not as high on Chris Morales as you are, and I’d probably put Sanders at the bottom. Melnick is a economic development guy, but he seems like a Dave DiGiacinto Democrat, which is, not really a Democrat at all.

    Overall, I wasn’t very pleased with what I heard. I’ll try to attend the Bethlehem Democratic Committee’s candidate forum as well and live tweet/Storify.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      I think I only like the idea of Chris Morales. I’d like to see somebody advocate for low barriers to entry and competition for mobile vendors (and pro-competition business regulations more generally). He seems most likely to do that of the group, but maybe not actually likely.

      Agree Sanders sounds bad, and I’m disappointed in Steve Melnick. He more than anybody should know that economic development is about reorganizing markets to produce more – in this case, producing more trash pickup with fewer people.

  2. Many thanks to you for posting about this and Hillary for the live tweeting/Storifying. Even though I’m legally prohibited from voting in the primary election (thanks to arcane voting laws in Pennsylvania), I’m keeping an eye on who will be up for election in the general election in November.

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Is it already passed the deadline to register as a Democrat? You should switch. Primary is the whole game in Bethlehem. No point in disenfranchising yourself.

      • I’ve been registered as “No Party” (what Pennsylvania calls Independent) since I was 18 and have no intentions of changing that.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          Why would you deny yourself the opportunity to participate in half the elections? Surely you must be closer to one political party than the other.

          • My reasons for not joining a party outweigh my desire to vote in a primary election. As an Independent voter I’m not allowed to vote for a candidate in a primary, but I am allowed to (and do) vote for any referendum items that may be on the ballot.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Why don’t you want to join a party? Political parties are awesome and a very important part of life in a representative democracy.

          • I’ve had a few people ask me that recently, and I think the answer deserves more than a comment on a blog post. When I write it up I’ll send you the link.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            Excellent, will look forward to reading it. Highly recommend this post, and the two posts Jonathan Bernstein links to on parties. Critical for understanding the nature and purpose of political parties.

  3. If Martin Tower’s raw materials were “worth a fortune” on a net basis, it would have already been torn down and sold for scrap.

    Fact is, when you factor in demolition costs as well as what it’ll take to deal with all the asbestos in the building, it’s not only not “worth a fortune” it’s a major loss for anyone who tries it.

    I sure hope you aren’t thinking the taxpayer should eat that?

    • Jon Geeting says:

      Depends on what the plan for the site is. If it’s a big mixed use neighborhood, the property tax receipts could be more than enough to justify it. If somebody had a good plan, maybe city could issue a bond to pay for the demolition, to be paid back with the future land tax increment.

      • Or maybe the developer can take that risk since they’re going to be walking off with the profits?

        When you get older and more experienced you’ll see how often plans like this don’t work and future generations – i.e., you – are left holding the bag.

        I don’t want to screw your generation Jon.

        • Jon Geeting says:

          Maybe, but rather than wait around for another couple decades I’d rather see city government put together a deal that takes some risk off of the developer.

          • Approve a TIF and condo-ize it. Benefit is that the project moves now, and it would significantly increase tax revenues. Do the road work in front to make it pedestrian friendly, it’s got great access for commuters to NYC. throw in first floor and pad retail construction. And the views from the condos would be spectacular!

            Wait for approval to tear it down and do something else with it means you’re waiting a long time, at least 10 years if not more. Do you know how long it’s been vacant? 9 years already.

            Time flies Junior.

          • Jon Geeting says:

            I do know, because once I had a summer job at Dun & Bradstreet!

  4. Clyde Thomas says:

    The Martin Towers’ future is intertwined with the future of the Lehigh Valley. Martin Towers as an iconic feature of the Valley could have a future as easily as it must be torn down. The best way to maintain the Tower is to bring in a large corporation looking to relocate their headquarters. Is the Lehigh Valley a place where a major firm is willing to uproot their employees and settle? Not presently.

    A mixed use of the tower has less feasibility due to the high cost associated with the square footage. Is there a market now or in near future in the Lehigh Valley for million(s) dollar condos? I don’t think so. Could a top floor restaurant be able to afford the rent? Most definitely not.

    So presently there is not a good way to redevelop the property as it stands. Tearing down the property and rebuilding will add tens of millions of dollars to the development, can the acreage be enough to make development profitable? Maybe.

    Lets look a dozen years into the future. The national economy is booming, the Lehigh Valley is growing at a faster pace than national average. Downtown Allentown is a showcase, Bethlehem’s Southside is revitalized commercially and industrially. Easton is a great place to shop and dine. The Lehigh Valley has great quality of life issues with minor league sports teams, casinos, theaters, shopping and fine dining.

    This future would be the time to redevelop the Martin Towers and a true evaluation of tearing it down or redeveloping the tower can be made. Presently we have either a bad choice financially and a marginal choice. It is probably in the best interest for the owners to wait and gamble on a Lehigh Valley running on all cylinders before choosing how they will make use of this potentially valuable property.

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