These awful white cargo shorts are sure to cost John Callahan at least 2 points at the polls in 2012.

(h/t Andy Po)

Double Standard Ramblings: Money In Politics Edition

I feel a little bad picking on Bernie so much lately, but it’s really convenient that there’s one blog reliably churning out perfect examples of all the horrible intellectual habits we aim to correct here.

Here’s the Money In Politics edition:

When the politician in question is beloved Golden Boy Charlie Dent, Bernie says money just bounces off the dude. He can’t be bought!

I’m having a tough time figuring out all the special interests who have LV Congressman Charlie Dent in their pocket. Whomever the latest public bogeyman, whether it’s “Big Pharma” or “Wall Street” or “Big Insurance,” Dent is their boy.

We’re back to “Big Oil,” one of my favorites, again

According to Open Secrets, in the 2010 cycle Charlie Dent accepted $48,950 in campaign contributions from the Oil and Gas industries. He accepted $162,000 from Health Professionals and $48,250 from the Insurance industry, and $63,100 from the Pharmaceutical industry.

Now, maybe you think that money didn’t buy any influence with Dent and he just happened to vote the industry line on every single issue in the 2009-2010 legislative session.

But if $273,350 can’t influence Dent, why should we believe that a $2000 contribution from Abe Atiyeh is all it takes to buy off John Callahan? Bernie again:

Abe Atiyeh, who’d really, really, really, really like to build an apartment building instead of an assisted living facility at Dewberry Center in Bethlehem, has just give Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan $2,000, according to a 24-hour report filed in the elections office on Monday. I’m sure Abe is just giving to Callahan because he likes city governments that finish in the red.

Dude isn’t even running for Mayor again, and $2000 would be tiddlywinks for a Congressional campaign. It’s hard to see how this buys Atiyeh any favors from Callahan, especially if exponentially larger donations don’t buy the health care industry any favors from Dent.

Either money buys votes or it doesn’t.

The Case for a Callahan Redo in 2012

Colby Itkowitz reports that John Callahan was in DC for DCCC candidate training, leading to speculation that he may have another go at Charlie Dent for the 15th District seat.

I think this would be a smart choice for several reasons.

Exhibit A: Charlie Dent’s bait and switch on Medicare leaves him extremely vulnerable in 2012. Dent ran his campaign as a valiant protector of Medicare, disingenuously blasting the Democrats for “half a trillion dollars” in Medicare cuts. But once he got reelected, not only did he vote to keep all those same cuts, he voted to phase out the program. This vote is hideously unpopular. To get a sense of how toxic this vote is, just look at the hilarious spectacle of panicked House Republican freshmen begging Barack Obama not to hold them accountable for ending Medicare. Welcome to politics, n00bs.

Exhibit B: Barack Obama and Bob Casey are going to be at the top of the ticket, and Callahan will benefit from their coattails. Democrats have the lead on the generic ballot. Obama and Casey both need to win the 15th district, so Callahan will be able to piggyback on a very well-funded, well-organized turnout operation. Whoever makes it through the Republican primary is guaranteed to be unelectable in the general election. Faced with a weak field, the GOP base is going to nominate radical candidates for both the White House and the Senate, and they will have negative coattails for Charlie Dent.

Exhibit C: While other bloggers have attributed Callahan’s loss in 2010 to candidate effects, or ideological effects, there just isn’t any evidence for this view. 2010 was a terrible year for all Democrats, and that’s because their base didn’t show up. The electorate in 2010 was much older, whiter and more conservative than the 2008 electorate, and the 2012 electorate is bound to look more like 2008 than 2010. Youth and minority turnout are much higher in Presidential elections than in midterms.

Exhibit D: One of Dent’s most effective talking points was probably that Bethlehem’s deficit was the result of Callahan’s fiscal mismanagement. This was always wrong – the deficit was the result of the weak economy depressing tax receipts – but the fact of the deficit no doubt made this seem like a reasonable explanation to a lot of people. By the time the campaign starts next year, the economy will probably be doing considerably better, and Bethlehem’s revenues will have mostly recovered. The hotel, the mall and conference center, the Greenway will all be functioning, and several more projects will probably be under construction. People will be feeling good about Bethlehem’s future, and the case that Callahan’s not doing a good job is going to feel tone deaf. If Callahan puts the Bethlehem comeback story front and center in his campaign in a less generic way than in 2010, that’s a powerful political narrative.

Exhibit E: A few miscellaneous factors would seem to favor Callahan. Charlie Dent is a possible Senate candidate. If he doesn’t run for Senate this year, it’s going to be a very long time before he can try again, because Pat Toomey has the other seat, so he’d have to wait until the next time the Casey seat is up. That’s got to be pretty tempting, especially considering how weak the GOP field is. Dent’s supposedly more powerful now because he’s on Appropriations, but the pork ban has left him totally impotent, unable to hand out large cardboard checks to boost his popularity. Maybe he’ll flaunt it closer to the election, but that would leave him vulnerable to a Republican primary. It seems likely that he’ll face a Tea Party primary anyway. There have been a few votes where he said he didn’t want to cut spending as much as the ultras in the Republican Study Committee. He’s also going to have to vote for the debt ceiling increase, and that alone could sink him in a GOP primary.

NCC Students Have Good Ideas for Dense Development in Bethlehem

Heidi Butler has a cool piece at the NCC website on architecture students’ ideas for South Side Bethlehem:

Instead of parking lots on the south side of Third Street, Mike Fusciardi, Jonathan Herrera, Dave Hughes and Chris Lutz envision two attractive multi-use complexes where retail stores, offices, and condos hide interior parking decks that can accommodate 1500 cars.

Outside pedestrian-friendly walkways will encourage foot traffic, along streets featuring slightly elevated brick surfaces and grass medians to slow traffic down.

Michael Tauber drew on the past In conceptualizing a new look for Hay Street, incorporating iron fencing and red brick facades to remind people of the mighty steel company that played a major role in Bethlehem’s history. “Bethlehem Steel was such an important part of the Southside. We don’t want anyone to forget about it,” he says.

Right on. Hopefully John Callahan came away from this event with some good ideas for filling in Third Street’s surface parking lots with mixed-use housing, retail and denser parking options.

Commonwealth on Brownfield Redevelopment in Bethlehem

Apropos of SteelStacks opening weekend, here’s a good April 2010 article from Alison Lobron at Commonwealth Magazine on Bethlehem’s casino experiment:

For some in the city, the Sands not only respected the character of the original site, it provided a service the city couldn’t perform for over a decade: rebuilding a massive, historical brownfields site that contains the memories of generations.

“We were working on that site for 10 years and nothing was working,” remembers Tony Hanna, Bethlehem’s director of community and economic development. He says earlier plans to revitalize the abandoned plant — including one for a Faneuil Hall–style marketplace — lacked the investment to get off the ground. “We needed a powerful economic engine, and there are very few of them out there,” he recalls.

“You sort of make a Faustian bargain with gaming,” says Hanna. “But the good news is we did it because it was a way to jump-start redevelopment of the Bethlehem Steel site. If we didn’t do that, we wouldn’t have brought gambling to Bethlehem.”

The Campaign That Could Have Been

Nicole Radzievich:

Bethlehem Mayor John Callahan was recognized this week for his work in recreation.

The Pennsylvania Recreation and Parks Society presented him with its Local Government Award at the Lehigh Valley Forge Radisson Hotel in King of Prussia.

Diane Kripas of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural resources, nominated Callahan for the award. Kripas described Callahan as a mayor “who gets ‘it,’ nudges state agencies or railroad companies when needed and even leads 175 playground volunteers in warm-up exercises,” according to a news release.

As mayor, Callahan has led millions of dollars worth of recreational improvements, including the rail-to-trails park on the South Side, the skate plaza and renovations to Higbee park.

Where was all this stuff to personalize Callahan during the 2010 campaign? There’s a great political story there that largely went unused.

John Callahan Is Not Very Liberal

The first half of this Chris Casey post is dead on, but I think this claim doesn’t stand up to scrutiny:

It is becoming clearer each day that political shifts are taking place more rapidly in this day and age than they did in the past. The Lehigh Valley electorate is a bellwether electorate, and the voters pick candidates who can govern, who are willing to work for the common good. That’s why Charlie Dent is indestructible. He is not the extreme right that the far left would paint him to be, and that is constantly reinforced by criticism from his own party that he is not”republican enough.”

Woodman and his far right gang may soon learn at the municipal level what the far left liberal Dems who supported John Callahan and Sam Bennett did at the Federal level. You might easily win the primary by playing to the extreme, but in the general, it will weigh you down if you can’t prove to be able to govern as a moderate.

John Callahan and Sam Bennett were the Democratic candidates. You didn’t need to be a “far left liberal” to support them. Especially not when the Republican party has moved so far to the right since the 90’s. Even if Charlie Dent is not as conservative as the rest of the Republican Party, he’s much more conservative than anyone who would have passed for a moderate in the 90’s.

Besides that, what exactly are the “far left” positions Callahan took? He decided cap and trade was even too far left for him, even though it was the Republican alternative to a carbon tax as recently as 2004. He only cautiously supported the Affordable Care Act, which is nothing like the single payer plan the actual “far left” has been pushing since the New Deal. It’s Romneycare. It’s almost identical to the 1993 Republican alternative to Hillarycare. The Democratic Party moved to the right to support this plan. Ending the Bush tax cuts was a position that had supermajority support from the public. As we see now, Callahan had a much more credible plan to create jobs than Charlie Dent’s plan. That all seems like a pretty middle-of-the-road Democratic platform.

If Callahan would have championed the Democratic agenda instead of running away from it like his DC consultants told him, I think he would have gotten more Democratic voters out. Instead, Dems stayed home and a much older, whiter, more conservative electorate showed up than in 2008.