Pawlowski Should Resign

Yesterday’s plead agreement in which Bethlehem developer Ramzi Haddad pled guilty to charges of bribing Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski illustrate a corrupt city Administration in denial.  The FBI raided city halls in Allentown and Reading this summer and the dominoes are beginning to fall.  The DOJ will take down several of the players in each city before going after Mayors Pawlowski and Vaughn Spencer.  After they have enough cooperating witnesses the charges will fall on both of them for corrupt activities.

Ed Pawlowski should not wait to vacate the office of Mayor.  Yesterday’s information shows a Mayor who was clearly on the take for his U.S. Senate run and we should all be grateful his campaign never really got off the ground.  Agreeing to accept $25,000 in campaign contributions in exchange for lenient City oversight of Haddad properties not only violated ethics but may have put Allentown residents at risk.  It’s time for Ed to go gracefully.

As for Spencer the Reading Mayor has already been implicated in making an $1800 bribe to City Council President Francis Acosta to waive inconvenient campaign finance ethics laws.  Acosta also pled guilty and resigned his seat.  Spencer needs to resign so Reading can get past this scandal.

The Spencer Corruption Saga

As Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer sits facing imminent arrest for public corruption I hope he enjoys his current vacation.  It is obviously the precursor for one he’ll be having quite soon:  a lengthy stay in a federal prison.  Alright, so that won’t feel like a vacation.  He is the obvious person identified in Department of Justice documents as “elected official #1 in yesterday’s conviction of City Council President Francis Acosta.  Elected official #2 is reportedly Acosta’s wife Rebecca President of the Reading School Board.  Who else would he funnel bribe money through?  The charge yesterday was that Spencer gave Mrs. Acosta’s campaign $1,800 in exchange for Mr. Acosta getting a city ethics law repealed preventing the Mayor from collecting illegal campaign contributions for his failed re-election campaign.

I examined the campaign finance reports for April, the period covered by the payment according tot he FBI document, and neither candidate reported the exchange of money.  No disbursement of $1,800 to any elected public official exists in Spencer’s report and no expenditure to Mrs. Acosta is reported.  Her report doesn’t disclose any such contribution for that period.  These omissions would be a violation of Pennsylvania election law though that’s the least of their worries at this time.

Did both campaigns consciously omit the transaction?  Spencer’s campaign treasurer is/was his chief aid Eron Lloyd.  Interestingly his reports also had a glaring deficiency.  His ending cash balance of $23,343.39 mysteriously became a cash forward balance of just $12,665.54 in his next report.  This was corrected in an amended report dated June 19th but I can’t imagine how the error occurred.  Spencer’s campaign was using NGP Van software.  I’ve used NGP software before and all you do is continuously input your contributions and expenditures and it spits out your report when it’s due.  If you submitted a report with this error in it, even if it’s off by a few cents, the software will alert you that two figures are not compatible.

If you end one reporting period with $23,343 cash on hand you have to begin the next one with same amount.  Their report reduced it to $12,665.  For the software to allow that expenditures of about $10,678 happened somewhere.  Maybe $1,800 of it went to Rebecca Acosta?

I’ve known Mayor Spencer for quite a while.  While I like him personally I never liked him as a public official.  As City Council President prior to being elected Mayor he was a crony of State Representative Tom Caltagirone with whom I’ve had disagreements.  When Spencer was attempting to ram through the sale of Antietam Lake and the surrounding land to MB Investments it was obvious he’d been bought off somehow.  Another City Council ally of the sale mysteriously wound up with a nice new house.  No one could ever prove the corruption but we all smelled it.

City Council members Donna Reed, Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz and Jeff Waltman united to block that deal.  The land was finally sold to Berks County and developed into a park.  At one fateful meeting at the Berks County Services Center I recall Spencer referring to John Fox, the Mascaro lawyer, as “our attorney.”  Following the faux pas he quickly left the Commissioners Chambers in embarrassment.  It was further evidence he was in their pay.

It’s funny how chickens sometimes come home to roost.  After becoming Mayor Spencer attempted to get around the City Charter and other rules.  Honest City Council members called him on his illegal shenanigans and it all resulted in prolonged legal battles.  For a city unable to provide basic services and in Act 47 the expenditure of a million dollars in legal fees was inexcusable.

I’m also intrigued by Spencer’s relationship with retailer Albert Boscov.  Boscov is also a major developer in Reading and recently was awarded a contract to renovate four city owned properties along Penn Street.  Developer Alan Shuman, someone with far more experience developing properties, was denied the work.  Boscov is finishing construction of his new Doubletree Hotel in downtown Reading, something for which he obtained tax abatements for.  He gave a $70,000 loan to Spencer’s re-election campaign.  Is this pay to play?  I suppose we’ll find out all the answers once the indictments are handed down.

Democratic Corruption Going Wild

The corruption among elected Democratic officials in the Commonwealth keeps growing.  Yesterday Reading City Council President Francis Acosta pled guilty to conspiracy to accept a bribe.  Today Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane is expected to face charges.

Two of Kane’s biggest personal faults are coming back to haunt her:  her vindictiveness and her inability to tell the truth.  She will be accused of leaking grand jury testimony in order to damage the reputation of someone she disliked and then lying about it under oath.  Kane lies about everything and her penchant to get back at those she dislikes has turned her office into a disaster area.

In Reading an FBI a few weeks ago led to the first domino falling in Acosta.  A man who seemingly came out of nowhere to get a seat on City Council then get elected as Council President, he agreed to try and repeal an ethics law designed to restrict corruption.  The campaign finance caps prohibited anyone receiving no bid city contracts from contributing more than a set amount to a campaign.  Mayor Vaughn Spencer (obviously “elected official #1 in the indictment) faced a tough re-election campaign due to a failed first term and needed to have the ethics law repealed.  According to Acosta’s plea agreement he agreed to contribute $1800 to “elected official # 2” if Francis would repeal the ethics law.  He introduced a resolution to do just that but Council members with integrity successfully fought the action.

It appears that Mayor Vaughn Spencer will soon join Acosta in federal prison.  He accepted $84,000 from four persons who were limited by that law in what they could contribute to his campaign.  The Mayor routinely violated laws and ordinances during his term leading to constant battles with Council.  The legal fees from those fights amounted to more than $1 million for a cash strapped city unable to provide basic services.  He and Acosta are both cronies of State Representative Thomas Caltagirone who has run the Berks County Democratic Committee from behind the curtain for years.  One of his staffers ran Acosta’s unsuccessful campaign for Mayor four years ago.  He and Spencer go way back.

The common denominator in the corruption in Reading and Allentown goes to consultant Mike Fleck.  This seems to have begun with the investigation of former Treasurer Rob McCord who pled guilty earlier in the year.  Fleck was his consultant in his failed campaign for Governor following Mayor Ed Pawlowski’s withdrawal from the race.  The Allentown City Hall offices were raided recently by the FBI and it has been reported that Fleck wore a wire against both Mayors before disappearing.  

I’ve known Fleck since he appeared on the scene running various Democratic campaigns.  No campaign he ran was legal and above board.  I even warned people running against his candidates to expect shenanigans.  There always were.  It’s no wonder that someone who had no regard for election laws would also violate other laws.  In the cases of McCord, Pawlowski and Spencer, this just goes to prove the old adage that when you sleep with stray dogs you get fleas.

When we combine these corruption scandals with the recent indictment of Congressman Chaka Fattah Pennsylvania Democrats have much work to do to clean up their act.  The Pennsylvania Democratic Party even hired Fleck’s consulting business for a time before severing the relationship.

Consultants are big business in politics.  They are paid well to manage and strategize campaigns for candidates.  A bad consultant, and they are legion, can do irreparable harm as Fleck has.  Shortly after the FBI raids in Allentown he dissolved his business and fled.  Acosta’s fall is simply the second domino to fall (after McCord) in what appears to be a succession of Democratic Mayors heading to prison.

Tough Times For PA Democrats

It’s been a bad year for Pennsylvania Democrats.  The FBI raid on City Halls in Reading and Allentown seem to have ensnared Mayors Vaughn Spencer and Ed Pawlowski in pay to play corruption schemes, the State Attorney General is facing potential criminal charges for leaking secret grand jury information and is accused of failing to prosecute Philadelphia area lawmakers in a probe which was successfully concluded by a rival DA.

Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams has garnered multiple convictions against State Representatives Ronald Waters, Michelle Brownlee, Harold James.  Vanessa Lowery Brown and Louise Willaims Bishop are also facing charges.

Former Harrisburg Mayor Ed Reed may be the biggest prize of all for prosecutors though as he faces hundreds of counts for purchasing artifacts with taxpayer funds then keeping them for himself.

All of these corruption cases involve members of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party. Did someone spike the punch at recent State Committee meetings?  It certainly seems to be contagious.  Of course public corruption inflicts officials of both major political parties but at the present time the state GOP has to be licking its lips at the stain being given to Democrats.

It begins at the top where AG Kathleen Kane is obviously over her head.  She can’t keep staff or even the attorney she hired to represent her against criminal charges.  It seems she has a bad vindictive streak she is unable to control.  She also has a bad habit of lying-something I exposed during that election.

So what doe Democrats here do to clean up their act?  Losing consultant Mike Fleck is a first step since he disappeared after wearing a wire against former clients Pawlowski and Spencer.  The Philadelphia lawmakers charged and convicted say much about the sad state of Bob Brady’s “machine” there.  No one in Philly can breathe without first clearing it with Brady and no one gets elected without his blessing.  Mush of this scandal must lay at his doorstep.

Update:  Yet another black eye.  Congressman Chaka Fattah has been indicted for accepting an illegal loan for $1 million.  Yet another Brady crony.

Feud Grows Between Reading Mayor and Newspaper

There’s an old saying in politics:  never get into an argument with someone who buys ink by the barrel.  Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer has engaged The Reading Eagle and this the newspaper struck back with a headline story about the Berks County Elections Board investigating his campaign finances.  The story is bogus is because I investigated this (and had the story last August 21st) and found nothing improper or illegal in Spencer’s actions.

Berks County Commissioner launched the probe as a personal vendetta wasting thousands of taxpayer funds (that’s the real story) trying to go after Philadelphia union boss Johnny Dougherty.  The IBEW local gave Spencer’s campaign $30,000.  They used ten grand of it for election day activities (get out the vote operations) and then handed ten thousand each to two Philadelphia City Council candidates.  Philadelphia rules cap such contributions at $10,000.

Candidates always spread money around to each other and through other entities.  Scott himself gave the Pennsylvania Republican Party a ton of cash which they used to post direct mail pieces on his behalf.  Mark Scott and their ilk do so so negative attack ads don’t have their own names on them.  If what Spencer did was “money laundering” then so did Scott.  The problem is there’s no law against it.

Yesterday I published a response from Mayor Spencer’s office attacking The Reading Eagle for its failure to disclose an obvious conflict of interest.  Let me do an aside right now that I take no sides in this conflict I’m simply reporting what is happening.  Reading City Councilwoman Donna Reed is Vaughn Spencer’s chief political foe.  Her husband is the direct supervisor of the reporter covering City Hall.  The Eagle has never disclosed this conflict when reporting on the mayor.  The newspaper has run many negative stories about him (and he’s given them enough to write about) done by Don Spatz without ever disclosing he reports directly to Reed’s husband.  Today’s headline story is again written by Spatz with no disclosure.  It is an obvious response to the Mayor charging them with ethical violations.

Tit for tat and guess who’s going to lose?  Hint:  it won’t be the guy who buys ink by the barrel.

News & Notes July 23, 2012

Is climate change convincing you yet that it’s real?  How much more extreme weather is necessary to convince the deniers?  Farmers in the Midwest are now culling their herds because there won’t be enough corn and soybeans to feed them.  A rise in meat prices will inevitably be blamed on Obama instead of the culprits who have fought policy changes to forestall the effects of global climate change.  Conservatives never accept personal responsibility for their failures.  Isn’t that interesting?

Cronyism in Reading City Hall continues.  One Term Vaughn hasn’t learned his lessons.  Cronyism almost always leads to corruption.

State Rep. Kevin Murphy was arrested in a domestic beating incident.  The rap sheets for our lawmakers gets longer and longer.

Former Speaker Bill DeWeese, his hubris never ending, even from prison, remains on the ballot.  As a convicted felon he cannot serve even if he won the election from his prison cell.  PA Dems are now going to court to get him off the ballot so they have some hope of keeping the seat.  

Someone explain to me how what the mob did in this case is different from what Mitt Romney did at Bain?

I felt I was in a parallel universe this morning watching the NCAA sanctions against Penn State.  Never in my life did I expect to see my alma mater penalized so harshly for the sins of its football team.  We still haven’t gotten answers from Tom Corbett about why he allowed just one Trooper to investigate the case for 18 months.  Even then the two OAG investigators were narcs and had no experience in child abuse cases.  He refuses to answer questions.  Maybe someone needs to investigate him.  He’d better start answering soon or his chances for a second term go the way of Penn State football.

Boycott any company which is financing right wing attack ads.  Voting with your dollars sends a distinct message.  Look at all the negative attention being targeted at Chick Fil-A for example.  Here’s a guide to some of the worst corporate offenders.

School districts are now facing another huge financial hurdle:  funding their pensions.  The state keeps putting off making these payments and soon the shit will hit the fan.  As Corbett keeps strangling their budgets schools may need to use their nuclear option:  renege on their long term debt bonds.  Since these are backed by the state the legislature would be on the hook for the billions in long term debt used to build and renovate school buildings.  Serves them right if it happens.

Rachel Maddow devoted a program last week to Sheldon Adelson and the corrupt methods he used to build his gambling mecca in Macao.  He could be convicted of a felony for bribing Chinese interests to make his fortune.  That’s a serious crime.

More evidence that privatization leads to corruption.  The FBI is investigating Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School.  Its web of corruption is interesting.  These are your tax dollars at work funding corruption.

A friend recently lamented that she didn’t have employment benefits and said union members shouldn’t either.  Her logic was that since she didn’t have a pension no one else should either.  I just looked at her and said that wasn’t the problem.  The problem was that her workplace wasn’t union and she should fight for those same benefits instead of condemning those who have for themselves.  Union bashing seems to be a favorite pasttime for some people who forget what unions have done for everyone.  This letter in the Bucks Courier Times reminds us:

First, instead of condemning unions, we should extol their historical accomplishments. Unions have brought us laws against child labor. Unions have brought us the 8-hour work day and overtime pay. Unions have brought us safer workplaces, so that getting sick or maimed was no longer “just part of the job.” Unions have brought us pensions, employer-paid health care, vacation pay, sick leave, etc. Though currently under attack, these same benefits are enjoyed by nearly all full-time, nonunion employees, too.

Second, as so many Vent writers have rejoiced, union membership is in substantial decline as powerful companies and now Republican-controlled governments attempt to break any semblance of union power. But such union critics also should notice and acknowledge that as unions have declined over the last 30-plus years, the income of the entire bottom 90 percent of all Americans has stagnated. Notice that I didn’t say that just the income of blue-collar Americans has stagnated; instead, even as the top 10 percent (and even more so, the top 1 percent) has flourished, EVERYBODY ELSE has stagnated or declined. Instead of consistently raising the bar for labor compensation, so that the benefits of increased technology and productivity are shared between labor and management/capital, unchecked corporate power is keeping virtually ALL of these benefits for shareholders and top management.

The NRA has been curiously silent following the latest gun massacre.  It’s Tweet last Friday morning was frighteningly tragic:  “Good morning, shooters. Happy Friday! Weekend plans?” James Holmes did.  Isn’t it time we banned assault weapons and 100 bullet clips for them?  SCOTUS says we cannot infringe gun rights but there’s nothing in the Second Amendment about ammunition.  If bullets cost $1000 apiece Holmes wouldn’t have bought 6,000 of them.  Right wing morons keep talking about infringing the rights of gun owners but what about the rights of those they kill?

A judge says disrobing as a protest of TSA regulations is protected free speech.  A movement is underway for a mass stripping protest at airports.  I may need to apply to work at an airport, this could be interesting.  My camera is all charged up.

The Vice Chair of the PA GOP admitted she lied about President Obama last week.  The only thing unusual about this is the fact she fessed up.  Republicans are so used to lying they’re shocked when they’re exposed.  This moron, someone named Renee Amoore and she didn’t even know her company’s layoffs were overseas.  Some boss.

Mitt wants to take away your internet porn.  Yea, that’ll get him a lot of votes…

Dan Miller, the openly gay Controller in Harrisburg, is marrying his partner.  Of course he has to leave Pennsylvania in order to make a commitment to his lifetime lover.

One constant mantra of the right wing noise machine is that government doesn’t create jobs.  This is yet another of the myths with which they use to brainwash people.  Now that defense spending is on the table as part of Taxaggeddon they’re suddenly changing their tune.  The potential loss of jobs from  Pentagon cuts is exposing this lie.

Michele Bachmann is channeling Joe McCarthy.

News & Notes April 23, 2012

Tomorrow is election day, don’t let bad weather keep you from exercising your right to vote.  People in Syria are dying in the streets fighting for this right.   On the other hand don’t allow Tom Corbett to rob you of your right to vote.  They’ll be rolling out the Voter ID program though the law says you don’t have to produce an ID until the November election.

Matt Cartwright got the endorsements of three Northeastern PA papers.  Marybeth Kuznick is also racking up endorsements for her House race.

The Reading Eagle isn’t running the news that Frank Denbowski broke state election law.

Denbowski isn’t alone.  Marty Schmotzer didn’t even file a report.  The difference is we already knew Marty was a crook.

The DCCC points out how Jim Gerlach voted to give the Dallas Cowboys a tax break.  Their vote would provide all major sports teams owners another cut.  Have those crumbs trickled down to you yet?  Ronald Reagan promised they would.

NARAL’s pro-choice voters guide is available here.

This week there will be a major women’s rally in Harrisburg.  Join us on April 28th at 10AM on the Capitol steps.

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer is already tangled up in a web of cronyism and corruption.  That didn’t take long.

It appears fracking is already destroying fish in the Susquehanna River.  Will Corbett’s DEP do anything?

Two notable trials are going on this week:  Roger Clemens and John Edwards.

Wal-Mart spent millions bribing Mexican officials so they could build stores.  How much did they spend here?

The Catholic League got all in a lather over a skit Jon Stewart did.  They responded by showing him amidst fire on the day Jews use to remember victims of the Holocaust.  Very bad idea…

New Mexico Senate candidate Heather Wilson says bullying of gay teens is simply teasing.  Sure, hundreds of kids commit suicide every year over “teasing.”  She lost her Congressional seat over ties to George W. Bush’s GonzalesGate.  Should we tease her about that?

Education Voters PA has endorsed several candidates:  Erin Molchany, Shauna D’Alessandro, Duane Milne, Babette Josephs, James Roebuck and Sen. Patricia Vance.  Milne and Vance are moderate Republicans being challenged from their right (Tea Party).

Mitt Romney stepped in it when he dissed a famous Pittsburgh bakery.  Just when he was making progress trying to win the battleground state this fall he stepped in a pile of sh*t.  Maybe he still has time to come to Philadelphia and say how bad Tastykakes are…  Then he can throw up outside Pat’s Steaks.  Go to Lancaster and say something bad about scrapple?  He may as well try for the whole enchilada!

We’re finally getting some rain.  The last six months have been very dry, months we normally see considerable precipitation.  Climate change is affecting us and rivers are so low we can’t go kayaking.  I drove up along the Delaware Saturday, a stretch I’ve paddled many times, and was shocked at the low levels.  How will climate change affect our state in the future?  Here’s how.

News & Notes February 6, 2012

I drove into Reading City Hall this morning for a Sen. Casey event.  I had to deal with a double parker on Mineral Spring Road then another right in front of City Hall who decided to pull forward just as I was going around him.  No wonder no one goes into Reading…  I circled around and found a parking space on the street and, foolishly, only brought 4 quarters for the meter thinking that would be enough for an hour.  It bought me forty minutes so I headed home.  You don’t EVER want to get a parking ticket in Reading…  No wonder no one goes into Reading…

Speaking of City Hall, Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer made a classic mistake right off the bat.  He forgot the old homage that you never pick a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.  The Reading Eagle excoriated him yesterday in an editorial for his reneging on a promise for an open and transparent administration.  Right away he issued a policy putting a gag order on all city employees.  No talking to the press means getting nothing but bad press.

Republicans in Harrisburg are discussing having two primaries this year, one in April for federal races and another in July or August for state House and Senate seats.  The Supreme Court decision overturning reapportionment has thrown a huge monkey wrench into the election season.  I know one guy whose thirty minute campaign may be the shortest on record.  Half an hour after he started his campaign the decision came down and he found he was no longer in the district.  Moving a primary to the summer would screw all the candidates out working now getting on the ballot.  

Bill DeWeese remains a free man as the jury remains out in his corruption trial.  Perhaps the loquacious former State House Speaker can teach linguistics and vocabulary while serving his time.

This just in:  DeWeese is guilty on 5 of 6 counts.

State Rep. Mark Cohen, a master of using social media, discovered his primary opponent set up a facebook page so he began asking colleagues why they were friends with her.  It turns out Numa St. Louis had put people on her page without their permission.  That’s a huge gaffe, something you simply don’t do with social media.  Would she also add them as co-sponsors on bills without permission?  She wouldn’t last long in Harrisburg…

Right wing talking heads are saying Planned Parenthood doesn’t do mammograms and so shouldn’t receive funding from the Komen Foundation.  That’s incorrect.  Some PP clinics do do mammograms and rest do breast cancer exams and provide referrals for mammograms.  The head of the Komen Foundation siphons $5 million/year from the “charity” to pad her own pockets before any of it goes to women.  Only 20% of SGK monies go to research.  I guess he needs all that money for her extensive plastic surgery.

Congressman Mark Critz is getting key labor endorsements in his primary runoff against Congressman Jason Altmire.  Republicans put the two incumbents into the same District during reapportionment.  Both are extremely conservative Democrats.  The good news is that one will be out of Washington.

News & Notes January 24, 2012

I live in the 126th House District where Dante Santoni Jr. recently announced he won’t run for re-election.  I’ve been involved in discussions with some folks considering runs but no one is yet ready to announce.  As soon as I do have news I will Tweet it.

Today begins the official period for gathering signatures on nominating petitions.  It is the first opportunity for candidates to canvass and listen to voters and their concerns.

I watched the long Supreme Court session yesterday where appeals of reapportionment were heard.  Spending five hours listening to lawyers should be grounds for cruel and unusual punishment.

President Obama makes his State of the Union address tonight at 9 PM.  It is the unofficial kickoff of his campaign.  Parkside, PA teacher Sara Ferguson will be in the First Lady’s box this evening.

The President spoke with Sue and Jay Paterno yesterday offering his condolences on the loss of Joseph Vincent Paterno Sunday.  Writing the article about Joe was one of the most difficult I’ve ever done.  This man touched everyone who ever attended Penn State, whether we met him or not.  Because he insisted the university be as great as its football team we all benefited from his high standards.  There will be a memorial service at the Bryce Jordan Center Thursday.

The Republican presidential field is down to Romney and Gingrich (for all practical purposes).  Either one will be dead meat coming out of their convention.  They have so much baggage they’ll need additional planes to carry it around the campaign trail.  Both believe corporations have more rights than real people.  They have supported the erosion of our rights while expanding those of business entities.  Think Progress released this video of Mitt yesterday:

Bill Bispels of Kutztown announced his candidacy for the 187th House District.  There is at least one other Democrat circulating petitions for this seat.

Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer has tripped badly coming out of the gate.  He released a policy over the weekend insisting that all city employees refrain from speaking to the press.  He is saying that all press contacts go through his Communications Director.  One problem is that City Council hasn’t authorized such a position and, after this, likely won’t.  It is still possible for city employees to communicate with me via personal cell phones, iPads or computers (their own) while at lunch or after regular hours.

I just listened to Rep. Thomas Caltagirone (D-Allentown Diocese) lament the fate of children suffering at the hands of adults.  It’s a shame he doesn’t feel the same way about children abused by Catholic priests.

Rep. Gabrielle Giffords of Arizona announced her resignation from Congress so she can focus on her rehabilitation.  This is a wise decision as she needs to concentrate on her own recovery and her constituents deserve full time representation.

The Reading Mayor’s Inaugural Ball

This is going to sound like the blog morphed into a society column.  Last night I attended Reading Mayor Vaughn Spencer’s inaugural ball at the Sovereign Performing Arts Center where one entered three floors of ballrooms and suspended belief.  Suspended belief that one was in the poorest city in the nation.  For four hours I was surrounded by opulence, men in tuxedos and suits, women in gowns, drinking, eating and dancing to live entertainment on each level.  Entering the ground floor there sat a massive ice sculpture of the famous pagoda, Reading’s landmark.

Dumping my outer garment at the coat check room I sidled past the long line for the bar and was escorted upstairs by Mick Dee, the Mayor’s new Communications Director.  The second and third floors were decked out with tables surrounded by local merchants whose tables were decked with food for the guests.  Dubbed “A Taste of Reading” they donated the gustaceous delights which offered a full range of delicious eating.  There was even a new Jamaican restaurant.  While the food, beer and soft drinks were donated the Mayor’s Transition Team did purchase the wine (state law), cakes rent the facility.

This was a lavish affair.  A long gray, vintage limo parked outside on Sixth Street for most of the evening while Mayor Vaughn Spencer, donned in a stylish tuxedo, held court.  He was joined by City Council and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski.

I have lots of pictures so let’s take this society column under the fold…

Hello again, here are pictures of the upper ballrooms and a few of the local restaurants which participated:

The view of the first floor from the mezzanine:

There I came upon City Councilwoman Donna Reed and new Council President (succeeding Spencer) Francis Acosta:

Scott Hoh and former Councilman Angel Figueroa:

Mayor and Mrs. Ed Pawlowski:

Labor leader Fred Shaef and former Sixth Congressional District candidate Doug Pike:

Rick Hinnershitz and his wife Councilwoman Marcia Goodman-Hinnershitz:

Retired labor leader Larry Murin and his lovely wife Brenda:

My dear friend Rosie Skomitz:

A few more pictures of the lavish surroundings and the mayor:

How appropriate was all this in the poorest city in America?  How appropriate was it for Spencer to be sworn in in a church?  I found everyone regaling in the special night while thousands of city residents were going to bed hungry.  It might have started his term out on a better foot to invite many of the city’s poverty stricken residents into the ballroom instead for a meal.  Around 75% of Reading School District students qualify for free meals, many toil at multiple jobs making $7.25/hour struggling just to keep roofs over their heads.  At a time when heating assistance has been cut back along with WIC, welfare and access to medical care this lavish evening seemed out of touch with reality.

I suspended belief for four hours then dealt with one of the city’s persistent problems on my short drive home:  double parkers.  They’re the biggest reason I avoid Reading like the plague.