Posts by Christopher Cocca

Christopher Cocca is a Pennsylvania-based writer and community organizer. His fiction and creative nonfiction have appeared in Brevity, elimae, Pindeldyboz, Geez Magazine, Creative Nonfiction, Generate, and elsewhere. He earned a Master of Divinity degree from Yale Divinity School in 2005 and a Master of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing (fiction) from The New School in 2011. He helps lead the Air Quality Partnership of Lehigh Valley - Berks and is the Associate for Urban Mission at FPC Allentown. Opinions expressed on-line are solely his. Quotation does not equal endorsement, except for when it does.

Orefield, Pennsylvania, 1995. You feel bad about yourself and your place in the world almost every moment of every day, but you’re also utterly convinced that, should you make it to the future, it will be a grand and glorious one. You have no rational basis for this belief. You are too young, really, to read Sherwood Anderson without feeling worse. You want to be Jay Gatsby but you’re not even Jim Gatz. You look into the abyss and want to see Jesus but don’t see anything besides market capitalism and reactionary politics as the only possible ways forward. Then along comes a band that posits a a new kind of radicalism: it is possible, they say, to swagger and sneer the devil all the way back to hell. Everything is shit, but instead of hearing “I hate myself and want to die,” on your local Top 40 you hear, instead, “maybe you’re gonna be the one that saves me,” and “you and I are gonna live forever.” The fact that half the words are chewed on and spit out, that the long I’s are, first, acrobatic long E’s that make Sinatra’s Y’s quaint, that they’re working class kids in acrylic sweaters and jeans with the wink/smile but really I mean it bravado of Tupelo Elvis, ’68 Elvis, Aloha Elvis, DEA Elvis, Elvis in sequins and capes, hands clasped behind the back, no dancing, no moving, just the world’s biggest mouth…you have been saved. All three of those albums saved me. That’s Oasis.

“All Lives Matter” is the “Dammit, Otto, You Have Lupus” of Political Discourse

all lives do matter, of course they do. but saying that in response to “black lives matter” is, as I’ve heard someone say, like treating breast cancer or lung cancer by saying “all cancers matter.” The systematic murder of black people in this country must be stopped, and so attention must be called to it. our systems don’t flesh out as though black lives matter at all, and so we have to say it. saying it is, in itself, so scandalous, apparently, that it’s an act of subversion. Jesus would say it.



Wolf/GOP Brokered Tax Hike Sucks, Especially for Schools and Working People In Allentown

I’m just going to say it. The sales tax is already regressive. Now 1.5% more so. Meanwhile, the NIZ prints money for people who are already rich. JB Rielly and my homeless friends or the single parent working two jobs are all paying the same sales tax on goods…7.5 cents on the dollar for Mr. Rielly is not the same as 7.5 cents on the dollar for others. Add the fact that he is making buckets of cash on projects that are subsidized by PA tax payers at 80 cents on the dollar, not to mention the cigarette loophole. Add to that the $2.3 million the NIZ took from Allentown taxes in 2014, the $330,000 the NIZ took from Allentown School District taxes in 2014, the coming water rate hike, capital improvements, and, now, a possibly illegal EIT hike. Damn.

Ed Pawlowski bought land we didn’t need and can’t use any time soon and paid for it with money from the lease of our water and sewers to the Lehigh County Authority.  $1.5 million. Allentown residents will start paying for LCA’s capital improvements this year, in addition to a 2.5 percent raise in rates.

The Allentown School District has no money.

There’s no comprehensive affordable housing plan in Allentown, even as we read all about how great the Strata flats are.

What am I missing?  Please, please tell me.

UPDATE: Here are some things I missed:

  • Allentown’s EIT hike, even if legal, is also regressive. It’s basically a way to engineer the first half of gentrification (getting poor people to move).
  • The fact that the GOP in the State legislature are on board with a sales tax hike doesn’t do wonders for the charge that they don’t care about overtaxing the middle class.

Allentown Budget a Reflection of FBI’s Ongoing Investigation

Ed Pawlowski’s new budget calls for a tax hike (specifically, an EIT increase), needed, in part, to pay for police as federal funding runs out.  It also borrows a cool $4,5 million from the Solid Waste Fund. It daren’t raise property taxes. But what about next year?

A few other thoughts:

The EIT increase raises revenue by $5.5 million.  Remember that number.

Extra police are being hired for the arena zone not out of need or threat, but to assuage suburban fears.  Why can’t we use some of the money from the water deal for that?

Because Ed Pawlowski spent the $5 million we had left over, and $1.4 million of that $5 million on literally toxic land to help his best frenemy, Abe Atiyeh, free up cash for another deal.  That deal is, by all indications, part of the FBI’s ongoing investigation of Pawlowski and people he did business with.

This tax hike comes as Allentown residents also prepare for a 2.5 percent hike in water bills from LCA (to whom Pawlowski famously and contentiously leased Allentown’s water and sewer systems) and unspecified charges for LCA capital improvements.

Allentown needs to turn the page.  Write-in Rich Fegley and Shane Fillman for Allentown City Council. Vote for Steven Ramos for Allentown City Controller.  Restore real checks and balances to the City Without Limits.

Be sure to read Emily Opilo’s piece about all of this in The Morning Call.

Steven Ramos Responds

Steven Ramos for Allentown Controller

Steven Ramos for Allentown Controller

There are a few people on the local blogs who leave anonymous comments criticizing current Allentown Controller Mary Ellen Koval as a way of saying something negative about her opponent, Steven Ramos.  Koval is the clean-up hitter on Team Pawlowski.

Steven Ramos has responded on Michael Molovinsky’s bog:

My resume is available at Over the last 15 years I’ve been trusted to set up and manage networks, maintain data security for employers and clients, and manage people and clients assigned to me. I am depended upon to ensure that reports are developed and submitted to various agencies and vendors to be in compliance with federal and state regulations.

Outside of my direct responsibilities, when other aspects of our network have issues I am called upon to find the solutions.

Having the confidence and support of others is not new – from being a leader in every church I have attended to being a contributing member on several Allentown associations; from being a founding member of the police community team in West Chester, PA, to working for various campaigns as a paid member of the team and volunteer; to my days in the army leading, encouraging, and training other soldiers.

The challenge of our controller’s office today is ensuring its independence, doing the work of auditing our agencies and departments, and making those audits available to the public.

This year alone, we’ve had several issues that demanded audits. None were done. Our current controller has demonstrated she is unable to be independent of the administration and is not curious to know why we are losing money, why we don’t know what projects are costing us, and why we may need a tax increase in 2016.

I hope for all of your support and that when weighing my candidacy, my resume, and public statements, that you use the same measure used when weighing other candidates.

See you on Tuesday.


Well-done, Steven.


Allentown Tax Hike Confirmed

Bernie O’Hare has a run-down of the looming Allentown tax hike.  Details won’t likely be known until after next Tuesday’s election.

By law, the budget must be presented to Allentown City Council by Monday.  Council’s Budget and Finance Committee, currently led by Jeff Glazier (up for election on Tuesday) typically, but not always, meets on the fourth Wednesday of the month.  They did not convene last night.  Watchdogs hoping to see a budget before the election are crying foul.  According to Mr. O’Hare, Councilman Julio Guridy has confirmed a tax hike is imminent, but doesn’t know specifics.

It’s worth noting that Lou Hershman, former Council member, former Controller, consistent fiscal watchdog and current Council candidate, was apparently planning to attending the Budget and Finance meeting that didn’t happen.  Here are his words to Mr. O’Hare:

“It’s bad enough that seniors on fixed incomes and the working poor are going to have to pay for the City’s fiscal irresponsibility, but keeping this important information from the public is no better than a burglar who sneaks into your home in the dead of night. Burglars get prosecuted, but it’s too bad there’s no penalty for politicians who steal elections.”

Even with the Pawlowski PAC disabled and its candidates raising pennies over the last few months, the money grab in the run-up to the spring primary, which failed to protect Joe Davis, looms large in Tuesday’s election.  Many city activists are suspicious of the coming budget’s timing.  If delivered to Council by Monday as required by the City’s Home Rule Charter, when will the public see the budget and, importantly, the tax hike?  Before or after the election?  The first November council meeting is Wednesday, Nov. 4, one day after we go to the polls.

Allentown, the dog and pony shows continue.  If you want some restraint brought back to Allentown government sooner rather than later, that is, before the FBI finishes its work, vote for change and reform on Tuesday.  Write in Rich Fegley and Shane Fillman for Council.  This has to stop somewhere, and it has to start with us.