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 http://www.stevenramos.com. 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.
City Council candidate Lou Hershman was one of the first to report today that the City’s Finance Committee, led by Jeff Glazier, is cancelling its meeting tonight. If true, that means we won’t be seeing a budget this week. That means we won’t be seeing a budget until AFTER the election next week.
This news surely spells the death of the experimental trash and sewage sludge incinerator that threatens Allentown.
HOWEVER, the company’s air and waste permits are still out there. The air permit could be sold to other companies who want to develop that site. Their waste permit could be used by anyone here or elsewhere in the state, if not challenged.
We also have an ongoing lawsuit to get the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance on the ballot, so that voters can adopt a law protecting the city against incinerator pollution from any company in the future. It’s also critical, since the case will affect whether local governments anywhere in the state can adopt their own clean air laws.
This victory couldn’t have happened without massive organizing and legal support from me, Traci and others at Energy Justice Network. It cost us close to $20K and three years of work (and some of the legal work will still continue).
If you can help give back, your donations are much needed and appreciated, and will help ensure that this victory is final and that other communities also get the support they need. http://stoptheburn.org/donate
Allentown Residents for Clean Air Renews Court Fight for Clean Air Ordinance
ALLENTOWN – Members of Allentown Residents for Clean Air (ARCA) filed a motion in the Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas to bring a clean air ordinance to the Allentown voters. Last year, ARCA members collected nearly 3,500 signatures, exceeding the 2,000 signature requirement for Allentown voters to put an initiative on the ballot. The Allentown Clean Air Ordinance initiative would require any company building a new incinerator in the city to continuously monitor about 20 air pollutants, release the emissions data to a website real-time, and to cap emissions for four of those pollutants.
Only one company currently aims to build an incinerator in Allentown: Delta Thermo Energy A, LLC. They hope to find adequate investors to start building their proposed facility soon, which would burn 150 tons per day of processed trash and sewage sludge. Delta Thermo Energy was recently awarded air pollution and waste permits by the state Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). The air permit requires only five pollutants to be monitored on a continuous basis, plus the darkness of the smoke and the global warming pollutant, CO2 — far short of what the Allentown Clean Air Ordinance would require.
Last October, the court refused to compel the county Board of Elections to put the ordinance on the ballot, siding with the county and Delta Thermo Energy’s claims that the ordinance is not legal because it requires approval from the state DEP. That decision was not technically final, however, and could not be appealed for that reason. The motion for summary judgment filed with the court seeks a final decision from the court.
ARCA members, including Rich Fegley, argue in a detailed 53-page brief that state law grants local governments the power to adopt their own stricter air pollution laws without needing DEP approval, and that such laws are needed in Allentown because the city is 14th worst in the nation for sooty-air and is the nation’s 11th worst asthma capital.
This motion introduces new arguments from a Pennsylvania Supreme Court case decided in late December, in which the state’s highest court struck down major parts of Act 13, a 2012 law that the court said went too far in supporting the oil and gas industry. The law, designed to support hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas, overrode local governments’ rights to adopt any sort of ordinance to restrict gas industry development. For the first time, the court found that the rights to clean air and pure water in the Pennsylvania constitution can be enforced to protect the rights of the people. It also found that the Commonwealth (including local governments) has a duty to protect these rights.
“If the Pennsylvania Supreme Court can find that our constitutional rights to clean air and water make it illegal for the state to take actions that interfere with those rights, then surely the constitution backs up the clear language in our state law that gives Allentown the authority to adopt its own clean air ordinance. The highest court in the state has clarified that municipalities are obligated to protect the health and welfare of citizens, and that environmental rights are guarantees that have to be protected at every level of government.” says Breena Holland, political science professor at Lehigh University.
The motion also argues that Delta Thermo Energy and Lehigh County misrepresented election law to the county court. These parties convinced the court last year that Boards of Election are empowered to keep an ordinance off of the ballot if they think it’s not legal. However, ARCA members’ motion argues that these cases say the opposite. “Pennsylvania’s law is clear on this,” says Diane Teti, one of the plaintiffs. “Boards of Elections are empowered to make sure that signatures and notarizations are valid and sufficient, but that’s it. There is no dispute that we met those requirements, and the Board of Elections is required to put it on the ballot. Legality of ordinances is for the courts to decide.”
And decide they will. The Lehigh County Court of Common Pleas has given Delta Thermo Energy and the Board of Elections until July 1st to respond, after which the court will make a final decision.
“This fight is not over,” says Fegley. “No incinerator will be built in Allentown, and if we have to appeal this all the way to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court to bring our right to clean air to the Allentown voters, we will.”
Please click through to my recent op-ed in The Morning Call.
“In the wake of John Tarbay’s death at the Hamilton Street Bridge, just yards away from the Allentown Rescue Mission and not far from other agencies, a familiar chorus from social service providers and even some activists is likely to emerge: “Someone like John just didn’t want to come inside,” or “John was a ‘rough-sleeper.’ We tried,” or “John was this, that, or the other. John couldn’t live by the rules of society, or didn’t want to.”
All of those things may be true.
With the worst winter in memory finally behind us, it’s tempting to let the calls that more be done for Allentown’s and the Lehigh Valley’s homeless subside. It’s tempting to forget that “not being able to live by the rules of society” is obviously another way of talking about mental health, and mental health issues are the reasons most folks are on the street…”