Tuesday, May 24, 2011

West Ward Annual City Council Meeting at EACC Wednesday, 9th & Washington, 6-8pm--Bring the Kids--It's a Youth Center!

One item on the agenda of the West Ward City Council meeting will be equal benefits for gay couples who work for the city.
Posted by: Noël Jones

Easton's Home Rule Charter stipulates that at least one city council meeting per year must be held in each of Easton's four neighborhoods. Tomorrow night is the West Ward's city council meeting, to be held at the Easton Area Community Center at the corner of 9th & Washington Streets from 6-8pm. For those of you in the West Ward that have a hard time getting downtown to the Alpha Building for regular city council meetings, here is your chance to talk face-to-face with your mayor and city council right here in your neighborhood. It is also the perfect time to speak up during the Concerned Citizens public comment sections of the meeting. The first happens early in the meeting when citizens can speak to agenda items only. The second public comment portion happens at the very end of the meeting, when residents can speak up on any issue.

I am seriously disappointed that this meeting was not better publicized and promoted to let West Ward residents know that this week was the week of our annual neighborhood city council meeting. I received no press release from Mayor Panto's office, saw nothing published in the Express-Times on line (although I am told that there was a small side bar in the print version of today's paper), and received no word from Mike Fleck, our West Ward representative on council. To make matters worse, the City's Planning Department scheduled the 600 block design charrette with West Ward residents on the same night at exactly the same time, 8 blocks away. This is a bad move as it makes it look to the public like the city's intention is to split the draw so that there would be minimal attendance and public comment at either meeting.

Furthermore, on the City of Easton's website, although the time and location for the meeting are posted now, there was still no agenda posted when I checked as of 5pm. That makes it a little hard for residents to compose comments that they would want to make during

the agenda items only portion of the meeting. Please keep checking this link to see if they post an agenda between now and tomorrow night.

How are residents to believe that the city cares about our neighborhood, when they fail to promote the only city council meeting that will be held in the West Ward all year? We do not even know if there are any items that concern the neighborhood on the agenda at all.

The only item that I know for sure is on the agenda is that the council is set to vote to approve granting equal benefits for gay partners that work for the city. The only reason I know this is because the PA Diversity Network contacted me to let me know, so many thanks to the PADN. 

I am now trying to spread the word as quickly as possible, so that we can get as many residents as possible to show up and possibly speak up tomorrow, on any and all issues that concern us here in the West Ward. So please pass this link to your friends and neighbors, call people and spread the word--and tell everyone that it's fine to bring the kids--it's a youth center, so there is stuff there that can keep them occupied.

What's on your mind with regard to our neighborhood? Code enforcement? Crime? Street cleaning and garbage? The new street lights? The fringe festival? Road repair? Now is the perfect time to bring up your concerns. 

And to all other residents of Easton--remember--this is not just a West Ward meeting, this is your city council meeting too, it's just being held in our neighborhood tonight.

Here is info on the only agenda item that I know about so far:

Easton City Council is set to vote on legislation guaranteeing domestic partner benefits for gay employees at the city at the council's next meeting, Wednesday, May 25th. For background, see my earlier post.

Below is a press release from Adrian Shanker, VP of the Pennsylvania Diversity Network:

Easton City Council Scheduled to Vote on Final Passage of Same Sex Partner Benefits

Easton, Pennsylvania - May 23, 2011 -- Easton City Council is scheduled to vote on
 Wed. May 25th on the final passage of legislation which, once signed into law by Mayor Panto, will make Easton the 5th municipality in the State to pass a law recognizing the same-sex relationships of their employees. Philadelphia, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, and Allentown have this law already on the books, and Lancaster provides benefits to some same-sex partners through an executive order.

Adrian Shanker is Vice President of Pennsylvania Diversity Network. Shanker said, "We are optimistic that this bill will pass with unanimous; bipartisan support in the City of Easton. Most rational people believe that these benefits are about basic equality -- access to healthcare, FMLA and bereavement leave -- there is a reason that the vast majority of Fortune 500 businesses offer these benefits."

The legislation, sponsored by Councilperson Mike Fleck, has strong support on council. Liz Bradbury, Executive Director of Pennsylvania Diversity Network, who worked with a previous Easton Council to pass a non-discrimination law said, "It is a great sign for equal rights that we have such strong support in the City of Easton. The City is truly making its mark as a welcoming City for everyone." Mayor Panto has stated his support for the legislation, and is expected to sign the ordinance into law.

What: Easton City Council MeetingWhere: Easton Area Community Center, 9th and Washington Streets, Easton, PAWhen: May 25th, 2011 at 6pm
Pennsylvania Diversity Network is the Lehigh Valley-based, LGBT advocacy organization serving Northeast Pennsylvania. For more information: www.padiversity.org


For more information please contact:
Adrian Shanker
Vice President, 
Pennsylvania Diversity Network
Board of Directors, 
Equality Pennsylvania
Cell: 610 597 8044


Julie Zando-Dennis said...

It's hard to understand why word of this meeting couldn't have gotten out sooner, if not to your blog Noel (although you most certainly should have been alerted), than to the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership, which could have put out a notice to its email list (and, having had notice, wouldn't have scheduled a community meeting at the same time).

This is a problem. Mr. Mayor, Mike Fleck, what do you have to say about this?

noel jones said...

Julie, I repeat, the WWNP did not schedule the 600 block charrette, the city did. The city scheduled two WW resident meetings for precisely the same time, 8 blocks away from each other.

I am on the email list for press releases from the mayor's office and did not receive a press release for our WW city council meeting. I emailed the mayor's administrative assistant, Jamie, to make sure I had not missed and emailed press release and received only this reply:

Per the City Clerk's office this meeting was previously advertised.

I contacted the ET, who told me that a small sidebar announcement on page B-1 was in the print version yesterday (the day before the meeting), but that these sidebars are not included in the on line version of the paper.

I received 3 releases regarding the mayor's honorary doctorate from Lafayette for public service last week, but nothing about our annual neighborhood city council meeting.

The WWNP only learned yesterday that the city council meeting would be in the West Ward--the mayor sent an email to this effect to community members at 5:33pm.

As of last night there was still no agenda published on the city's web site, but either overnight, but it looks like one has finally been published this morning:


noel jones said...

Here is the agenda for tonight's meeting:

6. ACTION ON MINUTES – May 11, 2011
7. CITIZENS RIGHT TO BE HEARD – (Agenda Items Only)
8. REPORTS RECEIVED BY COUNCIL (a) Monthly Fire Department for April 2011.
(b) Economic Development (c) Planning (d) Public Safety (e) Public Works
(f) Administration (g) Report of City Solicitor (h) Report of Mayor
11. UNFINISHED BUSINESS (a) Action on Legislative Bills
(Kenneth Brown) (Sandra Vulcano) (Roger Ruggles) (Jeffrey Warren) (Elinor Warner) (Michael Fleck) (Attorney William Murphy) (Salvatore J. Panto Jr.)
1. Bill No. 13, Amending the Personnel Code by adding a Section for Domestic Partnership.
2. Bill No. 14, Amending Ordinance 5281, 2011 State Highway Aid Fund Budget. 3. Bill No. 15, Amending Ordinance 5284, 2011 Health Benefits Fund Budget. 4. Bill No. 16, Amending Ordinance 5286, 2011 Unemployment Insurance Fund Budget. 5. Bill No. 17, Amending Ordinance 5287, 2011 Workers Compensation Fund Budget. 6. Bill No. 18, Amending Ordinance 5291, 2011 General Fund Budget.
Stated Session Wednesday May 25, 2011 6:00 P.M.
14. 15.
NEW BUSINESS (a) Introduction of Legislative Bills
1. Bill No. 19, Amending Article V of Chapter 110, Pension of the Code of the City of Easton
(b) Certificate of Appropriateness for 7 N. 3rd Street (R) (c) Certificate of Appropriateness for 114 N. 3rd Street (R) (d) Certificate of Appropriateness for 39 S. 6th Street (R) (e) Certificate of Appropriateness for 145 Northampton St. (R) (f) Certificate of Appropriateness for 437 Northampton St. (R) (g) Certificate of Appropriateness for 525 Northampton St. (R) (h) Certificate of Appropriateness for 219 Spring Garden St. (R) (i) Approving Application for a DUI Grant.(R) (j) Approving an Agreement with McTish, Kunkel & Associates.(R) (k) Approving a Lease Agreement with Streetsmart Technology, LLC.(R)

noel jones said...

Note that CITIZENS RIGHT TO BE HEARD ON AGENDA ITEMS ONLY IS #7 (near the beginning of the meeting)



I hope that West Ward residents will make it a priority to come out and speak up on any concerns about the neighborhood that you may have!

Anonymous said...

I love the new lights. First people complain that the streets are too dark and then the city replaces all of the lamps with energy saving bulbs that are even brighter and we hear people complain. I read the new lights are about $50,000 less in electrical usage with more light power.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
First I will ask the City Clerk why the agenda wasn't on the web. The notices do not come from the mayor's office.

Secondly the WWNP scheduled the meeting not the city or my office. It appears that tonight was the best not for the pub.

This is the second public meeting on the charette and additional public meetings are planned as needed.

I take exception to the fact that you feel the city did this on purpose. as President of City Council I try to engage individuals in the porcess and dialogue, despite some objections from some council members who just want the meeting to be over. I look at city council meetings as a traditional town meetings when residents can approach and have a dialogue with their local officials. You certainly cannot go to the chambers in Harriburg or Washington and make your feelings known while they are in session.

Lastly, I apologize for your receipt of 3 emails about the honorary doctorate. We will only include your email address for public meetings and press conferences. BTW, how many other governmental units place you on their email list and invite your to press conferences and meetings. I would be interested to know how many public officials do this and how many even respond to blogs and recognize them as a place to disseminate information and get public feedback.

Lastly, as a result of council meeting being very short lately, I will be at the charette when the meeting is over. Our meetings never last more than an hour or so.

See you all at one or the other and thank you for your comments about doing a better job communicating the two meetings in the west ward each year.

noel jones said...

Mayor Panto--I have been giving you credit wherever credit is due on this blog leading into the November election, as you have done a good job downtown, but THIS is really making me mad.

I have been assured by the WWNP that the 600 block charrette meeting was scheduled by Becky Bradley in the city's Planning Department, that the WWNP asked that it be rescheduled because it was the same night as a city council meeting (they had not realized yet that it was the WW's only annual city council meeting, just a city council meeting in general) and that the Planning office insisted on this time conflict.

So someone is not being honest here, either the city, or the WWNP. Which is it?

If this is an issue of the right hand not talking to the left at the city, that is bad enough, but it does not explain why this neighborhood's annual city council meeting wasn't promoted through all available channels to encourage public input. And it does not explain why the Planning Dept. insisted on the time conflict.

Community members (nonprofits, my blog, etc.) got your email about the time conflict with the neighborhood city council meeting at 5:33 last night after all community offices were closed, so too late to get the word out to the neighborhood yesterday.

The agenda had not been posted to the city's web site as of 5pm last night.

I had assumed that the Neighbors of Easton blog had been included on your press releases because the city wanted to reach the public as thoroughly as possible, and recognizes that at 9,000-10,000 hits/month, this local blog is a good way to get help get the word out.

But now, it sounds like you're saying "you're lucky we tell you anything at all" and that now you won't include this blog on all releases, which sounds like you're retaliating against criticism for the city not making its best effort to get the word out about our annual meeting in this neighborhood.


noel jones said...


So there's a catch 22 here for residents--on one hand, you're not informing the neighborhood, and on the other, you're threatening that if anyone criticizes you for not informing the neighborhood, that you will punish us by informing us even less. This is the old guard political attitude in Easton, the "how dare you" attitude and the "i'll teach you a lesson" attitude that continues to disenfranchise the public.

Per your comment about posting to this blog: many politicians post to this blog--school board members, city council members, candidates for various offices, state representatives and senators have posted here as well. It is refreshing, but also becoming more and more common as most politicians now recognize the power of social media as a tool for reaching voting residents. I always appreciate it when public officials post, because it gives resident voters the ability to interact in a modern technological forum.

Being included on press releases gives me the opportunity to help keep the public informed, and if the city wants anyone to believe that they are making a genuine attempt to engage residents, they will reach out to all free avenues available to them, rather than just posting a sidebar announcement in the ET's B-1 page in print version only. A huge number of people get their news on line these days. By only advertising via a print sidebar the day before a meeting, it makes it look like the city is making a disingenuous attempt to inform the public on short notice only because it is required to advertise in some form by Home Rule Charter.

But if you are going to retaliate against the public for daring to say that we were not adequately informed of this meeting in advance, then that is your prerogative leading into this election.

I hope that as many residents as possible will spread the word and attend our only neighborhood city council meeting tonight to express concerns about the neighborhood on such incredibly short notice.

On this blog, and in person, I hear about a myriad of concerns--parking issues, street light issues, street cleaning issues, crime issues, slumlord and blight issues, issues with unsupervised children running all over private property, sidewalks in a dangerous state of repair inhibiting walkability, noise issues, traffic calming issues--the list goes on. If I were running a neighborhood meeting here, I would a) be promoting the hell out of it to ENCOURAGE public input, and b) not be telling residents with these concerns that their meeting is going to be wrapped up in a tidy one hour segment.

It makes the city not only look out of touch, but like it WANTS to remain out of touch.

I have been calling residents all morning to let them know about this meeting tonight in hopes that they can come tonight, and I keep getting the same response, "of course--they don't want us to come--they just want to keep their jobs easy."

I hope this is not the case, but posting in this tone makes it a challenge to continue offering the benefit of the doubt.

Noel Jones said...

Easton city council just approved benefits for city employees of same-sex couples--we are making history!

Noel Jones said...

It is official--I need a twitter account!