Wednesday, August 10, 2011

An Alternative to the NID: Dennis Lieb to Present on Neighborhood Parking Districts at Tonight's Easton City Council Meeting

Easton Planning Commissioner, Dennis Lieb will present an alternative to raising taxes for the NID tonight at Easton City Council's public hearing for the NID.

Posted by: Noël Jones

Anyone interested in the proposed Neighborhood Improvement District downtown (NID), or ways to revitalize our blocks and neighborhoods city-wide, will want to make it a priority to attend Easton's City Council meeting tonight, which will be held on the first floor of the Two Rivers Landing Auditorium at 30 Centre Square and will begin at 6 p.m. 

As discussed in my post about the last city council meeting on the NID, Planning Commissioner, Dennis Lieb, will introduce and explain the concept of a Neighborhood Parking District instead--a successful concept that has been proven to revitalize neighborhoods in other parts of the country, where residents get parking passes for metered blocks, and keep all revenue from the meters for block improvements, i.e.,
facade grants, repairing and power-washing of sidewalks, planting trees, etc., or--putting the money toward organizations already benefitting downtown, like the Easton Ambassadors, who keep the downtown clean. This is a plan that, unlike the proposed NID, would involve no need for tax increases that drive away new residents and investors. If you would like to support this idea, or to just come out and hear more about it, please try to make it down to Two Rivers Landing tonight. The meeting starts at 6pm, and Lieb will be speaking before the public hearing which is near the end, so don't worry if you're driving back from work and arrive a little late. The full agenda is below:



CITY COUNCIL
AGENDA

Stated Session
Wednesday
August 10, 2011
6:00 P.M.

1.             CALL TO ORDER

2.             INVOCATION

3.             PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE

4.             ROLL CALL

5.             APPROVAL OF AGENDA

6.             ACTION ON MINUTES – July 27, 2011

7.            CERTIFICATE OF APPRECIATION – Michael Vangelo

8.            PRESENTATION – Dennis Lieb – Parking Benefit Districts            

9.            CITIZENS RIGHT TO BE HEARD – (Agenda Items Only)

10.            REPORTS RECEIVED BY COUNCIL
            (a)  ESWA July 11, 2011 meeting minutes.
            (b)  EAJSA March 21, April 18, and May 16, 2011 meeting minutes.

11.            ACCEPTING REPORTS ON BEHALF OF COUNCIL.

12.            REPORTS OF COMMITTEES
(a) Finance                                                               (Kenneth Brown)
(b) Economic Development                                      (Sandra Vulcano)
(c) Planning                                                               (Roger Ruggles)
(d) Public Safety                                                  (Jeffrey Warren)
(e) Public Works                                                  (Elinor Warner)
(f) Administration                                                  (Michael Fleck)
(g) Report of City Solicitor                                      (Attorney William Murphy)
            (h) Report of Mayor                                                  (Salvatore J. Panto Jr.)

13.            UNFINISHED BUSINESS
                         1.  Bill No. 24, Accepting HOPE VI Utilities and Easements.            
                        2.  Bill No. 25, Authorizing the Issuance of its Taxable General Obligation Note.
 
14.            CORRESPONDENCE

15.            NEW BUSINESS
            (a)              Introduction of Legislative Bills
            (b)            Declaring the Intention of the City to incur Debt.(R)
            (c)            Supporting development of a Skate Park.(R)
            (d)            Approving a Right-Of-Way Encroachment Agreement.(R)
            (e)            Approving a Service Agreement with Bio-Haz Solutions Inc.(R)
            (f)            Approving a Developers Agreement with Lafayette College.(R)
                
16.            CITIZENS RIGHT TO BE HEARD - On any matter.

17.            PUBLIC HEARING – NID Program

18            ADJOURNMENT

332 comments:

1 – 200 of 332   Newer›   Newest»
noel jones said...

I heard the auditorium was pretty full last time, so we should all try to get there a little early!

noel jones said...

it was really interesting to hear the comments of various downtown residents tonight. Laini Abraham spoke up to say that renters had no voice in the NID process, and that all but one of the people in the GEDP did not live in Easton, saying, "if you really want to help Easton, try moving here."

Larry Holmes spoke up and said that he had already put millions back into the community and that he took care of his own properties and didn't want to be taxed for the NID.

Anthony from Connexions and Chot Elliot from the Planning Commission spoke up in favor of the NID, along with one of the developers from the Pomeroy building, who said that a NID is an attraction for developers.

One resident on 5th street said despite the good work that the Ambassadors do to clean up the litter downtown, it has done nothing to deter the prostitutes on his street.

Artist, Bill Burrell, spoke up to say that he lives on Church Street, his property taxes just doubled because of an assessment, and he doesn't want the additional tax because he never sees the Ambassadors on his street anyway, and cleans everything himself...

It was really interesting. I just hope they incorporate a Parking Benefit District like Dennis LIeb suggested, so that they don't have to raise taxes so much to accomplish what they are after--many residents expressed concern that residents and businesses would leave the downtown area if the NID were implemented as is.

Anonymous said...

Enough with the "extra" taxes and fees. Easton already has the highest millage rate in Northampton County and also the highest earned income tax rate at 1.75%.
Either find another way to fund it or have people take care of their own properties.
Years ago people had pride in their homes and businesses, things like this weren't needed.

Anonymous said...

Laini Abraham doesn't get it. She insults everyone who does not live in the city even though they volunteer their time to help the city. If you want to help the city move to the city.....?????? Seriously.......In all honesty she has no idea why the GEDP board is broken up the way it is or any other board for the matter. If she wants a vote she should buy property. Property owners unlike renters carry all of the risk. Renters can move out at the end of their lease.....the owners are stuck with the property and the taxes. She and everyone else does not get that. And one other thing.....A renter still can vote for elected officials. A renter can be here and gone without much vested interest in the city.....So ask yourself honestly....Why should a renter have a say in something that won't impact them? Yes, rent may go up but if could go up at any time for any reason. No? Am I wrong here? It's bad enough that renters can help elect our elected officials.

Anonymous said...

So to Laini Abraham....If you want to help the city.......Buy Property in the city. Invest yourself in the city for the long hall. You have insulted so many people in the limited amount of time that I have been involved that it honestly disgusts me. Just about everyone in that room agrees with that accessment. Laini also complains about parking tickets. Don't park illegally and you won't get tickets! And she is also false about the make up of the GEDP Board. More than one are residents of the city Laini. Do your homework....and all of them work hard for the city regardless of where they live.

Anonymous said...

That plan Dennis presented is great. It has its issues but it is a good start. I think you will find that the city is well on their way.

Anonymous said...

GEDP Board:

1. Marc Troutman - City Resident
2. Richard Mcateer - City Resident
3. Diane Bower - Easton Business Owner
4. Anthony Maracini - City Resident and Easton Business Owner.
5. Sandra Vulcano - City Resident (Not sure if she has a vote)
6. Pete Reinke - LVEDC
7. Charles Roseberry - Easton Area Industrial Land Development.
8. Gary Evans - Lafayette College
9. Graham Simons - Easton Attorney
10. Randy Galioto - Architect
11. Holly Edinger - LVEDC
12. Janice Komisor - Project of Easton
13. Mike Stershic - Discover Lehigh Valley.

Anonymous said...

So what is Laini Talking about?
I expect an answer from her. Mrs. I know everything. I'm tired of being put down after hours of volunteer time just because I do not live in the city limits.

Anonymous said...

Boards need to be made of people with different backgrounds. If you have ever served on a board you will know that having an outsiders voice is a good thing. GEDP does alot of good. They do not make city policy. They do not make mandates. The NID is an idea which is being vetted out. The vetting process is the best thing that can happen. People like Laini make it a negative when it is really a positive. Dennis made it a positive! Laini Abraham and Mike Krill seems to think that GEDP is a shadow government but WHAT DO THEY GOVERN? They oversee the Main Street Program and serve as an Economic Development Engine. They hold the lease on Crayola which was a default due to the demise of EADC several years ago. And by the way Laini.....The chamber does work with GEDP.....Efforts are not duplicated.

Anonymous said...

I think Mike Krill has always been one to toot his own horn. He couldn't handle any position of authority that he was ever given. He was the head of Northampton County 911 taskforce until he was asked to resign because he would through himself on the ground and cry when he didn't get his way and he resigned a captain in the fire department for the very same reason. What kind of Mayor would he be? One who does whatever he wants without taking input from others.

Anonymous said...

I agree. Laini should respond about why she lied about the make up of the GEDP board. There is obviously more than one resident on the board. So Laini.......Why are you telling lies in a public forum. You grand stand and lie? What is your motive?

noel jones said...

Good morning, Anons...please for the love of a full tank of gas, PLEASE take a moniker if you want to post anonymously, so that readers can follow these threads more easily.

Call yourself anything you like:

OutsiderInterest, or
MotherTheresa, or
WhatDoYouKnow, or
MamaInCombatBoots, or
ILoveEastonToo, or
NIDBuster, or
Fluffy

Get creative--but please take a moniker!

Anonymous said...

I will take a moniker when Laini Abraham responds as to why she attends a public forum and lies to the public. She plasters lies all over facebook, speaks them in public and demands that her voice should be heard. How is the city to attract new residents when you insult the people you are trying to attract and then you right an opt ed about how terrible easton is and why this NID is a bad idea. NID is a discussion at this point. The city has had many public forum on it. It's not a negative....its a positive. Speak up against it but don't insult the people who have volunterred their time to draft it.

Anonymous said...

For once there is promise in Easton. The city is doing so much better then it has been the last 30years. It disturbs me that people who claim to "love" the city still protray it as negative. You can spin just about anything in any city but its kinda hard to spin the progress in the past several years. It's been great. The city is not without its problems but it is heading in the right direction. For Sure! And its to the credit of everyone who volunteers their time for something regardless of race, beliefs, residency etc......

Anonymous said...

I'm not a resident but I spend my money in the city. Alot of my money in the city. When I hear Laini speak like she last night it makes me want to spend my money just about anywhere else but Easton! Laini....if you want to help Easton....stop spreading lies and be positive. You have been insulting Mayor Panto and Jeff Warren before you even knew either of them.

And tell your mom to stop calling township businesses about advertising in your book. We obviously do not matter to you.

noel jones said...

Wow. Laini must have hit a nerve. Tax hikes usually = rent hikes as landlords tend to pass costs down to renters. And Easton definitely needs to be ATTRACTING MORE renters downtown, not chasing them off. So it makes total sense that renters should have a voice at the table, so that the GEDP, the City, investors and anyone else involved can remain aware as to whether or not they are defeating their own purpose.

For instance, any property owner that has rental units should care about what a renter like Laini has to say, because if she is vocalizing something that many renters feel, and they ignore that voice, they stand to lose renters, and with them, the return on their investment.

As for Laini's sentiments about Easton's decision-makers living in Easton, I want to offer two things:

1. I think she's referring to people making decisions about the proposed NID district specifically, that don't live in the affected Downtown district.

2. Even if she were speaking about Easton at large, the sentiment she is expressing has been expressed to me WIDELY both on this blog and in person by residents, about all kinds of positions in this city. What percentage of our police officers live in Easton's city limits? Fire-fighters? Other city workers? There is a general sense out there among residents that people from outside Easton love to get the jobs created by our taxes and grant funding, but the majority won't invest and live in the community.

I myself would like to see more of those positions go to local residents. But that said, I want to clarify that I think Gretchen Logenbach is one of the smartest and most capable people working for the city (as head of the Redevelopment Authority)--she's done a fantastic job so far with the city's NSP green rehab program, both in producing great finished products and in stretching the money as far as possible, and farther than projected, so I have confidence in her ability to do good work with the GEDP, regardless of the fact that she doesn't live here.

So it's not that EVERYBODY in the GEDP should be an Easton resident or a downtown resident, but that residents and business owners affected might have more confidence in the process if a sizable percentage of GEDP members were from the area they are making decisions about.

Maybe the revision announced to create an advisory council made up of local residents and business owners will give downtown residents more faith in the process...

noel jones said...

The question for me is the perceived necessity to raise taxes on residents BEFORE giving Dennis Lieb's Parking Benefit District proposal full consideration and projecting how many hundreds of thousands of dollars would be raised and subtracting that from the total BEFORE establishing a mill rate for a tax hike.

I will be very interested to see how seriously they take Lieb's idea (which is not really Lieb's idea, it is a concept that has worked in other cities already around the country. It is not a new idea, it is a PROVEN idea).

There was another resident of 5th Street, Emmanuel Jordan, that spoke up and said that he actually lived for a while in Ventura, CA, which is one of the area where this idea totally turned the town around.

noel jones said...

Ok, the Anons (or, I suspect, one Anon posting many times) is/are getting a little out of hand and are dangerously close to getting deleted. I rarely delete people, but when I do, it is for one of two reasons:

1. Vulgarity & bigotry
2. Personal attacks that contribute no new salient points to a group discussion

Strangely, you have done here is the very thing you are accusing Laini of--hurling insults and telling untruths.

For instance. Laini, to my knowledge, has lived in this area her entire life. Mayor Panto has also lived here his entire life, and this is a small town. What are the chances that--as you claim--that she has "been insulting Mayor Panto and Jeff Warren before [she] even knew either of them"? Who is misrepresenting who now?

Furthermore, as a resident and citizen, she has the RIGHT to speak up at a public meeting and criticize public officials, and administrators. She did so civilly, and she did not insult anyone--she simply asserted her opinion that if people really want to help Easton, what Easton's downtown needs most is RESIDENTS and the best thing they can do to help revitalize Easton is to move here.

And she's got a good point. People might be less cavalier with the millage rate if it were affected their own tax bills.

But a big problem in the Lehigh Valley seems to be that people tend to not be able to tell the difference between a person having a difference of opinion and offering criticism, as opposed to insulting someone. Laini did not insult anyone publicly, she was civil and she had the guts to put her name to her words.

You, are insulting someone publicly behind the shield of anonymity, telling untruths, and making no salient points.

Please either stick to the topic of the post, and contribute new points for consideration, or prepare to be deleted, which I never like to do, but this is a forum for community discussion and debate, not a forum in which to personally insult residents who care enough to attend a public meeting, and have the guts to speak up and put their name to their words.

Anonymous said...

Noel,

1. Laini was referring to the GEDP board. She slanders them as a shadow government all the time without understanding why the board is made up the way it is. WHEN APPLING FOR GRANT FUNDING YOU HAVE TO BE A DIVERSE ORGANIZATION TO BE SUCCESSFUL. Hence the reason why it is called the Greater Easton Development Partnership and not Easton Development Partnership. Hence the reason why it is now the Easton Area Community Center and no longer St. Anthony's. You have to be diverse to be successful obtaining grants. With that, we all pay federal and state taxes which have both gone to pay for the Easton Main Street and the Ambas program. Correct? WHY SHOULDN'T WE ALL HAVE A SAY SINCE WE ARE ALL PAYING OR HAVE PAID FOR THE PROGRAMS. Renters should not have a say in a program like this because they do not own the properties or the risk of taxes. If I as a landlord have 10 tenants and I want to pay for it and they don't I lose eventhough I have the risk and it is my property!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I own it! Not them! I have the risk not them! This is American! If they don't want to pay the higher rent then fine, move out, someone will take their place because there is a demand for apartments in downtown. Hands down! Do the math, look through the paper, ask landlords.

These programs have attracted residents downtown. Look at the numbers. There is hardly an apartment vacancy....so what everyone wants to happen is actually already happening. There has been a major shift downtown. And it is filtering into the west ward. It takes time but it is happening.

Anonymous said...

Noel,
She has been insulting those two for years. I'm friends with her on facebook.

You can delete me if you want. I'm just trying to make the point that renters should not have a say and that she is slandering good people that serve the community. Remember GEDP is not jamming this down the throats of residents/property owners. They get to vote for it or against it regardless of what GEDP incorporates in the NID.

noel jones said...

Anon 12:36--ok, you're repeating yourself a bit, and if there were a law against the abuse of exclamation points, I would have to turn you in, but since there isn't, I will let the poor little things die from the bludgeoning.

At least you have come back to your points--but you're also not listening--tax hikes are passed down by landlords in rent hikes. So renters ARE affected, and if they are affected too greatly, there is a danger that they will leave, and that new renters will choose to rent where they can get a better deal.

Now, the real issue for debate is whether the benefit to the value of the location of the rental properties would outweigh the rent hikes. That's worth a rational discussion.

I would encourage you to abandon the idea of "slander" entirely. It is a serious accusation. I cannot speak for other sites, but on this site, I can guarantee you that Laini Abraham has never slandered anyone, and even if she had done so anonymously--as you're doing now--she would have quickly been put in her place by other readers and/or myself. This blog truly is a community effort, and the readers both enjoy the rational (at times passionate--heated even--but rational) forum that they have created here, and they protect it--as I do--by exercising reason.

Enough about one resident who spoke up at a meeting. Let's focus on the topic.

I'm interested to hear whether people think the benefits of the NID would outweigh the duress of a tax hike in the middle of a recession for RESIDENTS. This is worth considering...

But this is not an either/or situation. Dennis Lieb has put an alternative on the table which would--at the very least--DRASTICALLY reduce the revenue that the GEDP would need to raise via taxes.

Anonymous said...

To comment on your second point.

2. Many years ago most city employees lived in the city. It was considered the good old boy network and everyone was too close to eachother. This is a small city and you can not have everyone living here. Fire fighters are the first on my list of who cares where they live. They obviously do not care about the taxpayers because every contract negotiation ends in the city spending hundred of thousands of dollars on nothing. It's been that way for 30years. Kinda hard to swallow when you see them all standing on the corner of 6th and northampton smoking cigarettes and pipes for hours. Police.....well thats a hard one because of retaliation efforts by criminals. City workers, most do live in the city. Cabinet members - you have to hire the best candidates not he people who worked the hardest on your campaign.

So city employees living in the city has its negatives.

LainiAbraham said...

"If she wants a vote she should buy property."

Seriously? What is this - the 18th Century? I insulted no one. I criticized a process which is not inclusive. I have not insulted Jeff Warren. He and I are friends. I commend the work he's done.

Anons, thanks for all your comments. It's very easy to criticize under an anonymous name. If you believe in what you're saying so much, may you could use your real name.

And if I'm so wrong about everything, why are so many people who live downtown calling me, emailing me and writing me to thank me for speaking up?

LainiAbraham said...

Also, what I said was that of the people who serve on the GEDP and the NID Steering Committee, I think the only one who LIVES IN THE DISTRICT WHICH WOULD BE TAXED is Anthony Marraccini. I think there are a couple of others, Jeff Gilbert and Oliver Anders. Other than that, I can't think of any. Please feel free to let me know about others.

LainiAbraham said...

My motive is to help give a voice to a lot of people who aren't currently being given one- people who've lived downtown for years and who have invested in it long before many of us ever thought to go have dinner and drinks here. My other motive is to encourage a fair process. If this process moves forward in an unfair way, I think it will create animosity toward Main St. and the Ambassadors. I think that would be a shame and we should try to avoid it.

What else, what else? If the Chamber and GEDP are currently "working together," why isn't there collaboration between the Chamber and Main St.?

Anonymous said...

I meant to type that you insult Mayor Panto and Mike Fleck. At least you admit to insulting Panto. What has either of these people done to you? And from what I heard last night.....most of the residents downtown are for the NID not against it. My tenants are for it. Again if you want a voice invest yourself in easton and buy property - fix it up, pay tens of thousands of dollars in taxes like I do.....then you should have a voice. Until then I should get to vote on it not you. You do not pay direct taxes to the city other than your EIT. My bill is tens of thousands and I've invested hundreds of thousands. Again, the GEDP and the steering committee is not approving this. The property owners are, if they vote for it. If the city organized a group soley of downtown residents and property owners - it would be a mess. You would then be screaming that the city laced the steering committee with people who were for the proposal. Your looking at this process as a negative when its a positive. I'll tell your mom who I am next time she calls me to advertise in your book.

LainiAbraham said...

Oh, and if you want to continue calling me names, like a know-it-all, go right ahead. I'm not going to apologize for knowing about things. I grew up in the area, moved back in 95, and have been living downtown for about 11 of those years. I've been involved with Main St. and on other boards. I volunteer for non-profits and have a pretty good idea how things work. I won't apologize for speaking publicly and using my real name either. I really don't understand what's wrong with it. The only downside is it opens me up to criticism from people who don't have the courage to do the same.

Anonymous said...

Chamber does the books for GEDP and main st. Mike Dowd was the executive director of GEDP until the chamber moved him to Phillipsbug. I'm not a fan of your friend who is running for Mayor - so I will not tell you why this didn't work and why the chamber and main st aren't a good mix. I'll let him embarass himself.

LainiAbraham said...

Wrong again. I don't insult Mike Fleck either. Ask his wife. Tell my mom whatever you want. Don't advertise in the book. I won't be held hostage by people like you holding that over me.

Anonymous said...

You insult good people when you call GEDP shadow government and the mayor a bad leader and anthony maracini a jerk etc. This is the way I see you. That's my only problem with you. You do it on facebook everyday and at the same time I have never heard anyone of them say anything bad about you. it has nothing to do with how you feel or what your stand for.

Anonymous said...

Ok then why do you insult the Mayor. What has he done to you? What has GEDP done to you? Why the insults.

LainiAbraham said...

Ummm, I don't insult anyone on facebook. I will say when the Mayor insults me, interrupts me and does things like roll his eyes. Those are things that he has done. It is unprofessional. And it is based on his actions. I'm stating facts, not my opinion.

If I've insulted anyone else on facebook, please feel free to copy and paste it here.

Do you know what I do? I promote this City in a positive way. That's what I've been doing for 15 years. Most of the time unpaid. I defend this City when I hear people in the rest of the Valley slam it. That's what I do.

Anonymous said...

the one good thing about renting in the city, as well as owning, is both owner and renter pay taxes. they support one another. with big buildings, more people can live in town, and buy locally in town. each one has a role. both renters and owners are taking risks together - that is what a city is.

owners and renters support one another - residents as well as businesses.

~ carrie mayer

LainiAbraham said...

1850 Property ownership and tax requirements eliminated by 1850. Almost all adult white males could vote.

Read more: U.S. Voting Rights http://www.infoplease.com/timelines/voting.html#ixzz1UkE9Rd5f

It's 2011.

Anonymous said...

It's 2011 for sure. If you want to vote on this you should own property not rent it. You as renter are not responsible for the risks therefore you should not have a say in this even if it will impact your rent! Your rent can go up for any reason - not just the implementation of a NID. If my roof goes bad - i up the rent. If i simply want to make more profit - i up your rent. It's my property not yours. You are just visiting - you are not vested. Why should you be able to tell me, a property owner, if I want to take the risk of this NID investment or not? Remember it the landlords decision if they will pass this on to the renter. If you look at the minimal cost one could easly eat this why still maintaining profit on a building. If they do pass it on and you don't want to pay - just move to a cheaper apartment in downtown or buy property. Again - your landlord can up your rent for whatever reason.

Amend said...

not that i condone using anonymous cyber flaming as a tactic, but i will say that i do agree with one point. i found the use of the term "Shadow Government", regarding an organization that i sit on the board of, as insulting. it calls into the question the intentions of those involved, and labels them as untrustworthy. saying such things in public to sway others towards your opinion in unfair and rude. the GEDP is not a nefarious group of people. they are simply volunteers proposing a way to sustain valuable programs that have helped our city tremendously. painting them as anything other then civic-minded is doing the organization, and the community, a disservice.

Anonymous said...

I've seen first hand how you insult the mayor and members of GEDP. I was there when you called GEDP a shadown government. That's an insult and a lie. You are implying that members of GEDP, good people, are corrupt and participating in illegal activities. That's wrong Laini. And I was also there when you screamed at the Mayor for simply trying to answer your question. He wasn't interupting you he was answering your question point by point instead of you having to get everything out and council possibly missing what you said. I witnessed both of these things. You didn't have a time limit you didn't have to get it all out at once. You came to dialogue and you got it but didn't like it. You are intitled to your opinion and I respect that - just please stop the insults. I own property in easton - i care about easton - i grew up in easton - i don't hold residency in easton. Who pays more taxes the property owner or the landlord? Who has the risk - the landlord. I should not have vote washed out by my tenants. It's my property - I can charge my tenants whatever I want.

Anonymous said...

renters support owners as well as owners support the renters. they need one another - and together they should have a chance to say in everything related to the city.

Anonymous said...

i think standing up for the voiceless to have a chance to voice is never a disservice to the community!

anytime you have voices being suppressed by an organization, it's shady.

~ carrie mayer

Anonymous said...

I think there is huge difference in standing up for the voiceless and down right insulting good people by calling the a shadow government. Sorry Cary your missing the point.

What organization is supressing voices?

Anonymous said...

Annon 2:32. You are correct but this is American. Land of free enterprise and therefore a renter should not be able to tell me what I should or should not be willing to pay in taxes. I can not tell the grocery store what to charge me for bread. If they want to wrap it up in gold and sell it for 10x's more I will just shop somewhere else or buy different bread. It's free enterprise in America! And again - if the property owners vote against it - I will respect that and be cool with it. Rental properties are a business you should not be able to tell me how to run my business. We are not communists.

Anonymous said...

how good is the organization if it's suppressing voices?

that's taxation without representation!

~ carRIE mayer

Anonymous said...

I hear alot of talk about things being bad for the city....BUT APARTMENTS IN DOWNTOWN ARE IN HUGE DEMAND! The city is doing something right. Have you been downtown lately. I also hear about the WW. If you think that things haven't gotten better in the WW and SS in the past 8 years you obviously were not living here then. Yes there are problems but it is imporving.

Anonymous said...

you're right, this is america and voting should be for everyone involved in said proposal.

voting isn't capitalism.

~ carrie mayer

Anonymous said...

What organization is surpressing voices? No organization is surpressing voices. You are obviously out of tune with this topic.

Anonymous said...

You can't have renters telling property owners what they should charge or not charge. Where is the incentive for ownership? Easton doesn't need renters....they need ownership. Espcially in the WW.

Amend said...

the use of the phrase "taxation without representation" in the context of the NID is inaccurate and disingenuous. elected officials are voted on by the public. that's your representation. elected officials don't go to the electorate to have them decide for the administration as to whether or not taxes should be raised or which legislation to pass. you may not like who gets elected or what they decide to do once they are elected, but the voting process gives the people a voice, and by extension representation.

Anonymous said...

who is telling the renters they can't vote on this?

no one is telling the owners what to charge. renters want to vote on these proposals, correct?

residents of that district, owners and renters alike, should vote on these proposals, since it effects everyone in that district - renters and owners alike.

businesses don't vote, people do.

Anonymous said...

Noel,

You will find that there is a high demand on rental units in downtown. You can hardly find one. I think the rent can afford to go up a bit. If you look at the increase you will find that your rent may go up 5 dollars a month considering most buildings have multiple apartments. It's really not as big of a deal as it's being made out to be. It's very minimal. Thats why we are not hearing complaining for the owners who own a considerable amount of properties....like Rachal Haddad and Peter Kohler. Larry Holmes will be hit the hardest....and he has every right to complain. His properties are always spotless.

Anonymous said...

backing it up to anonymous post 19.

"Renters should not have a say in a program like this because they do not own the properties or the risk of taxes. If I as a landlord have 10 tenants and I want to pay for it and they don't I lose eventhough I have the risk and it is my property!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I own it! Not them! I have the risk not them!"

risk is passed down. the owners risk affects the renters. especially if a lease is involved.

~ carrie mayer

by the way, i am an owner in the west ward.

Anonymous said...

You are correct but at the end of the day there is no risk on the renter....they just have to pay the rent. If the roof goes it landlord pays for it. Heater goes....landlord pays it. Tenant doesn't pay owner loses out. tenant doest pay utility the owner has to pay or face a lien. Owner has all of the risk and should be able to decide if they want the risk of higher rent for the value of the programs. It's risk -vs- reward.

I think we are argueing about something that is not going to happen. The mayor is very good at figuring financials out. I'm assuming he will find the money and everyone will be happy. Where has that other guy been? Obviously doesn't care about the process other than to oppose it. He has offered up no solutions other than taking the city back 20 years. Is he dropping out of the race?

noel jones said...

Anon 3:20--thanks for the feedback and the even tone. This is turning into a good discussion after all!

Laini and Carrie--thanks for posting with your names--always refreshing when people own their words. Considering I do it on a daily basis, there's really nothing to be afraid of, other than embarrassing one's self by claiming things that can be publicly disproven. If everyone posted with their names, the quality of the discussion would improve even more, because everyone would do a little more research before flying off the handle.

Amend--thanks for using a consistent moniker--if people do feel the need to post anonymously, it's at least nice to be able to get to know a particular "voice" and the mind behind it. Over time readers come to look forward to the opinions of certain anonymous commenters who post with consistent monikers.

Laini--thanks for the making the property owner/voters rights point--and for posting the link. I forgot to say that, but I was thinking the same thing when I read it. And I am a property owner (but not downtown).

Property-owner's rights vs. renters rights--voting rights in general--all great topics for discussion. Thanks everyone for posting. These issues are clearly important to our community right now, to be drawing so many comments...

noel jones said...

Anon 3:20--is the Eastonian full?

noel jones said...

It would be really good to hear from the mayor's challenger, Mike Krill, on this issue...

Mr. Krill, if you're out there...please post--readers want to hear from you!

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
One thing I dislike is a divided community. Yes there should always be opinions, discussions and ultimately an agreement to move forward on the most acceptable idea. But placing blame or making negative comments about another person's opinion and or involvement is hard to tolerate.

Hence Laini's comments about me. However I do not take them personally. I take them because I know when she used to attend council meetings there was a policy that the public was allowed to speak for 5 minutes. They were never interrupted becasue frankly, they were never recognized and were rarely responded to by members of council.

Just like last evening's remarks about the placement of the NID presentation, I listened and learned that in the future I will try to be more explicit in the time designated for a hearing. However, last night's meeting was a very important meeting for council and it was nice to have people witness the proceedings.

I like to think that I have opened the dialogue to the point where there is an actual dialogue and not just five minutes of words and then move on to the next item. I can remember when a firefighter came to one of my first meetings, mde remarks and turned to sit down. I believe he was actually stunned that I asked him to return so that I can address his comments.

I believe strongly that city council meetings are town meetings. It is the only place in America that a citizen can be heard and can have meaningful dialogue.

Laini was apparently upset that I tried to respond to her comments during the first public hearing. She was insulting, yes insulting, every member wo serves on the GREATER Easton Development Partnership. I have no problem with questioning their procedures, practices and policies but to make disparaging remarks was uncalled for in public forum.

I listen intently to every person that comes before council. I listen and try to understand aother side of the issue so that I can ultimately make a decision which I feel is in the best interest of the residents. Some decisions are easy others are much harder.

The one thing I do know is that without the members of the GEDP there would be no reason to be discussing a NID because we wouyldn't have the Ambassadors at all and the funding for Main STreet would have run out 2 years ago.

Our city is one community. We are 4 1/2 square miles. We cannot rip each other apart nor can we complain about people who live outside the district or the city that want to help what is in many cases their hometown and in all case their downtown. That's right we are the Easton Area's downtown, their urban center and we need them to support, visit and shop, dine etc. in Easton. Yes we need to rebuild our residential base but even if we were to reinstate the more than 2500 people that were displaced by urban removal (sic) we still need the outsiders to support us.

To coin an overworked phrase.....let's disagree without being disagreeable.

noel jones said...

Mayor Panto--thanks for posting.

I must have missed the insulting part, as I didn't hear Laini's comments last night as insulting at all. Passionate, yes. Critical, yes. Worried and a little upset, yes. But primarily what I saw and heard last night was something rare and precious in Easton--and I think you'll agree with me on this--a resident engaged enough to show up and speak up at a public meeting. We have had too many empty chairs at too many school board, city council and county council meetings for way too long (long before I got here, from what the oldtimers tell me) and our biggest obstacle to revitalization is apathy and cynicism.

Last night a woman and citizen of this city cared enough to put any other personal plans on hold to take part in her local democracy. She spoke up, as was her right, and she voiced her concerns:

1. that there needs to be a voice for renters at the table on the NID, and

2. that more of the decision makers should be local residents

3. that the best thing anyone can do to help revitalize easton is to move here

These are valid concerns and opinions. If someone else disagrees with her, they have a right to speak up too--and they did. That is the nature of open dialogue and debate, and it's critical to a healthy democracy.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:20 I think that you are wrong about the position of the property owners that you list. They are prepared to challenge this or exit the community. I think that position was made clear by Larry Holmes yesterday. Numerous property owners have consulted with real estate agencies to consider sales. The NID will drive people and owners out and leave nothing. I take the Mayor at his word. The proposal was dead in the water. There were no new presentations by GEDP to suggest any major changes. I am ready for a fight. So are my neighbors. It just is not about $5 extra a month.

Anonymous said...

Noel,

You must have missed the first meeting and the 2nd? I believe it was. You would have a different opinion.

noel jones said...

As for the "shadow government"--I don't even remember her saying that--maybe she did and I missed it--but that isn't what stuck with me.

For the sake of discussion, here is the Wikipedia definition of "shadow government":

Shadow government may refer to:

1. An opposition government-in-waiting in a parliamentary system

2. A term for plans for an emergency government that takes over in the event of a disaster

3. A conspiracy theory of a secret government
**

So I'm not sure how that would apply here, but anyone who would like to take a stab at a rationalization, is welcome to.

I'd much rather talk about whether or not residents are clear on the advantages offered by a Parking Benefit District, as opposed to--or in conjunction with--a NID.

Anonymous said...

I believe you must of missed the first meeting Noel.....she was rude.

noel jones said...

Anon 4:32--I've only made two of the meetings, last night's, and the special meeting after the last city council meeting...

Anonymous said...

Noel - you missed the first meeting. And the meeting in the meeting in the mayors conference room.

JimmyZ said...

Thank you Mr. Mayor.

This is why we love you and why you will be our Mayor for a very long time.

Anonymous said...

Noel - then you missed everything that is being referenced.

LainiAbraham said...

I NEVER used the words shadow gov't. I wasn't rude either. Quite the opposite. I was cut off and asked if I could continue. Many people commented after that meeting telling me they thought I was treated badly and I handled the situation well.

If you like, I can give Noel my comments from the first meeting to post and you can see for yourself.

Anonymous said...

Like I said earlier. I'm sure our Mayor has it figured out where everyone wins.

Like him or not....He is a great Mayor. And like GEDP or not.....they are good people who have done a great job.

Call them each what you want Laini.

Anonymous said...

"I agree with Laini that GEDP is a shadow government. Shuffling money without transparency."

I don't have your comments Laini but this was taken from your friends facebook page. No denying it - you said it. This is slander.

LainiAbraham said...

I'm not sure that some people understand why residency is so important. The reason that residency (even renters) is important is because is we want to be able to attract new, quality businesses, businesses we need like food stores and pharmacies, we need to show that we have a certain demographic. Right now we don't have that demographic downtown. If we can grow residency, and change those numbers, then we have a better chance of attracting businesses which will provide major quality of life enhancements to the people who live here and are considering living here. This will then attract more residents and in turn, more businesses. I'm tired of watching storefront businesses open only to close a few months or a year later. Many of these businesses have been dependant on grants and loans from the GEDP. If we could just get a real residential base established, this could all change. Obviously, this will also had the city's tax income, too. That's why I said the most important thing anyone could do is move downtown. And who better to do it than the people who already love it?

Anonymous said...

I don't think that she was rude. Let's say frustrated. It's obvious that she at one point wanted to make a point and was interrupted. The Mayor claims he was only trying to accomplish dialogue. She complained that she had not been permitted to finish her statement. The Mayor was not interested in hearing her point(The body language is a dead giveaway.) Who's right and who's wrong? I suggest just let her talk and then comment.

LainiAbraham said...

Anonymous, I haven't called them anything. Sorry you're threatened by someone expressing educated opinion. Maybe go bully someone else. I don't think I'm the best person to try to bully. I have a lot of people standing in agreement with me. And a big dog. :)

And I'm done responding to people who hide behind anonymity.

LainiAbraham said...

Anonymous, those were his words. NOT MINE. Stop harrassing me.

Anonymous said...

People follow businesses its not the other way around unless you are trying to attract the trader joes which will never come to downtown easton in million years. All of there stores require direct parking spaces which we can't give them.

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
Wow, again I thought I was being understanding and agreed that "I listened and learned that in the future I will try to be more explicit in the time designated for a hearing."

People read what they want and read into what they want in emails and blogs so I will just leave this issue with my comment above.

Anonymous said...

a quick suggestion:

All you GEDP ers:

You want to be considered something other than a secret group meeting and making big decisions that may impact public funds:

Open your meetings to the public.

Invite the Press.

Seek public bids for your contracts

Disclose your financial statements

Till then, the name, 'shadow government" will be used again and again. Until you open the door you can expect nothing more.

Anonymous said...

The demographic you are referring is discrimination. Why don't you just say - WE NEED ALL OF THE POOR PEOPLE TO MOVE OUT AND WEALTHIER PEOPLE TO MOVE IN. That's the only way the tax base will increase via renters.......EIT. So to all of the senior citizens, metally challenged, disabled veterans and unemployed....YOU ARE NOT WELCOME IN EASTON UNDER THIS TRAIN OF THOUGHT.....MOVE OUT! The city needs more tourist to spark business then the people will follow - it starts with what is already happening. and the NID will help keep rental rates up so what you are referring to Laini happens. if the bad demographic can't afford to live here they won't. And the 20 somethings are moving in downtown already and gobbling up apartments. When the economy gets better I'm sure there will be more flocking down.

Anonymous said...

Annon 4:59 AKA Mike Krill or some other Firefighter........The books are open the city has them on file. What contracts are you referring to? They don't let contracts other than ambass. Maybe the firefighters should stop wasting tax dollars on fraudulent over time and the city could afford do more. Oh yeah - the city nipped that last year...hence the reason why one wants to be mayor.

Anonymous said...

Pomeroy's, A&D Tile, WEST Building, Lipkin's, just these four equals more than 75 new apartments. These are real and under construction. The city knows it needs people living in downtown and in its neighborhoods. That's why Clean and Safe is so important. The Mayor is right on and has put the city's budget where is mouth is without raising property taxes. Do you think the 11 addtional police officers, 2 additional code officers and 2 additional fire fighters are free. Think about it. Not to mention that he placed more than $400,000 in the city's budget to sustain Main Street and the Ambassadors for an additional year.

Let's start touting the positives and addressing the areas of concern without expressing to others their perceptions about Easton.

Oh, and two points mentioned earlier......

1. The Easotnian is doing very well with occupancy rates over 80% and they just added 13 or 14 new rooms.;

2. The Mayor's opponent? His silence is deafening and he is no where to be found. Our Mayor is doing a great job, he is visible, appraochable, gets to almost every city event in town and the neighborhoods and has the best interest at heart. His firefighter opponent.........do we even know why is running other than he is no eleigible for full retirement. Hmmm, another double dipper.

LainiAbraham said...

Again, please stop putting words in my mouth. What I'm talking about is growing residency. NOT getting rid of anyone. If you think that's what I want to do, you don't know me.

And there are different theories about what comes first, residents or businesses. I believe in the residents first model. A business waiting to see a decent-sized population before deciding to open in a city proves that to me.

Anonymous said...

GEDP form 990 for 2009 shows revenues of 2.5 Million.

The organization admits that there is no conflict of interest policy.

The form lists 91,000 of compensation paid. Don't know to whom.

The form states that the GEDP is a public charity because it receives the bulk of its support froma governmental unit. (Is that Easton?)

The point is that GEDP may be all honorable people. There is no public disclosure and in result conspiracy theories will flow.

Sorry, a response of accusing someone of slander, only fuels the fire. Open the door and let the sunshine in.

LainiAbraham said...

And by the way, most of the people living in poverty downtown are renters. They can not afford any increases in their rent at all and they're the ones I'm worried about most. These are my neighbors who I see every day and care about. I don't want them to have to move. That's why I want them to at least be able to vote on this. It's just fair.

Anonymous said...

I am not a firefighter.

I am a taxpayer resident property owner. I am not voting for Krill

I want the GEDP to open their business dealings and meetings to public review

Anonymous said...

Annon 5:15 AKA Mike Krill via his Satelite office (college hill fire station)

Who do you think pays for Meghan and Kim! Firefighters love to add fuel to the fire.

And its the lease on two rivers landing that adds to the revenues. It's similar to LVEDC and there are reasons why it is not open to the public. You have an issue with GEDP the city will address it. Noone is hiding anything. And every book is audited yearly. The sun shines on council meetings were you can address your GEDP concerns, I don't think the city will have a problem sharing the financials with you - sounds like they already have :).

Maybe the firefighters should let the public into their union meetings. The public would love to know their strategy for wasting tax dollars this year. Maybe the public could have stopped grievances from being filed for a firefighter having to climb on the roof of the fire station. It's unsafe - who better to climb on a roof than a fire fighter.

Anonymous said...

Thats why you are anonymous and won't give your name. You already have the financials.

Anonymous said...

As far as the new rental units. There is insufficient parking to support those units. (Because you keep waiving parking requirements) I expect that the tenants will be the customary impoverished who rely on public transportation to cart them to Aldi s and Family Dollar.

Anonymous said...

Laini - The tax base is growing! New apartments are being built as we speak and you can hardly find a open one. It's a great time in Easton!!!!!! The Mayor said this proposal is dead in the water....why are we still talking about it? He wouldn't say that if there wasn't a solution.

LETS ALL GET ALONG. ITS A GREAT TIME IN EASTON. THE CITY HAS NEVER BEEN BETTER.

Anonymous said...

Thats why the city is building a parking a garage dumby. DON'T YOU READ THE NEWSPAPER. Parking garage frees up alot of spaces downtown!

Anonymous said...

As I said before I am not Mike Krill or a firefighter. I am not voting for Krill. You operate GEDP behind closed doors. What are you afraid of in opening their meetings to public review? We don't have sympathy for those offended by the label: "Shadow Government" OPen your meetings. You are dealing with public money.

noel jones said...

Anon 5:15, you said:

"The point is that GEDP may be all honorable people. There is no public disclosure and in result conspiracy theories will flow.

Sorry, a response of accusing someone of slander, only fuels the fire. Open the door and let the sunshine in."

Excellent points.

noel jones said...

Oh my Anons, I love you so, but if you love me, you will all please TAKE MONIKERS when you post so that the conversation is easier to follow, and it's easier for people to reply to each other without having to scan 81 comments for "Anon" with the right time stamp!

Are Anons not taking monikers because they don't believe they will truly be anonymous, or is everyone just being a little lazy?

Pwease, pwetty pwease, invent a name for yourself!

Anonymous said...

I seem to have rattled someone's feathers. I have been referred to as "dumby". No wonder Ms. Abraham is upset. You make a statement and the administration supporters call you names. How childish! Is this really the city that we all want. A bunch of five year olds sitting around calling each other names. Open the GEDP, End Shadow Government.

noel jones said...

Mayor Panto, please just let all these comments flow over you and observe the concerns and opinions of the people without taking it personally. It's important that all public officials keep their finger on the pulse of the public, regardless whether the public is happy, mad, frustrated or confused, and social media is a great way to keep track of that.

Thanks for reading the blog and reaching out to voters here. You obviously have a lot of fans among the critics.

noel jones said...

Anon 5:37--per your last comment, suggested monikers:

Dumby
EndShadowGovernment
RattledFeathers

the possibilities are endless--please take a name--thanks!

Anonymous said...

GEDP has a representive from the express times on the board I think? I doubt there is any conspiracy going on and Everything is public! The meetings are not but for good reason - they deal with peoples personal finances when they apply for loans. That cannot be discussed in public so sorry you have it wrong. No one is personally trying to keep the public out. YOu are misinformed. And that slander quote was taken off of Mike Krills facebook page. And it is slander!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

noel jones said...

I'm going to have to get in touch with Vice-Mayor El Warner to ask how I can I go about trying to get an ordinance introduced against the abuse of exclamation points. If I remember correctly, her doctorate is in English, so she would likely be sympathetic.

Anon 5:45--medication has been stigmatized, I know, but it can be helpful--wait--I shouldn't joke--it could actually be a series of mini-strokes occurring when he/she sets his/her index finger on the exclamation key...

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says:
Noel, as i said in an earlier post, I do not take it personally. I listened last evening and waited til the end of her comments and I believe my words were, "I will take that into consideration." And today I posted that "in the future I will try to be more explicit in the time designated for a hearing."

And please, stop talking about our firefighters. These guys do a great job and I respect the position they hold - and yes I include Mr. Krill in that as well.

And we have a great relationship with the current leadership in the IAFF and can report that there has not been one grievance filed to date this year.

volunteer fireman said...

the comments about the firefighters are hilarious and so true. now they want to run the city. i remember when i worked for the county hearing the story about mike falling to the floor and crying because they taskforce didn't like his idea. that was a joke for many years and jim hickey told it best. firefighters are brave and i respect very much what they do but the easton group gets a bad name because of just a few. the overtime issue was a way to drain the city budget and try to embarass panto prior to the election year. they just didn't realize that he would be smart enough to catch it. he was they lost. if you want to catch a easton fire union meeting just go to 6th and northampton every night around 7.....bring your cigs and a lite.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Mayor for clarifing that Terrance Hand was trying to single handedly ruin your term as Mayor in the eyes of the public and the firefighters.

MAYOR PANTO YOU ARE THE BEST. WE LOVE YOU!

It takes alot of class to write what you just wrote.....Your a class act!

noel jones said...

Mayor--I think the second part of your comment was meant for the Anons, right?

I haven't been talking about firefighters.

Anonymous said...

Either the Express Times reports on GEDP meetings or it does not?

I can't go by "I think" by an anonymous poster.

Either you know or you don't. We have no need for speculation. So the business of GEDP is to take this 2.5 Million in revenues and lend it to people. Who got the loans? Did they get favored rates of interest? Were they related to city officials? If we cannot have access to the meetings because only loans are being discussed then we need to know who is getting the favor of all these moneys?

Anonymous said...

Sal Panto says
Yes Noel, I should have clarified. And I would also ask Anon that we try and refrain from naming individuals. Terrance Hand is a good person and I respect him and hios family today just as I did when he was the IAFF President. We were just on opposite sides of the issues.

Sorry but I am now leaving the office for a 7 o'clock meeting.

noel jones said...

Thanks, Mayor--have a good meeting.

Anonymous said...

sorry, laini, for assuming those words were yours. i should know better then to try to do talking points with a troll in anonymous form.

~ carrie

tachitup said...

A few comments -

1 - Noel's plea to take a moniker has apparently been largely ignored. Why is this? Laziness? Lack of techno-savvy, no matter how simple? Or more sinister; to make us think more people are posting?
C'mon folks, it ain't that hard! Please...make it easier for us simple folks. Hey, if I had more guts, I'd sign my name.

B - What a terrific dialogue, well, for the most part. Idiots abound, but some points are well taken.

III - Laini & Sal - Thanks for responding, but I fear that you're being sucked down to a level too low.

Next - Mike Krill, say something.

othersideofthetracks said...

I would like to commend Laini for standing up and fighting for Easton AS A RENTER who is a very involved and concerned citizen as well as Amend who is also a very involved and concerned citizen and ALSO A RENTER. Two people who are perhaps diverse in their opinion but both passionate about the downtown and working diligently in making it a better place along with Mayor Panto and City Council. Kudos to Noel for hosting such a great blog! And, one of the Anons, should really study the history of urban/suburban development...Suburban sprawl did not occur by following businesses but by getting AWAY from them. Great discussion everyone and I love downtown Easton and know it's a great place...

Carter said...

This is just ridiculous. Are we all twelve years old? Seriously. Name calling? Conspiracy Theories? You people should be ashamed of yourselves. I've seen more civil discourse at a professional wrestling match. I was just waiting for someone to say "I know you are but what am I?"

In all seriousness. I agree that all stakeholders should have a voice in this process. But, at the end of the day, the people who are going to be on the hook for the tax bill should be the ones with the opportunity to scuttle the plan. Which is actually quite a progressive concept. The elected officials will not even GET to vote on this if 40% of the property owners file objections. When, in the history of American politics do you ever remember having legislation literally stopped by actual people? I pay taxes and have never gotten a call from Harrisburg asking if I would like to weigh in on a bill before the State House. The "pass through" argument is foolish. I frequent Easton businesses. If their rent goes up, they pass that on to me as a customer. So, by that argument, everyone who buys goods or services Downtown could see an increase in prices and therefore should also have a say. Honestly, the people who own the properties get to file objections (if they have any) and that is more than fair.

I said it before, and I will say it again. The time for all this talk was years ago at the onset of these programs. But, when someone else was footing the bill, no one could be bothered to get involved. Well, now it is the 11th hour and the jobs of real, hard working people who have contributed a hell of a lot more than just snipes on a blog are at risk. If you don't have anything to add to the process and are not interested in moving forward, then stay out of it.

Snark from the sidelines all you want. It's a free country. But let the grown ups get on with their work.

noel jones said...

tachitup and othersideofthetracks--thanks for using monikers!

and othersideofthetracks--i agree on the WWF tone of many of the comments to this post--it's unusual--check out the post on the D'Huy issue last week that got 91 comments, and you'll see very different behavior (and much more typical for this blog)--mostly information, instead of the tit-for-tat.

but i do think that the renter rights aspect of the NID discussion has been worthwhile.

what i'd really like to see, is people discussing/debating aspects of a Parking Benefit District and a NID--that's what this post is actually about.

noel jones said...

what i also really hope to see, as these NID meetings progress, is some of the spirit that was in the room at Robin Porters memorial. there was such a genuine sense of community there, as every looked around the Bank Street Annex at the hundreds of people who came out to honor all Robin and his extended family have done for Easton. what all those people had in common, is that whether they agreed on every detail as to how to go about it or not--whether they even liked each other or not--everyone in that room was someone who cared very much about the revitalization of this town and had invested time and energy into either their residential properties, or their businesses, or both, and there seemed to be a real appreciation between everyone for that sense of community. we need to hang on to that, because it's that kind of coming together that's going to continue to make it happen for Easton.

Anonymous said...

I'm going to go back to the very first anonymous post on this string of ridiculous posts and personal attacks.

"Enough with the "extra" taxes and fees. Easton already has the highest millage rate in Northampton County and also the highest earned income tax rate at 1.75%.
Either find another way to fund it or have people take care of their own properties.
Years ago people had pride in their homes and businesses, things like this weren't needed."

100% dead on and actually relates to the topic.

EastonLive said...

I think the Problem is that Laini misinforms people. To call GEDP Shadow Government is wrong given that they clearly are not. Some things are private regardless of what type of money is spent. You can't have the public comment on who should or should not recieve grant money and why they should or should not. So they are not a shadow government. The people are represented on that board and have a major voice.

She also misinforms people when she states "taxation without representation" which is complete BS concidering that 1. the people are represented 2. GEDP is not approving the tax 3. the people can shoot it down.

Anonymous said...

Eastonlive, you are wrong.

When any expenditure is approved by a governmental body, I have a right to see that expenditure, to voice my opinion on that expenditure and see the action taken to approve that expenditure.

No such deal with GEDP.

We are not represented on a board when that board conducts its business behind closed doors. Now, the board will take over the improvement district and continue to meet in the dark.

The GEDP needs to open itself up to public view. Before you start with the name calling:

I am not voting for Krill, I am voting for Panto.

I am not a fireman or related to any fireman.

I pay my taxes and own property and live in the city.

Anonymous said...

One other thing:

Easton has distributed grants to hundreds of agencies and individuals in the last fifty years. The public has the right and has commented on the distribution of those funds at public meetings of council. There is nothing being done behind closed doors in the GEDP that can be shared with the public.

The name "shadow government" sticks. If you don't like it then open your meetings up to public view.

noel jones said...

EastonLive--thanks for taking a moniker.

Anon 8:29--thanks for bring the conversation back to the actual topic of the post. Per your quote of the first Anon:

"Either find another way to fund it or have people take care of their own properties."

There IS another way to fund it, and that's Dennis Lieb's idea about the Parking Benefit District. I would like everyone to focus on that until they are totally clear on what this option means.

FREE (and super cheap) parking does not mean AVAILABLE parking, and what downtown businesses need is AVAILABLE parking so that their customers can always park near their stores without having to drive around looking for a parking place. FREE (and super cheap) parking means NO available parking, because people will park their cars in a free/cheap spot and leave it for hours. The point is to price the meters so that they maintain a 15% vacancy rate at all times. Residents would have annual parking passes so that they didn't have to feed the meters, and the MONEY from the meter would STAY in the Parking Benefit District (PBD) where the business owners and residents decide what to spend the money on to improve their blocks. This could mean façade grants, or sidewalk repair, or tree planting, benches, whatever the residents and business owners decided. It is SELF-GOVERNANCE, and if the Parking Benefit District wants to spend that money maintaining programs like Main Street and Easton Ambassadors to maintain the downtown, they could do that.

Gretchen got one thing wrong that she said at the end of the last meeting. The meter money would not necessarily be coming out of the general budget, because the program could be set up so that it's the revenue for the meter increase, and the money from the new meters, that would go to the program, so the general fund wouldn't lose anything.

I would like to see residents get away from all the personal stuff and begin to discuss the PBD vs. the NID.

Amend said...

Actually, Gretchen's statement is correct. While I'm not discounting the notion of a PBD, any monies taken that aren't specifically gained via an increase in the rate and/or the extension of the time of collection would indeed come out of monies that are now designated towards the general fund. Currently, we collect something in the neighborhood of $350,000/yr from parking (I don't know the exact amount, but this should suffice as close guesses). The vast majority is collected from downtown. it is estimated that an increased rate of $1/hr and extended collection time to 9pm would net an additional $300,000. That's the money that would/could go towards a PBD. That's still about $300,000 short of the necessary budget.

also, it was mentioned in a recent parking study that only 15% of those using metered spaces pay to use that space. if we're discussing raising more revenue from parking, i feel it is only fair to first address compliance. if we were able to increase compliance by 15%, we should see the revenue from parking double, an increase of approx. $350,000, that's just a matter of changing habits, and nets the same as an increase.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I attended the June NID meeting. For what it's worth, Laini did indeed use the phrase "shadow government."

LainiAbraham said...

This is the last time I'll say this. I did not. I did say another city government, as in another organization functioning in ways which the elected gov't normally does. What do you call an entity who is allowed to produce and introduce legislation?

btw, just like all of you "anonymous" posters, I'm entitled to my own opinions. At least I have the decency to put my name on my comments, in public and here.

LainiAbraham said...

And I can't believe that over 100 comments later, you're still talking about this? Is there nothing else of importance to discuss than the exact words I used in a meeting 2 months ago? I guess I did hit a nerve. Most of the time when people get so upset and offended about something, it's because there is some truth to it and they don't want anyone talking about it.

noel jones said...

ugh--enough with the "shadow government"--it may have been misused but i think it's clear that residents using the term feel it's appropriate because public money is being used for something in which they don't have the usual elected representation to control and the decisions are made behind closed doors. now one can argue that there is still an element of control, as one commenter did earlier, but i don't think he/she had a moniker so i can't reference it, which is why i really wish people would USE MONIKERS, but the point was that there is still public input via these public meetings, and there are a couple of elected officials in the decision making body, and the property owners can kill the whole thing if 40% file an objection. so we've hashed all this out. this is the way some people feel, and others disagree. lets be done with the finger-pointing and stick to the topic which is a PBD vs. (or in conjunction with) a NID.

if residents don't familiarize themselves thoroughly with the differences between these proposals, they will not know what their options are.

noel jones said...

Amend, thank you for staying on topic. As I understand it, the money would not come out of the general fund. The PBD is not just about the intake at the meters, but as Dennis explained, the city would also be taking in money from developers who pay fees in lieu of developing parking currently required by zoning ordinances. If, after all that revenue came in, taxes were raised a fraction, as opposed to 6.95 mills, they might not be as opposed.

I'm annoyed that the GEDP thusfar seems to be brushing aside the PBD idea and pushing ahead with the tax plan that they started with. The revisions written into to the original plan for the presentation at the meeting were minimal changes--including the PBD would be a HUGE revision and one that would be very popular with taxpayers and still accomplished the desired result. I don't understand the resistance. It's like they're just nodding their heads and paying lip service to the idea and then brushing it aside again because it's not their idea. Now maybe that's not a fair characterization, and I would love to be reassured that this is not the case by someone explaining to me exactly what steps the GEDP has taken since the idea was first brought up at the last city council meeting, to include this solution. Perhaps there is incorporation of the idea happening behind the scenes, but if so, it didn't make it into the PowerPoint presentation.

Amend said...

i don't believe that the PBD has been discounted, but it isn't assumed that it could generate the entire $600,000/yr budget needed. when it has come up, it has been discussed as a funding source in addition to the NID. that's how Councilmens Fleck and Brown introduced their measure, and I believe that is something the Mayor believes as well, and they will be the ones who would introduce such legislation, not the GEDP. believe me, all ideas are being discussed, but we have to be realistic about the return based on what the market can and will tolerate. i simply don't see parking generating another $600,000/yr on top of the $350,000 it already brings in. and i repeat my position that such revenue should come from increased compliance first since that rate is only 15%.

noel jones said...

Ok, but it's very important to understand that a Parking Benefit District and the parking revenue portion of the Fleck/Brown proposal are not the same thing.

One gives all the money to the city to control (who then gives it to the GEDP to control), and the other, as I understand it, gives the money and control to the property owners/business owners/residents of the PBD. They decide what to spend it on. Very different.

Amend said...

if that is indeed the case with the PBD, and who controls it, then it shouldn't been seen as a sustainable source of funding for Main Street and the Ambassadors because then the money is left to the whim of that body and whoever makes it up. they could elect to spend it on trees or events or anything but these programs.

noel jones said...

Now we arriving at the crux of the issue, I think.

It's important to remember that the very existence of the GEDP is based on a NEED that Easton had downtown. It should always be the goal for the NEED for the organization to disappear. Ideally, we should want to not need it, no?

So what if everyone were taking care of their own blocks via the PBD, and were able to pay for whatever services they felt they needed to keep their blocks fixed up and clean and looking sharp? Then, conceivably, Easton wouldn't need a GEDP at all, right? And we might not need a Main Street Initiative, or an Ambassadors program. And before anyone gets upset, I will say again that EVERYBODY THAT I HAVE TALKED TO THINKS THAT THEY'VE DONE A GREAT JOB, so this is not about disparaging either program at all--they are clearly greatly appreciated, but we should always be hoping to not NEED them one day.

What I am opening up for discussion here is that there is more than one creative solution to solve any given problem, and some solutions cost less than others, and leave more control in the hands of residents and property owners and business owners than others.

The Ambassadors are great. They cost $417,000, right? Main Street pulls local businesses together. In a PBD, the PBD would be what pulls the businesses together, and the new revenue from the meters could be used for whatever services the PBD decides they want to procure to keep the place nice.

What troubles me about the discussion so far, is that the GEDP, and the NID and Main Street and the Ambassadors are all being presented as absolute given necessities without option. Therefore the $600,000+ price tag to run all that is also being presented as an absolute figure that must be attained.

I would just like to see residents and business owners and the city keep an open mind and think outside the rather new box of the NID.

That is not to say that I am against the NID, I just think that all options should be on the table and considered equally.

I know that a lot of people have put a lot of thought and time and energy into the proposal, so they may be attached to the idea of the NID, but if we're really trying to find the best solutions for EASTON, then we owe it to ourselves to be detached from our ideas and ready to step aside if someone comes forward with a better idea than we have.

I personally am not attached to any of my ideas. Anytime somebody else can make more sense to me than I'm making to myself, I'll gladly chuck my idea and adopt theirs. Hopefully, that's not just me.

There's also a famous quote out there, but I can't remember who said it. It goes something like, "there is no limit to the progress that can be made as long as nobody cares who gets credit."

Anonymous said...

Noel, you make a good point and you have identified the problem.

If you have a smaller district, enforce littering ordinances, promote cleanliness campaigns, etc and etc-something the city has never done, the job of the Ambassadors as far as clean-up reduces. In that case, what is next on the agenda? That has never been identified. The ambassadors and main street have been held to be sacred. They are part of many ingredients that go into a successful downtown. What has been ignored is development of housing-both rental and for sale. The establishment of a local service retail strategy and finally development of an office market. We have a lot of space that is undeveloped whether it is in existing construction or underused and vacant lots. We have a long way to go.

The only way to get there is a realization that all these points inter connect and support each other. I know many people brag about all the new rental spaces. I hope they succeed. Yet, I can tell you that there is no local markets, pharmacy, dry cleaner etc etc etc and that you have to rely on a car almost continuously. It becomes a drag and if you don't have a space right next to your front door. Lugging those groceries from your once a week trip to Giant is a hassle. In fact you end up at Giant daily and the charm and the desire to live in downtown is lost. The proposal fails because it lacks long term vision. Without that vision and that requirement for continuous change, evaluation and renewal the NID does not survive.

Amend said...

i'm not sure the use of the word "need" is appropriate in this case. human beings need; food, water, shelter, and depending on which psychological camp you reside in, human contact, but we don't need cars, phones or the like. heck, we don't even need an education, but we as a society have put a value on learning. more to the point, we should see these programs as assets and discuss their return to the community. how much value do you put on a clean, safe and well organized community? personally, i feel like we get the return on our investment. that's why i feel that there is a value to them. and we should never downplay the value of curb appeal.

as for your points about the PBD and self governance, i can't help but find that proposition less than encouraging. i just don't see the value in parsing up the downtown into separate little blocks who collect and manage their own parking revenue. i just don't see what the ROI would be and how you would insure that the monies were spent wisely. i definitely wouldn't sacrifice successful programs just to test that theory out.

noel jones said...

Amend--I hear you on the human need, what I meant was there was perceive to be a need for these programs to ensure a clean, safe, downtown and curb appeal. Some people feel strongly that residents and business owners should be keeping the downtown clean themselves--and many downtown have been doing their part. But for whatever reason (that's a topic for another debate...or perhaps this one...) it wasn't happening, the downtown was clean in appearance on a regular basis and people did not feel safe downtown. So there was a perceived need, for revitalization of the downtown to succeed, for these programs. And the programs--especially the Ambassadors--have had popular success.

As for the PBD, you bring up a great point--how would a PBD best be laid out? Would it be many different blocks, or larger blocks made up of blocks, or would the whole Main Street district be one PBD that made decisions about what to do with the money? And in that case, would a GEDP be necessary, and would we have to keep worrying about how to fund it each year? I don't know the answer to this (the layout question)--hopefully Dennis Lieb or someone else with knowledge of PBDs can chime in and describe the options in terms of PBD parameters.

So if the whole downtown were a PBD, and the board of the PBD were made up of all residents and business owners who made the decisions (or if it were an up an down vote of membership--I don't know how the decisions are typically made in these scenarios) as to how the money would be spent to best keep the downtown nice, would that still worry you, or would having it all as one PBD make it seem more manageable?

noel jones said...

Anon 4:11--(please please take a moniker when you post!) you make a great point--isn't one of the functions of the Main Street Initiative to attract these essential businesses to our downtown? Looking at the Main Street site, these are the four key points of the Initiative:

The Four Points

Organization involves getting everyone working toward the same goal and assembling the appropriate human and financial resources to implement a Main Street revitalization program.

Promotion sells a positive image of the commercial district and encourages consumers and investors to live, work, shop, play and invest in the Main Street district.

Design means getting Main Street into top physical shape, while capitalizing on its best assets.

Economic Restructuring strengthens a community's existing economic assets while expanding and diversifying its economic base.

And here is an excerpt from the mission statement:

"Easton will continue to attract a creative and innovative group of community members to explore a variety of business, restaurant and art enterprises."

Key here is "to attract...a variety of businesses." Now, again, Main Street is very popular and Kim Kmetz works her butt off, so this is not about the amount of work or the dedication going into the Main Street Initiative, but a question as to what the MSI actually covers and whether the strategy is actually working.

Until recently, I thought the Farmers Market and the Ambassadors were part of the Main Street Initiative, but I have learned that they are all separate entities under the GEDP. When I hear people talking about how much downtown has improved in the last few years, they talk about the success of the Farmers Market, which is booming, and how great the Ambassadors are in keeping everything clean and being generally helpful and a presence that makes people feel safer downtown.

But one complaint I consistently hear is that we still don't have a dry cleaner, a pharmacy, a good grocery store, a hardware store, clothing stores, etc., etc., in the downtown, so that Eastonians can actually take advantage of the walkability of downtown in daily life because they don't have to drive to the Giant or anywhere else in the burbs to get what they need. I keep hearing that the city is trying to get a bakery to move downtown. That's a lovely idea, but not as essential to residents as a dry cleaner, or pharmacy, or grocery store. And I know that they have been trying really hard, but at what point do we ask ourselves if we need a different strategy, rather than treating the funding for something that isn't really successful yet as an absolute that has to be attained, even if it means a tax hike?
(cont.)

noel jones said...

This is why I think that everything should be on the table--the existence of all these programs SEPARATELY, not as a unit, and the possibility that a Parking Business District might enable residents and investors downtown to be the masters of their own destiny and use the money they make to pay for the programs that are a) working and b) offer the best value?

Again, this is nothing against the GEDP--I think Gretchen is great at what she does, and the fact that at least two of the programs under the GEDP have been wildly successful is a testament to that, in addition to what she does at the city--the green rehab program is great.

But if we're all going to claim that what matters most is that a) Easton successfully revitalizes, and b) that it does so in the most cost-effective manner for residents and business/property owners, then we have to put aside the desire for everyone to keep their positions, and always be willing to look for the most creative and successful solutions for Easton.

Two things that have not happened, no matter how hard anyone has worked to try to make it happen:

1. Various diverse businesses needed by downtown residents have not been attracted to the area, and
2. The GEDP has not successfully raised enough money to sustain itself and its programs

We have a lot of restaurants downtown and that's great. But we need a dry cleaner, a grocery store, a pharmacy, etc.

The Easton Farmers Market is a huge success.

The Easton Ambassadors do a great job, but they're expensive, especially in a recession.

The Main Street Initiative works hard but has not succeeded in bringing the most needed businesses to the downtown.

and The GEDP has not successfully fundraised enough to sustain itself.

It's time to put everything on the table, no?

LainiAbraham said...

I think that's an excellent assessment of the situation, Noel.

moniker said...

We lack a vision and have no strategic plan. As a result GEDP has a lost purpose. There is no question that one of the ingredients of a successful downtown is having a development corporation. Such a corporation assembles packages of lands and buildings for development. It provides financing to bridge conventional loans to what is really needed. It makes buildings happen. GEDP's forerunner, GEDC did exactly that. It assembled the Two Rivers Landing parcel, found funding and administered the structure. It did the same with the Weller Center and the Sigal Museum. That is GEDP's role. It is wrong for GEDP to take on responsibilities beyond that. Main Street needs a new home as does any proposed NID.

Now, people say that the downtown is successful today. It really is not. Today is part of a long term path to success. The Farmer's Market is nice, but does not fill shops and is not operating enough days to have a major impact. In fact when you look at all things going on, even the Crayola factory does not have the rub off that you would expect. It takes a lot to rebuild a downtown and the process is long term. Today's achievements are part of past investments and will bring further improvements in the future. The Farmer's Market is part of a larger entertainment district. It was only 9 to 10 years ago that the Farmers Market was going to close. The State Theatre, our crown jewel, almost went out of business twice since 1990 because of financial problems. It has taken much to get where we are and it will take a lot to get beyond it.

noel jones said...

moniker--(thanks for taking a moniker!)

so what's the story with the GEDC? i think it was before my time. if it was doing a good job, what happened to it?

noel jones said...

also, on the Farmers Market, the real improvement has been in the last three years--when i moved here 4 1/2 years ago, it was pretty weak. it may have been an improvement over what it was when it almost closed, but not much. there were only four or five vendors. the difference in the last three years has been exponential.

moniker said...

EDC did its development tasks well. Its problems began when it took on the management of the Weed and Seed program. When Mitman became Mayor EDC had been so badly damaged by Weed and Seed that it needed reorganization and a new name. Mitman also wanted to re enlist Easton in the Main Street Program and decided to house it in the partnership.

History relives itself. Part of the weed and seed problem was tight management and too much behind closed door decision making, a complaint that we hear about the partnership.

Main Street ends up on a collision course with the economic development activities of the city. There's duplication of efforts and turf issues. They existed before and I see them now.

Others may have differing opinions. Mitman 1 brought in Main Street. Panto 1 took out Main Street and brought in GEDC.
Goldsmith expanded GEDC to include weed and seed. Mitman 2 ended weed and seed as part of GEDC, renamed GEDP, brought back main street. Panto 2 is dealing with a proposed expanded role for GEDP. That chapter has yet to be written.

moniker said...

I agree on the market. The real activity was in the past three years. The problem with this type of entertainment is that you constantly need fresh ideas and new attractions to keep the crowds coming as well as good produce and other foods. I have noticed a significant number of new markets in the county and across the river. The idea catches on and it could take from our efforts. That is why I don't tend to push the market as an end but rather as a means to a greater end. Remember our objectives have to be retail stores operating at least five days a week. They employ people, feed residents and improve sustainability. The market just is not at that level. I accept it as an entertainment option and a fun place to go.

LainiAbraham said...

Moniker-

THANK YOU! It is so wonderful to hear a comment from someone who knows what they're talking about. One question- wasn't the predecessor to the GEDP the EEDC? Easton Economic Development Corporation?

I think my favorite part of your comment is this:

"Now, people say that the downtown is successful today. It really is not. Today is part of a long term path to success."

I agree. But as long as people keep kidding themselves about where we really are as a city, we'll never be able to reach our potential. And Easton has sooooooo much potential. That's why I get so frustrated. This can't be rocket science. We're only 4 square miles. But we need a vision and a plan. And to be honest with ourselves. Cheerleading can only take a team so far. The rest has to actually be working. As in be effective.

Amend said...

@Noel- to your point of cleanliness, i can only speak of my own experience but one could see it as a litmus is they choose. prior to the ambassadors, i would clean both sides of my street from 2nd to Sitgreaves, sidewalk and gutters on an almost daily basis. it was that bad that it required that much attention. i also cleaned the municipal parking lot on Saturday mornings after helping to set up the farmers' market. i would take 1-2 13 gallon trash bags of garbage from that lot on a weekly basis. it would take me in excess of an hour to accomplish this task. in the absence of the ambassadors, i'm confident it would quickly return to these prior conditions. it would be great if everyone chipped in to do their part, but they don't. it's that simple. you'd need an officer across the street all day handing out littering fines just to get a handle on it, and that's not feasible. the ambassadors are a proactive approach to litter. we don't have enough man power to force people to comply. and it's a misunderstanding that all the ambassadors do is clean. they also observe, assists and inform. the level of illegal activity in my area of town has dropped dramatically since they have been employed.

regarding the PBD, i still feel it is a poor plan to pass over two successful programs in favor of self-rule with unknown results. that sounds more like a wish than a plan. further, i have some less than community minded businesses and property owners on my block. why would i want to give them access to the funds generated by the PBD when they've already proven themselves to be weak community partners?

also, we're now taking th dialogue away from it's initial intentions, which was how to fund these two successful programs. where you're headed now with the PBD doesn't answer that questions, and as such shouldn't be part of the discussion because it isn't a solution or even a replacement of the NID.

LainiAbraham said...

Amend- no one seemed to care about the lack of pertinence to the 100+ comments before Noel pointed it to the original post. It's her call, but if the Anonymi could spend most of yesterday attacking me, I think it'scompletely fair to spend some time taking a step back and looking at the bigger picture.

Amend said...

@Noel- i don't think it's a fair assessment of Main Streets success to point out the absence of certain types of business in the downtown. Members of Main Street, GEDP, the City and even EBA have all tried as hard as possible to lure a grocery store here. those entities will only come once we have established a core demographic that can readily be observed or give them a massive financial incentive. and lets not overlook the awful economy we are in.

further, business attraction and retention is just one aspect of what Main Street/GEDP does. it has had a successful facade grant program. it offers low interest business loans. it also organizes events, group promotions, business round tables and seminars. it writes grants and organizes fund raisers, and manages somewhere around 70 volunteers.

that's a lot of value for the dollars spent.

Dennis R. Lieb said...

I'm on the verge of saying something very nasty - but I won't.

I stopped reading at Amend's comment of 4:22pm. At this point there is way to much misinformation and distraction to continue. Both the errors being stated about the material facts of how this process works and the assumptions based on those errors are getting far off-point and it serves no purpose to continue down this road.

Noel, I would suggest a guest post on my part where I can refocus this discussion along a more productive line, that being figuring out a method to fund the downtown revitalization project in whatever forms or names it wants to take.

I will give everyone my personal position on those forms and names - as well as where I think we can improve the public process - before I correct the frustrating series of errors I've read so far.

A clear definition of the parking district idea and how (and by what means) it accomplishes our goals will be the centerpiece. Then maybe we can have a discussion that hones in on questions of programmatic merit rather then personal nitpicking over perceived slights.

DRL

Amend said...

@Moniker- there is a plan in place. the GEDP has been following a study by Wallace, Roberts and Todd that laid out a path forward with enough flexibility to react. Main Street and the Ambassadors are part of that plan forward. the objective is/was capacity building both residential and commercial. the successes of Main Street and the Ambassadors reflect the success of GEDP.

Amend said...

@Laini- i'm not stopping anyone from looking at the big picture. in fact, i'm trying to have a conversation about that very subject. just cuz i don't agree with certain points of view doesn't mean i'm being dismissive. as for yesterday is concerned, your beef is with those who spoke out about you, not me.

Amend said...

@Dennis- sorry for the frustration. i'd like to hear more about the PBD from you, as i think you have the most information, but i'm not sure where the discussion turned to using the PBD as a means to not fund these two programs. wasn't that the whole ;point of the dialogue about the NID and finding alternatives or addition revenue sources for it?

Anonymous said...

You are right. It was Easton Economic Development Corporation. I guess it is the Friday wine.

As far as the 2006 Walllace Roberts and Todd Study. I am aware. My problem is that I sense deviation which is ok, but who or what is leading it.

For example the study states:

Three strategic initiatives targeted towards specific markets are proposed to increase the
downtown population so as to strengthen opportunities for existing retailers and generate
demand for additional quality retailers, destination restaurants, and other supporting
services:
1. Promote new market-rate housing;
2. Increase visitation to existing attractions; and
3. Reinforce Easton as a regional employment center.
The Action Plan presented in Chapter 4.0 is structured around these three strategic
initiatives.
These strategic initiatives have been lost.

Further:

The action plan incorporates a recommended phasing strategy for addressing the three
geographic focus areas of the CBD Economic Development Plan, as follows:
1. First and foremost, address the Northampton Street corridor and quality-of-life issues
in particular to support existing investment being made in the downtown core, such
as the Eastonian condominium project, and to reinforce key anchors such as the State
Theatre and Two Rivers Landing/Crayola Factory.
2. Second, address the Bushkill Creek corridor to leverage ongoing and pending
investments being made by Lafayette College and the Commonwealth of
Pennsylvania and link them to the Northampton Street corridor and downtown core.
3. Address the Delaware and Lehigh riverfronts, which are underutilized assets, over the
longer term.

Increased presence and focus on crime/security by the City of Easton Police
Department (e.g., specially designated foot patrols);
• Enhanced code enforcement and maintenance by the City, to comprehensively
address nuisance uses, deteriorated properties, street cleanliness, public health,
etc.;
• Development of a more attractive physical environment along Northampton
Street and in the downtown in general through the GEDP’s Main Street
Program; and
• Involvement of other partners, including the business community, Easton Area
School District, and the faith-based community (to address social issues in the
CBD).

The studyt suggests the “ambassador program” based on the Philadelphia concept
Over time, expansion of the downtown tax base due to
commercial redevelopment should enhance opportunities to evolve from the existing
Main Street program toward creation of a BID, providing a dedicated revenue stream
to fund such “clean and green” programs as well as other critical initiatives such as
marketing and business/tenant recruitment

moniker said...

Sorry that was from me, Moniker.

The three geographic focus areas have been met although there may be disagreement on what should have been done to meet these focus areas.

The crime, code enforcement, social issues have not been met.

The Ambassador program has been implemented. The Main Street program was suppose to evolve into a BID with different objectives. Obviously that is not being met.

You can look at the study and pick it apart. That is not my objective. It seems that there has been movement in different directions with different objectives. That's ok as long as there is consensus on the objectives. The study was prepared when two or three large housing projects had been proposed for downtown. All of those are dead. I would suspect that the vision for riverfront activity had more to do with recreational use than what is currently there.

Anonymous said...

First of all the original Main Street back in the 80's was not the main street of today. That Main Street was primarily a facade restoration with Tom Jones as the director. He primarily worked on preserving and rehabbing facades to attract people. Today's MSI is far mor ethan that. And also, Panto 1 did not replace it with EEDC. When that state funding ran out he made Jones a Preservation Planner in city hall doing the same thing. EEDC was not founded until 1991 when Panto1 enlisted an urban study by Norman Mintz and Abylyss Phillips. It was this study, released in October 1991 that led to the creation of Two Rivers Landing. EEDC was started to be the 501(c)3 non-profit needed to put economic development projects together. It ecame GEDC under Mitman 2 revamped to do more than just TRL.

Also, Main Street and the Ambassadors are only about 40% of what GEDP does and can do more of in the future.

noel jones said...

Dennis--I'm happy to have you do a guest post on this. Just email it to me at neighborsofeaston@gmail.com

moniker said...

The point was that the Main Street program, even if it was not much of an economic development engine, was replaced by EEDC. I agree that Main Street 1 was much different from Main Street 2 and you can see that difference in the study of the evolution of the Main Street program at a national and state level.

Mintz study is an urban myth. The effort to create Two Rivers Landing happened while Mintz was making his study which was released in 1993 not 1991. Mintz wisely included it in his recommendations otherwise his study would have been rejected. He is not responsible for 2RL. I think Binney is responsible for wanting to come downtown which led to 2RL. That factor led to the acquisition of Orrs and Farrs. The county had the idea and was responsible for Easton acquiring the Alpha Building

noel jones said...

Amend--I would like to know about what Main Street Initiative has accomplished of their stated objectives. It's entirely possible that I have overlooked something. But to refer to refer to "Main Street/GEDP" muddies the waters, and I think this is an important part of what needs to be addressed. We all need to be absolutely clear on what each organization does and does not do. Doesn't GEDP give out the façade grants and business loans directly? If so, then that's not Main Street. And if they're giving out grants and loans to people, but haven't raised the money to do that, then aren't they then essentially asking taxpayers to give out grants and loans?

I've been asking around to residents lately, and asking them what they think is better about downtown and what they think about the Main Street Initiative, and the consistent answer seems to be a) yes it's much better downtown, b) because the Farmers Market is great and the Ambassadors keep the place clean and their presence makes people feel a little more comfortable, c) that Main Street runs the Farmers Market and the Easton Ambassadors (which is not true), and d) that they're not quite sure what GEDP is and does.

So with regard to Main Street Initiative specifically, it starts to sound like you are saying that its not fair to point out that the Initiative has not succeeded in bringing a meaningful variety of businesses downtown, when that is actually its raison d'etre, and that downtown residents are getting a great value because they put on business mixers?

You said:

"Members of Main Street, GEDP, the City and even EBA have all tried as hard as possible to lure a grocery store here."

That's the point. Everyone has tried really hard--no one is denying that-- but it hasn't worked. It seems that it makes more sense to admit that it hasn't worked and re-examine the strategy or find a new strategy, rather than to ask tax payers to pay to keep it going because GEDP has also tried really hard to raise funding and has not been successful in that, and now they are looking to taxpayers to pay for it, and getting surprised and even offended when they're not into the idea.

The one thing residents consistently mention that has not improved much at all is filling up the empty storefronts downtown with a diversity of businesses.
(cont.)

noel jones said...

Another thing that has not improved is storefront window design--many of the business owners downtown are completely lost when it comes to a clean design for their storefront window that doesn't look cluttered and unprofessional.

If the GEDP is going to ask people to pay out of their pockets to keep Main Street going, they're going to have to explain to the people what the value is beyond putting on mixers. They can't ride the coattails of the Farmers Market and the Ambassadors who HAVE been successful and allow people to think that Main Street Initiative is responsible for their success.

The reality is, the GEDP is out of money, and everything must go on the table to be examined before anyone raises taxes for a NID or the property owners down there are likely to kill it.

And speaking of money, where is this $600K figure coming from? The only time I have heard that figure mentioned was in Mike Fleck/Ken Brown's proposal, which actually included funding other organizations as well. So $600K is not the cost to keep these programs going, and we need to not throw that figure around in this discussion as a reason the Parking Benefit District won't work, because it will confuse people.

The Farmers Market shouldn't cost much at all, because it's a profitable event. The farmers come because they make money.

The Ambassadors--or another less expensive service--could conceivably be paid for by a PBD that costs taxpayers nothing and gives them the power to make that decision.

And if grants are going to be given for façades and businesses, I don't understand why that can't just happen through the city, as with other grants. So why do we need a GEDP specifically, if it's not working? Why not a PBD?

I understand what moniker is saying, about needing some organization in place to attract development, but why couldn't that be a PBD?

So I would like to know the REAL cost of keeping the Farmers Market going, and keeping the downtown clean (not just with the Ambassadors).

These are all just questions--anyone who can convince me that the GEDP is necessary and successful, and that Main Street is necessary and successful--so much so that property owners should agree to a tax hike to pay for them, has my ear. But until we put all personal feelings aside (whether it be for the people we really like or the people we don't like) and start asking the hard questions, Easton will continue to struggle to revitalize.

Anonymous said...

Noel - Easton is not struggling to revitalize it is revitalizing. If you cannot see that you should pack up and move to allentown where that is a valid statement. Not saying Easton doesn't have its problems but look at what has taken place in the past 5 years.

Just Sayin - I think the problem with all of this is that insults like this seem to overshadow the point you are trying to make. I mean afterall.....Easton did attract you in recent years. NO?

Amend said...

@Noel- to help you define the structure of the organization; the GEDP is the parent non-profit organization that oversees; the Main Street Initiative, the Ambassador Program and the Easton Farmers Market. all three of those entities need a non profit shelter to exist. with regards to Main Street and the facade grants/business loans, indeed it is the GEDP that signs the checks, but it is Main Street who helps promote, organize and recommends these incentives to people thinking of doing business in Easton. the GEDP in turn acts as a checks and balance on the organization and approves or disapproves those applying. to that extend, Main Street acts as the front door for the organization and the feet on the street. it's a simply hierarchy that even a PBD would require i would think. and up until Governor Corbett's administration, the DCED funded the facade grants. the loans are being funded out of a revolving loan pool the GEDP has. and it should be reminded, that any monies that a PBD would take in that weren't specifically from an increase in parking revenue would indeed come out of the general fund, and by your definition, would be a grant.

back to your discussion about Main Street, indeed it isn't fair to strictly use the variety of businesses in the downtown as a litmus for it's success or failure. Main Street doesn't control what the market supports or doesn't support. they can only try to make the downtown seem worth while to invest in. i'm also curious as to why you gleaned over the list of accomplishments i gave you and only focused on the fact that i mentioned "mixers"? further, i don't see how creating a PBD would somehow make these businesses suddenly manifest.

and no one is surprised that people are reluctant to fund these programs. people are typically hesitant to part with their money. what's "offensive" is people making assumptions without all the information, and then those people getting angry because they are unaware. these programs have been around 7 years with regards to Main Street, and 4 years for the Ambassadors. the GEDP and Main Street have been holding annual public meetings to help keep the public informed. there have been articles in area publications and discussions at city council. i don't think anyone has an issue with questions being asked about these organizations. i think that's healthy, but the level of gossip and misinformation being passed around is an issue.

moniker said...

Let me tell you what is a real insult, Not realizing that it has taken the city twenty to twenty five years to get to this point. I keep hearing the past five years. Major things happened over the past ten years. And Bigger things happened over the past twenty years. It is an insult to believe that those who dedicated themselves and invested should be forgotten because we have a farmer's market and an ambassador's program. Easton was a ghost town twenty years ago. There were plenty of parking spaces around the circle empty on Saturday mornings. Five financial institutions closed their doors letting go of close to a thousand employees from the downtown. When those people left so did dozens of retail shops that enjoyed their lunch time shopping sprees. Remember those three basic strategic initiatives: create employment, build market rate housing, and increase visitation.

We have a long way to go. We cannot afford to sit and say that we are doing a satisfactory job. I don't want to undervalue the dedication of the market volunteers or the ambassadors and their financial supporters. I do believe that we can do better. I am going shopping this afternoon in the suburbs. It pains me every time I start my car.

Amend said...

@Noel- window displays aren't the something that Main Street has control over (the exception being the Snowflakes for Easton campaign that they helped Ken and Ron with). i do know that they try to give advice to no avail. i've also offered my services pro bono to business owners with similar results. there's an old saying, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't force it to drink.

again, it isn't fair to assess Main Street as riding the coat tails of the other programs. they should be seen holistically.

the reality is that the main street program/GEDP have been successful in obtaining grants and other funding for seven years. that funding has ended. we are now looking for other funding sources to keep these programs going. on top of that, the city is also out of money. that's why they enlisted the GEDP to sill the void.

the $600,000/yr figure is indeed the approximate projected budget for both the Main Street Initiative and the Ambassadors. the PBD would need to raise that amount to sustain these programs, plus the $350,000/yr the city already collects and adds to the general fund.

the Ambassadors are currently being run as a bare bones budget. i'm not sure anything less would be effectual. i'm also not sure what other program would replace it. there's a lot of "ifs" there.

to that point, the PBD is an interesting concept that i'd like to hear more about, but i don't think it should be seen as a replacement of the GEDP or any of it's programs. why would be abandon a successful organization with successful programs with a seven year track record and a built in infrastructure for something new and unproven, i.e. a new organization?

D.B. Cooper said...

Hi. I'm new to the Lehigh Valley. On the subject of other downtowns, I was at Musikfest the other night for the first time. I loved it! I drove through downtown Bethlehem but didn't have time to really explore. It is really beautiful. I was going out there later this afternoon but on my way home I need a few things. Does anyone know of a good grocery store or pharmacy in downtown Bethlehem? I googled but I couldn't locate any. I hope someone can help. Thanks!

LainiAbraham said...

On Southside Bethlehem, there is Ritter Pharmacy on 4th Street. It's locally owned. Also on Southside, there is a CVS on 4th Street and Ahart's Market near the 5 points. I believe there is also a CVS on the Nortshside as well as a dry cleaners or two, a locally-owned hardware store, Aykroyd's, and a tailor or two.

Ritter Pharmacy - (610) 867-3701
115 W 4Th St, Bethlehem, PA 18015

Ahart's Market Start
410 Montclair Ave , Bethlehem , PA 18015

CVS
305 W 4th St
Bethlehem, PA 18015

tunsie said...

I yuv U noel and im not tunsie i am somebody else.by the way we r having a good show in september 1st weekend...its gonna be gooooooood.so come down...anon mouse

LainiAbraham said...

If you need more information about Bethlehem, contact the DBA, Downtown Bethlehem Association. They do a great job. And they're part of the Lehigh Valley Chamber.

http://www.bethlehempa.org/

The DBA wasn't always a part of the Chamber. But a few years ago they were floundering and almost non-existent. Then they decided to give working with the Chamber a try. The merchants no longer think the Chamber's just for "banks and corporations." Great things can happen when people decide to work together.

LainiAbraham said...

BTW, there does not seem to be any economic development corp./partnership in Bethlehem. The city does economic development. Then they work with the Chamber on business things. They work together.

LainiAbraham said...

Sorry for the consecutive comments. I'm working so I try to keep it brief, but then think of other things and must come back.

I just find it very frustrating, knowing what's going on in Bethlehem and how well it's working, that here, in Easton, the powers that be would rather resort to taxing the residents than exploring the collaboration between Main St. and the Chamber. Also, even though I was once a member of EBA, I have no idea what its function is separate from Main St. and why those two could not have combined years ago.

Easton has 26,000 people and has at least 5 different entities (EBA, Main St., the Chamber, the City and GEDP) doing economic development/organizing businesses.) Bethlehem has 3 times as many people and has 2 organizations.

Many people who I've talked to think there's a ton of duplication of efforts going on. I would agree.

LainiAbraham said...

If we did a PBD, created a collaboration between the Chamber and Main St., and did some kind of PILOT with the college and ideally the county, I think we could get both programs funded. And save money, too.

darkest said...

Good to love the music fest if you are a tourist and you wont need a grocery store.

There are many unspoken issues underlying these posts. One is the emphasis on business development vs. emphasis on community development. A Brookings study said our town needs to market it's inexpensive but viable housing stock as it's KEY revitalization strategy. Why did Noel move here? Surely it had everything do to with a great house at a good price. Nothing to do with Main Street. Main Street 2 (I was there) hustled out the residents to show the state funder some community engagement and once the money came in business took over and the residents couldn't have been hustled out fast enough: the message was "let the professionals handle it." That continues to be the message to this day . Appreciate one posters acknowledgement that the revitalization languished for decades with some of these same old faces at the helm and if it is happening now its over the bodies of a lot of residents that have come and gone. Where were the incentives for them? Where ever was there a thank you. Just more and more taxes and no businesses that are community services just novelty attractions for tourists that people who live here can't afford. Just more and more how dare you who do you think you are coming from people who are paid with tax dollars, people whose job it is to solve the community's problems but instead discount the ones that are already here in favor of some mythic population that is suppose to visit or move here in order to patronize these novelty businesses SOME DAY. To sum up: there appears to be a real disconnect between residents and business in this town.

Anonymous said...

If you minus Ambassadors from the budget and minus the Farmers Market what is left over? What is the budget for administrators of GEPD because they are probably not volunteers. What are their administrative costs?

Dennis R. Lieb said...

To Moniker...

Keep up the good work. You are on to something.

To Darkest...

Possibly the best comment made in days.

To Anon@11:01am...

Speaking the truth is not an insult. I've watched the 1 step forward and two back cha-cha for over thirty years - and I've lived here my whole life so don't give me any "move to Allentown if you don't like it" bullshit.

Easton is struggling - relatively less than some places considering the situation - but struggling none the less. When I see a dozen or more long-time businesses close with no successor plans and dozens more come and go every six months for years you can't make any other conclusion. Success in very narrow niches is just that - it won't support a local economy.

Cheerleading is the easiest thing to fall back into when we feel threatened by objective criticism. It doesn't make the town any better. I'm a pragmatist. My training in architecture means I observe, evaluate and design solutions to problems. Hopefully there is some vision in there as well.

Enjoying what we have while being clear and upfront that much more is still needed is not subversive. Pointing out ineffective hierarchies and legal constructs (possibly populated by personalities that aren't exactly helping things) is also necessary for honest evaluation.

This town needs lots of "stuff". How we get there is everybody's business. Criticizing current efforts and outcomes is constructive if you know how the use it and you can avoid taking it personally.

I'll have my two cents on these matters in a guest post next week.

DRL

D.B. Cooper said...

Oh, so there's no grocery or pharmacy in downtown Bethlehem, just on the Southside. Boy, that must make the downtown residents disappointed with the DBA. If the DBA(aka GLVCC) can't get a grocery or a pharmacy in downtown Bethlehem, which is larger and more affluent than Easton, then how would a TRACC/GLVCC/PBD manage to do so in downtown Easton?

Anonymous said...

There is a grocery-small independent- one block off East Broad in the North downtown. What else do you want to know? You need a phone number?

noel jones said...

Amend, darkest, moniker, D.B. Cooper--thanks for using monikers.

Dennis, Tunsie and Laini, thanks for using your actual names.

And Laini, thanks for providing the grocery info for a reader--D.B. got lucky on that question by happening to have the walking, talking guide to the Lehigh Valley in this discussion!

noel jones said...

Amend, moniker and everybody else, thanks for continuing to participate in this conversation. It's covering a lot of ground for readers/residents to start to understand all the variables at play with regard to the proposed NID, and the option of PBD. It also lets anyone from the GEDP and the City know the level of (or lack of) understanding that residents have of the proposal and the programs it supports

Amend--Here are the numbers from the Fleck/Brown proposal and the "need" they intend to cover (this is cut-and-pasted from the doc that Mike Fleck sent me):

Projected Funding Required

1. Main Street, Ambassadors & Farmers Market = $425,000

2. Weed & Seed = $155,000

3. Special Events Grants = $25,000

4. Business Development Loan Fund = $50,000

Total Projected Funding Needed = $655,000

So in their enhanced NID proposal, they've included Weed & Seed, special event grants and business development loans above and beyond the funding for the GEDP to cover Main Street, Easton Farmers Market, and Easton Ambassadors. The number for these three alone is listed as $425K.

I would like to know how much each of the three programs is that makes up the $425K.

Anyone who knows, please post, and post.

And anyone who has any helpful docs on this topic to share, can email me at neighborsofeaston@gmail.com

Thanks!

noel jones said...

darkest--in answer to your question, "Why did Noël move here?" you are right--it was affordable housing, the historic charm of the architecture, proximity to the rivers, the walkability of the town, and proximity to New York (where I was still working at the time). I had not owned a car in many years (as most people in New York don't) and lived in Easton for 8 months before buying a car.

the hardest part, and what finally drove me to buy a car, was that there was not a quality grocery store, hardware store, dry cleaner or clothing store within walking distance.

the farmers market was lame when i first moved here, and the storefronts downtown were much like they are today--some of them shady-looking, some of them less shady but with really bad, cluttered shop windows, some of them nice and well-kept, and two pawn shops in Centre Square. Who allowed that to happen? soon after that, the Dollar Store got one of the vacant corners. Who allowed that? I don't know, because I wasn't involved in local politics then, as I had just moved here.

so if Main Street has been running for 7 years, i can honestly say that Main Street had absolutely nothing to do with attracting me to move here. two coworkers in New York had bought houses here for the same reasons as I eventually did, and they introduced me to the town, showed me houses and talked me into it.

Since that time, some shops have opened and closed, and some restaurants have opened and stayed open. But downtown residents need more diverse businesses to support a walkable life downtown than just restaurants. And if in 7 years, not one grocery store, hardware store, pharmacy, or dry cleaners has opened shop, it's important to ask ourselves whether this strategy is the best use of funding--especially since the GEDP is now asking downtown property owners to fund it via a tax hike.

And why MSI is focusing on a bakery--this was said in the PBS 39 video that I posted to this blog--that what we're really looking for is a bakery downtown--I have no idea. Why a bakery? If we have the opportunity for television coverage to get the word out to investors, why isn't MSI saying what residents have been saying--A GROCERY STORE, a pharmacy, a dry cleaners?

If GEDP wants to convince taxpayers to pay to support MSI, they have a lot of explaining to do, to bring people to the place where they understand why it's so important that they should pay higher taxes to keep it. Maybe it is. And GEDP, like anyone else, is welcome to post convincing info here. But they're going to have to lay everything out on the table and explain it to people, not just say that we need a NID to keep it all going, and we need taxpayers to pay for it.

noel jones said...

Amend--you said:

"with regards to Main Street and the facade grants/business loans, indeed it is the GEDP that signs the checks, but it is Main Street who helps promote, organize and recommends these incentives to people thinking of doing business in Easton. the GEDP in turn acts as a checks and balance on the organization and approves or disapproves those applying. to that extend, Main Street acts as the front door for the organization and the feet on the street."

This makes me ask these questions:
1. why does GEDP need a "front door" in the form of another organization to get the word out about grant opportunities, and why should we pay for that "front door" in a recession?
2. why does Main Street need "checks and balance" in the form of GEDP?
3. when the city already administers grants to various entities, why do we need the GEDP to do it too?
4. why does GEDP need "feet on the street" other than their own? what do the members of the GEDP do, if they're not out raising money successfully enough to sustain themselves so that they need to ask for a tax hike, and not getting the word out to investors themselves?
5. if the Ambassadors are contracted workers, why do they need a nonprofit entity to hire them? why couldn't the city contract that work out?
6. if a PBD were to raise enough extra revenue to pay for someone to keep downtown clean, and to pay Megan McBride to run the farmers market, why would we need the GEDP?

Couldn't we just have a Parking Benefit District (PBD), the Farmers Market, and put out an RFP for the best bid for someone to keep downtown clean?

Again, I appreciate everyone participating in this discussion so civilly--this is how we all learn from each other, and a discussion like this is much more thorough--and reaches a lot more people--than the public meetings with limited public comments.

Between this discussion, the rest of the public meetings, and people doing their own research and talking to each other in the community, residents are going to be much more informed by the time this process is over, and feel good about whatever decision they ultimately make.

moniker said...

I have noted some intransigence on funding Main Street and the Ambassadors. It seems that positions regarding funding levels are much like the recent debt limit debates in Congress.

There's been obvious push back and a reluctance by council to saddle the public with additional costs. It would seem that some assessment is due to consider how to best deliver with less.

I go back to those statements about capacity. We may have reached a financial capacity that does not permit us to run programs at a level to which we are accustomed. I fear that other desirable programs may be lost because all money has been given to the existing programs.

I think that the Ambassador program needs to be supplemented by some aggressive program administered by the city to go after litter. In addition, the Main Street program needs to operate around objectives and performance benchmarks that demonstrate continued movement towards the goals of the Wallace Roberts TODD report-more residences, employment and visitation. I am afraid that we have been sidetracked into Saturday festivals, snowflakes and once a week markets. The ultimate goals are not being achieved continuing to weaken the downtown and undermining existing businesses and residents.

Returning to capacity, I don't know how patient our taxpayers will continue to be realizing that they pay for daily streetsweeping of downtown and will be contributing some funding to litter police-the Ambassadors. At some point someone has to take responsibility. Those services are wanted in other sections of the community and the community cannot deliver. Restaurants and bars and a few other businesses make no effort to clean up their walks particularly those who have outside service. They wait for the Ambassadors. We have to change that mentality.

noel jones said...

moniker--you're reminding me a great question that another resident asked at the last NID hearing--does the city enforce litter fines? the signs are around, threatening hundreds of dollars in fines, but does anyone enforce them? the mayor and council were quiet and looked at each other for a moment, before someone remembered that ONE time, an officer gave someone a ticket for flicking a cigarette butt out the window of his car.

now, Amend was saying earlier that the city can't afford to stake out an officer in the circle to enforce litter fines. but we already have Officer Vince Bruneo that works the downtown on foot on a daily basis. now, with the Ambassadors there, there's very little need for him to enforce fines, but the question is why weren't the fines being enforced BEFORE the Ambassadors were brought in for hundreds of thousands of dollars? the mayor said it was because we were not at our full compliment of 64 officers--i think we were down to 52, and i'm sure they had their hands full. but now that we have more officers, and DO have one already dedicated to the downtown area, why not skip the expense of the Ambassadors and let our police dept. be the ones to enforce littering fines, bringing in revenue, and making residents feel safe downtown?

that, in combination with a Parking Benefit District, might be all we need, no?

Anonymous said...

Monikor states "the goals of the Wallace Roberts TODD report-more residences, employment and visitation. I am afraid that we have been sidetracked into Saturday festivals, snowflakes and once a week markets."

Aren't these things bringing "visitation." And what makes you think that MSI, the city, GEDP, ERA aren't workimng hard to attract more businesses and residents. There are more nice apartments now than there were three or four years ago and there are at least another 80 or so in construction.

The fact is the cioty can, and foes enforce codes more than ever, the police can charge for litter but the end result is the PBD is a means to an end. The NID is needed to manage the downtown in all sorts of waysd. They do much more than festivals and mixers and frankly those types of comments are downright derogatory to people wokring really hard volunteering time and talents for their community. It is unfortunate that some of the most negative comments here are from people who used to volunteer or never did.

moniker said...

The litter piece of this is what I do not comprehend. At an earlier NID hearing the Mayor said that they know who the culprits are who cause the litter. Why is the city not going after the culprits.
Apparently the Ambassadors go to specific spots every day to remove litter. That's why a number of neighborhoods remarked that they only see the Ambassadors twice weekly. When Main Street shows statistics they talk in terms of tons of garbage being taken out of the downtown daily or weekly. It is hard to comprehend. The street sweepers are on downtown streets daily. One person complained to me about a downtown restaurant that has outdoor tables. They never sweep their walks. Other towns require sweeping and daily washing. The manager of the restaurant says that the Ambassadors are the best thing that happened to downtown. The person complaining noted that a neighbor wakes early about 7AM and picks up all the bottles and litter on the street. The business should be cited. They expect the neighborhood and the ambassadors to keep their business clean. I have been told that visitors to the Crayola Center dump bags full of garbage on the parking garage after they tailgate in their cars. I think it was one of the previous administrations that pulled benches from Center Square because of the litter. It seems that we do not want to meet the problem head on.

moniker said...

"and frankly those types of comments are downright derogatory to people wokring really hard volunteering time and talents for their community. It is unfortunate that some of the most negative comments here are from people who used to volunteer or never did."

If it bothers you, get use to it or move on to something else. When you propose raising fees either through property taxes or parking meter fees, people are going to get upset and question the value of what they are paying. Ever been to a school board meeting around budget time? Ever hear all the administrators, teachers and board members cry about how dedicated they are? Goes over like a lead balloon. Does not get one ounce of sympathy.

You want me to pay. Expect analysis and criticism. If I am asked to turn over one dime I will demand to know how the money is being spent and how effective are those expenditures. Expect the heat and if you can't take it, it's time to get out of the kitchen.

I don't know if visitation numbers are up all that much. We would have to see the figures and how they are calculated. I question some of the numbers because when you say there are thousands of people, where are they parking?

Jobs and residents will save the downtown. The learned people who put together all the studies keep coming back to those facts. How many jobs have you created? How many residential spaces have you created? How many visitors have you created?

moniker said...

"There are more nice apartments now than there were three or four years ago and there are at least another 80 or so in construction.

That statement bothers me. I know that there are apartments under construction at Lipkins and Pomeroys. The statement that there are more nice apartments how thanthree or four years ago...Where? More apartments have been taken off line. There are no new buildings. The big apartment build out years were ten to twenty years ago. The apartments did not attract many upscale renters and ended up as government supported. There are a few new spots such as the remodel of the Sweet Shop-not much in numbers. We have a long way to go and do we really have a program in place that is going to generate big numbers of new units?

LainiAbraham said...

Amen, Moniker. Amen.

Amend said...

@Noel- the $425,000 that council mens Fleck and Brown used for their white paper on a community development fund represents a bare bones budget that was adopted by the GEDP and the city for 2011. it reflects a decrease in the number of man hours for the Ambassadors as well as zero programmatic funding for Main Street. the use of $550,000-600,000 as a budget reflects a best case scenario that would allow the Ambassadors to service the entire district and for Main Street to have some programmatic funding so as to be more effectual, i.e. engaging in a more comprehension retail recruitment strategy. this is an approximation of the breakdown in funding for these programs. the should not be seen as exacts as i don't have the numbers directly in front of me and are to my best recollection. they should serve as a good foundation for the dialogue tho:

Ambassadors = $250,000
Main Street = $150,000
Farmers Market - $25,000

*The farmers market zeros out at the end of the year, but we're required to set aside funding to seed it for the year.

even if we are to use the numbers from the Fleck/Brown proposal, and assumed a PBD instead of a NID, then we are still left with finding $425,000 in parking revenue on top of the $350,000/yr that it already brings in.

LainiAbraham said...

I have another question about the funding- everyone keeps saying that even if the NID is done, that the $ it raises will still only cover half of the required amount to fund these programs. What are the other methods being considered to raise those other funds?

With all due respect, the GEDP has not been able to raise funds very effectively at this time. Are we expected to take a leap of faith in respect to the ability to raise the rest of the $?

noel jones said...

Moniker--thanks for addressing the claim on increased numbers of residential units--I was thinking the same thing.

Amend--thanks for the numbers.

Anon 11:10, you said:

"They do much more than festivals and mixers and frankly those types of comments are downright derogatory to people wokring really hard volunteering time and talents for their community. It is unfortunate that some of the most negative comments here are from people who used to volunteer or never did."

1. If they do "much more" than festivals and mixers, that's fine, they just need to explain exactly what so that the residents understand. Do you know what else they do besides what's been mentioned here? I have actually learned, since my comment about the mixers, that Main Street doesn't do the mixers--Easton Business Association does. So take that one off the list. We've heard so far that they are responsible for fundraising (which hasn't been successful), giving out grants and business loans, and promoting for residents and a diversity of businesses downtown. What else? You can't just say "they do a lot more!" and expect anyone to take you seriously. List it.

2. Just because people have been working really hard, doesn't mean that it's working, and doesn't justify asking residents to agree to pay for taxes to keep it going if it's not working. If you think that's derogatory, rather than trying to have an honest public dialogue about the proposal, then I'm sorry.

3. very few people that have posted have posted with their names, so how do you know who volunteers and who doesn't? The holier-than-thou tone does not hold water here.

Amend said...

@Noel- the Main Street Initiative is pursuing a bakery because that was one of the top things that respondents to a survey said they would like to see, and it's a business that can be easily lured here. a grocery store is a bigger monster and will most likely require some type of financial incentive on the city's part to convince that entity to do business in the downtown. the same holds true for a pharmacy. there was a dry cleaner in the downtown until a few years ago. it closed due to a dwindling customer base. what a lot of citizens of Easton don't want to address is their own buying habits, what they buy and where they but it, and how that effects there community. we're never going to get a grocery store simply by stomping our feet and saying that we want one. we need to first support the local market and those businesses we want to see remain.

as for the GEDP putting everything on the table, not that we shouldn't seek to discuss it further, but it's already been out there for years. people simply choose to not pay attention until it affects them financially. the GEDP has been publicly discussing the concept of a NID for two years. we have an annual meeting open to the community where we show our budget and discuss our accomplishments. Main Street has an office that is open to the public where anyone with questions could go and seek answers. the local press reports on Main street's activities. further, almost everyone agrees that the downtown is better off now than it was just a few years ago. do they assume that that occur all on it's own?

turning the tables then, and not that i'm dismissing it outright, but it's just as fair to ask to have the plan of a PBD completely laid out before we entertain any notions of using it as a funding source in place of the NID, never mind forfeiting programs or the GEDP simply on a loose concept. at least there is an infrastructure in place, seven years of history, and a successful track record to point to with the programs/organizations that exist now.

Amend said...

@Noel- answering some of your questions.

1. Main Street shouldn't be seen as another organization. it is part of the GEDP. the reason for the front door is simple. the board is made up of volunteers. without paid staff to work on the action items/strategic plan then there's nothing to be done because nothing would ever get accomplished. it also allows for those interested in the downtown; either investors or potential residents a place to gather information on prospects. and for the record, the office is in city owned office space, so rent isn't an issue.

2. all organizations that have hired staff require a board of directors that oversee their activities. no one would ever donate to the organization otherwise and it would sure to be audited at some point. it also allows for a level of transparency in that the matrix of the board has no dog in the fight since they aren't employees of the organization.

3. i'm not sure what grants you're referring to. also, many grants require the municipality to work with a community organization to ensure that the money is used properly and not as a politic kick back or something of the sort.

4. the GEDP is made up of volunteers. it has successfully fund raised for these programs for the entire existence of them up to this point. having funding sources dry up because the economy went sour isn't a reflection of the GEDP's fund raising efforts specifically.

5. the initial funding for the ambassadors came from charitable contributions. a federally recognized 501(c)3 is needed to give those contribution the benefit of a tax break and other non profits typically prefer to give to non profits. the city would be in a tough spot to contract the work of the ambassadors. i don't think the labor union would allow it, and using city workers instead would cost about $6/hr more per worker.

6. i repeat my position on this; i don't believe that the PBD will raise that kind of funding. until that can be realistically emonstrated, i won't consider it a feasible option to replace the structure that already exists.

Amend said...

@Noel- i'm not sure why parts of my list of Main Street activities is being overlooked, and the notions of mixers being the only focus. i'll try listing them again. Main Street, via the GEDP, it provided over a dozen facade grants. it provides grants and business loans. it's involved in business recruitment/retention. it organizes events and promotions that attract people to our community. it provides information to prospective investors and residents. it organizes 70 or so volunteers that help assist the community in many different ways. those are the things that directly come to mind.

Amend said...

regarding litter, i'm not saying that the city couldn't or shouldn't be more aggressive about fining those that do litter. i'm just not sure what the costs would be associated with that endeavor. how many police on litter patrol would it take to have the impact that the ambassadors have, and how much would that cost. keep in mind, that an officer would have to see that person litter before they could cite them.

Amend said...

regarding Bethlehem, that isn't an equitable comparison with Easton. that community has a population that hovers around 73,000 to our 27,000. that's a much larger tax base that allows for a fully employed economic development department. it should also be noted that the city funds portions of the DBA, not just the chamber, and that both downtowns (north side and south side) are considering a BID/NID/CBD as an additional funding source for their economic development.

noel jones said...

Amend--you've asked me "what grants" and then in the following comments, referred to the grants GEDP gives out. I was referring to those grants--the same ones that you were talking about earlier.

Here are the natural questions that would arise from the list you've provided (and thanks for taking the time, as you're providing more information to try to help people understand than was presented at the public hearing):

1. Is there a list of the grants and can the public see it? If they're funded by public money, then they should be open to the public.

2. Is there a list of recipients of the business loans and can we see it?

3. Is there a list of businesses it has successfully recruited and retained? Can the public see it?

4. Is there a list of events and promotions that the public can see, and proof that they've actually attracted people? Providing "information to prospective investors and residents" does not count as a separate function on the list, as that would be part of the events and promotions.

5. Is there a list of the 70 different volunteers and what they do, outside of sitting on committees?

I'm also concerned about the bio on Donna Taggart's web site for Taggart Associates--it says that she was hired by Lafayette and the City of Easton, that she's developing the Silk Mill project and it makes it sound like she already developed a BID in downtown Easton:

http://www.taggartassociates.com/Taggart_Bios.html
(cont.)

noel jones said...

(cont.)
These two parts raise questions in my mind:

"As a contract employee through Taggart Associates, Donna served as Program Coordinator of GEDP and the Easton Main Street Initiative. GEDP duties included administration of all loan programs, CDBG reporting and compliance and daily oversight of the Main Street Initiative. With Donna’s assistance, GEDP embarked on a multiyear, multimillion dollar fundraising campaign that included the public, private and academic sectors. A portion of these funds were used to implement a hospitality and cleaning program for the downtown area known as the Easton Ambassadors. This fundraising was the precursor to the establishment of a Business Improvement District to sustain these efforts."

and

"The City of Easton, Lafayette College and the Delaware and Lehigh Heritage Corridor hired Taggart Associates to manage a $20 million project to redevelop areas along a portion of the Bushkill Creek. The projects include the redevelopment of a former industrial property, the creation of a City Gateway and the development of a recreation facility. Coordination of all interested parties and soliciting timely public input to the decision making process are key elements in this redevelopment effort. Taggart is currently leading the community visioning effort for the redevelopment of the 14-acre Silk Mill property into mixed use, retail, commercial and residential uses with a focus on the creation of an arts community including artist live/work space. This property contains approximately 334,000 square feet of existing building space, much of which is architecturally and historically significant."

I am very confused about Donna Taggart's role. It may be that all this makes perfect sense in some way, but someone would have to explain it to me.

And part of the reason it's confusing is that all we've been hearing is how we have to raise taxes to pay for the Farmers Market and the Ambassadors--two programs people are really don't want to lose--but there is no mention of how the salaries of the people running the org are raised and paid.

In the short list of expenses being presented to the public, where are Donna's fees and Gretchen's salary?

Again, they may be working hard for every penny, but where are the full financial statements for the public to view, to decide if the GEDP and Main Street are worth being taxed for? And where is the money coming from that pays them? Why is what's missing being presented as what's needed to run the programs that people like, rather than the money needed to pay the administrators?

I am not an accountant. I do not know the answer to this. If anyone else out there understands it and can make sense of it for residents, please post.

Good conversation, everybody!

noel jones said...

Maybe Gretchen doesn't get compensated by the GEDP, and it's just another duty for the city in her role as Head of the Redevelopment Authority? If that's the case, then isn't the GEDP actually part of the city?

If anyone can clarify the relationship between the GEDP and the GEDP, that would be helpful. I had heard that the GEDP was its own 501c3.

LainiAbraham said...

Very interesting questions, Noel. I think these are things the public should be able to know, too.

Anonymous said...

Noel" Why don't you call Ms. Logenbach tomorrow and find out the answers to your questions regarding GEDP, such as whether it's a 501(c)3. Instead of saying "I've heard..." or "I'm told" or "people say", why don't you find out directly and then report it on this blog? That way all of this blog's readers will know these facts and the discussion can focus on factual information instead of speculations (that is not to say that some of the speculations aren't correct). In a very short time your blog has created quite a lot of discussion, some very good, some very dumb. I think as the originator of this blog and its chief contributor you should consider taking the lead on getting the answers to a lot of the questions you and others have. In that way it can be one person informing instead of dozens speculating. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

And I think Laini, who is pushing hard for the Chamber to be involved in a NID or BID or PBD or whatever, should discuss whether her views on the Chamber are colored by the fact that her mother (and business associate) is an Easton Chamber board member. And instead of writing things like "people tell me there's a ton of duplication", perhaps it would be helpful to the discussion for her to first consult with her mother to find out and then report on specific examples of duplication and specific examples of what she thinks the Chamber can offer to a PBD, which certainly isn't money.

Amend said...

@Noel- regarding the list of questions you just asked, all that info is indeed available but if falls outside of the scope of this discussion on this blog. i would suggest that you ask Kim Kmetz or Gretchen Longenbach to provide you with those answers as they would have more detailed info readily available.

regarding Donna Taggart, she was initially hired as a consultant to help organize the GEDP and Main Street early in their founding. that contract ended some time ago and she no longer fills that role, tho New City America East (a company she is a partner of) has been contracted by GEDP to assist with the NID proposal. the funding they received for that came from Lafayette College and EIALD. her role in the Bushkill Creek Corridor and the Silk Mill is a separate contract as Taggart Associates with the ERA.

Gretchen Longenbach is a city employee hired as the Director of Economic Development. In that role, she also sits as the Executive Director of both the ERA and the GEDP. the GEDP is the non profit economic development arm of the city's economic development strategy. all of this information is readily available to the public. answers are as easy as asking questions. when in doubt, it is better to seek knowledge than to create fables.

Anonymous said...

@Noel All of this information is readily available and has been. Anyone who states that it is not, is clearly not as knowledgeable as he/she would like to lead you to think.

You were able to list the members of the current GEDP Board early on in this discussion, have you contacted any of them for assistance?

noel jones said...

Anon 6:32--Megan McBride told me recently that GEDP is a 501c3, and that Main Street Initiative, Easton Farmer's Market and Easton Ambassadors are all free-standing separate programs under the umbrella of that 501c3.

How much more direct can the information get than directly from someone who is both the manager of the farmers market and the asst. manager of MSI?

As for Gretchen, I was wondering aloud, because it is Sunday, and we are in the midst of a discussion, and I obviously can't call her at the moment to ask her, and I'm hoping that a reader might know, but I didn't want anyone jumping the gun and thinking she gets two salaries when she might just be running the GEDP as an additional duty as part of her city job. But if that's the case, it opens up the question of whether the city and GEDP are actually completely separate entities or not. I just want to understand it all and what my readers to understand it with me. If anyone knows, please post.

This blog has never been just me telling people what they need to know. It is a group effort of a community of individuals and I could never do what I do without the constant flood of not only informed comments on this blog, but also phone calls and emails backchannel. People send me links and documents, etc. that are a huge part of the information that I draw from and what I have learned over the years while running this blog.

There are several older residents in this town that are more than happy to share their knowledge and experience with me because they know that I really do want to listen and am trying hard to understand everything. This is not an elitist exercise, it's a popular one. I don't pretend to be an expert, and because of that, the blog's readers don't feel like they can't take part if they're new to the discussion, the topic and the information. They are free to jump in, participate and self-educate with the rest of us.

I welcome ALL independent thinkers here who are willing to ASK questions, CONSIDER each other's point of view, OFFER their own point of view and SHARE information. So I appreciate everyone's posts here, because this is essentially like having a conversation with others in a living room, or a pub--there is no rule that you have to be an expert to vocalize your concerns or questions.

The blog is an ONGOING CONVERSATION.

And I have learned a lot from my readers, and hopefully they learn some stuff from me too, but they often correct me, and I correct them, and we all try to keep each other honest, just like any other conversation.

Also, all of the various entities out there--the city, the nonprofits, the businesses, the press, individuals, etc., know that this blog exists and they are free to post comments at any time like anyone else. I occasional do interviews, but I do not have time to interview everyone all the time, and if they want me to have information, they all have my email address (neighborsofeaston@gmail.com).

I am not trying to raise anyone's taxes. It is ultimately GEDP's responsibility, not mine, to educate the public as to what they do and how they do it, if they want to raise people's taxes to fund their organization. They are welcome to reach out to me at any time. However, I enjoy thinking aloud with my readers and will continue to do so.

If the mayor can reach out to inform readers as often as he does, so can the GEDP. Residents are confused and asking for light to be shed on the GEDP. They are welcome to shed it here at any time. That would make it an even richer conversation than it already is.

LainiAbraham said...

@Anonymous 6:43-

Sure, I'll discuss my views. And I'll tell you a story at the same time. My mother, Marsha Abraham, had her own business that she started in the 90s. It was called Auntie M Gift Baskets. At that time, she joined the Chamber. She loved it and it was helpful for her business. When I moved back here, I really didn't think too much of the Chamber. To be honest, I thought they were a little old-school and too corporate. I used to help her set up tables at networking events and attended some mixers with her when I started my business, which was around 2003. Again, I wasn't impressed.

At that time, I was involved with EBA, Easton Business Association. I was on the board for a while, too. It was in about 2004 when there started to be talk of Easton getting a Main Street program. EBA was not aligned with anyone, inlcluding the Chamber at the time. But you know who was introducing everyone to the concept of Main St, and PAID for a lot of the first year? It was the CHAMBER. I love that no one remembers that detail. I don't have an exact number, but it was significant, as in tens of thousands of dollars. Maybe someone who knows can find out.

Anyway, I was impressed with the Main St. program and wanted to know more. I signed up for meetings. I met the Chamber people like Marta Gabriel who were involved from the very beginning. Oh, I forgot to mention, this was very shortly after the merger between TRACC and GLVCC. My mother was a long-time TRACC member. She HATED the new Chamber and she didn't want to see the two merge. But they did. And she was involved with it and helped it happen. At one point I was so tired of hearing her bitch about the Chamber, I told her I couldn't talk about it anymore. cont'd

LainiAbraham said...

Ok, so where were we... Oh, so Chamber merges, my mom's still on the board, and I was on the EBA board and then the Main St. Promotions and Marketing Committee. I went to both sets of meetings. I saw duplication. Eventually, I had some other issues as well, mostly involving conflicts of interest. Amend probably remembers. He was on that committee 2, as well as 2 others. Well, I guess people got tired of me and Bill Marley bringing up these issues, because we were both politely asked to resign. Which we did.

But my mind had changed about the Chamber. I respected them stepping up and financing the beginning of Main St. and I met some great people. I joined. I've never been on a committee or a board. But my mom still is. I actually know very little about what she does on her committee. We don't talk about it.

Most of my experience with GLVCC has been with the Bethlehem Chamber. I met Lynn Logue in 2002 when I was the Art Director of LV Magazine. She did ad sales there. So when I was starting the first Bethlehem book, I contacted her and met with her. They have been great to work with. They also typically take out a half page ad. That's paid for. And I pay for my membership. But it's through working in Bethlehem that I know of the work they are currently doing. I thing they're doing a great job. That's why I keep suggesting it for Easton. IT MAKES SENSE. They are here. They have funds and they want to help.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will tell you that the Chamber also takes an ad in the Easton book. Also, have donated pocket guides to the Chamber, the City of Easton, Main St., and donated a full page ad to the Easton Farmers' Market in all 3 Easton editions. I have never received $1 from any of the above. I've been told they couldn't afford it, and I wanted to help, so I donated what I could.

Keep in mind, I am not obligated to share this information. I have a private business which has never received any public funds. I sit on no boards or committees. I am free to any opinion I have. Mine is not influenced by my mother, or my father, but is my own. However people are influenced all the time, and it's ok. It's part of how people form opinions.

SInce we're all so interested in this kind of information, I'm wondering if @amend would like to share his influences, as he both sits on the GEDP board, and I'm sure at least a couple committees. How much $ have these entities spent with his businesses, Connexions, the Elucidator, and his own design business? And have they received any grant or loan money through them? And if so, how much?

noel jones said...

Amend and Anon--you are both saying that "this information is readily available to the public." Great--where on line can we find that?

Amend--when you say:
"regarding the list of questions you just asked, all that info is indeed available but if falls outside of the scope of this discussion on this blog."

No it does not. Anything being discussed on this blog in within the scope of the discussion on this blog.

LainiAbraham said...

I think the Farmers' Market is wonderful, and Megan, you have done a great job. I think it is confusing as to the relationship between EFM and GEDP. Please correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe EFM is self governing, with its own board. I am not aware of any real GEDP management of it.

It seems there may be about $25,000 involved in some kind of funding from them? Is this grant money? I heard someone say that it "zeros out." That leads me to believe it is more of a loan. If anyone understands this better, could you please explain it?

I have to say the Market has grown in a way that is just incredible. I think that has a lot to do with the people who are running it. As far as I can see, that isNOT the GEDP.

Megan McBride said...

The Easton Farmers' Market is under the umbrella of GEDP so as to have the benefits of a 501c3, payroll service, accounting services, office space and general support. My manager's stipend ($10,500+$5K from County Hotel Tax grant funds)is paid through GEDP. In addition to myself we currently have four other paid employees (asst. manager, EBT manager and Kids' Craft tent manager; they earn a combined total of $10,000). EFM does all the fundraising to fund those salaries. Monies come from PA Ag Dept. and private sponsorships such as Nurture Nature Foundation. The $10,500 manager's stipend comes from the bulk sum that the City provided to GEDP to keep EFM, MS and ambassadors afloat. The additional $5K that I receive as manager comes from County Hotel Tax Grant that EFM applies for each year. So Amend is correct the money totals about $25,500, but it's an in and out. EFM does maintain it's own Advisory Council just as EMSI does and we report monthly to GEDP. The support and oversight that GEDP and the City provides are crucial to our long term sustainability, especially in terms of applying for grants with USDA etc. EFM's overall budget currently runs at about $60,000 but that is all gained via fund-raising. Like Main Street EFM has to be constantly fund-raising in order to sustain the programs, activities and marketing/promotion.

Megan McBride said...

Noel, I posted a rather lenghty post about 20 minutes ago regarding EFM in response to Moniker's earlier comment, but it has yet to appear. (?)

LainiAbraham said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
tunsie said...
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