Unfortunately, due to arcane election laws in Pennsylvania, as someone who is not a member of a political party, I am not allowed to vote in Tuesday’s primary election. That said, just because I can’t vote in the election, it doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion about the outcome of the Democratic Primary.
I moved to Bethlehem in September 2011 after spending the first 30 years of my life in Allentown. When I was looking to buy a home, I took a hard look at the entire Lehigh Valley and it didn’t take long to see that there are a lot of great things happening in Bethlehem. The way that the city has reinvented itself after the demise of the steel is commendable, and it hasn’t rested on its laurels.
I was involved with volunteer work in the city before I bought my house here, but after becoming a resident I started to take a greater interest in the city’s politics. I go to city council meetings when my schedule permits and zoning hearings more often than I’d like due to a developer trying to build an unwanted drug rehab facility in my neighborhood. At those meetings I’ve gotten to know not only more about how the city works, but also more about the people who are making the policies that affect how the city runs. While Bethlehem is a Democratic stronghold, there is definitely a big difference in our representatives.
Now that it’s time to elect new leadership for the city and the county, it’s time for everyone who is able to voice their opinions about what they want for the future of our city. I’ve watched the intense primary that’s underway and while I can’t vote on Tuesday, I know who I want to win and why.
Northampton County Executive: John Callahan
Callahan has served as Mayor of Bethlehem through a transformational time in its history and his vision has helped revitalize the once-struggling city. His sometimes-controversial ideas have helped reduce the city’s debt and have created an environment that has fostered economic growth. I believe that same vision, matured through his mayoral experience will be a huge asset to Northampton County.
Mayor of Bethlehem: J William Reynolds
In the interest of disclosure, Bob Donchez taught me when I was in high school, and Willie Reynolds graduated from Liberty the same year that I graduated from William Allen. That said, my choice had nothing to do with hard feelings against an old teacher, or somehow aligning with someone who is my own age.
Attending city council meetings has shown me that Reynolds has opinions and isn’t afraid to express them. He says what he thinks is right, is prepared to support his views with evidence and is willing to ask tough questions that everyone is thinking, but no one wants to bring up. He’s ready to make a difficult decision, knowing that he’ll never make everyone happy, but that he has to do what he thinks is right and will benefit the greatest number of people, not only those who complain loudly for a few days and then go away, never to be heard from again.
Throughout the primary campaign Reynolds has consistently had a positive message. He actually has a vision for the future of the city and is willing to articulate it. He doesn’t just go back to the talking point of “look at my record.”
Another thing that speaks to me louder than any campaign rhetoric: I actually see Willie Reynolds at community events. He’s in the community. He talks to everyone. He volunteers. Now, I can’t say that I attend every function, volunteer project or activity, but I’ve not seen Donchez at anything.
I want my mayor to have guts, vision, and a positive attitude. I want him to be out in the city, interacting with his constituents, even those who may not agree with him. I want him to keep Bethlehem moving forward.
City Council: Karen Dolan
During the city council meetings I’ve attended, I can say that councilwoman Dolan has shown that she has views similar to mine. The thoughtful questions and opinions she expresses at council meetings show that she is interested in preserving the character of the city while taking a pragmatic approach to sometimes controversial problems.
City Council: Adam Waldron
As a small business owner who lives in the west end of the city, Waldron brings practical experience that he’s gained by not only starting a successful business, but by boot-strapping his campaign. He’s out knocking on doors, putting up signs, volunteering at community events and talking with citizens. He’s got a lot of energy, good ideas and is from a part of the city that has been under-represented on council.
I can say that while I don’t have any personal dislike for the other city council incumbent, Eric Evans, but I can’t say that I support his re-election. While he does a good job at running meetings efficiently, he hasn’t shown me that he’s willing to express his opinions on issues, even those that aren’t controversial. I’m sure he has views, but I don’t know what they are, other than going along with whoever complains the loudest prior to and at city council meetings.
I don’t know anything about Callahan, Sanders or Melnick aside from what I’ve read in the newspaper, so I don’t have a strong opinion on any of them.
Chris Morales, the lone Republican who is running for council is the owner of Easy Weenies, the food cart that you’ll find on Fourth Street. He’s done a lot of work in pushing the city to have more favorable policies toward small business owners. While he’s not going to be affected by the Democratic primary, he’ll have my vote in the general election.