From Facebook: What Are Your Thoughts On The Second Amendment?

On Facebook Laura asked:

So this just came up in a group I follow that there are only democratic candidates in Bethlehem so this individual doesn’t vote… one of the important issues to this group as a whole is 2nd ammendment rights…what are your views on 2A with your run for mayor?

To answer that I think it’s a good idea to look into exactly what the Second Amendment says.

The Second Amendment states:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

OK, so what’s a militia?

The United States Militia Code states:

(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.

(b) The classes of the militia are—
(1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
(2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.

Based on the way the militia code is written, I believe that the spirit of it is to say that our militia is comprised of formal military groups like the National Guard and Naval Militia as well as “everyone else.” The Bill of Rights was created to protect the rights of individuals, and since everyone is essentially a member of the militia, I believe that the spirit of the Second Amendment is to say that every individual has the right to bear arms.

A gun is dangerous if you aren’t trained on how to use one, but driving a car is also dangerous if you aren’t taught how to drive. I believe that every citizen has the right to be a responsible gun owner and that the Second Amendment should be defended as we defend all other civil liberties.

A More Walkable Downtown

If you ventured over to Bethlehem’s website after reading my post yesterday you may have stumbled across a really interesting report from 2009 on ways that we can improve the walkability of our downtown. The main premise of the study is that a successful city is one where people are walking. In order to get people to walk it is suggested that there must be:

  • A reason to walk (balance of uses)
  • A safe walk (reality and perception)
  • A comfortable walk (space and orientation)
  • An interesting walk (signs of humanity)

The report discusses the current state of the city and then provides specific and general recommendations for improvement. Even if you don’t have time to read through the entire report, it’s worth your time to read the summary on the city website and contemplate how we can continue to improve our two downtowns and make Bethlehem an even better place for residents and visitors alike. I am proud of the improvements we’ve already made and would absolutely like to see us continue to look into the recommendations in the report.

Bethlehem’s Online Presence

They say those who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, and I readily admit that this is a very spartan blog, but let’s talk about the current state of the city website. Whenever most people look for anything about any topic, the first thing they are going to do is look to the Internet. As the gateway to information about our city we should be putting our best foot forward with a clean, navigable website.

As a resident I want to know how to get information about city services and policies. As a potential visitor, I want to know what’s going on in town. Right now it’s a chore to find information, if you can at all. The current site is something that has been patched and patched again for almost a decade with no real change. Trying to navigate it from your phone or tablet? Good luck.

A new website isn’t something that can be slapped together. It needs to be planned out with a quality team of experienced professionals. The employees who have been tasked with maintaining the current website have done their best with the resources they’ve been allocated, but we’re a city that’s growing, and we can, and should, allocate resources toward this. Between our small businesses and universities in town we have a lot of expertise and we should be exploring that collaboration.

What other things, big or small, would you like to see that would make an impact on the quality of life in our city?

From The Comments: Long Term Budgeting

When I said that I was open for people to ask me questions, I was ready for anything, but I’ll be honest, I didn’t expect my post about upgrading my phone to prompt one about city policy, but I think it’s a question deserves an answer, and that it also shouldn’t be buried in the comments on the blog. Chuck asked:

I’m wondering if you can explain a little about why you felt it was personally necessary for you to upgrade from a phone that was perfectly serviceable to the latest model? What do you think that decision says about you as a mayoral candidate? I’m not offering this as a criticism. I am genuinely interested in knowing your feelings on companies like apple that promote a “new” product that basically has many of the same features of the old product. How does this behavior promote a sustainable global economic model? Curious about your thoughts on this.

To get the phone bit out of the way, it was because I’d not only investigated the cost to repair an existing phone, but also what the value of the phone subsidy that I’d be giving up if I didn’t upgrade. After all, that’s built into your plan. I’d built the cost of upgrading my phone every two years into my personal budget, so when the new model came out, I had the money to buy it. I would certainly like to see companies operate with a mindset of allowing consumers to repair rather than replace, but unfortunately that’s the world we live in and we need to adapt to our current reality.

What does this say about me as a candidate? I think it says that I have a mindset toward long term budgeting and planning. Certainly a personal budget and a city budget aren’t the same thing, but like a personal budget, there will always be things that come up, and there are many costs that are known over time. Infrastructure and vehicles are the first two that come to mind. Roads are going to deteriorate and must be repaired. We can project what that will cost over time and it needs to be thought of and factored in. Every year. You can’t neglect things like that to make up for budget shortfalls or you’ll end up in a situation like so many municipalities with crumbling bridges and buildings badly in need of repair.

As an example of this kind of long term thinking, the Bethlehem Police Department is already budgeting to replace its vehicles a few at a time every year. It’s a fact, police cars are used hard and wear out. By planning to replace a few every year, to have that expense built in, means we will continue to have a safe fleet, but that we can also anticipate that expense instead of it sneaking up on us.

I hope that answers your question, Chuck. If anyone else has questions, don’t hesitate to ask.

Better Use of Payrow Plaza

Payrow Plaza – Photo by Lehigh Valley, PA on Flickr (cc license)

Today was a gorgeous day in Bethlehem. I hope you were able to get outside and enjoy it like I did. While I was out and about, I was once again reminded about an underutilized resource that, with some effort, could be a real gem of our increasingly walkable city, Payrow Plaza.

Payrow Plaza, named for former Mayor of Bethlehem, H. Gordon Payrow, Jr. is located at the intersection of Church and New Streets in Bethlehem. It’s where you can find city hall and the library, and I believe it can be put to much better use. It has the potential to be a fantastic place for residents and visitors to congregate, neighbors to enjoy their lunch on a lawn and picnic tables, enjoy the view across the Fahy Bridge, or even just sit down on a bench and read a book checked out from the library. Right now it’s a stark concrete lot with weeds coming up through the cracks.

Musikfest used to have concerts there before AmericaPlatz moved to the south side and of course there is a Christmas tree in the winter, but aside from that, who really goes to Payrow Plaza and stays around for any length of time? They may walk up to the south edge and take a photo, or traverse it to attend a meeting at Town Hall or the library, but that’s about it. What do you think? What other public spaces in the city would you like to see improved so we can all enjoy them?