FAQ – Dick’s Mayoral Candidacy

 

  1. Why are you running? Because I am concerned that the City is facing a crisis and is ill prepared for it.  No one is looking ahead and planning for the future, we are playing catch-up with the present.  We are investing huge amounts of money in the Downtown to favor businesses, but are not investing in the community, the people and neighborhoods.
  2. What is the difference between you and Pawlowski?  Well, although we look somewhat similar, we come from radically different backgrounds. I would say that the biggest difference between us is my contention that we need to develop the city by promoting its strengths - Pawlowski believes we need to bring business to downtown.  But really, my ability to think and plan strategically, and my facility at coming up with new and unique ideas are what should be the reason to elect me.  We need someone capable of finding creative solutions to our challenges. 
  3. What would you change?  I would reorganize the way we run the city.  For example, there are myriad overlaps between public safety, and community development, yet they are hardly aligned.  I do not believe we can arrest our way out of crime.  I believe that only a properly functioning community of neighborhoods can drive out crime.  We need to make a clear declaration of what we choose as goals for the city, and then evaluate all our spending on how it drives us toward those goals.  We need to decide if programs currently funded are actually helping us reach those goals. It seems that we merely see if the programs are operating, not evaluating their efficacy at realizing our over-arching goals.  Within the City government itself, we do not have incentives for saving in departments, because any saving is immediately given to the general fund, and also incorporated into the expectations for the following year.  There is no gain for doing a better fiscal job, so why bother. This promotes a lack of interest in doing a better job.  The City needs to function cohesively to effectively move us toward the future.
  4. Specifically, how would a Nepon administration function?  First of all, I would be accessible.  I would attend Council meetings, and work with transparency instead of secrecy.  I am a collaborative leader, not a lone wolf.  I think we can get better ideas and better buy-in to new concepts by working together.  I do not have all the answers, but I do have the ability to make the important decisions after hearing various alternatives. 
  5. What differences would we see if you are Mayor?  The most noticeable change would be a concentration on results that citizens can see and feel.  I would change the direction of our housing program from creating more affordable housing to making life more enjoyable for those already living here.  To do that we need to address what are the biggest quality of life issues.  By creating and empowering the neighborhoods we can and will reduce the opportunity and occurrence of crime and gangs.   I will personally, with my cabinet, visit any neighborhood that requests it. I will introduce myself to any ‘problem’ residencies and make it clear that we are all about good neighborhoods.  When I worked for Lowe’s, we were told that if we suspected a customer was actually trying to rip us off, we were to offer excellent customer service.  That idea translates well into community development.  By offering ‘excellent customer service’ to our community we can encourage those who flourish in the dark to move on to other locales.  That is the best we can do.  We haven’t the resources to cure crime, but we do have the resources to move crime out.  A further change would be a result of appointments to the Parking Authority.  I believe that we need to provide more parking options in the inner city.  The lack of available parking combined with the increased enforcement feels like a regressive tax.  Creating some neighborhood parking, by taking down some of the buildings  and converting those to ground lots, we would go a long way toward relieving some of the stress of downtown living as well as stop engendering disrespect for authority.  While it may take time to address the proliferation of multifamily housing in neighborhoods not designed to support them, we can go a lot farther toward mitigating the problems that arise from the crowding. 
  6. What new ideas do you have for the City?  I would like to see us concentrate on being at the leading edge of the growing trend for city living in sustainable communities.   We have the basis for a number of community conversions, taking existing neighborhoods and converting them to walkable, livable sustainable communities through innovative change such as closing through streets into cul-de-sacs, encouraging small ‘bodega’ style markets and neighborhood schools.  Many of these neighborhoods currently have small scale industry.  We can create a place where you can live and work, shop and play without the need for a car.  Through creative use of pooling resources, we can fund the transformation, encourage growth in real estate prices through limited availability, and then replicate the concept in more places. Another idea I have is to create a new government center that is both energy efficient, as well as large enough to centralize our government functions.  Through discussions with funding sources, it appears we can actually save money while increasing efficiency.  By disposing of current real estate holdings whose uses would be combined in the new structure, we would return some property to the tax roles, eliminate a lot of duplication of equipment and services, and utilize an underutilized property centrally located in the City.
  7. How can Allentown benefit from the traffic produced by the Sand Casino in neighboring Bethlehem?  At present, there is no good reason for people who come to the Sands to visit Allentown. The America on Wheels Museum is a start, but not enough to justify the trip for most people.  Development of the Riverfront may be a good idea, but will take quite some time.  I would like to reverse the equation... What can Allentown do that will drive traffic and dollars to Allentown merchants, whose customers may decide to visit the Casino while they are in the area?  To do that we need to establish a unique identity for the City that will attract people from a greater distance than just a circle around the planned casino.  We need to think bigger than just below the Poconos and above Philadelphia.  I have conceived of a plan to establish our city as the best of what it is, to promote what we have.  Why can’t we be the pre-imminent Latino City on the East Coast?  We could be the place to come for Latin Culture, including food and music as well as art and education?  This has been done for example, in Miami, where at one time the Cuban population was blamed for all the ills, but is now the economic engine driving the Miami area’s rebirth.  There is no place on the East coast know for its Latin culture.  There is a large market and no one serving it.  Allentown’s future is not its past. We will never have a Hess’s and a Leh’s and a Zollinger’s. But we can have a flourishing future by stressing what we do have and investing in it. 
  8. What can we do with the Government we have to make it work better?  Recognizing that because of our size, we have in house many forms of expertise unattainable by surrounding municipalities.  We could offer our services, for hire, to those neighbors, decreasing our costs to support those services locally.  Some of this could be through public/private partnerships which we can create with local businesses, some through private agreements.  Much as we market our water and Sewer services, we could be marketing other services.
  9. What about our parks? Our parks need to be supported for the quality of life issues that they afford us.  But we also need to look at the latest ideas in environmental policy to see what we can do to use our parks to help us in our quest for a sustainable future.  We should be encouraging not only recreational uses, but also environmental protection.  We should evaluate our habit of mowing regularly, and closely. We should look to reestablish native species in place of other species imported to the area for ‘looks’.  We should look toward neighborhood parks for planting of vegetable gardens, not just playgrounds.
  10. What else should we know about you?  I had my first encounter with city government after I bought my first house at 9th & Walnut Street, and decided to convert it into a storefront for a bookstore.  I discovered the world of zoning and building and electrical codes (and inspectors).  I also discovered that the property, while surrounded by businesses, was not zoned for business.  I did not just get the zoning changed for me, through a variance, but successfully fought to have the area rezoned to reflect its actual character and nature.  When I moved to New Jersey to take advantage of an opportunity to develop a 60 acre tract, and raise my kids in the country setting, I volunteered for the planning board as an alternate.  I also joined my first Volunteer Fire Department.  On my return to Allentown, I became active in the arts community as well as the school community.  I served as a board member at the Open Space Gallery on Hamilton St, and the Theatre Outlet, then on N 9th Street. I volunteered for Mayfair.  As in so many such activities, I rose to a leadership position in all of my volunteer activities.  Eventually, after working for the school district as a strategic planner, I ran for and won election to the Board of School Directors to try to get some of my ideas enacted.  I am a committed community booster, with demonstrated concern and ability to get things accomplished.