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Bottomless Banananose

When I introduced the Saucon Shenanigans Fact Checker a couple of weeks ago, I explained that it was based on the Washington Post’s Fact Checker. I also explained that in 2018 the Post felt it necessary to add a new category to their Fact Checker because of the behaviors of the former president. They called that category Bottomless Pinocchio and applied it to situations where the same lies were repeated over and over and over again. They had a few other requirements as well. I said that I didn’t think we’d need that for the Saucon Shenanigans Fact Checker.

Silly me.

It took only 2 meetings of the LST Council to change my mind. The shitshows on June 26 and July 11 that masqueraded as council meetings clearly require a new category. Herewith the Bottomless Banananose.

Bottomless Banananose is reserved for those meetings that are so full of misinformation, misdirection, bad behavior, lack of context and flat out lies that it would be too tedious to assign a rating to each comment or behavior. Instead, the entire meeting will simple be categorized as a Bottomless Banananose. We hereby award Bottomless Banananoses to both the June 26 and July 11 LST Council meetings.

First, let me say that holding Council meetings in Se-Wy-Co fire hall is a big improvement over holding it in the regular Council meeting room.  The June 26 and July 11 meetings were the first times I was actually able to hear not only the Council members speak, but also the public comments.  If you can get it to work at Se-Wy-Co, why can’t you get it to work at Town Hall?

I’m not going to take the time to deal with every single obnoxious Council behavior over the two meetings because I’m not interested in writing a modern-day version of “War and Peace”.  And as to the subject matter discussed, you can find that in the township minutes from June 26, available attached to the July 26 agenda.  Of course, you can’t find any minutes from the July 11 meeting because, gee whiz, it’s only been two weeks.  You can’t expect minutes to be written up that quickly!  Again, what do we pay our administrative staff for?

If you want to see what really went on in both meetings, I urge you to go to the township YouTube channel and watch all of this buffoonery in living color.  Why?  Because until you see it for yourself, you won’t believe that elected officials behave this way.  And no, it’s not that way in every township.  Many of us in the process of seeking support to fight the landfill expansion and to get us back some library services have had occasion now to visit a number of neighboring municipalities and public organizations and see how they’re run.  NOTHING matches what we have to deal with here.  In fact, mostly our experiences have been ones of cordial and respectful acknowledgement of our concerns and intelligent questioning. Imagine that – civility!

Instead I’m going to focus on what has become the most obvious obnoxious behaviors.

First we have the fact that apparently Carocci can’t manage to arrive on time for meetings.  He was 32 minutes late for the June 26 meeting and 17 minutes late for the July 11 meeting.  Perhaps he’s late because he has to procure his liquid refreshment to bring with him before he shows up.

Then we have Banonis reading us, in its entirety, the resolution on code of conduct for township council meetings on June 26.  He’s done this before. I don’t know why he bothers. He and Carocci regularly break the rules or act as if the rules don’t apply to them. Here’s a hot news flash, you two.  You may be council members but these rules apply to “residents and taxpayers” and you are those too. So these rules apply to you as well.

Let’s look at a few “whereas”es that get ignored.

“Whereas, the Lower Saucon Township Council is authorized to establish a level of civility and promote an atmosphere of reasoned expression of ideas…” “Whereas, the Council is [sic] strong advocate of free speech and [redundantly] wishes to promote an atmosphere of reasoned expression of ideas…”  Behaving in an arrogant and insulting manner by ignoring residents’ comments hardly establishes a level of civility. Instead, it promotes an atmosphere of authoritarianism that demeans and belittles residents.

What follows are then 26 enumerated statements about public comment and participation.  In general it can be observed that Banonis and Carocci regularly break #20At all times, each attendee at a Council Meeting shall respect the point of view of others.  No comment disagreeing with another’s point of view shall involve a personal attack on the character of others with a different view point.”  As far as I can tell, they are “attendee[s] at a Council Meeting.”

And yet on June 26 we have Banonis reading a social media post made by one of the residents who was commenting on his opposition to the landfill.  There was no agenda item listing the reading of that social media comment.  The comment was not relative to the public comment that the resident was making. And, as was his first amendment right, the resident had used highly inflammatory language in his social media post.  Banonis read all of that, including the swear words and the scatological language, out loud, in public, in the meeting, violating #16 which says “to facilitate the business of the Township and to maintain order, there shall be no foul or vulgar language used or gestures made during the meeting.”  But here Banonis finds it is his right to insert that into the public comment period. And now you can also read it all in the Council minutes of June 26.

Banonis also attempts to impugn Laura Ray’s character whenever she makes a public comment, making cracks about not making a political speech or a political statement. “This isn’t time for a campaign speech.” [Council Minutes, 26 June, p. 10, line 47]  Laura Ray is a township resident with as much right to make a public comment as any other person whether she’s running for a public office or not.  She’s also subject to the ludicrous 3-minute limit that each of the rest of us is, [see Banonis calling police on her after 3 minutes “Officer, please, thank you.” Council Minutes, 26 June, p. 10, line 48] and yet Banonis can blather on about any topic he chooses for as long as wants, especially if he thinks it makes him look good.  Here I’m thinking back to his long-winded comments on June 26 about the state of the township’s pension fund and investments in which he tried to make it look like the Council (read: him) was responsible for the positive state of the fund when in fact we know there are financial advisors from Morgan Stanley and Chuck Friedlander, the township actuary, who actually make the recommendations for those decisions.  He convicts himself out of his own mouth when he babbles on about the state of the market and what that means and where the economy’s going.  Sad to say for him, most of his nonsense from that night has been proven false in the month since then.  Go back and read his words in the June 26 minutes and have a hearty laugh. Those of us who actually do understand economics know better than to forecast that which cannot be forecast.

Carocci was even worse on June 26 and by rights he should be censured.  Following public comments on agenda items, with nothing on the agenda, he proceeded to excoriate resident Dr. Bilal Khan for what he claimed was material that was dumped by Lehigh University – where Dr. Khan is employed – that contained asbestos, claiming “so let’s not talk about Lehigh University having clean hands” [Council Minutes, 26 June, p. 12, line 7].  His comment was completely off-topic and irrelevant but he said it in an obvious attempt to demean Dr. Khan and the very pertinent information that he had provided earlier in his comments regarding the inappropriateness of the proposed rezoning for landfill and the obvious purpose of scheduling a comment period before the agenda starts in order to quash public comment.

But Carocci’s next statements were even more egregious and completely violated the rules for comment.  Although since he wasn’t operating under any actual agenda item, it’s hard to say what rules applied.  He proceeded to attack Laura Ray, “Then the last one someone said Laura Ray’s never took [sic] anything from the Township, she took about $200,000.00 for a property from the Township. So, she has $200,000.00 of Township…” [Council Minutes, 26 June, p. 12, lines 10-12]. Banonis quickly cut him off before he finished what was clearly going to be a defamatory statement about Ms. Ray’s participation in the Open Space program.  The audience erupted in pandemonium, forcing Banonis to call a recess.

Luckily for us, neither Dr. Khan nor Ms. Ray is so easily bullied.  In the non-agenda item comment period at the end of the meeting, Dr. Khan called out the inappropriateness of Carocci’s statements about Lehigh.  More importantly, I want to include here Ms. Ray’s response to the lies that Carocci was spewing about her property and the Open Space program for two reasons.  First, because she has the right to be heard about the truth and second, because Carocci jammed through the creation of an unnecessary and redundant Open Space Committee (that function should be handled by our EAC) earlier this year to spend some of the $8.8 million (you read that correctly) that’s sitting idle in a township bank account and Ms. Ray’s explanation proves that Carocci doesn’t have the foggiest idea how Open Space programs work.  Here in her words as reported in the Council Minutes:  [Council Minutes, 26 June, p. 29, lines 22-39]

“Laura Ray said she’s going to talk about the lovely disparaging remarks that are made about the open space program, which she participated in maybe 15 years ago or so. It seems pretty appalling that the person who appointed himself the Chair of the EAC and one of the big things we do is have an open space program, and promote residents to participate in that, to continually badmouth her because she did participate in it. It was not a dirty bathroom, back door deal that was done in the dark of night that nobody knew about. Her property falls on the County line with Bucks County, so she also has Springfield Township, which was involved in this easement along with Northampton County who participated along with our Township, so there was a lot of eyes on it and there was a lot of criteria that had to be met before the property was accepted into the program. An easement was done appropriately with a third party involved so it does run with the land in perpetuity. It can’t be broken. Her property has the headwaters for the Cooks Creek, which is an exceptional value stream, which is very few of those around. She’s not the total owner of the property. She co-owns it with somebody so she didn’t have full control over monies involved so she just thinks it’s disgusting that you continue to badmouth people. How does this promote our open space program if you are going to put down people or somehow insinuate that they are a bad person if they participate in the program? It has nothing to do with her volunteer work within the community, which she has done for decades at no pay so it’s two totally separate topics, which makes no sense for you to try to lump it together somehow.”

Following Ms. Ray’s statement, Carocci replied with “…how much taxpayer money did you put in your pocket?” [Council Minutes, 26 June, p. 29, lines 39-40]. This is the response of a piece of human scum, not the response of a responsible elected representative of the township. He should be publicly sanctioned for his behavior.

That’s all I can stomach for one newsletter.  

A 3-Year Anniversary

July 25 marks exactly 3 years since I published the first issue of Saucon Shenanigans. Honestly, I never expected to still be doing this after 3 years.  I was naïve enough to believe that if you publicly called out someone for bad behavior that any decent person would realize that their behavior was either not appropriate or was not being perceived the way they meant it to be.  And that decent person would amend his or her ways.  Apparently not in Lower Saucon Township.  I’ve watched an appalling decline in the behavior of our elected “leaders” and the decline only seems to accelerate as the years go on.

Beginning next week, I will be publishing a weekly or bi-weekly issue of Saucon Shenanigans in which I will review what has happened in the last 3 years – the things we’ve lost, the things that have gotten brushed under the rug, the behaviors that have deteriorated, the money that’s been wasted.  Sad to say, I think there’s enough information to be able to cover all the weeks between now and Election Day – November 7. 

Of all the feedback I’ve gotten over the 3 years, the saddest and most infuriating feedback has been the number of people who, after the library fiasco began in January 2022, said to me, “I never saw this coming,” or “Why would they behave like this?”  I had to bite my tongue not to say “the signs were all there but you just didn’t listen.”  Now with between 400 and 1000 readers of each issue of Saucon Shenanigans, I hope over the next 14+ weeks you’ll see the sordid history of the past 3 years and find the time and energy to share it with your fellow LST residents.  The only way to fix this is at the ballot box.  That’s in your hands.

Next Council Meeting Wednesday, August 16, 6:30 PM Town Hall

Following Council Meeting Wednesday, August 30, 9 AM Se-Wy-Co

Days to General Election – 104


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