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Making Progress in Spite of the Brats

We’re ba-a-a-a-ck! We’ve been on hiatus for two reasons.  The first is mechanical.  Saucon Shenanigans has been moved to a new platform and the transfer was a bit more complex than anticipated.

The second reason is a bit more philosophical.  I began writing Saucon Shenanigans in July of 2020 primarily because a neighbor who was very upset at the behavior of the Township Council said, “Well, nobody knows what goes on there and besides, nobody cares.”  This was during COVID-19 when the Council was meeting via Zoom.  I had been following the meetings since February of that year and I had become increasingly appalled at the behavior of several of the Council members.  So I very boldly proclaimed, “Well, I may not be able to make people care, but I can certainly make sure they know what’s going on.”   With that, Saucon Shenanigans was born.

I truly believed – very naively, as it turned out – that if the two most rude members of Council along with the arrogant Solicitor were simply made aware of how their behavior came across to residents that they would, like most civilized people, improve their behavior.  After all, no one wants to be disliked, do they?  Apparently the answer to that is “yes, yes they do.”

Over the following 3+ years, I have diligently shared with my fellow residents what I have witnessed in meeting after meeting.  Not only did the behavior of those two Councilmen deteriorate as time went on, but the Council majority began taking actions that were more and more contrary to what seemed to be for the good of the community and contrary to what residents, who were increasingly stifled in their commenting, were saying when they were allowed to speak.  I think back to the bullying of the fire companies as they tried to merge during a pandemic, followed by the shock of refusing to continue the relationship with the Hellertown Area Library in January 2022, and culminating in the rezoning of the 275 acres to cater to the Bethlehem Landfill’s expansion in December 2022, followed by the hell we’ve all been through in the time since then.

But surprise, surprise, on November 7, 2023, we all discovered that it wasn’t that “nobody cares.”  It truly was that most people just didn’t know what was going on.  And once they found out what was going on, the residents of LST cared A LOT.  60% of the voters voted for the new slate of Priscilla DeLeon, Victoria Opthof-Cordaro and Laura Ray.

The Interregnum

Sadly, there was even more profound deterioration of behavior between Election Day and January 2, 2024, the date for the Council reorganizational meeting.  The Council majority tried to lock the township into as much spending as possible.  That was coupled with a completely mythical “come to Jesus” moment in which they professed their belief in the need to reduce township taxes, something they hadn’t seen the need for before they lost the election.  In fact, they’d campaigned on the budget that had been approved as a draft in October and advertised to the public.  The reduced budget combined with the locked-in increased spending was retaliation to make it more financially difficult for the new Council majority to stave off the expansion of the dump.

But It Got Better in the New Year, Right?

Despite all the exuberance and excitement on January 2 at the Council reorganization meeting before a packed meeting room of residents, the joy was not to last.  Even that evening, Banonis, now out of power, was back to his old tricks – rude, arrogant, interrupting, lying, insulting, name-calling.  Carocci didn’t even bother to show up. When they discovered that their old buddy Solicitor Treadwell was not going to be joining them in the New Year, they became even more putrid.

Ever since then, these two supposedly grown men have been behaving like grade school brats on the playground.  If you can stomach it, you can see the behavior for yourself on any of the YouTube videos of the meetings since then.  We’ve had a meeting that set what I’m assuming was a township record that lasted until 2:39 AM and another that went to 11:55 PM.  The January 24th meeting which had exactly one agenda item on it lasted 2 ½ hours.

A Conundrum

So the conundrum for Saucon Shenanigans is how to deal with this kind of behavior and that’s what I’ve been considering over these few weeks of switching platforms.  Here’s what I’ve come up with.

The majority of us voted for the new Council members who ran on a very clear, very specific agenda.  We voted them in because that’s what we want to see happen in LST – regarding the library, regarding the dump, regarding our relationship with Hellertown and our other neighbors – so many things that will improve our quality of life.  We did not vote for two brats to throw temper tantrums at every meeting, costing the township money by dragging out meetings and wasting time.  In fact, we’ve done a little calculating and it costs the township about $9/minute for each Council meeting when you figure in the cost of staff like the Township Manager and the Director of Finance and the Township Engineer and the Solicitor and the cost of the police officer who’s there the whole time.  So every time they throw a tantrum, the costs start adding up.  When you have a one-item-agenda meeting that runs at least 1½ hours more than necessary, that’s $810 right there.  Imagine how much that meeting cost us that lasted until 2:39 AM!

The Solution

Here’s the solution I’ve come up with.  Going forward, Saucon Shenanigans will be focused primarily on the progress that is being made on all those items that we elected the new Council to pursue.  Or, to be fair, if they don’t make progress on them, Saucon Shenanigans will report on that as well.  I’ll bring you all the news about what’s happening just as I have for the last 3 ½ years.  Honest and forthright.

What I will not do is cover all the brattiness and childish nonsense of Banonis and Carocci.  I won’t repeat the lies and the smears about Hellertown and the twisted misinformation about budgets or the dump owners or the name-calling.  If you want to see that behavior, we now have the YouTube livestream for you to watch (and thank goodness I don’t have to do that anymore!).  And while it’s fun to write all that snarky stuff and yes, they make it so easy to make fun of them, that’s not really what we care about.  There will still be plenty of humor and hopefully this will continue to be an enjoyable read but I frankly am sick of slogging through the garbage at every meeting.  It’s bad enough that I have to sit there and listen to it.  It’s so much worse to have to regurgitate it for you.

Am I going to let them off the hook?  Oh, hell no!  What you can expect to see going forward is reporting on the substance of the Council meeting – what was discussed, what was voted on, what is of importance to you as a resident and where we’re headed.  I’ll start with that.  Then I’ll probably follow-up with a brief synopsis of the latest antics by the two clowns.  And at the end of each post there will be a countdown clock of days until the next municipal election when you can vote them out.

Catching Up

Let’s catch up on what’s happened of substance since the January 2 re-org meeting. If you attended or watched any or all of these meetings, feel free to skip to the end.

A good place to start is my post of January 11, 2024, “New Year, New Council, New Direction” where I listed 12 actions that the new Council took to start to move us in a positive direction.  You can read it here.

January 11 –  Special Budget Meeting 

  • extensive presentation by newly-elected Controller Lynn Hill about the various funds that make up the budget and the projections for the end of year balances
  • presentation by the Fire Chief regarding future needs for the fire company
  • discussion of 2024 budget and vote to revise the budget to prepare it for advertising
  • return the total tax rate to 5.14 mills which was the total that had been included in the original draft of the budget advertised in November 2023  
  • total 5.14 mills would be redistributed as .9 mills for the fire tax and 4.24 mills for the general fund
  • total tax rate would remain 5.14 mills, the same as in 2023,  2022 and 2021
  • first meeting with Mark Freed as Solicitor

January 17 – Regular business meeting in addition to hearing on Conditional Use Application 

  • Conditional Use hearing on installation of Verizon cellphone tower goes very long and is then continued until February 7 meeting
  • long discussion over the revised budget which had been prepared following the January 11 budget meeting for advertising.  Following redundant and ridiculous discussion, the item was eventually withdrawn from the agenda to be included on the February 7 meeting agenda.
  • wrangling over terminating 3 council committees which were either no longer needed, had never been completely staffed or had completed their work.
    •  Fire Services Capital Plan Subcommittee had presented its report in late 2023 and therefore finished its work 
    • Open Space Committee whose work was redundant to the work of the EAC and to which the previous Council had never finished appointing members so it never met
    •  Library Services Committee, never met because it would not have had public meetings and was therefore a violation of the Sunshine Act. 
    • The 3 committees were terminated.  
  • Dr. Dru Germanoski elected Chair of the EAC following useless wrangling and presentation of objections that did not hold up to scrutiny 
  • Banonis and Carocci insult and harass Mark Freed, the newly appointed solicitor, on a variety of subjects.  After the meeting, Mr. Freed resigns.  No one could blame him.

January 24 – Special Meeting to Appoint New Solicitor

  • Single agenda item to appoint Steve Goudsouzian as Interim Township Solicitor. After insulting questioning by Banonis and Carocci, Mr. Goudsouzian is approved.
  • Cheyenne Reiman, a resident and a real estate agent, brought a group of Easton Road area residents in to comment in the non-agenda portion of the meeting on the proposed re-zoning of Easton Road back to residential from the change to LM that had happened in March 2023.  Unfortunately Mrs. DeLeon did not enforce the 5 minute rule for people to speak and the comments droned on and on. This was at least half the reason that the meeting ended up being 2 ½ hours long.

February 7 – Regular business meeting in addition to hearing on Conditional Use Application 

  • the all-time record setting meeting that lasted from 6:30 PM to 2:39 AM.  
  • continuation of the conditional use hearing regarding the Verizon cellphone tower.  Unfortunately, at the previous meeting, an agreement had been made that the hearing would take all the in-person testimony so that it would not need to be continued again.  By the time the Verizon people had finished giving all their commercials for Verizon and then all the residents who were opposed had offered their testimony where they had been cross-examined and insulted by both Banonis and Carocci making one wonder whether the Councilmen were in fact working for Verizon, it was 11:37 PM.
  • Residents from the Vistas at Longridge Development (Longridge Dr. and Royal Valley Lane) share what were really horrifying stories about the difficulties that they have had with the builder, Rotelle.  Their stories of bad grading, terrible storm water run-off, defective electrical work, and other serious deficiencies to the critical infrastructure of their homes were truly terrifying.  They had come to the council – and waited patiently until 11:37 PM – to ask for whatever assistance the township could provide.  It seemed as if there was a lot of violation of building codes that should have been caught before certificates of occupancy had been issued.  What was somewhat disconcerting was that it seemed no one on council or the staff really had a good idea of whose responsibility any of this was.  The council did seem genuinely appalled by what they were hearing and promised to look into the situation more deeply to see what assistance they could provide and put the item on the agenda for the next meeting.
  • the revised 2024 budget was passed, again after a lot of needless wrangling and unnecessary questions  
  • arguments over whether to send a letter to the DEP over a Notice of Violation that had been issued to the dump (sorry, landfill).  This of course required more arguments and objections, insults and inane comments as well as an extensive recitation of excuses from the dump’s lawyer about why all of this had happened, before the motion was passed to send the letter.
  • (2 AM) Banonis makes a motion to create an RFP for Treadwell as the Solicitor.  It is defeated.  
  • Banonis makes several more motions for RFPs or to put himself on the interviewing committee for a solicitor, all of which fail.  
  • (2:20 AM) Banonis and Carocci just get up and leave although the meeting’s not over.  
  • What a clown show!

February 21 – Regular Business Meeting

  • Residents of Vistas at Longridge Development return to learn what Council can do to help them. Not much is offered in the way of assistance except thoughts and prayers.  Roger to study grading requirements for lots. Mark Hudson to send letter to DEP asking for assistance with water quality. Solicitor Goudsouzian is asked to look into joint defense agreement between Township and homeowners.  All agree to keep working on the problem.
  • Several regular business items – payment #3 for construction of Taj Mahal – ooops, Easton Road Ballfield Project, approval of Saucon Valley Community Center Agreement for 2024, approval of Special Event Application for SV Youth Lacrosse Day.
  • Continuing attempt by Banonis to claim that revised budget is illegal and reserves are excessive.  Tries to report possibility of resident lawsuits to township’s liability insurance carrier, Mr. Goudsouzian’s malpractice insurance carrier, and the holder of the bond for Ms. Hill’s work as controller.  All motions defeated.
  • Banonis moves to authorize preparation of RFP for Township Solicitor.  Defeated
  • Ms. Ray identifies educational opportunities for volunteer Board Members and moves to promote participation by Board Members and payment of tuition by Township.  Motion passes but the vote’s 4-1, Banonis voting no.  I guess he’s against education.

So there we have it. All caught up until tomorrow’s next regular business meeting.  Anyone want to pick the over/under for when the meeting ends?

I’ll keep at this in the interest of the good people of the township.  It is my sincere hope that there will continue to be progress to report on all of the items that we voted to have implemented.

Thank you for reading Saucon Shenanigans!  While this will remain free to readers as a public service, if you find what I write valuable and would like to support this work, you can make a contribution by clicking the "support" button below.  Any support will be greatly appreciated.