Saturday, April 13, 2013

Some insight on the ballot refusal of the Allentown Water issue petitions

  If you read the blogs and the so called local media, you would think that the head of the Lehigh County Voter Registration office, Tim Benyo, was responsible for the water issue not getting on the ballot. Some folks mistakenly were lead to believe by uninformed sources that Benyo reviewed the petitions and found there to be a conflict between state and local laws, which kept Benyo from putting the question on the ballot, There is even a belief that he did nothing to notify the petition gatherers of their pending legal issues.

    All of this would be wrong

    You see, I have this nasty habit of asking questions and trying to find the truth. I am not sure who told what to whom, I only have the media reports and what I have read elsewhere. But I also have my firsthand investigation and my in person questioning of the parties involved.

    When you want to see petitions, usually you go to County Voter registration. But this time, the big secret is that THE PETITIONS NEVER LEFT THE CITY CLERK'S OFFICE. Tim Benyo never laid eyes on them. All Benyo ever got was a communication from the City Clerk that there was a legal conflict that prevented the issue from being on the ballot. After receiving that, he kicked it upstairs at County for the legal eagles to handle. To blame REPUBLICAN Tim Benyo and claim he is an agent of dark conspiratorial forces is untrue. He, and no one else at his office, ever laid eyes on the water issue petitions.

    So I went to the City Clerk's office and asked to see them. The only person there was a receptionist who wanted my name and purpose for seeing them. She retrieved the petitions for me after I made it plain  that I knew they had to be there......somewhere.

       She retrieved them from a cabinet from which she had to remove several piles of files to get to them.
      These things were buried on the bottom drawer under God Knows what in the City Clerk's office. I did look through them, and they were the originally submitted petitions. the kicker is I already had access to copies of the petitions from a third party and knew what I was looking for.  The receptionist told me I could only look at the petitions, if I wanted copies I would have to file a right to know and probably pay for them.
     So after 15 minutes paging through them and verifying they were the real deal, I went back downstairs and filed a Right To know Request asking for copies of the original petitions.

    I also learned at that time that the power burning plant petition folks had fallen approximately 800 signatures short in their efforts for a ballot question.

     If the water issue people have questions about what happened, they should start and end their investigation at the City Clerk's office. That is where all the evidence leads, and where the petitions are, literally buried. The Lease is pretty much a done deal, and they should accept that. But the actions of the Allentown City Clerk raise ethical questions on many levels. The Clerk has an obligation to do his job properly, in this case, his neglect in not notifying the petition gatherers of a potential conflict may have been perfectly within legal bounds, but rings loudly of political maneuverings. The Clerk should be above that,
    If I were an Allentown resident, I would ask City Council to review the procedure used by the Clerk in handling and verifying the petitions, and what measure are in place to enable the citizens to correct any mistakes or perceived deficiencies that might occur. A mechanism exists for candidates, isn't there one for potential ballot questions? There must be, and if there isn't, there should be.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Velez is on, but not for the reason I thought.

     I thought Kim Velez would get back on the ballot because of a technicality in the withdrawal process. But Judge Varrichio, after hearing all the evidence of what transpired, ruled that it was reasonable to believe that Kim Velez withdrew under duress, and gave everybody an out. I have already made my argument concerning her signatures, but that doesn't matter. What matters is that the true spirit of Democracy was served.
     You may not like the rules of electioneering as they exist, but they were played by all sides in this to the hilt. Mike Fleck did not do anything illegal. Tim Brennan did what his client asked him to do. Kim Velez is back on the ballot.
    Judge all of them however you want, but Miss Velez still has to get her message out and get more than 2500 Allentown Democratic Voters to push that on screen button next to her name.
    She has six weeks, and as I do all candidates, I wish her well.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

45 Days from election day, here are my Allentown Democratic City Council Primary predictions

   Right off the bat, I have Kim Velez in this. I have talked to several local lawyers who think Bill Platt will win on a point of law. So let's move on.  We have nine candidates and we have four spots. Joseph Davis  does not matter because he is running unopposed to finish the two years left on now State Representative Mike Schlossberg's term.  Here, for all intents and purposes, using lots of solid data and analyzing trends, is what all the voodoo says to me.

      I believe that democratic Voter turnout on May 21st will be between 5200 and 5600 voters.
     So that you can understand how I came to that number, I will explain the variables I looked at, The biggest is past voter turnout in municipal primaries since 2005.
     In 2005, just over 7000 Democrats went to the polls in a heated mayors race. Yet only 6.675 of them voted in the mayors race. Pawlowski had 2692, Sam Bennett 2154, and Louie Bellettieri 1824. The Allentown Democratic Primary that thrust Ed Pawlowski to power was decided by less than 20% of the city's registered Democrats. To further my point about lack of voter interest, even in a contested Mayoral race year, I point to the City Council primary results. Voters could choose 4 candidates, meaning there could have been over 28,000 total votes cast for the seven city Council candidates. Believe it or not, there were only 17,095 votes cast, meaning an undervote of over 10,000 opportunities to vote existed. Those votes were spread out over the 7 candidates, with the highest total being 3460, and the lowest 1267.
    One point of interest in that batch is that Julio Guridy,while gathering 3,095 (and that gave him 2nd place) in that year, is on the ballot for reelection this year.
    In 2007 there were 5 Democratic candidates for three seats. There was also a contested Controller's race, which helps us gage interest. In the Controllers race, 4404 votes were cast by just over 4800 Democrats that came out. In the city Council race, those 4800 Democrats could have cast a total of 14,400 votes for the five candidates, Instead, the 5 candidates only accumulated 10,211 votes between them.
   In 2009, Ed Pawlowski ran unopposed, and 7 candidates ran for four seats on City Council, I have exact turnout numbers for 2009, and only 4332 democrats in Allentown went to the polls. That gave a 100% potential of 17,328 votes in the City Council race, yet the five candidates only garnered 13,840, an undervote of 3,488 votes, or almost 20%
    In 2011, it got worse. only 3513 registered Democrats came out for the primary, and the five candidates only garnered a total of 7563 votes out of a potential 10,539, for an undervote of 28.2%

   So lets look at this again:
   2005 Turnout approx 7000, actual mayor votes 6670, City Council votes 17093 of 28,000
  2007 turnout approx 4800 Controller votes 4404, City Council 10211 of 14,400
  2009 turnout was 4332, city council votes 13,840 of 17,328
  2011 turnout was 3513, city Council votes 7563 of possible 10539.

   Primary turnout in Allentown has been steadily declining, leading to fewer and fewer people making the decisions. The positive for candidates is that it makes the core group of true believers easier to identify and reach, the negative is that if you tick them off, you do so at your own peril

    Another key element is the bad read of the Democratic party of Latino voters, They are transient and not rooted in the community. They make up 30% of the voting age eligible population, but less than 5% votes in the municipal primary. Cynthia Mota came in 5th of five candidates in 2011, and got her seat thru appointment when Frank Concannon resigned. She shows up no better than 7th no matter how I run the numbers. And by transient, I mean that almost 30% of the Hispanic voters who voted in Allentown in 2008 did not vote in 2012. Where did they go? That is almost 800 voters. They either moved or died, and I'm voting for moved.

   My point is, Conventional wisdom about voter loyalty does not apply here.  But VOTER ANGER DOES.

   Originally, I had my estimate at a healthy 4400 to 4800 voters, but the core voters are angry about at least two big issues in Allentown, those being the handling of the ARENA NIZ and the Water lease. The Arena issue had me bumping turnout to the 4800 to 5200 level, and the water issue has me adding another 400 potential voters, to my present 5200 to 5600. Perhaps I am being a bit generous in thinking that the 4500 signatures gathered on the water petitions will result in about 400 Dems voting who wouldn't otherwise, but that number feels right, and sometimes you have to weigh your gut instinct.

     So here's what I see for the results May 22. If 5400 Dems show up at the polls, that gives a potential of 21,600 votes cast. I see about an 18% undervote, for a total number of votes cast of around 16,858 spread between 9 Candidates.

   My only true lock is Ray O'Connell with between 3100 and 2900 I think just over 50% of the voters will pick his name
    Second should be Jeff Glazier. Yes he is an appointee, but he was on The Allentown School board, his family had a business in the city for decades, and many old timers and long time city residents will  give him around 2500 to 2800, putting him somewhere between 2nd and 4th.

     Now comes the tough calls Carmen Bell is an Obama for America organizer who knows many of the grassroots people in Allentown. Police Officer Darryl Hendricks has great relations with all of Allentowns inner city Crime watch groups. Those two have deep community connections that should put them somewhere between 3rd and 6th. Alfonso Todd and Dave Melman are in there as well, but they just aren't quite as connected or well known in Allentown. I have a same problem  quantifying Melman;s name recognition that I have with Glazier, but Glazier's family history in the city bumps him up, while for some unknown reason Melman doesn't seem to have that. Alfonso Todd is putting out a street effort, and seems to be the only candidate appropriately using social media. He could bring several hundred new voters to the polls, but that is his only true shot at getting in the top four. They still have 45 days to make a stretch run, and I could see any of these  five candidates pulling ahead.

    I believe the cutoff between 4th and 5th place is going to be 2100 votes. I believe that you could see 5 candidates, Hendricks, Bell, Melman, Todd, and possibly Guridy within 100 votes either way  of that mark.It is all about turnout. I don't believe Mota will get 1500 votes. Velez, even if she gets on the ballot, has run no campaign other than raising hell over electoral procedures, as she should, but that is not enough.
    I actually separated some precincts in the District Three County Commissioners race, trying to see if having Juan Camacho on the ballot would help the Hispanics running for Allentown City Council, but it is 100 votes more at best, and split between Mota, Guridy and Velez.

      The problem, and the opportunity here, is that there will likely be a huge undervote of over 4000m as I noted earlier. Many voters will only punch one or two names rather than four. The opportunity for the lesser known candidates to grow name recognition is huge, mostly because the incumbents, while having it, have it in negative spades. Glazier and O'Connell will overcome it, Mota and Guridy likely will not.

    And that leads us into the uncomfortable territory of asking why Glazier and O'Connell get a pass for being perceived as part of the Mayor's bobbleheads, while Mota and Guridy don't. If you are an Allentown voter, go look in the mirror. My numbers tell me quite basically that O'Connell and Glazier's core ethnic base will show up on election day, while Guridy's, Mota's and Velez's will not. Whose fault is that? I will leave you with that thought.

    UPDATE 4/11/2013 11 PM:
       I noticed in the comments that someone asked where I got information on Dave Melman being on the School board. I inadvertently referred to Melman as a school board member, and he is not. I made a mistake while editing my post and used wording that would infer he had served on the ASD board. I apologize for my error, it was not intentional, but it was my error.