Mayor: Bethlehem 'open for business'

Donchez State of the City

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Newly elected Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez declared at Wednesday's State of the City address that the town is "business friendly and open for business."

Donchez, Bethlehem's 11th mayor since 1918, was sworn in on January 6th. Since then, he has set a self-described "aggressive agenda" to meet with local community members and map out a plan for the year that's currently underway.

"Most of you know Bethlehem is well on its way of recovering from economic decline, but there is still much to do," said Donchez, who cited continued economic development as a main focus for the city.

"In Bethlehem we must find a way to live within our means," he said.

The mayor proceeded to lay out the guiding principles of his administration: accessibility, accountability, partnership and economic feasibility.

His office will seek to apply these tenets to a wide array of upcoming city projects, including the renovation of Fahy and Lyn Avenue bridges, the development of incoming local businesses such as Bass Pro Shop and Walmart and the continued development of the City Revitalization and Improvement Zone (CRIZ).

The current 2014 budget for the City of Bethlehem projects over $71 million in revenue, a majority of which will go towards funding the 615 employee work force that run and manage the town.

Donchez also stressed to the near 300 community members in attendance the importance of creating and maintaining a safe community.

"A safe Bethlehem attracts millions of visitors to our city each year," he said. "A safe Bethlehem is fundamental to continue to move the city forward."

He also placed a strong emphasis on transparency, having recently declared an open door policy that will allow residents to meet with the elected official without appointment at specific weekly hours.

"Bethlehem government will be open and accessible under my leadership," said the mayor.

Plans to perform community outreach through social media are already underway, and according to Donchez, overhauling an "antiquated" city website in favor of a more interactive approach will bolster these efforts.

Mayor Robert Donchez grew up on the south side of Bethlehem and went on to teach in the Allentown School District for 35 years.

He has held public office with various departments for the past 18 years, including eight years as city council president.

"I want to thank Mayor Donchez for continuing this partnership that has existed for 17 years," said Bethlehem Chamber of Commerce chair Laura Haffner, the group responsible for organizing State of the City Address. "It has been a partnership that has benefited all of us."

Other sponsors included Air Products, Capital Blue Cross, Caruso Benefits Group and West Side Hammer Electric.

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