Lehigh Valley

Allentown City Council interviews first round of mayoral candidates

Council votes to allow interview of Ray O'Connell

ALLENTOWN, Pa - Allentown City Council began the process of selecting a new mayor at a special meeting Tuesday night.

Council interviewed six of 17 prospective mayoral candidates who are seeking to be appointed interim mayor until the November 2019 municipal election is held.

The interviews are being held in the wake of Ed Pawlowski’s recent resignation as mayor after being convicted of 47 counts.

Pawlowski had been accused of trading favors and city contracts in exchange for campaign donations.

Candidate Patrick Palmer, a supervisor at Wells Fargo Bank, said he would assist Allentown School superintendent Thomas Parker in getting the district out of its $28 million deficit.

Palmer said he would try to tackle violent crime rates and the opioid epidemic, as well as reduce homeless rates in the city.

Palmer said he would offer a job incentive program for businesses that hire Allentown residents and incentives to renters to reduce rent for working-class people.

Candidate Edward Galgon, the former owner of the Historic Cab Frye’s restaurant, said he would gain the public’s trust through his actions and bring his managerial experience to bear in running the city.

Galgon said he has the ability to troubleshoot and turn franchises around. He would work on returning Allentown to the city it once was.

Galgon noted he would work on reducing the current public mistrust of city government.

Candidate Anthony Hespeth, an engineer, said he was a “visionary” person who is good with organization and business management.

Hespeth said he would bring his high eye for detail to his management of the city.

Hespeth said that the city’s code of ethics was too far-reaching, and that people should just exercise common sense in making ethical decisions.

Hespeth questioned the city building a prison downtown, saying that it discourages residents from buying and renting homes in that area.

Allentown needs to become more attractive in order to draw more residents into the city and further revitalize its downtown, Hespeth said.

The city’s government should find ways to spend money in order to make money, Hespeth said.

The government must “run our city like a business” and that the city “bears the responsibility to create an environment where families will want to come here to live” and work, Hespeth said in his cover letter to City Council.

Candidate Nat Hyman, who ran for mayor in the November 2017 election as a Republican, said that he would foster a safe, clean and prosperous city which provides quality education to students.

Hyman, who has built two businesses in the city, said he would go over the budget with city department heads and eliminate wasteful budget items.

Hyman said that the city needs to find money to hire more firefighters, dealing with Allentown’s 1,000 blighted buildings and fix the city’s “crumbling” parks.

The city needs to change its financial thinking in order to move forward, Hyman said.

Hyman said he would let CEOs of companies that could potentially move into the city know that Allentown is “open for business.”

Hyman, who owns several properties in the city, said he would seek to avoid conflicts of interest by stepping away from his businesses and referring possible ethical questions to the city’s Ethics Board.

Hyman said he would work with city council members so that they all function together as a team.

Candidate David Melman, a criminal defense attorney, said that he would increase transparency and facilitate better communication between the mayor and council members.

Melman said he would find ways to improve public safety.

Melman would seek to provide financial aid for treating serious drug addiction. Better access to treatment would be provided to addicts, Melman said.

More after-school programs would help keep young people off the streets, Melman said.

Melman said he would seek to eliminate wasteful spending.

As an attorney, he worked for the Allentown Police Department, the District Attorney’s office and other elements of the city judiciary system, according to Melman’s cover letter to council.

Melman said that his experience as an attorney working with city residents will aid him in understanding their needs as mayor.

Candidate Joseph Hoffman, a former manager of grantsmanship and special projects for Barry Isett and Associates, said he would use his experience in raising money for projects to raise revenues for the city.

Hoffman said he would not consider raising taxes to bring in revenue.

Hoffman said the city must tackle cynicism, which erodes public trust, as well as let go of the past and move forward.

Council allows Ray O'Connell to interview

Also at the special meeting, Allentown City Council passed 4-3 a motion to allow Ray O’Connell to interview for the mayor position, with Council President Roger Maclean and Councilmembers Candida Affa and Courtney Robinson voting no.

Board member Julio Guridy put forward a motion to allow Ray O’Connell to be interviewed.

Board member Courtney Robinson said that O’Connell should not be allowed to be interviewed.

The city’s solicitor had ruled that O’Connell needed to be out of office for a year before applying for a new city position.

O’Connell recently ended a term as City Council president.

Councilwoman Candida Affa said that the “process would be tainted” if O’Connell were allowed to be interviewed. Allowing the interview would lead to a public perception that the city is not following the rules.

Allentown resident James Whitney said that O’Connell is qualified to be mayor, but nevertheless is not eligible.

O’Connell has “a big heart” and cares for the city, but the rules are clear that he cannot be interviewed, Whitney said.

Allowing him to run despite the rules would show that the city “learned nothing” after the events regarding Pawlowski.

Councilman Daryl Hendricks said that it would be a “disservice” to not allow experienced council members to be considered for the position.

Councilman Julio Guridy also said that he would support O’ Connell being interviewed.

Council will interview O’Connell at Wednesday’s 6:45 p.m. meeting, as well as other prospective candidates.

Council will hold more interviews of candidates at 6 p.m. Thursday as well.

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