Lehigh Valley

Candidates for Allentown mayor weigh in on the issues

Municipal primary is set for May 16

ALLENTOWN, Pa. - Allentown voters will wade through a crowded primary field for mayor when they head to the polls on May 16. A field of nine candidates – seven Democrats and two Republicans – are vying for a spot on the November ballot.

On the Democratic side of the ballot, incumbent Mayor Ed Pawlowski is facing a challenge from Siobhan 'Sam' Bennett, Lehigh County Commissioner David Jones, city council President Ray O'Connell, Joshua Siegel, Allentown school board member Charlie Thiel and Nathan Woodring.

Luiz Garcia and Nat Hyman, meanwhile, are facing off on the less crowded Republican side of the primary ballot.

"Business Matters" sat down with the two Republican candidates earlier this month to discuss the issues.

The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce also hosted a forum featuring six of the seven Democratic candidates. The segments aired on “Business Matters” in March and in April.

Candidates were asked to respond to the following questions, and their answers appear below as submitted to WFMZ 69News.

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.


Name: Luiz Garcia

Age: 37

Party: Republican

Occupation: Allentown Police Department detective; military police investigator with Navy NCIS

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: none

 

 

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

I think the greatest challenge facing the City of Allentown today is the cloud that hangs over the city as a result of the FBI's ongoing investigation into alleged pay-to-play politics. It is crippling the city. Transparency and accountability are two things that I take very seriously in my professional life and my private life.

As the next mayor of Allentown, transparency and accountability will be my top priorities. I think that starts with being more open with the people and with the city council about city business. Therefore, I pledge, if elected, to hold regular meetings with representatives of all stakeholders in the city, from landlords and tenants, to business owners, employees, and customers.

I also pledge to meet regularly with members of city council, both individually and collectively, to discuss the issues facing the city and to work together with them to find solutions to those problems. That is step one.

Step two is to make the mayor and the mayor's office more accountable to the people. I have already stated publicly that the mayor’s time in office should be limited to no more than two terms. Therefore, I have committed, if elected, to serve no more than two terms as mayor and to take steps to see that no future mayor can serve more than two terms. Upon taking office, I will, within the first 100 days of my administration, send to city council a proposed ordinance which would amend Section 302 of the city charter that would limit the time any one person can serve as mayor of Allentown to two terms.

Career politicians are focused on holding onto power and staying in office, and that is against the interests of the people and the city itself. It’s Time for both transparency and accountability from the mayor to all the people of Allentown. And I believe that starts with a commitment on day one to keep the city informed and to be held accountable.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

It's an upside down market. It cannot be sustained with outside visitors only. The NIZ needs two items: more affordable housing and more employers.

Housing: Around the Hamilton Street area, we need to build more affordable housing. And what I mean by affordable housing includes but is not limited to low income housing, but housing that is affordable for anyone who wants to live and work in the city. This would include more single family homes as well as more affordable apartments.

And we must do something to help the homeless. The Little Lehigh area once was a large neighborhood, and the American Plaza area had many neighborhoods that are now gone. We need to rebuild those neighborhoods and work together to improve every neighborhood in the city. I believe that working together, we can do this.

Work: What many people forget is that at the foot of the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard steps, thousands of Allentonians worked and traveled down to MLK and lived in the neighborhoods adjacent to Walnut and Hamilton streets. We need to bring more jobs to Center City for those residents.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

The NIZ is important for several reasons. First, it is the only tax incentive district of its kind in all of Pennsylvania. Second, the center city district was in desperate need of revitalization before the NIZ. And third, the downtown area of any city, which includes its business district, is vital to the success of the entire city, both for generating property tax revenues and for generating earned income revenue.

That being said, I think it is important that we also provide incentives for others to develop properties and move their businesses into other areas in downtown outside the NIZ and throughout the rest of the city.

Some entrepreneurs have already done that – or attempted to do that – but without much support from the city or the NIZ board. That needs to change. The city cannot determine the winners and losers. The free market needs to do that. But to do that, we need to be both creative and proactive.

We cannot allow a few special interests or naysayers prevent any development or growth in the rest of downtown or the rest of the city. We need to provide incentives and work with people to develop properties and bring jobs to the city. And we must talk to the people who are affected by any such changes, including not only the big corporations but also the small business owners, entrepreneurs, mom and pop stores, and restaurants, and last, but not least, the people who live there, the residents of the city.

Too often, the homeowners and renters who actually live and in many cases work downtown or elsewhere in the city have been ignored. Their voices must be heard. And as the city's next mayor, I pledge that I will listen to everyone in the city, not just the few and the powerful. Everyone in the city should benefit from the success of the NIZ and the Downtown Hamilton District, not just a few visionary businessmen and women or political leaders.


Name: Nat L. Hyman

Age: 54

Party: Republican

Occupation: CEO Hyman Properties and Landau

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: none

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

Unquestionably, the most pressing issue facing Allentown is the cloud of corruption which hangs over our city. This corruption speaks to a lack of ethics, integrity and morality in our present city administration.

However, this corruption does not simply affect the perception of Allentown, but has a definite and severe economic impact upon all of us. There have been, and will continue to be, many businesses which would have come to Allentown or expanded their present business if not for this pervasive corruption.

Governor Wolf will not even be seen with our mayor and has resisted any sort of state participation in enticing businesses to come to Allentown because of this corruption. That, in turn, results in our not being able to take advantage of those tax dollars and lessen our own.  

I am the only outsider running for mayor in this election. I decided to run for mayor because I could no longer tolerate the cloud of corruption hanging over our city government. I will bring ethics, integrity and transparency back to our government. I will have zero tolerance for unethical behavior and ensure an equal opportunity for all.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

The properties which are being built in the NIZ are and will be sustainable because of the brilliant financial structure constructed by Senator Pat Browne. The real issue is what can be done to lure more businesses to the NIZ from outside of Allentown into the NIZ and quickly.           

The NIZ had a 30-year life span, 5 years of which have already expired. That may sound like a long time but if a developer is to amortize their investment, they need every one of those years. Accordingly, with each passing year, the NIZ becomes less enticing to investors. That is why the next mayor must be “Marketer in Chief” for the NIZ zone.

The present administration has done little to bring new businesses to the NIZ. Under my administration, that will change because every business which locates in the NIZ adds huge tax dollars to the Allentown coffers. That, in turn, reduces the taxes which should be necessary through property taxes on our homes. The bottom line is the more businesses which comes to the NIZ, the lower our property taxes should be.   

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

I believe that the neighborhoods outside the NIZ have been ignored and are in need of much attention.  In particular, the east side and south side of Allentown are riddled with blighted buildings. In fact, there are over 1,000 blighted properties throughout Allentown. Those buildings are eyesores in neighborhoods where people genuinely care for their homes and their communities. Typically, the blighted properties are owned by investors from out of town who share no concern for our communities.

I believe I am the candidate most equipped to address this major problem.  15 years ago, I started a real estate company called Hyman properties.  Hyman properties now owns almost 1 million square feet of building space in downtown Allentown. We have taken the huge blighted garment mills which were crumbling and a magnet for drugs and crime and turned them into attractive apartments. Most importantly, we did that with absolutely no government incentive or tax breaks or any other form of assistance. Rather, we did it the old-fashioned way – hard work.

It is precisely this same business acumen which I will use to attack the problem of the blighted buildings which plague our neighborhoods. 


Name: Siobhan “Sam” Bennett

Age: 59

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Allentown businesswoman

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: Governor appointee Lehigh County Board of Assistance; co-founder and board officer William Allen Construction Company; founder and board officer Properties of Merit

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

The danger of Allentown becoming next Reading, Pa., with one of the highest violent crime rates in nation, investing millions in its downtown while its surrounding city crumbled, instead of next Charlottesville, S.C. ranked #1 in the nation. 

The Senator-Pat-Browne-created NIZ eases Allentown resident tax burden and catapults Allentown's Downtown and Waterfront renaissance, but can't be the lone "silver bullet" solution.  We must accelerate NIZ while also strategically solving issues that will most positively impact the whole city.

The first 100 days of a Bennett administration would immediately tackle the following strategic problems working collaboratively with City Council and all other interested stakeholders in the City. 1) Restore faith in city hall instituting mayoral term limits and campaign finance rules. 2) Solve decades-old crippling chronic issue of negative perceptions of crime, the school district and out of control absentee landlords and landlord barons. 3) Deliver prosperity for entire city by ending blight, growing small business and increasing historic preservation, cleaning up neighborhoods and addressing drug addiction.  4) Grow downtown NIZ momentum. As the only candidate with day one positive relationships with the governor, Harrisburg and Washington D.C., the Bennett administration is best positioned to accelerate downtown NIZ growth, reducing tax burden for all.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

Incorporating NIZ investment in arts, education and other sectors can benefit both business, Center City and Allentown as a whole.  And if the next Mayor is a proven collaborator with strong day one relationships with the governor and Harrisburg, the NIZ will be protected over the long term.

Philadelphia was first in requiring developer investment in the arts. Today, arts deliver an estimated $3.3 billion annually to Philadelphia's overall economy.  Arts are “good business.”

Similarly, quality workforce access is a vital contributor to business growth.  The Allentown School District is the state's third largest (17,000 students) and shares nearly contiguous boundaries with city.  Workforce development for students and change of career adults could be a powerful business attractor and sustainer.

Beyond NIZ school tax dollars, creative additional programs – like the William Allen Construction Company I co-founded that partners students with local business in renovating that historic high school – delivers powerful win/wins.

Republican Harrisburg officials confide the next mayor of Allentown must be highly collaborative and with day one positive relationships with governor, Harrisburg and D.C. to protect NIZ over its remaining 30 plus years, even if NIZ founder Senator Browne retires.  I am the only one delivering this important requirement.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

Not too much Center City focus, rather that equal focus not accorded citywide. Plus, no attention to crippling systemic issues largely ignored by city halls over four decades.

Negative misperceptions of the Allentown School District and crime are the biggest reason businesses and families relocate and don't locate. Create Urban Studies Fellowship Program with students at all levels releasing positive news across all social and traditional media. I had remarkable success in generating exceptional positive media coverage through a fellowship program I established as Washington, D.C. CEO.  Undeniable ASD/crime challenges, but significant improvements possible in correcting misperceptions now larger than problems themselves.

Neighborhood cleanups for low investment: Through the Properties of Merit Service Corps I founded, volunteers painted miles of Center City cemetery fencing inspiring others to plant roses and maintain former blighted hazard. 

Absentee landlords and landlord barons: Working closely with city council de-incentivize absentee landlordism or “landlord baronism” (100 units or more) and incentivize city employees and others to de-convert and rehab multi-unit/blighted properties to live in citywide.

Small business growth depressed citywide: Insist Allentown be best in nation to open and sustain a small business. 

Drug Addiction high on city resident concerns: Gather stakeholders to collaborate on being a national model in addressing this growing problem.


Name: David Jones

Age: 52

Party: Democrat

Occupation: pastor and leadership consultant

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: Lehigh County Board of Commissioners

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

The city faces multiple issues that are key to its future viability.

Corruption is the 800-pound guerilla in the political room.  I will make sure our government is conducting the people’s business in an honest, fair and transparent public way ensuring equal access for every person.

The need for balanced and more inclusive economic development in light of the fact that a third of the population is living below the poverty line. Schools are a barrier to attracting young families into the city. The challenge is the amount of deep poverty that students live in and its impact on their ability to succeed. The key there from a mayoral perspective goes back to helping to stabilize families by creating access to good paying jobs. 

While the city has not raised property taxes the city has raised the earned income tax 2 years in a row for a total of $10 million in additional revenue and yet there is still a structural deficit in the budget that required nearly $4 million to be used from the reserve account, reducing that pool to $6 million.  We must assess what investments we need to make to continue the progress the city has made and create the capacity to facilitate that investment.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

The success of the NIZ will be determined by the ability of the next mayor to create a supportive environment to nurture its growth.  They include the following actions:

  • Remove the cloud of corruption from City Hall;
  • Fully staff the city’s community and economic development department, which has been decimated by key professional leaving, so that the proper support can be provided;
  • Finding a way to keep Talen Energy in the NIZ, so that the arena bond can maintain its rating;
  • Improve the surrounding communities of the NIZ;
  • Increase the perception of safety downtown by providing more police presence;
  • Creating a better branding campaign around how the NIZ is benefitting the city as a whole, so that people can see the value.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

Economic growth beyond the downtown is a must for a city which suffers the distinction of having a third of its people living below the poverty line. The NIZ is designed to impact 128 acres. The responsibility to make investments that facilitate both community and economic development beyond the NIZ lies with the mayor and city leadership.

First, we need to make investments that improve our existing business centers across the city. Around the country cities are focusing their economic development efforts on innovative approaches from advanced manufacturing technologies to tech firms to grow businesses and create new living wage jobs.

We must improve access to job training programs by creating community based skill training centers that include partnerships with technical high schools and community colleges to support the needs of these small urban manufacturing clusters.

Working with our local partners such as the Lehigh County Economic Development Corporation and the Allentown Economic Development Corporation, we can explore ways to leverage the city’s underutilized land and facility assets to create more attractive resources to those looking to do business in the Lehigh Valley.  


Name: Ray O'Connell

Age: 67

Party: Democrat

Occupation: retired Allentown School District teacher, assistant principal, principal and administrator

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: Allentown City Council, current council president

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

When you look at crime or blight or the state of the school district, you see this amalgamation of problems that Allentown faces and so boiling that down into one specific issue is a near impossible task.

It won’t make headlines, but sustainable growth is what Allentown needs to accomplish. We need to grow our neighborhoods, our schools, and we need to do this while addressing the needs of these various communities and making sure that their growth is to the benefit of the city.

As mayor, I plan to implement a system of school-based revitalization that will work with all neighborhoods across the city to assess what these communities need and work with them to ensure they have the resources to grow. Working in conjunction with community groups, we will tackle the issue of blight, and find out what these neighborhoods need to not only be safe but feel safe.

And all of this will be based around a core principle of my campaign: Our city is only as strong as our school district. We must increase our investment in our children’s education because that directly translates to an investment in or city’s future.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

The NIZ is a great example of trying to jump start the local economy and development. But in order to maintain that level of both community and economic development, we must address the specific issues our citizens face.

Just as an example, having restaurants and boutique stores is a fine way to grow, but as the idea expands, we have to provide our residents with more practical development: green spaces, grocery stores, parks. These aren’t the flashiest projects and they aren’t the big money makers, but combining economic development with community development is the way in which we can sustain the idea of the NIZ into the city as a whole.

We need to look at the different areas of our city pragmatically and think about what these areas actually need as opposed to what a developer thinks they need. We are seeing this downtown as businesses have been opening and closing trying to get a read on what will succeed downtown.

This type of experimentation is fine in a heavy business district, but when it comes to residential neighborhoods, we need to perform community assessments and use that information to provide those neighborhoods with the services they most need.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

This is an easy question to just jump at saying, ‘Yes,’ but a more measured response is needed.

What the NIZ accomplished was showing that Allentown is capable of that level of growth and developers continue to expand in that area. The failure is that the idea has been kept in that small radius.

The only thing stopping us from redeveloping other neighborhoods is the current administration’s stagnation. We need to sit down with neighborhood groups and citizens and perform community assessments. We need to find out what our neighborhoods need and use the resources at our disposal to help the city grow.

Just tackling the issue of blight alone would be a huge inlet to causing natural and healthy community and economic development. We have all this potential; we just need a new outlook on this city’s future.

Name: Ed Pawlowski

Age: 51

Party: Democrat

Occupation: Allentown mayor

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: Allentown mayor for 12 years

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

One of the greatest challenges impacting Allentown and cities across the country is the proposed elimination of federal discretionary dollars. These dollars which fund initiatives like the Community Development Block Grants, HOME, Economic Development Administration, COPS and many other programs will have a direct and significant impact cities and states. The loss of these dollars will eliminate funds for job training, affordable housing, blight remediation, education, health, elder services and economic development in the poorest and most vulnerable communities in our urban cores. This will place significant strain on city budgets who will be forced to absorb the cost of these initiatives in their general fund budgets.

I have been working with mayors from across the country in my role as a member of the U.S. Conference of Mayors board to outline the needs for these funds to our federal legislators. I'm am also constantly looking for innovative ways to fill this funding gap, without putting the burden solely on our tax payers should these dollars be eliminated.

The next most important issue impacting Allentown is our schools.

The city is significantly affected by the quality of our education system. As mayor, I have no direct say over school district expenditures or policy, yet I believe great cities are smart, innovative and entrepreneurial. It takes brainpower to achieve success as a thriving, livable city.

I believe a solid public education system is essential to developing that brainpower and to the economic success and livability of our city. I feel our schools need to embraces our city’s changing demographics, and also recognizes there is much to do to address challenging graduation rates and ensure that all students are college and career-ready.

We know that when you plant the seed of college early, when you help kids secure internships in high school, when you show young people the pathway toward career success, it inspires them to do better.

For the past several years we have been working with Lehigh Carbon Community College to implement the Allentown Promise. Under the leadership of Ann Beiber, LCCC’s new president, we have worked to secure $500,000 from the Stabler Foundation to help establish the Allentown Promise endowment.

We still have a ways to go to make this program a reality, but we are well on our way to achieving this goal. When achieved we will be able to provide two free years of community college to every student who graduates Allen or Dieruff high schools with a B average or better. This will improve graduation rates and increase the potential for better jobs in the future.

Also I am trying to help the schools by creating economic development and increase the city tax base. With all the new development happening it will bring in new property taxes which benefits the schools. In several years the school district will be receiving over $6 million in new revenue which will help pay for teachers and programs for many years.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

The NIZ is an extremely powerful economic development tool that has helped the city to create more than $1 billion in improvements with another $600 million in planning stage. It has rapidly changed the economic landscape and what would have taken 20 years to complete has been accomplished in two.

The NIZ has generated new tax dollars for the city and school district to help stabilize their finances, created thousands of new jobs and brought investment back into the region’s largest urban core.

To sustain this growth we will need to further invest in our neighborhoods surrounding the downtown. To date the city has committed over $2.5 million and leveraged another $8 million from the private sector through the UpSide Allentown Initiative to impact these surrounding communities. We will need to do more if we are to see true economic revitalization take hold.

The city also needs to focus excess NIZ dollars on additional public facilities like a convention and conference center to bring in additional venues and patrons to support its hotels, restaurants and retail.

Finally, we also need to diversify our development base. City Center has made a tremendous investment and impact, but we need additional developers if we are to have the downtown succeed over the long term.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

Max Hess used to say that a city’s heart was its downtown. What he said more than 40 years ago still rings true in Allentown today. The downtown is the heart of any city and just like the human body cannot function with a properly functioning heart, a city cannot function without a healthy downtown. The heart pumps blood to the lungs, brain and muscles just like a downtown pumps economic energy to the city's communities and neighborhoods.

Allentown's heart did not just need to be resuscitated but rebuilt. After years of businesses and capital leaving this city, over $1 billion in new investment and thousands of new jobs have come back to a city once considered a lost cause.

These projects have employed more than 900 local construction workers and thousands of new permanent jobs in the urban core. Over 64 percent of the new jobs went to Allentown residents, many in the surrounding communities.

Unemployment dropped from 12 percent to 5 percent in two years and is now lower than when I came into office 12 years ago.

Yet there is still more to do and in my next term as mayor I will concentrate efforts on the following:

  • Complete transformation of our riverfront;
  • Redevelopment of vital commercial corridors like South Fourth Street and Union Boulevard;
  • Create a greenway along a Jordon Creek;
  • Restoration of rail service to NY and Philadelphia;
  • Expansion of economic activity into other parts of our downtown;
  • Re-energize small manufacturing to create jobs.


Name: Joshua Siegel

Age: 23

Party: Democrat

Occupation: former student publicist Seton Hall University, former field organizer 183rd legislative race

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: none

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

Allentown’s greatest challenge is developing itself in a way that allows it to most effectively position itself for the future. We live in an extremely polarized and divided world with limited cooperation and movement at the federal and state level.

This leaves cities to be the one responsible for coming up with solutions and combating problems that plague our nation. This means addressing income inequality, the power of money in politics and an economy where the odds are stacked against the ordinary citizen.

1 in 7 prime age working men is out of work and for children born today less than 50 percent will likely earn more than their parents. For both young and old regardless of their race or gender, barriers to success exist. For many the American dream is becoming just that, a dream.

As mayor, my priorities will be economic growth that prioritizes jobs of the future from advanced manufacturing to those in the creative economy. I will focus on building the strongest relationship with the school board that means shifting the school district to career academy oriented education. These are crucial to making sure that Allentown is a city capable of competing and succeeding in the future.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

In order for the NIZ to succeed, it’s imperative that the city expand economic growth for all residents and develop all parts of the city. It’s also crucial to lift people’s wages so we can allow people to spend money in the local economy. I believe that a regionalized growth strategy with Allentown leading and leveraging the power of the Lehigh Valley is crucial to making sure that we attract and develop cutting edge businesses throughout the entire city.

The NIZ will require a steady stream of customer traffic and healthy demand for living space in order to sustain its success. As mayor, I’ll bring together multiple stakeholders to create a massive regionalized incubator designed to attract entrepreneurs from across the nation and world and bring them to the city of Allentown.

I’ll work to create a local wage subsidy modeled after the Earned Income Tax Credit designed to reward hard work and put more money in the hands of working class people so we can sustain local businesses. The NIZ also requires us to diversify downtown businesses to ensure a balance of restaurants, shops and entertainment venues. These steps will ensure the NIZ continues to develop.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

I believe there has been too much a focus on the downtown at the expense of other neighborhoods. We’ve failed to effectively tackle blight, we’re experiencing the highest eviction rate of any city in the nation.

As I stated earlier, the cities success is tied to harnessing the power of our region to develop the next generation of businesses. We need to focus on export oriented businesses helping entrepreneurs whose creations have the potential to be sold domestically and overseas.

This put us in contact with the global middle class and over 70 percent of the world’s purchasing power and 95 percent of its consumers are outside of our borders. We also have to help firms interested in IT, business support and the creative economy. These are the high paying jobs of the future.

Santiago, Chile had a regional incubator that created 1,200 firms with $100 million in profits and over 2,500 new jobs. These are crucial economic priorities that gives us access to higher paying jobs which support families.

We must also provide education and training to give all residents access to these jobs. We need to aggressively develop blighted structures into living spaces and help finance a new generation of homeowners through a savings match program. We need to hire more code inspectors to hold landlords accountable so we can raise property values and strengthen the city.


Name: Charlie Thiel

Age: 51

Party: Democrat

Occupation: President, Thiel Strategic Communications LLC

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: Allentown School Board and the Allentown School Board Foundation

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

Allentown has made great progress in recent years, and we have a bright future ahead. However, to realize that bright future, we first have to move past the political turmoil and cloud of corruption charges currently hanging over City Hall.

The first big challenge for Allentown’s next mayor, then, is rebuilding the public’s trust in our city government and restoring their confidence in our ability to move forward and do what’s best for all our residents, in all areas of the city.

I will do that by being open, honest, and transparent in everything my administration does, with leadership focused on service to the taxpayers. I have been a church pastor and social worker, and I have been a business executive and community leader. I am the president of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce, and I serve as a member of the school board and its foundation. This diverse background provides me with the knowledge and experience to restore the public’s faith and confidence in our government.

Next, the Department of Community and Economic Development must focus more on public service, including code enforcement, cracking down on absentee landlords, and developing a responsible, collaborative, affordable housing plan.

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

The NIZ currently generates $4.5 million in Allentown School District revenue that did not exist prior to the NIZ.

To maintain the rate of development required to assure the sustainability of the NIZ for the long term, we must attract more developers, new businesses and jobs. The additional tax revenue will help relieve some of the burden on homeowners’ property taxes.

Further, we must ensure that residents from all areas of the city are given priority for the new construction and permanent jobs created in the NIZ, providing great economic benefit to Allentown and further stabilizing our economy.

As mayor, I will work with the school district and business community to ensure that our schools continue to benefit from the NIZ through increased revenue, as well as vocational, mentoring, and job opportunities for our students.

The same is true for the neighborhoods surrounding the NIZ, which need to be incorporated into the city’s community and economic Development plan. This is critical for creating improved housing, safer and cleaner neighborhoods, and jobs for city residents.

This will help ensure that our city is safe, clean, and vibrant, and that we are providing the best possible opportunities for all Allentonians.

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

While the NIZ was a critically important first step in stabilizing the most vulnerable areas of our city, we cannot stop there. This economic development must be expanded to other areas of our city.

I am currently the president of the Allentown Chamber of Commerce. We have had many discussions over the last several years about the need for economic development in areas outside of the NIZ, including East Allentown, along Union Boulevard and Hanover Avenue, as well as the South Side, along Lehigh and South Fourth streets.

The city’s Community and Economic Development Department must provide the leadership for streetscaping improvements, marketing outreach, and incentives to ensure that these areas are revitalized with business growth and new jobs.

Developing areas such as Bridgeworks and old Mack Trucks land with new manufacturing and other industrial plants will create sustainable neighborhood jobs for our residents, along with increased tax revenue for our city and schools.

We must develop and implement a responsible, collaborative, affordable housing plan that takes into consideration the need for continued economic growth, as well as the needs of our residents, and focuses on future planning.


Name: Nathan L. Woodring

Age: 54

Party: Democrat

Occupation: commercial driver

Any past or present municipal experience, including elected positions: former Pennsylvania constable and former Wilson Borough Councilman

1) What do you see as Allentown greatest challenge and what do you intend to do about it, if elected?

2) What needs to be done to assure that the Neighborhood Improvement Zone is sustainable for the long-term benefit of Center City and Allentown as a whole?

3) A great deal of focus has been placed on the NIZ and the redevelopment of Allentown’s downtown. Has there been too much focus on Center City at the expense of the other neighborhoods and, if so, what must be done to assure the ongoing development of the rest of the city? Please offer specifics.

The greatest challenge is to overcome crime and to create a safe environment for patrons to feel safe in the city and to address blighted properties and absentee landlords. I do not think the taxpayers should be used as a source of income for the city projects.

I would like to work with developers and architects to target sections of the city inside and outside of the main street. My concern is that there is too much focus on the center city than other parts of Allentown. I would like to make the police department and fire department as a priority.

I am proposing targeted forms of lotteries that I hope will help create a demand of products for business and to create jobs for masons, bricklayers, local companies, electricians and other trades.

The first will be a new home lottery to bring the public the opportunity to build or replace an existing home of a value of $200,000. The tickets will be $10 apiece and every 1 in 20,000 will win a new home valued at $200,000. The second will be an education lottery for a two- or four-year program. To help create business and jobs for the local airport and flight schools, I will create a sale of lottery tickets that will cover the cost of a two-year flight program.

None of my policies will discriminate on the basis of race or gender. My policies will not just focus on one group of people but be for the benefit of all races and ethnicities, I am not just concerned about African Americans, I am concerned about all the people of Allentown, as well as interracially mixed families.

I will require drug testing for any of the programs to weed out or to discourage any illegal activity. I plan on also giving the public the option to own a unit equal to $200,000 similar to a co-op or a unit.

I want to create ways to replace old sewage lines and infrastructure, I will also ask the state lawmakers for community development block grants to target low income sections of neighborhoods to have programs or funds available to tear down blighted properties.

I would like to create a non-transitional environment and a permanent single family homes.

I will hold meetings with local construction companies to look at how much it would cost to remove uninhabitable homes, I will hold all meetings open to the public for open debate and address concerns and solutions to make the transition as easy as possible.

I will send out letters to all property owners and have an online reporting of safety concerns. After a complaint is filed, an inspector will if possible be assigned to inspect the property and have a letter sent to the owner to address the issue. My policies will discourage absentee landlords. I will also look at possible grants to convert apartment units to be converted back to single family homes.

I am looking at ways to get the public involved to take part in the revitalization by allowing the public to pick and choose which project or program benefits them the most.

Secondly, to encourage sales of local manufacturing of trucking, I will propose a truck lottery online or offline to allow persons with a CDL or those who want to become self-employed as owner operators to start up their own fleet with their first truck or add to their current fleet. These policies will create local jobs by creating a demand for their product or services. 

We must reduce the tax burden on all of the residents not just for special interest. I am interested in making it easier for everyone to have their taxes reduced not just businesses. My policies will not be government mandates. They will discourage drug use and illegal activities by mandating that to participate you cannot engage in illegal activities to receive government assistance of any kind.

Provisions will be included that mandates requirements be set to seek drug treatment and maintain a clean police record to take part in any program. Under no circumstances will anyone registered as a sex offender or engaged in illegal behavior be allowed. I want to talk with business leaders to find alternative sources of income other than drawing from the public to feed their projects.

There has to be something given back to the public at large. I want to look at possibly to use the lottery system to accomplish many of the needs of the homeless and foreclosures.

The home lottery creates no debt, instant equity, no fear of being evicted, instant collateral, and less of a financial burden on low income families. It also creates wealth by having the homes passed down to the next generation.

My focus is to address corruption in government by reviewing personnel or other office holders and seek answers as to why charges were not filed against all parties involved. To introduce policies to require maintaining a clean record during their tenure. To make it easier to remove or take actions to remove persons in cases of conflicts of interest.


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