You already may know that Bethlehem Mayor Robert Donchez uses his own car for work.
You also may know that he opens up his office in City Hall once a month to take complaints and comments from city residents – no appointments required.
You may even know the mayor has been conducting town meetings with residents around the city, something he intends to do on an annual basis.
But did you also know Donchez gives out his home phone number at those meetings?
He did it Tuesday night during a town meeting held for west Bethlehem residents in Church of the Manger United Church of Christ, at 1401 Greenview Drive.
Not only did the mayor give out his phone number, but said: “If we don’t get back to you, give me hell.”
Donchez, a former City Council member who took office as mayor in January, presents himself as a politician who really wants to hear what his constituents have to say.
When was the last time you heard any local elected official say this at a public meeting: “Fire away with any questions, complaints or concerns you want to have me answer.”
Or this? “If you have any potholes on your street, I want you to let us know before you leave, so we can take care of that right away.”
Donchez didn’t climb into the pulpit of the church’s chapel to speak or even use a microphone as he addressed about 50 people.
While he spent most of the hour responding to questions and comments from the audience, he also shared some news.
He did not rule out the possibility of a 2015 city tax increase, he plans to change trash collection all over Bethlehem by the middle of next year and he said PennDOT’s reconstruction of Route 412 is way behind schedule and won’t be completed for at least two and a half more years.
Issues raised by residents included the future of Martin Tower and Westgate Mall, as well as when Pennsylvania Avenue will be resurfaced.
One resident complained about people having illegal backyard fires in the city, another about too much trash downtown on Sundays.
The mayor took his entire cabinet with him to the church, including the police chief and fire chief.
The town meeting was held after Donchez and his department heads spent four hours walking streets in west Bethlehem Tuesday.
It was the third such meeting he has done since becoming mayor.
He said the first two were in May and June in south Bethlehem, one of which followed another four-hour walk through that part of the city.
He plans to do one more town meeting this year, in north Bethlehem at the end of September.
During the hot Tuesday walk, Donchez said city officials knocked on many doors along Spring Street, Valley Road and part of Greenview Drive. They distributed and installed nearly 100 free smoke detectors as well as handing out a couple of dozen batteries for smoke detectors.
He said city officials also issued warnings to some property owners, giving them 30 days to cut high grass, fix broken windows and make other repairs -- or face fines.
“We have to have very strict code enforcement because a neighborhood can go down very quickly,” explained the mayor. “If one or two properties deteriorate, it can change the character of that whole neighborhood, affect your property values and lead to people putting up for sale signs.”
Donchez explained going out into the city gives him and his department heads a good feel for the concerns of city residents.
The town meetings are in addition to his open door policy. From 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m. on the second Monday of each month, people can go to City Hall to meet with the mayor “unannounced, no appointment necessary.”
“We try to keep it to 15 minutes if possible.”