Panto says Easton on the right course in driver's license-immigration issue

Mayor says law would help people trying to get ahead

EASTON, Pa. - Easton Mayor Sal Panto Jr. Wednesday night defended the city's recent decision to support legislation that would give driver's licenses to people in the country illegally.

But Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli has harshly criticized the move as wrong and potentially dangerous to national security, especially if terrorists obtain licenses.

Panto commented on Morganelli's remarks during a special recognition of the young students enrolled in the mayor's summer camp.

In particular, Panto recognized the summer intern who supervised the camp, a young woman whom Panto said is a strong advocate for immigration reform.

The mayor said he was not looking for a fight with the DA but pointed out, that by virtue of their jobs, they see opposite sides of the immigration problem.

As the county's top prosecutor, the mayor said, Morganelli sees the bottom 15 percent, the dregs caught up in the criminal justice system.

 "I don't see the people he sees," Panto said. "He deals with that group. I deal with people trying to get ahead."

Morganelli blasted the city's decision to support House Bill 1648, calling city council members misguided.

Morganelli said the licenses could be used by not only terrorists but gang members.

In other action, council approved an application for a $250,000 Greenway grant to fund the construction of a foot bridge linking the Karl Stirner Arts Trail, a 2.5 mile path to the Simon Silk Mill project off North 13th St., the city's largest development project being built by VM Development Group of Flemington, N.J.

It will include 33 apartments and commercial space when it opens in the spring of 2016.

Panto said not one "dime" of city funds is earmarked for the $80 million project. State and federal funds have kicked in about $8 million, he said.

Council also applied for another round of funding, $50,000, from the Department of Community and Economic Development for its Main Street Initiative Façade Grant Program.

It's the sixth round of funding for the project since 2006, said Kim Kmetz, the city's Main Street Manager.

Nearly $400,000 has been spent on façade improvement and sign projects.

She said there is a waiting list of 15 property owners for the next round of funding.

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Allentown, PA 18102




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