Weaving Silken Dreams…Here in Allentown

Anne Hills I’m in the process of writing my first column for the Morning Call in almost a year. The topic will be the stress our military is under due to so many multiple deployments and how the new Veteran’s Sanctuary, opening this fall in Allentown, is a much needed resource. The story will appear on Memorial Day.

As part of my research for the article, I attending a benefit concert held in the partially restored building that will house the Sanctuary. Standing in the auditorium of the former St. John’s Lutheran School on 5th St., the more than the one hundred people and I that were in the audience, were carried back in time not only by our surroundings, but by another local treasure, singer and songwriter Anne Hills.

What a wonderful voice singing so many beautiful songs that spoke to the human condition. There were of course many veterans in the audience, and when Anne sang, “Your new companion” about the loneliness of alcoholism, often an early symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, you could have heard a pin drop.

And in a poke-in-the-eye to Billy Joel and his awful song about Allentown, Anne wrote a beautiful ode to all the workers who made the Queen City just that…the Queen of the silk mills. “Silken Dreams” tells the story of a retired weaver and her friend who came here as young women from Austria and spent their lives at their looms. “On a hot summer night, you could hear those looms; they never shut them down. Weaving and spinning the silken dreams of the workers in Anne Hills w-banjo Allentown”.  

It’s no wonder Tom Paxton, Anne Hills’ friend, fellow songwriter, and folk legend, said the following about her..

“Anne Hills is such an exquisite singer that it’s understandable that people might be swept up in the pure beauty of her voice and thereby overlook her writing. That would be a mistake. For me, Anne’s writing, in songs like ‘Follow That Road’ and many others, is as direct, melodic and deep as any work being done today. She is quite simply one of my absolute favorite songwriters.”
                    — Tom Paxton

Anne, who volunteered to entertain at the benefit, lives in Bethlehem with her husband and daughter. Her career takes her around the country, but she does occasionally appear locally. Her concert dates are listed on her website.

It was a very special afternoon filled with beautiful music and heartfelt sentiments…all for a very good cause. If you believe that our Veterans deserve your support, please consider donating to the Veteran’s Sanctuary.

Blogger’s Note: My thanks to Christopher Scappaticci for the generous use of his photographs. I tried to download Anne’s song, “Silken Dreams” to accompany this post, but being the techno wizard that I am, I couldn’t figure out how to do it. There’s a beautiful version on Rhapsody.

My Reliable Sources: City Appears To Be On Verge of Act 47

A breaking news alert from The Morning Call has just confirmed what this blog reported over 24 hours ago, that the city of Allentown is headed for an Act 47 filing. (Not that Perspectives was given any credit in the paper for breaking this story, but the readers know where they heard it first.)

In typical City Hall fashion, the Pawlowski administration is still denying it, but both Jarrett Renshaw’s and my sources say it is going to happen.

And since I’m on a roll here, I will take this opportunity to reprint something I wrote over five years ago…

Emergency Medicine: Although not perfect, Act 47 could relieve Allentown’s symptoms of financial distress

Maybe I should add the title “psychic” to the other jobs I do.

The arrogance and hubris of this administration for waiting to do what should have been done years ago is a legacy for which it will always be remembered. So all the deception and obfuscation was for nothing but to drive the city further in to debt. Congratulations on putting ego ahead of the needs of Allentown.

Blogger’s Note, 4/6, 2:10 p.m.: City Hall is denying there will be an Act 47 filing. At this point I’m sticking by my sources. I suspect one or both of two things are going on: What the city is really about to apply for is Act 205, the Municipal Plan Funding and Recovery Act and in the game of “whisper down the lane” that information was transformed into Act 47. And/or the unions got wind of a possible bankruptcy filing and decided to strike the first blow. But the bottom line is, something is going on. The city is drowning and it’s looking for a lifeline. Stay tuned…

The Handling of Other People’s Money

In all the years I’ve been writing and blogging, I’ve run very few ‘blind items’. I don’t do it because there’s so much good stuff to write about that I can openly source that I don’t have to resort to “unnamed officials” who spoke on the condition of anonymity.  But this is not one of those times.

According to some closely placed sources who spoke on condition of anonymity, down at Allentown City Hall, the phrase, “Act 47” is reverberating through the hallways. You may remember that just two weeks ago, The Morning Call reported and this blog commented on the fact that the $10 million borrowed bailout isn’t working quite the way we were all led to believe it would. With a lot of bills coming due in the next year or two, the option of entering the state’s municipal fiscal distress program may be looking like it might be the only way out.

And then there’s the story about a regional organization that decided to create a non-profit foundation so they could give money away to projects they wanted to support. Just one little problem: The foundation has been giving away more money than they’ve been taking in. Where did they get the money from? They’ve been borrowing it from the organization with which they’re affiliated. The foundation is now in debt to the “mother ship” for well in to six figures. So much so that at least one donor who became aware of the situation has decided to not honor this year’s pledge. 

Looks like there’s going to be a lot of talk soon about how people handle other people’s money. Where is Donald Trump when you need him? 

ACLU Comes to Allentown

ACLUOne of my favorite “veg out” movies is "American President". Michael Douglas is President Andrew Shepherd, the leader of the free world, who has lost his ideals in the political morass that is Washington. He’s under pressure from a conservative challenger in the upcoming election, and when the Pres finally regains his bearings, he delivers a rousing speech to the White House press corps about American values. Within that speech he admits to being a card carrying member of the ACLU and asks his opponent, “And why aren’t you?”. Going on to say, “The ACLU is an organization whose sole purpose is to defend the Bill of Rights, so it naturally begs the question: Why would a senator, his party’s most powerful spokesman and a candidate for President, choose to reject upholding the Constitution?

As of last week, it looks like the Constitution will now have a full time defense in Allentown, Pennsylvania. The ACLU has opened an office here that will specialize in immigrant rights and issues. The story in the March 6, edition of "The Morning Call" quoted community leaders and activists as being very supportive. But when you read that story on the paper’s website, you find over 47 comments posted, almost all of which are filled with an astounding amount of bigotry, hatred and bias.

I probably disagree with the cases the ACLU takes on as much as I agree with them. But It is exactly the people in the Call’s comments section and their narrow view of the world, that makes me grateful I live in a country where an organization like the ACLU has the freedom to exist.

“And then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me”. Pastor Martin Niemöller Germany, 1946

Stiff Competition: Queen City to Google City

According to a story on Mashable, the online social media guide and clearing house for all things internet, the competition for the Google High-speed Fiber Optics Network, is really heating up.

Cities from around the country are mounting very public campaigns, including Topeka, Kansas, who temporarily changed their name to Google, Kansas…the capital city of fiber optics.

Mayor Bunting of Topeka has really gotten behind the effort, issuing a proclamation declaring the name change and urging “the citizens of Topeka to recognize and support the continuing efforts to bring Google’s ‘Fiber for Communities,’ experiment to our city.”

Not wanting to be outdone in the PR department, Duluth, Minnesota, who is also vying for the Google Network, declared that the names of all first born children will henceforth be Google and Googlette.

The silly season aside, Duluth has its own website dedicated to the effort which states: “Our mission is to win the Google Fiber project by showing Google the community’s passion for fiber – high speed Internet, video and voice – the highly skilled workforce in our communities, the strong, supportive entrepreneurial environment, and the community’s visionary leadership.”

Many very eligible and well organized cities are applying for this project. Come on Allentown, let’s give them a run for their money.

Spinning the Google Wheel of Fortune

The last time I visited the Sand’s Casino, I took a good look around: You could tell some people were simply out for an evening’s entertainment, but others looked down on their luck and desperate. If they could just hit the jackpot…their life would change.

Allentown has a chance to hit the technology jackpot. The odds are high; I’ve heard that cities like Denver, CO, and Raleigh, NC are also in the game, but maybe good planning a little bit of luck will be on our side.

Applying for what, you ask? To be the winner of the Google Fiber RFI. According to their website, “Google is planning to build, and test ultra-high speed broadband networks in a small number of trial locations across the country. We’ll deliver Internet speeds more than 100 times faster than what most Americans have access to today wGoogle logoith 1 gigabit per second, fiber-to-the-home connections.

And oh yes, they’ll do that build out for free, just like they did in Mountain View, CA, where their headquarters are located.

The site goes on to say…

Our goal is to experiment with new ways to help make Internet access better, and faster for everyone. Here are some specific things that we have in mind:

  • Next generation apps: We want to see what developers and users can do with ultra high-speeds, whether it’s creating new bandwidth-intensive "killer apps" and services, or other uses we can’t yet imagine.
  • New deployment techniques: We’ll test new ways to build fiber networks; to help inform, and support deployments elsewhere, we’ll share key lessons learned with the world.
  • Openness and choice: We’ll operate an "open access" network, giving users the choice of multiple service providers. And consistent with our past advocacy, we’ll manage our network in an open, non-discriminatory, and transparent way.

By the time you’re finished reading this post, if you’re not excited about the potential of what the Google Fiber RFI could mean to Allentown and the number of jobs it could create, you’re either not paying attention or you still use pay phones and fax machines.

But be not afraid, there is actually some real leadership being shown on this issue by City Councilman Michael Schlossberg and the Allentown Economic Development Corp. whose Asst. Director, Matt Tuerk is leading the charge to finish the RFI by the March 26 deadline. 

My sources tell me that everyone is coming to the table to make this happen, from the healthcare networks to major corporations and the arts community. I was pleased to have also been asked for my input, which I gave, gladly.

It sure is Allentown’s turn for a win. Maybe lady luck will be on our side for this spin of the  wheel. Of course, sometimes, you make your own luck.

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