Yukai Yang, 24, a former Lehigh student from China, pled guilty to attempted first degree murder. The incident was from 2018 in a Lehigh residence. (Jordan Wolman/B&W Staff)

Bethlehem community members discuss midterm election


Bethlehem residents will file into local polling places to vote on Nov. 6. The Brown and White spoke to North and South Bethlehem residents about the upcoming midterm election.

Some local residents said they have noticed more young people voting in recent elections and many agree that there are high stakes for this election.

The Democratic party has the opportunity to take control of the House of Representatives and Senate and oppose President Donald Trump’s agenda. The Republican party could put a firm hold on its current position if it manages to keep its majority in both the House and the Senate.

Q: What are your thoughts on the election, and why is it important to vote?

Kevin Barron, a structural engineer and North Bethlehem resident: I am not very political myself, and I am registered as an independent. I think both sides have their pluses and minuses, however, I am leaning Democratic because I have no affinity for Donald Trump. I always go to vote, and I urge everyone to go out and vote.

Aaron Dillenbeck, a cafe executive officer and a South Bethlehem resident: I believe that getting out and voting is the most important thing. This upcoming midterm election is more important than any midterm election in recent history. I voted in the last presidential election. Usually, during midterms, the Republican turnout is generally higher, but I expect more Democrats — especially younger people — to go out and vote this time.

Aflexer Illick, a landlord and North Bethlehem resident: I have been living on the North Side for over 50 years, and I have been going to vote since I turned 21. I think that it is critical to vote because it is essential to send a message to the politicians in Washington. I am excited to go out and vote against Donald Trump’s party because the president is all talk, and he contradicts his own words over and over again.

Nano Gomez, the owner of MVNMT Boutique, located in South Bethlehem: I am hoping for change in the upcoming midterms, and I want to see a different president soon. I didn’t vote in the last election, however, I am definitely going to vote in this election. I urge everyone to go vote so that democracy can win.

Q: Do you see any visible divide between North and South residents?

Barron: I would say that the divide is rooted in history and dates back to the Bethlehem Steel days. The houses on the North Side belonged to Bethlehem Steel executives, while the houses on the South Side belonged to the labor class of the company. Politics today (are) so divided, and both sides try to roadblock each other every step of the way. I believe that younger generations don’t see race and color. However, older generations still can’t let it go.

Dillenbeck: Both sides of the city are not necessarily divided. The North Side is slightly more upscale, and living costs are more expensive. Bethlehem is the 7th Congressional District of Pennsylvania, and this district is usually a blue district. Susan Wild, the Democratic candidate, is currently favored to win. Over the past few years, there has been a revitalization of the South Side, and both sides are getting better at building a community together.

Rose Camp, a pollster and North Bethlehem resident: I don’t notice a visible divide on both sides of the city anymore as I spend a significant portion of my time on the South Side due to my job and also because my church is located on that side of the city. Older people in the area tend to be more Republican, however, a lot of people vote against the way they are registered. I even changed my registration from the last election. I have seen more young voters show up to polling stations in recent years, and I believe that even more young voters will show up to vote this upcoming election.

Sean Kashon, ’19, a Lehigh student and South Bethlehem resident: The divide between the two sides only exists historically. I used to visit Bethlehem as a child, and the differences between the two sides that existed back then have mostly been eliminated.

Q: In which direction do you think the country is headed?

Illick: We all have to help each other succeed, but Donald Trump’s “America first” rhetoric is having an adverse effect on our ties with countries across the world. I didn’t like what he said to world leaders during his recent speech at the United Nations Headquarters.

Gomez: I think that the country is heading in a positive direction economically, however, I don’t think it is solely because of the current administration. The work all the previous presidents put in should also be recognized.

Camp: Our country has never been this divided, and it will be interesting to observe how many people go and vote in this upcoming election. I think more people will go and vote in this election because everyone is revved up.

Kashon: Due to the current administration, we have seen a rise in nationalism all over the country. There are more people now that oppose things like immigration and free trade. We are going through unprecedented times, and the president name-calling people regularly over Twitter increases the divide in our country.

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  1. Bruce Haines ‘67 on

    Those voting for Susan Wilde & the democratic agenda are voting to take money out of their pockets & handing it over to government control. 90% of workers got extra money in their paychecks last February as a result of the Trump tax cuts. They will be voting to give that back just so they understand what they are voting for.

    So that extra money in Bethlehem workers pockets is being spent locally driving more revenue & jobs for local businesses. I guess the people the B&W selected for interviews don’t like the economic benefits it brings to Bethlehem.

    • I was the one that conducted the interviews. I didn’t select anyone; I knocked on people’s doors and most didn’t want to talk to me about the upcoming elections. I wish I would have gotten to talk to someone who is voting for the other side.

    • Amy Charles '89 on

      Bruce, baby, you are reaching into the tax coffers with both hands to help yourself. What was it again? $35 million in tax favors for your hotel? In exchange for some promises of hotel jobs that may or may not ever exist, may or may not stick around if they do exist, won’t likely pay a living wage, and won’t do much for anyone’s advancement except Bruce Haines’s?

      Every dollar of taxes you do not pay is a dollar that residents have to make up in order to pay for schools, roads, all the things that municipal and state governments normally maintain. That’s the story time and again with TIFs and TIF-like structures. So if their taxes are going up, and you’re looking for someone to blame, start with the greedy hypocrite in the mirror, the one who talks a great big libertarian capitalist line and is in reality wallowing in the trough.

      • Bruce Haines ‘67 on

        You clearly don’t have a clue what you are talking about as this is not a tax grant like a TIF. Property taxes are paid in full to the local community & schools on the $40 million expansion.

        The incentive is a state tax incentive that new competitors in Allentown are using to benefit them vs existing properties like ours that have taken zero subsidy from taxpayers in the 20 years your fellow alumni have owned this property.

        If (and it is a big if) we double the size of the hotel to build a bigger anchor for the Historic District we would be able to recover any new State taxes we collect at the property for approximately 20 years. If we build this expansion (with our own money incidentally) and we generate zero new revenues we get nothing back. So this program is the old fashioned type incentive where there is no handout to build something but rather you only benefit if you are successful in the venture. There is no commitment of new jobs but obviously if the project generates new revenue additional employees will be hired & paid a very livable wage. We hire a lot of people who stay with us a long time including minorities without college degrees as their first employment.

        You denegrate fellow alumni who invested in this hotel 20 years ago & risked the money we earned working during our careers to buy a closed bankrupt iconic building. No one else would take the risk & we did. What have you done for your community lately Amy?

  2. Bruce Haines ‘67 on

    I am not criticizing you as you presumably reported accurately of those willing to talk about the elections. The sad thing is that few would talk to you at all & likely because they didn’t have a clue about who was running & what their agenda was.

    Too many people truly don’t understand the issues or vote blindly for a party that has been overtaken by the socialist left & most old line Dems don’t even know that. Trump has accomplished more in 2 years than any President in my lifetime & reinvigorating our economy beyond the hamburger flipper jobs that Obama created. Rebalancing the unfair trade practices that displaced American jobs over the last 30 years by playing hardball with world leaders will go down as his primary accomplishment before all is said & done.

  3. Amy Charles '89 on

    Look at Bruce, trying to pull attention away from his handout.

    For the uninitiated: CRIZes, like TIFs, are a way of using tax money to subsidize private businesses. Yes, the mechanisms are different. End of the day, though, you have the same two things: one, the business owner makes up a lot of baloney about how much tax revenue and other economic benefit his newly expanded business is going to return to the people, and two, when this doesn’t happen (see under stadium projects, TIFs, etc.) the taxpayers are left paying for his business expansion.

    In a TIF, you get straightforward tax breaks. A CRIZ, it’s true, works differently, and is patterned after the deal organized by the former mayor of Allentown, lately convicted on 47 federal corruption charges. With a CRIZ, the business promises the local tax entity that if they can just expand with some big money borrowed for them by the public authority, they’ll pay it back and more. They’ll turn the whole place into a booming economic wonderland. Jobs near and far. They’ll pay the loan money back with all the wonderful extra tax revenue they’re going to generate. So the tax authority goes and borrows money on the business’s behalf and the taxpayers promise, whether or not they want to, to make good on the loan when, I mean if, the business doesn’t come through.

    To repeat: when it does not come through, the taxpayers are on the hook. In other words, Bruce wants the taxpayers to assume the risk in his business venture.

    Now suppose the unlikely happens, and he makes a ton of money. Are the taxpayers, who are there holding the risk, also entitled to a share of the take? No. They don’t even get to collect more taxes from him, because all his “extra” tax money is going to service the debt for that loan he wanted. They’re supposed to be happy that he’s successful and bask in that. This is an argument that might have made sense back in the days when you might want to put up a factory that was going to employ all kinds of people at wages they could actually live on and use to get ahead in life, but I’m guessing that Bruce’s housekeeping staff are not union, that most are not fulltime, and that the wages are not very exciting at all, also that he’s full of excuses about why all that is. In other words, Bruce and his partners would do well, but hardly anyone else.

    So you can see how it’s a pretty sweet deal for a skeevy hotelier. All upside, no downside, because the downside is held by the taxpayer. In other words, if the hotelier does not turn out to be wildly successful, the taxpayer is stuck paying for both his hotel expansion and schools, roads, police, everything else taxpayers pay for. If the hotelier’s just just so-so successful, there’s not much benefit. He has to be extremely successful for this to pan out for the taxpayers.

    Personally, I would not invest in Bruce’s hotel. I wouldn’t invest money that I didn’t have to spare (and the taxing authorities do not have money to spare) in hospitality anyhow, because it’s such a vulnerable industry: when times get hard, people pull back on non-essentials. Looking specifically at Hotel B: even before I knew who owned it, I decided against staying there because it’s too expensive for what it is and the restaurant’s nice enough but stuffy and overpriced too. And I know Bethlehem well enough not to be so in love with the idea of staying on Main Street that I just needed to stay there. I stayed in one of the chains near the airport instead. Knowing who does own it, no, I absolutely would not invest in that hotel. A volatile guy who shoots his mouth off publicly and has truthiness issues is not who I’d want to sink money into, particularly not in hospitality: he’s a walking liability. So it’s a no all around from me, and that’d be with private money. Public? Not a chance.

    If you ask me, he’s in the wrong spot for what he’s trying to do. Tourism in Bethlehem is always going to be incompatible with large-scale high-end enterprises because it’s not where rich people want to take a vacation. Most of the area’s what it is: a post-industrial mess well inland from beaches and still a schlep to hiking and what’s left of the charming stone-farmhouse-B&B lands of Bucks/Berks/Montgomery Counties. The Sands people have very much the right idea for the area.

    He’s also incoherent politically. If he wants to be a free-market cowboy, okay, but in that case, snout out of the trough, there, Bruce.

    We can end with Bruce’s own words about another local CRIZ from 2015:

    ‘Hotel Bethlehem’s managing partner, Bruce Haines, condemned the ordinance as one that will lead to 1.3 million square feet of retail development, about four times the size of the Westgate Mall. He criticized the use of public tax dollars that will permit a single developer “to dramatically increase the use of his property at the expense of existing businesses.”’

    Fast forward to 2017: “HEY, OVER HERE! PUBLIC TAX DOLLARS FOR ME!”

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