Bob Donchez has spent his entire career in service to others: he taught social studies at William Allen High School for decades, served for many years on Bethlehem City Council, ran former Pennsylvania Representative Joe Brennan’s local legislative office before ascending to what may well be his dream job.

Join the smartest radio listeners in the Lehigh Valley tonight at 6 PM as I welcome Bethlehem Mayor Bob Donchez to the show. You can find WDIY at 88.1 on your FM dial.

Also, I have the honor of interviewing Tom Perez, the secretary of the United States Department of Labor on the extension of long-term unemployment compensation benefits for those who have exhausted their benefits. The interview will be conducted during the show.

Click here to tune into WDIY 88.1 FM Lehigh Valley Discourse.

By historical standards, Charlie Dent is a conservative; make no mistake about that.  Look at his voting record: he votes for cuts in many domestic social programs, against regulation of business that might improve safety or consumer protections, he gets high marks from taxpayer advocates and he scores low among the various environmental activist groups that rate lawmakers’ voting records.  So lots of liberals are appalled when someone like me suggests that Congressman Dent is actually a moderate. All things – especially politics – are relative.  If you compare him to where the Republican Party is now, our congressman is practically a communist.  OK, I exaggerate.  But not by much.  By today’s standards, it is fair to say, our congressman is a moderate.

Charlie is something you don’t see in his position these days: a practical, deal-making, flexible, minimally ideological, reasonable guy.  Yes, I always worry that his daily talking points are coming from the Republican National Committee, but the Gentleman from Pennsylvania is a practical problem-solver who tries to represent his constituents and bring a measure of balance and reason to his position. 

Policy wonks know that an important reason why our politics have gotten so divisive and ugly is that redistricting has resulted in increasingly “safe” seats, which means those representatives on both the right and the left don’t need to attempt to represent the broadest interests of the district.  Hence, there are plenty of whack jobs in the Congress, especially on the right.

It becomes the moderates’ role to bridge the chasm.  The fewer they are, the more power they have.  And there ain’t many of them.  Consequently, Charlie Dent’s stock has been rising a ton, making many of us here at home pretty proud that our guy is getting a lot of national attention for being at the fulcrum of American politics.

For someone like me, working to affect his voting record, the Charlie Dents make you do your homework.  If you have a good argument based on solid data and can show that many of his constituents will benefit with little damage to others, chances are he will be with you.  No need to exaggerate, be too strident or shake your fist and shout. 

On more than one occasion, Charlie Dent has been the key player in fixing a problem that would have done damage to low-income and working families or their communities.  The deal to end the government shutdown last fall was a big one.  But there are others.  For example, his Republican colleagues had zeroed out funding for housing counseling in the middle of a national foreclosure crisis.  Scratching that funding would have meant the work we do in saving families from foreclosure (our record of achieving loan modifications for 40% of the homeowners who seek our assistance is among the best in Pennsylvania) would have been shut down.  Our congressman’s staff would have nowhere to send his constituents for assistance.  So, he quietly worked with his colleagues and convinced them to restore the funding. 

We have been grateful for his work on behalf of the low-income people our agency serves.  Just this year he is a co-sponsor of the bill that would reauthorize our program. (CACLV was established as part of the Johnson Administration’s War on Poverty, which has been routinely dissed as a failure by many conservatives.  Note that you don’t see Charlie Dent fleeing to avoid being tagged as sympathetic.)  He also played a key role in restoring some funding to the federally-funded weatherization program, which CACLV administers. 

Charlie Dent is rising quickly in the ranks of his party.  Amazingly, in just a few months, he is likely to ascend to the role of “cardinal” status.  That’s the unofficial title of the chairs of the Appropriations Committee’s thirteen subcommittees.  As one can imagine, controlling how the federal government spends its money, especially in lean times, gives a Member significant power.  Charlie is in line to become the chair of either the subcommittee that handles appropriations for Labor, Health and Human Services and Education or Transportation, Housing and Urban Development.  Folks, this is huge! 

I believe the Gentleman from Pennsylvania will restore credibility to his party, converting it to one that isn’t so extremist that it can’t govern.  This is good for our country and it’s good for the Lehigh Valley.

He deserves our thanks.  So, thanks, Charlie. 

Now, about your position on long-term unemployment benefits…

The Lehigh Valley’s cities have become a happening.  Through an array of factors, including progressive civic and business leadership, activist mayors, young adults’ interest in cities, tax incentives, location, location and location, Allentown, Bethlehem and Easton are on the march.  And who better to talk about its manifestations than the three cities’ directors of community and economic development?

Join me on Lehigh Valley Discourse as I welcome Sara Hailstone, Alicia Miller Karner and Gretchen Longenbach, tonight at 6 PM on WDIY (FM 88.1).

Click here to tune into WDIY 88.1 FM Lehigh Valley Discourse.

It feels like I’ve been here before.

Actually, I know I’ve been here before.

In fact, I am getting tired of having to make the argument that public policy should be used to regulate a market that is cruel when it comes to the value of much of the labor supply.

The minimum wage was proposed 80 years ago to lift a family of three with one full-time worker out of poverty; it succeeded for the better part of 50 years.

However, for the past 30 years, the minimum wage has failed to achieve its intended goal.

What does it say about the market when more than one in four homeless adults in the Lehigh Valley enter our homeless shelters employed?

Why should someone who has a job have to stand in line at a local food pantry seeking help from their neighbors because their job doesn’t feed the family?

The facts prove that the minimum wage is good for Americans.  Nevertheless, we will have the same, old, tired debate.

But it really is simple: how can the folks who make toasters, build cars and construct homes make any money when people can’t afford to buy those toasters, cars or homes? How can the utility company make electricity if people can’t pay their bills? How can the landlord make improvements to his property if his tenants can’t pay the rent? How can a school district educate our children if people can’t pay their taxes?

Still, here we are, begging the people who make the decisions to decide that regular Americans should get paid not even a decent wage but just a minimum wage.

Working people aren’t asking for much; they just want to be able to pay their bills.

They want an occasional break from having to dodge phone calls from bill collectors.

They wish they didn’t have to worry that their old car might break down or they might get sick and miss a day of work and the $50 they would have earned.

They would love to go to the grocery store and not have to worry that their neighbors might see them paying for their groceries with SNAP benefits.

They don’t want to have to explain to their kids why they can’t have more to eat.

We are Americans.  More and more of us are alarmed by economic disparities in our nation.  An increase in the minimum wage is the least we can do to alleviate a small fraction of that disparity.

CONTACT:    Chris Hudock     484-893-1039




The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund has made 10 new loans totaling $427,182 in the last year creating or retaining 94 jobs.  Of the businesses that received loans, 2 were minority-owned, 8 were women-owned, 5 are located in low- to moderate-income census tracts and 4 were headed by low- to moderate-income entrepreneurs.

The following businesses received loans:

  • Salon 516, LLC, a new salon in Bethlehem, borrowed $50,000 to set up their space on Main Street;
  • Lehigh Valley Isshin Ryu Karate (Hammer Training and Fitness) borrowed $75,000 toward the purchase of a larger facility near Coca-Cola Park in Allentown;
  • Easton-based Hush Little Angels borrowed $80,682 to open a second location in Allentown;
  • Tyler Concessions, serving shaved ice and other treats at fairs and parks, borrowed $40,000 for a new vehicle;
  • Brycon Property Maintenance, a Bethlehem lawn care business, borrowed $26,000 for business acquisition;
  • A Wing and A Prayer Restaurant & Catering, LLC, a new take-out spot in Easton near the State Theatre, borrowed $11,500 to renovate their location;
  • Liven Up Health and Fitness, LLC borrowed $20,000 to purchase equipment for their location in Hanover Township;
  • Betty’s Deli and Fundraising in Whitehall borrowed $14,000 for equipment;
  • Molly’s Irish Grille and Sports Pub borrowed $100,000 to expand their business in south Bethlehem; and
  • DOJO Brick Construction Corporation borrowed $10,000 for working capital to support its business headquartered in Allentown.

The Rising Tide has awarded 129 loans totaling just over $3,230,000 since its inception, creating at least 196 jobs and retaining 295 others in the Lehigh Valley. Of the 129 loans, 85 have been granted to women-owned businesses, 56 have gone to minority-owned businesses, and 84 benefited low- to moderate-income individuals and their communities. The Rising Tide works with individuals who are unable to secure traditional loans, yet only 12 loans have been written off as uncollectible, while 67 have been paid in full.


The Rising Tide Community Loan Fund is a federally-certified community development financial institution that was created to extend credit to entrepreneurs located in communities where resources and opportunities for growth are limited.  Funds can be used for equipment, marketing costs, inventory, working capital and lease-hold improvements.  Its terms are flexible.  Businesses also have access to extensive technical assistance including one-on-one assistance from The Rising Tide and a multi-week entrepreneurial training program provided by the Community Action Development Corporations of Allentown and Bethlehem. The Rising Tide is a subsidiary of the Community Action Committee of the Lehigh Valley.