Deadly shooting under investigation in Reading

Posted by 69News:.

The Reading Police Department is investigating after a deadly shooting.

Police said around 10:25pm Thursday night, they received a report of several shots fired in the area of the 1200 block of Allegheny Avenue.   That’s in the city’s Glenside area.  A neighbor told 69 News they heard about three or four gunshots.

When police arrived in that block, they found a victim inside the front of a parked vehicle.   Police said the victim was deceased when they found him.  A neighbor reported hearing the vehicle’s engine racing and smoking, but not moving.

Police said the victim is a Latino male, in his mid to late 20’s.  They said he had at least one gunshot wound somewhere in the upper torso.

The Reading Police Criminal Investigations Division is currently investigating the shooting, and so far no arrests have been made.  Police said they do not have any information on a suspect, or any known witnesses or a possible motive.

Anyone who may have information on the shooting is asked to contact police at 610-655-6246 or 610-655-6116.

Slight tax increase proposed by Quakertown Community SD board

Posted by 69News:.

Residents in the Quakertown Community School District will see an increase in next year’s property tax bill of $81.

At Thursday evening’s meeting, the school board unanimously approved the 2015-16 proposed budget.

The board will vote on the final budget at the June 4 meeting.

The budget totals $100,336,126 and includes $800,000 in revenue.

The proposed budget will include a millage rate increase of 3.08 mills or 2.10 percent over the 2014-15 year.

Expenditures amount to $4,112,396, which is an increase of 4.27 percent over last year.

The funding balance ending July 1 of this year is estimated at $15,640,964. Due to various transfers, next year’s fund balance is estimated at $11,657,261.

Tax increases in the district over the past five years have averaged $60 or 1.64 percent.

 Board Vice President Joyce King cautioned the board to consider increased expenses in the future.

 ”With that [keeping taxes stable] comes a great responsibility,” she said. “We have a lot of expenses coming up. We just need to keep that in mind as we move forward.”

 In other business, the board unanimously approved a pension reform resolution. The resolution results from the school district having to spend increasing amounts each year to fund the Pennsylvania State Employees Retirement System.

The resolution directs the school board to call on the state General Assembly to consider school employee pension reform to reduce projected employer contribution rate increases over the next four years and reduce projected costs to school districts and taxpayers over the next two decades, while maintaining appropriate pension benefits for school employees.

Board President Paul Stepanoff said he plans on calling on other districts to put pressure on the state legislature.

“We have to create a crisis that makes the state take action,” he said.

Mandated employer contributions to PSERS for the 2015-16 year will increase to 25.84 percent, which is an increase of 20.74 percent from last year.

Also during the meeting, the board unanimously approved the retirement of Trumbauersville Elementary School Principal James Moczydlowski, effective July 10 of this year.

 Moczydlowski previously served as principal at Quakertown and Pfaff elementary schools.

 District Superintendent Dr. William Harner said Moczydlowski was an enormous help to him in the beginning of his tenure as superintendent.

Moczydlowski, who has served the district since August of 1987, said he learned many lessons from the committed staff he worked with over the years.

“It really has been the last 16 years that have taught me the most valuable lessons,” he said. “Hard work really does pay off.”

Stepanoff said the district is losing a tremendous asset.

 ”You left a model of what a model principal looks like,” he said.

 ”It’s about building a better world and a better future for our kids,” Moczydlowski added.

The board also approved Jason Magditch as assistant principal at Quakertown Community High School effective July 1 at a salary of $109,000.

Also during the meeting, high school students Ronald Cubbage, Skylar Lee and Brett Wolfinger were recognized as 2016 National Merit Scholars.

The three students are among the 50,000 highest scoring participants and will be recognized by the Merit Scholarship Corporation fall of 2015.

Activists charge ASD with “racial toxicity”

Posted by 69News:.

Pastor Paul Patrick was one of more than a dozen people who told the Allentown School District straight up that enough is enough.

“We will not be swept under the rug,” Patrick said of how he alleged the district has marginalized or outrightly ignored what he called the “apartheid” the district employs against “black, brown and poor whites” during Thursday night’s board of directors meeting. The members of the audience alleged the district accepts racism against minorities in a myriad of ways, overtly and subtly, to the detriment of all students.

“Your destruction of black and brown students cannot continue,” said the minister of Allentown-based Christ Centered Life Ministries.

He charged the administration of C. Russell Mayo and the board of directors of displaying a penchant for failing to address issues of racism, by either pretending it doesn’t exist or ignoring it all together. And Patrick said members of the city’s faith community no longer find that acceptable and that it must change.

 ”There’s that saying that the doing the same thing over and over and over again and expecting different results is the definition of insanity,” he told directors. “Well, we’re not insane.”

 Jude-Laure Denis with P.O.W.E.R. Northeast alleged that a closed-door meeting with Mayo and some school board members in private was positive, as Mayo acknowledged a problem. However, she said an email issued six days later by Mayo found the superintendent adopting a different tone. The superintendent worte to Denis that he would need time to consider and then analyze what community leaders want to have accomplished. Denis took this email to be a backtrack on Mayo’s part, she said Thursday night.

Another individual who addressed the board, Rodney Bushe, said that he was discriminated against as a student in the district. He told a story of racial comments made against him that marginalized his interest in music at the school.

Dozens of protesters adorned seats in the crowded board room Thursday night, many of whom wore surgeon’s masks with the slogan “Racism is Toxic” that continued allegations made at last month’s ASD board meeting by faith leaders in the city, who wanted to have their demands met.

“Your comments are not being ignored,” said Mayo in response to the allegations. He added that the district does address diversity and that it is an “ongoing effort.” He provided assembled media and audience members with a list of examples of curriculum resources in each grade level through the district that addresses diversity.

It was just the tip of the proverbial iceberg in the angst conveyed by members of the audience against the district and in some instances Mayo specifically. One woman claimed that the district is responsible for her daughter taking medication for anxiety.

“Thank you very much Allentown School District,” she said in a sarcastic voice.

Other parents accused Mayo of never returning their calls about their children being bullied in the district.

Mayo promised to look into the issues and continue to research the issues raised by audience members Thursday night.

Today was bone-chilling cold

Posted by 69News:.

It’s been really lovely and nice but today was chilly

Berks County slapped with wrongful death lawsuit

Posted by 69News:.

The estate of a Reading woman who died while serving time in the Berks County Jail is taking the case to court.

Attorneys for the estate of Eileen Dinino announced Thursday that they are filing a wrongful death suit against the county.

Dinino died June 7, 2014, while serving a 48-hour sentence for failing to pay more than $2,000 in fines for her children’s multiple truancy violations.

The Berks County coroner, Dennis Hess, later determined that Dinino, 55, died of natural causes, the result of hypertensive cardiovascular disease. Pulmonary edema due to cardiac failure was a contributing condition, Hess said.

The lawsuit claims the county denied Dinino “appropriate and necessary medical care for serious medical needs.”

Dinino’s cellmate, Nicole Lord, told 69 News that the jail failed to provide the proper care for Dinino after she alerted a corrections officer and a nurse to not feeling well.

“That was full neglect to me,” Lord said in an interview last August.

The jail did not respond to Lord’s allegations.

The lawsuit seeks an unspecified amount of compensatory and punitive damages.

Carl Geffken, the county’s chief operating officer, said the county is aware of the lawsuit but has no comment at this time.

In the meantime, the Pennsylvania Legislature is considering a bill, dubbed Eileen’s Law, that would allow judges to sentence truancy violators to parenting training or community service rather than jail.

The bill is now in the Senate Education Committee, but advocates of the bill are disappointed that jail time is still on the table and they say they are hoping the lawsuit will help bring about legislative change.

“I hope that the Berks County Community can get together and change this because we really really need to change this. And it is not just going to happen, this year has proven it is not just going to happen,” said Crystal Kowalski, an advocate for Eileen’s Law.

Police investigate thefts of bronze plaques from monuments

Posted by 69News:.

Police are investigating a series of thefts aimed at historic monuments in the city of Reading and in Cumru Twp.

The thieves stole the bronze plaques from at least two monuments, and now police are asking for help to catch the culprits.

Diane Nowak, from Cumru Twp., sounded the alarm and then called 69 News.

“I saw the report the other morning about the monument in the city,” said Nowak. “Having them gone, I called 69 News, and said we had it happen here too.”

Nowak lives near a monument that used to be the home of a large bronze plaque dedicated to Governor Thomas Mifflin.

Neighbors say the plaque told the story of how Mifflin lived in the area and about his exemplary service.

“I feel rotten about it,” said Janet Mohn. “Yeah, I feel really bad. Because how could this have happened. It’s been there all these years.”

In Reading, Frederick Lauer has stood tall at City Park for more than 100 years. But the historic plaques on his statue were also been stolen.

“I think it’s a pretty sad thing,” said Nowak. “If they put that kind of thought into something good, it might be a lot better for the community.”

If you have any information about the thefts, call Crime Alert Berks County at 877-373-9913.

If your tip leads to an arrest, you could get a cash reward.

Lehigh Valley Stars dancing up support for the Freddy Awards

Posted by 69News:.

The Dancing with the Lehigh Valley Stars event is Friday. Local celebrities, including WFMZ’s Eve Tannery, and their professional dance partners have been practicing all week.

The show benefits the Freddy Awards program, which recognizes and showcases high school musical theater students. Former Freddy winners shared why it means so much to them and how the program benefits students.

“The Freddy’s absolutely changed my life,” said Ally Borgstrom, a Hackettstown High School graduate. “I wouldn’t be studying what I love so much if it wasn’t for this program, this wonderful program.”

Borgstrom won the Freddy for outstanding performance by a lead actress in 2013.

“For lead actress they offered a $5,000 scholarship a year to DeSales University and at the time I was going to be an undecided major in college and I wasn’t able really to pursue my dreams,” she said.

But with that help she was able to attend DeSales, where she is now studying musical theater and living her dream.

“I couldn’t be where I am now if it wasn’t for the Freddy’s,” she said.

Vanessa Ruggiero is another 2013 Freddy winner, who won for outstanding small ensemble performance when she attended Nazareth Area High School.

“I personally saw the impact of the Freddy’s and now I watch my students and the impact it has on them,” she said.

Now a Lehigh University student, Ruggiero stays involved and is a choreographer at Whitehall High School.

“It’s skills like teamwork and dedication and time management and all of those things that we teach and that I think the Freddy Awards as a whole in the community kind of pushes for,” she explained.

Fans of the Freddy Awards can’t say enough about it and those who support the program.

Borgstrom said, “It just is such a good feeling to know you have all these people behind you even if you never met them before who believe in you as much as you want to believe in yourself.”

Abe Kassis Appeals to Fringe Again

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

Assistant District Attorney Abe Kassis is a fine lawyer, but I now question his judgment. A few months ago, he himself circulated a nomination petition at a meeting of the local tea party. He got the endorsement of members who like to call themselves RATs. He was so busy there that it made him late for a meeting of local Democrats.Unfortunately, this was no fluke.

In February, Kassis appealed to tea party hard-liners like Chairman Ronnie Del Bacco and gun nut Tom Campione, who is currently threatening to sue municipalities who don’t allow fellow gun nuts to prance through parks with a six-pack in one hand, and a six-shooter in the other. Bethlehem Tp Comm’r Pat Breslin, who voted against a no-tax hike budget because it included a slight increase in wages for non-union employees, signed Kassis’ petition. So did Saucon Valley School Director Bryan Eichfeld, who recently advocated replacing what he calls propaganda about global warming with “true science.” Kassis even allowed Tom Carroll, another RAT, to circulate for him.

You might write that off as inexperience or a simple mistake. But Wednesday, Kassis appeared as the guest of Bobby Gunther Walsh. He is so over-the-top on crime that he is being sued by Lehigh County DA Jim Martin for defamation. Just the day before, Walsh had gun nut lawyer Joshua Prince as his guest. A few fays before that, it was gun nut Larry Pratt. That guy has been linked to white supremacist, anti-Semitic and paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. He even called on the Protestant population there to arm themselves.

I believe it’s a mistake for any judicial candidate to appear on that program. I can forgive Judges John Foradora or Cheryl Allen because they are not not local. But Abe is, and should know better.

He never listed his Bobby Gunther Walsh appearance on his Facebook page, which tells me he was trying to appeal to the frings.

Who’s Ahead in Bethlehem Tp Magisterial District Judge Race?

Posted by Lehigh Valley Ramblings.

I sometimes tease them as mini-judges, but Magisterial District Judges are the front lines of our judicial system. They are what former Chief Justice Ralph Cappy called “the bulwark between the police and the rights of citizens.”  I first saw those words are contained on a plaque adorning the courtroom walls of Bethlehem Township’s current Magisterial District Judge Joe Barner. Unfortunately, he’s stepping down at the end of this year. Five candidates, three of them assistant DAs, have lined up to take over in a new district limited to Bethlehem Township.

Magisterial District judges are paid $88,290 a year, along with complete medical benefits, to hear “minor criminal offenses, traffic offenses, landlord and tenant matters and other civil actions where the amount claimed does not exceed $12,000.00.”  They must be 21, residents of the state and must have lived in the magisterial district for at lest one year before assuming office. Terms last for six years, and nothing prevents other employment, though that is becoming less common. They must be attorneys or certified by the Administrative Office of Pa. Courts. Though there’s a movement afoot to require that all mini-judges have law degrees, I hope it never passes. A law degree is a nice thing to have, but nothing can replace the common sense wisdom I often see displayed by Magisterial District Judges like Barner

In this case, the two nonlawyers running are poor candidates. Andrew Tupone, a 911 dispatcher as well as some sort of alcohol agent for the PSP, became a little too well known to lawyers around the courthouse when he served as part of the Panto Parking Police. Some tell me they felt they were targeted, which is hardly the kind of conduct you’d want from a judge.

The other weak candidate, Bryan Altieri, has two college degrees nut has never held a job. He and his wife Leslie, a perennial candidate for state house, live in a home worth over $500,000. Last time I checked, they had made no mortgage payments in over four years. This appears to be irresponsible.

To top everything off, neither Tupone nor Altieri is certified by the Administrative Office of Pa. Courts.

The other three candidates – Bill Blake, Pat Broscius and Sandy McClure – are all prosecutors in John Morganelli’s office. They all have the right temperament for the job, though Bill Blake has some conflicts of interest to resolve.

Blake and Broscius are both full-time prosecutors, meaning they spend forty hours or more every week, doing the people’s business.But Sandy McClure, who is part-time, has more time to go out and knock on doors, and is apparently doing just that. From what I hear, she is well-regarded in her neighborhood. As quiet as she can sometimes be in a courtroom, she is more extroverted in small groups.

Some super Republican voters tells me they have already received three well-done fliers from McClure

I have no idea who is going to win this race, but McClure is spending the most money. This race won’t be decided until November. My guess is that McCure will capture the democratic nod and that the Republican nomination will go to Pat Broscius or Bill Blake.

Electricity rates could increase by 6.9%

Posted by 69News:.

If PPL Electric Utilities Corporation (PPL) has its way, electricity rates could jump 6.9% for customers.

The Pa. Public Utility Commission (PUC) voted 5-0 Thursday to investigate a distribution rate increase request for PPL Electric Utilities Corporation.

The investigation will determine what, if any of the requested increase, is justified.

Under the rate increase request, the monthly electric bill for an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month would increase from 147.31-157.50, a 6.9 percent increase.

The rate increase request is suspended for up to seven months and will be assigned to the Office of Administrative Law Judge for public hearings and a recommended decision or settlement.

A final decision must be made by Jan. 1, 2016.

Read the rate-making process here