Mayor’s Platform

Bob’s platform outlined below will be guided by simple and fundamental principles of governing. Click on a topic to expand it.

Public Safety

Bob Donchez was raised in a household which placed a premium on the importance of public safety. Bob’s father, the late John Joseph Donchez, served as a member of the Bethlehem Police Department for approximately twenty years. This early exposure to the importance of the services provided by public safety personnel has led to Bob’s consistent support for the City’s police, fire and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) personnel and the valued services they provide to Bethlehem’s citizens.

As a city councilman, Bob has supported the upgrade of Bethlehem’s 911 Communications Center and its radio system; has supported efforts to increase manpower in the Police Department and EMS; and, has initiated efforts for EMS to provide three teams of coverage on day shift and two teams of coverage on night shift, thereby reducing the City’s dependence on outside agencies to respond to emergency calls. Bob has consistently supported Community Police Substations (4), initiated funding to purchase soft body armor (bullet proof vests) for the Police Department and supported the purchase of pumpers for the Fire Department. These initiatives, as well as others, demonstrate Bob’s continued dedication towards providing Bethlehem residents with the finest public safety services possible in order to promote the health, safety and general well being of our citizens.

As Mayor of Bethlehem, Bob will:

  • a) Promote appropriate staffing levels within all areas of public safety and evaluate if personnel are being adequately deployed.
  • b) Conduct an evaluation of police, fire and EMS equipment needs.
  • c) Support the greater use of the Internet and of e-mail alerts for public safety purposes.
  • d) Support the establishment of EMS as a separate department.
  • e) Maintain the use/visibility of the police department to promote public security-this would include the ongoing use of bicycle and mounted patrols and may include the establishment of walking patrols in the north side and south side business districts.
  • f) Work with Northampton Community College, Moravian College, East Stroudsburg University-Bethlehem Campus and Lehigh University to promote campus safety.
  • g) Consult with community and business leaders to explore public/private partnerships in the area of public safety.
  • h) Enhance community neighborhood policing and explore the use of additional cameras in high crime areas of the city.

Fiscal Responsibility

All cities have struggled with municipal finances during the last few years. We live in difficult economic times. Bethlehem will continue to face challenges in maintaining and enhancing revenue, as well as finding savings to control the cost government.

As a city councilman Bob Donchez has proposed over $1.7 million in budget cuts and has supported and sponsored legislation that requires the city administration to obtain city council approval before spending excess unbudgeted casino host fees, transferring cash from the treasurer’s escrow account, and spending any form of city borrowing on anything other than its intended use.

Bob believes real estate tax increases must be a last resort to fund city operations, and in 2011 he supported the institution of a .75 mill increase for use only on public safety projects. With three operating deficits from 2008 to 2010 totaling $14.2 million, Bethlehem must operate efficiently and spend hard earned tax dollars wisely. It’s time to get back to basics.

As Mayor of Bethlehem, Bob will:

  • a) Assemble a taskforce of finance and business experts to review all aspects of the city budget to determine needs vs. wants and whether we can streamline select city operations to reduce costs and can deliver necessary services efficiently.
  • b) Review all capital projects and the bonds that fund them to ensure that only the most necessary projects are scheduled, and to ensure that the city has the most economical financing in place to fund them.
  • c) Consider using alternative methods of budgeting, among them “Zero-Based” Budgeting, in order to save money.
  • d) Stop the personal use of city vehicles, saving an estimated $100,000 annually.
  • e) Obey all laws and regulations where the use of city revenues and federal, state and county grants is concerned, thereby insuring that your tax dollars are spent correctly and avoiding costly audits and penalties.
  • f) Convert any city positions funded with grant monies to contract positions, thereby eliminating current and legacy costs such as pensions.
  • g) Limit the use of outside consultants and rely more on the expertise of city employees.
  • h) Consider the initiation of a 2 year budget for city council consideration to have better long range planning.
  • i) Implement new performance measures and prioritize all department programs.
  • j) Implement periodic formal reviews of the city’s revenues and expenditures, so that adjustments may be made within a budget period to reflect any changes from budgeted projections.

Economic Development

An active and focused economic development effort is needed in Bethlehem to insure our future growth and sustainability. As your next Mayor I will take the necessary steps to provide the city with the tools needed to focus our efforts.

During my tenure on city council I have actively supported programs which have furthered economic development throughout the City. Tools such as our LERTA, FRED, Façade and KIZ programs provide the means to help our business community grow and prosper.

As Mayor of Bethlehem, Bob will:

  • One change I will make is to have a point person in city hall guide business people through the various application processes needed to get projects approved. This single point of contact will facilitate the governmental process and insure that everyone will be getting the same level of assistance.
  • As Mayor I will re-invigorate the Façade and FRED (Fund for Revitalization & Economic Development) programs, and bring them back “in house” to insure that our economic development efforts are coordinated with other city departments.
  • As Mayor, I will also seek to assist diversified business development in Bethlehem, looking to build on successes in incubator programs such as those at the Ben Franklin Technology Partners. The development of technology and manufacturing based businesses within city limits, through the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and new construction, will diversify our city economy and provide family sustaining employment opportunities while growing our tax base. Success stories such as the technology centers constructed near the southern terminus of the Fahy Bridge and Pi (partnership for innovation), which is located on East Fourth Street in the Cantelmi building, are fine examples of this strategy.

As a member of city council I supported the re-opening of Broad Street which in turn helped spur the construction of the $24 million Liberty Center Office Building and the North street Parking Garage.

On the South Side I supported the renovation and reuse of blighted buildings, such as the Union Station which is now a medical building housing a number of clinics run by St Luke’s Hospital and Health Network.

To insure that we keep our existing business community healthy I will:

  • Establish a working board of community leaders to identify and assist in the development of a “Business Retention” strategy.

I have been a consistent advocate for the development of the 1,800 acre former Bethlehem Steel Plant site. To keep that development moving in the right direction as mayor, I will:

  • Reorganize our economic development efforts under a new “Christmas City Economic Development Corp.” This organization will focus on bringing businesses to our community that not only create tax rateables but also create jobs for our citizens. As part of this re-organization all appropriate economic development tools will be evaluated for their use. Programs like the various tax credit programs, foreign trade zone benefits and low interest façade and FRED Program loans will be targeted.
  • Begin investigating the merger of the Redevelopment Authority with the Christmas City Economic Development Corp. to streamline operations, reduce costs and provide transparency and community cooperation between the currently separate organizations.
  • I will also establish a close working relationship between Bethlehem city government and the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation, Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, Lehigh Valley Industrial Park and Downtown Bethlehem Association in order to maximize business attraction and retention strategies to provide jobs and grow the city’s real estate tax base.

As a council person, I have always been supportive of programs designed to revitalize our neighborhoods, BEAR (Blight Elimination and Abatement Response), and the State of Pennsylvania’s Elm Street Program. These are just two initiatives that have provided valuable tools to keep our city small business community sustainable. As Mayor I will:

  • Explore re-establishing these programs and reach out to the four colleges within our city limits and engage some of the most creative and innovative people in our community in new ways to fund neighborhood improvements.

By enacting the changes I have outlined, I will restore the level of service the citizens of Bethlehem deserve and expect from their government. Making the changes outlined here, my administration will be able to reinvigorate a very important municipal function for the betterment of our community as a whole, that of economic development facilitator.

Accessibility & Accountability

In the years that I have had the privilege of serving the citizens of Bethlehem, I have always had as my core values, accessibility, openness, and responsiveness to the issues referred to me. As Mayor, I will continue these standards including open hours so that the residents of Bethlehem can meet with me directly.

A key component to the efficient running of City government and ultimately service to the people of Bethlehem will be how to respond to citizens’ issues in a timely and meaningful way. To do so, I will institute a review/study of all of City government: City Hall, as well as all Boards, Departments, Authorities and Agencies serving Bethlehem.

Included in this review will be how these entities communicate with citizens and with each other. It is paramount that all citizens’ calls be answered in a prompt, meaningful manner. To do so, each Department must function at the highest level of efficiency – both within its own staff as well as in conjunction with the other departments of the City of Bethlehem.

To do this, I will take the following steps in the first 90 days of my Administration:

  • Review the system by which incoming calls are received and how they are responded to. It is unacceptable for incoming calls to just go into voice mail and not be returned.
  • Set deadlines for response times for all departments.
  • Conduct review of all operations in the City so that there is coordination and efficiency within and among all departments.
  • Institute a state of the art information-sharing system that crosses departmental lines, which will be accessible to all necessary parties.
  • Eliminate any duplicate and unnecessary systems.
  • Restore the pride, dedication and value of our City employees.
  • Insure that excellence is the standard for all City employees, and that only the most qualified and competent people are hired or appointed to fill vacancies. Wherever possible, vacancies will be filled by residents of Bethlehem.
  • Review all Director positions to see if they should be full-time or part-time. Determine if any Directorships can be combined to enhance efficiency of operation.

Service to the citizens of Bethlehem has been my standard as a member of City Council, and it will remain the standard of my administration. I will insist on nothing less than complete dedication from my staff and appointees, and expect the strongest work ethic possible.

Therefore, ongoing, as Mayor, I will hold town meetings at least quarterly throughout the city, with department heads in attendance to listen to the questions of citizens and address concerns. I will also institute a monthly “open door” policy for citizens to bring their ideas and suggestions directly to me at City Hall.

My career in serving Bethlehem as a member and President of City Council, the numerous Committees and Boards on which I have been a part has been one of accessibility, responsiveness, transparency and caring for the City of Bethlehem – our home. These same qualities will be what every citizen can and should expect from me, as Mayor, from my administration, and city employees.

Neighborhoods / Recreation / Quality of Life

The foundation of any city is its neighborhoods. The life of a community begins there and is enriched by the people who live there and raise their families. Bethlehem has maintained its tradition as a city with attractive and diverse neighborhoods. The city’s origin is that of a series of neighborhood groups each with its own culture and identity.

As Mayor of Bethlehem, Bob will:

  • Work with our citizens to keep city neighborhoods safe, physically attractive and pedestrian-friendly.
  • Ensure that new housing is well planned, well landscaped and compatible with its surroundings in terms of density, design and scale.
  • Encourage construction of workforce housing for current and prospective City residents with a range of incomes.
  • Assist property owners in tackling housing rehabilitation needs, especially code deficient conditions.
  • Examine and establish policies that encourage de-conversion of apartment properties back into owner-occupied, single family residences in order to bring stability to neighborhoods and improve the quality of life for our citizens.
  • Identify neighborhoods in need of support by assessing infrastructure needs and developing programs for low and moderate income homeowners to undertake structural improvements and code upgrades.
  • Re-energize the Block Watch network; and find ways to engage neighbors in meaningful and rewarding neighborhood activities.
  • Institute an aggressive code enforcement program with a focus on absentee landlords.

Parks and Recreation: A Healthier Bethlehem

Bethlehem has a great history of providing recreational facilities for its residents. As a Councilman Bob has supported providing quality and diverse recreational facilities for our citizens. From the multi-sport complex along Illick’s Mill Road, to our neighborhood pools and pocket parks, Bethlehem is a vibrant recreational community. These facilities have to be maintained and in some cases upgraded and enhanced to insure that Bethlehem is a great place to live and raise a family.

As Mayor of Bethlehem, Bob will:

  • Promote a “healthier Bethlehem” by improving and expanding Bethlehem’s recreational facilities and by establishing conditions that encourage and support healthy living.
  • Encourage expanded use and smart management of our recreation resources.
  • Encourage private sponsorship of events and programs that contribute to improving the health and wellness of our city’s citizens.
  • Develop programs to get kids to the park for fun and exercise so that they spend less time inside and more time outside in the fresh air.
  • Provide our teens and young adults with programs allowing them to get together and participate in outdoor sports and activities.
  • Increase access for an aging population to walking paths and pet friendly parks.
    • The statistics show that we are an aging region. Our 65+ community is expected to continue to grow. We need to insure that our infrastructure and housing are accessible, well maintained and in compliance with our vision of being clean, green and safe. A high quality of life with many amenities in Bethlehem is the overriding mission.
  • Make Bethlehem a more user friendly city for walkers and bikers. In particular, that means taking on the challenge of trying to establish easier movement between the north and south sides of our city.
    • New Street’s Fahy Bridge is listed for replacement by PennDOT. This presents a great opportunity to assess and implement changes to the bridge in order to achieve the safest, easiest pedestrian and biker access to both sides of our great city.
  • Specifically, Bob will ask Lehigh University to create a volunteer team of engineering students who may earn college credit to design a biking loop from our north side to our south side that includes our Greenway, Steel Stacks and the Historic District.
    • Thereafter a feasibility study will determine whether we can economically do this project which would be a great way to make Bethlehem more attractive to our residents and visitors, as well as allow us to showcase the many attractions we have on both sides of the Lehigh River.