Category Archives: Municipal Government
Through their website, Envision Lehigh Valley received a total of 1,118 completed surveys as well as feedback from 47 public meetings that were held through the fall. The breakdown of the participants represented an accurate cross section of our regional population on the characteristics of race, age, income and location.
In the 47 focus groups that were held during the public meetings, Lehigh Valley residents appeared to be most interested in discussing economic development, which they saw as a positive thing for the region.
They mentioned large projects currently being undertaken across the Lehigh Valley. Participants discussed projects such as the hockey arena, casino, and ArtsQuest. Projects involving specific companies, including Ocean Spray, and the Lehigh Valley Hospital Expansion, were mentioned as well as more generic business expansions like the Allentown waterfront project, the P&P Mill, and new hotels and retail space in various locations.
Focus group participants were generally dissatisfied with the types of jobs available to Lehigh Valley workers and didn’t believe the job market matched the qualifications most workers have.
The groups also examined other topics; citizens talked 652 times about housing, 549 times about fresh food access, and 378 times about climate and energy.
One of the most interesting findings to come out of the focus group analysis is that the overall interests and topics of discussion varied very little in the different cities, boroughs, and townships where they were held. These commonalities suggest that quality of life factors in the Lehigh Valley are important across the valley, not just in one or two communities.
Last week we told you a little bit about the huge population growth expected to hit the Lehigh Valley within the next thirty years. We broke it down by county, but now the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has a Profile and Trends report that can show you how much your municipality is expected to grow by 2040.
If you go to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s website, http://www.lvpc.org, click ‘Enter the Site,’ choose ‘Publications’ on the left side of the page and select the Profile and Trends report, you’ll find the unique histories of Lehigh Valley municipalities, average daily mileage for residents, property values, birth rates, death rates and what we were talking about before – local population percentages (if that’s all you’re looking for, head straight to page 23).
Do you live in North Whitehall? Your local population right now is around 15,703…in 2040, it’s projected to be over 26,000!
Maybe you live in Palmer Township, where the population is now around 17,000 and in thirty years, it will be over 27,000.
Want to see how big your community is going to get? Head over to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission’s website or look at the chart below where you can find population growth in municipalities from Alburtis to Wind Gap.
The Lehigh Valley Planning Commission has completed a study to predict the growth of the Lehigh Valley over the next thirty years. The Reader’s Digest version would say that there are A LOT of people coming to the region. Our population is projected to add another 226,722 people by 2040. The total population will be 873,954 in the LV at that time.
Using 2010 census data, the Planning Commission is able to detect trends in the growth patterns of Lehigh and Northampton counties and is able to break them down by age group to show specifically where we’ll be growing. It’s no secret that the baby boomer generation is aging, and that is shown clearly in the report. The largest growing age demographic will be the 75 and over crowd, who will add 54,265 people to their ranks. Coming second in growth rate are the 70-74 year olds, growing by 20,946.
As much as the elderly seem to love the Lehigh Valley, the young are leaving the region. One of the largest exits from the area is from 20-24 year old males with college degrees who lived here when they were pursuing their education and then moved away for jobs or other opportunities upon graduation.
Countering this trend is the influx of those in their later twenties, who often move to the region when they begin to start a family. As far as starting families goes, birth rates in Northampton County are expected to top the state average for every 5 year range that was studied. Lehigh County’s will stay closer to the state average or below.
Northampton County will also grow at a higher rate of 11.9 percent compared to Lehigh County’s 11.5 percent. The Planning Commission predicts that this is because of Northampton County’s proximity to New Jersey and New York as more employees from those states choose to live in Pennsylvania.
So, what do you think of all of this population growth? If you’ve got ideas or opinions on how the Lehigh Valley can better prepare or improve its existing stature, visit http://www.envisionlehighvalley.com and share your feedback or take one of the surveys about economic development, fresh food access, transportation and job/housing balance. With the massive growth in our region, we have to plan ahead so that residents, new and old, will have access to jobs, transportation, housing and food. People are flocking to the Lehigh Valley for a reason, let’s plan ahead to keep it great.
Sitting at home last night watching the Phillies I saw a commercial that got me thinking, not about the car they were trying to sell, but rather about the state of the our community. It was that commercial with the little kids all asking the age-old question, “Are we there yet?” Of course, you think they are asking about the end of a trip, but in reality they’re asking about the automobile technology. And that’s the part that got me thinking– are we really “there” yet in terms of planning the future of the Lehigh Valley?
I would have to say no, we’re not “there” yet. Certainly we’re doing great work among the many organizations involved in economic development, city planning, open space preservation, provision of affordable housing, assisting people in finding jobs or starting their own businesses. But are we really “there” yet? No, we still have quite a ways to go before we can confidently say we have a solid plan in place to handle the inevitable population growth that will hit in the next 20 years– more than 144,000 according to the Lehigh Valley Planning Commission. With the increased number of people comes increased demand for housing, increased traffic, increased demand for jobs. Not all of this is bad, don’t get me wrong, but we absolutely must plan for a sustainable future for this community. Otherwise, we’ll drown in the overwhelming needs and lack of resources to provide for those needs.
That is why the Envision Lehigh Valley project is so timely and so necessary. We have been given an opportunity to create a regional sustainability plan for the entire Lehigh Valley. And the best part is that everything is driven by public input. Any regional plan or update to the Comprehensive Plan… The Lehigh Valley 2030 that will come out of the Envision Lehigh Valley project by 2014 will be generated based upon input gathered from those who experience the Lehigh Valley daily.
So, are we “there” yet? No, not yet. But the key word is yet. We can get “there” and we must do it together as a region.Want to get involved? Visit www.envisionlehighvalley.com to find out how
As Envision Lehigh Valley is asking the question “What will the Lehigh Valley be like in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years,” the state budget was passed late Saturday night with language that seemingly wipes away the need for 18 Lehigh Valley municipalities to continue lawsuits against the city of Allentown. Pennsylvania legislators made municipalities whole again, returning to them their earned income tax revenue that a 2009 Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ) Act allowed the city of Allentown to keep in order to fund a new hockey arena.
For the second time in as many years, Governor Corbett signed a state budget on time and with no new taxes. This budget has some significant legislation attached, including amendments to the tax code for businesses that donate to private schools, amendments to the state’s welfare and school codes, and funding for the four state universities. Perhaps the most significant amendment for Lehigh Valley residents, however, is the change to the state’s fiscal code which prevents the city of Allentown from using earned income taxes from the suburbs to help fund the building of the hockey arena proposed for the area at Seventh and Hamilton Streets in the city.
Author of the original NIZ Act in 2009, State Senator Pat Browne saw this as an opportunity for the whole region to get behind a project that would surely stimulate not only the economy in Allentown but in the outlying municipalities as well. This opinion was not shared by many of the local governmental bodies in the Lehigh Valley, leading to lawsuits from 18 municipalities and one school district protesting the use of their earned income tax revenue to fund the hockey arena and the surrounding shops, hotel, and office space.
In an effort to keep the project moving forward and spur the economic development of Allentown, which presumably would lead to a better Lehigh Valley in general, Browne sponsored the amendment to the fiscal code so that the nearly $2 million that was to come from earned income tax collections from those who work in the 130-acre NIZ area but live outside the city would now stay in the municipalities. When asked about the NIZ funding, State Representative Joe Emrick said, “We have effectively fixed that problem with this budget…” and that is “one of the reasons it has my full support.” It seems likely now that the lawsuits will be dropped, if indeed all of the money already collected is returned to the appropriate municipalities and no further money is withheld.
Is this the spark that the communities needed to get back to the regional thinking that is necessary for a progressive Lehigh Valley to continue to be economically competitive statewide and even across the nation? With extremely limited resources at the local government level and municipalities forced to cut services to their residents or raise taxes to continue them, now is the time to consider these regional ideas as good for the Valley as a whole. Let’s work together and remove some of the costly barriers in order to make the Lehigh Valley more efficient and competitive.
The American Institute of Architects and the National Association of Counties recently released a report analyzing “green incentives” best practices. Many incentives have been used by municipalities over the years, but this report compiles case studies from across the country to highlight some of the best uses of green incentives to encourage sustainable development.
Green Building Incentive Trends: Strengthening Communities, Building Green Economies is meant to be a guidebook for municipal leaders to learn from national case studies in order to decide what green incentive program would work best in their communities. Obviously, every community is unique with different characteristics and challenges that may not work with certain practices. The AIA and NACo seek to provide a menu of options to municipalities through the handbook.
The report found the “most attractive incentives to the private sector were tax incentives, density bonuses, and expedited permitting.” The incentives were not successful alone, however. According to the report, green incentives are most successful and effective “when combined with robust advocacy efforts and strong support from the public.” It takes an entire community embracing the effort through a multi-sector approach to be successful. But it is important to note that such public support requires public engagement, two-way conversations, and community input that is taken into account during the planning process.
Replicable and transferable best practices are so important to collaboration and cooperation among regional partners, especially when things like green incentives are implemented on the local government level. Doesn’t it make sense for us to learn from other successful municipalities nationwide and then work with our regional partners to implement successful practices? Isn’t it logical for us to collaborate as a region to implement plans for a better community when we live and work beyond the confines of our municipal boundaries, yet within the larger Lehigh Valley? It seems like a no-brainer to replicate something that has been proven to better the community elsewhere and implement similar policies here in the Lehigh Valley for a greener, healthier, and happier region.
Our neighbors in New Jersey have implemented a new way to hem in urban sprawl using new municipal ordinances. Noncontiguous clustering is an innovative tool “that preserves farmland and open space with private funds by an alternative to conventional subdivisions; instead of building homes on large lots, a developer may use the developmental potential of a parcel or parcels where preservation is desired on a different, nonadjacent property.”
A recent report by the organization New Jersey Future, provides insight into the study of the nine municipalities currently utilizing the planning tool. The study, “Preserving Land Through Compact Growth: Case Studies of Noncontiguous Clustering in New Jersey,” provides a detailed description of the situation in each of the nine townships with visuals to highlight the plans in place. Read the full report here.
The nine townships featured in the report that have adopted noncontiguous clustering ordinances are Delaware, Hillsborough, Hopewell (Mercer County), Middle, Monroe, North Hanover, Ocean, Plainsboro, and Robbinsville. One of the authors did note, however, that only four projects have been completed over the 16 years that such ordinances have been available.
Still, it is encouraging to see that townships in neighboring areas have adopted ordinances to combat the spread of sprawl. Municipalities within the Lehigh Valley could learn a lot from these townships by studying what worked for them in the process and what obstacles hindered progress. Farmland and open space can be preserved. Smart planning and development can be achieved. It takes smart policies with the power of enforcement, as well as cooperation among local government and developers, in order to prevent more sprawl.
On Tuesday, April 24th, Pennsylvania residents will once again have the chance to have their opinions heard through the voting process. For Republicans, it is a chance to express their support for Republican presidential candidates in the general primary. Pennsylvania is still a very important state in the elections as Romney, Gingrich, and Paul battle for supporters and for the nomination. Residents of the 134th District also have an important decision to make in a special election for the General Assembly. Republican Ryan McKenzie and Democrat Patrick Slattery will compete for the seat left vacant by former state Representative Doug Reichley. (For more information about voting in PA, visit: http://www.votespa.com/portal/server.pt/community/home/13514)
Though you may not be able to participate in the election on April 24 due to your party affiliation or your geographic location, it is still important to think ahead to the next time you have the chance to participate as an active citizen in the voting process. You can’t have your opinions represented unless you vote, and you can’t vote unless you’re registered. Remember, too, that the rules have changed so that voters will need a photo ID come this November.
Even if you can’t or don’t vote on April 24, educate yourself about the issues. Learn about what the candidates stand for, read Governor Corbett’s proposed budget and how it could impact you, and–most importantly– contact your local legislators. You can’t complain about the state of affairs unless you participate.
Pay now or pay later. States face this choice every day, particularly with how and when they invest in clinical preventive health services leading to prevention and reduced economic burden in terms of length of hospital stay and general health care costs.
The rewards of paying now are better known than ever before. Research has demonstrated that supporting healthy early childhood development–from before through age 5–generates substantial educational, social and financial benefits for individuals, families and communities.
A major study, The High Costs of Failing to Invest in Young Children produced by Partnership for America’s Economic Success, highlighted that the price society pays when a single person experiences child abuse, drops out of high school, or abuses alcohol can range up to tens to thousand dollars over that person’s lifetime. The study’s purpose was to help policy makers and the public fully evaluate the consequences of their present funding decisions.
The latest RWJ/University of Wisconsin County Health Ranking (CHR) revealed that morbidity numbers are rather low in Lehigh County (37 out of 67 counties) and Northampton County (a shocking 60 out of 67). Morbidity is a term that refers how healthy people feel in the community while alive and it captures the Birth Outcomes along with Health-related quality of life (HRQoL) within the community. Birth Outcomes are measured using low birth weight (LBW) that represents child’s current and future morbidity. Low birth weight is reported to be higher in both Lehigh Valley (8.3%) and Northampton County (8.7%) as compared to the State average of 8.2% and way higher than the national average of 6.0%, according to CHR report.
It was mentioned in the blog on County Health Ranking Across Pennsylvania that the public health spending in Pennsylvania is extremely low as compared to other states in U.S. In this context of scarce resources, the advantage of economic analysis is that helps substantiate present action in terms of investing in prevention and public health. Such an analysis helps providers in managing an individual’s health and administrators in appropriately focusing resources, and — moreover — illustrates the return on investment (ROI) for public health initiatives. According to a study in Western New York, a positive ROI was demonstrated for a prenatal program developed at the Managed Care Organization using a model of economic analysis.
In general clinical preventive services are cost-effective; some are cost-saving. Some clinical preventive services prevent disease or injury (e.g. cervical cancer screening); some preventive services catch disease in early stages when treatment is most effective and least expensive (e.g. STI screening). Because clinical preventive services can prevent or reduce the need for treatment, they provide a cost-offset. Lehigh County has the highest number of sexually transmitted infection rates as compared to state or national average, according to CHR report. Key studies have been done that support the cost-offset value of prevention.
Below are the examples of cost-offset of clinical preventive services recommended in the Plan Benefit Model conducted as part of study that provides rationale to our current work on establishing a regional health department for Lehigh Valley. Of particular note is the cost offset by screening for Chlamydia and Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Screening for gonorrhea and Chlamydia allows for early recognition of diseases that could prevent the costly implications of late stage complication such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). The average life-time cost of PID and its major complications for women have been estimated to be in the range of 1,060-6,840 US dollars. Check out the image below for details on how investment in prevention saves financial resources over the long term.
The past several weeks have seen a few interesting tidbits emerge on public health both within the Valley and without:
The Lehigh Valley Board of Health met last Monday to discuss its next course of action. The Board is continuing to try and raise support for a regional (bi-county) health department covering Lehigh and Northampton counties (you can read more about the benefits of a regional health department at RenewLV’s website). The Emmaus Patch reports that the Board is planning on a fresh campaign to try and building support within the general public and elected officials. Health Board Chairwoman Ilene Prokup is quoted saying “I think probably our major effort over the next couple of months has to be education, education of the public and education of the county commissioners and council people as to what is the difference between public health and why its important and the private health or medical system.” (For a short, simple explanation of the difference between public health and private healthcare, take a look at this Crossroads post from last year).
NRDC’s Switchboard has a post about the consequences that global climate change will have for public health in the U.S. Kim Knowlton discusses new estimations from the insurance industry and the national security community about the health threats posed by storms, floods, and other disasters caused by climate change. “Besides the initial mortality rates, people in impacted U.S. regions could suffer from waterborne illnesses and see an increase in infectious diseases.” Knowlton presents a call to action:
It’s my duty as a health scientist to help people reduce their exposure to harm from public health threats, yet climate change – called “the biggest global threat of the 21st century” by one of the world’s premier medical journals – presents a daunting array of risks that too few Americans know about.
Let’s shine a light on this issue and look at what’s being done across the U.S. to prepare for life under a changing climate, applaud the champions who are already taking action to protect the nation’s health, and defend our right to a climate-secure, healthier future.
Finally, StreetsBlog discusses a new review by the World Health Organization of 300 studies in an effort to demonstrate the link between transportation policies and public health. While the link is seemingly obvious, research attempting to provide quantifiable evidence for the link tends to be incomplete or lacking. Hopefully, the WHO review will fill the current void. Take a look at the post, it’s worth a read.