Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Casino In My Backyard

I am 31 years old, single with no children. I go out. I enjoy going out. So obviously having the very impressive Starters Riverport, sports bar extraordinaire, within a three minute walk is a very good thing. Finally we have a nice semi-classy place to go where Lehigh Students and us "townies" can mingle and feel comfortable. The place is so big that you have options as to what you choose to do there (even more options in the summer when the courtyard is not freezing). The thought of an entire district of this type of nightlife and cultural options within a mile of my apartment excites me.

The thought also has me very concerned.

My major concern is what is the Casino going to do for us. We are allowing them to come in to our city, and most likely change the fabric of our small society, so they can make millions. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO FOR US?

Yes I know that they must give the city 10 million dollars per year, which is awesome, but it does put that money in the hands of politicians and bureaucracy. I believe that the Sands must invest in it workforce base, Latinos. We all know what ethnic group is going to be the majority of employees, and the Sands must pay a living wage, otherwise it stands at risk to contribute heavily to the demise of some sections of the South Side, thus hurting it's own business. Pay that janitor $12-$15 dollars per hour, you can afford it, don't be greedy, it will only benefit you Mr. Casino owner. Pay a man, any man, a respectable wage and most will work very hard for you and be extremely loyal.

Mr. and Mrs. West Bethlehm Resident should also be a little worried.

In college my roommate was from Absecon, a suburb of Atlantic City. We would go down there often and his friends would come visit more often. These were upper middle to upper class kids, but were some of the most damaged people I have ever been around. Growing up, their lives revolved around the casino's. Every prom, many weddings and other family events were held at the casino's. These kids learned the possibility, and thrill of quick cash at an early age and this urge dominated their lives.

So for the record, I am pro-gambling in Bethlehem. I just want to see the casino take care of, rather than exploit it's workforce, and I hope that we do not become Absecon, producing gamblers, con artists and instant gratification junkies.

Monday, November 20, 2006


Hola. Welcome to South Side Script. Here you will be able to have a glimpse into my somewhat complex mind. I will write on many issues pertinent to the Lehigh Valley from a perspective not heard enough in our quaint little town, that of a young professional who happens to be Puerto Rican.

I grew up in Bethlehem, mainly on the South Side of the tracks, in the shadow of Bethlehem Steel. I am the grandson, son and nephew of steel workers and have a strong connection to the former steel producing giant and the town who's name it bore. I remember the "banging and booming" that Richy Check so eloquently recalled in the LV PBS documentary on the steel. I remember the smell, the dust, and piles of grey "dirt" that were easily found in the corners of many South Side locations, like Yosco Park, St Cyril's playground, my 20ft x 20ft back yard, The Boys Club, and St John's lot where I spent many days playing as a member of Boy Scout troop 344. I remember being stuck in traffic as "the train" made it's way through the South Side. I remember the day we were rushed onto the school bus because the air was orange from an accident at the plant.

I remember the first time I realized that not everyone eats rice and beans 90% of the week, I was in high school.

I remember the feeling I had when people looked at me funny in stores outside my neighborhood, or when I was followed and watched, although I was never into shoplifting. I remember the feeling of anger as I waited for at least a half an hour at the perfume counter to buy my Greek girlfriend a bottle of Escape. I remember hiding in the car every time we dropped that same girlfriend off at her house. I remember being instructed by my next girlfriend to say my name was Bob if her Shakespeare Road parents ever answered the phone.

I still live in South Bethlehem and am fully aware that the times have changed. My part of town is now struggling with it's identity, and is at a crossroads that will affect the future of this vibrant and diverse area. Crime, disillusionment, segregation and feelings of inadequacy are rampant right now amongst many of the Latinos living here. In contrast, feelings of "coolness", urban chicness, money making opportunities and nostalgia are prevalent amongst the new "urbanites" moving into developments such as Riverport and those who party at Starters, McGrady's and Loopers.

My main concern is what do we do about this? Do we give up on areas like Mechanic street? Will Latinos ever get out and vote in order to have proper representation in City Hall? Will the casino pay a decent wage and do it's part to help turn the community around? Will a mayoral candidate (or any candidate) ever walk the streets of the South Side, or South terrace asking for votes?

These are just a few of the topics that I will be discussing here on South Side Script. Please feel free to agree or disagree, those of you who know me, know that I love a good argument!