Allentown City Council hears from residents frustrated by gun violence | Lehigh Valley Regional News
ALLENTOWN, Pa. Fed up with the violence in the city, Allentown residents took the opportunity on Wednesday night to voice their concerns to the city council.
The victim was taken to a local hospital, where he succumbed to his injuries.
Many of the comments related to a Jan. 22 incident at a nightclub on Union Boulevard that killed a woman and injured a man.
The public comment portion of the meeting became unruly at times, with verbal altercations in the audience and insults hurled at speakers.
At one point the police had to step in and remove some members of the public from the gathering.
Pas Simpson, a North Ninth Street resident, said he was disappointed to see residents being disruptive while others were talking.
“You can’t end gun violence if you can’t even sit down and be quiet,” Simpson said. “There are ways to leave everything behind. We have to do better. Our children are watching and our babies are dying.”
Simpson added that community violence is escalating because leaders don’t know how to lead.
“Violence stops when our leadership stops it,” Simpson said. “Violence prevention doesn’t stop when the gun is fired. Preventing violence starts when we can stop it.”
High school student David Delarosa said the city needs to stop finger pointing.
“It’s not about pointing fingers at the council or the administration, it’s a collaborative effort by the city,” Delarosa said. “We can all work on it, but it takes passion for vision.”
“How about we figure out a plan to move forward?” Delarosa continued. “How about we come up with a plan to capitalize on our passion for a new city of Allentown?”
Tim Ramos, the Democratic nominee for the city’s 2021 mayoral race, said there were too many grievances and resentments with the council, the mayor and community leaders.
“The reason I ran for mayor is because I thought we could elect people and not a party,” Ramos said. “But I found out very quickly that that’s not possible in this city because people are so focused on their agenda.”
“And the agenda that we’re so excited about is gentrification,” he added. “What you have allowed, and what the city plan has done with all the improvements, is you are forcibly changing the market for our community.”
“The people who have lived here for many generations cannot even afford rooms in the city,” Ramos continues. “So now you’re importing people who are just a little bit better off than our own poor people, and they’re bringing their problems and their violence into our city.”
Jessica Ortiz, a West Tilghman Street resident, said she launched a call to action for a special meeting to address safety in the city.
“I’m here today because I don’t want to be part of the club where my kids are in the ground,” Ortiz said. “I’m not asking for them (nightclubs) to be shut down because all that will do is have house parties and speakeasies.”
“I ask that you work together as a community,” she said. “I have four teenagers in my house for a whole week traumatized by this event because a couple of gentlemen decided to ruin it for everyone and that can happen anywhere.”
“Bullets have no name, no race, no sexuality, no identity, no age, and that’s not the only violence,” Ortiz continued. “We have a lot of other acts of violence in our community.”
Shaun Fequiere, an East South Street resident, posed as the owner of an after-hours lounge.
“I see all these people blaming the lounges for why this is happening,” Fequiere said. “Now that’s not coming from the lounge. It comes from here.”
Fequiere referred to the controversial nature of public speakers.
“Everything we (Lounges) do is entertain the public, so in a way it’s very hurtful to attack us because I’m trying to offer a business to entertain the people here,” he said.
“I hope we can have a plan where these lounges and these businesses can get support (from the police),” Fequiere said.
The council did not address the comments or the issue of violence, but Mayor Matt Tuerk said he was pleased to see how passionate people are about stopping the violence in the city.
“Gun violence is too high, not just here in Allentown, but throughout the Lehigh Valley and across the country,” Tuerk said. “We have a lot of work to do and we can’t do it if we don’t do it together, and that means involving residents across the city of Allentown and empowering the employees who work for the city.”
In other stores, the council voted to discontinue:
- Mandy Tolino as Parks and Recreation Director with an annual salary of $111,000. Tolino was most recently Director of Trails and Conservation for the Delaware and Lehigh National Heritage Corridor.
- Bina Patel as Finance Director with an annual salary of $111,000. Patel has served as the city’s senior financial analyst since 2016.