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Bethlehem City Council has four seats up for grabs this year and five candidates.
The candidates, all Democrats, include newcomers Hillary Kwiatek, Rachel Leon and Kiera Wilhelm, and incumbents Bryan Callahan and Grace Crampsie-Smith. Incumbents Olga Negron and Council President Adam Waldron are not running for reelection.
Leon did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.
A West Bethlehem resident, Kwiatek works at Lehigh University as a communications specialist.
If elected, Kwiatek’s priorities include creating jobs with family-sustaining wages while recovering from the pandemic. The city must also increase the availability of quality, affordable housing, she said.
Kwiatek wants to create a partnership between the city’s public health and police departments. Health care workers can be dispatched instead of police to respond to mental health, substance abuse or other nonviolent incidents, she said.
She also would prioritize the city’s climate action plan, creating neighborhood parks and family activities, supporting diverse small, local businesses and addressing racism and inequity in the city.
Kwiatek has volunteered as president of the Friends of Bethlehem Public Library, led the building of a KABOOM! Playground, served on the Connect Bethlehem group to help the city better understand its communications needs, and was an officer and precinct committee person on the Bethlehem City Democratic Committee.
A graduate of Moravian College, Wilhelm is the director of Fig Bethlehem magazine, a publication that supports and promotes local businesses and organizations in the Lehigh Valley.
If elected, Wilhelm will support issues like diversity, racial justice and equality, and promote sustainability, including the addition of green spaces in the city and improved public transportation, walkability and targets outlined in city’s climate action plan. Wilhelm also supports increasing affordable housing options, ending housing insecurity and policies that support Bethlehem’s small-business community.
Wilhelm said she would prioritize frequent, accessible communication with residents through an easy to navigate digital hub, a more robust social media presence and, when it is safe, in-person conversations in the city’s neighborhoods.
Wilhelm serves on the development/marketing committee for the YWCA Bethlehem, the marketing committee for the Bach Choir of Bethlehem and the steering committee for the historic Charles A. Brown Ice House Tonight performance series. She is a member of the Bethlehem Food Co-Op.
She was a member of the advisory group of the Lehigh Valley Creative Economy Project and has served on committees and task forces for Bethlehem Area Public Library, Touchstone Theater, Godfrey Daniels and Any Given Child Bethlehem.
After speculation that he may run for mayor, Callahan announced he will seek his third term on City Council instead.
A full-time educator in Bethlehem Area School District at Northeast Middle School, Callahan said the time isn’t right to run for mayor. He recently opened Callahan’s Driving School and Testing Center with his brother, former Mayor John Callahan, which will require a significant amount of time.
As a member and chairperson of City Council’s finance committee, Callahan said he’s fought to keep taxes in check and supported refinancing high-interest debt, which increased the city’s Standard & Poor’s bond rating to an A+ stable rating in five years.
In his first two terms, Callahan supported a wage equality ordinance that prevents gender-based wage inequality, and he supported a gift ban that prohibits City Council members from accepting gifts from those trying to influence public policy. He was also a proponent of improvements to the Rose Garden in West Bethlehem and the municipal golf course.
He also voted for ethics training for City Council members, the North Side 2027 initiative to help revitalize neighborhoods, the open data group that improves openness and transparency in government, and he supported ordinances to ensure city contractors pay a fair wage to their employees.
He plans to bring forward an ordinance that gives local businesses, especially minority, female and veteran-owned businesses, an advantage when bidding on local jobs.
Appointed to council in 2019 to fulfill the four-month, unexpired term of Councilmember Shawn Martell, Crampsie-Smith went on to win a two-year term effective January 2020 that was created when Eric Evans resigned to become city business manager.
Crampsie-Smith said she is seeking reelection so she can continue promoting her agenda of assuring public health and safety, balancing economic development with housing that is inclusive and affordable, and encouraging sound fiscal management.
She initiated and co-chairs the Affordable Housing Task Force, which creates recommendations to address and alleviate the lack of affordable housing for working and middle class city residents.
She also sponsored a resolution to provide insurance coverage for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder for first responders. This year, she and Reynolds formed a community engagement initiative to discuss police reform and social justice.
Crampsie-Smith is a counselor at Easton Area High School. She is a member of the NAACP Community Advisory Board, Lehigh Valley Regional Housing Advisory Board, Northside 2017, Lehigh Valley ROAR, Lehigh Valley 4 All, Bethlehem City Democratic Committee, Northampton County Council of Democratic Women, Northampton County Democratic Committee, Bethlehem Food Co-op and American Legion Auxiliary.
Morning Call reporter Christina Tatu can be reached at 610-820-6583 or [email protected].
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