Ed Pawlowski

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Ed Pawlowski
Ed Pawlowski Allentown Mayor.jpg
41st Mayor of Allentown
Assumed office
January 3, 2006
Preceded by Roy Afflerbach
Personal details
Born 1965 (age 49–50)
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Lisa Pawlowski
Children Alex
Alma mater Moody Bible Institute
University of Illinois, Urbana-

Ed Pawlowski is the three-term Mayor of Allentown in Lehigh County, Pennsylvania, United States. He has held this position since January 2006.

Pawlowski announced on April 17, 2015, that he is running for the U.S. Senate in 2016. He was a candidate for Pennsylvania governor in 2014, but dropped out of the race in February after “it became clear that he was not going to be able to raise the necessary money.”[1][2]

Early life and education[edit]

Ed Pawlowski was born to small business owners in Chicago. The family owned and operated a popular Polish restaurant on the City's North Side. Pawlowski attended school in Chicago and Addison, IL, where he earned his High School Diploma in 1983. Following his high school graduation, he enrolled at Moody Bible Institute, in Chicago, IL, where he received his Bachelor's degree. He went on to earn a Master's degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy from the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Personal life[edit]

Pawlowski has been married for 25 years to Lisa, a community activist and licensed social worker in Allentown, who he met at Moody. They have two children, Mercy and Alex, both of whom attend Allentown public schools.

Early career and first mayoral election[edit]

After his years at MBI, Pawlowski then worked as a Community Organizer in Chicago's Southwest Side, focusing on helping residents find quality, affordable housing and improving their quality of life.

Pawlowski then enrolled at the University of Illinois to pursue his Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Public Policy. He was then hired to be the Executive Director of Windows of Opportunity, the non-profit subsidiary of the Chicago Housing Authority, where he supervised the development of special programs and self-sufficiency projects designed to help Chicago’s public housing residents, which at the time numbered more than 100,000.

In 1996 he became Executive Director of Lehigh Housing Development Corporation, which under his leadership expanded to six counties and over 50 employees, becoming a regional community development corporation now known as Alliance for Building Communities.

Due to his success in reviving and strengthening this organization, he was recruited to the post of Director of Community and Economic Development for the City of Allentown by then-mayor Roy Afflerbach. Pawlowski was then recruited to challenge Afflerbach for Mayor by dozens of community activists and business leaders who believed the City was headed in the wrong direction.

Pawlowski was elected to his first term as Mayor in 2005 by a majority of the voters. Pawlowski was the first candidate for Mayor to win every precinct in a competitive election—a distinction he maintained through his 2009 re-election bid.

Pawlowski streamlined operations in City Hall, while increasing services to the residents of Allentown. Under his leadership, crime in the City of Allentown is down over 30 percent. His efforts to market Allentown have produced more than 75 million dollars in state and federal grants to rebuild city parks, develop new downtown businesses, and improve the quality of life for families in Allentown.

Safer streets[edit]

When Ed Pawlowski became Mayor of Allentown in January 2006, crime was at a five-year-high in every single category, far above the state average. Since then, he has transformed Allentown into a safer city and decreased crime year after year by directing the installation of assisting a high-tech security network, tackling quality of life issues, and providing safer streets and neighborhoods to the third largest city in Pennsylvania.Mayor Pawlowski rebuilt the police force by hiring 80 additional police officers since taking office and working with police to focus on cleaning up crime hot spots. Last year alone, he secured funding to hire an additional 20 officers and worked with the Police Department to launch tip411, an Internet-based tool that enables the public to text message anonymous tips to police.

Pawlowski was instrumental in the creation of Allentown's state-of-the-art High-Tech Security Network by securing state and federal grants to purchase more than 120 cameras to watch city streets—all focused on identifying and quelling crime hot spots. As a result, Allentown's crime rate has decreased for six consecutive years, according to the FBI and State Police. During this period, overall crime has decreased by nearly 30 percent and violent crime has decreased 20%.

Fiscal management[edit]

As Mayor, Pawlowski provided strong fiscal management to a city that was in debt, facing an $8 million deficit when he took office. Pawlowski transformed the inherited deficit into a $14-million-dollar cash reserve that helped Allentown weather the nation’s worst economic downturn since The Great Depression. He converted traffic signals to LED technology, reducing electrical consumption and saving more than $120,000 annually. He reduced Allentown’s vehicle fleet and consolidated EMS billing services to create a more efficient department.

Although Allentown has not seen a property tax increase during Pawlowski's terms, the administration's fiscal responsibility has come into question. under Mayor Pawlowski's tenure in late 2012, Allentown's bond rating was downgraded to an A3 with a "negative outlook." [3] In 2012, he addressed a police pension fund crisis by offering a controversial solution (see controversies section) of leasing the city's publicly owned water and sewer systems for a period of 50 years. Despite public opposition to the lease, Mayor Pawlowski defended it, stating “In less than 24 months Allentown would be just another Pennsylvania city making very ugly headlines about bankruptcy and its leaders lacking the political courage to address its fiscal problems.” [4]

To reduce labor costs, Mayor Pawlowski initiated negotiations with two of Allentown’s largest public employee unions, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), and crafted labor concession agreements. Through these agreements, the Mayor was able to save Allentown taxpayers more than $15 million over the next five years.

Parks and recreation[edit]

Mayor Pawlowski created a handicapped-accessible playground in Cedar Beach Park, which attracts children from every neighborhood in Allentown and beyond. He also added free spray parks for City children to cool off during hot summer days. Due to his efforts, Allentown has been designated as a Playful City USA Community for the fourth year in a row.[5]

The conversion of one pool to a spray park and the closure of another pool, both in less wealthy parts of Allentown, and the subsequent plans by the Pawlowski administration to launch a new pool in a more affluent area of the city created some degree of controversy. According to Colin McEvoy of the Easton Express Times, "“That drew concerns among the public and council members alike, particularly the idea of a pool being closed in one of the poorer parts of the city while a more affluent neighborhood gets a destination splash park." [6]

Mayor Pawlowski's administration was also credited with bringing Allentown the coveted distinction as a "Tree City USA" for the first time in the City's History. This designation from the Arbor Foundation recognizes urban communities that have demonstrated a commitment to preserving urban forestry and sustainability.[7]

Community development[edit]

Some noteworthy projects completed under the Pawlowski administration include: recreating the pre-World War II era Hanover Acres public housing project into the modern Overlook Park Community and the multi-million dollar redevelopment of the Cumberland Gardens housing project on the City’s south side.

As Mayor, Pawlowski established the “Landlord Hall of Shame” to force irresponsible landlords to clean up problem properties, and he directed the Police Department to focus on nuisance crimes such as graffiti, excessive noise and illegal parking. Despite these efforts, Allentown's poverty rate for families nearly doubled during Pawlowski's tenure, going from 14.6% in 2007 to 24.6% in 2011.[8]

He improved the City’s infrastructure by advocating for State and Federal Funding for three new bridges now under construction—including one of the few federally funded bridges in Pennsylvania. That project, known as the "American Parkway Bridge" will connect Route 22 to Center City Allentown for the first time in 60 years. The Pawlowski Administration has also created programs to focus on neighborhood street-scape improvements, a new fire station, and the installation of approximately 1,200 ADA ramps.

This year, using a grant from the U.S.Department of Transportation, Allentown will lead the Commonwealth and the Nation in the fight for greater regulation and oversight of natural gas pipelines. This grant was issued in response to a 2011 natural gas pipeline explosion that leveled an entire city block and killed five Allentown residents.[9]

Third term re-election campaign[edit]

In the May 21, 2013 primary election, Mayor Ed Pawlowski, running for a third consecutive term as Mayor on the Democratic ticket, not only won the Democratic nomination but also the Republican nomination through a grassroots write-in campaign initiated by a number of local Republican activists and businessmen. Mayor Pawlowski is the first Mayor in the history of the City of Allentown to earn both the Republican and Democratic nominations for Mayor.

President of the Pennsylvania Municipal League[edit]

Pawlowski was elected to be the President of the Pennsylvania Municipal League in 2013. Previously, Pawlowski had served as both First and Second Vice President of the organization. The Pennsylvania Municipal League (PML) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization established in 1900 as an advocate for Pennsylvania’s 3rd class cities. Today, the PML represents participating Pennsylvania cities, townships, town, boroughs, and home rule municipalities that all share the League’s municipal policy interests. The President and Board of Directors oversee the administration of a wide array of municipal services including legislative advocacy (on both the state and federal levels), publications designed to educate and inform, education and training certification programs, membership research and inquiries, consulting-based programs, and group insurance trusts.[10]

As President, Pawlowski has focused on increasing the statewide profile of the Municipal League, developing programs to help urban communities address pressing challenges such as lack of job growth, unfunded pension liabilities, and working with legislators in Harrisburg to ensure that cities are provided with the support and resources necessary for them to serve as economic catalysts for their regions.

Candidacy for U.S. Senate[edit]

On April 17, 2015, Pawlowski announced his intentions to run for the U.S. Senate as the Democratic candidate. He will compete with Joe Sestak in the primary election, with both candidates running for the seat held by current Senator Pat Toomey.[11]

In his campaign announcement, he touted his success as a pragmatic problem solver who has brought more than $1 billion of new development and thousands of new jobs to Allentown while eliminating operating and pension obligation deficits.

“I can take my record of success and the lessons I’ve learned in Allentown to Washington and make things work for all of us again,” Pawlowski said during his announcement speech. “The game has been rigged against us for too long. The playing field is not level. Businesses that think themselves too big to fail also seem to believe they are too big to care and we are too small to matter. Only together can we create change.”

Pawlowski went on a brief announcement tour and picked up numerous endorsements along the way. The Metropolitan Regional Council of Carpenters and the International Union of Operating Engineers, Local 542, both in Philadelphia, have announced their support of Pawlowski, as has the Lehigh Valley Building Trades Council. Pawlowski has also been endorsed by fellow mayors Bob Donchez of Bethlehem, Sal Panto of Easton and Vaughn Spencer of Reading; Pennsylvania state Reps. Michael Schlossberg, Peter Schweyer, Dan McNeill and Thomas Caltagirone; and Adrian Shanker, chairman of the LGBT Caucus of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.


Lease concession[edit]

Ed Pawlowski and the majority of Allentown City council advocated throughout 2012 and 2013 for the lease of the city's publicly owned water and sewer systems to cover soaring pension costs for high-ranking police officers negotiated under the previous administration. The proposal to lease the city's water and sewer systems for 50 years came under significant public scrutiny, especially considering successful legal action by surrounding municipalities that left the city with considerable budget shortfalls involving Allentown's Neighborhood Improvement Zone (NIZ).[12] Several meetings were held with the public in relation to the lease of water systems, the first being in July 2012. The final vote on whether the water lease would be approved and who would be permitted to purchase it relied on Allentown City Council.[13]

Residents expressed concerns over the safety of water systems in private hands, evidence from prior sales in other cities that suggested rates would skyrocket if the systems were handed over to a private or public firm, the importance of water staying a public asset, and several ethical concerns regarding the transparency of the process. Several residents also argued why the systems needed to be leased, considering that, if the lease succeeded, profits from the water and sewer systems would go into private coffers instead of public funds. Additionally, the Mayor's administration spent an undisclosed amount of public funds on hiring Public Finance Management (PFM) to research the situation and sell the public on the idea of leasing water and sewer systems. The amount spent to hire PFM was later discovered to have totaled $500,000. A conflict of interest was also purported when it was announced that PFM would negotiate the request for proposals for the water lease, thereby giving the firm a stake in the success of the water lease proposal.[14][15][16][17]

As a result of the controversy, a concerned citizens group later referred to as Save Allentown's Water was formed. Also, groups including but not limited to Food and Water Watch, Water Posse, and the Lehigh Valley Industrial Workers of the World all helped to oppose water privatization in the beginning. In October 2012, resident Elijah LoPinto submitted a petition to force Allentown City Council to discuss making the water lease a ballot question; however, council refused to discuss the petition or ballot question.[18] Eventually, Save Allentown's Water and Food and Water Watch compiled a petition that would force the water lease to become a referendum issue. The petitioners gathered over 4,000 signatures from registered voters in Allentown, double the required 2,000. Despite the signatures being deemed valid, the petition was disqualified in February 2013 for not meeting requirements under the Pennsylvania Election Code and State Constitution.[19]

In April 2013, more public meetings were held as Allentown City Council prepared to commence with a final vote on the water lease. Mayor Pawlowski continued to defend his proposal despite the concerns of the public, stating that “In less than 24 months Allentown would be just another Pennsylvania city making very ugly headlines about bankruptcy and its leaders lacking the political courage to address its fiscal problems.” [20]

Over a hundred residents were in attendance at the final meeting on the water lease, where the lease was approved by City Council by a 6-1 vote. The highest bidder for the water lease was Lehigh County Authority with a bid of $220 million.[21][22]

The LCA is a public water and wastewater utility governed by a nine-member board of directors appointed by the county, whose ratemaking practices are governed by the Pennsylvania Municipal Authorities Act. [23]

According to Food & Water Watch, the deal with the county authority saved Allentown residents “from rate gouging and other poor practices of the private companies who bid on their system. It also highlights how private companies just cannot compete financially with nonprofit public entities. Because the Lehigh County Authority had access to low cost public borrowing and because it did not have to make a profit, the authority was able to bid substantially more than the private companies while offering a better benefit package to the water workers. The authority will keep the water workers’ pensions, which would have been lost with privatization.” [24]

The lease-concession provided the city an upfront payment of $211 million, with annual payments of $500,000. The payments helped the city reduce its unfunded pension liability by $150 million, eliminate $30 million in water and sewer debt and reduce its annual Municipal pension obligation from $28 million to $6 million in a single year.[25]

As a result, Standard & Poor’s Rating Services lifted Allentown’s bond rating by three notches from BBB+ to A+. The rating agency noted that the dramatic one time rate increase was due to city’s “significantly improved budget flexibility” as a result of its water and sewer system lease-concession agreement. [26]

The lease concession and bonds sold to finance development in the Neighborhood Improvement Zone collectively won Allentown recognition from The Bond Buyer as its “Deal of the Year,” for the Northeast Region in 2013.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.philly.com/philly/blogs/capitolinq/Allentowns-Pawlowski-launches-Senate-run.html
  2. ^ http://articles.mcall.com/2014-02-03/news/mc-pa-allentown-mayor-pawlowski-mccord-20140203_1_mayor-pawlowski-governor-congresswoman-allyson-schwartz
  3. ^ http://articles.mcall.com/2012-10-12/news/mc-allentown-pa-bond-rating-downgrade-moodys-20121012_1_negative-outlook-investors-use-credit-ratings-a2
  4. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/04
  5. ^ http://mapofplay.kaboom.org/cities/
  6. ^ http://www.goironpigs.com/?p=17477
  7. ^ http://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/about.cfm
  8. ^ http://articles.mcall.com/2012-09-19/news/mc-allentown-census-poverty-20120919_1_allentown-shelter-allentown-rescue-mission-median-income
  9. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/01/allentown_receives_federal_gra.html
  10. ^ http://www.pamunicipalleague.org/index.asp?Type=B_BASIC&SEC={51C09E63-9073-4067-A59D-A16AF34F4D11}
  11. ^ http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-pa-senate-ed-pawlowski-announce-campaign-20150417-story.html
  12. ^ http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/Whitehall-Township-withdraws-from-NIZ-lawsuit-involving-the-Allentown-Hockey-Arena/-/132502/15456158/-/xtk5r0/-/index.html
  13. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2012/07/allentown_mayor_proposes_leasi.html
  14. ^ http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/Allentown-City-Council-member-Jeanette-Eichenwald-still-trying-to-solve-1-million-mystery/-/132502/17835402/-/dwcstcz/-/index.html
  15. ^ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wenonah-hauter/murky-waters-in-allentown_b_2964807.html
  16. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2012/08/allentown_water_privatization.html
  17. ^ http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/blogs/why-leasing-allentowns-water-and-sewer-system-would-be-a-financial-worst-practice/
  18. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2012/10/allentown_council_refuses_to_v.html
  19. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/02/allentown_water_lease_referend.html
  20. ^ http://www.lehighvalleylive.com/allentown/index.ssf/2013/04/allentown_city_council_hears_c.html
  21. ^ http://articles.mcall.com/2013-04-03/news/mc-allentown-council-water-sewer-discussion-20130403_1_sewer-lease-allentown-water-home-rule-charter
  22. ^ http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-lehighvalley/allentown-city-council-approves-lcas-lease-of-water-sewer-system/-/132502/19902218/-/xa1yw4z/-/index.html
  23. ^ https://lehighcountyauthority.org/about-lca/lca-overview-mission/
  24. ^ http://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/studies/allentown-pa/
  25. ^ http://www.governing.com/blogs/view/gov-how-allentown-sold-its-utilities-to-fund-its-pensions.html
  26. ^ http://www.mcall.com/news/breaking/mc-allentown-bond-rating-increase-20150218-story.html
  27. ^ http://www.bondbuyer.com/issues/122_229/bonding-fuels-allentown-rebound-1057800-1.html

External links[edit]