“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality… create a compelling vision, one that takes people to a new place, and then translate that vision into a reality.”
– Warren Bennis
Rarely in our city’s history have we been so close to achieving our full potential. Never in our city’s past have we come so close to losing all that promise offers. Essential to our success? Who Allentown voters choose as their next Mayor November 11, 2017. For the past thirty years Sam Bennett has been preparing herself to be the leader for Allentown’s future – and would be honored to have your support.
First, faith must be restored in City Hall and its Mayor’s Office to keep Allentown’s long overdue redevelopment momentum moving forward. We MUST have a leader proven in their ability to withstand political pressure, willing to openly hold to their convictions, no matter what the cost. Read More.
Sam Bennetts ability to stand up to political pressure is proven. From being one of the few to publically question the current administration to standing up to voter intimidation. When CNN reported that the 2004 Presidential election results
With Sam Bennetts fifteen years experience as a highly effective and politically tested leader locally, regionally and nationally – she is uniquely prepared and qualified to achieve this important goal. As a candidate for Mayor of Allentown 2017 her campaign and administration if elected would hold to the highest possible standard of Best Political Practice: Transparency, Campaign Finance Limits, Accountability and Responsiveness, Mayoral Term Limits and Voter Engagement.
Next? We must Address Both the Reality and Perception of Longstanding Allentown’s Challenges that have stalled our city’s progress for decades – fueling flight to the suburbs, eviscerating our tax base and depressing every measurable from housing values to overall business growth.Read More.
In the thirty years Sam Bennett has called Allentown home, there has been little improvement in these underlying issues that threaten even today – despite the promise of our NIZ fueled revitalizing downtown – to undo our municipality’s promise. More importantly, it is not just the reality but also the perception of these quality of life factors that must be vigorously improved: safety, schools, and our neighborhood and fiscal health.
Every year over those same thirty years, with unmatched civic dedication, creativity and leadership Sam Bennett has sought to make a difference in these problems – establishing a nationally recognized success record with my entrepreneurial and public-perception-changing approaches. Sam Bennett is uniquely prepared and qualified to resolve these chronic perception/reality cancers that have debilitated our city’s ability to thrive.
Nothing impacts quality of life more than public safety for our Allentown residents. Nothing is more important to the long-term health of our city. Nothing would be more important to Sam Bennetts administration. No one wants to live where they don’t feel safe and secure. Sam Bennetts passion for public safety comes from her personal experience with assault and theft in Allentown. With a multi-pronged approach that she is uniquely qualified to deliver – we can maximize our current tax dollars to get the best safety outcomes while making sure that our successes are as widely known as possible. From 2002 to 2014, as national violent crime averages dropped 25% – Allentown’s only dropped 10%. We can and must do better. Working with our proud 254 year old Allentown Police Department and its officers; neighborhood groups; local, regional and national media; City Council; residents and other vitally important stakeholders – we must aim to be the most improved city in the United States for public safety both in outcomes and the perception of those outcomes.
In 1986, thirty years ago – when first moving from Oneonta, NY – realtors advised “no one wants to live in Allentown” because of concerns about crime and its schools. Despite my first husband being a new soccer coach at Muhlenberg College,
The homes realtors showed Sam Bennett everywhere BUT Allentown. Only because she fell in love with its tree-lined streets, historic architecture, schools our children could walk to and insisted she be shown Allentown homes – did they finally show her Dolly and Monk Rabnold’s home at 2334 Livingston Street where she lived for the next thirteen years before she bought The Historic Benner Mansion, her home over the past seventeen years.
The problem? Little has changed over those thirty years. Concerns about crime remain the single biggest reason our city has stalled while the suburbs around us have flourished. This must be the single highest priority of Sam Bennetts administration.
Over the course of this campaign, leading up to the May 16, 2017 Mayoral Primary Sam Bennett looks forward to sharing the planned tactics of her administration – incorporating best practices from around the nation, respecting the fiscal realities of our municipal budget, and reflecting input from all levels of Allentown’s stakeholders when it comes to solving the realities and perception of crime in our historic city.
Sam Bennett has been a proud parent in the Allentown School District (ASD) for almost thirty years – daughters graduates of William Allen High School Classes of 2003 and 2005. Not only did they receive the irreplaceable benefit of classmates from all walks of life and countries from around the world – they received an education that prepared them for the excellent colleges they attended and the impressive lives they lead today. Their brother, her youngest, will graduate with William Allen’s Class of 2020 an honor roll student who has played violin for nine years, is lead in school musicals, is Vice-President of National Junior Honor Society, a medal winning swimmer and regular actor in Nineteenth Street Theater’s Christmas Carol.
Attending schools all over the world growing up, including the globally prestigious Singapore American School – Sam Bennett has always been impressed with what the ASD manages to accomplish with significantly less dollars per student than at nearby suburban school districts – while simultaneously absorbing historic numbers of non-English speaking immigrants – something it has done throughout its 150 year old history. As a PTO President at Muhlenberg Elementary School in 1998 – Sam Bennett became aware of the huge disconnect between the perception of the school district and its impressive reality. Working with ASD’s Superintendent and its Central Administration – Sam Bennett created initiatives like Good Neighbors and the William Allen Construction Company, now in its fifteenth year with co-founder Lee Butz, working with students to renovate that historic campus – to assist in correcting the disastrous misconceptions of ASD.
There are many challenges that must be addressed – especially parent concerns about safety and the educations their children are receiving. With Allentown’s depleted tax base, Pennsylvania’s unhelpful school funding structures and not having the area school district configurations of nearby Bethlehem and Easton – pulling tax revenue and students from burgeoning suburbs – ASD’s urgently need revenues fall disproportionately on homeowners.
Over the course of this campaign, leading up to the May 16, 2017 Mayoral Primary Sam Bennett looks forward to sharing the planned tactics of her administration – employing best practices from around the nation of how communities can positively impact the educational outcomes of their young citizens while still respecting the necessary autonomy of its school district, rebuilding our tax base so homeowners aren’t shouldering all of the burden, and with input from all ASD stakeholders so we can dramatically improve the realities and perception of our city’s historic school district.
From the bustle of Seventh Street Hispanic business quarter, to the rich culture of the first wards Syrian community, to the historic lushness of Old Allentown, Fairgrounds and West Park’s Historic Districts, to sycamore leafed green of West End’s broad streets, to the close-knit communities of South and East Side – Allentown’s neighborhoods hold great traditions. But they are all embattled by public safety concerns, too many absentee landlords and foreclosures plus – despite an excellent and nationally recognized Recycling and Solid Waste Department – chronic trash dumping and home deterioration.
Shocked by perceptions that the impressive historic city that was my home was thought by many to be a “horrible place to live” Sam Bennett brought Properties of Merit to Allentown from Oneonta, NY where she founded it in 1984 where it still runs to this day, thirty-two years later. “Properties of Merit still the best program I ever saw in getting my neighbors to take better care of their homes!” notes beloved former postman and neighborhood watch leader Bob Bernhard. Working for decades as a volunteer founder, and briefly as its paid PA Statewide Director until Sams position commuting to D.C. as a CEO of a national organization for five years prevented her from continuing – Properties of Merit continues on in other communities – a testament to what simple, creative, volunteer driven no cost solutions can have in solving municipal problems.
Another example? As one of the West Park Civic Association board members that helped to found its historic district, Sam Bennett learned that historic districts help deliver higher home values, lower crime and improve quality of life. With Allentown’s rich supply of historic homes – we are perfectly positioned to make best use of this low cost powerful way to stabilize our neighborhoods, reduce crime and protect housing values.
Over the course of this campaign, leading up to the May 16, 2017 Mayoral Primary Sam Bennett looks forward to sharing the planned tactics of my administration – emulating the best practices from around the nation of how to dramatically improve the aesthetics and quality of life in neighborhoods, creatively employing low cost solutions that minimize impact on our municipal budget, while including input from all levels of Allentown’s stakeholders when it comes to dramatically improving the aesthetics and quality of life for all neighborhoods and all citizens in our city.
Over the past thirty years, like our sister city Bethlehem, clobbered with the demise of Bethlehem Steel, Allentown has struggled with the loss of not only Mack Trucks and other manufacturers but also its historically vibrant downtown retailers. But today Bethlehem ranks in the top 10 best towns in Pennsylvania to live in while Allentown only ranks 1,155th. Clearly fiscal challenges can be overcome while still improving quality of life. This will be of the highest priority to my administration.
We must focus on keeping taxes as low as possible for residents through low cost municipal solutions and rebuilding our tax base. Though the NIZ in downtown has created momentum – we have to make sure we aren’t “robbing Peter to pay Paul” unduly taking tenants away from other parts of the city. We must devise ways to reward long standing businesses like Louie’s Restaurant, The Bayleaf, Jack’s Glass – and so many others that have not benefited from the NIZ. Small business continues to be the largest job creator and revenue generator in the largest economy in the world – the U.S. We need to make Allentown the best place in the U.S. to open and run a small business. As one of the top performing Team PA business interviewers in the state for the Department of Economic Development and the Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce, a successful Allentown small business owner and high performing corporate manager and executive myself – Sam Bennett is exceptionally qualified to achieve this important goal.
Our taxpayers are already overburdened so we must look for fiscal solutions that don’t trade our long-term stability for short-term budget solutions. Additionally, as the third largest city in PA, Allentown is home to an exceptionally high number of non-tax paying non-profits – also straining our tax base. We must hold non-profits to a higher standard of community engagement and historic preservation – so that the tax relief they enjoy is countered with a commensurate community investment to the degree to which they can deliver. Though the care of those less fortunate should be important to us all, we must be cautious of building a culture of poverty in our city. Our goal must be a vibrant diverse city with a healthy mix of incomes – known for both its charity and its economic vitality.
Over the course of this campaign, leading up to the May 16, 2017 Mayoral Primary Sam Bennett looks forward to sharing the planned tactics of my administration – embracing best practices from around the world of how to re-build our tax base, make Allentown the best city in the U.S. to open and run a small business while make the best use of our current municipal revenues, and incorporating ideas and feedback from all levels of Allentown’s stakeholders – setting our city on a course of long term fiscal health.
Finally? Vision tempered with proven executive experience to ensure our downtown’s exciting renaissance continues and expands city-wide, benefiting all by celebrating and protecting our assets.
In this Mayor of Allentown 2017 race Sam Bennett is the candidate with over thirty years of visionary and proven broad based executive expertise – including successfully handing extremely challenging fiscal circumstances – experienced in managing precisely those assets we must take full advantage of to ensure Allentown’s momentum not only moves forward but also accelerates into a lasting improvement benefiting all residents, all neighborhoods, all businesses, all non-profits, all tax payers and all investors – large and small, not just those in Downtown Allentown’s NIZ zone.
We must All Work Towards a Shared Prosperity, Celebrating and Protecting Allentown’s Assets: Allentown’s nationally remarkable arts infrastructure; gorgeous architecture including breathtaking churches; its density of non-profits including nationally ranked colleges, hospitals, with a superb library and locally focused foundations; a rich history closely tied to the founding of our nation; and, a highly desirable municipal footprint that includes a nationally unmatched park system, overall walkability, groundbreaking recycling programs, sidewalks and street trees, and efficient municipal footprint with well conceived neighborhoods.
From serving as Mayfair Festival of the Arts Executive Director delivering the highest attendance and revenues in its history, to volunteering and performing at Nineteenth Street Theatre’s Christmas Carol for over twenty-years – Sam Bennett is extremely prepared to work closely with Allentown’s inordinately rich arts community to maximize its impact on its current and future impact on our economic growth and quality of life. Additionally, given Mayfair at the time she was its CEO was held in Allentown’s nationally unique park system and herself (and her Frisbee-catching Miniature Australian Shepard – Oakley) as a daily user of parks throughout the city – Sam Bennett is well positioned to ensure our remarkable park system is a key component of this strategy to maximize our assets.
Restoring one of “Allentown’s finest homes” from disintegrating foreclosure into Allentown’s first and still only bed and breakfast, to helping to establish one of our city’s historic districts, to fighting to preserve one of Allentown’s Millionaire Row mansions from demolition – Sam Bennett is highly qualified to work with Allentown’s historic preservation community to preserve and protect Allentown’s remarkable and nationally unique density of historic architecture. With close ties to Muhlenberg College and many of the other non-profits in the city and a strong back ground as a non-profit executive myself – She is strongly prepared to coordinate with Allentown’s regionally important non-profit community to maximize outcomes for both those non-profit and Allentown’s citizens.
Sam Bennett has successfully led a wide range of organizations through challenges others “wouldn’t touch” uniquely qualifying her address the debilitating chronic challenges of Allentown’s crime, schools and taxes. Additionally, She has a strong track record of assembling stakeholders, sometimes for the very first time, to find common ground to work together towards a brighter future – essential to her administration’s success.
As the record breaking Executive Director of Mayfair, Sam Bennett created the Mayfair Art Partner program, assembling the majority of arts organizations throughout the Lehigh Valley to have a presence during the festival – introducing them to new potential audiences. It was a huge success. As the creator and co-founder of the William Allen Construction Company with Lee Butz of Alvin H. Butz, Sam Bennett assembled ASD Central Administration, ASD Superintendent, WAHS principal and teachers, union representatives and students. Before bringing Properties of Merit to Allentown she met with scores of organizations, leaders and stakeholders to make sure everyone felt the program would assist the city and that we wouldn’t be duplicating other efforts. When in DC as National CEO of She Should Run and WCF, in addition to raising historic funds and garnering unprecedented national media attention, Sam Bennett helped found Political Parity – the first ever assembling of organizations dedicated to getting more women elected.
Finally, a hallmark of her leadership for over thirty years has been her deep belief in the importance of and success in encouraging volunteerism and citizen involvement. From Mayfair to Properties of Merit, from the William Allen Construction Company to Stories That Shaped A Nation, from her chairwomanship of the Allentown City Democratic Committee to her Vice-chairwomanship of the Lehigh County Democratic Committee – Sam Bennetts efforts have always been marked by exceptional volunteer participation and satisfaction. Allentown’s citizens can and must be a key part of continuing and expanding our recent downtown momentum so that every neighborhood, every resident, every child, every parent, every business, every non-profit, every arts and historic preservation organization both feels and IS part of our WHOLE city becoming once again one of the finest in the nation to live, work and play.
As Mayor as she has done throughout her professional, civic and public service career – Sam Bennett would unfailingly work to incorporate the best practices and ideas while also being attentive to the challenges and concerns of all stakeholders while maximizing citizen engagement and volunteerism – essential to my administration’s success.
Over the past thirty years Allentown has been blessed with well intentioned approaches that have each achieved some piece of what needs to be accomplished but lacked the accompanying municipal dedication, vision and leadership needed to solve the whole problem. Over those same thirty years Sam Bennett has constantly worked to expand her leadership abilities and expertise – uniquely preparing myself to be able to serve her city at this crucial moment in its history – with courage, commitment and competence.
“Sam Bennett would be a great mayor because what she can do is incredible. With the William Allen Construction Company, Good Neighbors, Properties of Merit and the Martin Luther and Coretta Scott King Memorial (now The Freedom Memorial), I have seen her build amazing organizations, starting with nothing but a great idea and committed colleagues. With Mayfair Festival of the Arts, Women's Campaign Fund and the Lehigh County Democrats' get-out-the-vote operation, she stepped into challenging situations and turned them around. Sam is successful due to hard work and talent; she is highly skilled at marketing, communication, finance and operations. Sam is honest and she really cares about Allentown.”
— Martin Estrada - Allentown City Democratic Committee, immediate past chair, Mayfair Festival of the Arts and Properties of Merit of PA, volunteer; married twenty-one years to Siobhan "Sam" Bennett.