Issue 6

Cigar Reviews: Autumn 2016

Brick House Mighty Mighty Nicaragua                            6.25” x 60             Medium-Full 93-Rated Brick House. A fitting name for this beefy vitola that’s jam-packed with aromatic tobacco, solid from head to toe, and sits heavy in the hand. Each Mighty Mighty burns slow and cool, dishing out layers of big, complex flavors from start to finish. Medium in […]

cigar-brick-house-mighty-mightyBrick House Mighty Mighty

Nicaragua                            6.25” x 60             Medium-Full

93-Rated

Brick House. A fitting name for this beefy vitola that’s jam-packed with aromatic tobacco, solid from head to toe, and sits heavy in the hand. Each Mighty Mighty burns slow and cool, dishing out layers of big, complex flavors from start to finish. Medium in body from the start, the strength gradually builds as nuances of earth and cedar mingle with pepper and coffee after each puff. A gentle sweetness from the thick Habano wrapper lingers long on the aftertaste, completing a scrumptious 90-minute journey.

cigar-graycliff-30-year-vintage-presidenteGraycliff

Nicaragua                            7.0” x 48               Medium

95-Rated

Expensive, yes…but, hear me out. Graycliff is a celebratory cigar, and 30-Year is fitting for the finest of occasions. The superior, 3-country blend of Dominican, Nicaraguan, and Honduran long-fillers mingles beautiful to deliver savory notes of cream and nuts complemented by chewy tobacco nuances and roasted espresso bean. The Cameroon wrapper adds a touch of roasted peanut, followed by sweetness, to create a luxurious, medium-bodied experience. Elegant and refined to the core.

cigar-macanudo-cafe-hyde-parkMacanudo Café Hyde Park

Dominican Republic        5.5” x 49               Mild

91-Rated

In a word: classic. Macanudo Café serves up a classic Dominican flavor, thanks to a silky Connecticut wrapper and aged long-fillers from the Dominican and Mexico. Subtle throughout, the key is to not overpower this cigar with a robust drink, enabling you to enjoy the soft hints of sweet cedar and toasty tobacco. Just enough Mexican tobacco is utilized to promote a faint touch of pepper. No twists. No turns. Just a consistently mellow yet tasty profile to soothe every last taste bud. Macanudo truly is the gentle giant.

cigar-ramon-bueso-olancho-vintage-toroRamon Bueso Olancho Vintage Toro

Honduras                            6.0” x 50               Medium-Full

93-Rated

Each Olancho Vintage is graced by a toothy Habano wrapper overtop a significantly well-aged blend of long-leaf tobaccos from Nicaragua alongside three varieties born from Honduran soil. Eventful is an understatement, as flavors come and go, build in complexity, grow in strength, and finally unite for a satisfying finale. Earth, leather, spice, oak, toast…this is a meaty cigar that consistently doles out dark, delicious flavors met by a perfect sweetness on the exhale. Through the nose you’ll receive ample spice, adding yet another tasty layer o’ goodness.

cigar-undercrown-shade-gran-toroUndercrown Shade Gran Toro

Nicaragua                            6.0” x 52               Medium

92-Rated

Silky. Smooth. Glistening with oils. That’s my first impression when looking at this 52-ring, Connecticut-wrapped Toro from Drew Estate’s Undercrown Shade line. The pre-light aroma is soft and sweet with a mellow floral note. There’s a dash of white pepper upon lighting. Throughout the burn, I pick up a buttery-smooth bouquet of cream, rich tobacco, toast, and a somewhat sweet hint of cashew. Midway through, subtle notes of white pepper return on the finish, yet never overpower the deliciousness I’m enjoying. Undercrown Shade, quite satisfying for a mellow, session-style handmade.

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Champagne

The Ultimate Celebratory Beverage! Champagne is arguably the most celebratory beverage on earth. Just the mere act of popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly always seems to make the moment that much more festive. Versatile and food-friendly, these wines are the perfect starter to a great meal, great with a wide range of […]

The Ultimate Celebratory Beverage!

Champagne is arguably the most celebratory beverage on earth. Just the mere act of popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly always seems to make the moment that much more festive. Versatile and food-friendly, these wines are the perfect starter to a great meal, great with a wide range of appetizers, and with the right menu and chef, can work wonderfully throughout the dinner.

Champagne, after all, is wine. Not all that bubbles is Champagne. So what sets these special and magnificent wines apart from the rest of the sparkling wines in the world? The first and foremost factor is what the French call terroir, a term that encompasses all of the elements of climate, soil, exposure and sun that affect how grapes ripen a specific region or vineyard. Champagne is one of the most northerly wine regions – if it were in North America, it would be on the same latitude, the 49th parallel, as Winnipeg, Canada. The region’s cool climate means that the grapes, even after a very long growing season, are still naturally tart and very high in acidity at harvest. The vineyards are mainly on gentle slopes composed of layers of tertiary soils a few feet deep (washed down over millions of years from the Isle de France, a geological formation that stretches west to the English Channel that also helps moderate the worst of the Channel weather), overlying deep chalk sub-soils. The region gets its name from the Romans who thought the chalky soils looked like the ash soils around Vesuvius in Campagna in Italy. While Champagne in its bubbly form was not created commercially until the 1600’s, the history of winemaking in the region dates back much further. The main sub-regions in Champagne are the Valle de la Marne. Cotes des Blancs. Montagne de Rheims. Cotes de Sezanne and the Aube, and the wines can be even more specifically identified by the name of the village where the grapes are grown. Each of these sub-regions has their own unique variations of micro-climate and soils that can influence the style of the wine.
The second factor is the grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier are the only permitted varieties. In this cool climate, they ripen differently than warmer regions like Burgundy, California or Oregon. The cool climate allows a long ripening with much lower sugars and higher acidities, in fact so much so that ordinary still wine made here is often so tart that it is actually unpleasant to drink.

Enter the third factor, the method of fermentation, the Methode Champenoise. The magic of Champagne, the bubbles being the most obvious, is created when the wines go through a second fermentation in the bottle, a labor-intensive and time-consuming process that is required for all true Champagne. First, a still wine is produced, then a blend is made of these wines, an addition of yeast and sugars are added, the wines are bottled and capped, and a secondary fermentation begins, capturing the CO2 inside the bottle and creating the signature bubbles. Cheaper bubblies can be made in bulk rather than in the individual bottle, but the unique environment in the bottle fosters an interaction between the wine and the yeast, called lees, creating finer bubbles and layers of flavor associated with the best Champagnes. In general, the longer the wine ages on the lees, the better it gets.

When deemed ready, the wine needs to be somehow rid of the sediment in the bottle, and this is done in a complex process called remuage and disgorgement. The method is called riddling, and the bottles are slowly turned from horizontal to nearly vertical, with a little shake, allowing the sediment to slide down into the neck of the bottle over the period of a few weeks. Traditionally this is done by hand in a rack designed specifically for the purpose, but in many cases has now been automated with the bottles turned in large baskets. The next step is disgorgement, where the bottleneck containing the sediments are frozen, quickly turned upright, the cap removed, allowing the sediment to blow out the top and leaving the wine in the bottle free and clear. The wine is topped, corked, and allowed to rest before being ready for sale.

Champagne is produced in a number of styles and prices. Vintage wines are more expensive and are made to show the specific qualities of that year, and nearly all of the famous luxury Champagnes are vintage dated. Non-vintage wines are generally less expensive and are a blend of wines from several years. Most Champagnes are a blend of grapes, but there are also Blanc des Blancs made from 100% Chardonnay and Blanc de Noirs, white champagne (sometimes with a little copper hue) made from all red grapes. Rosé Champagnes often have an addition of Pinot Noir to create their pinkish/ salmon hue.

Champagne can range from crisp, delicate and racy to toasty, full-bodied and creamy – with Rosé’s often having a little raspberry or strawberry nuance. Champagne can come with various levels of sweetness, with “Extra Brut” and “Brut” the driest. “Extra Dry” is ironically a little less dry; “Demi-Sec” has just a hint of sweetness but is not often seen. While we think of it as the ultimate celebratory beverage, it is actually quite a food friendly wine.

Most Champagne is ready to drink upon release, but some of the better Cuvees can age for 10-15 years or more. It should be kept like any other wine, on its side to keep the cork moist, in a cool, vibration free, dark environment. Serving temperature is generally a little cooler than still white wine as the bubbles tend to dissipate the chill faster. To open, carefully remove the wire and capsule (it’s under pressure – warm or shaken bottles are supercharged!) Grasp the cork and gently turn only the bottle while holding it at about a 45-degree angle. Slowly allow the cork to slide out, restraining it, so it emerges slowly and steadily. As unsatisfying as it seems, the proper sound is just a little hiss as the cork quietly leaves the bottle.

In the world of Champagne, the big brands dominate the market, offering mostly good solid quality, but the buzz in the trade is all about small grower, estate grown and bottled wines. These boutique properties often sell for the same or less than the big brands and offer wonderful pure expressions of the villages and sub-regions where they are grown, rather than the “house style” of the big brands. These family domains bottle their wines in tiny quantities, whereas the large houses mainly purchase grapes and fruit and produce huge volumes. And while neither has a lock on quality (many of the Grand Cuvees of the big growers are spectacular wines) the smaller Domains perhaps give a better insight to the individuality of place. While nowhere near as recognizable as the big brands, and thus a bit intimidating if you don’t have good advice, the smaller properties often deliver top quality Premier Cru and Grand Cru wines at remarkably lower prices.

As we approach the holiday season it is hard to have too much Champagne on hand – the best-stocked cellar should always have plenty! It is ideal for gifts, parties, and entertaining holiday guests – but don’t forget about the rest of the year. It is also an even better way to make life’s simple moments that much more special - Cheers!

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What’s really in your Olive Oil Bottle?

November marks the beginning of the Olive oil production through central and southern Italy. While Italy is the second largest producer of olive oil, there is an ongoing debate that over 60% of the extra virgin and virgin olive oils found in US grocery stores are fraudulent. Producers are either mixing poor quality olive and […]

November marks the beginning of the Olive oil production through central and southern Italy. While Italy is the second largest producer of olive oil, there is an ongoing debate that over 60% of the extra virgin and virgin olive oils found in US grocery stores are fraudulent. Producers are either mixing poor quality olive and blended oils with extra virgin or taking odorless, flavorless oil such as sunflower and adding chlorophyll for aroma and beta carotene for flavor and labeling them as EVOO.   The Italian government has been investigating seven large producers for fraud and misleading labeling. Many of these companies, while located in Italy are owned by foreign companies, and they are sitting in most American supermarkets.

Today, olive oil only has to be made in Italy to be considered Italian. Many large companies are now buying olives from Tunisia, Greece, and Turkey and pressing them in Italy. While this is allowed, the biggest problem is that olives can become rancid during transportation.   Small producers and families with trees in their backyards take their crops directly to the cooperative as soon as the olives are picked.   The cooperative weighs them and then adds them to the daily delivery and at the end of the day they are pressed.  Boutique farms grow, pick and press their olives right on the farm.  Many small farmers grow and press varietal olives separately with the characteristics of the particular type of olive.  Varietals such as Moraiolo and Razzo differ in taste just as a Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

How do you make sure you are getting the real olive oil? If you can’t make a trip to Italy and watch your olives being harvested and pressed, purchase from a reliable olive oil store or online directly from the farmer.
No matter where you buy your olive oil, these steps will help you avoid fraudulently adulterated olive oils: Read the label – olive trees evergreens related to the cherry family.      An exceptional olive oil farmer will have a harvest date and an expiration date on the bottle.  Olive oil will start to turn rancid after 18 months, forming free radicals and depleting some B vitamins and antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids and viable polyphenols removing all healthy benefits.

Make sure the olives come only from Italy and note the city it was pressed in, making sure it is a city in the olive growing region.

Taste it.  Use a clear glass and hold against a white background to see gold to green color. Swirl the glass to warm up the olive oil and breathe in the bouquet. It should have a grassy and intense nose.  As you sip, aerate as you would a fine wine. It should taste a little peppery, fruity and have a slight burn on the back of the tongue and throat.  If tasting more than one, cleanse the palate with water and a slice of apple before continuing to the next olive oil.  If it doesn’t meet the standards, take it back to where you bought it.

Consider California olive oil.  Grown in similar climate conditions, these olive oils are very good.  Make sure it is approved by the UC Davis Olive Center which tests for the authenticity of the product.  You can also go online to buy directly from them.

October and November are the times to order your olive oil and will be shipped to you in time for the Holidays.  If you happen to be in Italy during the harvest season, try the Olio Nuovo, the first EVVO meant to be enjoyed as soon as it comes out of the centrifuge.   The intense flavor must be enjoyed between October and November, so it’s impossible to ship stateside. For a list of small Italian growers who press and bottle right on their farm, please contact me directly at patrice@PapaveroRentals.com

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snapchat

Snapchat’s Friendly Takeover

It’s a phenomenon that is quickly entering the adult and business community. Most of us by now are familiar with the now-iconic logo of a little white ghost against a bright yellow background: Snapchat. The original function of the fairly basic app was to communicate with friends via taking pictures that disappear in ten seconds […]

It’s a phenomenon that is quickly entering the adult and business community. Most of us by now are familiar with the now-iconic logo of a little white ghost against a bright yellow background: Snapchat. The original function of the fairly basic app was to communicate with friends via taking pictures that disappear in ten seconds or less. This is just background noise compared to what Snapchat has evolved into. What started as an app that was mocked as a pointless “teenager-only” app has now turned into the cutting edge of connection.

Snapchat no longer wants to be an app only adolescents use for nonsense. They want to be your phone, your go-to app to communicate with anyone, over any medium. Since the initial disappearing pictures and videos, they’ve added a texting feature, a video call feature, a phone call feature, 3D emoji, Geofilter that is now available to be made by anyone for any occasion. Personalized QR codes enable quick and easy ways to scan a new friend onto your contact. They’ve also rolled everyone’s “stories” back to back to increase visibility. They are effectively putting a live broadcast platform, whether it is to a single individual, or out to the entire world at the tips of any individual with a smartphone.

How does this affect the business community? Take note at some big gurus in the industry like Gary Vaynerchuk, Grant Cardone, or Tai Lopez; you’ll notice their Facebook profile pictures are their Snapchat QR Codes. This enables your marketing team or your personal brand to get out there at any moment to your audience no matter what you’re doing or where you are with a personalized touch, really connecting with your audience. There’s also a way to conduct a video call that works like a private live-stream: You choose the people you want to chat with and start shooting your video. Your guests can join with their video or audio, or watch and text back. Unlike other forms of video messaging on the app, whatever you film can’t be saved to your phone. Talk about a unique conference call.

Now you know about it, so let’s put it to use. It is good to understand that this app is used strictly on your mobile device, only captures real-time data, and the longest that data can be displayed is for up to 24 hours (if you are using the story function) or less. Just like building any brand, whether it is personal or business, the owner(s) of the Snapchat account want to be providing their followers and viewers with relative and valuable content. This can differ depending on who you are and what your message is, but the strategy is all the same. Stay on top of current events, use Geofilters to let people know where you are, create feeling and emotion in what your followers are seeing; CONNECT.

We are not 100% certain how Snapchat will continue to evolve and impact business or personal brands, but it is very apparent they have made a push to the big boy table. The market share for screen time in social apps is crowded, they’ve made a voice for themselves and have only been able to expand and evolve as their users continue to grow. If you don’t have Snapchat personally, give it a try and see what the craze is all about. We will see more changes to come as 2016 keeps progressing forward. Those who follow these shifts and trends may just find themselves capitalizing on their early adaption.

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The Greater Lehigh Valley Realtors Market Update

Closed home sales in the Lehigh Valley cooled off during August; could be the norm for remainder of 2016. The Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® (GLVR) reported August data that shows dwindling inventory numbers are beginning to adversely affect the valley’s real estate market — cooling down the sales hot streak the market’s been riding most […]

Closed home sales in the Lehigh Valley cooled off during August; could be the norm for remainder of 2016.

The Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® (GLVR) reported August data that shows dwindling inventory numbers are beginning to adversely affect the valley’s real estate market — cooling down the sales hot streak the market’s been riding most of the year, but luckily not extinguishing rising prices.

Closed sales dipped for a second straight month in August, down 4.0 percent from 801 to 769 versus a year ago. New listings decreased 16.2 percent from 1,103 to 924. Months supply tumbled 45.5 percent to 4.2 months, and inventory fell 40.3 percent to just 2,807 units.

On a positive note, however, median home sales rose 6.0 percent from $183,950 to $195,000, and the average sales price also increased, growing 7.2 percent to $224,069. Pending sales were also up — 18 percent higher than August 2015 — from 672 to 793. Sellers were encouraged as months supply of inventory was down 45.5 percent to 4.2 months.

“The fact that there are not many homes to buy on the market has been a lingering issue in 2016 that we’ve been watching carefully, particularly over the past few months,” explains Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS® CEO Justin Porembo. “Earlier in the year — for most of the year — we seemed immune to it. We were putting up some pretty hefty closed sales figures every month, but the issue of low inventory numbers appears to have caught up to us now. In July and now August, we’ve seen closed sales less than what they were a year ago.”

“When you consider that there doesn’t appear to be a solution to the inventory issue in the immediate future and that we are entering the holiday season, which is typically a slow time for housing sales, I think it’s safe to say that this leveling off of sales numbers is going to be a reality until the end of 2016,” surmises Chris Raad, President of the Greater Lehigh Valley REALTORS®.  “Even if this is the case, as long as the declines are slight and other factors remain positive, 2016 overall will still be considered a good year for all of us.”

The Carbon County data shows closed sales up 29.5 percent and new listings down just 27.3 percent. Average sales price dipped slightly, falling 3.6 percent to $98,693, with a percentage of list price received at 91.9 percent.

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Real Estate Investment 101

Your first real estate investment property is a critical move in your real estate career. Investing in real estate has become popular over the last 50 years and has become a common investment vehicle. The Wealthiest people own Real Estate. The real estate market has plenty of opportunities and buying and owning real estate is […]

Your first real estate investment property is a critical move in your real estate career.

Investing in real estate has become popular over the last 50 years and has become a common investment vehicle.

The Wealthiest people own Real Estate.

The real estate market has plenty of opportunities and buying and owning real estate is a lot more complicated. When you are planning your real estate investment, one of your first tasks is to decide what kind of real estate market is appropriate for you.

Investors are big players in the real estate, and they‘re expected to continue to have a strong role in the market in the coming years.
Different exposure produces varying level of risk and returns. Your choice will also influence the means by which you acquire the real estate.
I will be discussing the private market income producing properties/ multi- family residential properties.

The Private Market

The private market you would be purchasing a direct interest in one or more real estate properties which include Income producing properties in the form of a small apartment building, duplexes or even single-family homes that are rented out to tenants.

You would own and operate the piece of real estate’s yourself, and you will receive the rent payment and value changes from those investments. As a real estate investor, you will most likely be purchasing ownership interest and then earning a return on that investment by issuing leasehold interest to tenants who will, in turn, pay you rent.

Multi-Family Residential Property

Multi-family residential property delivers the most stable returns because no matter what the economic cycle, people always need a place to live. The result is that in regular markets, residential occupancy tends to stay reasonably high. Another factor contributing to the stability of residential property is that the loss of a single tenant has a minimal impact on the bottom line, whereas if you lose a tenant in any other type of property, the negative effects can be much more significant.

For most commercial property types, tenant leases are either net or partially net, meaning that most operating expenses can be passed along to tenants. However, residential properties typically do not have this attribute, meaning that the risk of increases in building operating costs is borne by the property owner for the duration of the lease.

Real estate is Tangible! It requires ongoing management. You can visit your investment, speak with your tenants, and show it off to your family and friends. You can see it and touch it. A result of this attribute is that you have a certain degree of physical control over the investment – if something is wrong with it, you can try fixing it.

One of the beneficial features of real estate is that it produces relatively consistent income returns and capital growth. In that sense, real estate has an income-paying bond-like component in that it pays a regular, steady income stream, and it has a stock-like component in that its value has the propensity to fluctuate. And, like all securities that you have a long position in, you would prefer the value to go up more often than it goes down!

The income return from real estate is directly linked to the rent payments received from tenants, minus the costs of operating the property and outgoing mortgage (financing) payments. So, you can understand how important it is to keep your property as full as possible. If you lose too many tenants, you won’t have sufficient rents being paid by the other tenants to cover the building operating costs. Your ability to keep the building full depends on the strength of the leasing market – that is, the supply and demand for space similar to the space you are trying to lease. In weaker markets with an oversupply of vacancies or poor demand, you would have to charge less rent to keep your building fuller than you would in a strong leasing market. And unfortunately, if your rents are lower, your income returns are lower.

In Closing

Buying real estate requires substantial due diligence to ensure that you are getting what you expect after you acquire your investment property.
Whether you are just getting starting in fulfilling your real estate investment dream, a good mentor will guide you in the right direction to invest.

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Dear Real Estate Industry… Make Way for the Millennials

Amid some of the stereotypes of this generation, there’s more to the Millennial generation than being obsessed with smartphones, social media and technology in general. They are the last generation to remember a life before the internet, and they’re certainly not going back into the dark ages. It’s important to understand this age group because […]

Amid some of the stereotypes of this generation, there’s more to the Millennial generation than being obsessed with smartphones, social media and technology in general. They are the last generation to remember a life before the internet, and they’re certainly not going back into the dark ages. It’s important to understand this age group because their likes, dislikes, and preferences will now hold a lot of sway concerning the future of the real estate industry.

Born between the years of 1980-2000 and totaling nearly 80 million Americans, Millennials, also known as Generation Y, comprise about one-third of the total population. As they are entering the workforce, Millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce by the year 2025 and are expected to have a significant impact on the future landscape of how we do business. With ease and efficiency as their top priority to pursuing their ambitious career goals and with the ability to work, live and play essentially anywhere at any time, here are the four real estate markets this generation will prove to have a profound effect:

Office Market

Compared to older generations, Millennials show a marked preference for living and working in cities or urban suburbs. For the millennial employee, work isn’t necessarily a place. It’s an activity that can happen in nontraditional places like coffee shops or the outdoors and there are no set hours when work takes place. Millennials also place a high value on collaboration and social connections which have been a big factor behind the move to smaller more open or shared office spaces. As the need declines for isolation by eight-by-eight white-walled cubicles, so does the average space needed per person, which is a growing trend expected to continue. The modern workspace will include more common spaces for interaction, plentiful infrastructure to facilitate their use of digital tools, on-site amenities such as daycares, gyms and game rooms, and dense mixed-use walkable neighborhoods. These factors, among others, will change the way office spaces are used and how much space is required.

Retail Market

While Millennials are too early in their careers to invest in commercial real estate, they have made their way into positions of influence, especially in the retail sector. Currently, Millennial annual spending is an approximate $600 billion. In four short years, as they continue to enter the workforce, they are expected to be responsible for as much as $1.4 trillion in spending per year, representing approximately 30% of total retail sales. While they still prefer to shop in-store versus online, this extremely cost conscious generation will use their tech savviness to research prices, features, and deals which will lead to an increasing trend toward discount retailers as millennial shoppers have gravitated away from high-end, luxury retail.

Industrial Market

The most impact where the tech-savvy, online shopping generation will have in the commercial real estate industry is the industrial sector. While studies show that Millennials have a preference for in-store shopping, many still rely on e-commerce. Currently, approximately 59 percent of the country’s population shops online; Millennials a generation raised on technology, encompasses the majority. With the rising demand for online shopping, comes an increased demand for industrial distribution and fulfillment centers. An estimated 30 percent of the U.S. industrial big box demand has a direct correlation to increased e-commerce. This market is not expected to slow down anytime soon.

Residential Market

Previous generations viewed homeownership as a way to build stability, wealth, and equity. The Millennial generation is renting longer, and homeownership is not as important to them. They are also getting married and having children later, which tends to delay the move to purchase a home. Millennials are also very serious about the environment and the impact of big homes and driving long distances to work. They want to live close to urban areas where there are jobs and shorter commutes. You will find they will often compromise square footage for the level of features such as rooftop terraces, walking trails and common spaces.  As a result, new apartment complexes are on the rise that cater to the Millennial crowd offering units that are smaller in size, but located within communities that are rich in amenities and high-tech features.

Looking ahead, the real estate industry must plan for the surge of young adults entering the workforce and about to start families. The Millennial population is projected around 75.3 million, surpassing the 74.9 Baby Boomers. This population takes the rank as the nation’s largest living generation. Keeping tabs on this demographic over the next several years will give many investors a leg up to be prepared for the shifting demands of the future real estate marketplace.

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The Mess the GOP Created, and What Democrats HAVE to Do to Fix It

As our own Democratic State Representative Dan McNeill stated during an impromptu speech on Labor Day, “If we lose this election, don’t cry, don’t bellyache, we have more Democrats than Republicans. Let’s vote.”  That’s really all it takes for Democrats to win the Presidential and statewide elections.  Democrats have to vote, and they have to […]

As our own Democratic State Representative Dan McNeill stated during an impromptu speech on Labor Day, “If we lose this election, don’t cry, don’t bellyache, we have more Democrats than Republicans. Let’s vote.”  That’s really all it takes for Democrats to win the Presidential and statewide elections.  Democrats have to vote, and they have to tell their friends and neighbors what’s at stake in this election.

There has never been a more important election in our lifetimes.  Every election is important, but 2016 is unique.   The next President will appoint the next three or four Supreme Court justices.  The Supreme Court has not gotten enough attention during this election cycle.  If voters understood that Republican appointees have been responsible for the current dysfunctional state of our elections and our government, there is no doubt they would do all they could to make sure that Hillary Clinton wins this election.

The press hasn’t reported enough on how important these appointments are or how they will impact voters lives for decades to come.

Unfortunately, the media has been too busy covering the GOP nominee and providing his campaign with all the free advertising money can’t buy, in exchange for higher ratings.  There has hardly been a line he hasn’t crossed in his search for sensationalism, and it has made voters so cynical of the circus, many have tuned out entirely.  He has managed to turn the election of the most powerful office in the world into a Kafkaesque reality show where American Democracy is the only loser.

How the Supreme Court Led to Trump

As a result, few voters know how absolutely vital the next Supreme Court appointments are to preserving our Democracy and getting our government out of the mess we have created. The Supreme Court in the last 15 years has made three decisions that have done immeasurable harm to our political system and millions of Americans as a result.

Bush v. Gore

Voters in 2000 will never forget the Bush v. Gore decision, but not many know that it was decided 5-4 with the majority made up of four Regan and one H.W. Bush appointees to the court.  No matter whom you voted for that year, the fact that the Supreme Court decided the election and discounted the votes of hundreds of overseas servicemen was not the outcome anyone expected and polarized our political discourse.

Gerrymandering, PA Style

Next was the 2004 Vieth v. Jubelirer 5-4 decision on the case filed by voters right here in Pennsylvania. The case was a complaint to fight the partisan gerrymandering when Pennsylvania lost two congressional seats after the 2000 census.  Republicans had control of the majority in Harrisburg and changed the Pennsylvania congressional maps so instead of sending 11 Democrats and 10 Republicans to Congress the districts were redrawn so that in 2004 the maps resulted in a Congressional delegation of 7 Democrats to 12 Republicans.  That gerrymandering was sufficient enough to give the state legislature back to the Republicans in 2010 when Pennsylvania lost another congressional seat and had to be redistricted.  This time, the mapping technology was finally sophisticated enough to draw districts based on an individual voter’s likelihood to vote for a particular party.  This technology is so good that there is only one seat in the entire Lehigh Valley that is even close to 50/50 and that is the 183rd where Whitehall Township Commissioner Phillips Armstrong is running.

No wonder there is gridlock in Washington and Harrisburg.  310,000 more people voted for President Obama than Mitt Romney in Pennsylvania in 2008, yet we sent a delegation of 5 Democrats to 13 Republicans to Washington the same year.  In 2012,  Democrats won 51% of the congressional vote but won only five congressional seats.

Citizens United v. F.E.C.

The last but certainly not least terrible 5-4 decision is the notorious Citizens United v. F.E.C. decision in 2010 that allowed the financing of campaigns to become a free for all paid for by shady special interest groups with no accountability to the public.  This decision has made it possible for our TV screens and mailboxes to be filled with lies and trash with no way to complain or take legal action against the organizations that fund the attacks.

These are the decisions made by Republican appointees to the Supreme Court.  We cannot afford to allow the same mistake to happen again, especially with Trump who has detailed over and over again how he will stomp all over the Constitution.  There is only one candidate qualified and trustworthy enough this year to hold our very Democracy in her hands.  If you want your vote to count and your Representatives to do their job, you have to vote Democrat, and you absolutely must vote for Hillary Clinton.

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moderate-millenials

The Moderate Millennial

It should come as no surprise that the millennial generation is deeply distraught with the current path our country is taking in both a societal and fiscal sense. The chaotic and unpredictable events of the last sixteen years have shaped their beliefs and provided an understanding that their standard of living and upward mobility mechanisms […]

It should come as no surprise that the millennial generation is deeply distraught with the current path our country is taking in both a societal and fiscal sense. The chaotic and unpredictable events of the last sixteen years have shaped their beliefs and provided an understanding that their standard of living and upward mobility mechanisms may be less certain than their parent’s generation. For the first time in modern American history, the millennial generation, which comprises individuals born between the early 1980’s and the early 2000’s, will no longer be guaranteed stable jobs that allow for the type of comfortable middle-class lifestyle that their parents could expect upon entering the workforce.

The unhappiness in the political process extends both ways for millennials who have supported unconventional candidates in both the Republican and Democratic Parties. The major candidate divide occurs when the factors of college education and regional attitudes are taken into account. While it is clear that more millennial voters lean toward the Democratic side rather than Republican, it is due in part to the younger median age of metropolitan areas combined with the saturation of higher educational institutions located in major population centers.

Even more concerning is that the majority of millennials have supported candidates like Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, who represent the extremes of both the left and the right. This attitude is due in part to the Great Recession and its effects on both their parent’s finances coupled with their massive student loan debt and the inability to find jobs that allow for both the paying down of student loans and the purchasing of a first home.

The rise of a candidate like Bernie Sanders, who garnered support from more than 50% of millennials, should be taken very seriously moving forward. Not only because of his suggested massive federal entitlement program expansions, but also because of his self-proclaimed social agenda which increases regulations in certain, already deprived industries, while also calling for a revolution of sorts during a time when the American electorate is divided on almost all issues.

It is of merit to discuss why Bernie Sander’s democratic socialism has appealed so strongly to this generation. More millennials are moving back in with their parents after college because of the social safety net that they can provide. Social “safety nets” are the keystone of Sanders Socialism, however, unsustainable those social “safety nets” may be. It is also highly likely that millennials will not see any return on their investments from federal withholdings for social security from paychecks they are currently earning. These federal withholdings are placed in the federal social security program, which, according to the annual report from the Social Security Board of Trustees, is fiscally unsustainable and will become insolvent by the late 2030’s unless it is addressed in the next decade.

For these Bernie Sanders supporters, they see a rigged system working against them fiscally, socially, and institutionally. What makes zero sense is their strategy to vote for a self-proclaimed socialist who would expand the government exponentially, and therefore strengthen the system they claim to be rigged.

In contrast, a surprising number of millennials are supporting Republican nominee Donald Trump, who, like Sanders, is a Washington outsider who has a unique funding mechanism of his own. According to a poll released by the Harvard Institute of Politics in mid-2016, 25% of people between ages 18-30 support Donald Trump, while another 14% are unsure who will win their support in November.

The nomination of Donald Trump has tapped into the subset of those millennial voters in the same way that Sanders has.  Although both candidates have radically different political propositions, their end goals are similar. They are both advocating radical change: change that counters the supposed establishment. Many millennials are genuinely distraught with the fallout from the 2008 Financial Crisis because of the toll it took on their parent’s retirement plans and their own prospects for employment. Many of these younger Trump supporters also grew up in areas of the country hit hard by the decline in American manufacturing in the late 1980’s and 1990’s, which directly affected their parent’s employment options. The Keystone Research Center recently released their 2016 State of Working Pennsylvania report, which outlines many of the issues that have given way to Trump’s strong appeal to these more rural millennial voters who were raised in former manufacturing hubs. While it is clear that a majority of millennials lean toward the Democratic Party, Trump will continue to garner support from part of the millennial generation who also believe the institutional bureaucracy is rigged against their ability to enter the workforce with the expectation of upward mobility like previous generations.

There are also regional factors to take into account for many millennial Trump supporters; they are overwhelmingly from rural and in some cases, suburban areas. Also, unlike many Sanders supporters who live in metropolitan areas with large academic infrastructures, a majority of millennial Trump supporters have not attended any higher educational institution. Individuals who enter the workforce without a bachelor’s degree have still not seen their earnings fully recover some twenty years after the initial decline of the American manufacturing sector.

The real question will become, can this generation pivot toward the center, combining ideas and strategies from both political platforms to create fiscal and societal compromises that will create success in this new American century? If these compromises are not achieved, will the divide grow deeper and ignite more unrest as we continue moving deeper into the 21st century?

It is clear that the future belongs to the millennials, but as time drags on and we move closer to the millennial majority in all American institutions, can we collaborate and lead, or will we splinter and surrender to our own stubbornness. We can no longer rely solely on decisions that older generations make for our future. Millennials from all walks of life need to embrace the mindset that we are all in a similar situation that will require constant vigilance in order to change and reform our societal and fiscal future.

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the-spotlight

The Spotlight’s On Us. What Will Pennsylvania Do?

There are four states that will determine the outcome of this presidential election: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and our own Pennsylvania. This truth can be found in the Electoral College math. If Donald Trump retains all of the states picked up by Mitt Romney in the 2012 election (one of which was North Carolina) and […]

There are four states that will determine the outcome of this presidential election: Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and our own Pennsylvania.

This truth can be found in the Electoral College math. If Donald Trump retains all of the states picked up by Mitt Romney in the 2012 election (one of which was North Carolina) and sweeps the Big Three (Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania), he will have enough electoral votes to become our next president regardless of whether he wins the popular vote. As a result, Pennsylvanians have a particular duty to turn out and vote on Election Day.

The stakes could not be higher. Trump is not a regular Republican presidential candidate (a fact that many in his party seem to recognize). His entire campaign has focused on racism and xenophobia, particularly directed against Muslims (calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”) and Mexicans (“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”). He repeatedly makes misogynistic comments about women who stand in the way of his ambitions, including Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Perhaps most disturbingly, he has demonstrated a blasé attitude toward the threat of nuclear war, encouraged our nation’s enemies (like Russia) to do dirty work on his behalf, and in general called into question his capacity to responsibly oversee our nation’s security interests.

By contrast, Clinton is a candidate whose qualifications for higher office are beyond dispute. Since 1993 she has served as chief policy adviser to President Bill Clinton, her husband, during his tenure; as an accomplished United States Senator from New York; and as Secretary of State during the administration of our incumbent president, Barack Obama. Instead of dividing the country by race and gender, Clinton’s campaign has focused on inclusiveness and reached out to Americans of all backgrounds and political persuasions. Even her chief rival for the nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders, has subsequently endorsed her candidacy, which cannot be said for Trump’s chief rivals (Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. John Kasich). You may not agree with Clinton on some issues, but she is a responsible pick for presidential power. The same cannot be said of her chief rival.

Even as the Northampton County and Lehigh County Democratic Parties encourage Lehigh Valley residents to support our local candidates, we also recognize the critical importance of this presidential election. National politics impact us on a local level, and the existential threat posed by a Trump presidency is serious enough that it demands our attention. Democrats here would never tolerate the possibility of nominating a candidate as bigoted, unstable, and irresponsible, and most could not back such a candidate were he to be nominated.

This is the choice of which we are going to be presented on Election Day. Pennsylvania needs to vote for Clinton… and must never, ever disgrace its reputation by going to Trump.

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