Month – December 2009

New Year's Resolutions . . . ? How About 2010 Township Forecasts . . . ?

Did you know…

… that today is New Year’s Eve in many countries? In 1904, the New Year’s ball dropped for the first time in Times Square, New York City. In Japan, everyone laughs at the stroke of midnight to ensure good luck in the New Year. In the Philippines, children jump ten times when the clock strikes twelve, hoping to grow taller in the new year. In Mexico, some people take out their suitcases and walk around the block, hoping it would help them travel during the next year. Have a great New Year! 

Today marks the end of a year and the beginning of another one . . . there’s just something refreshing about “starting over.” Do you make New Year’s Resolutions? What’s on your short list? . . . lose weight . . . save money . . . get a job . . . spend more time with family and friends . . . be kinder . . . do one good deed every day . . . exercise more . . . How will you improve your life in 2010?

How about 1020 township forecasts . . . no, I do not have a crystal ball as a reader of Community Matters pointed out; but I do believe that our past can be an indicator of our future.  So where do you think this township is headed in the new year?  financially?  Board of Supervisor performance? State Representative Race? Fire Department funding?   I’ll be glad to post your forecasts and resolutions for 2010.

In this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban Life, Ray Hoffman lists his forecasts for 2010 in his Main Line Banter.  Interesting list – I support his #1 and #2 forecast.  As for #3, that one surprised me . . . didn’t know that JD was considering a 157 run.  I would think that decision would need to be made rather quickly.  Selfishly, I hope that there isn’t any truth in this suggestion because I think Tredyffrin needs JD’s full attention on the Board of Supervisors.  My money is riding on JD to set the ship back on its course as we enter 2010!

The fearless forecasts for 2010 are:

1. Taxes will be raised by either increased millage or earned income in the Tredyffrin Township 2011 budget.

2. Volunteer firefighters and the community will again need to fight to get adequate funding from respective municipalities.

3. John DiBuonaventuro, Tredyffrin Township supervisor, will run for the state House of Representatives (District 157) as will Warren Kampf (another TT supervisor.)

4. The Conestoga High School football team will win the Central League Championship.

5. A couple of popular longtime restaurants will close in Easttown, Radnor and Tredyffrin townships.

6. Gene Williams will retire as manager of Easttown Township.

7. More stores will shutter in the retail village of Berwyn.

Supervisor Lamina's Explanation of the Fire Company Contribution

Supervisor Bob Lamina has a Letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.  The letter is signed by him and Supervisor Paul Olson, but without the signature of Supervisor Kampf. It certainly was clear to me from the December 21 Supervisor Meeting that Supervisor Kampf was the third member of the supervisor’s Fire Company Holiday Drive so it is curious to me why his name was not included on the Letter to the Editor.  If this truly was an orchestrated honest attempt to collect the needed funds for the fire departments (rather than something else) I would simply ask why not involve the fire companies in the process?  The fire departments were not informed of this Holiday Drive by Supervisors Lamina, Olson and Kampf nor are they aware of any process in place for the actual collection and only found out about the ‘contribution check’ at the Board of Supervisors Meeting. 

My understanding is that that there is confusion surrounding how the money will be collected . . . actually heard that it is being suggested that the fire companies themselves are to track down the funds. Please tell me that isn’t true!  I want to believe that information cannot be accurate . . . surely the principals who organized the drive (Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson) have a system in place for the appropriate collection of the funds. (which does not include the volunteer firefighters doing the collection)

Just for the record, I reached out to Supervisors Lamina, Olson and Kampf for further explanation of the Holiday Drive process and to date, my emails have gone unanswered.  I would propose that there is a responsibility of our elected officials to respond to resident’s inquiries.

I will leave it to the readers for further comment, here’s Supervisor Lamina’s letter.

Board did firefighters’ funding right

To the Editor:

As participants in the Tredyffrin budget discussions of the last several weeks, we read with interest your article entitled “Funds for Fire Companies Are Restored.” While it is true the fire companies will receive the additional funding they desired in 2010, we believe a better title would have been “Tredyffrin Community Steps Forward.”

Township tax funds were not utilized to restore the funding because funding for every township-related service was reduced and no one from any of those departments – including the fire companies – ever stated they could not provide for the public’s safety without more. With the public safety intact, and in light of the challenging economy, the budget developed by the township manager with Board of Supervisors and significant community input is balanced and contains no real-estate property-tax increase in 2010. In our view therefore, one of the top stories this year is indeed the generosity of our community and a local government that in very challenging economic times made the difficult but correct decision to tighten our belts rather than first reaching out to our taxpayers to foot the bill.

With all that said, Tredyffrin’s community members – including members of the Board of Supervisors – worked hard to ensure that the fire companies received the $21,000 they desired. Among them, we note that John “C.T.” Alexander, chairman of the Republican Committee in Tredyffrin, informed the public during the township meeting last Monday that he and his committee members came forward with a $5,000 matching-fund pledge to help raise money for the fire companies. We also understand these are to be funds from individual members and not from any political-action committee. We very much appreciate this far-reaching level of charitable giving and are also hopeful that in the spirit of bipartisanship, the members of the Tredyffrin Democratic Committee may likewise choose to contribute.

Finally words cannot begin to express our gratitude to all those who stepped forward with generosity in difficult times, and to all of the individuals, businesses and organizations who gave so charitably in this effort. In any case we know the fire companies are pleased by these efforts because their presidents, Messrs. Tilden, Beatty and Roderick, each publicly expressed their gratitude for the funds raised. It proves that by working together as a community we can continue to keep Tredyffrin the great place it is.


Robert W. Lamina, Paul Olson

Fire Department Reports Major Safety Victory for Tredyffrin Township

You may recall during the recent campaign cycle, that fellow Supervisor Candidate Eamon Brazunas often spoke of the fire department’s safety issues and the proposed change to the building code that would require the installation of sprinkler systems in new construction.  I am pleased to report that this change has been adopted at the state level, and Eamon sent the following information and link to the press release. This new sprinkler system requirement will help to keep our residents safe and also our firefighters! We look forward to the township’s addition and enforcement of this new building code requirement.  Thank you for sharing this updated information Eamon.

I wanted to make you aware that the 2009 International Residential Building Code (IRC) has been adopted at the state level. This adoption of the IRC updates the PA Uniform Construction Code that Tredyffrin Township currently follows.

The new updates include residential fire sprinklers for all newly constructed townhouses effective Jan. 1, 2010 and for all newly constructed one and two family homes effective Jan. 1, 2011. The inclusion of residential fire sprinklers by the International Code Council (ICC) is a response to the growing fire problem, civilian injury/fatality rate, and the firefighter injury/fatality rate throughout the U.S.

Senator Dinniman Proposes Taking the 'Politics' Out of All Pennsylvania School Boards

In catching up on some of the state news, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Senator Andy Dinniman’s recent education bill 1086 bill was favorably approved by the Senate Education Committee.  I have always believed that the selection of our School Board directors should be nonpartisan and was pleased to learn that Senator Dinniman is making strides to create this environment. 

Senator Dinniman’s proposed bill would eliminate a party affiliation for school board candidates; their names would appear on the ballot without a designated party.  The school board candidates would not participate in the spring Primary Election — the candidates names would only appear on the ballot for the November General Election.  According to Senator Dinniman, Pennsylvania is one of only 3 states that still allows a partisan school board primary.  Changing to a nonpartisan school board would focus the attention away from politics and instead direct the attention of school board leadership directly on education and their fiscal responsibilities.  The bill proposes that instead of local political parties selecting and endorsing school board candidates for the spring primary, the candidates would be required to collect a certain number of signatures (the number of signatures required would be based on the population of the school district) and their name would appear on the November General Election ballot.

I completely support a nonpartisan school board approach for all school districts.  This bill would remove the selection of school board candidates from the local political parties and give over the power to the voters themselves.  You probably know that registered Independents in Pennsylvania are not allowed to vote in the spring primary.    So as far as the School Board election is concerned, removing School Board candidates from the spring primary would allow Independents more of a say in the selection process.

Senator Dinniman’s proposed legislation was unanimously approved by the Senate Education committee (which is comprised of 7 Republicans and 4 Democrats) and now will go to the Senate floor for action.  I am hopeful that Senator Dinniman’s Bill 1086 will receive unanimous support from the Senate – this would be a great way to kick off 2010!

Berwyn, Paoli & Radnor Fire Departments . . . Where's the Money? (Or, . . . How Do You Cash a Cardboard Check?)

The dust has settled on the December 21 Board of Supervisor meeting and now its reality time for the Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire departments and their promised contribution.  Following the unveiling of the oversize cardboard check in the amount of $23,200 from local businesses and individuals (including  Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee’s $5K in matching funds), I posted a list of questions that I had concerning the contributions, the time line, and the process for distribution of funds to the fire departments.  Click here to read the posting, Is it OK to Fund Township Budget with Political Party Contributions?  (Make sure to read the 24 comments that followed that posting).  Also, click here to read my follow-up posting, Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee Contribution Not Political? along with the accompanying comments which include a list of questions that I have surrounding the $23,200 gift to the fire departments.

Township Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson were responsible for the fire department fundraising whose efforts produced $23,200.  I was not certain if these supervisors read the Community Matters blog, so I sent the posted list of questions to each of them with a personal note asking for their comments and updates.  As of today, there has been no response from the three fundraising supervisors.

On behalf of the fire departments, and as my attempt to see that their financial commitments are honored, I continue to have concerns and questions surrounding the contribution.  It is my understanding that the fire departments have not yet received any of this money nor any promise as to when it will be received.  (Fire Company representatives please confirm or correct me if I’m wrong.) Channel 3 News had multiple showings of the infamous $23,200 cardboard check being turned over to the fire companies at the last Board of Supervisor Meeting. The Main Line Suburban newspaper ran an article (and photo of the cardboard check) along with the details of the generous contribution with leading statements indicating how this contribution helped save the Tredyffrin Township budget.  However, the news reporting and hype is all meaningless unless the check is real and that the money actually exists. 

Personally, I don’t know of any bank that is willing to accept a cardboard check deposit. When exactly does the cardboard $23,200 check become a currency that the fire companies can use?  Who is doing the follow-up collection?  In my past fundraising efforts, it is generally the responsibility of the fundraising committee to follow-up and make sure that gift from the donor is delivered to the recipient.  Will Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson being doing that legwork? I also asked for the complete list of donors to be made public.  I think that once this $23,200 donation became public information at the Board of Supervisor meeting, it becomes a ‘right to know’ issue and therefore should be public information.  Much in the same way, that once the BAWG report was accepted as a public report, the $50K suggested St. Davids Golf Club offer could be available for public discussion.

One of the questions that I am still struggling with is in regards to the appropriateness of a political party contribution to a fire company?  What is unclear to me is the ‘legalities’ of Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee (TTRC) giving money to the fire company. If the $5K in matching funds, which TTRC Chair C.T. Alexander committed to the fire companies was made up of individual donation checks that would be one thing.  But Mr. Alexander stated that the money was coming from the TTRC which implies to me that a check is to be written by the TTRC.  And exactly what ‘matching funds’ was Mr. Alexander referring to? This sets off a bell in my head . . . is it OK for a volunteer fire company to accept a contribution directly from a political party?  Does the individual charter of the fire company allow for the acceptance of such a gift from a political party?  I am confident that members of the TTRC who are lawyers (including Supervisor Kampf) would have counseled their organization on the legalities of such a gift, right?  Again, I have the questions but so far I’m coming up empty handed with the answers.

With just a few days remaining in 2009, I think all outstanding issues surrounding the fire company and the 2010 budget need to be answered.  In fairness to the Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor Fire Departments, let’s make sure that these volunteer nonprofit organizations receive the $23,200 that was promised on December 21, 2009.  In less than a week, on Monday, January 4, 2010 the first Board of Supervisors meeting for the new year will take place. Now is the time for all unfinished 2009 business to be completed.

Roulette & Blackjack Needed to Resolve State Budget

When I decided to begin writing Community Matters, I assumed it would be issues relating to Tredyffrin Township.  But I now recognize that exploring how other areas are handling similar situations makes for an interesting comparison.  Governor Rendell’s notion for solving some of the budget issues at the state level with an expansion of the table-games bill caught my attention.  Somewhere in the dark recess of my brain, I think someone told me that Tredyffrin’s past included ‘betting’ places, and I recall one was located where Barnes & Noble now stands; this was also before there was the Valley Forge Music Fair but I believe the betting window was at that general location.  Am I dreaming this?  If Bill DeHaven is reading this, perhaps he could weigh in . . . I’m thinking that this was back in the day when he was working in Tredyffrin as a local cop.  Anyway, this is how I move from Tredyffrin’s community to my interest in using roulette and blackjack to help the state budget problems.

The clock is ticking on the state budget. Although Governor Rendell signed the budget in October there remains an unresolved issue of the table-games bill. This table-games bill is estimated to be worth $250 Million in license fee and tax revenues to the state; the governor believes that the passage of the bill is necessary to keep the government running. The tables-games bill would permit blackjack and roulette games at slots parlors. Apparently the House and the Senate can not agree on whether to add another resort-casino license to the 14 slots licenses already authorized. There is also debate on how to distribute the gambling proceeds in Philadelphia. Part of this problem stems from Mayor Nutter’s unwillingness to give up the city’s control on the distribution of gambling proceeds. Mayor Nutter is absolute that gambling proceeds generated in Philadelphia should remain in Philadelphia.

If the table-games bill is not passed by January 8, there is a good possibility that 1,000 state employees will lose their jobs. During 2009, 800 state government jobs were cut as a result of the budget crisis and additionally 1,800 open state jobs went unfilled.

Another sad reality to the current state budget situation is that there is once again talk of closing state parks, the State Museum and decreasing discretionary grants. Many nonprofits (particularly historic preservation) are finding themselves in a precarious situation due to our nation’s economic downturn, so the idea of losing state grant opportunities is cause for concern. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission laid off 85 employees last month which represented approximately one-third of their staff. They received the highest percent employee layoffs of any agency as part of the overall state employee downsizing. It is unclear how the Historic Commission would function if further cuts are imposed. As a member of the Tredyffrin’s Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB), our board and all state HARBs and Historic Commissions rely heavily on the expertise and advice from the Historic Commission.

I am reaching out to our State House Rep Paul Drucker for his comments on the table-game bill — where do you stand?

Pending Lawsuit Offers Holiday Reprieve for Deer at Valley Forge National Historic Park

Deer grazing at Valley Forge National Historic Partk

I looked out an upper floor window of our home to a very picturesque scene of 8 deer, including a buck standing against the backdrop of newly fallen snow. I watched as the white-tailed deer grazed off the low-hanging tree branches in the backyard. Deer are creatures of habit, and contrary to popular belief, the majority of them do not migrate. A buck is known to travel upwards of 100 miles but does will stay within the same 3 to 4 square miles for their entire life. This means, the deer you see this year, are probably the same deer you saw last year. It also means that once they’ve found a food source in your backyard they’ll be back for seconds. Like so many Tredyffrin residents, we too have an ongoing love-hate relationship with these animals.

We have tried all the traditional and not so traditional remedies to deter the deer . . . human hair clippings, hanging bars of soap, special deer repellent sprays, etc. . . all with not much success.  No one can deny how beautiful and majestic these animals are, but unfortunately they see our plants and shrubs as a buffet that we didn’t invite them to! While we’d like to enjoy their beauty, we can do without the widespread loss to our landscapes and gardens.

So, it is with great interest that I have followed the saga of the Valley Forge National Historic Park’s (VFNHP) long-planned and controversial kill of 500 deer. Currently there is a pending lawsuit by 2 animal-rights groups against VFNHP, Friends of Animals and Compassion for Animals. The animal-rights groups believe that the park should be maintained by natural means. A couple of days before Christmas, the deer were granted a holiday stay of execution with the recent lawsuit filing. The federal judge assigned to the case is not expected to rule before May 31, which means that it will be next November at the earliest before another planned deer kill can take place (depending on the outcome of the lawsuit). The park’s plan had called for contract sharpshooters to kill at least 1,500 deer over the next 4 years. The plan was for federal employees to use silencer-equipped rifles, mostly at night. The herd has grown big and destructive and park officials claim the kill will eradicate approximately 86% of the deer population.

In addition to the animal-rights groups, there is also concern from another local organization, Keep Valley Forge Safe. This group maintains that the gunfire could injure people living near or visiting the park.  They doubt that the plan is safe, given that  homes and shopping malls now surround the 3,500 acres where General George Washington and his troops spent the winter of 1777-78.  Park officials claim that complete safety provisions are in place and that the proper public hearing process was followed.  It is the feeling of park officials that the deer have created a crisis; they are eating so many plants and tree saplings that they are throwing the park’s environment balance and regeneration process off. The deer are also blamed for scores of vehicle accidents within the park each year.

Have you or anyone you know suffered from deer tick lyme disease?  How close have you come to hitting a deer as you drive on the local roads? Do you support a deer kill in Valley Forge National Historic Park? Are you a Bambi-supporter and prefer that the park officials just leave the deer alone? Or, do you see our local deer population as 4-legged nuisances that destroy our gardens and put us and our cars in danger? For me, I recognize that we have a serious deer problem in this area and I also accept that there is probably not a perfect answer.  But I would ask the question, if all  possible solutions to the problem been explored and the deer kill is viewed as the best option?  I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the subject.

Are you After Christmas Shopping Today . . . Maybe we Can Thank Britain

In the 1980’s prior to moving to Tredyffrin, my husband and I lived in Britain.  My husband’s employer was the initial reason for our move to London.  However, it was during that time that I took the opportunity to work on my Ph.D. thesis at the London School of Economics.  As we celebrated each holiday in the United Kingdom, we were often fascinated with the Britain’s interpretation of holidays and their customs.  One that was particularly interesting was their day after Christmas holiday — Boxing Day.  It seemed to us foreigners that December 26 was far more festive and celebratory than Christmas Day itself; we were always delighted when invited to a British friends home for Boxing Day!  Boxing Day is celebrated in Great Britain and in most areas settled by the English (the U.S. is the major exception), including Canada, Australia, and New Zealand

Today, the day after Christmas in most modern cultures of the world is a day spent bargain-hunting through the stores and malls. But what exactly is Boxing Day? It turns out the history of Boxing Day actually has a much more chaitable history.  Boxing Day dates back to England when wealthy homeowners would give gifts to their servants and the poor. Boxing Day is a day the higher classes gave gifts to the lower classes.  Before or on December 25th people of similar class would exchange gifts to celebrate the Christmas season. Gifts were not exchanged with the lower class until the next day called Boxing Day. It is also known as St. Stephen’s Day.

Why is the holiday called Boxing Day? The holiday is named Boxing Day because the tradition of giving gifts of cash, food, clothing and other goods to the less fortunate were placed into boxes for easier transportation. The goods were distributed based on the family needs and their services to the giver.

Boxing Day officially began in England in the middle of the 19th century under the rule of Queen Victoria.  Historians say the holiday developed because servants were required to work on Christmas Day, but took the following day off. As servants prepared to leave to visit their families, their employers would present them with gift boxes.  It was a day to thank the community for all their effort throughout the years. The maids, drivers and other service workers were thanked with gifts of food, money, clothing, and other goods. Boxing Day also developed as a way to teach the children how they can contribute to society and to understand not all families are able to provide for their families all of the time.

As you go to the mall today to bargain-shop or return that unwanted Christmas present, think about Boxing Day, . . . a day to remember that community matters.  I extend a special holiday greeting to my British, Canadian, Australian and New Zealander friends today, “Happy Boxing Day”! 


And so this is Christmas. . .

And So This Is Christmas;
And What Have We Done?
Another Year Over; A New One Just Begun;
And So Happy Christmas;
I Hope You Have Fun;
The Near And The Dear Ones;
The Old And The Young.

~John Lennon
Happy Christmas (War is Over)


My very best wishes to all during this holiday season. . . may you use this time for thoughtful reflection and appreciation for what is truly meaningful in your life. To my own family and friends, I am grateful for your support during the difficult last few months.  Sometimes there really is a silver lining when you least expect it.  In the words of Martin Luther King, We must accept finite disappointment, but we must never lose infinite hope. 

And I am hopeful for 2010.

~ Pattye Benson

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