Why Does Tredyffrin’s 2011 Budget Discussion Have to be a Political Party Debate? Why Does Transparency and Open Government Need to be Criticized?

Wayne resident, Rob Betts wrote a letter to the editor which appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban, as a rebuttal to  a written statement by Dariel Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee, delivered at the June Board of Supervisors meeting – here is a copy of the TTDEMS 2011 Budget Proposal as presented.

Although Ms. Jamieson represented herself as chair of the TTDEMS at the June Board of Supervisors Meeting when presenting her statement, I wrote the following in a June 22 post on Community Matters:  

” . . . The suggested TTDEMS 2011 budget process further includes a request that the budget discussion occur in an open and transparent manner with public involvement.

 Although the proposed 2011 budget process was suggested by the local Democratic Committee, I do not believe their recommendations are politically polarizing.  Rather, this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

I found Rob Betts op-ed article  interesting on several levels.   In reading the article, what first jumped out at me was a missing piece of information.  Members of the community have been quick to criticize those that write political opinion articles and do not state their own political affiliations.  Personally,  I believe that if an individual is writing on a non-political topic, such as Ed Sweeney’s letter to the editor last week as a member of the Knights of Columbus, there should be no need to identify with a political party.  However, if someone is writing on a political topic, I agree with critics that the writer should inform the reader of their political affiliation such as a committee person for either the local Democratic or Republican parties.  For the record, Mr. Betts overlooked providing his political affiliation as the GOP committeeman for E-4 in his letter to the editor. 

Reading Mr. Betts op-ed article, and of his membership on the  BAWG committee (and participation in the  subsequent BAWG report) brought back memories for me.  I recall standing in front of the Board of Supervisors last fall and asking a series of questions regarding the BAWG report and the $50K St. Davids sidewalk offer contained in the report.  If you recall, I provided the supervisors with questions in advance; one which included a question about whether any BAWG members were members of St. Davids Golf Club.  If memory serves me correctly, Tom Coleman (as chair of the BAWG committee) was asked to answer my question and he reported that Mr. Betts was a St. Davids Golf Club member, but quickly added that Mr. Betts had recused himself for any votes related to St. Davids. 

So in reading Mr. Betts letter, I had to ask myself why is he so seemingly concerned about the transparent budget process that Ms. Jamieson suggested in her proposal?  But, when I recall the St. Davids Golf Club $50K sidewalk offer, and the attempt to cover-up the offer contained in the report, I guess I have my answer.  We all remember the negative attention that our township and supervisors received over the St. Davids Golf Club offer!

Transparency from our elected officials is important to me and it saddens  me to know that people can be criticized for wanting that kind of open and honest government. I believe that the suggestions that Ms. Jamieson posed in her 2011 Budget Proposal were ones that we could all support.  I would take it a step further and suggest that rather than representing the TTDEMS with her proposal, I believe that the suggestions may have been better served if presented as a resident rather than a political party chair.  However, I understand that as chair of the TTDEMS, Ms. Jamieson probably thought it best that her remarks be with full disclosure. 

As I said in my Community Matters post of  June 22, ” . . . this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

Below is Rob Betts letter to the editor . . . you make your own judgement.

Openness plea a Dem power play

To the Editor:

I was left shaking my head at the demand from Dariel Jamieson that the Tredyffrin Township supervisors open up the budget process to more public scrutiny. I believe the request is nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to discredit the budget once it is adopted by claiming it wasn’t “open.”

The Democrats’ goal is to increase the scope of government at all levels, which requires an increase in revenue, and unlike Washington, our supervisors can’t print money. An Earned Income Tax is their ultimate goal, but without any Democrats on the Board of Supervisors, the best they can do is complain about the process. The request for openness is just their way of saying the 2011 supervisor election has begun.

As a member of the Budget Advisory Working Group last year, I can assure you that the township budget is lean. Much of the township’s budget is fixed due to debt service and collectively bargained contracts. The supervisors refinanced a significant portion of the township’s long-term debt this year (a BAWG recommendation), leaving union contracts and their benefit cost as issues to be addressed.

The current contracts with the township’s unions run through 2013 so those costs are fixed for the current budget cycle. Long-term, the defined-benefit system and free retiree health care for uniformed employees must be changed, for all levels of government, not just Tredyffrin Township. Our supervisors should be applauded for forcing arbitration with the police union on the health-care issue and maintaining the township’s AAA credit rating during the recent bond refinancing.

The Democrats are ready to start the next supervisor election. Look for lawn signs in December.

Rob Betts, Wayne

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31 Comments

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  1. Mr. Betts should have disclosed his affiliation as a Republican committeeman(though he did disclose his membership on the BAWG), as I have requested others do in the past, such as Ms. Keohane and Mr. Poppel. No double standard here.

  2. Mr. Betts needs to crawl back into his St. David’s hole. I’m losing count of CT’s cronies who suffer from severe cases of foot in mouth.

  3. Transparency isn’t part of Tredyffrin’s governing mantra. Why does everything have to be about party politics?

  4. If the BAWG was so great Mr. Betts then why hasn’t the community been given an update on its ‘great’ value? I look forward to you standing up at the next Supervisors meeting and asking for an update from the Board on its progress with your work.

  5. Any updates on Tredyffrin’s new Finance Director?
    Wasn’t he/she supposed to start June 28th.

    1. Christine, I haven’t met the new finance director but do understand that he started on June 28th. Guess we will see him at the next BOS meeting. I think he will have his work cut for him.

  6. As a Democrat and a committeeperson, I take strong exception to Rob Betts’ cynical letter. It contains lies and distortions with no intention to invite honest dialogue.

    I hope all Tredyffrin citizens and voters have the opportunity to read this letter and consider that opinions like his are part of a larger problem that prevents people from working together to understand our township’s challenges and build consensus on acceptable solutions.

    He offends many with his charge that a Democrat could have only one motivation- political – for seeking a more open, participative process

    And Betts’ letter was written for what “higher” purpose?

    I have to figure that Betts’ partisan digs at both the local and national politics are not far removed from the views of his fellow BAWG members. It seems likely that as a group their recommendations were influenced by political and ideological biases and not representative of the community at large.

    People are sick of this. Hopefully, they will consider that views like Betts’ need to be countered, and this township needs broader and more balanced representation.

  7. Ms. Keohane:

    I agree that many on both sides support an open, participative process to the budget, including me. However, to suggest that the plea is not largely rooted in politics is laughable. It’s hard to characterize your plea as apolitical when it is read by the chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee! Especially, when the Democrats seem so impatient to start the dialogue now, when last year the public discussion and budget workshop were held in November. Is it possible they want to use the budget as political fodder in the Drucker-Kampf race?

    Furthermore, your potshot, the most recent of many on this board, at other members of the BAWG, is uncalled for. Most of what has been written and said is about their St. Davids recommendation. Whatever you may think of that, it is only one of more than a hundred recommendations in the BAWG report. If you have not done so, you should actually READ the report, rather than rely on the caricature that has been presented by those whose agenda is to discredit the BAWG. It is thoughtful, thorough and fact-based. It is clear that the members, who have strong management and financial backgrounds, spent thousands of VOLUNTEER hours gathering data, looking at every Township operation, and formulating ways to improve. Implementation of some of its recommendations has already saved the taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Quote of the day, by Township Reader, “when your side wins, it’s fair…when it loses — it’s rigged.”

    1. ‘spent thousands of VOLUNTEER hours gathering data’…WOOOOOW

      How many lives and properties did the BAWG save? Did they gain any respect from the police/fire services? How much time to the BAWG spend with the fire companies? When are you going to stop being the whipping boy for the TTGOP?

      The BAWG ‘volunteers’ hide in the shadows and only come out when their buddies need to get out of a political jam.

      1. Vallon:

        Have you read the BAWG report?

        Also, “When are you going to stop being the whipping boy for the TTGOP?” Thank you for your concern. I think you said the opposite of what you meant – after all, it was 4:03 AM when you posted.

      2. This constant undertone relating to the fire funding is getting tiresome. Who has ever said the fire companies don’t work hard and do a great job? They are, after all, volunteer organizations — so to suggest that what they do is any more or less helpful than any other volunteer is a matter of personal choice. Some folks volunteer at nursing homes or hospitals — are you saying we now need a hierarchy of helping?
        The TTGOP is a party organization — the people who agree with certain GOP principles (limited government) such as Mike are hardly carrying water for that organization. I believe having read a great deal of what Mike has written that he is espousing his own values and views — without any sense of doing in on their behalf. COWARD? Whipping Boy? Those are not only not synonymous — they are non-sequiturs to the point you are making.

        1. >>That would belie reality.. The Fire Service is the most valuable/important volunteer service we have – relative to the lives and property they save at their own peril. All due respect to other volunteers, to try and equate what the fire service does relative to other volunteer boards is an insult to the fire service.

          No other volunteers risk their lives.<<

          Do you read the posts your reply to carefully? The point you are trying to refute was absolutely not the point I was making. The point is — VOLUNTEERS choose their place to volunteer. To suggest that they are the holiest of volunteers because they are in fire service challenges reality — so get real and stop feeling obliged to challenge everything said.

          People are not conscripted into voluteering as firemen. People are not conscripted into working with the homeless or building homes or emptying bedpans or shelving library books. The firemen are not as brave as the people who enlist to go to Iraq — they don't carry guns after all.

          John — take a deep breath. People volunteer in areas that appeal to them — for a myriad of reasons. Your conclusion is based on the presumption that people who volunteer as firefighters are braver….and what I am saying is that there are not hierarchies of selflessness. It's all about giving your time. So stop with the "equating" what they do with anything else. They do what they choose to do. So do other volunteers. Risking their lives? Part of the profile? That's an insult too.

        2. Although I certainly support the work of the volunteer fire fighters, as TR pointed out, there should not be a hierarchy of an individual’s time. Volunteering one’s time to a community cause/issue/event should be applauded regardless. I don’t want to feel that the person who volunteers at the local elementary school, knits hats and gloves for the homeless or donates time at the legal aid society is somehow lower in the ranks to the volunteer fire fighter. All of these volunteers and their committment of time is important, don’t you think?

        3. Mr. Peterson

          Your rebuke is uncalled for — and your need to get the last word QED.
          I am simply tired of the repeated use of the fire company to make a point. This came from Vallon and comparing them to the BAWG. Good grief — WE GET YOUR MESSAGE. You can fully appreciate the fire services and still find the whining tiresome. I am tired of your need to take every opportunity on any issue to end up on the fact that there was budget manipulation relating to fire services. I don’t agree with how it was handled == but it came out fine. The companies are still standing.
          Before I moved here, I never heard of a volunteer fire service — it was a municipal service and was paid for. The people I know that are volunteering with Paoli Fire Company are wonderful people — but they are doing WHAT THEY CHOOSE. So lighten up. There is no debate here — you simply have this urgent need to debate any and everything. Where is your family?

        4. Township Reader–

          ***
          The firemen are not as brave as the people who enlist to go to Iraq — they don’t carry guns after all.

          ***
          So, according to you, since they don’t carry a gun, they are less brave?

          Yours and Mike’s arguments are laughable. Actually, they are pathetic and despicable.

          Yes those men and women chose to volunteer their time in emergency services. Yes, they chose a PROFESSION that they would be putting their lives on the line for free. But since they chose to make that sacrifice, the two of you decide to marginalize that choice and the commitment they make every day. It’s a simple fact. Will people die without volunteers at the library, candystriping, etc? No. Will people die without the men and women that are firefighters and EMT’s? Yes. Yes they will. Not only do they risk lives to save lives they risk lives to save our communities BILLIONS of dollars. And how is it they save us that money? Because if they were not there, those poitions would need to be filled by paying people to fill them. As a proud relative of family that volunteer their time in that profession, I find your callousness for what they do not only enraging, but also ignorant and pathetic.

  8. What a dispiriting discussion.

    Of course any communication from the chair of the Township Democratic committee is bound to be political, but does that mean it’s not a good idea? Mr Betts completely ignores any merits of the suggestion, attacks the Democrats and rehashes the Kampf campaign speech given at the last BOS meeting. The party of No, indeed.

    And Mike, so what if it’s fodder for the Drucker-Kampf race? Wouldn’t any honest person, proud of his record, want to show how successful he continues to be, and what a strong legacy he is leaving? Why not summarize the progress against the BAWG report? I don’t need to read that again, I want to know what happened. Or is there something that the Establishment wants to cover up?

    As someone who learned a lot from, and maybe contributed a little to, the TESD process, I’m very disappointed that there’s every sign that the Township budget will continue to be deliberated behind closed doors, orchestrated by the ruling junta, and sprung on the public at the eleventh hour.

    1. Bill L. and Vallon:

      I won’t speak for T.R, but let’s recap the the discussion which has apparently offended you. I made a post on 7/9 which included a reference to the volunteer efforts of the BAWG. Vallon took me to task, comparing their service to those of our volunteer firefighters. That started this whole “my volunteer is more worthy than your volunteer” stuff, which I sat out.

      NOBODY is trying to minimize the tremendous, heroic efforts of the firefighters, least of all me. People volunteer according to their talents and interests. The BAWG members volunteered their business and financial talent – folks who have the gift of compassion help at Surrey or the Hospital – those with a talent for working with kids, coach or tutor. The firefighters ARE the ones in this community that risk their lives in service, but tearing other volunteers down will not build you up.

      The firefighters could use more money. They got less than they asked for from Tredyffrin in 2010. If this community’s citizens better supported them with contributions, as I have encouraged, they would more than make up that shortfall and could potentially come out well ahead of where they were in 2009. I have repeatedly, at Supervisors’ meetings and on this board, urged the community to open their checkbooks in support of the fire companies, as I have done myself. I have suggested that the community needs to understand the vital importance of community financial support to the firefighters. If that makes my arguments “pathetic and despicable” or an enemy of the fire companies, I’m sorry.

      1. While some of the recommendations might be in “the realm of obviousness” to you, my sense is that the BAWG report was intended to be a comprehensive review and list of recommendations. Using your example, what’s obvious to the all-knowing John P, may not be obvious to every employee or citizen in the Township, who may not be well-versed in pension funding and the tradeoffs between DC and DB plans.

  9. Cynical yes — dispiriting? Not to me.
    It’s politics — Big P or Little p….and the reality is that the guy with the ball gets to try to run out the clock….
    It may be frustrating (as the World Cup has been in watching — so little action once someone takes the lead) but if you want to replace the incumbents, you won’t get very far by standing at the fence and throwing rocks. Mr. Betts response was silly — as are many responses that seem to be crafted by committee and sent by whoever draws the short straw… The political deafness that Mr. Lamina and Mr. Betts reflect is scary…but they have the ball right now….
    Of course Dariel’s provocative suggestion was meant to start the campaign early — when we talk about it has little to do with what will ultimately be passed. I think you posted someplace else that the community should be told by the TESD that they have to spend $5MM more next year — so how do you want to pay for it.? YOU can say that, but if anyone sitting on the school board had to run in a campaign in the fall, youl would not get a comment on that topic. In fact, the 11th hour bond from TESD flies in direct rebuttal to what several board members emphatically stated about NOT borrowing money the night the hearings included a presentation from the Bond advisor.
    So let me say that the request that the township be as transparent as theschool board is a bit naive — the school board had an artifical number in place (2.9%) and played out the drama about how to reach that magic number….(I’m thinking they knew that Mr. Donovan’s $160K was walking away but didn’t hear that in the budget talks about 2% raises) You saw the transparency they wanted you to see. The BAWG was part of the process for the township budget last year from what I can discern — so the transparency was pretty obvious there if you paid attention to their deliberations and process.

    Kampf has the township ball. He’s running out the budget clock to the extent that Tredyffrin’s budget process would muddy the 157th waters. Mr. Drucker can pose for pictures with a check for $1M along with Dwight Evans and the developer — but Harrisburg insiders will tell you that Duane Milne was cut out of that dog and pony show for purely political reasons — as he was a big player in the whole process.. ..whoops — wrong party.

    My conclusion — politics is about MONEY….how much they have, how much they budget, how much they bring home, and how much they can RAISE. Keeping the “spending” part out of the voter’s equation while you are trying to Raise Money is not smart. If Kampf were running just in Tredyffrin, it would be fair game….but any issues JP poses with the township finances didn’t happen absent Paul Drucker’s conservative eye….so trying to force the discussion (when it would be anything but frank) is simply the breakout riders trying to wear out the peloton….and I don’t see it happening on this stage of the race.

  10. Mike,

    Your assumption that I would comment on the BAWG report without having read it reflects a familiar undercurrent – that of your superior efforts, knowledge, background etc over others’. I have appreciated many, no, most, of your comments and believe you add a great deal to the conversation on this blog.

    That said, your certainty and suggestion that others need to be schooled never fail to amuse.

    Who said there wasn’t a political component to the suggestion that the 2011 budget process begin now? But as others have said, there is a political component to almost every action taken in Tredyffrin.

    My question : what does Warren have to hide by participating in an open and more extended budget process – unless he plans on taking an anti-tax position only to reverse it after election day…

    Certainly some of the current BOS members don’t want to have an open discussion on EIT. But many in the community do. Not because there is strong support for an EIT among Democrats, as Rob Betts suggests in his letter, but because people want to be included in the discussion and have a more complete understanding of their options going forward.

    Methinks the TTGOP and their mouthpieces do protest too much. What do they have to hide?

    1. Kate::

      I can best explain my tone with a quote from this board on 6/23/10, “One person’s self -righteous certainty is another person’s passionate opinion, I guess. No all-knowingness intended.” Who said that – YOU! :)

    2. Kate
      I’ll respond to your rhetorical question with another one — why WOULD you infer that holding off on the budget process means Warren has something to hide. Nothing to hide — just no big incentive to vote on a budget when he knows it’s pretty bare and the realities of budget time is that people are never happy….plenty of time after the 157th election…and as I said above — his team has the ball and if he chooses to dribble out the first clock, you will have to use political rhetoric and innuendo to suggest that there is a nefarious reason behind the decision.

  11. My posts have zero to do with the TTRC. I probably couldn’t name 5 people on it. So…
    “Actually, your post provides that. As you say, for Kampf, there is no incentive to talk about the budget – BECAUSE of his race for the 157th. ” is your conclusion — I don’t consider the upper hand in any debate/discussion to be nefarious.

    You said : ” For the budget, it is in the public’s best interest to discuss that now. ” I don’t agree with that either. I see ZERO purpose to discussion a budget for 2011 when the economy of this community is completely static — we have no idea of what transfer taxes will be for the duration of 2010, no idea what the general economy will do, the STEB certified an INCREASE in the CLR for the second year in a row for first time on record (mostly relevant since 1998 reassessment ). So we can start talking about it now — but what would you suggest they talk about….
    Then again, as I said before — you can consider Kampf’s campaign irrelevant to the township business, but I’d say that the township voters voted for him in the primary will full knowledge that he would be wearing two hats.
    I guess I would like all of us to discuss the budget, not the budget makers. YOu have made a case for EIT sort of….by saying there is a case for it and bemoaning the fact that you cannot get the discussion started (having also admitted you did not attend the hearings when it was last discussed). So why not discuss it. Put together some information. You have shown no hesitation to doing your own columns for the local papers….so make your case. The community can only learn what they are taught. If you let Betts comments that it’s a democratic ploy to muddy the waters stand, that’s the impression the public will be left with.

    So — Bottom Line — if Kampf isn’t making his case, he won’t get elected. We don’t need you to tell us that. Public intolerance of the process won’t advance it. Make the case. Because in my view, the people who read this blog are not having their minds changed about Kampf one way or the other….and your obsession with making him the bad guy in every post is “gnat-like.” Good luck.

    1. John
      With all this budget talk, do you have a purpose for advancing the debate other than to try to provoke Kampf and Lamina? TR above makes a point about the uncertainty in our economy…(not sure static is what he meant) — but I have yet to hear any response to the fact that the projection for the township through 2014 is .+48 mills. It’s on the township website. Am I missing something about what prompts the urgency beyond political purposes? Objectively, I simply do no tknow what information the BOS would be able to offer on the topic except to extend the argument. Help?

      1. Perhaps it’s not so much about 2011 at this point as it is for a mid-year review of the first 6 months of the 2010 budget. There was undoubtedly unexpected snow removal costs and overtime wages that have no doubt affected this year’s budget. Plus, the township was without a finance director for several months. I believe the new one just started the end of June. So I would suggest a 2010 review now to be followed by a 2011 budget discussion.

  12. Nine posts on one beautiful summer day, most of them lengthy. Somebody needs to restart his own blog and/or get a life.

    BTW, the contraction for you are is you’re, not your. Not that my posts are perfect, but after you made the same mistake for the third or fourth time in the last few days, I figured it was time for an English lesson.

    All in fun, John. And remember, you promised no more name-calling.

  13. I don’t follow the township finances carefully — just the budget….but isn’t a report of to-date included in every meeting? If it isn’t, then that’s the point to make — regular updates on financial conditions. I know the school district literally puts out the check register — boring to be sure and NO ONE reads it, but it’s all there. I’ll get busy and read the township stuff — and will try to decide if I think they are denying.

    Perhaps it’s my bias about having been on the other side of the table — but I have never experienced much real interest on the part of the public in the details. My favorite tongue-in-cheek statement in the “olden days” was if I wanted to get a discussion started, and wanted a crowd in the building, I should move bus-stops — so people were affected in their daily lives. Nothing like a bus stop change (not a budget hearing) to bring out a crowd. But I will do my township research and will weigh in then. Thanks. (Still think that the township numbers are SO small compared to the school district that it’s a lot of concern rather early in the process.)

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