It was interesting to read through my Community Matters posts of 2011 and the hundreds of comments but choosing which ones to include in my ‘Year in Review’ was difficult.
Certain topics, including the school district and the primary and general election, were much discussed. For a second year in a row, the sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club saw much attention on Community Matters. Land development and the struggles between the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors for ‘control’ over future projects will be interesting to watch in 2012.
Absent a crystal ball, my guess is that the T/E School District’s upcoming teacher contract negotiations and the State House 157 race will lead discussions in 2012. I am hopeful that our local economy will move forward in a positive way — maybe the new year will see a tenant for Genuardi’s in Chesterbrook. I have heard that a high-end gym may be in the offering. And Nudy’s will soon be filling the empty Jake’s space in Paoli Village Shoppes.
Below are my picks for the most interesting Community Matters posts of 2011, in chronological order. Here’s wishing you a wonderful 2012 … may we all enjoy good health and happiness in the new year!
1. Should Teachers Be Consulted in School Budget Discussion? January 14, 2011
Do School Board, administration, parents and taxpayers give adequate attention to the opinions of the teachers during budget discussions. As TESD teacher negotiations are to begin shortly, this Community Matters post and its comments are timely to read again.
2. Another Store Closing in Tredyffrin . . . A Suggestion for a Business Task Force February 3, 2011
Eleven months ago, I proposed a “township business task force … a volunteer group of local retired executives, small business owners, and corporate representatives. The group would meet monthly with a mission to spearhead ways to improve existing relationships and provide assistance and a resource for township businesses. This important support group for the business community could provide regular updates and suggestions to the Board of Supervisors.” We know that my suggestion was approved by the BOS, an advisory group set up but . . . nearly a year later, where does it stand? There have been a few stores and restaurants open (Big Lots, Mealey’s, McKenzie’s) but closings and empty stores are everywhere … Genuardi’s, Syms, Jake’s).
A comparative analysis between Unionville-Chadds Ford and T/E School Districts encouraged 62 comments. Both of these school districts are top performing and enjoy similar academic performances. The teacher contract negotiation process in UCF was lengthy and time-consuming – teachers worked for over a year without a contract as both sides battled over the benefit package (specifically health care). Even an independent arbitrator was challenged over the UCF teacher contract process. Is this the handwriting on the wall for T/E?
Another very heated school district debate on Community Matters was the dispute over online E-learning in T/E. The teacher’s union took the stance that the school district was offering courses online to students that could be taught by teachers. They claimed that the work of instruction and assessing students taking online courses is no different from work performed by teachers in the classroom. The school district argued that the E-learning courses fall outside the scope of teacher bargaining.
Ray Hoffman’s Banter column in the Main Line Media news of March 24, 2011 evoked strong response from many residents. In his column, he had referenced his moral outrage over the Catholic Church and priests involved in the child sex scandal. In my opinion, Hoffman stepped ‘over the line’ when he suggested in his column that pedophilia and homosexuality are synonymous; and “the work of evil incarnate and therefore unforgivable”. Although one can describe pedophiles that prey on innocent children as evil and their behavior unforgivable, how could Hoffman impose that same standard in his description of homosexuals? To grow up gay in America, faced with intolerance and persecution can prove an enormous challenge for today’s youth, which made Hoffman’s words all the more painful to read.
The use of anonymous comments from Community Matters on political campaign literature without my permission was a very difficult time for me – and in hindsight, I came very close to closing down Community Matters as a result. I had discussions with several attorneys over the matter and quickly arrived at the conclusion that the use of Community Matters by the TTDEMS (without my permission) was not illegal. However, were their actions unethical and disrespectful? These same people had supported me the year before as “one of their own” supervisor candidates – I just could not understand how some of them could disrespect and hurt me in this way. What’s the saying … all’s fair in politics?
This was one for the history books. Molly Duffy was declared the winner in the special election by 40 votes. Reports of malfunctioning voting machines turned out to be correct. A hand-count of the election ballots a week later found 61 uncounted ballots; as a result Mike Heaberg was named supervisor to fill the vacancy left by Warren Kampf.
The Board of Supervisors continues delay tactics over the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk land development project. The supervisors decided that rather than honoring their vote of a few months earlier to leave the land development authority in the hands of the Planning Commission, they presented a new township land development process giving the supervisors more oversight. The issue should not be about sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club but rather a 6-year old signed land development contract between the club and the township and why it is not enforced.
9. America’s Best High Schools But Where is Conestoga High School? July 23, 2011
It was very surprising to learn that Conestoga High School was missing from Newsweek’s list of best high schools in America. Regardless of whether you give any credence to school rankings, what did it say that every other public high school in the area was on the list but not Conestoga. We learned subsequently that someone in the TESD administration had ‘dropped the ball’ and somehow the paperwork was not returned by the deadline. Although I am still not clear exactly what happened, I am fairly confident that this same mistake will not occur again.
In an op-ed article in Main Line Media News, former State Rep Paul Drucker had some harsh words for some of the choices made by current State Rep Warren Kampf. Drucker accused Kampf of following a ‘tea party agenda’ and pointed out the state’s education cuts, the lack of taxing on Marcellus Shale drilling and the state’s decreased funding of social services. I questioned the timing of the editorial and asked Drucker if he was considering a re-match against Kampf for the 157 district in 2012. At the time I did not receive a definitive answer … wonder if the idea remains a possibility?
11. Light Bulbs . . . Who’s Responsible? Township staff or PECO? October 12, 2011
This was became the starting point for light bulbs in Tredyffrin. I discovered the problem with light bulbs in Chesterbrook has existed for 27 years since the light poles were installed. I did a more ‘scientific’ count and found that there were 37 lights out between Duportail Rd.and Chesterbrook Blvd. I know that the township staff, supervisors and PECO have now held meetings over the matter. I regularly receive emails from residents who report that they are seeing ‘cherry-picker’ trucks with light bulbs being replaced. I am hopeful that supervisor Richter will give a light bulb update at the next BOS meeting – plus here’s hoping for an update on the St. Davids Golf Club sidewalks too.
One of the most highly commented posts (100+ comments) this was a discussion about the negative ads of election season. Republican and Democratic parties both lowered their bars to slinging mud against each other. The line became so blurred; it was hard to tell the truths from the lies. False and misleading information about school board and supervisor candidates was delivered regularly and had many of us questioning the disappearance of honesty and decency in politics.
13. Election Day 2011 is over . . . Looks like much will remain the same! November 9, 2011
The General Election results showed that all incumbents in the supervisor and school board races won. It should be noted that in the east, it was a very close race between incumbent Paul Olson (R) and Tory Snyder (D). In a nail-biter, Tory lost the race by only 13 votes, returning Olson to the Board of Supervisors for another term. I am not sure but he may have the distinction of having being the longest-serving supervisor. Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors will continue as an all-Republican board. Kristen Mayock’s election to the Board adds a third woman and it has been a while since we had that dynamic. In an upset. Jeremy Blackburn (R) was unseated by Analisa Sondergaard (D) as District Judge. Unlike Judge Blackburn, Sondergaard is an attorney who will now fill the seat as District Judge.
14. Police Chief Andy Chambers Tenders Resignation While on Suspension December 20, 2011
The township has a cloak of mystery and drama as the year ends. We learned of an anonymous letter sent to the township supervisors which contained two allegations against Police Chief Andy Chambers. The first allegation, which the Chief admitted was true, involved him allowing his 16-year old son to drive a township police car. While driving the car, the kid was involved in an accident but Chambers took full responsibility for costs of its repair. The supervisors suspended Chambers for (1) allowing his son to drive the police cruiser and (2) his failure to tell the supervisors. While on suspension, the Chief decided to retire on December 30 after 30 years of service. The second allegation contained in the anonymous letter suggested that Chambers had used township time to work on personal business. There was no mention of this allegation by the supervisors so it is not clear whether or not it was investigated or whether or not the allegation is true. The public was not told the reasons for Police Chief Harkness’ departure from the Police Department, so my guess is there will be no further information on Police Chief Chambers.