Easttown Township meets the 2015 financial request of Berwyn Fire Company – Will Tredyffrin supervisors step up to the plate?

Berwyn Fire CompanyDepending on where residents live in Tredyffrin Township, your fire and emergency medical services is provided by one of three fire companies – Radnor, Berwyn or Paoli.

In their 2015 budget presentation to the supervisors of Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships, the Berwyn Fire Company asked for $50K in extra funding from each township to fill staffing coverage gaps. Citing an increase in service calls, the fire company asked for the additional contribution to hire a full-time employee to ensure adequate staffing levels. According to the fire company, the requested funding is to address problems with simultaneous EMS incidents and for lower volunteer turnout situations for fire and EMS calls. (Click here for Berwyn Fire Company’s budget presentation).

The Easttown Board of Supervisors heard Berwyn’s appeal and delivered the additional $50K funding in their proposed 2015 budget for the fire company. Actually, the Easttown supervisors took it a step further than requested – the township officials are looking at ways to provide ongoing sustainable funding to allow the Berwyn Fire Company to better plan for future needs.

Unfortunately, for the Berwyn Fire Company, the elected officials of Tredyffrin Township did not respond similarly to their funding request as the Easttown Township supervisors. Tredyffrin Township’s preliminary 2015 budget indicates an increase of $5,670 in funding to the Berwyn Fire Company, falling far short of the fire company’s $50,000 request. Interestingly, Paoli Fire Company receives $2,700 additional funding for 2015 whereas Radnor Fire Company is slated to receive no increase in funding from Tredyffrin Township.  It should be noted that Radnor Fire Company receives an annual contribution of only $23,700 from Tredyffrin Township, … yet, Radnor Fire Company is the primary Fire/EMS provider to the Panhandle residents of Tredyffrin Township.

For the sake of fairness, and to avoid ill will among the three fire companies, it would seem that each service provider should receive a comparable annual percentage increase in funding.

In their 2015 budget presentation, Berwyn Fire Company detailed their goals and needs, which include:

• Recruitment and retention of volunteers,
• Construction of a new fire station to replace the current 1929 building,
• Possible construction of a sub-station to better service Chesterbrook and Glenhardie areas of township and
• Need to ensure adequate paid staffing around the clock.

The Berwyn Fire Company makes the case on their website, (www.berwynfireco.org) that without the fire company volunteers, it would cost Tredyffrin and Easttown taxpayers, “an estimated $1.8 million in salaries and benefits” to staff just one fire engine and one ambulance around the clock. Plus, this $1.8 million figure “does not include building, apparatus, operating and other costs associated with operating a fully paid fire/EMS department.” To date in 2014, the Berwyn Fire Company has responded to 845 fire calls and 2,045 emergency service calls.

The Berwyn Fire Company is nationally recognized for its high standard of service and professionalism. See information below from the Commonwealth’s Fire Commissioner regarding Berwyn Fire Company:

BFC

In their budget presentations to Tredyffrin and Easttown supervisors, in addition to increased call volume, Berwyn Fire Company cited increase in residential structures, increase in commercial structures, and increase in volunteer and paid staffing needs, need for fire inspection, fire and life-safety planning needs as additional funding requirements. Although the community is glad to see new development and redevelopment projects, it should be acknowledged that these new projects increase pressure on the fire companies to meet the needs.

Case in point – the construction of the much-debated assisted living project, Daylesford Crossing on Route 30 in Daylesford is well underway. The 78-unit personal care apartments and specialized dementia care suites is set to open in the summer. Berwyn Fire Company will be responsible for all the advanced life support calls at Daylesford Crossing. (Paoli Fire Company will respond to the fire calls).

Daylesford Crossing 2

Daylesford Crossing

To show support for the Berwyn Fire Company and their request for additional funding to ensure adequate staffing levels for fire and EMS responses, please consider contacting Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors at bos@tredyffrin.org. If you prefer, you can contact the supervisors individually at:

• Michael C. Heaberg, Chairperson mheaberg@tredyffrin.org
• Kristen M. Mayock, Vice-Chairperson kmayock@tredyffrin.org
• Paul Olson, District 1 Supervisor polson@tredyffrin.org
• Evelyn ‘EJ’ Richter, District 2 Supervisor erichter@tredyffrin.org
• John P. DiBuonaventuro, District 3 Supervisor jdibuonaventuro@tredyffrin.org
• Murph Wysocki, At-Large Supervisor mwysocki@tredyffrin.org
• Mark Freed, At-Large Supervisor mfreed@tredyffrin.org

For further information about Berwyn Fire Company, and to find out how you can help, please contact Fire Chief Eamon Brazunas at firechief@berwynfireco.org or Fire Company President, Nam Truong at president@berwynfireco.org.

There’s still time for an adjustment in Tredyffrin Township’s contribution to Berwyn Fire Company — the supervisors will approve next year’s budget on Monday, December 15. (Click here to see Tredyffrin Township’s proposed 2015 budget).

 Show your support for Berwyn Fire Company by contacting your elected officials and ask them to honor the fire company’s request for additional funding.

Tredyffrin Library Closed until December 4: Flooding & Budget Deficit of $100K+

Library closedThe Tredyffrin Library sent out an email to their contact list stating that the library was closed and all activities cancelled until next Thursday, December 4 due to flooding.

But it appears that the problem is actually worse than just flooding — a visit to to the library’s website www.tredyffrinlibraries.org offers an ominous message from their Board of Trustees, stating that the Tredyffrin Library is over $100K in the red and in danger of  service and staffing cuts.  Indicating “increased utilities and operating costs” and “decreased funding”, there is a plea for contributions to save the library.  Also noted on the website, the Tredyffrin Library Board of Trustees has called an emergency public meeting for Thursday, December 4, 7:30 PM at Tredyffrin Library for a 2015 budget review.

I am not certain exactly what is going on — at the Board of Supervisors Meeting a few weeks ago, the Tredyffrin Libraries director Mike Packard presented an update and financial review of the township libraries as part of the township’s 2015 budget discussion.  The picture presented was one of continuing library usage, increased selection of programming, higher level of volunteer hours, etc. but no mention of this $100K+ deficit.  It appears that the library is in trouble and this new ‘flooding’ issue is only going to make the financial situation worse.  When I called the library for an update, the recording said to contact the Paoli Library as they were still operating.

Tredyffrin Public Library will be closed
until Thursday, December 4
due to flooding at the library
If you have materials on hold at Tredyffrin, you may pick them up when the library reopens on December 4. When placing a new hold, please choose another pick up library other than Tredyffrin. No fines will accrue for days that the library is closed.

A Message from the Board of Trustees:

TREDYFFRIN TOWNSHIP LIBRARIES
ARE IN JEOPARDY! 

Increased utilities and operating costs combined with decreased funding have resulted in a budget deficit of over $100,000. We are in immediate risk of having to cut valuable services, staff and days of operation in order to balance the budget.

Good news for Tredyffrin Township residents — 2015 proposed preliminary budget indicates no tax increase!

This post is follow-up to Tredyffrin Township’s preliminary 2015 budget discussion, at both the Board of Supervisors meeting and the recent budget workshop. At the November 5 supervisors meeting, Township manager Bill Martin presented an overview of the 2014 to date and the 2015 preliminary budget presentation included updates from each of the department heads.

Martin presented a positive financial picture for the township – his forecast indicates that 2014 includes $416K more in general fund operating revenue than anticipated; suggesting that the increase is due to better than expected permit revenue from commercial land development projects. Additionally, the general fund expenditures are expected to be $30K under budget for 2014 – the explanation was that salary and budgetary savings offset the 2014 winter expenses. The budget surplus was $6,265 and when added to the operating results, Martin expects the township to finish out the year with a $450K surplus.

Tredyffrin Township has not raised taxes since 2012 and the preliminary 2015 budget includes no tax increase. While acknowledging the improving economic signs (real estate transfers and permit revenues are up), Martin did temper his remarks with some caution. The 2015 budget, to be approved at the December Board of Supervisors meeting, is still a draft and can be changed. An annual budget workshop was held on November 13 which allowed residents the opportunity to sit down with township manager, staff and supervisors to discuss the proposed budget in greater detail, ask questions, etc.

I was unable to attend the budget workshop; however, Ray Clarke attended and contributes the following details from the November 13 meeting:

First, though, many thanks to Supervisors Heaberg and Wysocki, and staff Bill Martin, Joe DiRocco (especially) and Matt Baumann for their time and for a completely frank and straightforward discussion. Anyone with an interest in Township affairs should make a point to attend this meeting every year.

Operating Budget
– The 2014 surplus will be significantly higher than the $450,000 projected last week, due to additional permit revenue and transfer tax receipts beyond the earlier forecast. (Note that the surplus was not driven by a tax increase).
– In general, changes in state law in 2012 have meant that it is harder for commercial transfers to be structured to avoid the transfer tax
– 2014 permit revenue benefited from one-time large projects particularly at Vanguard. Although this revenue will not recur and other big projects such as Chesterbrook and Wayne Glen are moving at a modest pace, there is a good level of economy-driven construction activity in the Township that will keep residential and commercial permit revenue at a healthy, albeit lower, level in 2015.
– The result, then, with no property tax increase, will give 2015 budgeted revenue – before transfers – down half a million dollars or more to about $17.3 million. Expenses, though, will increase by $0.8 million of contractually driven compensation increases to a budgeted $18.2 million. The gap to be filled from $0.9 million of general fund reserves.
– Since that’s about the likely surplus this year, since there is the newly adopted reserve policy in place, and since reserves are by my estimate as much as $10 million over the target level of 30-35% of general fund expenditures, that does not seem too alarming. However, it’s not sustainable in the long run to fund cost increases from a declining fund balance, I estimate that contractually driven compensation costs will be increasing by half a million dollars a year. The Administration and BOS seem suitably alert to the need to manage this very carefully. In the Township’s favor, too, the current debt repayment schedule will have the township debt free by 2020, which will free up $2 million a year of principal and interest. (TESD, take notice!!)
– An important final point: the Township is now funding the post-employment benefits fund with $25,000 for each new officer. Assuming that and a regular commitment of $500,000 from the operating budget, we are getting closer to recognizing the true cost of employing a police officer for a year. As it is, in 2015 retiree health costs charged to the general fund are forecast to increase 14% to over $900,000.

Capital Budget
– This includes $1 million a year for road repaving. Here, the recent PA Transportation Bill is a huge benefit to the Township. $0.725 million (53%) of this year’s $1.375 million came from Township funds. In 2015, the Township will fund $0.3 million of the $1 million, in 2016 $0.2 million, in 2017 $0.1 million, and in 2018 $0.05 million. A cumulative four year saving to the Township of $1.35 million versus a 50/50 split. Our gas tax dollars at work saving property taxes!
– The 2015 budget includes $130,000 to “oversee/review/bid” a stormwater project in Crabby Creek and $60,000 for one stormwater basin retrofit. I completely agree with an impassioned plea to the meeting from Bill Bellew that it’s time to do more – or actually to do SOMETHING, since there seems to be no firm plan for any shovels in the ground on anything.

In general, it’s time for the Township to take recent surpluses and invest in tangible improvements that residents have asked for, and been promised, for years. Prudent management and fortunate circumstances have put the Township in a good position. Residents need to see some benefit.

Thanks Ray for your comments from the meeting. An interactive meeting between elected officials, township staff and taxpayers is refreshing. Seemingly, no questions were considered ‘off limits’ and thoughtful responses given.  Following up on the use of the budget surplus in the township — can we get the front steps of the township building adequately repaired.  Beyond the appearance, the uneven and cracked steps and walkway pose a safety hazard.

Shire moving Chesterbrook headquarters to Boston – 500 employees expected to leave Tredyffrin

Office Chair with a Box of SuppliesSadly, we learned this morning in Joe DiStefano’s Philadelphia Inquirer column that one of Tredyffrin Township’s largest employers is moving the company headquarters from Chesterbrook to Boston.

In the Fall of 2012, Shire announced a decision to build a new large office complex on Trammel Crow property at the intersection of Rt. 29 and Yellow Springs Road, moving their 1,500 employees out of Tredyffrin to neighboring East Whiteland.  Shire’s decision to relocate meant the vacancy of four large corporate buildings in Chesterbrook.

However, in May 2013, Shire reversed their decision to move their headquarters from Chesterbrook.  After analyzing its ‘global footprint and its real estate presence’, Shire’s new CEO Dr. Flemming Ornskov, concluded, “We feel fine where we are.”

However, eighteen months later, comes today’s announcement that Shire’s headquarters will not only leave the Philadelphia area, it will move to Massachusetts.  What is curious is the same Dr. Ornskov, now says, he prefers Boston (he has a graduate degree from Harvard) and a Shire spokesperson says, “Our strategy is to become a leading biotechnology company, and Boston is a biotech center”.

Mixed messages from Dr. Ornskov to his employees!  If the move had been a relocation to East Whiteland, as was his plan originally, Shire employees would have probably have retained their local jobs and their homes (many of whom no doubt are Tredyffrin residents with children in the TE School District).  Just when the Shire employees thought that they were staying put in the Chesterbrook location, they receive today’s relocation announcement.  According to DiStefano’s article, more than half of the Chesterbrook employees will make the move, “Shire plans to move 500 staff — executives, research and development staff and the gastrointestinal, internal medicine and neuroscience business groups — to Lexington, Mass., near the company’s infectious-disease unit.”

Shire plans to start moving its employees in phases, starting in the first quarter of 2015, with completion by the first quarter of 2016. The TE School District has forecasted a potential increase in student enrollment from current township development projects and has held discussion on how the District will meet the increase.  Inasmuch as the school board discusses potential increase in enrollment from District development projects, will they likewise discuss how the relocation of 500 Shire families out of the community may potentially decrease the District’s enrollment.

Multi-million T/E budget surplus (again) – $12.4 million surplus in 4 years! Property tax increases for 10 years in a row and still no health insurance for aides/paras!

budget surplusIn spite of $12.4 million in budget surplus the last four years, TESD residents have seen yearly tax increase and yet sadly, the District still does not provide health insurance coverage to their aides and paras.

I have regularly attended school board meetings and associated finance meetings the last 4 years and I have been amazed at the yearly District budget surplus. This week at the Finance Committee meeting, we learned that once again, the District has a multi-million budget surplus – yes, a review of the 2013-14 budget indicates a surplus of $2.2 million.

Thought it would be interesting to review the District’s budget surplus for the last four years. The surplus schedule is as follows:

2013-14: $2.2 million
2012-13: $5.0 million
2011-12: $3.9 million
2010-11: $1.3 million
Total: $12.4 million

Where exactly does the budget surplus go each year? We know that it does not go the cost to providing healthcare to all District employees. The aides and paras remain without health insurance, the residents continue to receive yearly tax increases and the surplus feeds the ever-increasing District’s fund balance. According to the District, as of July 1, the fund balance has grown to $32 million! Remember, the fund balance growth represents surplus from the District’s yearly budget. It would be surprising if this isn’t the largest fund balance of any school district in the state.

I truly struggle to understand how the District manages to add multi-million dollar budget surplus to the fund balance over the years but the residents continue to feel the sting of an annual tax increase. I recall the District’s business manager Art McDonnell’s explanation of the whopping $5 million surplus last year – primarily due to reduced health insurance premium costs for employees. Clearly, last year was not a fluke when you review the mega-millions in budget surplus over the years.

It would be easier to accept the yearly budget surplus if we did not also have a tax increase each year. In fact, you would have to go back a decade to 2004-05 to find the last time that there was no increase. A review of the District yearly tax increase since the last no-tax year is as follows:

• 2014-15: 3.4%
• 2013-14: 1.7%
• 2012-13: 3.3%
• 2011-12: 3.77%
• 2010-11: 2.9%
• 2009-10: 2.95%
• 2008-09: 4.37%
• 2007-08: 3.37%
• 2006-07: 3.90%
• 2005-06: 1.40%
• 2004-05: Zero Tax Increase

Where exactly does the budget surplus go each year? (We know that it does not go the cost to providing affordable healthcare to all District employees.) The aides and paras remain without health insurance, the residents continue to receive yearly tax increases and the surplus feeds the District’s ever-increasing fund balance. According to the District, as of July 1, the fund balance has grown to $32+ million! Remember, the fund balance growth represents surplus from the District’s yearly budget. TESD’s fund balance could well represent the largest in the state.

I fully understand the impact of the pension crisis and that unless there is reform; all Pennsylvania school districts are going to fall over the cliff in the near future due to the ballooning costs. I do understand that the District must protect resources for the pension crisis but at what cost to the residents?

Other items of interest from the Finance Committee meeting included responses to Ray Clarke’s questions. By now, most of you have probably heard about the 24 Dell computers fraudulently purchased by someone using the District’s Dell account. This matter is an ongoing police investigation. Ray asked about the District’s ‘purchase process’ and Dr. Waters confirmed that it was actually the internal District controls that uncovered the purchase and there was no financial loss as a result.

Ray referenced Unionville Chadds Ford School District’s receipt of $582K in state grants for construction costs and asked if similar funding was possible for the District’s classroom expansions. Ray’s suggestion sadly was dismissed as requiring too much work for the benefit.

Ray’s comment to me regarding the 2013-14 audit is as follows:

The audited financials showed revenue of $112.9 million, expenses of $110.75 million, for a surplus of $2.15 million, compared to the budgeted deficit (before contingencies) of $1.7 million. Fully one third of the favorable variance to budget ($1.325 million of the $3.9 million) came from “breakage” – the replacement of retiring staff and approved leaves with lower cost staff. This is entirely predictable and we’ve asked for it to be included at budget time for the past several years, but every year the request is ignored and the property tax increase is 30% more than it need be, all other things being equal. There is now $31.7 million of taxpayer money squirreled away in the General Fund Balance and that’s after a $10 million transfer to the Capital Fund a couple of years ago. Perhaps since next year is an election year the Board might turn up their hearing aids.

It continues to be a struggle for residents to receive clear explanations. Materials provided often only offer partial information with many of the suggestions/questions of residents at the Finance Committee meeting dismissed or deferred. No argument that T/E School District is a great school district as all the school rankings indicate —  but is the price for the District’s success no public input allowed?

———————————————————

I attended Tredyffrin Township’s Board of Supervisors meeting in the last week, and the preliminary 2015 township budget was reviewed and discussed. In addition, the supervisors held a Budget Workshop this week.  The differences between school district and the administration and the supervisors, township manager and  staff are striking.  The next Community Matters post will provide an update.

Congratulations TE School District — Ranked 3rd in the Country!

Congratulations TE School District!  ‘Niche’ which measures neighborhoods and cities for livability, compares k-12 schools and reviews over 8,000 colleges and universities has released their 2015 national school district rankings..  The Niche K-12″ report, which compares 120,000 k-12 schools has been released. For those interested in rankings, Tredyffrin-Easttown School District was listed as third in the country and first in the state.

Here’s Niche’s ranking of the ‘Top 10′ school districts in the country:

  • Edgemont School District — Edgemont, New York
  • Jericho Union Free School District — Jericho, New York
  • Tredyffrin/Easttown School District — Tredyffrin Township, Pennsylvania
  • Lower Merion School District — Montgomery County, Pennsylvania
  • Scarsdale Union Free School District — Scarsdale, New York
  • Great Neck School District — Great Neck, New York
  • Pittsford Central School District — Pittsford Town, NY
  • Rye City School District — Rye, New York
  • North Allegheny School District — Wexford, Pennsylvania
  • Chappaqua Central School District — Chappaqua, New York

In addition to TESD (3rd) and Lower Merion School District (4th) Unionville Chaddsford School District and Radnor Township School District also made Niche’s national ranking of school districts, coming in at 15th and 52nd places, respectfully. In addition to the school districts, Niche ranked the 14,000+ public high schools.  On the national ranking of individual high schools, Conestoga HS was listed as 26th in the country and first in the state.

Further information about Niche and their rankings, can be found on their website, www.niche.com

Votes counted and Tom Wolf (D), Ryan Costello (R) & Warren Kampf (R) win

Don’t know if it was efforts of the political parties and their volunteers, the candidates themselves, the issues or the perfect voting weather of 70-plus degrees but it appeared there was record attendance at many of the polls.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many voters come out in a non-presidential election!

Looks like the dust has begun to settle from Election Day 2014.  After one term in office, Republican Governor Tom Corbett will be replaced by challenger Democrat Tom Wolf.  The debate boiled down to what many believe was massive cuts to education by Corbett versus the speculation of increased taxes to the middle class by Wolf. In the end, preservation of Pennsylvania’s education system outweighed the fear some have of a higher tax bill.

Locally, the battle for the PA State House 157 seat between incumbent Warren Kampf (R) and his Democratic opponent Marian Moskowitz  raged right up until the polls closed at 8 PM. In the end, Kampf prevailed and will serve a third third in Harrisburg. Kampf received 11,689 votes (55.09 percent) with Moskowitz receiving 9,530 votes or 44.91 percent of the votes.

Chester County Commissioner Ryan Costello (R) won the 6th Congressional District seat vacated by retiring Jim Gerlach (R-PA), beating challenger Manan Trivedi (R).  Costello received 118.450 votes which represented 56.23 percent to Trivedi’s 92,193 votes which represented 43.77 percent of the votes.

Look past the negative campaigning and vote tomorrow!

Republicans-vs-DemocratsElection Day 2014 is tomorrow and it cannot come soon enough.  The barrage of negative campaign ads and political mailers has come at a furious pace this year.

The constant drumbeat of blame-game messages has reached an overwhelming proportion with last-minute attempts to scare and/or persuade voters.  Instances of negative campaigning among candidates are so widespread that to single out any in particular would serve no useful purpose. This general attack-style politics has infected our local campaigns.

Rather than articulating positive platforms, too many of the campaign messages are instead warnings about the evils of the opposition. We’ve all seen the campaign lawn signs and received the daily doses of campaign mailers and phone calls, many containing aggressive, offensive messages against their opponent.  The negative campaigning polarizes people around their reaction to the negativity rather than around the important issues.  I know that we should not expect a campaign season of only polite, hands-off discourse from candidates seeking to send each other to defeat.  However, knocking the opposition, though, has become the easy, fast-lane method of campaigning – a thinly veiled scare tactic to earn credit by discrediting the other side.

Opposition research is a natural part of any political campaign, which is only compounded by people constantly giving us the “inside scoop” on an opponent. There is pressure on all sides to let voters know “the truth” about their opponent, especially if that person has already gone negative in the campaign. Call me naïve and foolish, but for every minute a candidate spends attacking his/her opponent, that’s one less minute that can be spent talking about legitimate differences on policy issues that actually affect us, the voters.

After enduring a heavy season of negative campaign advertising, the need for us to participate in Election Day has never been greater.  The politicians have not been very good at policing themselves, so it’s up to us, the voters, to do it for them.  Your vote does matter; but only if you use it.  I’d encourage everyone to do their own homework about the candidates and the issues.  Look past the negative campaigning and the party politics – make an informed decision when you vote tomorrow.

Personally, I’m looking forward to post-Election Day  … no more campaign mailers or invasive robo calls at dinner time and the removal of yard signs littering the local landscape (at least for the remainder of 2014!)

Election Day is November 4 – Who will be the next Pennsylvania Governor, 6th District Congressman and State House 157 Representative?

The countdown is on.  Like everyone else in this country, the residents of Tredyffrin are looking for solutions. In three short weeks, on Tuesday, November 4, is midterm Election Day.

There are obvious signs throughout the township that its campaign season … political lawn signs seemingly reproduce nightly, candidate mailers arrive daily at our doors and in our mailboxes, along with invitations to political fundraisers.  For those of us in the ‘Independent’ registration category, our mailbox runneth over, as does the land of campaign ‘robocalls’.  The Republican and Democratic candidates both lay claim to the independents; with each side believing that their views on issues more representative of these voters.

On the Governor’s race, most polls have Democratic challenger Tom Wolf poised to unseat Republican incumbent Tom Corbett.  A virtual unknown at the beginning of the year, businessman Tom Wolf early on used a boy next-door charm in his commercials while underwriting most of his political campaign with his own personal wealth.  Some of Wolf’s gaining in the polls may be explained by voters’ dissatisfaction with Governor Corbett.  Wolf campaign ads state that Corbett cut state education funding by $1 billion whereas Corbett counters the argument stating he has increased funding for our public schools by $1 billion since taking office. Although Corbett and his supporters argue that he has restored school funding lost to the end of the federal stimulus money, widespread public perception is that he has cut educational spending. Corbett’s opposition to a severance tax on shale gas drillers has also hampered his reelection bid.

From a local election standpoint, I am of the opinion that the November 4 election is going to see people splitting votes at the polls.  Sure, there will always be the straight party voters, whether it is the Republicans or the Democrats.  However, for those voters that go the polls, educated on the issues and the candidates, this election may see a greater number crossing party lines to vote for the candidate that best represent their own personal views.

For Tredyffrin residents, in addition to choosing a governor, Election Day 2014 also offers us the opportunity to select a new Congressional 6th District member.  The unexpected retirement of Rep. Jim Gerlach (R) after 12 years has given way to a battleground between Democratic House candidate Manan Trivedi and Republican Ryan Costello for the 6th Congressional District seat.  An Iraq War veteran and Berks County physician, the upcoming election marks Trivedi’s third Congressional attempt. Attorney and chair of the Chester County Board of Commissioners, Costello at age 37, would be the youngest member of Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation should he win.

Will Corbett’s gubernatorial race be problematic for Costello, as Wolf gains in the polls? As a County Commissioner, Costello has built his own fan base – will those loyal supporters be enough to counter any anti-Corbett voting or conversely, will the get-out-to-vote efforts of Wolf’s campaign help Trivedi pull off a win? The 6th District covers a large part of Chester County, and portions of Berks, Montgomery and Lebanon counties.

The other election that local voters will decide on November 4 is the PA State House 157 race. Newcomer to the political campaign world,  first time political candidate, Great Valley resident and businesswoman, Democrat Marian Moskowitz is challenging incumbent Warren Kampf (R) in his re-election bid for a third term in Harrisburg. With the exception of Paul Drucker (D) who served as 157th State House District Representative in 2009 and 2010, a Republican has held the seat for forty some years. As the war of words wages daily in campaign literature and press releases between the Moskowitz and Kampf camps, an unfortunate and recently discovered issue has complicated the race for these two candidates.

The 157th District includes all of Tredyffrin Township, all of Schuylkill Township, part of Upper Providence and most of Phoenixville. As part of last year’s statewide redistricting, a section of the 157th District, West 1, in the Phoenixville Borough was moved to the 155th District.  However, using an old map, Chester County Voter Services incorrectly left this section in the 157th District for the May primary.  People in this section of Phoenixville Borough cast votes for Kampf and Moskowitz in the primary election when they should have been voting for candidates in the 155th District. Troubling that the West 1 mapping error was only discovered last week and the candidates then notified. Obviously, this last minute correction on the election ballot is causing voter confusion – a group of people who voted for Kampf and Moskowitz as their State Representative in the 157th District in the primary election will not have that same option on November 4.

Warren Kampf has focused much of his first two terms on public pension reform.  Kampf believes that the current state pension system is not sustainable, and that escalating pension obligations will mean rising taxes or significant cuts to service. Other initiatives he supports include privatization of the state liquor store system and property tax relief, specifically switching property tax system to a gross receipts tax.

The Democratic challenger for District 157, Marian Moskowitz has made her business background a hallmark of her campaign, pointing to Franklin Commons, a successful redevelopment project with her husband in Phoenixville, as an example.  An advocate for women and small businesses, Moskowitz is interested in using her entrepreneurial and business background in Harrisburg. Moskowitz supports transportation and infrastructure improvements – according to her campaign website, one of her “primary reasons for running was her opponent’s no vote on Act 89, which brings funding to our aging infrastructure.” Kampf received his share of criticism for his vote not to support the state’s transportation bill.  However, he maintains his support for infrastructure improvements, including the Paoli Transportation Center, and that his vote was against the high impact of the gas tax increase included in the transportation bill.

Will there be a trickle-down effect from the Pennsylvania gubernatorial race on the PA State District 157 race?  Unlike the open seat in the 6th Congressional District, the State House 157 race has Democratic challenger Marian Moskowitz up against two-term State Representative Warren Kampf (R).

As the political campaigns of Wolf vs Corbett, Costello vs Trivedi and Moskowitz vs Kampf wind down over the next three weeks, take the time to understand the important issues and know the candidates. On November 4th, your vote will matter – make it count.

Community Matters Getting Off the Backburner

10th Annual Historic House Tour - Poster.pdf_page_1I have had a number of emails, phone calls and conversations with people – all asking me about Community Matters and expressing concerning that something may be wrong since there have been no recent blog posts.  I appreciate the concern but I am OK, it’s just been a very busy couple of months — the House Tour Preview Party on Sunday, September 21 at Duportail House, the 10th Annual Historic House Tour on Saturday, September 27 and then the sixth annual Paoli Blues Fest last weekend.   With all of the meetings and planning required for these community events, I had to relegate Community Matters to the backburner.

The 2014 House Tour was a wonderful success and broke last year’s attendance record with over 500 tickets sold. The tour featured five historic estate homes in Easttown and Tredyffrin Townships, the Great Valley Mill and St. Peter’s Church in the Great Valley. The tour celebrated the work of renowned Chester County architect Brognard Okie.  For the tenth straight year, Mother Nature cooperated and provided a perfect, sunny 80 degree day, make the house tour even more special!

Since the first Trust house tour a decade ago, the tour has featured three centuries of structures, including 64 historic private homes of which seven served as Revolutionary War headquarters; eight barns, four churches, three schools, including two ‘one-room’ schoolhouses; a springhouse, a museum, a mill and a special historic playhouse.

Between ticket purchases and tour sponsorships, the house tour raised $30,000 for the Jones Log Barn rebuilding project.  When the final phase of the project is completed, the barn will join two National Historic Register properties – Duportail House and the Federa2014 posterl Barn – and serve as the ‘Living History Center at Duportail’ in Chesterbrook.

There are many people to thank for this annual historic house tour, including the wonderful homeowners who opened  their homes, the enthusiastic volunteers, the individual and corporate sponsors, the local police departments, other nonprofits groups (Chester County Open Land Conservancy and Duportail House) and most of all, we thank the many residents who supported the tour. (For a full list of sponsors, click here).

The Paoli Blues Fest celebrated its sixth annual music festival and street fair last Saturday, October 4.  The day started out overcast with an occasional spritz of rain but as if on cue at noon, as the musicians warmed up, the clouds parted, the sun began to shine, the temperature soared and memories were created. Touted as the largest annual blues festival in the tri-state region, the party in Paoli didn’t disappoint.  From the brass sounds of Big Bang Theory to Blue Jay Slim & the Tone Blasters, Russ Lambert, Blues Bizness, Deb Callahan and then the finale band, Blue Plate Special, it was a day of great music, food, drink and a lot of fun.   A real community event, thanks goes to the musicians, vendors, sponsors, volunteers and all the hundreds of people who attended!

With the Annual House Tour and the Paoli Blues Fest completed, I look forward to getting Community Matters off the backburner.

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