BAN the Digital Billboard

Updates: BAN the Digital Billboard, CHS Class of 2019 to wear black, Preliminary budget 6.1% tax increase …

The BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli campaign is in a holding pattern – the community has gone several days without a stolen lawn sign. The stolen BAN sign count currently stands at 93 (value of $700!) At the last supervisors meeting during the citizen comment period, several homeowners spoke out about the stolen signs and the proposed digital billboard.  A stalemate ensued and we were told it was a legal matter and/or there was no movement.

All of this is very interesting, given that the public was told in October that there was a ‘draft agreement’ regarding the digital billboard. I’m confident that the battle is far from over — there are 3,500+ signatures on the anti-digital billboard petition and additional BAN signs waiting to go up.  In January, the majority on the Board of Supervisors shifts for the first time in township history from the Republicans to Democrats and Republican Heather Greenberg will no longer be chair. In the words of Bob Dylan, “The times they are a changin’” …

During the last few days, I have received a couple of emails regarding the T/E School District that are of interest. The first is about the color of the Conestoga High School graduation gowns. Historically, the graduation gowns at CHS have been white and maroon but it looks like a break with tradition is afoot – the Class of 2019 will all wear black. The transgender graduates were cited as the reason to eliminate the 2 colors but oddly, the senior photos were already taken in the white and maroon gowns.

I received an email from resident Ray Clarke with the first line, “Time to pay attention to the deliberations on West Valley Road at the TESD offices …” which got my attention. Ray writes,

There are two important TESD Committee meetings next week.  Not final decisions, but windows into early thinking and opportunities to influence the evolution of the education program and the spending of millions of dollars of taxpayer money.

On Monday at 7pm, the Finance Committee  will agree parameters for the borrowing of $30 million to spend on capital items such as air conditioning the elementary schools and (in part) expanding the high school (see below).  They will also take a look at the preliminary budget which calls for: a spending increase of $9 million (6.25%), a total tax increase of 6.1%, including a special education tax increase of 3.6% ($4.1 million).  Special education expenses in 2017/18 increased by $4.6 million over 2016/17, but it’s not clear how that can translate to such a large tax increase above the 2.3% inflation index.  It’s noteworthy that this is proposed in an environment where inflation, social security increases, etc. are about 2.5%.  History has shown that a motivated School Board can work to ameliorate the impact on taxpayers, but this absolutely requires community vigilance. (Click here for agenda).

On Tuesday at 7pm, the Facilities Committee will take a first look at possible designs for the Conestoga High School expansion.  Options being reviewed are “Courtyard” and “Atrium” designs for an expansion of the school to the east along Old State Road, and two options for expansion of parking to the woodland to the north.  No information on costs until decisions among the options are made and costed, but it is maybe noteworthy that $4.6 million of otherwise needed projects are to be included in the overall project – likely to total in the tens of millions of dollars.  Construction to occur from March 2020 to August 2021. (Click here for agenda).

An important time for our school district and hopefully the community will be accordingly engaged.

A preliminary budget with a tax increase of 6.1% to the homeowners!  What!? I understand that this is in the preliminary discussion stages but still, that is staggering.  Ray is absolutely correct, the community needs to get engaged. This will be the fifteenth year in a row of school tax increases and will likely mark the largest tax increase in that same period!

As I updated my chart of T/E School District yearly tax increases (2004-05 was the last zero tax increase year!), what would school officials give for the perennial increase? Increased enrollment (?) rising pension, contractual and special-education costs – state and federal mandates?  Instead of being told each year that the average tax increase is some number like $123 (and frankly, I’ve never been able to find the person with the ‘average’ tax increase), how about looking at how much this yearly tax increase has cost the taxpayers for the last fifteen years!

Clearly, the handwriting is on the wall and school taxes are set to rise … again! Guess the question is, can the school district officials bring down the preliminary budget increase of 6.1%? And with the high school expansion plans on the horizon, how does the school board plan to pay for the capital spending project? New bond initiatives?

  • 2019-20: Preliminary budget indicates 6.1%
  • 2018-19: 2.42%
  • 2017-18: 3.2%
  • 2016-17: 3.6%
  • 2015-16: 3.81%
  • 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
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Theft of ‘BAN the Digital Billboard’ signs from private property throughout Tredyffrin — At Least 60 Signs Stolen

This is the post I didn’t want to write …

I have lived here for many years and I have never seen a community and its residents so united on any single issue as they are in their opposition to the proposed digital billboard in Paoli! The strong anti-digital billboard sentiment was the reason that the social media campaign was mounted – Change.org petition (over 3,300 signatures), dedicated Facebook page and a GoFundMe account to help offset the price of BAN the Digital Billboard print materials and lawn signs. Through generous donations of residents two hundred and fifty signs were ordered and delivered in early November.

Not wanting to risk people accidentally picking up the BAN lawn signs with the political campaign signs post-election, I waited until after November 6 before distributing. After notifying residents that I had the signs, the decision was made to initially only place on private properties. I hand delivered the signs to make certain that they were safely in place. Since Election Day, approximately 100 signs were put on private property throughout Tredyffrin Township – Paoli, Malvern, Devon, Berwyn and some went to Easttown.

A few days after posting BAN lawn signs, I was notified by residents that a few had disappeared. I didn’t think much about it and quickly replaced the signs. However, by the time we got to the second week in November, it was becoming obvious that many signs were gone. The phone calls and emails were picking up from residents upset that their signs were taken – and then two signs were stolen from my own property.

As the numbers in missing BAN signs grew throughout the township, it was clear that this was not a teenage prank but rather trespassing, vandalism and theft of private property. I filed a police report as did at least two others. I did a drive around and put together a list of stolen signs, street by street. (Remember I knew the locations because I had placed the signs myself).

The initial list of stolen BAN signs was forwarded to Tredyffrin Police Chief Beaty on Friday, Nov. 16, about ten days since the first signs went up. The list of stolen BAN signs has continued to grow; to date at least 60 signs stolen (and in less than three weeks!) The value of the stolen signs is over $500.

That’s right – In less than three weeks the BAN the Digital Billboard signs have all but disappeared — trespassing, vandalism and theft of personal property. This is not a joke – 60 signs have been stolen!

Residents who have had their BAN signs stolen are extremely upset. There are very few ways that the public can make their opposition to the proposed digital billboard known – many have called or written supervisors and township officials, signed and shared the Change.org petition and then in the last few weeks put up the lawn signs on their private property to show their opposition

If you look around the township, you will see left over political campaign signs, real estate signs for new developments that are not in the township, signs looking for Kraft bus drivers, firewood and painting advertising signs – you name it – you will see these signs are all over in public areas of the township. Those signs are not placed on private township resident’s property and yet they remain untouched, some standing for months on end.

And here we have at least 60 signs on private property of township tax payers – and they are all stolen.

One resident on Conestoga Road who filed a police report for theft of their Ban the Digital Billboard lawn sign asked me for a replacement sign which I delivered. Fearing the same outcome as the old BAN sign, those homeowners actually went to the hardware store and bought wooden stakes to secure their replacement sign – to see if that would dissuade the trespasser from coming on their property again.

Many of the folks who have had signs stolen are older and some live alone. One resident, who lives alone, said that it scared her that someone had come onto her private property just 10 feet from her front door and stole her two BAN signs.  But again – because this township resident so strongly opposes the proposed digital billboard she too requested (and I delivered) two replacement yard signs.

To be clear, most of these 60 stolen signs were located on private property – removed from the front yards of homes throughout Tredyffrin Township.

My home telephone number is on the BAN the Digital Billboard signs. As  result, I have answered countless phone calls and emails from residents all seeking information and update on this important issue. The public was kept in the dark about the proposed digital billboard for well over a year and now that that the issue has surfaced residents want and expect updates.

Last Monday I went to Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meeting seeking answers, updates, something, anything! During the citizen comment section, I read a prepared 3 page statement – about the township-wide theft of the BAN signs and asking for an update on the digital billboard.

Residents have no idea where our township supervisors actually stand on the proposed digital billboard with the exception of newly elected supervisor Mark Freed. Mark (who was in the audience) and his opponent Judy DiFilippo answered questions before the election. I posted the answers on Community Matters – and both candidates responded opposing the proposed digital billboard.

At the meeting, the supervisors remained silent with no response to the stolen signs or to my request for an update on the proposed digital billboard. To his credit, supervisor Paul Olson did ask me “who did I think was taking the signs” – I sidestepped the question with a response of “who” had the most to lose from the BAN the Digital Billboard campaign. Several times I commented that the theft of private property is not a joke – one supervisor (who will remain nameless) had a smirk on his face the entire time suggesting that he found the issue amusing.

Sadly, I can report that my statement and questions to the supervisors regarding the proposed digital billboard elicited no response.The township solicitor once again stated that the public would be given advance notice when the digital billboard was back on the agenda.

Let’s not forget that it was the solicitor who announced that there was a draft agreement between the township and Catalyst Outdoor Advertising regarding the digital billboard. As I stated at the meeting, there are over 100 BAN yard signs remaining in my garage – when I feel that it’s safe they will begin to reappear.

The Tredyffrin Township Police Department is now actively involved in the investigation. If you have had a sign stolen, Police Chief Beaty suggested folks call the police number (610-647-1440) and an officer will respond to take the report.

The BAN the Digital Billboard campaign and the theft of yard signs may seem like a joke to some or at least to one supervisor — but I assure you that the anti-digital billboard sentiment of this community is not going away!  Although frustrated and disappointed, we will continue to fight back!

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For those that are interested, here’s the list by street of signs stolen. Please let me know if you know of others and I will add to the list.

  • Swedesford Road – 4 signs (including 2 on my personal property)
  • Biddle Road – 1 sign
  • Valley Road – 3 signs
  • Valley Road – 2 signs
  • Central Avenue – 8 signs
  • Maple Avenue – 4 signs
  • Russell Road – 4 signs
  • Old Lancaster Ave – 2 signs
  • Glen Ave – 1 sign
  • Old Eagle School Road – 2 signs
  • Conestoga Road – 2 signs
  • Bear Hill Road – 5 signs
  • Lancaster Avenue – 6 signs
  • Valley Forge Road – 1 sign
  • Valley Forge Road – 1 sign
  • Upper Gulph Road – 4 signs
  • 50 BAN Signs stolen in Tredyffrin Township + 10 Signs stolen in Easttown Township
  • TOTAL of 60 BAN Signs Stolen in 3 weeks
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