Election Day 2013

Election Day 2013 — Your Vote is Your Voice!

Don’t complain that our elected officials are not listening.  If we don’t bother to vote our voice will not be heard.  Those we elect are guided by what we say – particularly when we vote.  And if we don’t vote we are telling them that we don’t care what they do and that is dangerous.  All polling places are open and will be until 8 PM.  Your Vote is Your Voice! 

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Trish Kreek leaves behind a legacy of public service and independent thought. We mourn her passing.

On Friday, October 25, our community lost a very special person.  Losing her courageous battle against cancer, my dear friend Trish Kreek passed away.  Her funeral is tomorrow (Tuesday) at 11 AM, St. Peter’s Church in the Great Valley.

The consummate public servant, Trish served on the Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission for 19 years (4 years as chair) and as township supervisor for 6 years. Until her passing, Trish served with me on the Board of Directors of the Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust.   A board member since the Trust’s inception a decade ago, she inspired us with her outlook on life and living — we will miss her tremendously.

Spirited in her discussion of community issues, Trish was always the ‘lady’ in debate; respectful of others opinions.  A Republican by voter registration, Trish supported candidates who best reflected her own values, regardless of party affiliation.  Taking the high road by focusing on the issues, she was never one that resorted to disparaging individual members of the community.

However, Trish did want more people to pay attention to local politics and elections and was troubled by lack of voter turnout.  In our discussions of local politics, she regularly lamented about the partisan divide, believing that the broader mission should be to address important issues that matter to all of us.  Trish never supported the pointless battle between the local political parties and struggled to understand why ‘people’ and ‘issues’ were not the most important factors when voting.

I reflect on Trish’ decades of public service, her spirit and support of this community and our many political discussions. Election Day 2013 is barely a week away.  In the perfect world, our local politics would be free of partisan interests and individuals elected to serve would do so for all the community.  And the interests of the people would always trump the political party the elected official represents.  Of course, as Trish would have agreed, there are no perfect political worlds and this community is no different from the rest.

Why are candidates for local office forced to play party politics?  Politics has the ability to bring out either the good or the bad.  As I read the political campaign literature from the school board and supervisor candidates, I can only hope that the partisanship will not destroy the fabric of our community. I lament for a future of local nonpartisan elections, where there will victoriously emerge individuals whose intelligence, integrity, intestinal fortitude, character and non-alliance with special interests are beyond question. I wish for a future where important issues and candidate differences can be fairly discussed and openly debated.

“Each man must for himself alone decide what is right and what is wrong, which course is patriotic and which isn’t.  You cannot shirk this and be a man.  To decide against your conviction is to be an unqualified and inexcusable traitor, both to yourself and to your country, let men label you as they may.”  ~ Mark Twain

On Election Day, Tuesday, November 5, we will elect whomever we think will do the best job — or at least that’s how we should cast our ballots. Do not wait until entering the voting booth to start thinking about how to vote.  Do your homework – be knowledgeable about the candidates and informed on the issues.  Informed voting requires study, thought and reflection in advance of casting your ballot.  The people, the voters, get to decide who governs them. That will be the final word on partisan politics in local elections, and local government.

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My dear friend Trish, you touched all that knew you — we will miss you.

“Strange, isn’t it?  Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”  ~ It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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League of Women Voters to hold candidate debate for TESD & Tredyffrin Board of Supervisors — Saturday, October 19!

Washington always has hogged much of the nation’s political oxygen, and in recent weeks, it has grabbed all of it, and probably some of the other basic building blocks of life, as well.  But there is an election scheduled for Tuesday, November 5 and as voters, we have choices to make.

The federal government shutdown has invaded this community directly – look no further than the closure of Valley Forge National Historic Park!  But our local government and school district affects us more directly than any other public entity – the local roads we drive on, how long it takes someone to come when we dial 911, the school our children attend, etc. etc.

Voters will have an opportunity to learn more about the candidates for the TE School Board and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors this Saturday, October 19.  Yes, it looks like that in addition to the supverisor debate, there will be a TESD School Board Candidate Debate!

The Chester County League of Women Voters will conduct a debate for the TESD school board candidates this upcoming Saturday, October 19, 1 – 2 PM at the Tredyffrin Township Building, 1100 Duportail Road, Berwyn.

The following are TESD School Board candidates:

  • Tredyffrin, East – Region 1:  Kevin Buraks (D) **
  • Tredyffrin, East – Region 1:  Pete Connors (R)
  • Tredyffrin West – Region 2:  Rich Brake (R) **
  • Tredyffrin, West – Region 2:  Scott Dorsey (D)
  • Easttown, Region III:  Doug Carlson (R)
  • Easttown, Region III:  Virginia Lastner (R)
  • Easttown, Region III:  Maryann Piccioni (D)
  • Easttown, Region III: Jean Kim (D)

It is my understanding that six of the eight school board candidates will participate in Saturday’s debate.  Unfortunately, Maryann Piccioni and Jean Kim have personal scheduling issues and are unable to attend.  There are four Easttown school board candidates on the ballot because current Board directors Betsy Fadem and Anne Crowley have chosen not to seek re-election.  As chosen by Easttown voters, the two candidates receiving the highest vote count will be elected to the TESD school board.  Incumbents Kevin Buraks (D) and Rich Brake (R) will be challenged on Election Day by Pete Connors (R) and Scott Dorsey (D) respectively.

Immediately following the TESD School Board Candidate Debate, the Chester County League of Women Voters will conduct the Tredyffrin Township Supervisors Debate, 2 – 4 PM, same location.

The following are Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors candidates:

  • Supervisor at Large:  Michelle Kichline (R) **
  • Supervisor at Large:  Trip Lukens (R)
  • Supervisor at Large: Murph Wysocki (D)
  • Supervisor at Large: Mark Freed (D)
  • District 2 Middle::  EJ Richter (R) ** (a)
  • District 2 Middle: Laurie Elliott (D

The Supervisor at Large seats go to the two candidates receiving the highest vote count on November 5. In the Middle District, the candidate receiving the highest vote count wins the seat.

Off-year elections are historically very-low voter turnout.  Here’s hoping that the upcoming school board and supervisor debates lead to more informed voting and increased voter turnout!

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** Incumbent

(a) Currently serving as a Tredyffrin Township At-Large supervisor, Evelyn Richter is seeking re-election; not as an At-Large candidate but as a candidate in the Middle, District 2 race. 

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Partisan Politics; No need to go to Washington!

The Federal government shutdown has magnified the political partisan bickering in Washington.  Unfortunately, over the last week, I have had a front-row seat to the local version – I’ll explain.

In the last Community Matters post, I mentioned that the League of Women Voters is conducting a Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidate debate on Saturday, October 19, 2-4 at the township building.  Knowing that in the past a similar LWV debate was scheduled for the school board candidates, it struck me odd that no such event was planned for this year.

I was told that the reason that there was no scheduled TESD school board debate was that the LWV calendar was full and therefore could not accommodate the event. The explanation seemed plausible and I probably would have walked away from the situation except that two TESD school board candidates (Scott Dorsey (D) and Pete Connors (R)) approached me (separately) questioning ‘why’ there was no scheduled school board debate as both were interested in participating in such a forum.

This discussion of a ‘Meet the School Board Candidate’ forum occurred last week as I was completing last minute details for the Paoli Blues Fest.  Between the Blues Fest and community street fair on October 5, the 9th Annual Historic House Tour the Saturday before and eye surgery in between, I was certainly not anxious to take on  another ‘project’.  However, believing that more people in our community need to be engaged in local issues and to ‘know’ the candidates before casting a vote next month, a debate/forum needed to develop. Without the assistance of the LWV or any other organization, I first contacted Tredyffrin Township to check available dates/times to hold the forum.  To the credit of the Tredyffrin Township staff (particularly the township secretary Pat Hoffman) and the police department, township manager and ultimately the Board of Supervisors, I was given approval to hold the candidates forum on Saturday, October 26, 2-4 PM.  If you are wondering why I approached the township for use of their building rather than the library or one of the schools – the answer is simple, cost.  There is a fee to use the schools or the library for an event.

Once I had the day/time locked in, I gathered the email addresses of all eight TESD school board candidates, which includes incumbents Rich Brake (R) and Kevin Buraks (D).  All eight received the same invitation to participate. With my contact information, I sent the following email to the eight candidates:

Dear Tredyffrin Easttown School District School Board Candidates,

‘Meet the Candidates’ forums are central to democratic processes and are an important element of civic action and engagement. In recent years, the League of Women Voters has held these forums for township supervisor candidates and school board candidates.  The League of Women Voters will hold a debate for Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors candidates on Saturday, October 19, 2 – 4 PM but a similar forum is not planned for school board candidates of the Tredyffrin Easttown School District.

This type of forum establishes connections between candidates and residents; allows voters to make informed decisions on election day, gives candidates the opportunity to present their platforms on issues that matter to residents; and gives residents the opportunity to raise issues that they feel need to be addressed by the successful candidate(s).

Utilizing a grassroots community organizational approach, there will be a ‘Meet the School Board Candidates Forum’ on Saturday, October 26, 2 – 4 PM at the Tredyffrin Township Building, 1100 Duportail Road, Berwyn, PA 19312.  All candidates for the T/E School Board are invited to participate in this upcoming forum.  The purpose of this forum is to give school board candidates an opportunity to address a wide range of issues that affect our school district…

Appreciating that the moderator of the candidate forum needed to be a non-TESD resident, I contacted a friend who is an attorney and a financial planner.  With no questions asked, he agreed to help.  I then asked four residents (representatives from Easttown and Tredyffrin Townships) to serve on a committee to help with the planning, logistics, marketing, etc of the candidate forum. For the record, two were Republicans, one a Democrat and the fourth a non-US citizen.  As a registered Independent, I looked more at choosing people that understood the local school board issues versus their party affiliation.  These four individuals were enthusiastic and anxious to help with the event.  As stated in my invitation to the candidates, I was utilizing a “grassroots community organizational approach” to this “Meet the School Board Candidates” forum.

Of the eight school board candidates, I immediately received responses from five candidates (3 Republicans, 2 Democrats), offering support, appreciation for the effort, willingness to re-arrange personal schedules so they could participate, etc.  With a moderator, a volunteer committee, a place, day/time and support from the majority of the candidates, I was feeling confident about this TESD school board candidate forum.

Then the rumblings from the local political parties started – I should mention, that my invitations went directly to the candidates, not the political parties that they represent.  Believing that elected officials need to be independent-thinkers, it seemed the decision of whether to participate in this public community event should be up the candidates themsevles, without influence from the leadership of the respective political parties.  Again, to the credit of many of these school board candidates, there was overwhelming support for the candidate forum.

What do I mean by ‘rumblings’ – I received questions about the format, where would the questions come from and how would the questions be asked, would questions come from the audience, (if so, how would they be categorized), would the process be ‘fair’ or  biased to the Republican candidates or biased to the Democratic candidates, what political party were the volunteers, etc. etc.  The rumblings started within 24 hours of my sending the invitations to the candidates – but it should be noted that not one of the five candidates who contacted me criticized or questioned my motives or my fairness.

About the time the local partisan politics started to surface, it mysteriously became known that the League of Women Voters schedule was not full and that they could accommodate a school board candidate’s forum.  Imagine that!  I knew if ever there was a moment when something was meant as a ‘sign’ this was it.  It had become painfully obvious and very quickly, that no matter how I organized this candidates forum, either the local Democratic Party or the Republican Party (or both) was not going to be satisfied with my efforts or the results.  The finger pointing had already started and it was only 24 hours since I sent the candiate’s their invitations.  If a school board candidate debate was to happen, it was up to the ‘D’s’ and the ‘R’s’ to organize it with the League of Women Voters.

As a result, the following email was sent to the eight school board candidates:

TE School District Board Candidates —

I was working on scheduling a TESD School Board Candidate Forum on Saturday, October 26 for two reasons: (1) to provide an opportunity for candidates to present their platforms on important issues facing the TE School District and (2) to give residents the opportunity raise issues that they feel need to be addressed by the candidates.  A public forum to discuss school district issues is important. When I questioned why there was no school board candidate forum scheduled as in prior years, I was told that the League of Women Voters did not have availability on their calendar.  Based on the information that the League of Women Voters was unable to schedule such an event (and having been approached by two school board candidates, a ‘D’ and an ‘R’), I moved forward to make the necessary arrangements for such a forum.

It has now come to my attention that the League of Women Voters is available for Saturday, October 26 to host the forum/debate for the school board candidates.  To those candidates that contacted me either with a commitment to participate in the forum or a willingness to rearrange their personal schedules, thank you and your responses were most appreciated. Please know that as a community member and as a registered Independent, my only intention in scheduling a school district candidate forum was to engage more residents in our important school district issues and to allow candidates an opportunity to express their views on these issues.  There was no personal agenda on my part.

The location, day and time for the school board candidate forum has been reserved for Saturday, October 26, 2-4 at the Tredyffrin Township Building. If you were interested in pursuing this opportunity with the League of Women Voters, I would encourage you to contact your local Republican and Democratic Party representatives.

Please accept my apologies for any confusion and best wishes for a successful campaign.

Pattye Benson

The moderator and committee members that I had contacted to help received the same update as the candidates.  I thank these five volunteers for their support and willingness to help.  So … where does the school board candidate situation now stand?  It is my understanding that the leadership of the political parties is working with the League of Women Voters to organize a debate. The last update I received was that the plan was to schedule the school board candidate debate prior to the Tredyffrin Township supervisor debate on Saturday, October 19 at the township building. I look forward to hearing a confirmation on the date and time.

It remains unclear why the local Democratic and Republican parties scheduled the supervisor candidate debate with the League of Women Voters and did not do the same for the school board candidates. However, I am hopeful that the school board candidate forum will occur; that important school district issues will be discussed and that candidates can have the opportunity to present their view.

In closing, the last ten days has taught me one thing, … whether it’s  elected officials in Washington or our local political parties, I recognize that I am no fan of the partisan sandbox. For me, it’s about understanding the issues and then supporting the candidate that best represents my views.

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