Paul Drucker

Election 2017: Referendum on President Trump as Democrats upped their game in Tredyffrin and TE School District races

The “Trump Effect” sweeping the nation found its way to our local municipal and school board elections. Every local election can be seen as a referendum on President Trump as voters came out in mass and cast their votes overwhelmingly in support of Democratic candidates, ousting sitting Republicans in the process.

In the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors race, At-Large candidate Murph Wysocki (D) was re-elected to a second term and newcomers Matt Holt (At-Large) and Kevin O’Nell (Middle District) candidates beat their Republican opposition. Historic in Tredyffrin Township, the election marks the first time in its 300 year history, that three of the seven seats will be held by Democrats.  If memory serves me correctly, Paul Drucker was the first Democrat elected to the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors in 2005.

As a result of the 2017 election, there are big changes coming to the T/E School Board.  Running for second terms on the school board from Region III, Easttown residents Virginia Lastner (R) and Doug Carlson (R) lost to their Democrat opponents Heather Ward and Tina Whitlow.  Region I school board candidate Scott Dorsey (D) had no opposition and will serve a second term.

In the T/E School Board Region II race, current Valley Forge Middle School teacher Kyle Boyer (D) prevailed over his Republican opponent Doug Anestad.   As a teacher in the T/E School District, Boyer has been the focus of much attention since declaring his candidacy last March and is now required to resign from his reaching position before the December 4 school board meeting. It has been stated that Boyer will immediately tender his resignation to the school district and the District will waive the 60-day notification requirement so that he can take office.   As a result of the 2017 election, the T/E School Board make-up will be seven Democrats and two Republicans.

All Chester County row office elections were won by Democrat candidates, including Tredyffrin Township resident Yolanda Van de Krol as newly elected County Clerk.

Thank you to all the candidates for caring about our community and your willingness to serve! Congratulations to those who have been elected – wishing you much success!

 

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Constitutional Conversations in Tredyffrin Township

What do you get when you mix a Republican T/E School Board member with a recently elected Tredyffrin Township Republican committee person? The answer, as I discovered on Saturday, is a new township cable show, ‘Constitutional Conversations’ co-hosted by T/E School Board member Dr. Rich Brake and M-4 Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee man Dennis Gallagher.

Flipping TV channels, I was surprised to see Rich Brake on a township cable show.  I caught the last 5 minutes of Constitutional Conversations and heard Gallagher mention that this was “In Order for Form a More Perfect Union”, Part 1 of a 5-part series on the Constitution, co-hosted by Brake and Gallagher

I discovered that this new cable show, which made its debut on Thursday, June 28, has an associated blog called Constitutional Conversations, www.constitutional-conversations.com where you can watch the show’s segments.  The site also offers some background on the co-hosts and the background of their show.  According to their blog,

“ … Constitutional Conversations was conceived at the grassroots level in Tredyffrin Township in Chester County, PA. In the latter part of 2011 Dr. Richard Brake, a resident of Tredyffrin and co-host of Constitutional Conversations, gave a lecture on the Constitution which was attended by some Tredyffrin community leaders. After the lecture the township leaders approached Dr. Brake requesting him to produce a series on the Constitution for the township’s public access television station. They felt that such a series would be an excellent educational opportunity for the township residents and also a wise use of the township’s public access television facilities.

Subsequently Dr. Brake collaborated with Dennis Gallagher, also a resident of Tredyffrin, to produce a five part series on the Constitution entitled Constitutional Conversations. The purpose of this series is to tell the story behind how America’s Constitution came into being, the debates amongst America’s founding fathers as to its design, and the various debates throughout America’s history that continue up to today as to how America’s Constitution should be interpreted in our modern society.”

Most of us know Rich Brake as a member of the T/E School Board.  In addition to his elected position, Brake serves as the National Director of Education at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute in Wilmington, DE. According to their website, “ISI seeks to enhance the rising generation’s knowledge of our nation’s founding principles — limited government, individual liberty, personal responsibility, the rule of law, market economy, and moral norms.”  Brake is listed online as a member of two local Tea Party groups, Chester County Patriots and Valley Forge Patriots.  Brake and I have been playing ‘email tag’ over the last month, trying to schedule a meeting to discuss a Constitution class he was giving for local TTGOP committee people and his involvement in the Tea Party movement (The June Constitution class was ultimately cancelled).

I was not familiar with Dennis Gallagher except that the show bio indicates is the TTRC Committeeman for M-4, which includes part of Chesterbrook.  In the last election, Gallagher ousted Jim Bailey (a friend of mine) by a very small margin, to serve as Republican M-4 Committeeman.  The cable show identified Gallagher as a ‘Constitution Scholar’ and a bit of research indicated that he is the founder and editor of  Political Policy, www.politicalpolicy.net, a blog whose “ … mission is to advance traditional conservatism and preserve America’s First Principles.”

It appears that Gallagher and Brake may have been blood brothers in a former life … apparently sharing similar views on traditional conservatism, limited government and Founding Father principles, they have come together for ‘Constitutional Conversations’ to discuss and educate the public on the Constitution.  Looking ahead to upcoming topics to be discussed on the cable show, they have scheduled Part 5: Health Care and the Constitution for August 20.

In last week’s landmark ruling, the Supreme Court announced that in a 5-4 decision (with Justice Kennedy dissenting and Chief Justice Roberts writing the decision) that Obamacare, for the most part is constitutional.  It could be interesting to hear the discussion of the health care decision by the Supreme Court discussed by Brake and Gallagher in the final segment of Constitutional Conversations.

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Update:  For the first time since I began Community Matters nearly 3 years ago, I substantially edited an article after it was posted.  Originally when I posted this article on ‘Constitutional Conversations’, I included comments from local attorney John Petersen.  Within a span of less than 24 hours, I received some negative comments and emails about my post and Petersen’s remarks. As a result, I made the decision to edit the post and  remove his comments.

I need to be clear … Mr. Petersen did not volunteer to give his remarks on this post, I asked for his comments on Constitutional Conversations and then posted those comments.  However today, I made the decision to remove his remarks along with the associated comments.  Regrettably, I did not notify Mr. Petersen until after I removed his remarks.   As a result of my actions and decision to remove his comments and associated comments, Mr. Petersen wants to set the record straight on this matter and I am honoring that request.   Below are Mr. Petersen’s new updated remarks on this blog post. 

I’d like to respond to the comments re: the objections over my solicited comments re: Messer’s Brake and Gallagher and their foray into the world constitutional analysis. Accordingly, I’m happy to provide the substance of my point here.

Context is everything. So… when folks look at the “Constitutional Conversations”, they should to look at that in the context of these items:

Rich Brake:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nSkd63MnntA
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tPbFY8PJ8cs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dn5RTnqyPAI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGkCa9wREIs

Dennis Gallagher:
http://www.politicalpolicy.net/
https://twitter.com/#!/grandestparty

If you are going to be considered a “Scholar” – then the body of your work, your statements, etc needs to be looked at in its entirely. You cannot simply cherry pick the things you want.

So…if we are going to evaluate, then let’s evaluate the whole cloth. If you view the cable show on its own, in a vacuum, then you lack the necessary context of what these guys are about. They are quite clever – starting with the seemingly innocuous historical facts. But look how it ends – with health care? It’s not like they leave these extreme political positions at the door. They have a right to say what they want. Folks have a right to be fully informed about what these guys stand for and that their real agenda is advancing their own political view points. It’s kind of ironic when much of what they say is about how the “Left” has captured the media, academia, etc. It’s actually more hypocritical than ironic. That was MY point – that these guys are not really acting in the role of “Constitutional Scholar”. Rather, they are acting as covert politicos that are using the constitutional topic as a pre-text.  One may say “Gee John, that’s just YOUR opinion.” To that, I’d say “Yes, it’s my opinion, but it is an informed opinion.” I’d also say to those same people “You are entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts.” My only exception to this are places like school board meetings where recently, Brake has decided to use that platform as part of his “Constitutional Scholar” outlet. I think that is way out-of-bounds.

With that, let’s confront the question of whether these two guys are “Constitutional Scholars.” This matter needs to be settled before it is determined whether getting into the sum and substance of these shows is warranted. If one can argue that these two are not constitutional scholars in spite of the fact that they call themselves that, we can settle the matter right there. That would seem to me to be a reasonable approach.

As to whether they are “Constitutional Scholars” – I’d have to ask them for their credentials. I get the fact that Brake has a PhD – in American Politics. I get that he knows a lot of historical facts. But what I also get is that much of what he says is laced with a very specific political agenda. For backup on that assertion, I cite the YouTube links listed above.

As for Gallagher, sorry to have to be the voice of reason here, but part way through an online school for an MA in History with a concentration in American History simply does not rate one the title of “Constitutional Scholar.”  That, coupled with his tweets, blog posts, etc – give evidence to what is also a very definite political viewpoint that are clearly, deep rooted beliefs.

Note, I’m not judging Gallagher’s and Brake’s political view points. I’m indifferent as their viewpoints don’t affect me one bit. I don’t agree with them, but that is not the point. They have every right to express their view points. That said, one of them is an elected official and one of them is an elected committeeman. They have direct involvement in the political process which makes them public/semi-public personalities. When you place your views in the market place of ideas, you invite scrutiny. Whether you are able to withstand/tolerate that scrutiny is another matter.

To be a constitutional scholar, you need to be a lawyer, a law professor and somebody who spends the bulk of their professional life in that arena. Likely, you were  a SCOTUS clerk or at the very least, a clerk at the Court of Appeals. You likely have written a horn book and have NUMEROUS law review articles. You do that, you are a constitutional scholar.  People like Erwin Chemerinsky, Jonathan Turley, Lawrence Lessig, Laurance Tribe, Cass Sunstein, Akhil Amar, etc. These folks are the real deal. I’m a lawyer and have studied constitutional law – and I don’t consider myself even close to being a constitutional scholar. And based on the aforementioned criteria, neither is Brake nor Gallagher. In my opinion, it says a lot about a person who is willing to have a label applied to them that they have not earned. They are certainly not shy about expressing their opinion on their forum. They should “Scholarly” enough to withstand some criticism. Certainly, Dr. Brake had to do that when he had to defend his dissertation. Shying away from the criticism and not realizing it’s a two-way street says a lot about a person. It’s one thing to lecture and get into 1-way conversations. I think Dr. Brake would cite that is a problem with the “Liberal Academic Establishment.”

And with that, since they are not Constitutional Scholars, I really don’t need to get into the sum and substance of what they are talking about. But if called upon to do so, I’m more than happy to engage.

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Paoli Transportation Center project — Taking Another Step

Monday morning marks the next step for the Paoli Transportation Center project!

Five months ago on January 31, I wrote that SEPTA had awarded a $7.5 million contract to Gannett Fleming for the design of a new Paoli regional rail station and parking garage.  The plan calls for building the new station 80 feet west of the current train station location to better connect SEPTA and private buses.  The plan will involve high-level platforms and the reworking of Amtrak interlocking system.  PennDOT selected Parsons Brinckerhoff for the interlocking design work on the Keystone Line between Philadelphia and Harrisburg, which include the Paoli Transportation Center. Gannett Fleming design work is to take place through 2014.

At the same time that SEPTA announced its award to Gannett Fleming, the township selected McMahon Associates as the engineering consultant team to complete a study to outline recommendations for the necessary road improvements, including the bridge, needed to support the new transportation center.  The McMahon study will address congestion, public safety and establish a plan for an overall vision for the new train station through traffic calming, streetscape and intersection modifications.  This is a state-funded project and completion is expected by the end of 2013.

Tredyffrin selected Bergmann Associates as the engineering team to design the signal and roadway improvements for the intersection at Rt. 252 and 30.  The design will be based on the 2011 feasibility study.  This design study is state and federally funded and expected to be completed by 2013/14.

Well folks, it looks like the Paoli Transportation project is taking its next step – tomorrow, Monday, June 25 at 7:30 AM, there’s a press conference at Paoli Village Shoppes to officially announce the start of the Paoli Transportation Center project.

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Need Jobs Now!

What’s the saying, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words’?

As I drove along Swedesford Road to Wegmans a few days ago, I actually did a u-turn in the middle of the road … not quite believing what I saw.  In the median strip on Swedesford Road in the shadow of the Great Valley Corporate Center and its mega-commercial buildings, were these two gentlemen holding ‘need help’ signs.  I stopped the car to chat with them – both were out-of-work, one for 2-1/2 years, the other for 18 months.  One was a union carpenter but explained that his local union had no work for him and he was managing by living off odd jobs.  The other man, a veteran, explained that he had lost his family and his house since losing his job.

They said they generally came to this location in the morning during the work week, hoping that someone would offer them a job (even a few hours of work) or donate food or money.  As if on cue, a well-dressed young may stopped his car and came over to us –  giving each man a bag of food from a local carry-out. Aside from a polite thank you, no other words were exchanged, leaving me with the impression that this was not the first time this young man stopped to offer the men lunch.

I asked why did they choose this particular location and they said they thought it was important to serve as a reminder to the local corporate center workers, that they themselves were but  ‘one paycheck away from a similar situation’.  I asked them who they blamed — their response, “the government” … adding that “nobody cares”.  

This photo serves as a reminder that unemployment and the job crisis is no longer ‘somewhere else’ — it’s right here in our backyard —  Pennsylvania … Chester County … Tredyffrin Township!  In the coming months between now and November,  I want to hear some real ideas about how to get people back to work in this country.  And that includes jobs for people in Chester County.

 

 

 

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Unions … Prevailing Wage Law Could Decide Local Elections

Prevailing wage and the possibility of its repeal in Pennsylvania may prove to be a major election issue for local political candidates this year.  The prevailing wage law was enacted in 1961 and applies to any project of more than $25,000.  The law requires workers on publicly funded construction projects get the going rate for the area and those end up being union rates. However, part of the problem, is that the prevailing wage threshold was never adjusted during the 50 intervening years.

We expect our school districts and local governments to survive with shrinking funds and few remaining options.  Desperate to find ways to stretch the taxpayer dollars more efficiently, local governments are often times faced with deferring construction projects as well as routine maintenance because they exceed the $25,000 prevailing wage threshold, making them too expensive.

State Rep Warren Kampf’s proposed legislation, House Bill 709 – “School Construction Cost Reduction Act” applies only to Pennsylvania school districts unlike other proposals that call for a repeal of the prevailing wage law. HB 709 would only exempt school districts from the state’s prevailing wage requirements.

In the midst of an economic crisis and on the edge of the financial cliff, HB 709 could be seen as a way to save cash-strapped school districts money.  According to Kampf’s legislative website, the Phoenixville School District school board as endorsed his proposed legislation which if approved, would give school districts the option of being exempt from the prevailing wage law.

The argument from the union side is that the proposed changes in prevailing wages will negatively impact union construction workers by reducing wages and suggest it will ultimately affect the communities in which they live. There is also concern that the quality of the construction work will diminish if prevailing wage law were to be repealed.  But how do you balance the state’s funding gaps against prevailing wage laws that may now be too costly?

Should Pennsylvania move in the direction of competitive private wages through reform or elimination of the prevailing wage laws?  Not if the union workers prevail.  Last week I wrote about the carpenters’ union rally in Paoli and was surprised when I was notified that a national union organization, The We Party, picked up the Community Matters story.  The article with photos of the Paoli rally, appear on the front page at http://wepartypatriots.com/wp/ side by side with union articles from California, Missouri, Florida and New York State.

According to their website, The We Party,

“… exists to counter and correct the excessive misinformation that is broadcast regarding the rights of the Modern American Worker and the needs of the New American Economy.  Our mission is to attract the American public to the information resources necessary to elect candidates who represent the country’s best interests and to encourage the American people to participate in the achievement of policy initiatives that embolden the middle class and those in pursuit of the American dream.”

When it comes to local school districts, it will be interesting if we see school boards supporting proposed prevailing wage legislation, such as HB 709 but will teachers support their fellow union brothers and sisters in the construction trades?

According to We Party Patriots mission statement, their support will be squarely behind the pro-union political candidates.  The prevailing wage debate may prove to be a deciding factor in local elections in Pennsylvania this year.

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Boy Scout’s video of Paoli … Hometown challenges as seen by our children!

Down around the corner
A half a mile from here
You can see them long trains run
And you watch them disappear
Without love
Where would you be now
Without love . . .

   ~ “Long Train Running”, Doobie Brothers

“Long Train Running” is a song written by musician Tom Johnston and recorded by The Doobie Brothers in 1973.  Four decades later, the song provides the background music for a special video produced by a  talented 12-year old township resident.  A seventh grader at Valley Forge Middle School, Michael Pacca is the son of Bob and Tara Pacca and lives in Paoli.

Michael is a Boy Scout and a member of Paoli Troop 1; one of the oldest Boy Scout troops in the United States and the oldest continuously active troop.  Originally founded in 1911, out of the Church of the Good Samaritan in Paoli, the troop has since moved to 20 acres in Wayne.

As one of the steps to becoming an Eagle Scout, Michael worked on his Citizen in the Community merit badge.  The final of eight requirements for this merit badge, Michael needed to:

“Develop a public presentation (such as a video, slide show, speech, digital presentation, or photo exhibit) about important and unique aspects of your community. Include information about the history, cultures, and ethnic groups of your community; its best features and popular places where people gather; and the challenges it faces. Stage your presentation in front of your merit badge counselor or a group, such as your patrol or a class at school.”

Boy Scout merit badges give scouts the opportunity to investigate around 120 different areas of knowledge and skills. The merit badge program plays a major role in the scouting advancement program and participation can begin as soon as a scout registers with a troop. Each scout can explore topics from American Business to Woodworking as he has interest. To reach Eagle rank, a scout must complete at least 21 Boy Scout merit badges listing them in his handbook, 12 of which come from the Eagle-required badge list – the Citizen in the Community merit badge is on the required list.

To fulfill the Citizen in the Community merit badge requirement, Michael created a video about his hometown – Paoli.  Michael spent several hours taking photos of Paoli and the surrounding area, and then created a video with the music ‘Long Train Running’ as the backdrop. After watching the video several times, it is clear that Michael not only accomplished the assignment but also far exceeded the requirements in level of quality and creativity.

Michael’s video is important on a number of levels; it highlights the talents of a creative young mind and fulfills a requirement for a wonderful organization, Boy Scouts of America.  However, beyond that, this is a video that I encourage everyone to watch.  It may be only four minutes long but as the music fades out, there is such poignancy to the photos as seen through the lens of young man’s camera.

The condition of the train station and the vacant storefronts do not escape the eyes of our children . . . this is their hometown.

I was struck how Michael accurately captured the “challenges that the community faces” in his video. When asked what he thought was the ‘greatest’ challenge facing Paoli, his response, the “train station”.   What businesses would Michael like to see filling the empty storefronts along Paoli’s Lancaster Avenue – a movie theater and an ice cream store! A 12-year old response but an answer that many of us could agree with.

A budding movie maker and a talented musician, Michael chose the Doobie Brothers background music himself, thinking that the ‘Long Train Coming’ song just suited Paoli and its train station.

I was overwhelmed by Michael’s photography skills … the depth in the images and a gift for composition and perspective that truly belies his young age.  In fact, I was so impressed by his talents that I signed him up as one of the official Paoli Blues Fest photographers – he then tells me that he can create a blues fest video from the photos!  What a great kid!

Michael plans to continue making movies – he and his friends have future ideas for making other videos, including scripts, costumes, props, and sound effects. Based on this and other videos that I have seen by Michael, all I can say is Steven Spielberg had better watch out!

Michael Pacca of Paoli, PA – video click here.

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Paoli Train Station Back on Track with $7.5 Million from SEPTA!

Looks like the Paoli Transportation Center just took a step forward!

According to Anthony Campisi of PlanPhilly, the SEPTA board has

” . . . approved a nearly $7.5 million contract to Gannett Fleming Inc. for design of a new Paoli regional rail station. Long a priority of Tredyffrin Township, the Chester County municipality where the station is located, the current plan would involve building a new station 80 feet west of the current location that better connects with SEPTA and private buses and involves a reworking of a nearby Amtrak interlocking, as well as the installation of high-level platforms.”

This is exciting news for the community — we all know this project has been in limbo with virtually no movement. At the risk of sounding too enthusiastic, I think the next move on the project was funding from SEPTA.  With the design team for the project named, maybe now the project will get back on track.

Former State Rep Paul Drucker championed the Paoli Transportation Center project during his tenure in the PA State House.  After losing his re-election bid to Warren Kampf in 2010, Drucker has continued to stay involved in the Paoli Transportation project as a private citizen.

So . . .  was it just coincidence that Drucker officially declared his 2012 candidacy for another run against Kampf, the same week that SEPTA awarded the design contract for the train station?  What’s the saying about there are no coincidences in life.  Kampf sent out notification of the SEPTA contract award via his Facebook page.

Looks like the 2012 match-up between Drucker and Kampf could once again place the Paoli Transportation Center squarely in the center as a campaign issue.  If nothing else, the use of the train station as a campaign issue may keep the transportation project moving forward.  Here’s hoping . . .

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Expert Negotiators Named as TESD Teacher Contracts Talks Begin

Tredyffrin Easttown School District contract negotiation process with the teachers union, Tredyffrin Easttown Education Association (TEEA) is officially underway. The current 4-year collective bargaining agreement expires June 2012.  (Click here for current contract).

With a cooperative tone, both sides have issued their preliminary statements – the school board recognizing the quality and standard of the District’s teachers but reinforcing the severity of our economic times.  And the teachers union proudly applauding the school district as one of the best in the state and stating their desire to work together through the contract negotiations.  The TEEA however did voice concern that no school board director was part of the negotiating team.

Representing the school district for the teacher contract negotiations:

  • Dan Waters, TESD superintendent
  • Sue Tiede, TESD human resources director
  • Art McDonnell, TESD business manager
  • Jeffrey Sultanik, Fox Rothchild, Blue Bell*

* Sultanik’s law practice focuses on personnel and labor relations for municipal and school districts. He chairs his firm’s Education Law Group, which has provided legal services to more than 90 school districts throughout PA.  During his tenure as former president of the PA School Board Solicitors Association, Sultanik presented legislative testimony before the PA Senate Education Committee, May 2009.  Click here to read a copy of his testimony, ‘Public Hearing on Teacher’s Strikes in Pennsylvania and the Impact on Public Education’. 

Currently at the helm of the school district’s teacher union is TEEA president Laura Whittaker, a Conestoga HS social studies teacher.  Representing TEEA in the contract negotiations is Ruthann Waldie, a UniServe representative from the PA State Education Association.  Other members of the teacher negotiating team have not yet been announced.

As an aside, Waldie represented the Unionville Chadds Ford School District teachers union in their recent and very long (challenging) teacher contract negotiations. If you recall, the state intervened and assigned an outside arbitrator in the UCFSD negotiations.  Although the arbitrator was brought in to bring both sides together, there was a feeling from the UCFSD teachers union (a feeling that was shared by Waldie) that the arbitrator did not fairly represent the teacher’s side.  I share this information, to point out that neither Sultanik nor Waldie are novices to school district negotiations.

With two ‘A players’ (Sultanik and Waldie) in the school district/teacher union negotiating world representing the opposing sides, we’ll have to wait and see if the TESD contract process may put their skill and experience to a test.

Looking beyond T/E school district boundaries, did you see the suggestion of one Philadelphia City Council member to help fund the Philadelphia city school system?  With a larger than expected budget shortfall (nearly $80 million in the red!), Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds-Brown obviously supports the theory that difficult times require creative solutions.  Her proposed legislature would keep the city bars open an additional hour, until 3 AM.  This extra hour of liquor tax revenue would net the schools an extra $5 million.  I’m all for the ‘thinking outside the box’ ideas but somehow the use of  liquor and schools in the same sentence just seems wrong – isn’t there a better way?

Chester Upland School District has become the poster child for failing school districts in the state.  CUSD announced to the state in December that they would be out-of-money by early January and therefore, unable to meet their payroll, utilities, etc.  With the announcement, brought an offer from the CUSD teachers to work without pay, at least temporarily.  At the ninth hour, the federal court intervened, issuing a short reprieve and an order for the state to advance $3.2 million to the district. Although the state money has continued to keep the doors open and the teachers on the job, this band-aid solution was only worth a few weeks.

Come the beginning of February, Chester Upland School District will have used up their advance and once again, be out of money – CUSD needs approximately $20 million to finish out the school year. Gosh, don’t the kids in CUSD deserve to know that their schools will be open until the end of the year?

Finally, click here for a draft legislative proposal that several PA state legislators have recently made public.  Marked confidential, the draft proposal document is titled “Chester Upland Fiscal Distress” and dated November 4, 2011.  Interesting to note that this draft proposal was written prior to CUSD’s request to the state for financial help.  The proposal calls for the state to take over school districts in financial distress (starting with Chester Upland) and run the school district with the use of an oversight board – a ‘Special Board of Control’.

This special board would have the legal authority to cancel teacher contracts, turn district schools into charter schools, reassign or suspend staff and to close schools. To be clear, this is only a draft proposal and no formal legislation has yet been introduced – however, this draft would suggest that the ‘handwriting is the wall’  for the introduction of this, or similar legislation.

Looks like Chester Upland School District could become the model for all distressed school districts across the state. It is probably a fair assumption that how the state decides to handle the financial crisis in CUSD will be duplicated in every other failing school district in Pennsylvania.

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Kampf-Drucker 2012 Election Rematch for PA House of Representatives, District 157

Rumored for weeks, it is now official – Election Day 2012 will see a rematch between State Rep Warren Kampf (R) and former State Rep Paul Drucker (D) for the PA House of Representatives, District 157.

Drucker defeated opponent Guy Ciarrocchi (R) on November 4, 2008 to succeed retiring Republican Carole Rubley.  If you recall, the Drucker-Ciarrocchi race had the distinction of being the most expensive (and possibly the nastiest) race in the state in 2008.  A close race for the legislative district 157, Drucker defeated Ciarrocchi by a margin of 50.95% to 49.1%.

After serving 2 years as our State Representative, Drucker was defeated in 2010 in his re-election bid by Republican Warren Kampf.  Earlier this month, Kampf formally announced his decision to seek a second term to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.

The Chester County Democratic Party held their nominating convention tonight. Democratic Committeepersons and proxies cast their votes and by the end of the night, Drucker emerged from the convention endorsement process as the chosen endorsed PA House of Representative democratic candidate for District 157.

The Pennsylvania Primary Election date is April 24, 2012 and is likely an uncontested primary for both Kampf and Drucker.

Looking ahead to this rematch between Drucker and Kampf, can we hope that the candidates, and their campaign committees, will stick to the actual voting records and history on issues of their opponent?

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Community Matters … A Year in Review (Part 2)

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).

3. Looking at Unionville-Chadds Ford School District, is the ‘Handwriting on the Wall’ for T/E? February 22, 2011

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?

4. Labor Dispute Between TEEA Teacher Union & T/E School District . . . Claiming Unfair Labor Practices re Online Course Programming  March 11, 2011

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.

5. Berwyn Banter . . . Ray Hoffman’s Remarks on Homosexuality Evoke Strong Response from Local Residents  April 2, 2011

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.

6. The Use of Community Matters on Campaign Ad without Permission . . . Illegal or just Disrespectful?  May 11, 2011

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?

7. Unofficial Results from Chester County Indicate Duffy Won by 40 Votes in Tredyffrin’s Special Election . . . Reports of Malfunctioning Voting Machines Add a Twist May 18, 2011

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.

8. What’s the meaning of ‘Good Government’? Does it Mean Something Different in Tredyffrin?  June 21, 2011

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.

10. Tea Party Agenda by State Rep Warren Kampf; so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker August 27, 2011

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.

12. Why Must the Campaign Season be ‘Politics as Usual’ . . . Please, Can it be the Truth? October 26, 2011

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.

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