Paul Drucker

Much Awaits PA Legislators – Privatization of State Liquor System, School Vouchers, Redistricting and Marcellus Shale drilling policy

There is much awaiting lawmakers when they return to Harrisburg tomorrow. Several major areas require legislator’s attention before they depart for the winter holidays in three weeks – privatizing the state liquor system, school voucher program, proposed redistricting and natural gas drilling policy of Marcellus shale.

Since taking office last January, Gov. Corbett has been unwavering on certain agenda items, including the privatization of the state liquor system and pushing a school voucher program.  Much has been discussed on these topics over the past 11 months and Corbett is seeking resolution by the close of 2011.

Speaking of the state liquor system, did you see that the PA Liquor Control Board has changed the rule on shipping alcohol?  Shipping wine or liquor to PA residents was previously prohibited, but the LCB quietly changed the rule last week.  Just in time for the holidays, residents can order from LCB’s online Fine Wine & Good Spirits store for home delivery.

This is a service that wine fans in the rest of the country take for granted but now is available to Pennsylvanians. However, the UPS delivery is pricey, $14 for up to 3 bottles, then $1 for each additional bottle delivered.

Initially I was excited about the change, until I realized that the new shipping rule was only applicable if you were purchasing wine from the LCB — buying from out-of-state wineries is still off-limits!

We know that Corbett wants the state out of the liquor business.  A private firm reporting to Corbett has released a Public Finance Management Report that estimates a return of up to $1.6 billion for privatizing the state liquor system.  So why bother rolling out an alcohol delivery program on the eve of this vote?

Another important agenda item for Corbett since taking office is the school voucher program. Corbett has been transparent in his push for a voucher system, which would permit money to go to parochial and private schools.  One of the foundations of this country is the plan for children from all backgrounds to go to school together but if Corbett gets his way, a legislative vote may change public school education in Pennsylvania.

Although the state constitution prohibits using public money to send children to private schools, Corbett and other advocates of school vouchers, think they have a way around that legal matter.  Instead of giving the money directly to private schools, they will give the money to parents who in turn give money to schools.

Is the voucher plan a new twist on constitutional law – give the money to parents to give to the schools will magically transform the money so it’s no longer taxpayer money?

Personally, I am opposed to Corbett sidestepping the constitution and continue to be opposed to taxpayer dollars funding nonpublic education.  Funneling taxpayer dollars through parents to private schools  ultimately weakens the public education system.  If there are problems with specific school districts, then I believe that the state has a responsibility to ‘fix’ the school district.  And giving some parents money to leave their failing school districts is not the answer nor does it fix the school’s problems for those students that remain.  Moving the best students out of a failing school further weakens failing schools.

Besides legislative discussion on liquor privatization and school vouchers, lawmakers have to approve the state and congressional redistricting maps by the end of the year.  This week closed the 30-day public comment period on the proposed redistricting and now the matter is in the hands of the legislators.

Redistricting is a powerful tool for elected officials to protect their own and undermine opponents and I have previously stated that sweeping nonpartisan redistricting reform is unlikely. However, I failed to mention that former State Rep Paul Drucker (D-157) introduced legislation (H.B. 2005) to reform Pennsylvania’s redistricting process in 2009.  In describing his redistricting reform House Bill 2005 in a November 2009 press release, Drucker stated,

My legislation would establish a nine-person committee made up of the top eight legislative leaders in the House and Senate, or their designees, plus a chairman appointed by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. 

Under the bill, the chairman would have to be a registered voter in Pennsylvania for at least two years, could not hold a federal, state or local office, and not have held a position within a political party in the previous 10 years. The commission would meet in public and be held to specific rules designed to avoid districts drawn for political reasons. Any plan created by the commission would need to be approved by six of the nine members before moving to the full legislature for final approval.

Drucker’s redistricting reform bill would have increased the commission size from five to nine; established a PA Supreme Court appointed chair and created transparency of the redistricting process with public meetings!  Unfortunately, Drucker’s redistricting reform bill did not get out of the House State Government Committee.  If you are interested, here is link to House Bill 2005.

Another major issue for Harrisburg legislators to discuss in the next 3 weeks is the state policy on natural gas drilling in the Marcellus shale.  The state House and state Senate have passed Marcellus shale bills that include per-well impact fee and a series of new environmental regulations but differences between the bills needs to be worked out.

Differences between the two proposals will need to be reconciled over the next few weeks if lawmakers are going to get a bill to the governor’s desk before they leave in mid-December.

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The Tolling (or not to toll) of 422 resurfaces . . . Public forum for further discussion

A Community Matters reader sent me a notice about an upcoming public forum on 422 tolling to be presented by State Rep Marcy Toepel (R-Montgomery).

If you recall, in June the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) unveiled a proposed plan that included tolling 422 as a way to fund a light rail system and construction projects.  Although Toepel is opposed to the tolling of 422, she is holding the forum for the public to ask questions and voice concerns.

Participating in the panel discussion will be Barry Seymour, executive director of the DVRPC, Montgomery County Commission and former DVRPC Board Chairman Joe Hoeffel and other Reps. Mike Vereb (R-Montgomery), Tom Quigley (R-Montgomery) and our own State Rep Warren Kampf (R-Montgomery/Chester).  I receive Kampf’s email updates and had not  received anything about the public forum on 422 tolling and did not see any mention of the meeting on his official website. I am not sure if there is a similar forum planned for our area or not. The tolling (or not to toll) of Rt. 422 is an important issue to Tredyffrin residents and thought some may be interested in attending.

The event will take place on Tuesday, September 13 at 6:30 PM (doors open at 6 PM) at Pope John Paul II High School, 181 Rittenhouse Road, in Royersford.

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Will former State Rep Paul Drucker challenge State Rep Warren Kampf for the 157th District in 2012?

Is former State Rep Paul Drucker considering a 2012 run against State Rep Warren Kampf?  You be the judge.

In my post, ‘Tea Party Agenda by State Rep. Warren Kampf, so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker’ dated August 27th, I included Paul Ducker’s recent ‘As I See It’ editorial from the Main Line Media News. 

Drucker claimed that Kampf was following the tea party agenda and gave examples of the education cuts in the state budget, the lack of taxing Marcellus Shale gas drilling and decreased state funding for social services.  In reading the editorial, it was obvious that Drucker did not agree with some of Kampf’s choices since taking office in January.  Although Drucker may not agree with Kampf’s governing approach, the article left me wondering what would he do differently?  I also found the timing of the op-ed of interest; questioning why Drucker decided to write it ‘now’. 

I came up with 6 questions for our former state representative and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 31.  As I wrote on August 27, if Drucker responded to the questions, I would offer his answers on Community Matters.  Below are my questions and Drucker’s answers.  I offer Kampf the opportunity to respond to Drucker’s comments.

1.    Why write the As I See It article ‘now’?

Representative Kampf has written a series of factually incorrect and misleading e-mails, which he has sent to residents of the 157 District, as well as opinion pieces for the newspaper.  These communications are nothing more than his parroting the tea party line on important issues facing the Commonwealth.  I felt it was important to correct errors and give context to the Republican majority’s priorities.

2.  What do you think are the most challenging issues currently facing the residents of the 157 District?

There are many challenging issues that negatively affect Pennsylvania residents, but I will restrict my answer to the most challenging issue locally, and the most challenging issue statewide.

You don’t have to be a savant to realize the most challenging issue facing the 157th.  This is obvious to anyone who drives through the commercial areas in the District or walks down Lancaster Avenue in Paoli.  Empty storefronts abound. The focus needs to be on jobs, jobs, and jobs by supporting and encouraging business development.  For example, the long awaited development of the Paoli Intermodal Train Station is a potential economic engine that will help turn us around and lead to an economic revival.  It will provide short-term jobs.  It will provide long-term jobs.  It will create new residential, and commercial space.  It will bring in new retail space, restaurants, apartments and housing.  It will create additional tax ratables on what is now worthless property.  It will create a TOWN CENTER.   In Phoenixville, the development of the old steel site is also critical to the economic health of the district.

The most challenging issue facing the Commonwealth is equally obvious.  We have a serious budget crisis.  But it is not a crisis caused solely by expenditures and can’t be cured by making draconian cuts to education and the social services.  The revenue side of the budget needs to be addressed realistically.  This means analyzing and utilizing potential sources of revenue.  Last year, the House passed a tax on Marcellus shale that was modeled after the West Virginia Marcellus tax. (I voted in favor of the bill)  The Senate refused to approve the measure and it died.  This year there is similar bill on the House floor that would produce $420 million in revenue in 2012.  This would go a long way to supporting education and needed social programs.  But at this point there is no Republican support, so the bill cannot even get out of committee.                   

3.   If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

To support economic revitalization and development in the 157th, I would pitch my tent in the office of Appropriations Chairman Bill Adolph.  I would make his office my satellite office. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would make Trans. Secy Schoch and House Transportation Chairman Geist my nbff. (Which is what I did when I was in the House)  I would go to meetings. I would create meetings.  I would convince everybody and anybody of the reality, vitality and economic importance of the Train Station and the steel site development, not only to the 157th, but also to the entire Delaware Valley and to the Commonwealth.

To address the revenue situation, I would immediately sign on as a cosponsor to H.B. 33.  This is the Marcellus bill.  I would go to State Representative Benninghoff, Chairman of the House Finance Committee and try to convince him to release the bill to the floor. (In fact, a discharge motion to force this bill to floor was defeated.  Representative Kampf voted in lock step with his tea party cohorts to defeat the bill) I would talk to House Majority Leadership and attempt to get them to support the bill.  I would let it be known that this bill is vital to closing our budget gap, and vital to protecting the environment of the communities where the drilling is taking place and the water shed of the entire Commonwealth.                     

4.   Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?   

See above.                  

5.    Do you think that the possible 157 District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to get redistricted.  Among other things, Chester County gained 65,000 people since the last redistricting and will get an additional seat in the State House of Representatives.  Since the Republicans control the Senate, the House and the Governor, they control this process.

The only constitutional requirement is one of mathematics, one person, one vote.  As long as each district is within the standard deviation of the mean the district passes muster.  The district doesn’t even have to be contiguous.  (I introduced a bill, that didn’t pass, that required many other factors to be taken into consideration when redistricting.  This would have made the decision much more representative and made gerrymandering much more difficult)

There is no question that the Republicans will gerrymander any district they can if it will strengthen that district from a Republican perspective and if they can do so without weakening another corresponding Republican district.  Whether on not that will impact the 157th remains to be seen.

6.  Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

This question is premature.  I can say that I have remained involved in the affairs of the 157th and intend to continue to do so.  I will support the citizens of this district any way that I can.

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Tea Party Agenda by State Rep Warren Kampf; so claims Former State Rep Paul Drucker

Today’s online version of Main Line Media News includes an ‘As I See It’ op-ed article written by former PA State Rep Paul Drucker (D). Drucker suggests that currently serving PA State Rep Warren Kampf (R) of the 157 Legislative District is following the ‘Tea Party’ agenda.

The editorial specifically points to the state budget cuts to education, lack of taxing on Marcellus Shale gas drilling and the state’s decreased funding for social services. Drucker claims that an extraction tax levied on the gas-drillers would have helped solve many of the state’s budgetary problems. Based on the editorial, it is clear that Drucker does not support some of Kampf’s decisions since taking office.  (Drucker’s editorial is below).

Read the editorial — do you think Drucker’s opinion provides a fair analysis of Kampf’s performance as a state representative? Do you agree that Kampf has leanings towards the Tea Party agenda?

 I had some questions about Drucker’s op-ed  . . . specifically why he wrote this editorial ‘now’ and what was ‘his’ agenda? I emailed him some questions and asked for a response by Wednesday, August 30. I will post any response that I receive from our former state representative.

Here is the list of questions that I sent to former State Rep Paul Drucker:

1. Why write the As I See It editorial ‘now’?

2. What do you think are the most challenging issues facing the residents of the 157 Legislative District?

3. If you had been re-elected as state representative, what would you be doing differently than State Rep Warren Kampf to address these issues?

4. Where do you think State Rep Kampf should focus his attention?

5. Do you think that the possible 157 Legislative District re-districting could play a role in the State Representative race of 2012? If so, why?

6. Are you considering a 2012 run against State Rep Kampf?

Warren Kampf refuses to permit facts to interfere with his Tea Party agenda
By Paul Drucker
Main Line Media News
Published: Saturday, August 27, 2011

It is summer, and the annual Harrisburg spectacle of balancing the budget has come and gone. Back in March, Governor Corbett presented a budget that rolled back government spending to 2008-9 levels, with the most draconian cuts made to public education. The proposed budget slashed $1.2 billion from pre-K-12 education and $686 million from higher education. Moreover, the cut to state-funded colleges and universities represented a staggering 50-percent decrease from 2010 state funding levels.

The ink wasn’t even dry on Corbett’s proposed budget when State Rep. Warren Kampf jumped on the bandwagon, e-mailing his constituents in the 157th District, “This is a tough but honest budget: Corbett balances his budget without resorting to massive tax hikes.”

Actually, the budget included no “tax hikes” at all. Despite widespread support for a tax on gas-drillers in the Marcellus Shale gas field, Mr. Kampf aligned himself with the slash-only Tea Partiers and balanced the budget by making massive cuts in expenditures.

Apparently, Kampf and his anti-tax colleagues did not anticipate the outcry from Pennsylvanians who were opposed to public education bearing the brunt of Corbett’s budget cuts. In short order, Mr. Kampf reversed his earlier position. He claimed, “I said from day one that we could do a much better job prioritizing spending than the governor did in his proposal…”

The result was the proposed House Bill 1485. In an e-mail to constituents he wrote that House Republicans had “unveiled a plan that shifted state spending back to our schools.” He claimed the bill “restored education spending… by building on bipartisan ideas…”

In reality H.B. 1485 didn’t “restore” anything. It merely reduced the size of the draconian cuts. The funding gap for pre-K-12 education remains at $586 million. Higher-education funding remains $165 million below 2010-11 levels, almost ensuring increases in tuition and fees for college students this fall.

And the Republican House budget’s partial restoration of education funding has come at a steep cost to the most vulnerable Pennsylvanians. It slashes an additional $1 billion from health and human services. In reality, Mr. Kampf and his colleagues simply decided to shift the pain.

Furthermore, no one can honestly call this bill bipartisan. The vote was 109 Republicans in support, 90 Democrats and two Republicans opposed.

In Sen. Andy Dinniman’s view, “This budget fails some of the most deeply held priorities of the district: education, the environment and health care. A vote for this budget was a vote against open space, and a vote for higher local property taxes and higher tuition at state schools.” In effect it is nothing more than trickle-down taxation; robbing Peter to pay Paul.

While Representative Kampf claims to be a strong supporter of local control for schools, he voted for H.B. 1326 within hours of passing the budget. This bill restricts the ability of school boards to raise revenue beyond the Act 1 limit and increases their costs if they attempt to do so. Despite the fact that only three states in this country fund education at a lower level than Pennsylvania, the Republican majority in Harrisburg made it a high priority to further restrict local districts’ flexibility and discretion.

But according to Representative Kampf, this bill “strengthens taxpayers’ voices in the local communities and encourages school districts to budget more efficiently…” He knows that historically, very few tax increases are approved by referendum, and that no referenda to raise revenue beyond Act 1 limitations have ever passed. The bill virtually guarantees larger class size, reduced educational options and an overall decline in the quality of education.

All of these Tea Party machinations could have been avoided if Pennsylvania did what every other natural gas-producing state has done – impose an extraction tax. We are the only major energy-producing state without one. A current Democratic-supported Marcellus tax bill projects 2012 revenue at $492 million with annual increases going forward.

In addition, as of June 30, there was a $785-million budget surplus. These revenues could have easily supported a budget that avoided deep and harmful cuts. Instead we have a Tea Party budget, supported by Representative Kampf, which will clearly result in a hike in local property taxes and hurt the neediest Pennsylvanians.

As Senator Dinniman so eloquently reminds us, “These are not our values… We value education, and we value the Quaker tradition that reaches back to the founding of our country and teaches us to extend a hand to those who are truly in need.”

Clearly this year’s budget doesn’t honor those values. And no stream of e-mails or party-generated talking points can hide this fact.

Paul Drucker served as the state representative for the 157th District in 2009-2010. He served as Tredyffrin Township supervisor from December 2005 until January 2008.

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Paoli Transportation Center Project Takes Big Steps Forward – A Letter-of-Interest Request Issued by Tredyffrin Township and Request-for-Proposal Issued by SEPTA!

Plans Afoot For Troubled Paoli Rail Yard, Can It Become A Transportation Center With Buses And Better Parking?”

This Philadelphia Inquirer headline above was not written this week, this month, this year — no, the article is seventeen years old, dating from September 14, 1994!

This years-old Inquirer article focused on the possibility of turning the “problematic Paoli rail yard into a sophisticated intermodal transportation center” which would accommodate “a transportation center, complete with buses and improved parking.” Can it be that the dream, this vision for the future may still be possible?  Maybe so.

At the last Board of Supervisors Meeting, I was disappointed that the supervisors did not update on the process of the Paoli Transportation Center.  There had been previous discussion about an upcoming issuance of a Request-for-Proposal (RFP) on the N. Valley/Central Avenue road and bridge improvement project (part of the Paoli Transportation Center project) and I was seeking an update — specifically was an RFP issued?  If so, what was the status, how many bidders, due date, etc.

Many of us have followed the saga of the train station for years, and remain interested in the progress (if any) on the project.  My intention in asking for an official public update was certainly not to step on the toes of either the township staff or our elected officials, but just to seek information.  What’s the old adage, “Ask and ye shall receive”? I was asking the questions, but I guess I wasn’t asking the right way or to the right people.

Although not listed on the township website, I discovered with some Internet research that the Tredyffrin Township Engineering Department has issued a ‘Letter of Interest’ for the “Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Involvement Program”. According to the township’s Letter of Interest request, all phases of the Feasibility Study will be 100% state funded and that the township is encouraging responses from small firms and firms that have not previously done work for the township.

The township’s public Letter of Interest advertisement gives the full solicitation details on the Paoli Road Improvement Project and includes the following:

Tredyffrin Township Letter of Interest Request:

Paoli Road Improvement Project – Feasibility Study and Public Improvement Program

Tredyffrin Township will retain a PADOT qualified engineering and public involvement consultant team to provide a feasibility study and public involvement and outreach program to assess the traffic, roadway, infrastructure and community stakeholder needs, and identify potential alternatives for the existing local and PADOT roadway network located in Paoli, in the vicinity of S.R. 0030 (Lancaster Avenue), E./W. Central Avenues, Paoli Pike/ Greenwood Avenue, Darby Road, Plank Avenue and N./S. Valley Roads. The Township seeks a feasibility study that provides cost effective alternatives to allow for traffic calming, streetscape, intersection modification, and signal timing adjustments to address existing congestion and public safety concerns while providing for the needs of motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, rail users and the overall vision for a multi-modal Paoli.

Alternatives included in the feasibility study should emphasize solutions that meet current PADOT design and safety standards, and the local stakeholder and Township vision for the Paoli Transportation and Town Center Districts. In addition to the Feasibility Study, an intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process must parallel the identified Feasibility Study phases to ensure final recommendations have been thoroughly discussed, stakeholder input received while ultimately working toward a consensus on roadway improvements for consideration and prioritization for future design and construction phases of the project.

The township’s Letter of Interest words, “. . .  intensive coordinated public outreach and stakeholder involvement process . . .” aligns with my request that the public remain ‘in the loop’ and informed on the process of this important community project.

The list of companies already registered to submit a Letter of Interest to the township on the Paoli transportation project is impressive!  To date, 50+ companies have registered, including local companies from Wayne, Malvern, West Chester, Collegeville, Exton and Kimberton and several companies from Lancaster, Gettysburg, New Jersey and Delaware.  Source Management Onvia of Seattle, Washington has also registered to bid the project!  Letters of interest are due by bidders to the township by 2 PM on September 15, 2011. It is my understanding that registration does not necessarily imply that all registered companies will submit a Letter of Interest.

According to the Letter of Interest advertisement by the township, the evaluation and selection process by Tredyffrin Twp is:

For the purposes of negotiating a contract, the ranking of a minimum of three (3) firms will be done directly from the Letters of Interest. Technical proposals will not be required prior to the ranking. Only the top three (3) firms will be requested to prepare technical proposals. The top three (3) firms will then be ranked based off the Technical Proposal and the top firm will be requested to submit a cost proposal.

In another big step for the Paoli Transportation Center project, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) has issued a Request-for-Proposal, Proposal Number 11-091-DMH for qualified “Consultants for Architectural/Engineering Services for Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center”.

SEPTA’s A&E Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center RFP description states:

Consultant services include, but are not limited: the development of construction documents (plans and specifications) for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation Center in accordance with the scope of work of this RFP and in full compliance ADA and other governing authorities.   The deadline for proposals is September 7, 2011.

The issuance of a Letter of Interest by Tredyffrin Twp and a Request-for-Proposal from SEPTA is positive and encouraging news for the community on the Paoli Transportation Center project and marks real progress in this long journey.

As Henry Ford said, “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”

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Paoli Transportation Center and economic redevelopment – Important community issues or simply political campaign fodder

Unfortunately, in between primary and general election campaign season, the [Paoli] train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer. Does the transportation project only exist as a political campaign talking point? 

Following-up on my last Community Matters post, I was looking forward to the Board of Supervisors meeting on Monday night.  I had emailed the Board of Supervisors requesting two items for the meeting agenda – (1) official public update on the Paoli Transportation Center project and (2) an update on the Economic Development Committee.  Assured via email from the township manager that, “Both items will be addressed during the meeting.  If they don’t come up earlier, Bob will raise them during BOS comments” , I looked forward the public status report. Although neither item was listed on the agenda, I was confident that these important topics would be discussed during the meeting.  Further, Mimi copied the seven supervisors on her email to me, so everyone was seemingly on the same page.

The meeting progressed with no mention made of either topic.  There was approval for a community initiative grant for zoning ordinance update but no discussion of the Economic Development Committee that was approved back on April 4.  Look around at the empty storefronts, the vacant box stores and leasing agent signs on many corporate buildings . . . Tredyffrin Township is no longer exempt from the economic woes of every other community in the country.  But where is the importance and priority from our elected officials?

The Paoli Transportation Center . . . there was no update, no discussion, not a mention.  Does the transportation project exist simply as a political campaign talking point?  Do our community leaders only discuss the transportation center and place an importance on the project during campaign season? Where is the advocacy and enthusiasm for the train station project and economic redevelopment from our elected officials?

How many local candidates over the last two decades have used the train station project in their campaign promises to voters?  The answer . . . many! The Paoli Transportation Center project deserves more attention than use as campaign fodder. And remember, what is most significant is what you do with those campaign promises, once elected! 

The last substantial movement on the Paoli Transportation Center project was June 21, 2010 with then State Rep. Paul Drucker’s announcement of $1 million in state funding for the project. On Community Matters that day, I wrote . . . “Today’s announcement signifies a new beginning for Paoli and for the larger community . . . a day to celebrate!”  After fourteen months, shouldn’t the public expect a progress report?

Immediately following the Monday’s supervisors meeting, I asked Mimi for an explanation as to ‘why’ there was no update on the train station (and the Economic Development Committee) when she had previously said there would be — her response, “I guess Bob forgot”. 

How does one forget these important issues?  The other supervisors — did they likewise ‘forget’, was theirs a calculated political decision or worse yet, do they simply not care?

Unfortunately, in between the primary and general election campaign season, the train station is once again relegated to the backstage, waiting for its starring role on the next glossy campaign flyer.

____________________________________________

The update on the proposed sidewalk ordinance and sidewalks at St. Davids Golf Club from Monday’s Public Hearing to follow.

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What’s the future of the Paoli Transportation Center project . . . Remember, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day’!

I continue to wonder about the PA Department of Transportation’s interest in the Downingtown train station; the cost of purchasing land and building a new train station when the existing station is only 20 years old.  I am certain that Downingtown probably needs additional parking but with one-third the daily ridership of Paoli, I am troubled how the Downingtown project, seemingly out of nowhere, appears to have shot to the ‘head of the class’ in interest for the DOT.  With major budget cuts in Harrisburg, and a finite amount of dollars for transportation projects, there should be alarm for existing transportation projects such as the Ardmore Transit Center and the Paoli Transportation Center. Will there be enough money to go around to all these projects?

There is concern in Ardmore that their long-standing transportation project may likewise take a backseat to Downingtown, and the suggestion is that it is political connections – either by Downingtown elected officials or ‘lack of’ connections by Ardmore’s elected officials.  To read further about Ardmore, see the latest post from Carla at Save Ardmore Coalition.

Why does politics have to drive projects in Harrisburg?  Is it the squeaky wheel that gets greased?  Sen. Andy Dinniman’s jurisdiction covers both Downingtown and Paoli, so which train station project does he prioritize . . . the project that is years in the making (Paoli) or this new train station project in Downingtown? 

Serving as state representative for the 155th legislative district, which includes Downingtown, is Curt Schroder (R-East Brandywine).  A quick review of his website did not produce any news on the Downingtown train project, but I did discover that Schroder chairs the House Gaming Oversight Committee that is responsible for the state’s gambling industry.  As a senior state representative, I am guessing that Schroder has a direct line to Harrisburg and the governor.

Back to the Paoli Transportation Center – some would suggest that what goes on in Downingtown has no bearing on Paoli; that these transportation projects are separate and apart.  You know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”, I think that sums up the Paoli Transportation Center project.  How does a community sustain interest in a project, when there appears to be so little forward movement? 

In 1996, the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force composed of representatives from Tredyffrin and Willistown Townships, Chester County, Septa, Amtrak, Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the US Environmental Protection Agency, PennDot and elected officials completed a feasibility study that recommended:

  • construction of a new station and associated facilities 800 feet west of the current station;
  • preparation of a conceptual transportation center, access and development plan; and
  • preparation of preliminary development costs and income potential.

Look again at the date of that study, 1996 . . . 15 years ago!  We know that Rome wasn’t built in a day but how many years does it take to build the Paoli Transportation Center?

Last June 2010, there appeared to be a shot in the arm for the Paoli Transportation Center.  Former State Rep Paul Drucker, a staunch supporter of the Paoli transportation project, announced $1 million in state funding from the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program for the construction of the Paoli Intermodal Transportation facility and named Strategic Realty Investment as the project’s developer. Through Drucker’s efforts in Harrisburg, there seemed to be a renewed sense of urgency and momentum to build the train station with on-site parking garage and new office and retail space.  Evidenced by the $1 million in state funding, many of us saw this as kick-starting the project that would create jobs and provide economic stimulus for the community.

When Drucker lost his state house re-election bid in November, did the community also lose their most vocal supporter of the Paoli Transportation Center project? During the last 13 months, since the announcement of the $1 million funding, I have not heard of any ‘new’ news on the train station project. We saw the Paoli Transportation Center project used in campaign literature in November and by political candidates in the May primary, but what really has changed in the last 13 months?

Hoping to gain perspective and an update on the Paoli Transportation Center project, I contacted elected officials and supervisor candidates.  The following individuals were contacted for comments:  State Rep Warren Kampf, State Rep Dwayne Milne, Michelle Kichline and John DiBuonaventuro,   (Tredyffrin Twp supervisors and members of the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force) Norm MacQueen (Willistown Twp supervisor) and Tredyffrin Twp supervisor candidates Kristen Mayock, Tory Snyder, Mike Heaberg, Paul Olsen, Murph Wysocki and Molly Duffy.

Understanding my short timeline for responses, coupled with summer vacation and work schedules, I accepted that some of those contacted would be unable to respond.  However, I want to thank those that did take time from their busy summer schedules to offer their comments for Community Matters readers.

As a response for an update on the Paoli Transportation Center, I received the following from State Rep Warren Kampf:

Pattye:

Thank you for your email. I appreciate your concern as a constituent regarding the Paoli Transportation Center.

My recollection is that most of the legislators and County officials support this project. The PennDOT Transportation Improvement Plan (TIP) currently has the Paoli Transportation Center (MPMS# 47979 and MPMS #60574) as a priority project and Chester County has this listed at the top of their list.

Every few years the TIP projects are reviewed and that process is again underway. I will continue to advocate for the Paoli Transportation Center. Other communities have needs of course, but I consider Paoli to be a very high priority.

I would caution you or anyone who sees planning or activity on other projects, for example, Downingtown, as somehow linked to the standing of Paoli. The process does not appear to work that way as I understand it. My belief is any work related to Downingtown that would receive State funding would need to go through the TIP process, and I do not see it on the TIP list I have. Further, I presume that the size of that project is far, far smaller than Paoli, so they would logically have different levels of work and funding associated with them, and probably very different timelines.

The Paoli project is moving forward. I am told that both Tredyffrin Township and SEPTA are preparing separate RFPs for road way design needed for the transportation center this summer. Precise timelines, however, are not available. That there is work being done, and the funding needed for that work exists, are good signs in my view.

Warren

Michelle Kichline and John DiBuonaventuro as Tredyffrin Twp supervisors and members of the Paoli Rail Yards Task Force provided the following joint response:

In response to your question about the status of the Paoli Transportation Center, the following is the most recent update:

Both Tredyffrin Township and Septa are about to issue Requests for Proposals for transit and road improvements. all of the work will be grant funded, mostly from federal funds.

SEPTA’s RFP will be for design of the new station and parking garages. Tredyffrin is issuing 2 RFPs : one to lead the public input process and design road improvements associated with the Paoli Transportation Center; and the other for the design of the improvements recommended by the recent feasibility study for the Rt 252/30 intersection. The Township told me that once the RFPs are ready to go out they will be posted on the Township website, along with a project update.

We are assured by Township and County representatives that Paoli remains a top transportation priority for Chester County. It continues to have the support of Federal and State representatives.

If you have any further questions please let us know.

I sent the following question to Tredyffrin Twp supervisor candidates Mike Heaberg, Tory Snyder, Paul Olsen, Kristen Mayock and Murph Wysocki:

Please make a brief statement on the Paoli Transportation Center project. In 200 words or less, please offer your opinion on why the project has lagged for 15+ years, if there is a future for the project and whether or not you support the project. If you support the Paoli Transportation Center project, as a supervisor, what would you do to ensure that it is a priority of the state’s Department of Transportation and receives adequate funding.

Below are responses from Heaberg, Synder, Mayock and Wysocki:

I fully support a new Paoli Transportation Center, built in a way that improves the quality of life of our community and fully protects the interests of Tredyffrin residents.  This project is a top local transportation priority for our federal and state legislators, the DVRPC, PennDOT, SEPTA and Amtrak. 

As a current Supervisor, I have participated in recent planning discussions and at our upcoming meetings the Tredyffrin BOS will consider two Requests for Proposals: 1) a public input process to assure that our community’s voices are heard and 2) design of local road improvements in the Paoli community, including the 30/252 intersection.  Also, SEPTA is preparing a RFP for the design of the new station and parking garages.

We’re making progress…Thank you for your interest in this important project.

Michael Heaberg
Current Supervisor-At-Large
Republican Candidate for Supervisor-At-Large

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It is frustrating to see how slowly the Paoli project is taking, but it is significantly more complicated than a “simple” regional rail station relocation.  The Paoli project is a public/private development on a former superfund site, which required clean-up, a zoning change in two municipalities,  awarding of a contract to a private developer, coordination of two transit agencies (Amtrak and Septa), and juggling of various public funding sources.  We have actually made a huge amount of progress on this complex process, but the devil is in the details and that is where we are  —  waiting for formal submission of plans from the developer and the transit agencies. That said, I believe that at least in Tredyffrin, there have been a number of individuals, some elected, some not, who have been advocates for the Paoli project over the years and have given endless hours of their time to help move the process forward. What I think we have lacked is a united Board of Supervisors in support and as advocates of the project, without which the need for the project probably seems less urgent at the state and federal levels. My goal as Supervisor would be to work to create that united front.

Victoria “Tory” Snyder,
Democratic Candidate for Supervisor, East District

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Paoli has the potential to be a jewel in Tredyffrin.  As someone who uses the Paoli station for travel to Philadelphia and New York and who lives near the station, I strongly support and will advocate for the Paoli train station redevelopment project.

The infrastructure of the station is outdated and dilapidated.  The roads around the station are unsafe and gridlocked.  Lack of parking is a significant contributing cause of failed local businesses.  Tredyffrin has lost out to neighboring townships in attracting new businesses because of the limited usefulness and overall undesirability of the Paoli station.  We cannot afford to continue to do so.  Exactly why the project has lagged is not as important at this juncture as recognizing the progress made in the last few years and keeping the pressure on to advance the project. Tredyffrin has a unique opportunity to transform a run-down station into a vibrant, smart growth transportation center.  Intelligent redevelopment of the Paoli Rail Yard will encourage economic development in the Township, improve local traffic problems, alleviate congestion on local roads and encourage rail travel.

This project is going to happen. Tredyffrin and SEPTA have already put the wheels in motion for transit, station, parking and area road improvements, using mostly federal grants.  I have existing relationships with the Township and State leaders who are active participants in the reinvigoration of this project.  As Supervisor, I will ask to be a member of the Township’s Task Force, making it one of my top priorities.

Kristen Kirk Mayock
Republican Candidate for Supervisor-At-Large
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Tredyffrin’s Opportunity. Some might offer the following reasons for the more than fifteen year tortuous path of the Paoli Transportation Center (Center)—complicated project, numerous governmental and private stakeholders, burdensome procedures, environmental issues, money, developers, and two townships.  I say that this project has suffered from a lack of political will and vision.  The Tredyffrin community would have long been enjoying a completed Center and a vibrant Paoli if Tredyffrin’s governmental leaders had vigorously pursued this important project with vision and leadership.

I fully support the completion of the Paoli Transportation Center.  This project creates jobs, short term and long term.  The Center will revitalize Paoli.  It will help make Paoli a vibrant town center in and for our Tredyffrin community.  The new Paoli will mean an expanded tax base for the Township. 

If elected, I will fight for the completion of the Paoli Transportation Center.  I will work with my fellow supervisors to present a united front in Harrisburg in the pursuit of project priority and funding. I will lobby legislators and other governmental officials, alone and with other stakeholders, relentlessly seeking our  rightful share of funds.  We must seize this opportunity for our Tredyffrin community.

Thank you,

F. Michael “Murph” Wysocki
Democratic Candidate for Supervisor-At-Large

I hope that this offers some perspective on where the Paoli Transportation Center project stands with our elected officials and an indication from supervisor candidates as to what they would do to help the process, should they be elected.  For those unable to respond by today’s deadline, due to work or vacation schedules, I will be glad to add their comments at a later time. 

Also, it is my understanding that there will be an official update on the Paoli Transportation Center project at Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting.  Looks like  progress and forward movement on the project may be coming this way  . . . .

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Supporting Corbett’s Budget, Rep Kampf claims it a “Victory for All Taxpayers”

I received an official email from Rep Warren Kampf supporting the newly approved state budget and claiming that it a “victory for all taxpayers”. Included in the email was a YouTube video of Kampf’s remarks presented last night in Harrisburg.  The 4 min. video contains something for everyone . . . I encourage you to watch it and look forward to your comments.

Hear my Floor Remarks from Last Night’s Budget Vote

I heard you.
Last night was a victory for all taxpayers because after eight years of uncontrolled spending and borrowing, we have brought fiscal discipline back to state government.?

View my remarks

This budget recognizes the financial burdens we’ve placed on our families and reverses these trends by reducing spending and rejecting tax increases when people can least afford them.

I also knew we could do a better job prioritizing spending than the governor did in his proposal, and we have. Local schools will receive millions of dollars more than proposed. For example, we were able to restore $1.276 million to the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District alone.

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Political Shortcuts Around Tredyffrin . . .

We learned this week from the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee (TTDEMS) there would be some changes on the November ballot.  At-large Democratic supervisor candidate Ernie Falcone’s name appeared on the May primary ballot.  However, according to a press release from Dariel Jamieson, chair of the TTDEMS, Falcone has withdrawn from the race, stating ‘personal reasons’.  Replacing Falcone as a Democratic at-large supervisor candidate is Murph Wysocki, currently serving as vice chair of the TTDEMS.  Wysocki joins Molly Duffy as at-large Democratic candidates.  Opposing Wysock and Duffy in November for the 2 at-large supervisor seats will be Republicans Kristen Mayock and Mike Heaberg.  At last month’s special election, Heaberg won the special election by 2 votes and now occupies the vacated seat of Warren Kampf.  You need a scorecard to keep track of the candidates and the races.

Due to the at-large supervisor candidate switch, I assume that the TTDEMS have to provide the required number of signatures for Wysocki by the August deadline.  Falcone must file to officially remove his name from the general election and the TTDEMS will file the necessary paperwork for Wysocki.  Also noted in Jamieson’s press release was the announcement that John Cameron, a Democratic committee person from W1 received 979 write-in ballots in the May primary and will run as a candidate for Township Auditor.  Cameron will oppose incumbent Bryan Humbarger (R) for the position.

In addition to the two at-large supervisor races, there are two other Tredyffrin supervisor races . . . in the eastern district, incumbent Paul Olson (R) will be challenged by Tory Snyder (D).  This is going to be a very interesting race in the township for several reasons.  Olson has served on the Board of Supervisors fir 30 years with only a 2-year leave a few years back.  Snyder is a first-time supervisor candidate but has served on the township’s Planning Commission for several years and recently chaired the sidewalk subcommittee.   If the township supervisors do not resolve the St. Davids sidewalk issue by election time, that issue is apt to play an important role in the Olson-Snyder race . . . Snyder supports the Green Routes network and the township’s plan for sidewalks whereas Olson opposes the sidewalks at St. Davids. 

In Tredyffrin’s western region, District 3 has a supervisor position also on the November ballot.  Incumbent supervisor John DiBuonaventuro (R) currently holds the seat and has no Democratic opposition.  The District 3 supervisor race is the only unopposed Tredyffrin race for the general election.  However, there is 5 weeks for that scenario to change!  The deadline for a third-party ‘Independent’ candidate to register for the November general election is August 1. 

To understand the process and the registration requirements for an Independent candidate, I called Chester County Voter Services.  First off, to register as an Independent candidate for November’s general election, you must already be a registered third-party Independent voter (And I believe that you needed to be registered by April 10 as an Independent). Assuming that you meet the initial registration criteria, an Independent candidate must file a ‘Nomination Form’ with required signatures by August 1.  How many signatures are required by the Independent candidate?  An Independent candidate is required to obtain signatures equal to 2% of the highest vote getter in the last election (November 2010) in the district for which the candidate will register. 

According to Michael at voter services, in the 2010 general election District 3, Gerlach received the highest number of votes – 2,538. Calculating 2% of that vote total, and a prospective Independent supervisor will need to obtain 51 signatures for the Nomination Form.  Required signatures can come from Republicans, Democrats or Independents as long as the person is a registered voter and is in one of the 4 precincts of District 3.  Here’s an interesting aside . . . In doing the precinct calculations for me, Michael discovered an interesting fact . . .  in the 2010 State House 157 race, the vote count in District 3 for Warren Kampf and Paul Drucker was exactly the same – 2,239 votes for each.

Back to District 3 discussion, how many registered Independents live in District 3? Assuming that my arithmetic is accurate, the combined total of registered Independents from the 4 precincts in District 3 of the township is 1,240. That means there are 1,240 voters who could collect the required 51 signatures to register as an Independent supervisor candidate and appear on the general election ballot.  If you believe that there should be choice in November and you are a registered Independent in District 3, perhaps you will consider challenging JD for his supervisor seat.  However, the clock is ticking . . . only 5 weeks for registered Independents in District 3 to make up their mind.

A few more political notes . . . This week I attended the Chester County Preservation Network dinner and reception.  An annual event, it highlights the preservation work of the HARBS and Historical Commissions throughout Chester County.  I had the pleasure of meeting the newly appointed County Commission Ryan Costello (R).  A supporter of historic preservation, Costello was charming and quite personable . . . I could really see him continuing to climb the political ladder. I also received a press release that our former State Rep Paul Drucker (D) will be starting a new job with Kunkle & Sennett, a West Chester law firm specializing in worker’s compensation and employment law. 

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Looks like the 422 Tolling Vision has Taken a Step Forward to Becoming Tomorrow’s Reality!

The vision of some to toll 422 moved one step closer to a reality yesterday . . . and by all accounts, did so with flying colors. 

Barry Seymour of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission (DVRPC) along with Joe Hoeffel, Montgomery County Commissioner presented the 422-tolling proposal to the Governors Transportation Funding Advisory Commission.  To review the 422 Corridor Plus slide presentation from the meeting, click here.  — I found the information detailed and informative; helped to give me a better picture on the scope of the project.

I was curious to hear the comments and reactions to the 422 presentation and spoke with a Paoli resident who attended the Harrisburg meeting.  Reportedly, there was no tolling opposition from the advisory group – in fact, there was much positive feedback from those in attendance.  Although this meeting is only the first step in a long process, it seems that the DVRPC’s presentation answered several of the questions that I had —

If approved, what the timeline for the 422 project:  2015. 
How much commuter time saved:  DVRPC estimates 20 min.
Toll costs:  A range, $.50 – $2.65, depending on distance travelled.  Four electronic toll booths to be constructed; drivers to use EZ pass.

As discussed earlier, the management of the 422 tolling project would remain local and all revenue generated from the project would be used for local projects, including the light rail commuter train.  I don’t know how I feel about creating another commission or board for this project.  According to a friend, this project could fall under the umbrella of the PA Turnpike Commission with a mandate to keep the tolls generated from 422 locally in Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties. If that’s the case, why create another board; why not have the project fall under the Turnpike Commissioner’s responsibility. I guess the thought is if the project is handled separately under local management, it helps sell the project to residents and possibly adds a level guarantee that the tolling dollars remain here.

In asking how the project would be funded, I was told that initially it would be funded with a $1 billion bond, which would be repaid by tolling revenue.  I’m guessing that the bond issue needs support from the local municipalities involved – would the funding of the project require a voter referendum in the Chester, Montgomery and Berks county districts involved?

Looks like the 422 tolling vision of some has taken a step forward to becoming tomorrow’s reality!

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