Rich Brake

TESD Voters will select 4 school board directors on Tuesday — Who will get your vote?

Commenters have started a dialogue on the last Community Matters post about the selection of TE school board directors.  The discussion is important and I want it to continue. On Tuesday, the TE community will select 4 school board members from the 8 candidates in the race.

The following are TESD School Board candidates:

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

** Buraks and Brake are incumbents seeking re-election for another 4-year term.  With the exception of Piccioni and Kim, the other candidates participated in the League of Women Voters forum.  In case you missed it, click here.

With the exception of Kim, the other candidates supplied Main Line Media News with a brief statement that contained their background, experience and why they thought they should be elected (or re-elected as in the case of Buraks and Brake). Click here for the MLMN article on the school board candidates.

Beyond the LWV forum and statements in the newspaper, you can find further information online – some of  the TE school board candidates have their own websites.   A quick Google search found Tredyffrin residents Buraks, Connors, Dorsey and Brake with websites but I couldn’t find sites for Easttown candidates.  Additional information can be found on the Democratic school board and supervisor candidates at Tredyffrin Township Democrats website, www.ttdems.com.  Unfortunately, the local Republican Committee in Tredyffrin has not updated their website since before the May Primary, www.ttgop.org .  And then we have all been bombarded with the endless stream of campaign literature in the mailbox.  As a registered Independent, I have the good fortune (?!) of receiving candidate campaign flyers from the Democrats, Republicans and any ‘other’ political party affiliation!

There has been much discussion on Community Matters about ‘knowing’ the candidates before you go on Election Day.  As voters, what should we look for in a school board candidate?  What important issues in TESD are important to you, the voter … teacher contract negotiations, special education, outsourcing, pension reform, transparency, quality of education, employee morale, respect for diverse points of view, property taxes, etc.?  Which candidate supports your position?

At the baseline, we know that all the school board candidates believe in the value of public education. But who do we select that will govern with the interests of the entire school community – the children, the parents, the taxpayers. Whose background and experience makes him or her most qualified for your vote?

I welcome your comments on the 8 TE school board candidates but will not post any comments that contain personal attacks or mention of candidates spouses and/or children.  Please keep the focus of your comments on the individual candidates and the important District issues.

League of Women Voters Debate: Part I, TE School Board Candidates

democrats-republicansYesterday, the League of Women Voters held the TE School Board candidate debate and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors candidate debate.  I attended both debates.  Although the debates were not shown live, they will be available for viewing (Comcast 2 and Verizon 24 channels) sometime after Monday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting.  My guess is that there will be separate schedules for the two debates – check the township website for details.

Unfortunately, due to the lateness of scheduling, the school board debate was limited to a 1-hour format versus the 2-hour supervisor debate format.  In speaking with the League of Women Voters representative, Mary Lou Dondero, before the debate, I learned more about their scheduling process.  Ms. Dondero was none too pleased about the lateness of which the school board candidates debate was scheduled.  When asked who was responsible for debate scheduling, it was interesting to learn that it not the local political party leaders that should ask but rather the candidates themselves who should contact the LWV.  This is good information to know going forward.

Six of the eight school board candidates participated (due to prior commitments, Easttown Democrats Maryann Piccioni and Jean Kim were unable to attend). After each candidate presented a 2-minute opening personal statement, the moderator read questions, which audience members had anonymously submitted.  Each question was answered by all candidates with the moderator giving each candidate the opportunity to be first to answer.  Following the questions, each candidate had an opportunity for a 2-minute closing statement.

The LWV debate is not the traditional format that many of us recall from our high school/college days, but rather a Q&A forum. The downside of the LWV debate style is it does not allow for rebuttal by candidate. Case in point, the LWV repeatedly asked the candidates (both school board and supervisors) to respond to the specific question yet several candidates answered the LWV questions with accusations against their opponents.  Due to the LWV format, it made it difficult for the candidates to defend the accusations.

Everyone that follows Community Matters knows that I fought for a school board candidate debate.  Important school district issues surfaced this year, making for a contentious situation for all involved — the Board, administration, employees and the public.  For my efforts in moving the school board debate forward, some questioned my agenda.  If I had an agenda, it was simple – voters need to ‘know’ the candidates and candidates need to have the opportunity to deliver their views on issues, before Election Day.  Hindsight being 20/20, I’m actually glad that I had nothing to do with the school board debate other than to attend.  I cannot be accused of unfairness or a bias in the organization of the debate – candidates were not coerced; they own their words.

For those of us who regularly attend and/or watch the school board meetings, there was little surprise in most of the audience questions. As a result of contentious school board meetings this year, many of the questions related to communication, trust, transparency and morale issues, — asking what would the candidates do to ‘improve’ the current situation, if elected.

Five of the six candidates spoke of the need to improve communication and several of them mentioned morale issues.  School board director Rich Brake (R), who is seeking re-election, accepted that there have been communication issues between the Board and the residents and spoke of the need to improve the dialogue, suggesting town hall meetings. Brake believes that the negativity issues need to be handled directly and wants to bring people together. It was refreshing to have a current elected official acknowledge the problems, accept responsibility and suggest ways for improvement.

With a similar response, Brake’s opponent Scott Dorsey (D) supports greater transparency and open dialogue between the public and the Board, suggesting a public advisory board. Dorsey spoke out against the Board’s use of the consent agenda and suggested its use should be reconsidered. The consent agenda is designed for routine items, such as meetings minutes. However, as Dorsey explained, the consent agenda takes away the public’s right to question an issue.  The consent agenda can bury an item that the Board does not want publically discussed.  In my opinion, in 2013 we saw the misuse of the consent agenda by the school board for the hiring of Andy Chambers and the inclusion of administrator raises and bonuses.  If the hiring of the former police chief as the District’s security expert or giving raises to the administrators was such a  good idea, why not openly discuss them in a public school board meeting, than than buried in a consent agenda. Dorsey was the only candidate to address the consent agenda issue.

Easttown Republicans Doug Carlson and Virginia Lastner spoke favorably on the topic of communication, wanting to see greater resident participation and awareness of District issues.  Lastner wants the employees to feel that they can speak candidly and not risk their jobs by speaking out.  Referring to her background and prior elected positions in Connecticut, Lastner is a proponent of the “listen and learn” concept.

Tredyffrin school board candidate Pete Connors (R) remarks on this topic included “morale starts with leadership”.  Connors believes that there exists a trust issue in the community and proposed an advisory citizens group.  He specifically cited the threat of outsourcing and the proposed demolition of the tennis courts where the Board was forced to reverse their decisions due to the public.  Concerned about the Board’s lack of transparency that has decisions being made in private, Connors promoted a greater sharing of information with the public.

The consistent theme from Brake, Dorsey, Connors, Lastner and Carlson was the need for the school board to provide greater communication opportunities for the public. Dorsey, Brake and Connors took it a step further and spoke of changing the negative tone, improving trust and respectfulness and supporting the creation of some type of citizen advisory group.

As president of the school board, Kevin Buraks (D) was center front to the confrontational monthly and committee school board meetings of 2013 yet did not agree with the other candidates on District morale or communication issues.  Unmistakably Buraks is disconnected to the important issues raised by his fellow school board director Rich Brake and by Democrat Scott Dorsey.  At times, it was hard to believe that Buraks and Brake are both on the same school board or that Buraks and Dorsey are representing the same local political party.

Responding to a question, Buraks stated clearly that there are no morale issues in the District. He further commented that if there were moral issues in the District, the employees would leave.  On the issue of communication, his stance is that the school board already provides an open forum, is transparent and that through emails, website, etc. all District information is available.  He pointed out that the Board listened to the public about the demolition of the tennis courts and the outsourcing of the aides and paras and reversed their decision. In other words, according to school board president Kevin Buraks, there is no trust, respect or communication issues in the school district. He backed these assertions by continuously pointing to T/E school district’s rankings as his proof.

So overall, was there any new ‘news’ or any surprises learned from the school board candidate debate for me?  Yes and no.  Because I regularly attend the school board meetings and understand most of the issues, some of the information was not new.  However, I did not know the background and views of Easttown residents Virginia Lastner and Doug Carlson, so appreciated the opportunity to learn more about them.  I know candidates Pete Connors and Scott Dorsey and both have previously spoken out about the District’s communication and transparency issues, so was not surprised by their responses.

The surprise was in the school board incumbents performances. Perhaps it is because Kevin Buraks is an attorney, but his stance during the debate was not to back down or take responsibility for any of the public’s  perceived ‘miss-steps’ of the school board or of his term as the president.  I guess as an attorney, you make a calculation and then stand by your decision, using the mantra of no ‘do-overs’ allowed. Taking the approach that because the TE School District is highly ranked, Buraks wants the voters to believe it is a result of his leadership.  Other the other hand, incumbent Rich Brake took a completely different approach and surprised me with his candor. Portraying himself as somewhat of a school board outsider, Brake acknowledged that there needs to be greater dialogue with the public and more openness.  Whereas Buraks would have the public believe that everything is cohesive and agreeable among the school board directors, Brake paints a very different picture.

These are my personal observations from the school board debate, I welcome others who attended to contribute their opinion.  If you did not attend the debate, I would encourage you to watch in on online when it is available.

Four weeks and counting until Election Day

Election Day 2013 is 4 weeks from tomorrow, Tuesday, November 5.  If you are not registered, today is the last day to register to vote in the Municipal Election.  Applications from Pennsylvanians registering for the first time, those changing their address or changing their party affiliation must be postmarked or delivered to Chester County’s board of elections by the close of business today, October 7.  Chester County’s board of elections is located at Government Services Center, 601 Westtown Rd., Suite 150, West Chester, PA 19380. Their phone number: 610-344-6410. Office hours: 8:30 AM – 4:30 PM.

Do you know the candidates for the Board of Supervisor or the Tredyffrin Easttown School Board? What issues facing the township and school district are important to you – do the candidates share your concerns, your opinions? How likely are you to vote on November 5?

If you are a voter in Tredyffrin Township, you will have an opportunity to learn more about the Board of Supervisors candidates.  The League of Women Voters is holding a supervisor debate on Saturday, October 19, 2-4 PM at the Tredyffrin Township Building. There are three contested seats on the Board – two for supervisor-at-large and a district supervisor for the middle district.  Seeking one of the two at-large supervisor seats is incumbent Michelle Kichline (R), Trip Lukens (R), Murph Wysocki (D) and Mark Freed (D).  Current at-large supervisor E.J. Richter (R) is opposing Laurie Elliott (D) for the middle district seat.

In recent years, the League of Women Voters also has held a debate for the TE School Board candidates. Unfortunately, the volunteer organization will not hold a similar debate this year for the school board candidates.  This is an important time to know your candidates – what are their backgrounds and experience, where do they stand on issues, etc. etc.  So … why no debate for the school board candidates?  Do you know who the school board candidates are?

On the Tredyffrin side of the school district, we have Democrat incumbent Kevin Buraks being challenged by Republican Pete Connors in Region I.  In Region II, Scott Dorsey (D) opposes incumbent Rich Brake (R).

On the Easttown side of the school district, there are two seats available in Region III.  For personal reasons, neither Betsy Fadem (R) nor Anne Crowley (D) is seeking re-election.  I attend almost every school board meeting and I have not met any of the four candidates vying for the two open Region III seats.  The candidates are Republicans Doug Carlson and Virginia Lastner and Democrats Maryann Piccioni and Jean Kim.

School board candidates Pete Connors and Scott Dorsey have each stated that they want the opportunity to discuss school district issues and are interested in pursuing a debate forum with the other school board candidates — Neither knows why a debate was not scheduled as in prior years. Because of my discussion with Connors and Dorsey (and the interest from the public in learning about the school board candidates), several options are being explored.  However, with only 4 weeks remaining until Election Day 2013, it does not leave much time to organize a ‘meet your school board candidate’ forum.

If the past is any indication, the political war for control will rear its ugly head over the next 30 days with school board and supervisor candidates door knocking, campaign mail pieces hitting our houses and the robo-calls that invariably come at dinnertime.  Voters need a reason to go the polls on November 5 – they need to know the issues and which candidates support their views. Everyone should be interested in the election because the future of the township, the school district and the community are dependent upon strong, issue-focused leadership.  The issues are complex and the School Board (and the Board of Supervisors) must work as a team united (with the community) to find effective solutions.

Outcome of TE School Board Meeting more suited for black roses than white ribbons!

Much like the last TE School Board meeting on May 13, the audience was filled with residents and staff, including aides, paraeducators, paraprofessionals, teachers and TENIG members … the outcome of the evening more suited for black roses than white ribbons!

The same 9-0 Board vote to cut the weekly hours of aides and paras to part-time, 27.5 hours could have taken place in the first 5 minutes of the meeting, rather than dragging the vote out until 10:30 PM.  To those of us who attended, we all now know that the minds of the school board members were made up before the meeting ever started.

During the first public comment period of the night, TESD resident Neal Colligan delivered a statement that included the timeline of activity surrounding the decision on the District’s aides, paraeducators and paraprofessionals.  The ever-changing status of this group of District employees began six weeks ago with the outsourcing of their jobs to STS.  When STS pulled its proposal, the District turned to another outsourcing company CCRES.  Its unclear what happened with the CCRES outsourcing plan – that plan disappeared without explanation.  In its place, the employees were notified about 10 days ago, that their hours would be cut to part-time.

Colligan stated, “No one has seen a vote on any of these decisions.  The community, the employees who live in our community and the members of the public who have taken an interest in this issue ask for that vote tonight.”  He asked that the Board listen to the residents before taking the vote.

Often we hear residents complain about a local issue but when you suggest they speak up at a public hearing the answer most likely is this:  “Why bother, no one listens.”  Nothing truer could have been said about last night’s school board meeting! After a series of meetings, phone conversations and emails with many of the District aides and paras, it was clear they feared retribution if they spoke publically.  Believing that the Board needed to hear their testimonials, I collected personal statements to read.  With the 5 min. limit imposed for individual resident comments, I was only able to get through two letters.  I appealed for audience volunteers and residents lined up to read aloud the letters into the  meeting testimony.

The thoughtfully written personal statements are with an insight that only comes with years of experience in the school district.  Although personally affected by the decision to reduce their hours to part-time, the overriding concern of aides and paraprofessionals in their statements, is for the education, safety and well-being of our District’s children.

Click here to read full text of personal statements written the TE School Board.  Below are excerpted quotes:

  –  There is no substitute, when working with all children and especially kids with needs, for consistency, continuity, trust and relationship.

–  The aides and paras have been treated as puppets and the Administration and School Board are the Puppet Masters.

–  The loss of hours, I fear, will cause unnecessary turnover of staff with detrimental effects on school programs and the students of the district.

–  We go the extra mile because many of us had our own children go through TE and we are proud of the TE tradition.  You cannot pay for that.  Many of the aides were originally volunteers at their schools, putting in many hours making TE schools what they are.

–  What does affect me is seeing our school district begin a race to the bottom under the care of this school board.  The beginning of the “Walmart-ization” of our district as one speaker called it at a recent meeting.

–  There is a saying in organizational psychology, “If you want to know what is important to leaders don’t listen to what they say, watch what they do.”  What do you think your end run around the ACA says about how important the aides are to this school board?

–  The school board doesn’t care about us and they never will.

–  The relationship and bond between the aides and the children will be shattered with a revolving door of strangers in their lives. Beyond the nightmare of scheduling problems with all the part-time workers, are you prepared for the security risks that will come with brining all these new people into the schools?

–  If something bad happens as a result of your actions towards the aides and paraprofessionals of TE, it’s going to be your fault and no one else’s – you will have to live with the consequences.

In addition to the anonymous testimonials read for the record, several brave employees delivered their own written statements to the School Board, which contained similar sentiments.  Audience members who volunteered to read the personal statements, added their own messages of support for the aides, and encouragement to the Board to do the right thing.  On behalf of the TESD teachers, Laura Whittaker, president of the teachers union, delivered an impassioned plea to save the hours of the aides and paras, describing their important contribution to the District’s children and their families.

Following-up on her comments presented at last week’s Finance Committee meeting, TESD resident Joanne Sonn, sought and received guidance from the National Women’s Law Center, a Washington DC advocacy group with expertise in healthcare law.  Sonn presented a letter (click here to read) to the Board from Dania Palanker, Senior Counsel at the Women’s Law Center. The letter puts forth the assertion that under current laws a self‐insured plan  (to which TESD switched in 2011) can be in compliance with nondiscriminatory testing regulations while still offering a separate group of 30‐40 hr. /week workers a lesser valued plan.  As a result of Palanker’s information, Sonn respectfully requested the Board to reconsider its plans to avoid Affordable Care Act compliance by reducing the hours of District employees to part-time status.

The legal opinion of Palanker was dismissed by the District’s solicitor Ken Roos and the benefit expert from his firm, attorney Rhonda Grubbs.  They remained constant in their advice to the Board … claiming that the only way to avoid the ‘possible’ penalties of the ACA was to reduce employee hours to under 30 hours per week.  It was stated and re-stated by some Board members that the District could not afford the cost of healthcare for the lowest paid District employees nor could we afford the cost of possible associated penalties for ACA non-compliance.

So … in the end, the Board took a vote (9-0) to decrease the hours of aides, paraeducators and paraprofessionals to 27.5 hours a week.  The vote also represented a decision not to listen to the residents, parents, aides and paras, teachers or the senior counsel of the National Women’s Law Center. Instead, all school board members chose to follow the opinion of the District solicitor.  Sadly, the takeaway from the Board’s action is that if you live in this community and feel that, you are not being listened to or acknowledged, you are probably right.

The Board’s claims that the District cannot afford healthcare for the lowest paid and/or the possible financial risks for ACA noncompliance may work for some residents.  However, these claims of fiscal responsibility ring false when we learn that the District, for another year in a row, has uncovered a multi-million budget surplus. Or that the Board can afford to give bonuses to administrators and raises to the District solicitor and his attorneys … or that the Board can stand behind a 10-year $50 million ‘dream’ facilities  plan to be paid for by taxpayers for years to come.  Beyond our yearly tax increases, we have a school board who chooses to go after revenue from nonprofit organizations and seeks to charge taxpayers for the use of tennis courts.

The most troubling aspect of the school board meeting was the Board’s total disregard for the residents and their message.  Our ‘collective’ votes elected these people to listen to us; but based on last night, it was obvious that what the community wants is not part of the Board’s agenda.  Residents need to learn to vote for representatives that will listen and serve us instead of only pandering to us during election time.

To review … Of the nine currently serving school board members, Anne Crowley and Betsy Fadem, are not seeking re-election, their terms end December 31, 2013.  Kevin Buraks and Rich Brake are seeking re-election and their names will appear on the November ballot.  Buraks and Brake’s opponents, Pete Connors and Scott Dorsey, respectfully, support the District staff and spoke out last night against the Board’s decision to cut the hours of aides and paraeducators.  In addition, Connors questioned the proposed budget expenditures and surplus and to his credit, Dorsey asked for (and received) an apology from school board member Pete Motel for his behavior toward resident Joanne Sonn at the Finance Committee meeting.

—————————————————————————

Note:  With the 10:30 PM vote to decrease the aides and paras to 27.5 hours, over half of the audience got up and walked out, including myself.  For those that remained, it is my understanding that Rich Brake delivered a lengthy personal statement and presumably the 2013-14 budget was passed.  This was the first time I have ever left a public meeting before it ended but somehow there seemed little reason to stay.  For those that did stay, please fill us in on what we missed.

Easttown Region III School Board Members Betsy Fadem and Anne Crowley decide not to seek re-election to TESD

As a follow-up to my last post on Tredyffrin Township supervisor candidates and TESD School Board candidates, I have updated information on the two Easttown, Region III positions on the T/E School Board.  The two current Region III Board members Betsy Fadem (R) and Anne Crowley (D) are not seeking re-election.

Exceeded in longevity only by Pete Motel, who is in his fourth term on the School Board, Ms. Fadem has decided that three terms on the Board is her limit.  Ms. Fadem was elected to the Board in 2001 and 2013 marks her twelfth year in office — she will finish her third term this December.  Currently Ms. Fadem chairs the Finance Committee and serves on the Facilities and Policy Committees.

When I asked Ms. Fadem if there was a reason behind her decision not to seek re-election, she responded with the following:

I have decided not to seek re-election for a fourth term as a T/E School Director and will complete twelve years on the Board in December 2013. I believe it is time for a new generation of members to serve.

I am proud of the work and accomplishments of the Board and the District during my tenure and I look forward to other opportunities to serve the community.

The other currently serving Easttown, Region III Board member, Anne Crowley, has also decided not to seek re-election.  Ms. Crowley was elected to the Board in 2009 and currently serves on the Policy and Legislative Committees.  Behind Ms. Crowley’s decision not to seek a second term on the Board, is the idea of giving others in the community an opportunity to serve.

Since the first of the year, there have been two particularly important votes taken by the Board – the vote to hire former police chief Andy Chambers as the District security expert and the vote to approve a consent agenda that included administrator raises (therefore not allowing for public discussion).  In both of these important votes, Ms. Crowley cast a dissenting vote. Lack of Board transparency was her stated reason in both of these votes.  Transparency in our government’s actions is very important; thank you Anne for also making it a priority.  I would be remiss if I did not also say that Rich Brake, like Ms. Crowley, cast dissenting votes on these two issues, stating lack of transparency as his reason.

There are four Easttown, Region III candidates for the School Board.  Doug Carlson, Virginia Lastner and Maryann Piccioni are cross filed, Republican and Democrat and Jean Kim has filed as a Democrat only.  The Tredyffrin, Region I candidates for the School Board, incumbent Kevin Buraks (D) and Peter Connors (R) are cross-filed, Republican and Democrat and Tredyffrin, Region II candidates for the Board, incumbent Rich Brake (R) and Scott Dorsey (D) are also cross-filed Republican and Democrat.

Democrats and Republicans Finalize Slate of Tredyffrin Supervisor and T/E School Director Candidates

For candidates for the T/E School Board and the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, Tuesday, March 12 is the last day to circulate and file nomination petitions at Chester County Voter Services for Pennsylvania’s May 21, 2013 Primary Election.

T/E School Director candidates must file a petition signed by at least 10 qualified voters of the school district for the political party with which the petition will be filed.  Generally, school board candidates cross-file.  To cross-file in a primary election (that is, to run on both parties), a registered Democrat or Republican must circulate a proper petition for the other party.  The petition must contain signatures as previously mentioned.  If elected on both party ballots in the May primary, a candidate will appear on both party ballots in the general election in November.

The candidates for the May 21, 2013 Primary Election are as follows:

The Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following candidates for the office of Tredyffrin-Easttown School Director:

  • Tredyffrin, East – Region 1:  Pete Connors
  • Tredyffrin, West – Region 2:  Rich Brake **

The Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has endorsed the following candidates for the office of Tredyffrin-Easttown School Director:

  • Tredyffrin, East – Region 1:  Kevin Buraks **
  • Tredyffrin, West – Region 2:  Scott Dorsey

In addition to the Region 1 and Region 2 seats in Tredyffrin Township, Easttown Township, Region 3 has two school director seats up for election.  I have not confirmed whether incumbent Democrat Anne Crowley will seek a second term or Republican Betsy Fadem will seek a fourth term as School Board Directors from Region 3. I will update the Region 3, Easttown Township candidates for the T/E School Board when confirmed.

For Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee has endorsed the following candidates:

  • Supervisor at Large:  Michelle Kichline **
  • Supervisor at Large:  Trip Lukens
  • District 2 Middle::  EJ Richter ** (a)

For Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors, the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee has endorsed the following candidates:

  • Supervisor at Large:  Murph Wysocki
  • Supervisor at Large:  Mark Freed
  • District 2 Middle:  Laurie Elliott

** Incumbent

(a) Currently serving as a Tredyffrin Township At-Large supervisor, Evelyn Richter will seek re-election; not as an At-Large candidate but as a candidate in the Middle, District 2 race.  The current Middle, District 2 supervisor Phil Donahue has decided not to seek a second term.

In a review of the slate of candidates, there are some familiar names and some not so familiar names among the list. Republicans Michelle Kichline and Evelyn Richter are seeking re-election to the Board of Supervisors and Democrat Kevin Buraks and Republican Rich Brake to the T/E School Board. Another couple of recognizable names on the list …Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee have endorsed former candidates, attorney Murph Wysocki for an At-Large Board of Supervisors seat and pastor/administrator Scott Dorsey for the School Board in Region 2.

Also familiar is the current chair of Tredyffrin Township Planning Commission, Republican Trip Lukens, endorsed by the local Republican Committee as an At-Large supervisor candidate.  If you recall, Tredyffrin Planning Commissioner Tory Snyder, a Democratic candidate in the last election, lost by a handful of votes to Republican incumbent Paul Olson, for the District 1 East supervisor seat.  For those that regularly attend or watch Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors meetings, you may have seen Laurie Elliott at the microphone. A Glenhardie area resident, Elliott has been involved in the Trout Creek Overlay District and the Richter property development project, and now seeks to represent residents as a Middle, District 2 supervisor.

Unfamiliar names on the list (at least to me) are At-Large Board of Supervisor candidate, Democrat Mark Freed and Tredyffrin, East – Region 1 School Director candidate Republican Pete Connors.  A quick Google search indicates Mark Freed is an attorney and shareholder at Zarwin, Baum, DeVito, Kaplan, Schaer, Toddy, PC in Philadelphia. Freed concentrates his practice in the areas of environmental and toxic tort law and litigation.  Republican Pete Connors of Wayne is the founder and President of Remcon Plastics, Inc. a plastics manufacturer in the custom molding, material handling and safety products industries headquartered in Reading, PA.

As I have done in the past, I will be posting the resumes and/or bios of the supervisor and school board candidates, at some point.  I should point out, that there’s still time if you are interested in having your name on the May Primary ballot — remember, it only takes 10 signatures to run for the School Board.  Click here for a link to Chester County Voter Services for information.

Andy Chambers Hired, Superintendent Waters to Retire and TESD Tax Increase not to Exceed 1.7%

Highlights of 1/28/13 TESD Meeting —

Adoption of the 2013-14 TESD preliminary budget:  By a unanimous vote the Board approved a resolution not to raise taxes above the Act 1 Index level of 1.7%.

Reconsideration of District Safety Consultant, Andy Chambers:  Former police chief Andy Chambers attended the TESD meeting last night.  Chambers offered no comment; however Superintendent Waters defended his choice in Chambers, offering a list of his qualifications, and firmly stating that the hiring was not cronyism as some in the public had suggested. TESD solicitor Ken Roos stated that he was of the opinion that the Board had not violated the Sunshine Act with the consent agenda approval of January 7 to hire Chambers.  However, Roos recommended the ‘reconsideration’ of Chambers so as to avoid possible legal costs to the District, if the Board’s January 7 action was legally pursued.

There was no mention from Waters, Roos or the Board members with regards to  the issues surrounding Chambers departure from the Tredyffrin Twp Police Department.  A few residents spoke in favor of hiring Chambers with only one resident asking about the “two sides of the story”, referring to the Finance Committee meeting and the dialogue between myself and Chambers and Kevin Buraks.

Although all members of the Board supported Chambers as qualified to serve as District Safety Consultant, two Directors voted against his hiring.  Using the lack of transparency in the process as reason, Anne Crowley and Rich Brake did not vote with their fellow board members to hire Chambers.  Crowley read a prepared statement, saying that although Chambers’ was qualified; she spoke of the need for transparency and that other candidates (besides Chambers) should have been reviewed in the process. Chambers was approved as District Safety Consultant 7-2.

Consent agreement and the inclusion of the Supervisory, Confidential and Administrator Compensation Plan, Compensation Adjustments for 2013-14 and One-Time Bonus:  Ray Clarke asked if these items could be separated from the consent agenda for Board and public discussion.  Board President Kevin Buraks response to Ray was that the discussion of these items could occur after the consent agenda approval.

Buraks took the vote to approve the consent agenda without discussion.  The Board voted to approve the consent agenda with the exception of two members.  Although voting with their Board members on the rest of the consent agenda, Crowley and Brake excluded their approval of the compensation plan , adjustment and bonus (#C2 and #C3), again using transparency in the process as the reason.

Following the consent agenda approval, Waters explained the compensation plan and budget impact.  Unfortunately, at this point it was 11 PM, and I did not understand his explanation of the specifics of the costs.  (If anyone has the details, please offer them as a comment.) Again on the defensive, Water defended the compensation plan, etc. listed as a consent agenda item – stating that this is the way it has been done for 10 years.  My response is – does that therefore make it right?  I have previously stated that the purpose of the consent agenda is for routine items (such as meeting minutes or financial reports) and I do not view a multi-year compensation plan and bonus as routine.

The other noteworthy item of the evening, occurred during Waters’ explanation of the compensation plan and budget impact — Waters announced his retirement at the end of the 2014/15 school year, explaining that he wanted to have the compensation plan in place for his successor.

For the record, between Waters and Roos talking about ‘blogs’ and ‘blog comments’ and the presence of Andy Chambers at the meeting, I found the meeting more than a little intimidating. Although Community Matters was never mentioned ‘by name’, the continual reference to the blogosphere was not lost on me.

It’s important that the public‘s business be done in public, so that we can be fully informed.  When the right to public discussion is removed, it becomes our responsibility to speak out … our ‘collective voices’ are important. An easy cure for lack of transparency is full visibility.

Tredyffrin Township’s Constitutional Conversations: The Battle for Ratification

Segment 2, ‘The Battle for Ratification’ of the Constitutional Conversations cable series is now available for viewing.  According to the description provided by co-hosts Rich Brake and Dennis Gallagher, this segment discusses “… the process and the political intrigue surrounding the ratification of America’s new Constitution.  They also introduce how the two founding father groups, the Federalists and the Anti-Federalists, debated and resolved their philosophical differences to arrive at a compromise resulting in America’s new system of government.”

I watched Segment 2 of the series, and with no disrespect intended, it took me 3 failed attempts before I could get past the first 10 min. of the 29-min. show.  Although both Brake and Gallagher are identified as ‘Constitution Scholars’, from my vantage point it seemed that Gallagher’s role was that of an interviewer asking questions, with responses left to Brake.  Not that there is anything wrong with that approach, I just think it is a bit of a misnomer that they refer to themselves as co-hosts.   In my opinion, this segment was a bit disjointed in the delivery of information with some technical, editing and sound issues, making it difficult to follow at times.

When discussing the ratification of the Constitution, many nuances exist between the Federalists and the Anti-Federalist point of views and they should be thoroughly considered — each group waged a verbal war in hopes of winning public support for their side. The supporters of the Constitution, the Federalists, argued that the nation needed a stronger national government to create order and stability whereas the anti-Federalists supported the states’ rights approach to government.  Arguing that the Constitution gave too much power to the national government at the expense of the state governments, the Bill of Rights became a weapon of defense and the most effective tool for the anti-Federalists.  They demanded a more balanced Constitution, one that would be careful to protect the rights of the people and to set limitations on the power of the government.  The American people had just fought a war to defend their rights and they did not want an intimidating national government taking those rights away again. Although the anti-Federalists lost the ratification battle, the Bill of Rights stands as a lasting testament to the importance of individual rights.

I found Brake’s discussion of citizen representation interesting.  He compares the increased size of voting districts today versus the size they were at the time of the ratification of the Constitution and ponders the question, “Can representation actually take place well, in a setting that is large and distant from the public?”  Due to the size of voting districts, Brake talks about the increased resources and finances required by politicians seeking office today.   Due to the financial demands of political campaigns, Brake laments that is likely that only the financially elite can afford to seek office.  As a result, there is a risk that elected ‘elite’ may not necessarily represent those that they seek to serve.  As a proponent of campaign finance reform, I agree with Brake on this point.

In the discussion of the original 10 amendments contained in the Bill of Rights, Brake identifies several, including freedom of speech, religion, petition, right to bear arms, freedom from search and seizure, right to counsel, etc. He points specifically to the importance of the 10th amendment — “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”  Based on Brake’s emphasis on the rights of the States under the Constitution, I was surprised that he did not use the opportunity to discuss the 10th amendment as related to the Supreme Court decision on the health care bill.  There are some, including Mitt Romney who believe that the 10th Amendment places the responsibility and care of health care to the people with the individual states.

I lay no claim as a ‘Constitution Scholar’ and offer these remarks on Constitutional Conversations solely as my opinion.  I suggest taking 29 minutes, watch Segment 2: Battle for Ratification, and offer your own thoughts. Click here to watch the second installment of Constitutional Conversations.

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.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

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.

Devon Petitions: Where do we go from here?

I attended the Devon Petitions town hall meeting last night.  Organized by Sean Moir and Rich Brake, 34 residents attended, including elected officials —  State Rep Warren Kampf, township supervisor Mike Heaberg and school board director Anne Crowley (in addition to school board director Rich Brake).

The basis for the Devon Petitions: Community Solutions for a Better Tredyffrin was a four question on-line survey.  Moir and Brake offered that they received 114 responses to their survey. The four questions were broad in their scope.  On the township side, the questions asked responders (1) to list recommendations for stimulating economic growth and (2) what did they consider the greatest challenges for long-term economic growth in the township.  On the school district side, the survey asked responders to (1) list recommendations for improving student achievement and (2) the greatest challenge to improving educational quality in T/E.

Moir presented the responses to the township side of the survey and Brake presented the responses for the school district questions.

For the township side of the survey, Moir presented the list of responses to the two questions.

Question: Revitalizing the local economy of Tredyffrin Township in these tough economic times is a top priority for our community. Please list your top two or three concrete recommendations that will stimulate economic growth without busting the township budget. Here are the responses based on the order of popularity:

1.  Paoli downtown

  • Paoli transportation center
  • Improved parking

2.  Taxes

  • Keep property taxes low
  • Tax breaks for business
  • Implement EIT
  • Don’t implement EIT
  • Chesterbrook
  • Better walkability/sidewalks
  • Community events
  • Reduce regulations

Question: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) to achieving long-term economic growth in Tredyffrin Township? Here are the responses based on the level of popularity:

1. National economy

2. Maintaining property values

3. Politics get in the way

4. Taxes

  • keep taxes low
  • reluctance to raise taxes
  • reliance on corporate taxes
  • reliance on transfer taxes

5. Improve permit process

6. No downtown

7. Lack of vision

8. Competition from other townships

As reported by Moir and Brake, the majority of those that responded to the survey, considered the Paoli town center and transportation center as most important for stimulating growth in the township.  The discussion from the audience quickly turned to the empty storefronts, not just in Paoli but also throughout the township.  The general feeling from those in attendance was there needs to be greater support for the community’s small business owners and the suggestion to reducing the ‘red tape’ of regulations and permit issues.

Two of the six members of the township’s Business Development Advisory Council, Stanford Nishikawa and Eric Kleppe attended the meeting and explained their mission was to develop strategies for economic stimulus in the township and to present their recommendations to the Board of Supervisors.

It was apparent to me last night, that many residents share my concern and desire to support small businesses in the township.  As a small business owner in the township, I find it very troubling that there are no small business owners sitting on the advisory board.  Although  Nishikawa and Kleppe discussed meeting with Judy Huey and her brother Rob (owners of Paoli Village Shoppes), I was unclear on any further outreach plans by the advisory group to small business owners.  Kleppe explained that the group started meeting in December and the project is to take 4-6 months before the public hears their recommendations. Keeping money local and in the community by supporting local small businesses is important and Nishikawa and Kleppe were encouraged to receive genuine input from the small business owners. Here’s hoping that they heard the message and take it back to the other members.

There were suggestions that the economic advisory group should look at successful business areas within the township (Gateway Shopping Center) and communities outside the township (Media,Wayne, Phoenixville,West Chester) that have successful business models and see if it can be duplicated in downtown Paoli.

The survey results indicated the national economy as the greatest challenge for achieving long-term economic growth in Tredyffrin.  Because of the economic situation, another challenge then becomes how does the community maintain their property values? Although not intended as a political project by Moir and Brake, it was interesting to note that respondents to the Devon Petition, suggested lack of vision in the community and politics as challenges for long-term economic growth in the township.

For the school district side of the survey, Brake provided a list of the responses to the two questions.

Question: Improving the educational quality of our T/E schools in these tough economic times is a top priority for our community. Please list your top two or three concrete recommendations that will improve student achievement without busting the district budget.  Here are the responses/issues to the in order of popularity:

1. Budgetary Recommendations

  • More realistic salaries, benefits & pensions for teachers
  • No more educational program cuts/maintain spending
  • New local revenue sources
  • Greater use of budgetary reserves

2. Curricular Recommendations

  • More focus on core subjects/less on non-academics
  • Reinstate improve foreign language offerings
  • Less standardized testing
  • Better math/science education
  • Maintain small class sizes
  • Better vocational/technical education for real-world jobs

3. Public Private Partnership Recommendations

  • Solicit & secure corporate support for academic programs
  • Establish institutional advancement initiatives (Philanthropy)
  • Volunteer teaching opportunities

4. School Day/Climate Recommendations (tied for 3rd)

  • Start school day later
  • More focus on average student
  • Year-round school
  • All day kindergarten
  • Redesign middle schools
  • Address drug/alcohol problem
  • More parental involvement
  • Less “busy-work” homework

5. Teacher Recommendations

  • Better support of teachers/teaching training
  • Implement merit pay programs
  • Explore alternative teacher certification programs
  • Better guidance counselors

6. IT Recommendations

  • More online courses
  •   Better IT infrastructure for e-learning
  •  Improved educational web pages

Question: What do you see as the greatest challenge(s) to improving the educational quality of our T/E schools? Here are the responses/issues to the in order of popularity:

1. Pension

2. Taxaphobia (#2 and #3 tied)

2. TEEA salaries/contract

4. Program cuts

5. Sub-par teaching methods

6. State mandates

7. Rising health costs

8. No problems with quality

9. Too much standardized testing (tied)

9. Lack of support for teachers (tied)

11. Keeping small class sizes (tied)

11. High administration costs (tied)

11. Lack of original thinking (tied)

Funding the state pension and the current teacher contract negotiations were discussed as the most important school district issues.  Although there is high regard for the T/E schoolteachers, it was the consensus that the next teachers contract needs to include a more reasonable benefit plan, particularly health care.

I have attended many school board meetings and subcommittee meetings and I don’t know of any public/private partnership discussions.  The idea of partnering with local corporations and providing volunteer teaching opportunities was innovative and could be explored ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking to help with the escalating school district cost.

I asked Moir and Brake their thoughts on last night’s meeting; were they pleased/disappointed.  Brake responded,

The results of our survey confirm that our community is fully aware of the budgetary challenges that the school district faces, as the pension crisis and a more sustainable salary and benefits package for our fine teachers were the most mentioned responses to our two education questions. These twin budgetary concerns were tied, not surprisingly, to the public’s desire to maintain our high educational standards and results. Clearly, the community is ready for problem solving in those two areas, and are eager to continue the process of educating the public in order to build community consensus and forward momentum. I walked away encouraged that we have a very smart and realistic community, and they are ready to exercise leadership in these areas.

Moir’s response,

I’ll add that I was happy with the turnout, which was 34 people including the presenters. It was nice to see a mix of state and local officials, various board and commission members, as well as residents who are not the “usual suspects” at board meetings.

Once we get our notes together, I’m hoping that the Tredyffrin Business Development Advisory Council will follow through with some of the citizen suggestions, which included meeting directly with commercial property managers, developers, and small business owners to discuss what it might take to stimulate local business development. That was something that we seemed to have consensus on that cut across party lines – just the kind of common ground we were hoping for.

Moir and Brake hope to have the meeting notes available for distribution next week.  In response to my “what’s next”, they think they will know more after they send out the notes and ask for participant feedback.  According to Brake, he is “hopeful that some audience members will take up the mantle.”

So, where does this grass roots effort really go from here?  Last night’s audience members were engaged and respectful but as contained in the meetings introduction,Tredyffrin Township has a population of 29,000 people living in 11,000 households.  Yet only 114 people responded to the Devon Petition survey and only 34 people showed up for the meeting.  Yes, it was a holiday weekend and people were away but . . .  ?

For change to occur, we need people with a vision and then the willingness and determination to make their vision a reality. The very essence of leadership is vision.  As Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”

So … where do we go from here?

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