State House 157

PA State House Representative 157 Race . . . Candidate Question #1 and Response

This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the State House 157 candidates.  As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum.  Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question.  Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted.  The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #1:   How is the Commonwealth going to help the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District’s ballooning pension obligations?

Paul Drucker’s Response:

It is important to note that there is no silver bullet to fix the pension obligations of Tredyffrin-Easttown or any of the other school districts in the 157th district. The situation in which we currently find ourselves is a cumulative effort that has been in development over the past 11 years of irresponsible handling of the pension system, combined with the stock market collapse of 2008.

Eleven years ago the rules were changed concerning vesting, multiplier rates, lump sum payouts, actuarial analysis and other matters. As a result, the Commonwealth and the respective school districts find themselves with millions of dollars of unfunded liabilities and are facing a potential spike in the payments due in the immediate future in the billions of dollars.

There are some acts the legislature can take to begin fixing this problem. This session, the House passed a pension reform bill that relieves many of these problems. By reducing the multiplier used to calculate benefits, eliminating the lump-sum payout employees receive and raising the retirement age, we addressed this crisis in a responsible, bi-partisan manner. 194 members of the House voted in favor of the bill (although, surprisingly, my opponent has stated that he opposes it). While the Senate has not yet taken action, I strongly encourage them to do so.

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The Definition of a Poor Leader as provided by Tredyffrin Township . . . distrust, discontent, anger and partisan rancor

Since last Fall, the residents of Tredyffrin Township have endured seemingly endless examples of bad governing, including;

  • $50K St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk offer
  • Fire Funding 2010 budgeting (fireworks vs. fire funding)
  • Fire company politicization
  • Improper supervisor solicitation of funding (Comcast, etc.)
  • Home Rule Charter violations
  • Inconsistent ethics decisions (Tredyffrin Historic Preservation Trust vs. Fire Funding solicitation)
  • Political party grandstanding/campaigning (cardboard check presentation)
  • Public political party commentary

 . . .  all provided courtesy of our Board of Supervisors leadership, Warren Kampf as chairman in 2009 and Bob Lamina as current chair.

Most of us have an opinion on the definition of a great leader.  It’s one of those concepts, in which everyone seems to have an opinion.  Instead of defining a great leader, what about the definition of a Poor Leader?  If you go to Webster’s Dictionary and see how they define these two words separately, here is what you get:

  • Leader – A Person or thing that leads
  • Poor – Deficient or lacking in something specified, lacking in skill, ability, or training, deficient in desirable ingredients, qualities

If you combine the two you get something like:  Poor Leader A person in a leadership role that lacks the necessary skill, ability, and overall qualities to effectively lead. 

As a leader you are tasked with delivering results.  The best leaders know that consistently delivering great results is not something that they can do in isolation.  To get members of the community to support our local government, our elected leaders need to avoid the worst traits of poor leaders.  In my experience these include:

  • Being arrogant
  • Unwillingness to learn
  • Bullying
  • Poor Communication
  • Incompetence
  • Lack of Accountability
  • Aggression
  • Insincerity
  • Deceitful
  • Ruling with an iron hand
  • Indecisiveness

This brings me to the purpose of this post.  In this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban Life, is a I See It’ article written by Tredyffrin Township Supervisor Chair Bob Lamina.  Having attending this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting hoping for an apology for his aggressive, disrespectful behavior of the April 19 supervisors meeting, you can imagine my outrage over Lamina’s outrageous, arrogant words. Do you characterize Lamina and his style of governing as an example of a good leader or a poor leader . . . you be the judge!

Much has been written over the last few months in Main Line Suburban Life, Main Line Times, Daily Local and Community Matters in regards to the governing of Tredyffrin Township and its leaders.  Since the April 19 Board of Supervisors Meeting, there have been several articles and commentary speaking directly to the leadership of Bob Lamina. Provided are some links in case you missed them:

Here is the article which appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life by Bob Lamina. Read the article and reflect on Lamina’s selective memory of the April 19 supervisors meeting.  Fortunately my memory is better and I’m hoping that Tredyffrin’s residents share my recall.   This comment already appears after Lamina’s article, ” . . . In your short tenure as the Chair of the Tredyffrin BOS, you have managed to set a record for the most missteps in the shortest period of time.  Congratulations. Disgracing your position in record time is a legacy you can be proud of long after the much-anticipated expiration of your term.”

The politics of firefighting and other matters

Published: Tuesday, May 04, 2010

By Bob Lamina

In a recent editorial, a local resident who also happens to be a local firefighter pointed out some of the qualities in our community that make so many people look to Tredyffrin as a great place to employ and be employed, to educate our children, to worship, to raise a family, to run a business. In short the qualities that make our township such a wonderful place to live. These are qualities which have long constituted the character of this community – ones which hopefully will endure in the future.

One of the qualities I’ve also mentioned on a number of occasions as being one of our township’s most endearing, qualities I believe have been equally integral to the character of our community, has been the generous spirit of volunteerism – the spirit of giving, the spirit of shared sacrifice and the spirit of shared risk and reward – that makes up the very fiber and indeed the history of our township.

That is why last fall, in that same spirit of shared sacrifice, during what remains to this day to be extraordinarily challenging economic times, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors voted to adopt a 2010 budget that contained within it some very difficult but necessary decisions. Within our budget were the results of an earlier decision to reduce our township staff by 20 positions – 11 of those through layoffs, the rest through attrition. The budget froze most other township salaries with the exception of those required by collective-bargaining agreement, we instituted a hiring freeze and we reduced the police budget. All other general fund services, with the exception of the fire companies, were reduced by at least 14 percent. 

By comparison fire-company service providers’ budgets were reduced a modest 5 percent. In so doing, we adopted I believe what the community wanted, a budget that was fair and balanced and contained no real-estate property-tax increase. Despite these good works, during our deliberations we continued to hear from many in the community who asked that we try and find a way to preserve funding sought by the local fire companies. Not unlike a former supervisor who often utilized the bully pulpit we sit on to urge citizens to give generously to the fire companies, it was in response to these requests, that Mr. Olson, Mr. Kampf and I – citizens who happen to be supervisors and public servants who are also citizens of this same community – worked hard to find a way.

And the good news we announced way back on Dec. 21 was that in a great example of private-public partnering – not unlike our much larger and equally successful Library Capital Campaign a few years ago – individuals, businesses both large and small, organizations and foundations generously came forward in response to our year-end holiday appeal on behalf of our local fire companies. As was also stated at the time, the most remarkable aspect of our ability to provide the sought-after funding was really the manner in which we accomplished it. In a little more than 10 days we were able to restore the funding not in the form of additional subsidies, spending and new or higher taxes during challenging times, but in the form of pledges by others in our community who by their generosity agreed to reach out and lend a hand during the holiday season.

And that I suppose is why I was so compelled during our last public meeting to question the motivations of those few individuals who came forward to challenge what we successfully achieved nearly four-and-a-half months earlier. My fear is the continued rhetoric being displayed by those who for one reason or another still can’t comprehend the generosity of our community is in fact putting at risk some of these same qualities I believe are critical to our future and ones that we must maintain. Perhaps they didn’t believe that the funding we announced in the form of pledges would really ever be received. Well, we know now the facts are we’ve actually exceeded in charitable giving what was sought to be funded through tax dollars. We also know by earlier comments by a local blogger and former unsuccessful Democratic candidate for township supervisor that she and other similarly motivated individuals had a stronger preference to reach into our taxpayers’ pockets for funding, and that the notion of shared sacrifice for the greater good perhaps shouldn’t necessarily be shared by all. In my view this would have been to take the easier and I think incorrect road – one of increased taxpayer subsidies and spending.

So with that said, and with the political season in full swing, with the run-up to the Pennsylvania primary election on May 18, it’s always easy for those who clearly have a different point of view, or who are otherwise politically inclined, to throw around words like “conflict of interest,” “ethics” and “pay to play.” While I respect everyone’s First Amendment right to come forward at our meetings and speak their mind, those who know me best understand that I will also never shy away from expressing my own views. And in this instance, while I find that to make such politically charged and unfair assertions some four-and-a-half months later may help sell newspapers, it represents quite a ridiculous point of view with no basis in fact other than to dangerously put in jeopardy one of our township’s demonstrated and most cherished qualities – the spirit of charitable giving. Frankly the tone of some of the comments made near the end of our April 19 meeting was to somehow absurdly suggest that companies doing business in our township aren’t caring citizens too. That is just flat-out wrong, and to continue this type of rhetoric is in fact to tear at the fabric of what in part makes this community great. But, you know, in the end I think the political shots some of us have been receiving are nothing compared to the shots average citizens have taken in our community these past few years.

So while I’m not worried about the former, I do worry about making the right decisions for our community. The economic stress in our township is still very real. Revenue used to fund government services generated by transfer taxes on the sale of residential and commercial properties isn’t what it used to be, some folks have lost their jobs and their homes, and many have seen their retirement savings greatly depleted. So as I’ve stated, while it isn’t all that unusual in the heat of the political season for every gnat in the minority that’s ever nipped at our heels to want to take us on – or at least those of us who may happen to be running for one political office or another – I would challenge those who have differing views to put aside the rhetoric. I’m all too happy to have a spirited debate on the real issues facing our community. On public-safety matters like support for our firefighters, let’s put aside the politics. I hope that, for the sake of our community and the continuation of the qualities that make this community great, we can all agree on the positive nature of what was accomplished by bringing people of walks of life together in Tredyffrin to help the fire companies.

I’m committed to doing so if you are. But if there’s anyone who still wishes to draw a political lesson relative to my statement concerning my own character, please know this. I will continue to work for you in good times and bad, and not shy away from making the right and often hard decisions I believe are in the best interests for our community. And lastly, one of the qualities I neglected to mention that also makes this township so great is that we do have good government in Tredyffrin, from the guy who plows your streets to this elected board. We work hard to keep your taxes as low as we can, maintaining the services you have come to expect, while at the same time not making local government intrusive in your lives. So when you do go to the polls on May 18, as I’ve mentioned in these remarks, and like the citizen firefighter who expressed so eloquently the qualities that make this township such a special place, please consider what it’s going to take to continue to maintain these qualities in our community in the future. So whether you’re a citizen supervisor from our own township who aspires to higher public office, or any other candidate, know we’re not playing games here; we’re here doing what we believe is the people’s business.

Bob Lamina is chairman of the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors and a former member of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee.

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Rep. Paul Drucker Favors 422 Tolling . . . what do you think?

I was looking at the Times Herald newspaper online today and came across a video of Rep. Paul Drucker; he was at Times Herald in Norristown yesterday and answered questions during an editorial meeting.  It was the headline of the following article, Rep. Paul Drucker Favors 422 Tolling which summarized the video that caught my eye. 
 
I know that the State lost its bid for tolling on Interstate 80 a couple of days ago, but the notion of putting tolls on Rt. 422, all I can say is wow!  I’m usually in agreement with my friend Paul Drucker but I’m struggling with his support of tolling 422.  Route 422 and ‘traffic nightmare’ are words that often find themselves in the same sentence, do we think that tolls is going to help the situation?  Tolls on 422 would affect Tredyffrin residents, and I’m not convinced the affect would be positive.  Am I missing something?  What do you think?
To view Rep. Paul Drucker’s video in the Main Line Suburban.

Rep. Paul Drucker Favors 422 Tolling

By Jenny DeHuff
Times Herald Newspaper

State Rep. Paul Drucker, D-157th, of Montgomery and Chester counties, said he will push for the proposal that would authorize the tolling of Route 422, during an editorial board meeting at The Times Herald on Thursday.

Drucker, in his second year in the General Assembly, admitted he was not fully acquainted with some of the issues, but said the tolling of Route 422, to pay for the Schuylkill Valley Metro transportation project, was a good idea.

“As I understand the proposal, the only way that 422 can be developed, along with the light-rail line, is by tolling,” he told The Times Herald.

“Anybody who sits on 422, or wishes they were on a train, from Reading to Philadelphia or Norristown – they are just counting the days until that development is a reality.”

The busiest stretch of Route 422, which runs from King of Prussia to Reading, is more than 40 miles long. Many advocates of the plan say tolling is the only way to pay for the cost of a rail line connecting Philadelphia and Reading.

According to the Schuylkill Valley Metro Web site, the 62-mile railway system would alleviate problems consistent with growth and development along the Route 422 corridor, which touches along the river between Philadelphia, Norristown and Reading.

The project currently lacks subsidies, and whether SEPTA will commit to a dedicated funding source remains unclear.
“The plan, as it was explained to me, is that short-term users – on- and off-type users of 422, will not be tolled, because of some of the technology that is in place,” said Drucker. “Tolling will be for the people who use it during more of a steady period. The only way (the Schuylkill Valley Metro) proposal is economically viable is with tolling.”

Describing himself as “always learning” more about state house issues, Drucker said the No. 1 flaw he encountered in public service was the lack of bipartisan cooperation. “I don’t think the General Assembly is particularly efficient,” he said. “This has been a very frustrating year. I’m glad we finally got over the paralysis in the budget.”

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Some Community Updates . . .

Some Community Matters updates . . .

1.  Local Job Fair:  State Representative Paul Drucker’s Job Fair yesterday in Phoenixville was an enormous success . . . over 400 job seekers attended!  Rep. Drucker reported that people were lined up outside the convention center and down the street  prior to opening of the event.  Over 40 companies participated in the Job Fair including the Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry, Social Security Administration, Cosi, Chesterbrook Academy, Wegmans, Northwestern Mutual, TD Bank, to name a few.  Rep. Drucker told me that he knows of one employer who hired 5 people yesterday!  Sounds like it was a good day for employers and prospective employees.  Great job Paul!

2.  Fire Company Funding:  Supervisor Paul Olson called me yesterday to provide an update on the status of the ‘cardboard check’ to the fire companies — yes, he referred to it as a cardboard check.  In December at a Board of Supervisors meeting, the supervisors unveiled a cardboard check in the amount of $23,200 which was to make up the fire company deficit that was removed in the 2010 township budget.  Through supervisor fundraising efforts by Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Olson, Olson explained that they had exceeded the dollar amount of the cardboard check.  The total collected of approximately $25,000 was turned over to Rip Tilden of the  Berwyn Fire Company for distribution to the fire companies.  No information was provided as to the actual source of the contributions.  However, one of the individual contributors told me that she received a thank-you from all 3 fire companies so presumably the money has been distributed. 

3.  TESD 2010-11 Budget:  Malvern resident Ray Clarke took the advice of Community Matters readers. Based on posts and comments, Ray has a letter to the TESD School Board with the following list of questions.  Here’s hoping that the School Board will consider these questions as they prepare for the important upcoming Finance meeting on April 19.  Thanks Ray.

  • Can the school district impose a PIT on the residents?
  • Does Act 511 permit the District imposing PIT?
  • Would imposing PIT require voter referendum?
  • Would the imposition of PIT reduce property taxes?
  • Is a voter referendum required for EIT?
  • If there was an EIT, how would the split of revenue work between Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships?
  • Does an EIT reduce the property tax bill?
  • Would both townships be required to have an EIT in place to receive the revenue? Or, would the townships receive their portion of the school district’s EIT revenue?
  • Would there be a difference to the teacher unions in regards to an EIT or PIT?
  • Does the rate have to be the same for both townships?
  • What are the options for splitting the revenues between townships and school district, and does the split have to be the same in each township?
  • What is the exact nature of the reciprocity arrangements with neighboring jurisdictions, particularly Philadelphia
  • What will be the estimated financial impact to townships and school district, under various likely scenarios of rate and split, on the following dimensions:
        a) Incremental taxes paid by township residents
        b) Taxes currently paid by township residents to other municipalities that will stay in T/E
        c) Taxes paid by non-residents
        d) The total of the above

I’m glad to provide updates to ongoing community issues; let me know if you have anything new to report.

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Mt. Pleasant Update . . . 1 house demolished, 3 still standing

Here’s an update on the vacant houses on Henry and Fairview Avenues in Mt. Pleasant, the site of the new townhouse development.  Mt. Pleasant resident Christine Johnson notified me that Maizie Hall’s house on Henry Ave was demolished yesterday.  I’m not sure exactly what motivated the developer yesterday to start the  demolishing  process (could it have been the wide circulation of my photos?) but I’m impressed!

Not knowing the status on the other 3 houses (2 are on Henry Ave. and the house is around the corner on Fairview Ave.) I drove over to Mt. Pleasant this afternoon.  I found quite the pile of rubble where Maizie Hall’s house stood a couple of days ago.   In addition to the rubble, 3 other houses remain on the property that are slated for demolition.  Three large pieces of equipment are on site, so I am assuming that these houses will be coming down in the next few days.  If you would like to see photos of the other houses that remain on site, click here for a slideshow. To see the individual photos in Mt. Pleasant, click here.

All that remains of Maizie Hall's childhood home.

 

These crumbling steps are located at 985 Fairview Avenue . . . they lead to an abandoned, vacant house on the site of the new townhouse community coming to Mt. Pleasant.  Maizie Hall’s house was demolished yesterday and I am assuming that the big heavy equipment that is on site will be removing the other 3 houses, including the Fairview Ave. house.

While I was at Mt. Pleasant today, I met the next-door neighbor of the planned townhouse development.  He was glad to see the abandoned houses coming down but pointed out that 2 of the houses that are still standing, have actually been vacant and abandoned for at least 5 years . . . apparently the developer purchased those 2 houses at a foreclosure bank sale.  To leave his house for the last 5 years, this Mt. Pleasant neighbor has had to go past these rundown, abandoned houses.  I guess he is glad to see some movement on their demolition.

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Our Fire Companies Should Not be Political Pawns

Working together, the volunteer firefighters of Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies serve  Tredyffrin Township.  Many of our residents and their families are involved in the volunteer firefighting effort and proudly serve our community.  Firefighting is demanding. There are hours of training involved, requirements to be met, standards to uphold, and volunteer firefighters are not compensated in the traditional way. There is no big paycheck or large monetary bonus to work harder.

John DiBuonaventuro has served as a volunteer firefigher for the Paoli Fire Company for many years and is passionate in his support.  In his position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro also serves as the fire company liaison.  As an audience member in this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  I witnessed an uncomfortable exchange between Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Warren Kampf in regards to the fire companies and their funding.  Understanding DiBuonaventuro’s long-standing support of the  fire companies vs. Kampf’s vote against full-funding of the fire companies in the township’s 2010 budget . . . one might question Supervisor Kampf’s sudden interest in our local fire companies and their funding. 

Our volunteer firefighters deserve our community’s support . . .  but I think we would all agree they should not be used as pawns in a political campaign. Today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper includes the following As I See It opinion article, The continual politicization of our fire services, which speaks directly to this topic.

    As I See It: The continual politicization of our fire services

By John V. Petersen

As if the big cardboard-check moment during the Dec. 12, 2009 Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting wasn’t enough, we had another play at Monday night’s BOS meeting involving the fire service as a political football. As we all know, Warren Kampf, current Tredyffrin BOS member and previous chairman, is seeking to challenge Rep. Paul Drucker for the State Representative seat for the 157th Legislative District. At Monday night’s BOS meeting, Mr. Kampf stated that he met with members of the Berwyn Fire Company and the topic of a stable long-term firefighter-funding source was discussed. What Mr. Kampf failed to tell the public was his visit to Berwyn was in connection with his 157th candidacy, not in his capacity as a Tredyffrin supervisor. For the record Supervisor and Paoli firefighter John “J.D.” DiBuonaventuro serves as the fire liaison.

 In that capacity, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro has had such meetings concerning the fire task force and funding with Berwyn and Paoli FDs and updates on that progress have been shared with the public, most recently at the March 1, 2010 meeting. On that same day Mr. Kampf sought the Montgomery County endorsement for the 157th and therefore did not attend the March 1 meeting and clearly was not aware that the matter was already discussed during the previous meeting.

What I find disingenuous is Mr. Kampf on one hand stating the importance of finding a stable long-term funding source for the fire companies and on the other hand, most previously in his role as BOS Chairman, supporting cuts to the fire service and at the same time retaining funding for the annual July 4 fireworks display. These two viewpoints are completely irreconcilable. It should also be noted that earlier in his tenure on the BOS, Mr. Kampf served on fire task force. Accordingly Mr. Kampf has already had an opportunity to address the issues that are currently being addressed by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. It is clear that the only motivation here is Mr. Kampf’s pursuit of higher political office. And to that end he is seeking to use the fire service as a pawn in his political chess game. Between the big cardboard-check event and last night’s meeting, it is clear Mr. Kampf is using a public forum dedicated to township business for his own political purposes. In a word it is inappropriate.

When the firefighters and EMTs perform their heroic work, they don’t ask about party registration. To be used as a political football of sorts is to denigrate that heroic work. Ultimately Mr. Kampf is free to run his campaign as he sees fit. As citizens we have forums like this to hold candidates and office-holders accountable. All I would ask is that Mr. Kampf campaign on his own time, not during the time when the business of Tredyffrin Township is to be addressed. Further, I would ask that all candidates leave the fire service out of their political calculus. There are plenty of other matters ripe for politics. The fire service is not one of them.

John V. Petersen lives in Paoli.

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State Rep. Paul Drucker's Bill to encourage 'green' building for schools passes House

News from Harrisburg . . . Our State Rep. Paul Drucker’s House Bill 689 to provide incentives for school districts to construct cleaner and more efficient schools has passed the House with a vote of 106-85.  My understanding is the roots of this legislative bill began in 2008 under former State Rep. Carole Rubley’s direction.  With some 2009/10 updating, Rep. Drucker was able to successfully move the bill through the House’s voting process.  The following is excerpted from Pennsylvania State House press release:

 Current law requires school boards to first receive voter approval before commencing any major construction plans over a certain dollar amount, including new buildings or significant renovations. That law, he said, inadvertently impedes the construction of environmentally friendly schools due to the high up-front cost, which may push the cost of green construction over the limit. House Bill 689 would exclude any costs incurred by a school district in the construction of a school building that meets the Green Building Standard from the calculation of construction costs when determining if voter approval is needed. At a minimum, Green Building Standard projects must include performance-based credits that will improve a building’s energy performance and promote the use of environmentally friendly building materials and technologies. Documentation to support the energy efficiency of the project is required. Green Building Standard projects must also employ third-party, post-construction review and have a performance record of certified green buildings in the United States.

The bill includes a requirement that Green Building Standard costs be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education at the same time that construction cost estimates are submitted for approval. Drucker said that inclusion of Green Building Standard costs with construction costs would allow districts to demonstrate any long-term savings produced by investment in green building technologies.

“Over time, green buildings save money by reducing energy costs and provide a healthier internal air quality for our children,” Drucker said. “My bill would allow school districts to realize these long-term benefits without being burdened by the up-front costs associated with green building.”

Rep. Drucker’s bill will now go to the Senate for consideration and here’s hoping for a successful outcome!

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State Rep Paul Drucker to Host Job Fair on March 31 in Phoenixville

State Rep Paul Drucker’s March newsletter arrived in the mail yesterday and contained an important announcement for those in the community that are looking for a job.  Together with PA Department of Labor & Industry, Rep Drucker is hosting a Job Fair on Wednesday, March 31, 2-5 PM at the Phoenixville Civic Center, 123 Main Street, Phoenixville.  The job fair will include a resume writing workshop and job hunting seminars.  Job opportunities at all levels will be available. 

Rep Drucker is reporting that the following industries are confirmed to be on-hand: 

  • Human Services 
  • Retail/Restaurant 
  • Non-Profit 
  • Healthcare 
  • Insurance 
  • Financial Services 
  • Early Childhood Education 

Employers from various additional industries are also expected to be in attendance. The event will also feature job opportunities for veterans. Admission is free and business attire is encouraged.  This is good news for local job-seekers.  If you are in the job market, mark your calendar for March 31.  Thank you Rep Drucker  for offering this opportunity to the residents in your legislative district!

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Paoli Resident Calls for Fair Play and Common Sense From Elected Officials

The following Letter to the Editor appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life newspaper.  Written by Paoli resident Eugene Grace, this letter really hits on what some of us have been thinking lately.  Mr. Grace doesn’t write his letter with a particular political view or slant; nor is he suggesting that one political party is better or worse than another.  Mr. Grace’s  message is simple . . . he is asking for fair play and common sense from our elected officials.  An interesting letter — comments?

  To the Editor:

Fair play and common sense are the two traits that voters want from their political leaders.

Fair play means simply following the established rules of the game as well as their related customs and traditions. Locally, fair play does not include Tredyffrin’s use of “New Matter” to keep a significant township matter off the published agenda. Locally fair play would not allow the Lower Merion School District to plant remote-controlled webcams into school-provided computers without some form of notice.

Nationally fair play does not include the U.S. Senate’s use of a tactical tool known as “Reconciliation” to pass major legislation. Under “normal” Senate rules, 60 votes are required to move legislation through that body. Reconciliation was developed as a speedier way to move smaller budgetary or tax issues through the Senate with only a simple majority of 51 votes. The Senate’s use of Reconciliation for health care would be a departure from Senate rules and tradition.

Common sense informs us that Tredyffrin should have collected monies owed under previous commitments without further study and that the Lower Merion School District should have provided notice to students regarding a potential invasion of privacy. Common sense says that the U.S. Senate should not employ Reconciliation regarding health care, which constitutes 16 percent of the U.S. economy. Common sense tells us that leaders should lead.

The fact that “The People” are leading on all these issues tells us that fair play and common sense have been thrown to the wind. Common sense tells us that the “leaders” responsible for these decisions should have a similar fate.

Eugene P. Grace, Paoli

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Attorney Offers Legal Opinion on February 22 Board of Supervisors Vote

A follower of Community Matters, a local attorney (most likely a municipal attorney) has offered his legal opinion on various township topics, including St. Davids Golf Club sidewalk issue.  Overnight I received his legal opinion on the February 22 vote by the Board of Supervisors to reverse their earlier vote and decision to set up a sidewalk and trails review subcommittee (Board of Supervisors 2/22/10 Meeting . . . St. Davids Golf Club Motion.)  As indicated in the post of St. Davids Golf Club Decision Reversed but, . . . Was There Full Disclosure, Transparency, Deal-Making? the supervisors vote of February 22 created much dialogue from the community.  Understanding the supervisors decision from a legal perspective is important; I ask you to reflect on the following:

JudgeNJury, March 3, 2010 at 12:36 AM Said:

Other matters kept me from focusing on the February 22 vote before, but now that I have looked at it (and at the risk of beating a dead horse), I wanted to add my two cents. In short, it seems to me that the BOS once again failed to follow appropriate procedures when it passed the second part of the February 22 motion.

Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code (“MPC”) authorizes townships to establish planning commissions. Tredyffrin Township did so, and Section 43-6 of the Township Code specifically states that the Planning Commission “shall have all other powers and duties provided by the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code.” (http://www.ecode360.com/?custId=TR1485).

Section 303(a) of the MPC states that:

“Whenever the governing body, pursuant to the procedures provided in section 302, has adopted a comprehensive plan or any part thereof, any subsequent proposed action of the governing body, its departments, agencies and appointed authorities shall be submitted to the planning agency for its recommendations when the proposed action relates to . . . the location, opening, vacation, extension, widening, narrowing or enlargement of any street, public ground, pierhead or watercourse.” (http://mpc.landuselawinpa.com/MPCode.pdf).

Section 107(a) of the MPC contains the following definitions:

1) “Governing body” includes “the board of supervisors in townships of the second class.” Tredyffrin Township is a township of the second class, and it has adopted a comprehensive plan (http://www.tredyffrin.org/departments/community/comprehensive.aspx).

2) “Planning agency” includes planning commissions.

3) “Public ground” includes “parks, playgrounds, trails, paths and other recreational areas and other public areas.” Under this definition, it seems clear that sidewalks qualify as a “public ground.”

The second half of the February 22 motion did two things: it (1) “form[ed] a Subcommittee . . . to begin a process to reexamine where the community wants and needs sidewalks;” and (2) relieved St. David’s from its obligation “to build the path, until the new policies are adopted or the Township has put in place designs and funding for sidewalks or paths that would connect to the proposed St. David’s pathway.” It seems to me, then, that the motion was a “proposed action of the governing body [the BOS]” that “relates to . . . the location [and] opening . . . of any . . . public ground.”

Therefore, the BOS was required to submit the motion “to the Planning Commission for its recommendations” before it could vote on the motion. The Planning Commission then would have had 45 days to make a recommendation. See MPC Section 303(b). As far as I know, the BOS did not submit its proposal to the Planning Commission before it voted on it.

As a practical matter, compliance with these procedures probably would not have made much difference. The BOS could have submitted the proposal to the Planning Commission for a recommendation and then, regardless of what the Planning Commission recommended, voted to approve the motion. That reality does not, however, change the fact that the BOS appears to have ignored procedures once again.

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