Tredyffrin Township Democrats

Tredyffrin Special Election Supervisor candidates – Where do they stand on the digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency? Know before you vote!

How many of you know that there is a special election on November 6 to fill an at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors? And that for the first time in township history, both candidates running to fill the vacancy are former supervisors! 

The last time that there was a special election on the ballot in Tredyffrin Township was in May 2011; a highly contested race between Mike Heaberg (R) and Molly Duffy (D) to fill an interim supervisor seat, as a result of Warren Kampf’s election as PA State Representative. If you recall, the special election results were so close that the winner’s name changed when malfunctioning voting machines required ballot hand counting. Ultimately, Heaberg was declared the victor and in the general election match-up race the same year, he won a regular 4-year term.

Now seven and a half years later, township residents will be choosing a supervisor in the special election on Nov. 6. In the sea of political campaign lawn signs are a couple of locally familiar names – Republican Judy DiFilippo and Democrat Mark Freed are the special election candidates running to fill the vacated at-large seat on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors.

Republican Sean Moir, a second term supervisor abruptly resigned last month, having moved from the township and therefore no longer eligible to serve. The term for the vacated seat runs through 2019. The good news for residents is that both DiFilippo and Freed are seasoned township supervisors – Judy served for twenty years, six as its chair and Mark completed one four year term (2014-17).

Whoever wins the upcoming election will determine the party majority on the Board of Supervisors. With the departure of Moir (R), there are three Republicans (Heather Greenberg, Paul Olson and Trip Lukens (and three Democrats (Murph Wysocki, Matt Holt and Kevin O’Nell) currently serving. Because so often local township votes come down on party lines, the impact of who fills the seventh seat could be significant and if Freed wins, it will mark the first time in township history for a Democrat-majority board of supervisors.

The township and its residents is embroiled in a serious issue that would forever change the landscape and village feel of Paoli – the proposed digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. I remain troubled that as a community we were kept in the dark for 18-24 months while township supervisors discussed the proposed digital billboard. The public only learned at the 11th hour with the township solicitor Vince Donohue using words like “negotiations” and “settlement agreement” in advance of the Catalyst presentation. I, like many others took that to mean that the digital billboard was a fait accompli.

With nearly 2,500 signatures showing support for the Change.org petition to “BAN the Digital Billboard in Paoli”) and a GoFundMe exceeding its goal, the community is fully engaged.  The laws signs are scheduled for delivery this week!

It is critical that voters know where special election supervisor candidates DiFilippo and Freed stand on important township issues –  the proposed digital billboard, historic preservation ordinance and transparency in local government. The candidates received 3 questions from me and were asked to respond in 100 words or less to each question. The following are the questions and the candidate responses, in the order received.

Question #1: As you are aware, the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors is entertaining a proposal to construct a digital billboard at the intersection of Rt. 252 and Lancaster Ave. in Paoli. The community has been told by the township solicitor that Catalyst Outdoor Advertising will initiate legal proceedings if the digital billboard is not approved. If you are elected before the vote occurs, how will vote and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: I do not support the proposal by Catalyst Outdoor Advertising to construct digital billboards at the Route 252/Lancaster Avenue intersection.  In addition to the concern for safety of the traveling public, in my opinion, the mass of the signs proposed is not appropriate on that site. They do not reflect the overall aesthetic desired in Tredyffrin and do not respect the existing structure and its significance. If there is a deficiency in the Township’s sign ordinance relating to digital signs, a moratorium should be considered on any future applications for digital billboard signs until the ordinance is corrected.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I oppose the Catalyst digital billboard proposal.  This billboard is wrong for Tredyffrin Township and would result in the destruction of a valued historic resource.  I have opposed the billboard since the concept was first floated by Catalyst when I was on the Board of Supervisors. I advised both my fellow Board members and Catalyst of my grave concerns.  I have not seen anything in the recent presentations to change my opinion and remain opposed to Catalyst’s proposal.

Question #2: Unlike most Main Line townships, Tredyffrin does not currently have a historic preservation ordinance. Please comment as to whether or not you would support such a township ordinance and why.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: The Township has an award-winning 2003 Historic Resource Survey that lists hundreds of historic buildings and it explains the historic and/or architectural significance for each.  Valley Forge National Historical Park lies within Tredyffrin. We have a significant link to the founding of our country.  We should be proud to share that history.  I support the creation of an ordinance that appreciates and protects our most significant historic resources. Pennsylvania’s Municipalities Planning Code and Chester County’s Planning Commission have tooIs available to help us do that, including adaptive reuse.  We can protect historic resources and still respect an individual’s property rights.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: I support a historic preservation ordinance that protects our Township’s valued historic resources.  We must recognize Tredyffrin’s rich historic heritage.  We must also be mindful of the rights of the owners of historic resources. I understand that the Historical Commission has proposed an ordinance amendment that would prohibit the demolition of designated historic resources unless reviewed by the Historical Commission and approved by the Board of Supervisors at a public hearing. This amendment would prevent the issuance of over-the-counter demolition permits that have resulted in almost immediate demolition of our historic resources.  It would be a significant step forward.

Question #3: The support for openness and transparency in local government often appears on candidate campaign literature. What does it mean to you for local government to be open and transparent? Please be specific.

Candidate Judy DiFilippo (R) response: Transparency means you abide by the Sunshine Law. Certain matters dealing with Township personnel or pending litigation can be discussed in Executive Session by the Board and the Solicitor. When Executive Session meetings are held, it is announced during the Public Meeting. All Township Commissions, Advisory Councils, and Boards must abide by the Sunshine Law as well because their decisions and recommendations also impact the Township.  Open discussion by the Board and with the public is the only place for decision-making. The public should be able to rely upon that and upon the trust given to the individuals they elect.

Candidate Mark Freed (D) response: To me, openness and transparency mean providing the public with information in a timely manner, giving the public the opportunity to express their views at public meetings and elsewhere, listening respectfully, responding forthrightly, and letting the public know that their voices have been heard and respected.  They mean being clear and direct with the public about the Board’s decision-making process.  They mean remembering that Board members serve the public.

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Easttown Republican school board members leading the TE School District

We learned last week at the TE School Board meeting that Easttown resident Doug Carlson (R) was elected board president and Tredyffrin resident Scott Dorsey (D) the vice president.  On Tuesday, the newly seated school board held their first Finance Committee meeting – Virginia Lastner (R) will continue her role as chair.  Although I was unable to attend the Finance Committee meeting, Ray Clarke attended and kindly provides his notes/comments to Community Matters (see below).

Late today, the District posted the committee assignments on their website.  After serving as Facilities Chair for many years, it was interesting who would fill the vacated seat of Pete Motel. In addition to chairing the Finance Committee, we learned that Virginia Lastner will chair Facilities in addition to Finance. The two most important school board committee meetings (at least when it comes to tax dollars) is Finance and Facilities committees … and both will be chaired by Easttown resident Virginia Lastner.

With Carlson as Board president and Lastner in charge of the District’s Finance and Facilities committees, it looks like the Easttown Republicans are taking charge of the TE School District!  How’s this possible … for the first time in the District’s history, five of the nine school board members are Tredyffrin Democrats!

Beyond the ongoing construction of the District’s maintenance building, looms the final report from the safety consultant on the Valley Forge Middle School fencing project which is due by the end in the next few weeks. Looking at the makeup of the Facilities Committee, it’s unclear if consensus will be reached easily– newly elected school board members Michele Burger (D) and Ed Sweeney (R) publicly campaigned against the VFMS fencing project.  Will their opposition to the proposed fencing be sufficient to sway the other two members of Facilities, Lastner and Todd Kantorczyk (D)? The Valley Forge Middle School fencing project will likely be back on the Facilities agenda in early 2016.

It was good to see that the Public Information Committee is listed albeit as ‘Ad Hoc’; meetings held “when needed”.  In my opinion, there is always a need for public information.  Glad to see that Scott Dorsey is the committee’s chair – hopefully with Rev. Dorsey at the helm, we can look forward to increased transparency and public engagement from the Board.

With all the madness going on in the world, it was disturbing to see there the Diversity Committee was not listed.  Former school board member Liz Mercogliano previously chaired the Diversity Committee and would update the public at Board meetings on their important ongoing discussions.  Now, more than ever, we all must work together to ensure that we appropriately value the diversity within and among our schools. Promoting and encouraging respect for ethnic and cultural diversity within the school population, staff and community deserves to continue. Suggest that Diversity find a place on the calendar with the other committee assignments.

Here’s the complete list of school board committee assignments:

Facilities Committee

  • Virginia Lastner, Chair
  • Michele Burger
  • Todd Kantorczyk
  • Ed Sweeney

Education Committee

  • Scott Dorsey, Chair
  • Kevin Buraks
  • Roberta Hotinski
  • Kate Murphy

Finance Committee

  • Virginia Lastner, Chair
  • Kevin Buraks
  • Roberta Hotinski
  • Todd Kantorczyk

Legislative Committee

  • Doug Carlson, Chair
  • Michele Burger
  • Kate Murphy
  • Ed Sweeney

Policy Committee

  • Kevin Buraks, chair
  • Todd Kantorczyk
  • Kate Murphy
  • Ed Sweeney

Public Information – Ad Hoc

  • Scott Dorsey, Chair
  • Michele Burger
  • Roberta Hotinski
  • Kate Murphy

I appreciate the following comments/notes from the Finance Committee meeting as provided by Ray Clarke. Ray’s budget point #3 caught my attention – “assumptions about employee out-sourcing”. What?

In a follow-up call, Ray confirmed that there was no details or explanation offered by the Finance chair or the administration regarding this out-sourcing comment.  So, the public is left wondering which employees are they talking about — is it the few remaining aides and paras who remain as District employees? Or is the Finance committee and administration thinking ahead to other potential outsourcing opportunities  – TENIG’s contract is up in 18 months, so could it be that the District’s kitchen staff, secretaries and custodians will once again find their jobs in jeopardy?

Last night was the first meeting of the new Finance Committee (although the full Board was in attendance).  The group seems short on financial management experience, so there will need to be a steep learning curve. Exemplified by the fact that the Committee recommended that the Board vote in January to apply for all eligible Exceptions, totaling a 4.3% tax increase.  This is based on just eight numbers from the Administration, two of which are given from the mandated PSERS rate.  Two more are the same as the current year (State and Federal subsidies).  The bottom line is a scare-inducing $4.65 million deficit.

The four remaining budget lines:

  1.  Local Revenues:  Is the Board OK with projected revenues just $800,000 more than this year’s budget when this year’s real estate taxes, transfer taxes and interim taxes are already running $1,000,000 better to budget than last year’s rate?
  2.  Salaries:  Do they understand why salaries are flat despite a contracted TEEA step increase worth maybe 2%, a 5.7 FTE teacher increase, 1.7% salary increases for Admin, etc.?   We discovered last night that has something to do with assumptions about employee out-sourcing, but no detail was provided.  Nor of course, any detail about the expected staffing increase.
  3.  Benefits:  Apparently the consultant advised the District to project a 5% healthcare premium cost increase, and the total budgeted benefits increase vs 2015/16 is 5.1%.  But the TEEA, for example, is contracted to pay an extra percentage of the premium and there will be fewer employees apparently.  How does the math work?
  4.  “Other”: This is up nearly $3 million over the current year projection.  Presumably the out-sourcing projections have something to do with this, but no explanation was provided.

A couple of other noteworthy points:

– The arithmetic for the Special Ed calculation leads to a $900,000 tax increase, yet this year’s expense increase is less than $400,000 and there was no data on the slides supporting an expense projection for 2016/17.

– The projection for this year is that expenses will be $1.3 million less than Budget.

The response to this will say a lot about our new Board.  We were told over and over last night that the tax increase recommendation was just to “preserve our flexibility”, but we know too well how markers like that tend to get cemented in.  Are they prepared to lay down that marker with such minimal information provided by the Administration?

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Still undecided on TE School Board & Tredyffrin Twp candidates? ‘Meet & Greet’ at St. Davids Golf Club on Wednesday, Oct. 28

meet-the-candidates

Still undecided?  Here’s another opportunity to meet the Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisor and TE School Board candidates before Election Day on Tuesday, November 3.  The Panhandle Civic Association is sponsoring a “meet & greet” on Wednesday, Oct. 28, 7-8:30 PM.  See information below:

CANDIDATES MEET AND GREET

OCTOBER 28, 2015

The Panhandle Civic Association is sponsoring a Candidates Meet and Greet on Wednesday, October 28, 2015.  The gathering will be held at the St. Davids Golf Club, 845 Radnor Street Road, Radnor, from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM.  This will be an informal affair providing you the opportunity to speak one on one with the candidates of both parties, to ask questions and to share thoughts and concerns.  Please come prepared to ask our candidates where they stand on issues that matter to you.

Candidates for Region 1 School Board and attending the Meet and Greet:

Neal Colligan (R)

Roberta Hotinski (D)

Todd Kantorczyk (D)

Neill Kling (R)

Candidates for District 1 Board of Supervisors and attending the Meet and Greet:

Paul Olson (R)

Tory Snyder (D)

Candidates for At Large Board of Supervisors and attending the Meet and Greet:

Elva Bankins (D)

Lou Horvath (D)

Trip Lukens (R)

Sean Moir (R)

Although not required for attendance, we would like to have reasonable sense of how many people will be coming to this meeting.  Please let your Block Captain know if you plan to be at the event, or send an email to: j.k.lindberg@att.net.  Please indicate if you are a resident of the Panhandle.

There is no charge for anyone to attend this gathering.  Light appetizers and non-alcoholic beverages will be available from the Club.  If non-Panhandle residents want to take advantage of this service, they will be charged $10.00.

For questions about this event, please email Christine Wright at wright502@verizon.net.

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