Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Firefighter Holiday Drive Update . . . Courtesy of Supervisor Olson

I had a call this morning from Supervisor Olson in regards to the Firefighter’s Holiday Drive. Supervisor Olson explained that he will update me on the Holiday Drive contribution checks — each time they are turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company.

Rip Tilden, president of Berwyn Fire Company will receive the checks on behalf of the 3 fire companies and then make the appropriate distributions to Radnor, Paoli and Berwyn Fire Companies. Currently, Mr. Tilden is on a Wharton-student trip in Africa (Mr. Tilden is a Wharton faculty member) but upon his return, Supervisor Olson intends to turn over the next group of checks. Contribution checks will continue to be turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company on a regular basis and Supervisor Olson has committed to calling me each time with an accounting. Although Supervisor Olson is the point person for delivery of the checks to Berwyn Fire Company, it is my understanding that Supervisors Lamina and Kampf are also doing their follow-up and collections with the local businesses.

Supervisor Olson and I agreed that we would keep a running to-date total on what has been collected to make sure that it reaches the promised $23,200 ‘cardboard check’ amount by March 31, 2010. I will post the information on Community Matters as it becomes available. I would suggest that the Berwyn Fire Company or the Board of Supervisor liaison give an update on the Holiday Drive contributions with their regular fire company reports.

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  1. The criticism is NOT about the money they are raising. The concern is about the process they are using to raise money — the source of the donations (and the encouragement donors may have received/felt in responding to the solicitation.) If the Big 3 (KOL) were not trying to claim “zero tax increases” for political purposes, the system would be better served by funding the fire departments with revenue, not charity. I certainly don’t want my fire safety dependent on the good will of community businesses. You can only claim zero tax increases righteously when you have zero expenditure increases…finding other sources of the revenue to substitute for taxes is a patch, not a fix.

  2. were you approached and threatened by the BOS as you claim the others were? how exactly did they extort this money from the businesses and individuals?

  3. Pattye:

    I strongly commend you for “taking the high road” – working with Supervisor Olsen in a constructive, positive way, to insure that the Holiday campaign is successfully completed.

  4. A legitimate question, looking past this holiday drive: What is next? This is a one-time effort, according to Paul. The fire companies have already said that the goal is long-term sustainability. This ridiculous band-aid aside, how is Tredyffrin going to deal with this problem in 2010. I heard the banks only accept cardboard checks once, so that’s out. What then?

    1. Roger
      Again, I’m not an accountant, but the township website budget materials show a few things, including a projected 5% tax increase in years 2011-2014. Likewise, perhaps someone can explain why the ending Unreserved fund balance of $9,387,053 for the 2010 budget is $250K less than the beginning unreserved fund balance $9,637,413. I cannot see where that went based on the narration about balancing the budget that went with the numbers. I included some other numbers in an answer to Freddy — but what it all looks like is we need to hope/pray that the economy turns around and that famous stand-by transfer tax provides the cushion to live on that it has for so long.
      The township staff clearly worked hard to reduce expenditures — but is it true that that same staff formed a union? Maybe their raises didn’t seem fair compared to the police? I think that the Supervisors get “paid” $3000 a year –if they don’t already, maybe the 7 of them can donate the ir checks back to cover the Fire issue if the rest of the money doesn’t come in?

  5. Freddy
    Since we do not know each other, I don’t think you should attribute my comments with any malice that I have not articulated. Extortion is a ridiculous word to use in this case — but if you have ever been asked to donate to your boss’s son’s baseball team,or buy a $5 bar of candy from your supervisor at work, you might be able to relate to how people of power are able to solicit support. If you have seen the list of donors, perhaps you can assure us all that no one on the list has any business pending before the Planning Commission or BOS? Why does it irritate you that I have a problem with a process that I believe was perpetrated to have a “zero tax increase” . I’m not an accountant, but a quick trip through the township budget shows that they didn’t raise taxes, but they sure plan to raise the costs of living here…$50 a house for sewers, an increase in $25K in fees for leaf collection (maybe that’s why the have such limited hours for the compost site?), projected $28K increase in “fines and forfeits” including $15K in vehicle code violations (does that sound like an effort to give more tickets?). So — do not suggest I said extortion because I want to understand why our GOVERNMENT is fundraising to pay for municipal services.

    1. have you seen the list? which donor(s) are paying off the BOS and what are they getting in return?
      you made the charge, back it up with some evidence.
      or is it pure speculation on your part?

      you complain about raising the cost of living but you want them to increase taxes? isn’t a tax increase a raise in the cost of living?

      1. Wow — you want to rant, not exchange ideas. Raising fees is in lieu of raising taxes. I’m just commenting that claiming no tax increase and then raising significantly several fees by more than the typical COL percentage is a strategy that hides behind the details. There is a letter in today’s Suburban that lists a few businesses that were part of the donation pool, and the potential of quid pro quo. But I asked if YOU had seen the list and could relieve me of any concerns that municipal services shouid not be funded by monies raised by taxing authorities under the guise of good will. Again — I’m all for raising money for any number of good causes, and were the solicitation for the Fire Department have originated FROM the fire departments, then those donations could be viewed very differently. I refer back to my hypothetical — ever had your boss ask you to donate to his kid’s charity (or buy girl school cookies or whatever). What are the implications of saying no?

        1. What are the implications of saying ‘no’ to your boss?

          It depends on your boss.

          If your boss is a mean spirited, vengeful, hateful person, then there would potentially be negative consequences of not donating.

          If your boss is a generally good person, then it would not be an issue if you said ‘no’.

          Obviously you believe that the supervisors who spearheaded this fund raising, are the former. You automatically assume corrupt motives for anything they do.

          Could you apply the same hypothetical question to the firefighters who ask for donations? do you believe, for instance, that if the firefighters call your house and ask for a donation, and you say ‘no’, that they will then put you on a black list and take their time to show up to your house if you ever need them?

          1. I will make this my last word on this because it’s getting kind of difficult to discuss this when you presume and accuse me of something I have never articulated.
            I believe that someone who wants to do business in this township can freely be solicited to improve the quality of life here. Had the supervisors asked for a sponsor for the fireworks, it’s all good. I think substituting fundraising for the municiple funding of fire protection services was poor judgement. Because unlike your view of your boss, I don’t think politically smart business people would risk turning down a request. It’s not blackmail — nor extortion. It’s simply awkward for a prospective donor when asked by an official to subsidize a municiple function. By wanting to have a “zero tax increase” budget, they substituted fundraising (from people who may have donated without this solicitation, so may indeed be counterproductive in the long run) for governance.

            I answered Mike someplace else on this site about my recognizing this is an extremely fine line between what’s right and what’s pragmatic…I do not believe it has to be evil to be wrong. The old phrase about the smell test just doesn’t work for me here. I want the role of government to be easier to understand and recognize.

  6. Here’s a partial list of donors to the “Holiday Drive” as listed by Mr. Kampf on the made for TV evening of 12/21:

    Cafe Winberie’s
    Margaret Kuo’s
    Fellini’s Cafe
    Scott Furman, realtor
    Lamb, McErlane & Riley -firm at which township solicitor, Tom Hogan, is a partner
    Devon BMW
    Devon Horse Show
    Villanova University
    Saul Ewing
    Sloan Toyota
    Ace Hardware
    Aqua PA
    Liberty Property Trust
    members of the TTRC
    5 of 7 township supervisors

    The full list of donors can and should be made public by the fire companies at some point.

  7. Sarah:

    There are potential conflicts of interest in every public/private partnership. In fact, there are potential conflicts of interest in every relationship where there is power.

    How about Shire Pharmaceuticals and their generous support of the Wilson Park concerts? I assume that there was a conversation with either the Supervisors or Township management. You think they just walked in the Township Building and gave a check to the receptionist? Was there a quid pro quo?

    How about the Tredyffrin Library building fund? They got thousands of checks, including some in six figures from local individuals and businesses – probably the most successful fundraising campaign in the Township’s history. Supervisor Olsen was one of the leaders of that effort, although during at least part of the time (’06-07) he was off the Board. How should that be handled? I’m assuming someone has appeared before the Supervisors who donated and/or was solicited.

    How about the “Build the Barn” campaign? If Pattye goes out and raises $400k in 2010 (we can hope, Pattye), then a $10 donor comes before the Historical Architectural Review Board, how should that be handled? How about a $100 or $1000 or $10,000 donor? How about the person that Pattye solicited that did not give? Does it matter whether it’s next year or 5 years from now?

    Is the solution that any member of a Tredyffrin Board or Authority be prohibited from fundraising on behalf of any organization or else recuse him- or herself from any matter involving that organization’s donors? Look at the rosters of Tredyffrin Boards and Authorities and you will see some of our communities most community-minded, charitably active citizens.

    Does the conflict have to be financial for there to be a conflict of interest or a quid pro quo? What if you’re on the Planning Commission and a friend appears before the Commission? Or your son’s soccer coach or a teacher at your daughter’s school?

    At the end of the day, we have to TRUST the people we elect or appoint. Trust them to uphold the oath they take to serve our community.

    With all of the possible scenarios, where do you draw the lines to avoid conflicts of interest? I don’t know. in the meantime, it’s likely that you and yours will choose to draw the lines in a way that demonizes Messrs. Kampf, Olsen and Lamina :).

    1. Mike
      Demonizing is simply the wrong approach — and I do see the distinction between fundraising for a community event or program vs. for a municiple function. I’m all for using whatever means to fundraise — my issue here is that it wasn’t fundraising in the sense we would like to think of it. How many of the donors who ponied up the $23K are recurring donors to the fire department ? It is a distinction with a difference for me — and let me give you an example.
      Had the supervisors fully funded the munciple responsibility of fire safety by cutting the fireworks, and then asked these same donors to sponsor the fireworks, I’m fine with it. That may seem to be contradictory — but my issue is to use elected officials to solicit for funds for something that is a responsibility of local government. Had the fire company sent out a letter endorsed by the Supervisors, I would not have been troubled. I know that sounds squishy — because it is. It truly is NOT about trust — it’s about making decisions that did not have to be evil to be wrong. I think it was poor judgment to grandstand with a card board check to “save the day” (and then limit the letter to the paper to 2 of the 3 supervisors to give Mr. Kamp cover). No one does these jobs because they want power — they are doing what they believe is their civic duty. It’s just the extraordinarily fine line between being a taxing authority and substituting that authority with a grandstand effort. IF they believed that the fire companies were underfunded, then they should have provided the revenue. IF they believed the fireworks were worthy, they could/should have asked the community to step up. EXACTLY like the concert series. That’s about quality of life – not municipal services. There is no anger in my tone — simply an effort at pointing out that the way they did it was patriarchal — not professional. You don’t need to defend them to me — I have worked with all 3 men and like them, but i think there is a tendency to not care what others think once they decide their opinion. Kind of like “don’t confuse me with facts, I know my opinion.”
      I think this has been a worthy exchange on this site. Truly.

      1. Enjoying the exchange, Sara . In local government, I see potential conflicts of interest in virtually every decision, and feel lines can’t be drawn. We ‘ve got to trust the integrity of the decisionmakers. We’ll agree to disagree.

        BTW, you have interesting thoughts on KOL which somewhat confirm my observation. The whole announcement, check presentation, further public comment was a bit overdone. Sometimes “less is more”.

    2. Mike said: “They got thousands of checks, including some in six figures from local individuals and businesses – probably the most successful fundraising campaign in the Township’s history. Supervisor Olsen was one of the leaders of that effort, although during at least part of the time (‘06-07) he was off the Board. How should that be handled?” I’ll add to my answer above by reminding you that Supervisor Olsen was roundly criticized for using his knowledge of who donated and who did not in his subsequent campaign to return to the Board. Did he fundraise to improve his candidacy? Who cares. I’m glad he fundraised. But combining solicitation with GOVERNING is the hard part. As I said before — it doesn’t need to be evil to be wrong. It can just be “squishy.” Moral compasses are 360 degrees — clearly I want mine to be true north. ??

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