Pattye Benson

Community Matters

Lower Merion Township

Conduct Unbecoming . . . Hate Mail Targets Local Blogger!

For the second time in 8 days, fellow blogger Carla from Save Ardmore Coalition has endured hate mail . . . that is, personally addressed mail with no note, only feces. The first envelope arrived at her home on February 10 and latest envelope addressed to her, arrived today at the post office box of Save Ardmore Coalition. This mail too contained fecal material. Who would do this, and why?

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “. . . if you passively accept a wrong, you are as much involved in it as the one who perpetrates it. If you accept the wrong without protesting it, King said, you are really cooperating with it.”

Hate mail, whatever its form, is harassment, and it is wrong. Why should expressing your opinion result in foul and abusive hate mail? Regardless of our roles – political figures, pundits, community activists – is this the price of free speech?

Call it sisterhood, kindred spirits or one ‘blogger to another’, Carla’s incident has shaken me. Every writer who says something slightly provocative or controversial is a target for hate mail. And hate mail can come in many forms – including blog posts, anonymous comments, email and letters. Hate mail never intends to start a discussion. The goal is to silence.

The recent violence in Arizona shows us the level of anger and vitriol that some people are carrying around in today’s society. Near-fanatical hatred drives personal attacks on people with whom they may disagree. It is a Federal offense to send feces through the US Postal service and I hope that the Lower Merion Police Department can track down this criminal.

Beyond adding awareness and offering my support through this post on Community Matters, I am feeling helpless. Is this the price tag for freedom of speech?

Below is Carla’s latest post on Save Ardmore Coalition.

So today started like any other day, except it was warm and beautiful out. Then around noon, Ria from Save Ardmore Coalition contacted me to let me know I had SAC mail at the P.O. Box in Ardmore – it happens occasionally.

But given what happened to me recently (being sent poop in the mail as documented in the post Is This a Price of Free Speech), I asked her to describe the envelope. What she described was a doppelgänger of the first poopy-gram.

Oh HELLO groundhog day! Seriously?

So I went to pick up the envelope and it was identical except the address was the SAC P.O. Box and the postmark was Philadelphia not Southeastern. Same pencil, same caps/block printing, same stinky contents.

I did not open the envelope and instead took myself right to the Lower Merion Police Department. I made an additional report and BOTH envelopes have been taken into the Lower Merion Police Department as evidence. They are being processed as evidence and the LMPD is taking this second incident seriously.

I have to tell you the LMPD was wonderful today. The LMPD actually opened the envelope which arrived today – and yes – the contents were the same: shit. (Of course I wonder how the post office people in Ardmore couldn’t smell this, because this one did stink.)

I also called NBC10, and yes, this will be a news story – they find the topic newsworthy and before someone rolls up here and says self-aggrandizement, I want you to stop and think how disgustingly timely this is. Think about what the blogging teacher in Bucks County, Natalie Monroe is going through – even if she is turning this into a national media tour. More to the point, were the scary assed threats the Notre Dame Teacher who blogged, Elizabeth Collins was subjected to.

The commonality is, like it or not, in my head – targeting bloggers, specifically female bloggers. This is a crime against women, like it or not. I don’t believe in crime against women.

Now, the country not heard from: The United States Postal Service. In spite of calls from high level customer service personnel at the United States Postal Service who have told me mailing shit is a federal offense, in spite of having been directed to a Philadelphia area inspector via (877)-876-2455, I have yet to have a phone call back from any postal inspector.

I write about lots of things, but I don’t believe this is any politician – not their M.O. – they just denounce me from podiums and lump me into small mean spirited groups of individuals and twaddle on about decorum as they eviscerate citizens for exercising their right to free speech.

Do I know who this is? No. But to be honest, this isn’t the first time I have had an “admirer”.

Not all of you may like my writing style or poking fun at politicians, but I do have standards and do not believe ANY blogger or ANY woman deserves this.

I thank all of you out there for your support and caring and concern – from the police to friends, fellow bloggers and members of the traditional media.

I will continue to provide the police with any poopy-grams and any threats I receive.

To the person out there who is doing this – I am not sure what I did, but I am sorry you are upset. But seriously, you need to stop, as what you have done apparently is actually illegal. To me it makes it SO not worth it.

Ok bloggers, weigh in.

Will T/E School Board Include an Activity Fee in the 2011-12 Budget?

On the eve of the Special T/E School Board meeting, there is much discussion on the $8.8 million deficit for the district’s 2011-12 school year and its challenge. Over the last couple of weeks, I do not recall much discussion about the possibility of adding an activities fee to the 2011-12 budget. If you recall, the T/E School Board passed the 2010-11 school year budget without the inclusion of an activity fee. The estimated $80K in activity fee revenue was removed before the passage of the final budget. The consensus at the time was there was not enough time to look at the details required for such an assessment. However, it was thought that some form of an activity fee should be discussed for inclusion in the 2011-12 budget.

Every year, students of all ages opt for extra-curricular activities. The activity may not be high-profile football or some other “major” high school sports. The involvement may be in the performing arts or any variety of positive clubs or organizations that contribute to making school kids better citizens. Depending on the activity, the kids and their parents may spend a lot of personal money on extra-curricular expenses (sports workout clothing, voice or instrumental music lessons, club-related materials, etc.). In addition, along with time spent on their studies, these students spend inordinate amounts of time practicing to become better performers or working for the good of the club. It’s also not uncommon for them to devote many hours of added time with fund-raisers to defray organizational expenses. Parents are not to be spared, either. Any parent of an “involved kid” at school will tell you about driving kids to and from practice, helping with fundraisers, etc. So how do we feel about imposing an activity fee on the T/E students and their families? Do you think that an activity fee will impact participation?

Checking other school districts, Lower Merion, Coatesville, Phoenixville, Owen J. Roberts and Kennett school districts currently have no additional activity fees. (I was not able to verify that Radnor School District imposes an activity fee – maybe a reader knows the answer.) Great Valley and West Chester school districts do not currently have an activity fee but are considering such a fee for the 2011-12 school year. The Downingtown school district charges their activity fee at a flat rate of $25 per sport.

Unionville-Chadds Ford School District currently has an activity fee but is considering an increase for next year’s budget. Their suggested approach is a creative four level-tiered schedule – $10, $25, $50 and $75 depending on the type of sports and student activity. The fees will cover many kinds of activities from math and academic clubs to participation on sports teams, like football and basketball. With the increase, the activity fees will generate an annual income of $133.00. The calculation of fees was based on total cost of the activity, an amount not to exceed 20% of the total cost. Using football fees as an example, the proposed increase is 200%, from a current $25 fee to $75; the increase would still be under the 20% of total cost.

If T/E adds an activities fee to the 2011-12 budget, how would the assessment be applied . . . per activity, per sports involvement? Would the charge be an annual assessment per student or per family? Will the assessment be a flat rate or a creative multi-tiered approach? Where does the T/E school board stand on the activity fee subject? I will be curious to see if the activity fee subject is discussed at tomorrow night’s special School Board meeting.

Lower Merion Township 2011 Budget Proposes 12.7% Real Estate Tax Increase . . . Can Tredyffrin Be Far Behind?

I was checking on the agenda for Monday night’s Board of Supervisors meeting and a couple of items of note. First, there will be the adoption of a resolution setting lease rental and rate and any sewer revenue of the Authority; and secondly, the presentation of the 2011 proposed budget. Now that Election Day 2010 has passed, it is going to be very interesting to see the proposed 2011 budget.

The first draft of Lower Merion Township’s 2011 budget came out today and it calls for a 12.7% municipal tax rate increase! Th proposed 12.7% increase represents the highest tax increase since the 2003 budget according to the summary posted on their township website.

Lower Merion Township Manager Doug Cleland explained the large real estate tax increase was necessary to close the $4.4 million general fund budget gap. Reasons cited by Cleland for the budget gap included employee healthcare cost increases, pay raises to police officers and debt service expenses for infrastructure projects. Also contained in the proposed budget is an anticipated sanitary sewer rental fee in the range of 9%. But the tax increase does not close the $4.4 million deficit – the proposed budget will still be short $1 million which is expected to come from the general fund. Should that happen, it will mark the third year in a row for a general fund withdrawal.

But what about Tredyffrin Township and our proposed 2011 budget? Is there any correlation between Lower Merion and Tredyffrin townships? With much no-tax increase banter in Tredyffrin lately, it would suggest that our supervisors would not be leaning in the direction of Lower Merion and increasing our real estate taxes. Any increases in real estate taxes would go against promises delivered during the campaign season.

However, if we assume that township costs have continued to rise and that revenue (transfer tax, etc.) sources are down, how will our elected officials combat the budget gap? Either by increasing taxes or by reducing expenses (services, personnel, etc.). Certainly going to be interesting Monday night . . . our government cannot have it both ways.

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