Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy Tomorrow!

Tonight at 12:01am the calendar will change from 2011 to 2012 and yet that is all that will happen (unless God has other plans).  As I tour the internet off and on today all I have read is how tough this year has been, and I will agree that there have been things that have happened that my life could have certainly done without from my perspective and I am sure there has been hurt and pain for many, but what I truly do not understand is why people think that just because the numbers change that life will dramatically change with it.  Tomorrow someone will scratch off a lottery ticket and win $1,000, but also tomorrow someone’s heart will be broken and it has nothing to do with flipping a page or buying a new calendar.  Life moves on at the pace that is determined, the only thing that CAN change is how you handle the good with the bad and whether you have chosen to curl up and let life pass you by because it is painful at times, or that you have chosen to milk it for every good moment that comes along.

There have been times in my life that I thought the pain was more than I could bare and I was never going to be the same, and I was right, but the next day came and no miraculous peaceful feeling came to over-ride the pain, serenity did not happen with the snap of my fingers, those things came gradually as I learned to capture them and hold them for when life came at me with both barrels.   Things did not all of a sudden become great, grand and beautiful because I could cross another day off a calendar, the great, grand and beautiful came because I lived my life the best that I could with the things and feelings I was given.

So tonight when you kiss your partner at the stroke of midnight, or bemoan the fact that you are alone with Ryan Seacrest as the ball drops, or snoring under your blankets make the decision to make TOMORROW a great and grand day, not next year, not 2012, but because you were given one more DAY.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Pardon Me Andy Rooney

There have been lost of things going through my head lately and I thought of how Andy Rooney would complain about random things, so I am going to take a page from him.

Did you ever wonder what makes people think that a last ditch effort to make someone else look bad was ever thought to be effective?  The borough council meeting on December 21st was painful to say the least.  It's not as if after the second person got up who lived in the same neighborhood or even the same street that the agenda was not known.  I sat there rather irritated at the childish antics that had emerged, through a poem that had no place in council chambers and questions that the answers had been given over and over again and then even a personal attack on Jamie Bruton.  I thought what do they really think they are going to accomplish other than make themselves look silly and a bit vindictive?  Then those very same people left once they had tried their best to humiliate council members and other issues were discussed which effect their lives just as much, but I will leave their motives to you to figure out as they were quite transparent.

Did you ever wonder why people think that just because they are family of friends that they can take advantage of you?  My husband and I had just that experience.  There was contract in place and what was done is a clear violation of said contract, but to take it to court would cost more than at this point it is worth.  It still makes my blood boil a bit when just because you know people on a personal basis that they feel it's OK to bend the rules or even break the law.

Did you ever wonder why people who meet in a store feel it's their due to stand in the middle of the aisle or in front of merchandise and chat to their hearts content catching up on Aunt June's bunion surgery and then are offended when you say excuse me in a loud voice since they didn't move the first three times?  Why is it that people find it necessary to block aisles and "catch up" when most of us, especially in a grocery store, want to get our stuff and get out?  Do they not own telephones that they can call these people later?  Do they not have their email address so that they can regularly correspond?  In this world of instant communication one would think that, "Hey how are you?  Give me a call later!" would be a great way to get the job done and get out of the way.

Do you ever wonder why people feel that people in the service industry like car salesman don't have families that they would like to go home to, or that they actually do have to make some money on the goods that they are selling?  So many times people walk into a dealership at 8:45pm and wish to go on a test drive and then have the salesperson "run numbers" when the dealership closes at 9pm.  Then the customer promptly tries to guilt the salesperson into it by asking "Well don't you want a sale?"  Yes they want a sale, but the dealership has been open for 12 hours already and some of them have been there all day and want to go home.  Then there is the customer who wants to negotiate because the salesperson "makes so much money on each car."  Want the low down on sales receipts?  A salesperson makes a mini deal on a new car which means maybe $ after you get done with taxes and health care there is maybe $50 left.  Yes a salesperson may sell 5 new cars that week, but $250 a week take home does not pay for much.  Then there is the all important customer who thinks that he or she should pay for the sky and get the sun, moon and stars thrown in for free.

Did you ever wonder why at a time in the year when happiness and good will toward man (no offense ladies) should be abundant, it's in such short supply?  Have you said, "Thank you" or "Yes please" or "Thanks for your help" lately?  If not maybe you need to take a personal inventory and clean out the crud.

No matter what 2011 has been an eventful year and I am sure that 2012 shall be just as exciting.  I hope that everyone has a happy and healthy NEW YEAR!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Merry Christmas

Yes, I said it, the politically incorrect holiday moniker for this time of year,  I bet you won't be surprised when I say tough nuggies if you don't like it.  When I was growing up this time of year was filled with Christmas parties and gift exchanges and wait for it..........cheer.  Now it's a time for people to be rude, intolerant, cranky and mean spirited.  It seems that once it was no longer "Merry Christmas", but "Happy Holidays" grinches began appearing more and more frequently.  Let's face it, it is Christmas, it's not "The holidays" we don't exchange holiday presents, kids don't go to see holiday man and we certainly don't celebrate holiday baby.

I have no problem wishing someone a "Happy Hanukkah" or "Happy Kwanza" if that is what they celebrate, so why is it so difficult for others to wish me a Merry Christmas?  If companies, schools and other public entities don't want parties to be Christmas Parties then don't have them before Christmas, have them in between Christmas and New Year.  This way there is no conflict and it most certainly is a holiday party.

The thing that I have the most difficult time understanding is if you don't believe in God and the birth of Jesus why would a person want to celebrate a day that does and why it's ok for you to want to change it to suit you?  I would never think to interfere with Hanukkah, Kwanza, Eid ul-Fitr, Bodhi Day or even Yule.  Why is it ok for those who don't believe to hijack a day that is set aside for those of us who do?  Why is it that those of us who believe have to alter our day to suit your needs and we must be the ones who are tolerant? Don't you think that it is about time that spiritual tolerance goes both ways?  So I will say it again...MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

They're Just Words

Small town politics is not all it’s cracked up to be.  Neither is trying to hold those in those offices accountable for their actions.  Just recently it was pointed out to me that my words could be used against others, that they can be acerbic or they can be thought provoking.  The last two I can live with, the former not so much.  Happenings in our little borough can be as happy as a resident realizing a career goal and being hired as a full time officer, or as down and dirty as the council race that concluded just this past month.  Wonderful occurrences like neighbors looking out for each other, or working against each other out of spite.   When these things happen especially the ones that are negative or prove to be negative they make me angry for a moment and I may write about them.  I may hold an elected official to the fact that they are working for the people not against them and that he or she needs to remember that.  I may be surprised and displeased at the actions of someone and mention things that correspond to my own experiences, but that does not mean that I don’t admire them for fighting the good fight. 
 When I go to the polls I vote for the person who most matches my thoughts and ideals and sometimes I have to make a compromise.  If there is work to be done I will work with anyone for the good of the town and it doesn’t matter if I disagree with you on one issue because on another you may have great insights and fantastic ideas, just as I in your thoughts are about 15 degrees right of center when we disagree or even fight.  I don’t hate anyone…..ok well there are a few, but no one I know personally and I will work with just about anyone.  But as even my friends will tell you I will call you on what I consider to be either inappropriate or in my eyes plain wrong.  However, using that trait that I have to hurt others either personally or professionally is not what I am all about nor is it something I would expect of people I know, friends, colleagues or working acquaintances.  If anyone has been personally harmed or taken to task because I said my piece then I am truly sorry.  I chose my words carefully so that they should not be taken out of context, nor used as a weapon and I apologize if anyone saw fit to do exactly those things to anyone else.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


      Integrity means- adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.  Unfortunately in the race for Downingtown Borough Council integrity seems to be in short supply.  When the candidates were announced for the three open seats on borough council this coming term I was excited to see such young, new faces wanting to help govern the town that I live in.  I thought that this would be an opportunity to bring a unique perspective and a fresh new attitude about politics as usual.  However, that changed on Saturday when a “letter” was mailed out to residents of the East End of town about each of the candidates which was if nothing else a desperate last minute attempt to sway voters (see below).  The letter shamefully puts more credence on degrees and endorsements than on service and character.  It states that one of the candidates is a Downingtown High School graduate, yet his children attend a private Charter School.  In one of the columns it is stated that two of the candidates care about D’town yet the other is funded by a political action committee.  How that has anything to do with how much a person cares about their community; I must have missed that memo.  I personally want a candidate that listens and is not waiting to answer the question I did not ask to hear their own voice.   The letter states that one candidate is the best one PAC can buy yet the others are endorsed by old school Downingtown who have run the town like it has always been run and has gotten us to the place that we are.  I don’t know about anyone else but I would like to see the “old boys” of Downingtown given the rest that they deserve and bring in new fresh blood that can help hold taxes at a minimum, balance a budget and create a more business friendly town.  Founding ad hoc groups that do little if anything and being members of homeowners associations don’t prepare anyone for office, but serving the community by volunteering your time on committees and commissions and taking the time to know who lives here and what their visions of Downingtown are is the way to influence voters in my book.

     The backroom politics that have emerged because of the desperation and fear leading up to the election on Tuesday has seriously disappointed me, angered me and made me ashamed to say that I live in Downingtown.  We should set ourselves apart when it comes to elections and maintaining the integrity of the town instead of getting down and dirty and displaying the kind of base backbiting politics that got many old time politicians elected and then indicted.

     I can’t tell you who to vote for, but I hope that you will take a look at the photo posted below and remember that if we want integrity in office it starts on the campaign trail.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Definitely a Contender

An article in the Local News section of the paper today highlighted the three candidates that are vying for the two seats that will be available in the November election for Downingtown Borough Council on the East side.  I know each of the candidates and they all have their strong points, but I feel one of the candidates has been given less of a chance to have his voice heard and has had less “press coverage” than the other two.

Matt Zaun while a very quiet young man, and is also a very dedicated and caring individual.  When I first met Matt I had no idea that he was on the Historic and Parks Commission for Downingtown until we encountered him helping out at the Log House Craft Fair the first year we participated.   It’s not widely known that Matt has assisted in building homes internationally, has helped feed the homeless and will truly hear what you have to say.  I have often wondered why that is and now, having worked with him on various projects and really getting to know him and his lovely wife I have found that these things are not known because Matt is not willing to blow his own horn for accolades.  It has been said that the gentle shall inherit the earth and if that is so, then Matt is the go to guy.

When I read about the other candidates for the seats on the East side of D’town, the main topic is revitalization.  Matt has been pushed aside and given an “also ran” status because his ideas do not rely on revitalization that really would be difficult to accomplish, but smart growth which will help fill store fronts on Lancaster Ave. and give the small businesses in town that have managed to stick things out a helping hand.  Matt wants to set up a business committee that will help the small businesses in town with issues that only come with being a small business owner, which in turn will make it more attractive to have a store front in Downingtown on Lancaster Ave rather than the Main Line or somewhere else. 

I have had occasion to speak with Matt about things in Downingtown and what he sees as the best assets and what can be improved.   When a resident has that opportunity to speak with Matt he/she gets the feeling that he really is listening instead of thinking up the next campaign point that he/she is going to bring up.  One gets the feeling that even if he disagrees he will find a way to come to a compromise that works for both of you and if not he will tell you why it doesn’t work instead of ignoring the idea all together or simply saying, “No.”  This innate ability may have been cultivated by his and his wife Courtney’s involvement in their church Cornerstone in West Chester.    It’s not a usual occurrence to see the dedication and deep caring that Matt possesses and I believe it will serve him well as a Downingtown Borough Council member.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Good Neighbor Community

As long as I have lived in Downingtown I have always heard the mantra "Good Neighbor Community" and while so many great things go on in the borough sometimes the most rotten of attitudes reside among the "good neighbors".   So many times I have heard instances of residents calling the Codes Department, or the Police or any other official before even going to the neighbor themselves and possibly resolving the issue or getting an explanation for the situation.  Sometimes even when the "whistle blowers" have been given the information that is necessary to prevent a call to a borough official it will be ignored.  If you are having a difficulty with a neighbor wouldn't it be much more productive to ask them what the problem is and maybe you are in a position to help them resolve the issue or time is needed to correct it.

Growing up I remember a time when neighbors watched out for each other.  If I had done something that was not behavior that I was supposed to display I got told about it by the lady whose house I was in front of and by the time I got home my mom knew about it.  We knew our neighbors names even if we didn't socialize or we could wave and knew the greeting would be returned.  Granted it is a much different world today and neighborhood watches are a necessity, but those watches should be working to encourage people to be good neighbors, reminding them to turn on porch lights if activity is in the area, watching houses of families on vacation, making sure that the elderly have their sidewalks shoveled and simply knowing when someone doesn't belong in the area.  There should not be an atmosphere of "search and destroy" many violations can we find, or how many suspicious characters can we bother the police to come out and check, how many neighbors can we alienate because we did not bother to check the facts before calling in the officials.

My challenge to you as a Downingtown resident.  Find out the names of four of your neighbors.  They do not have to live right next door.  If you already know that many expand your horizons and discover four more.  Downingtown can be so much more if we work together and actually live up to the "Good Neighbor" motto.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Park It

Parking issues in Downingtown are nothing new.   A parking in lieu of fee for businesses along Lancaster Ave is exorbitant and prevents many smaller businesses from coming into the borough and filling up the storefronts.  Parking lots in many areas are metered and residents even have to have parking permits on some streets because of the train station, yet here we spend money on things like streetscapes when a parking structure is sorely needed.  Recently parking permits for the residents on East Church Street was brought before council and the issue of the overflow seemed to be the sticking point which still has not been addressed by council even though that was what delayed the ordinance change.  Now Jack Law and Chief McGowan have been working to make one side of Keene Lane no parking because when there is a happening at the Bethel AME church on Prospect or visitors to other residents or even parties on other streets Keene is parked up on both sides making it extremely difficult for the residents of both Keen and Talucci Drive to maneuver in and out of the small development and an emergency vehicle would find it almost impossible to pass through.  It was brought before council tonight and yet again overflow parking seemed to be the issue with council members.  I understand that residents live on narrow streets back in this development and it is something that we have gotten used to, but to be more concerned about overflow parking than the safety of the residents of these streets which encompasses approximately 30 homes makes me wonder if council is actually concerned about representing the needs of the residents above the needs of revenue.  When did the needs of visitors and non-residents become more important than those of us who live here? 

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Fun For All

This Sunday will be a busy time in Downingtown, but if you would like to get a jump start on your Christmas shopping the Fourth Annual Log House Craft Fair will be held from 10am to 3pm on Sunday October2, 2011 near the Gazebo on Pennsylvania Ave.  Many local artisans, crafters, along with food and music provided by The Floats,  Auroras, Emberway and Nicole Zell.  Tickets for the Ghost Walk will be available at the Log House.  So come down and join your neighbors for a great shopping experience and support local small businesses!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Roller Coaster Ride

I have not been to an amusement park in quite awhile, but last weeks Borough Council meeting provided me with the opportunity to do just that and we all got to ride the roller coaster.  The climb to the first hill started with Citizens to Be Heard.  Ms. Brown who is a resident of East Brandywine and Ann Feldman's right hand woman when it comes to Kardon Park railed against council for what she thought were violations of DEP standards and covert actions taken by council to stop water flow in the Mill Race.  Back in August Ms. Brown first questioned why there were rocks in the small flowing creek of the Mill Race.  It appeared that she was accusing council for putting them there.  Councilman Benner replied that it was possible that the rocks appeared since the water levels were so low.  Apparently that did not appease Ms. Brown as she produced a two page copy of her accusations against council and gave a bit convoluted description the rocks appearing and then disappearing.  Councilman Smith tried to help make clear what she was saying and was hushed by Ms. Feldman.  Ms Brown then proceeded to accuse Public Works and council of violating DEP standards because they had the audacity to mow the high weeds which by chance flew into the Mill Race on Norwood Rd.  In the end Ms. Brown leveled some serious accusations at council and called Jack Law and Steve Sullins liars.

When that hullabaloo was over and we felt like we were on the down side of the first hill.  DMWA presented their request for an ordinance which would preclude anyone in the borough from digging and building a well without approval of the Water Authority.  A first this did not sound to be too complicated, but if you listened close enough we were back on an uphill climb again.  Essentially under the guise of protecting the citizens of the borough DMWA does not want competition and wishes council to help them stop anyone from coming up with a different source for their water.  DMWA has quite a monopoly in D'town and has just recently raised water usage rates exponentially.  Even a family of two whom are professionals and not home all day saw an increase of almost $50 in their bill.  Both Councilwoman Feldman and Councilman Smith were upset by the language that was being used by DMWA and felt that competition was what was needed and if DMWA did not want it, "TOUGH".

Just when we thought the end of the ride had come Kardon Park came along and took us up one hill into a hairpin corkscrew and bunny hopped us all the way to the end of the meeting.  Solicitor for litigation Patrick O'Donnell brought to council that Kardon Park was going to be brought up for rebidding due to borough legal parameters, transparency and the fact that the value of said land has now changed due to litigation brought forth against the sale.  Both O'Donnell and council for the present developer, Progressive Housing, Louis Colagreco agreed that this is what was needed to be done until such time as the court cases come to an end.  When it came time to vote on this issue Ms. Feldman pushed saying that she should be a part of this vote as it is not in conjunction with the current litigation.  Council President James Bruton told Ms. Feldman that may be the case, but the rebidding is a direct result of the lawsuit brought forth by her.  Ms. Feldman would not let it go saying that voters would be disenfranchised if she did not get a vote.  Several murmurings could be heard among the residents in attendance stating that Ms. Feldman brought this on herself.  When she pressed the issue Mr. Colagreco stated that Ms. Feldman would then open herself up to personal litigation.  Many felt that it was about time that someone let her know that you cannot have your cake and eat it too.  Finally a vote was taken and rebidding for the sit will go on.

Getting off that night's roller coaster was a bit daunting and had me reviewing what kind of ride I had been taken on.  First of all I have no idea why a resident of East Brandywine is even considered in a Downingtown Borough Council meeting.  But then I remember that Ms. Brown is a cohort of Ms. Feldman.  DMWA in my eyes is a monopoly that really needs to be challenged.  When water usage bills go up over $100 in one bill cycle there is something seriously wrong in the back rooms of that organization.  Now we come to Kardon Park.  My views on that have not changed, but I am getting a bit tired of the fight that has lasted far too long.  I have never felt that Ms. Feldman should be allowed to remain on council while bringing litigation to the very body she sits on.  I know that she was legally voted in, but the very fact that she is the complainant on said litigation is a clear conflict of interest.  Yet Ms. Feldman is concerned that voters will be disenfranchised if she does not get a vote?  Wake up Ms. Feldman you are the one who created the situation.  While I would still think that she had a serious case of NIMBY syndrome and that the fight would still go on, I would have less of a difficult time taking Ms. Feldman seriously if she was not sitting on council while taking said body to court.  The voters may have placed her there, but did they understand the ramifications of Ms. Feldman having to recuse herself?  Did anyone think of that.

I think the next time I want to ride a roller coaster I will just go to Hershey Park as their coasters are much more fun.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Try to Remember the Kind of September

Tomorrow will mark the 10th anniversary of 9/11 and it breaks my heart all over again to think about it and what we lost that day.  That being said I am a bit tired of all the TV shows and tributes and rehashing of a terrible day in history.  I don't want to hear tapes of a last phone call made to a loved one before their plane crashed, I don't want to hear nor have that person relive the terrible panic they experienced while trying to get out of a building that was coming down around them, nor do I want to watch over and over again the Towers burning and then falling to the ground.  We lived it and I think that is enough.  Yes, it will become part of our history, but it has been a mere 10 years and the wounds are so easily opened again.

I am also disappointed in the fact that those who were not invited on September 11 2001 and still went sacrificing in some cases their own lives are not invited 10 years later, because "there is no room".  How about the politicians stay home with their cadre of security and make room for those who should be there not those looking for a photo op.  Men and women who left their homes and their families knowing full well they may not come back are an after thought to the story, they will be able to attend another ceremony later in the week, but they were there THAT DAY!

So tomorrow as I wake I will say a prayer for those who went before us, for those they left behind and for those who are still here with us,and the brave men and women who helped those in peril, but I won't be watching any recaps or History Channel specials or interviews with survivors, because even without all that my heart still aches, the tears still come and I will never forget.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

And Justice For All?

Usually I am a proponent of the justice system and following the rules of the courts, but there are some issues in Chester County that appear to be a miscarriage of that justice. A Downingtown resident had taken their dog to the vet in January and paid the bill with a check. The vet then later called and said that they had not paid the bill at all, however the resident took her bank statement to the vet and showed that the check was cashed and it was not returned. The resident, whom I shall call Paula, thought that that was the end of the issue, but it was not. In July of 2011 Paula was sent by regular mail with no specific return address an “Execution of Sale” where her belongings would be sold off to pay for a lawsuit that was brought against her for delinquency of payment. Paula never knew that the suit had been brought against her and when she went to the court (15-4-2 in Thorndale) to find out what needed to be done she was faced with an extremely rude court clerk who would offer no assistance other than to tell Paula she wasn’t going to argue and the fine needed to be paid. As Paula is a neighbor I have seen how she handles some situations so I offered to help so that possibly the problem could be solved and the anger she felt towards Downingtown could be managed. I asked Paula to tell me the story from start to finish leaving out no detail. The only other detail that seemed pertinent was the fact that service was made on her in March, but the service documents were not in her possession and the constable served Paula’s daughter. Paula has four children, the oldest is 14. The daughter that was allegedly served is 10. I did some research online and asked a legal expert if that was legal and he told us that Paula should file to vacate the suit because it was not good service. Paula and I even made a trip down to Legal Aid in West Chester to find out that they did not find it to be a pressing enough matter to help. Paula’s husband had been out of work since May on medical disability, they were having to negotiate rent with their landlord and they were facing an approximately $300 bill or their possessions would be sold, and it’s not a pressing matter. A very kind friend of Paula’s loaned her the money and she and I ventured down to court. The court clerk again was rude and downright nasty until Paula said to stop the sale she would pay the money. Paula paid what she was told, got a receipt saying paid in full and copies of the documents along with the name of the constable (John Ross) who allegedly served Paula’s 10 year old daughter. Funds have been very tight for Paula and her family and she is unable to afford legal counsel to fight this injustice, but now the plot thickens. Today Paula was called by the rude clerk and told that there was a clerical error and that she owed an additional $150. It was suggested that Paula call and ask to see the Judge who made the initial ruling. My husband and myself went with Paula since we felt she was being unfairly treated by a system that is supposed to be just. Judge Jeffrey Valocchi appeared and told Paula that she had to pay the additional $150 because it was a clerical error and if she had gone into a retail store and purchased an item that was listed for $200 dollars and the clerk told her it was $150 she didn’t get the item for $150 she had to pay the $200. My husband and I were sitting off to the side quietly and I will admit to frowning trying to understand his meaning, when the judge looked at me and asked, “Are you a lawyer?” I responded with , “No and I haven’t said anything.” Judge Valocchi stated, “No you haven’t but you will not react in my court!” The judge told Paula that it was his court and he could do what he wanted and she had to pay. The only time he showed any type of humanity was when Paula said that she needed back surgery. The judge then offered her six months to pay the $150 and her things would not be sold.

Granted Paula now has six months to either come up with the additional money or appeal, but how in the world did it get to this point if the people issuing the court orders were actually looking at what they were affixing their signature? How is it legal to serve a 10 year old? How is it a way to help the public handle their legal issues if the clerks speak in a tone that is disrespectful and rude? Judge Valocchi is up for re-election and the constables in your area are elected in also. You might want to double check who you are voting for and how they handle due process before you pull the lever in November.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

National Night Out

Johnsontown Community Group is hosting it's Second Annual National Night Out.  It takes place Tuesday August 2, 2011 from 6-8PM in Johnsontown Park.  We will have awesome face painting provided by Paintings on People a rocking DJ from Moore Music,  great food from Chick Fil A, Blue Cafe and Foster Boys.  There will be activities for the kids both young and old, baskets with lots of goodies up for raffle and informational tables set up by several local businesses and groups.  We will also be having the official ribbon cutting ceremony of the Born Learning Trail in conjunction with the United Way and the DASD volunteers and we will be joined by members of borough council and the mayor.  Downingtown police and both Minquas and Alert fire companies will be there with their impressive ladder truck, EMS truck and police cars for the kids to get a look at.  It's going to be a night for fun food and fellowship, so come on out and join us we'd love to see you!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Come On Down

Johnsontown Community Group is having their general meeting tonight.  On the agenda is the Born Learning Trail, National Night Out and the proposed train station.  Join us at 7:30PM at St. Anthony's Banquet Hall on Church Street.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Ironic Debt

I'll have to admit that tonight's Borough Council meeting gave me a bit of a headache and it wasn't just all the wrangling that went on. The big issue that had everyone squirming was the bond ordinance that was brought before council. I have to say that I am not savvy in the ways of municipal bonds and the reasons behind them and all the technicalities that go along with it, but I did understand why this had been brought before council and why it is a necessary evil. First of all to be honest I was really peeved that Council had long ago made an agreement with anyone for any project that would cost any amount of money before any currency was in hand. That does not mean that I have reversed my stance on Kardon Park or on the Millrace property, but even I know that you do not make a bet if you can't cover the spread. With that said I understand why it is now necessary for the borough to go out on a limb and acquire a bond to pay for the things that were promised, I don't like it but it is what it is. What made me a bit angry and uncomfortable were the questions that were raised and the attitudes that were taken. Ms. Feldman and I while we have been cordial and I will work with her for the betterment of our community will never be friends. I have however, gone to bat for her when I thought she was right and when I thought that the attitudes and comments made by various people were beyond the pale and were unprofessional. I never thought that she would make me eat those words. Tonight on several occasions she was a bit rude to the president of council Mr. Bruton whom was trying valiantly not to call the questions she was asking exactly what they were....IRONIC. I am not fond of Ms. Feldman's predilection of nit picking, but there have been times that it has been necessary, however tonight I wonder if she even saw the irony of her questions. She did not see the validity of the bond when it will encourage more debt in years down the road if it does not become the "wash" that most council members feel it will, which I agree with, however her lawsuit and the blocking of development of "Kardon Park" is exactly why Council now needs to take this measure. Ms. Feldman has claimed numerous times that she is just trying to work for and be the voice of the community at large, yet here we are in this quagmire because of her and the Friends of Kardon Park. So no Ms. Feldman, on this issue you needed to just listen and vote and put your nitpicker away.

The other issue brought before council was a new train station. The present one exists in Johnsontown and by all appearances seems to be the forgotten station, yet it is a busy area come quitting time in Philadelphia and Harrisburg. Traffic can become a hairy situation especially if the light goes out at the tunnel that leads to Business 30 which happened just this Tuesday at 6PM. The gentleman that was there from PennDot appeared to have all his ducks in a row and it seems that the situation will be approached with community involvement, but my question is why not focus more on the residents of Johnsontown rather than the borough at large since we will be the ones most impacted. Regardless if the station stays in J'town or moves across 322, we will still be left with the remnants of what is, in my opinion, one of the biggest eyesores of a train station on the whole R5 line. Time will tell but Johnsontown is now seriously on council's radar as it should be.

The dog days of summer in the borough are promising to be interesting to say the least....tune in next time.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Growing Pains

I have been involved in many organizations, clubs, jobs, businesses and the like and I don't think any one of them did not experience growing pains.  It all starts off with a great idea and people jump on the bandwagon because they are excited and ready to get the work done.  At first not a lot gets done because everyone is still trying to define their roles and the exact cause or venture is not clear.  But then cooler heads prevail and organization creeps in, roles are defined, goals are created, rules are established and a heirarchy is created.  Things begin to move in a very positive direction until the first speed bump is encountered.  That may come in the form of a roadblock to a goal or a personality conflict within the group itself, eventually this will correct itself in the form of a reworking of the goal or one member leaving and that sometimes lends itself to a stronger working relationship between those who are left.  However, like any good recipe it needs to be tweaked every so often and sometimes this can be the most painful time for any group, organization or business.  Clashes over goals, objectives and achieveing these things become common place and a restructuring of the make up of the group becomes a necessary evil.  Yet, when the storm passes it might leave a very different profile of what was first's not a bad thing, just different.  In the end it is a part of life, a part of maturing and it's nothing more than growing pains.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Fanatical Funeral

Just the other day a young reality star and his passenger were killed when the Porche they were in jumped a guard rail, hit several trees and burst into flames on impact on the 322 Bypass.  This young man was Ryan Dunn and his passenger Zachary Hartwell.  I was saddened to hear that two young men were cut down in the prime of their lives, but yet was puzzled by the over the top reaction from the media and local residents.  Later that day I had to travel to West Chester to my parents' house and I take that route to get there.  At first I thought there had been another accident as I saw flashing lights and people milling around near the intersection of the bypass and the Route 100 on ramp.  What I did see sickened me.  There was not another accident....the police were there because there were so many gawkers and lookee lou's that police presence was needed.  People were taking pictures and videos from the side of the road and the overpass.  Two people died and it was like a paparazzi frenzy!  When I returned home that night and the next day Facebook posts, videos and pictures abounded lamenting the loss of Mr. Dunn and very little about his passenger Mr. Hartwell.  Listening to the news it was said that people were taking whatever they could salvage from the wreck site and selling it on eBay.  I don't think there have been many other times that I have been this appalled, sickened and completely disgusted at the attitudes, actions and downright disrespect for the dead in my life.

Ryan Dunn gained fame as part of the crew from the Jackass films.  I was never a fan of this kind of foolishness and I fail to see the humor in completely idiotic stunts that these men performed.  But I do know that Mr. Dunn and some of his associates created a bit of havoc around the surrounding area of West Chester, driving too fast, riding their skateboards without care, and dropping various objects and crude materials off of rooftops.  Shortly before the accident Ryan tweeted photos of him partaking of alcohol at a local pub in West Chester.  Although tox screens will not be available for weeks accident reconstruction has said that is is very possible that Mr. Dunn was driving in access of 130 miles per hour.  The stretch of road Mr. Dunn was on is a fairly straight stretch of road with no twist and turns in which over correction could be a huge factor in the car jumping the guard rail

Bam Margera was taken to the crash site yesterday and showed great emotion at the loss of his friend for which I am truly sorry, but he then proceeded to give an interview to Fox News at the scene.  Maybe I am cynical but if my best friend had died the last thing I would want to do is give an interview to a news station especially if I was broken up and crying.  I think that is part of the reason I am appalled at the reactions and actions of "fans" and friends.  So called friends wanting video of the crash site, fans looking to make a buck on a dead person, gawkers who have to travel to a site of tragedy to maybe get their 15 minutes of fame, and close friends giving interviews while breaking down emotionally.

Ryan Dunn was a reality star and I am sorry that his life was cut short, but his death is all over the news and Internet, Zachary Hartwell served his country and fought for the right for Mr. Dunn and his associates to create the kind of dreck that they did and he is just a immensely sad is that?

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Try To Remember

So many times in the hustle and bustle to get "down the shore" the whole reason for the weekend that ushers in the summer season is forgotten.  Memorial Day is a time to remember those men and women who have fought, are fighting and will continue to fight for the freedoms we all have.  I will never take any thing away from those brave men and women, but a small group of people, I feel, need to have some recognition on this day........the families.  We get so wrapped up in supporting our troops that we sometimes forget that those young men and women are someones child, someones parent or someones spouse and while they go proudly off into the night those left behind to keep the home fire's burning live through things that we can only imagine.  Think of the father who is brought to his knees when the commanding officer and the chaplin are at his door, or the children who will never know their father, or the wife who is three months pregnant and was just waiting for the love of her life to come home and share the news.  Just as the soldier transcends the sands of time so do the families who proudly watch as their loved one rides off on the family horse,  climbs aboard a huge ship to take them across the sea or boards a plane to take them to destinations we have only heard of.  So this weekend when you are saluting the brave men and women who have served, are serving, and will serve please remember to say a little prayer for those they leave behind for without the steadfast family these young people could not do what they do with a clear conscience, knowing that they have a home full of love to come back to.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Results Are In

It was quite interesting and quite nice to be more informed when I went into the privacy booth to place my vote in Tuesday's primary.  Most of the primaries went as they should have and party lines were followed.  The contentious race between Don Skomsky and Rita Arnold came down to Rita edging out Mr. Skomsky even though there had been a nasty muckraking letter that had been sent out to approximately 4,000 voters by someone who obviously had a severely misplaced idea that the kind of verbiage that was used to denigrate Rita Arnold and many republican constituents would actually help Dom Skomsky.  When it came time to count the ballots that letter had backfired and Rita Arnold won.

The race that I was most interested in was for the three seats that will be vacated in 2011 on Downingtown Borough Council.  On the West End Nick Winkler was facing the write in candidate Elizabeth Shingle, but in the end Nick placed on both ballots and Ms. Shingle will not be considered unless she mounts another write in campaign which, in my opinion, would be fruitless and a waste of money.  While Betty has some very strong supporters, they are of what I think of as the "Old Guard" and with four candidates running who are under 30, more people are looking for progress not the same old same old.  Nick, while known in D'town quite well, he is fresh blood and new ideas which is what we sorely need at this end of town.

The East End was a hard fought ballot.  Alex Rakoff won the Democratic vote and Matt Zaun came out on top on the Republican side.  Cara DeStefano ran a well thought out write in campaign to crush the hopes of former Mayor and Council member Heather Bruno.  This end of town should produce an interesting year since it will come down to the final vote in November.  I do not live on the East End of town, but am acquainted with all of the candidates, except I know Alex's wife a bit better.  Out of all of them I feel Matt would be the most beneficial for the borough.  While a really quiet gentleman he has a concise vision for what he feels the borough needs to move along at a pace that will keep D'town vital yet not have it lose it's historical feel.

I will be watching closely as this all unfolds because I may be a transplant but Downingtown is my home.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Elizabeth aka Betty Shingle

I presented each of the candidates (excluding Heather Bruno as I could not get in touch with her by any means so far) with the opportunity to answer three questions that would give the voters a better idea of where they stood, what they hoped to accomplish and what skills they possessed that would help Borough Council if they were elected. As of this morning there were only two candidates left that I had not heard from. Both of them happen to be the women, one from each end of town, I had figured like most women they just had trouble deciding "which dress to wear to the party" so I sent a gentle reminder and even wished them both luck if they declined. What I did not expect is what one candidate did and that was hijack the questions that I had sent her, put them on her website where it said, "This person stated they would only edit my response for size. I chose to anaswer the questions on my website so that they would not be edited in anyway. I want everyone I will be representing to be able to read what my representation means to them."(taken verbatim from the website) What I had told Ms. Shingle and all the other candidates that I would edit for space not content, because as we all know politicians tend to be a little long winded at times. Her response was that she answered the questions, but chose to put them on her website and I could link to them there.

Betty is running as Elizabeth Shingle, and I am not sure why as almost everyone who knows her, knows her as Betty. Her friends, neighbors and acquaintances also know that Betty only recently became a Democrat. She switched parties on or about March 3, 2011 approximately four days before the petitions for candidacy had to be turned in completed. I have known Betty to be a lifelong Republican and conservative as well. That should give one pause to begin with as to why a person would suddenly switch their party to run for something that she had previously shown no interest in.

Ms. Shingle also states plainly, "I believe that the parks we currently have need to be protected from development. If there is a way to continue the growth but protect our existing parks I am all for it." That is a noble cause as there are quite a few parks here in Downingtown. However, what Ms. Shingle doesn't tell you is that she is well acquainted with the ad hoc group IDEAL which in the past has gone head to head with Friends of Kardon Park on the issue of whether the area west of the Ponds should be developed. I fail to see how that translates to being in favor of protecting our parks.

As for the KOZ, I will give Ms. Shingle credit as to knowing about landlord and property upkeep issues. However, not only does Ms. Shingle live in the KOZ, but she has several properties that are within this zone, so of course she wants it extended. The KOZ was originally intended to bring business into the Johnsontwon area specifically to spruce up the rail yard which now sits in disrepair and to help the homeowners by giving them tax money to put back into the home for repairs and upkeep to present a more inviting atmosphere to this area. While most of the homeowners and landlords appear to be keeping to the letter of the KOZ I do not see many businesses clamoring to build in Johnsontown. In fact there have been new businesses built around J'town, but not in it.

Betty has every right to run for any office that she deems herself qualified for, but I ask you, the voting residents, you really want a council member that is only occupying a seat that will, when it suits her take what is given in good faith and use it only to her benefit?  Yes, they were only questions, but what else is Ms. Shingle willing to hijack at your cost?

Contender Cara DeStefano

Cara is a very busy young woman.  She is the founder of the ad hoc group IDEAL, works tirelessly within the borough on many committees and groups and is an up and coming professional.  She is also known around her area of town by the company she keeps, Rufus her dog.  Here are Cara's answers to my questions.

Q:You have been voted in to take over the position that will be vacated by Josh Maxwell on the planning commission, you are the founder of IDEAL and you have a full time position in the workforce, how do you propose to juggle all that along with a position on Borough Council?

A:It is my wide range of education and experience, as well as skill in managing my time and efforts that makes me a strong candidate. I would not have made the decision to run for Borough Council if I did not feel that I could give it my full attention and be fully committed to helping Downingtown and its residents grow and thrive.

Q:IDEAL has gone head to head with Friends of Kardon Park. Ann Feldman is the founder and president of FOKP and will be a council member until 2013. Do you foresee a potential contention between the two of you when an issue or ordinance that pertains to growth in the borough is brought before council?

A:Not at all. I feel that the members of Borough Council should make every effort to make Downingtown’s Council a forum where citizens as well as council members can voice their opinions on critical issues. That is why we have a council – to discuss items that face the Borough and to vote on them. It is one of the things that makes our town so successful – a group of people coming together to do what is best for their residents and business owners.

Q:What is your best skill/asset that you will bring to Borough Council?

A:Open mindedness and my interest in what is best for the Downingtown and its residents and businesses. My many years of experience in the work force has helped me to be able to evaluate both sides of an argument, and make a decision based on the facts, not based on emotions. This kind of decision-making is critical if we are to keep moving Downingtown forward in a thoughtful manner.

There you have it, Cara's bid to be your next Borough Council member.  We have one candidate to go and for the interest of time I shall be putting up that one very soon as the polls are open tomorrow at 7AM.  So exercise your right and VOTE.

The Quiet Gentleman

Matt Zaun is running for one of the two seats that will be vacant on the East Endof the borough.  He is a very quiet, but well spoken young man and has a true heart to serve Downingtown. So without further ado I shall let Matt speak for himself.

Q:One of the goals that you mentioned as part of your campaign is that you want to if possible not raise taxes or keep them low. How do you think this can be accomplished when all the other municipalities are raising taxes at alarming rates?

A:I know that we can keep taxes low in Downingtown. The reason why many municipalities fall into the trap of raising taxes year after year is fear. They are afraid to make challenging decisions and to make cuts when needed. It's amazing to me how many elected officials lack common sense when it comes to proper budgeting. So, my plan is simple. I will step in and support the discussion and application of the hard decisions that are necessary to keep our budget balanced. I will aim to create a business friendly environment in our borough, in the interest of boosting our revenue. Additionally, I will take advantage of many state and national grants available to Downingtown, catching and pursuing opportunities that may have otherwise passed us by. Keeping taxes low in Downingtown is important, and it will remain a high priority for me while in office.

Q:Another goal you mentioned is smart growth. What do you or would you consider smart growth and where could Downingtown best benefit from it?

A:Living in an area that is beautiful, safe, affordable, and easy to get around in is a goal for all residents in Downingtown. Smart growth means promoting a business friendly Borough while preserving the great historical elements of Downingtown. It creates a healthier Borough with strong local businesses. Smart growth encourages local shops to move into Downingtown, creating jobs and adding to the foundation of our economy. Smart growth makes sure that revitalization and new businesses are brought into our Borough in a way that does not take away from our historical charm. I wholeheartedly believe in smart growth - celebrating our history while ushering in opportunity.

Q:What is the best asset/skill that you could bring to Borough Council?

A:I have a business background, I've helped non-profit organizations with budget issues, and I currently serve on the Historical and Parks Commission. The skills I've gained in these roles will be helpful for me in office. However, what I believe to be my best asset is my desire to be in constant communication with Borough residents, because I do care. Credentials are great, but why does that matter if you don't listen to the residents? The whole reason that I am running lies within my strong desire to see a positive impact on the Borough. I realize that this can only happen when the residents are involved and we as council members make decisions that will improve their quality of life.

Thank you Matt for participating and good luck at the polls tomorrow.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

An Old Aquaintance

Nick Winkler ran for mayor in 2009 and we come to meet him again as a candidate for council on the West End of the borough.  Nick is presently the President of Johnsontown Community Group and is well known in Downingtown, so I feel no introduction is needed, here are his answers to the three questions.

Q:What is the best skill/asset that you will bring to borough council.

A:Strategic planning. I believe that we have qualified and dedicated individuals working for Downingtown. They understand the specific details in what it takes to manage the borough and they carry out their role as good as, if not better, than any other municipality in the area.

However, I believe that it is the role of the council to assist in the overall vision of the of the borough, and then assist in accomplishing that plan. My background in consulting for local small businesses, campaign management, or more recently public relations for the Governor, all require an aspect of strategic planning.

Q:With your volunteer work with Johnsontown Community Group and your new position in Harrisburg, how do you propose to juggle those with being on borough council?

A: The answer is a simple one, time management.  Being successful in any endeavor requires the productive use of each day we were given.  Again, my background has helped pave my ability to not only multi-task, but be productive within those 24 hours. 

Like most people, working in Harrisburg at first sounded like it would pose a challenge to serving on borough council.  However, when I realized that the train ride west to Harrisburg was more or less equivalent to the typical morning commute East to Philadelphia (that many in Downingtown make on a daily basis), I realized the opportunity that exists.  With the additional commute time on the train I now can work on many different things that I was not able to do when I had to drive to work. 

Q:What do you see as the most pressing issue in the borough that you feel needs more attention and possibly has not been given the spotlight it deserves.

A:I am not sure it has not been given the proper spotlight, but the pressing issue is clearly borough economics. Now there are many issues that factor in to our economics; low taxes, controlled spending, debt management, new business, etc., but in short, in today's climate, the answer is hands down economic sustainability.

The borough was able to hold the line on a tax increase last year by making some difficult decisions. Compare that to a neighboring municipality that increased their borough tax 20%. We are going to have to make some tough decisions again with the upcoming budget, and we are going to need people that understand that reality. We are going to need a borough council in touch with the residents that understands that with a large elderly population on a fixed income, who are struggling as it is, we are going to have to do what is necessary to hold the line again.

Thank you Nick and I hope this gives everyone a better insight into what Nick hopes to do if elected.  Good luck in the polls.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Introducing Alex Rakoff

I have been in contact with each of the candidates running for the open positions on Council for the Borough of Downingtown.  Each candidate was given three questions and presented here are Alex's answers.  Alex is running for one of the two seats on the East End of the borough.

Q: Most residents know that one of the big issues in the East Ward is still the very contentious Kardon Park, but while that is tied up in litigation and will be decided as a matter of law what other issue on the East end of town is more pressing at this time?

A:One of the biggest issues we face in our borough is the empty store fronts on Lancaster Avenue. This deters people from traveling into our borough for their consumer needs. We need to fill these locations with businesses that will profit and generate revenue for the borough while directly assisting in keeping our taxes as low as possible.

Q:What skills/assets will you be able to bring to Borough Council?

A:I possess accounting, mathematical and business skills that will be vital in weighing budgetary options. I am a hard worker who does the necessary research in order to make informed decisions. I am dedicated to this town and the decisions I make will be in the best interest of our residents.

Q: Matt Zaun has outlined his goals that he has if elected, Cara DeStephano is a progressive growth candidate, Heather Bruno is against change in Downingtown, what three goals do you have that you would want to see accomplished if elected to council?

A:My first goal is to fill the empty stores on Lancaster Ave with the right type of businesses that will bring growth and longevity. My second goal is to create a voluntary clean up group of caring residents to clean up trash throughout the borough and I will see what can be done about littering fines in an effort to preserve the beauty of our town and generate revenue. My third goal is to find creative ways to alleviate the budgetary strains on the borough that will eventually cause an increase in the taxes we pay.

Hopefully this will give you a better idea of what Alex stands for and what he hopes to do for the borough.
Thank you Alex and good luck at the polls

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Resume Required

How many times have you gone to the polls during an election or even a primary and done what I am guilty of, "eeenie, meenie minee, mo."  Part of the reason is that, believe it or not, I haven't had time to familiarize myself with the candidates, especially in the primaries.  Last night that changed for me.  Johnsontown Community Group had invited the candidates running for the open Borough Council seats, and we got much more than we bargained for.  By the time we all made it to our seats last night and the meeting was called to order 15 candidates or their representatives had come to present themselves to our group and the community residents who attended.  I was impressed with some, and others failed to make me sit up and want to give them my vote, so here are my impressions of some of the candidates that attended last night.

Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
Mark Tunnell-I honestly could not get a feel for him.  He's a quiet man and when speaking to him after the event he was a very cordial person. Mark Tunnell

Fredda Maddox-I was not impressed with Ms. Maddox.  While she is well spoken, she spoke mostly about Philadelphia and the challenges they face as opposed to getting down to brass tact's as to what she will bring to the table for Chester County.  Fredda Maddox

Ann Marie Wheatcraft-If she is as good as the representative that was there for her last night she has my vote.  I had heard of some of the programs that Ms. Wheatcraft had been involved in in Avon Grove, but did not know who she was.  Ann Marie Wheatcraft

County Commissioner
Kathi Cozzone-Most of us here in Johnsontown are familiar with Ms. Cozzone as she is an active member in the community of Downingtown, but her family also recently suffered a tragedy in our little area of the borough.  She was well spoken last night and I felt that I could easily vote for her if I were of her party.  Kathi Cozzone

Ryan Costello-For some reason this gentleman rubbed me the wrong way.  I don't know if it was how he carried himself or if it was the content of his speech.  He is presently filling the spot left open by Carol Aichele.  His firm is also involved in the case for Pennhurst Manor and was challenged during our question and answer period about said case by a council member from that area.  He is a former Recorder of Deeds so he is from the political world of Chesco.  Ryan Costello

District Attorney
Sam Stretton-I honestly expected more from Mr. Stretton.  I knew that he was the attorney of record for Ann Feldman and the Kardon Park issue, so I think I was expecting a little more flamboyant personality and a bit more well spoken.  What I took away from his speech was that at the end of the day while his experience is impressive he does not bring to the table what is needed to be the District Attorney for Chester County.  Prosecuting the crimes that are committed here in Chesco is not going to be an easy job because as those of us who live here know they range from the petty to the horrific and I did not see how Mr. Stretton had the personality to take on such a huge task. (No website available)

Tom Hogan-This candidate impressed me the most out of all those running for county positions.  At first when he got up to speak I thought to myself, "Here we go another arrogant candidate that thinks we are dumb." But Mr. Hogan proved me wrong.  Mr. Hogan is charismatic, his resume is impressive and he makes you feel that he wants to put away the "bad guys" as much as you do.  His experience in not only local prosecutions, but all the way to a federal level give the impression that he will make sure justice is served. Tom Hogan

Sheriff Carolyn Bunny Welsh (Sheriff Bunny Welsh) was her own bubbly, yet down to business self as she described the accomplishments of the Chester County Sheriff's Department which have been well documented thus far.  Russ Phifer, (Russ Phifer) running for the position of Recorder of Deeds appeared to have all his ducks on a row even with it being his first time within the political realm.  He wishes to make the office more service oriented for the public.  Judge Rita Arnold (Rita Arnold) also spoke briefly asking for our support as she rounds out her public service on the bench.

Now on to council for the Borough of Downingtown. 
Matt Zaun (East Ward)-Matt is a soft spoken gentleman, but does give you the feeling that he really cares what goes on in the borough.  He is a member of the Historical and Parks Commission and has a true heart for service.  He wants to see smart growth in Downingtown without emptying the pockets of the residents and preserving our rich history. (Matt Zaun)

Cara DeStefano-Cara is a leader and has headed up the IDEAL (IDEAL) group in Downingtown.  This group is residents and business owners in Downingtown who wish to see revitalization and growth in the borough.  IDEAL, while promoting all revitalization in the borough also went head to head with Friends of Kardon Park.  If you don't know the whole issue behind Kardon Park-in a nutshell the borough wished to develop the land west of The Ponds which is, in my opinion and many others, a former dump that needs to be remediated for it to be of some use to anyone in the borough.  Friends of Kardon Park have taken this to litigation and have said that the land west of The Ponds is still a park and therefore should not be developed.  At this time the head of Friends of Kardon Park, Ann Feldman is a member of Borough Council and is sitting until 2013.  This could be an issue for Cara as both women will have to work together and it may work against Cara in the polls. (IDEAL/Daily Local)

Betty Shingle(West Ward)-Betty is a long time resident of Downingtown and of Johnsontown.  She has headed up several car enthusiasts clubs and is a doting grandmother.  Betty was a former Executive Council member of Johnsontown, but resigned late last year after a personality conflict with other members of the group.  Betty also recently (March 2011) changed party affiliations to run as a Democrat against Nick Winkler for the seat being vacated by Bob Smith.  While Betty does have the borough's best interest at heart I cannot see what skill set she would be able to bring to the table as a council member.  I, myself sometimes get lost in the quagmire of local politics and I have been following it quite closely for the last few years, so I am not sure what skills Ms. Shingle feels she has to contribute to the twists and turns of running the ever growing and changing borough. (No website available)

Alex Rakoff-Mayor Josh Maxwell represented Alex.  I could not really get a feel for Alex from Mayor Maxwell's talk other than he seems to be a very involved citizen and resident of Downingtown.(

Nick Winkler-I may be a bit bias when it comes to Nick as I have worked closely with him for the past two years on the Johnsontown Community Group.  Nick ran for mayor in 2009 and was narrowly defeated by Mayor Maxwell.  Nick is well spoken and has a true heart for service in his community.  He is involved, as proven by the time he gives to JCG and does indeed love the town he has chosen to call home.  When I am not sure about an issue that has come before Borough Council most times Nick will have an answer for me or knows who or where to go to get the answer.  His clear concise answers to questions at times can appear that he knows too much, but Nick does his research so that he can answer the question that is asked of him.  He brings a great deal to the table as he ran a campaign for Mayor of Downingtown and while he was defeated he did have a fantastic showing and he ran the re-election campaign for Curt Schroder for State Representative. He tries to have his finger on the pulse of Downingtown and that is what I seek in a political representative. (Nick Winkler)

So there you have impressions of those who wish to represent you in the next election.  Take what you like and leave the rest, but make sure you get out and vote so that your voice can be heard.

Friday, May 6, 2011

The Candidates Come to Johnsontown

Here ye here ye...come one come all to the Johnsontown Community Group meeting on Tuesday May 10, 2011, 7:30PM at St. Anthony's Banquet Halll on Church Street.  The meeting will kick off promptly at 7:30 with our special guest, the County Dispatch Officer, followed by candidates in the following categories (as of Friday May 6th):

Scheduled to appear:
Judge of the Court of Common Pleas
County Commissioner
District Attorney
Recorder of Deeds
and of course the candidates for Downingtown Borough Council.

We encourage everyone to come out and meet the candidates as these people want to represent you.  Hope to see you there!

Friday, April 29, 2011

A Royal Pain In The Butt

I'll admit I watched a part of the Royal Wedding this morning.......15 seconds of it because I clicked a link that I didn't want to.  There was no way I was going to rise an hour earlier than I already do to watch an event that has absolutely no significance for me other than it's a nice thing for a couple to pledge their allegiance to one another for the rest of their lives.  Then again for the English Monarchy we know about how well that works.

I asked a few people what the big deal was since I did not see the reason for all the hype and one of the answers I got was, "It's history."  No it's not.  History is a life altering event within the infrastructure of a country or world that forever changes how we perceive things and how we react to them.  This is a wedding, and while it's a happy and joyous occasion for the couple and their friends and family, it will not cause a wrinkle in many people's days for years to come.

While reading the updates and wall posts on Facebook today I also came across someone indignant over some of the negativity of a few people.  The person said that the last time we had something like this was when Diana died and that it was such a happy occasion we should be rejoicing.  I found the irony of this statement quite funny.  Why and how did Diana die?  The paparazzi were chasing her in a car because ordinary people can't seem to keep their noses out of public people's lives.  Yes, I understand that if one becomes a politician, actor/actress, public speaker and the like you have opened that can of worms, but there are just some things we don't need to know, nor do I want to for some things.  So for all intents and purposes we nosy Nellies killed Diana with our ever growing obsession with people in the public eye.  Yet people got up at 4AM, are having wedding parties, and talking incessantly about the "new" royal couple, who has had and will continue to have the public crawling into their bedroom just to get a glimpse into a life that when you take away all the flash is not all it's cracked up to be.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Always A Rebel

"We're from Columbine couldn't be prouder and if you can't hear us we'll yell a little louder!"  This is a chant that I heard at many football games during my three years at Columbine.  For so long it when you mentioned you went to Columbine people looked at you like you were the luckiest person in the world......twelve years ago that look morphed into pain and surprise.  Twelve years ago two young men decided that they had been bullied beyond repair and that they were going to seek retribution for the wrongs they felt had been done to them.  Were they both a bit unbalanced?  Most definitely.  Was the bullying out of control?  No more so than for any other students.  Was this act of terrorism necessary?  In some forms it was.  Not that lives were lost and hearts were shattered, but for the very fact that on that day people came together, friendships were renewed and we became aware that it could happen in our own backyard.

I did not grow up in the Littleton School District like a lot of the kids I wound up attending high school with.  In fact I spent most of my life in the Norristown School District up until ninth grade.  We moved to Colorado in 1980.  We drove across country right after my mother was declared healthy enough to make the trip (she had had a heart attack three weeks prior) and we arrived two days before my 15th birthday.  My parents had finally found a house, but we could not go to settlement until July so we spent June in a hotel.  When we eventually got to move into the house I was told that I was going to be attending Columbine, a year round school.  Ummmm excuse me, year round?  That meant that I would be in school all year with breaks in between.  Because I was a new comer I was assigned to track "B", which meant my vacations were from the beginning of April to the beginning of June and October to December.  I was not too sure of this whole set up, but was willing to give it a try.  Honestly, it was the best experience of my life.  Not just because of the people I met, but because my education was well rounded, I had not burned out and lost a lot of momentum during the summer and I was really prepared to enter college.  Many times I have regretted that schools here in PA are not willing to give the concept a try when classroom sizes become a problem and teacher burn out escalates.

I was always proud of my diploma from Columbine and the accomplishments that I have achieved there, but on this day in 1999 that security that I had lived with was shattered.  Two young men decided that they had the right to enter the building with guns blazing and bombs planted to seek retribution for what they saw were egregious wrongs done to them.  My boys were three at the time and did not understand what mommy had suddenly started crying while listening to the news.  But there is always a silver lining for every tragedy, some we can't see and others are as plain as the nose on our faces.  Alumni that hadn't spoken in years reconnected, people scattered across the country came together through the wonders of the Internet and friendships were reformed.  We cried together, we railed at the injustice of a lives cut short and we made it known that even though it happened in our backyard we were going to do everything it took to not have it happen again to our kids.

Today my heart is heavy as I remember what was taken from all of us...a simple thought, "Not in my home, not in my town, not in my school." But what we gained was so much more than that and the tears will dry tomorrow and I can say once more I am a Columbine Rebel, Class of 1984.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

So Tell Me What You're Hiding

During yet another D'town Borough Council Meeting the Sunshine Act was brought up again, and I have to tell you I am a bit tired of the whole thing.  The funny thing is I agree with Ann Feldman.  It all started back when Johnsontown Community Group was asking for Council to help, approve or change an ordinance that would allow one car parking permit per household on East Church Street.  One small request and a whole hullabaloo was started.  Some of the problem stemmed from the fact that some people on the Parking Committee were not pleased that we had figured out a solution to the problem ourselves as a community without their official input.  Good heavens not that!  Not a community that can band together and actually solve their own problems!  After a disastrous discussion at the presentation of the solution to council because no one wanted to stand up and say, "Yes this street is unique and we need to address this issue." our group asked if the Parking Committee held open meetings.  Boy the firestorm that has started!  I don't believe that a council meeting has gone by that it has not been revisited since.  I believe the sticking point happens to be, is that there are some on that particular committee that would like it to be a private fiefdom where no mere mortal shall enter and the second problem is that Ann Feldman has brought the Sunshine Act to the forefront and has pursued whether committee meetings should be open to the public or not.  I sat in one particular meeting and listened as council members tried to do an end run around it and suggested that the committee now be made an internal agency just so they did not have to face the fact that not only do they have to advertise the meetings, but they must be public.

What I'd like to know is what is being hidden that this has become such a HUGE issue.  I would also like to know why good people are throwing common courtesy out the window just because Ann Feldman is trying to hold our little government to the standards that have been set forth.  I am afraid that if Ann yelled "FIRE" and meant it it would be ignored just because people have a bee in their bonnet about her stance on Kardon Park and the East Caln parcel.  News flash I feel she is way off base on those issues?  Oh yeah!  Does the fact that she tends to nit pick EVERY issue get on my nerves at times?  Good gravy yes, but for the good of Downingtown get over yourselves people.  When someone has a good idea swallow your pride and give them the due they should get.  That and the unprofessional and unbecoming attitudes of some of the people we are counting on to represent ALL of us......I have to say I cringe at the tone of voice that I have heard from various individuals. 

Just because I like a certain politician does not mean that I will agree with that person on every issue.  The same is true in reverse......just because I feel that someone is not whom I would vote for, but the people have placed in office does not mean that once in awhile that person will not come up with a good idea.  Personally while I will fight Ann tooth and nail on development that will enhance any part of Downingtown, in my eyes, that she is against does not mean that I will not work with her on an issue we agree on and I think it is about time that council and other employees of the borough, committee members and other volunteers need to suck it up and put forth a more professional attitude.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Long Time No Words

Recently I was reminded that I had not had much to say here lately.  Part of the problem has been life interfering and the other part is that so many things have been going on that it is hard to pick one particular incident to discuss.

Our community group has been keeping me pretty busy as we are still working on the parking issues for East Church Street, we have several events in the making and we formed a few committees to tweak and enhance our ability to help residents in Johnsontown.  Also the president of our community group Nick Winkler announced his intentions to run for one of the soon to be vacant seats on Borough Council, for which I fully support him.

There has also been another surprise.....I have found myself in the position to work with Councilwoman Feldman.  She graciously offered to be a liaison between our community group and the council.  I have to say that while this does not change my position or thoughts on the Kardon Park issue nor the East Caln plot of land, I have been happy to have her assistance especially when dealing with individuals on certain committees.

As several of these events unfold I am sure that I will have more words and possibly more time to put "pen to paper" so to speak.....but for now life is getting in the way.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Holding Their Feet To The Fire

I recently had a heated discussion with some acquaintances about some of our elected officials (you're not surprised are you? lol).  I will come right out and say it...I do not like the administration that is in office right now.  Am I a racist, not in the least, am I a right wing nut, haven't had to use the straight jacket for awhile now, so no and do I hate liberals, no some of them are quite nice.  However, I believe that no matter who is in office you need to hold them to a higher standard than the average Joe.  If I gave them my vote it's because I thought they could accomplish in DC or Harrisburg what I could not do on my own and they are supposed to represent my interests to the best of their ability.

I am quite disgusted at how the present administration is pushing through legislation that no one reads, yet they call it the next great fix and how they have decided that we are to be the "nice one" in the equation when dealing with people who want to kill us.  They purported to run on Hope and Change, but what we appear to have gotten is that they are going to make the changes they want and hope you don't notice.  I am not going to get into the long drawn out details or my specific gripes because, well, I have other things to do today and the list is long, but there is something specific that is bugging me.

I will hang my head and say, "Yes I have an account on Facebook."  But in my defense I am living in PA and I went to High School in Colorado, so a lot of my HS friends are still back in Colorado, FB is the best way to keep in touch.  However, I also have a few friends that are elected officials in various capacities.  Now here is the thing that bugged me.  One of my friends has his job in Harrisburg and I voted for him with no trepidation and did not even have to think twice, (here it comes wait for it) BUT regardless of that I am not going to blindly follow what he suggests in my best interest just to get a big thank you comment on my FB page.  There were a couple of bills that this person was for and his conviction impressed me, yet there was something I am still sitting on the fence about and I voiced my opinion.  Both the comments before and after mine were praise and worship.  I see nothing wrong with that, but are we not supposed to question our leaders when we are not sure of something?  Are we not supposed to hold their feet to the fire when we think that something is not in our best interest?  And lastly are we not supposed to hold them accountable to the promises that they made while campaigning and sometimes the main reason we voted for them instead of "the other guy"?

I guess when it comes to the world of politics I should get some experience in cage fighting since it can get bloody and violent before you know it.  One thing I do know is no matter if I like your stances, ideas and ideals, I am not going to stop questioning your motives and moves if I am not sure that it is in my best interest.  So be prepared to have your feet held to the fire.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Bully Pulpit

I just read an article in which three Downingtown Middle School students were "disciplined" for bullying another student on the bus and I had to laugh.  It was quoted that these incidents are not the norm and that bullying is taken very seriously.  Really?  I as a parent reported several incidents of bullying on the bus when my boys were in Middle School and MY boys were the ones counselled.  Rarely were any steps taken to take the trouble makers off that bus or any bus for that matter.  In fact for two years of the three that my boys attended DMS I drove them to school because the bullying was so bad.  I see it now at the bus stops young men calling other young girls and boys names and stepping in their way so that the kids have to walk in the street around them, kids walking home with tears in their eyes because they have been pushed around to an extreme amount and those are the minor occurrences that I happen to witness.

Then if the parents are called in for a "parent conference" it is plain to see where the offenders get their behavior.  The parents develop an attitude of  "Not my child" and  "My kid said he/she didn't do it so that's all there is to it and you better not discipline him/her."  It seems that this time there is video to back up the claims and the police were contacted so the district cannot squirm out of this one by just saying appropriate actions were taken.  Oh yeah bullying is taken seriously when a possible lawsuit is hanging over your heads, but don't try and delude the rest of us into thinking that it is taken that seriously by anyone in the district.  But most of all DO NOT hand any of the parents of kids who have been bullied the line., "Kids will be kids" because the kind of behavior that these little miscreants are displaying is way beyond being crappy to another student it plain bad seed material.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Way Things Are

I did not think that I was going to an amusement park last night, but that is what happened at the Borough Council Meeting.  I think none of us had the idea we were getting on a roller coaster once the meeting opened.  First up a citizen from Johnsontown Community Group got up during citizens to be heard and requested and answer as to what was going on with the oil spill in the Brandywine coming from the vicinity of a house on Bradford Ave right near Glenside.  He got the typical bureaucratic pass the buck to the environmental agencies that are apparently taking care of the situation, yet the borough  has not had an update in awhile.  Yeah OK we believe that.

Then those of us in attendance got to sit through a very contentious resolution discussion on the parking issue for the Classic Diner.  A gentleman who seemed to be a partner in working on the building was extremely upset that the council wanted to pass a resolution that would move the building forward.  He spoke out of turn and generally made the council members uncomfortable, which at first made me a bit angry until our turn came, but I digress.  Some of the questions that came from council were valid, but there were some that could have held for another time as the diner is still looking to get their permits and ducks in a row.  Another resolution that I will have to do some research on was passed and then it came time for Johnsontown Community Group's turn.  We were requesting that the process be started to rectify the parking issue on East Church Street.  We had done our due diligence, spoke with Chief McGowan, Jack Law and the residents to come up with what we thought was the best solution to the problem.  We suggested that one parking permit be issued per household for parking on East Church Street excluding the two houses at the top of the street and the two houses at the bottom of the street since they have access to their own parking.  We had discussed at length this issue with the residents at various times and had come with petition in hand.  We had made a suggestion that the overflow or visitors would be given a grace permit to park in the Johnsontown Park parking lot if it was needed.  It seemed like a simple request, but it turned into a nightmare.  First of all none of the council members truly listened to what our president Nick Winkler had said.  They got stuck on the topic of the overflow parking and that is not our main concern.  It was also brought up that if it is different than what the borough usually does then it could become a problem.  Then the coup de grace....Steve Henning who apparently heads the parking committee in the Borough quashed everything with a few well placed words and the council put us on the back burner until the parking committee could go over the issue.  Jaime Bruton looked at us and said, "I know this is not what you want, but it is how it needs to be handled for council to make an informed decision."  Really?  If you had listened to what was presented one person with the ego the size of an elephant would not have been able to derail a simple request from a community group who had done their homework and did not come to the table willy nilly with no solution just suggestions.

After the meeting Steve Henning was approached by a member of Executive Council for Johnsontown Community Group and a resident on East Church Street.  She politely requested that he attend our next meeting to speak with the residents about the issue as it is easier for some of the older residents to only have to travel to our meeting at night.  Mr Henning declined in a not so polite way.  In fact we were told that this was not an issue for an open forum by Mr. Henning.  I am not sure where you got that idea Mr. Henning, but I abhor people who are not willing to work with the residents that will be impacted by your high handedness.

That was not the end of the rancour last night.  The appointments to boards and commissions got very heated also.  I could honestly see both sides.  Councilman Gazzarro and Councilwoman Feldman both made good points that the council usually goes with the committees recommendations or the most qualified which I can certainly see.  But Council President Bruton, Councilman Benner and Councilman Smith had a another good point too that new blood is needed on and around these positions.  A compromise I saw was to move the alternate into the voting position and then place the "new blood" in the alternate position, but who am I?

After the meeting we at JCG spoke to several council members and I believe got some of their support for the parking issue.  They had time to actually listen to what we wanted...our immediate concern was to get permits for the residents of East Church Street and worry about overflow later.  I personally had to swallow my pride and bias and ask for help from the person you would least expect me to approach, but when I truly thought about it Kardon Park is one issue in the borough and that will be there later and if Ann is truly willing to help then I will work with her any way I can to help our community in Johnsontown.

However, I still have to work on my resentment towards Steve Henning as I see him letting his ego get in the way of the job he needs to do and that is the worst kind of bureaucrat there is.