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.


  1. Parking is a serious issue but I have to agree with council's decision not to make a change to the parking ordinance last night. I understand Nick and JCG had their materials prepared and thoroughly thought out, which is great in my opinion. It will make it easier to decide which approach is the best and what the residents think is the best solution.

    I don't see this as a detriment to the residents but I think that the concern could likely set a precedent to other Borough owned lots that have specific uses. There are a bunch of alternatives like parking in that lot only at specified times (7pm-7am) to alleviate storage of vehicles, sharing of the church lot which would be a lot closer and a safer walk, etc that could be evaluated.

    It just needs to be thought through and making a decision without evidence of alternatives is the last thing we want our leaders to do.

  2. But that is the point that was completely missed. The overflow was not the main concern it was the parking permits for the residents on East Church Street so that they would be assured of having a space. My question is so what if it's a different approach? Did we have to use the park parking lot? No not really. But one thing that does bug the living life out of me is that the park, and parking lot are in Johnsontown, yet for us, the residents of Johnsontown, to use it we have to jump through so many hoops it's ridiculous.

    Also the storage of vehicles is not that big of a problem if you have the gentleman that drives around on his search and destroy missions looking for parking violations just take a run through the parking lot. Sean, I can see your point, but the thing is there is not the due dilligence on parking issues in the borough itself about "stored cars" and yet when our main concern was for parking permits for the residents all we got was a focus on the overflow. There are cars all along Prospect and Bradford that have been sitting there for forever and yet yesterday is the first I have seen a red sticker on a car in months.

    But I am also really torqued at the response of Mr. Henning towards not only a resident of East Church Street , but Nick and the group in general. If you want cooperation from individuals and residents of the borough you do not treat them they way he treated all of us.

    Last thing....I understand what you are saying about not jumping the gun Sean, however I am not sure how much everyone understands was put into this. Nick and Jack Law have worked months on this looking at ways for the residents to be able to park on their street. Nick had been in touch with various Council members also about the issue. We have talked to Chief McGowan to understand the legalities that would go into this. It was within our understanding that we bring a petition to council, with a presentation of the concept and it would move forward, but yet again like most times Johnsontown is put on the back burner....the forgotten end of town. Well this time they made a mistake, we formed this group so that we could help increase the quality of life here in Johnsontown and we WILL NOT be put on the back burner.

  3. I have found that sometimes what you say is not as important as HOW you say it. Tone can change the whole meaning of what is said. If someone calmly and politly states an opinion it is usually received and responded to in a nice matter. When I have barked out an opinion it is usually returned to me in the measure i gave it out. Sadly a lot of people in leadership positions fail at this. There was a failure it sounds here.


  4. You are more than right Tony. However, Nick presented the idea to council in a calm and conservative manner. However, he was not really given the chance to rebutt a lot of the questions that were being shot at him from all sides. I felt quite bad for Nick as it was as if he were under attack by the enemy and up to this point Johnsontown Community Group has been a champion of Council and working together. Then with Mr. Henning jumping in with his two cents and not in the most polite manner it made it that much more difficult for all of us to hold our tempers.

    If anyone does not think that the parking situation could be THAT bad on East Church Street I challenge you to go there and see what it actually looks like and how difficult it can be to park on your own street.

  5. Completely understand!! I'd be furious if I couldn't park on my own street. (that's where the ice pick comes in handy haha) All joking aside, given both sides of the arguement...

    It should have been easy enough for them to give a grace period of temporary relief to be made to use the park lot, until the details of the ordinance are straightened out to fix the problem.