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!