Friday, April 16, 2010

Poll Position

I generally don’t weigh in on Montgomery County issues. There are other bloggers who have more interest and do a far better job of covering the commissioners and row offices than I ever could. However, lately one county office in particular has been a burr under my saddle and since it involves Lower Providence, I feel compelled to write about it.

That office would be the Board of Elections/Voter Services. I’m not talking about the staff there; they do an exemplary job daily, often during extremely stressful circumstances. They've always been exceptionally helpful. No, I’m talking about Joe Passarella, the department director.

Last year I started working on a proposal to relocate one of our polling places (photo, right), the LP Township Community Center on Hillside Avenue, which happens to be outside my home voting district (2-3) – the only one for Lower Providence that is located outside of where its voters actually live. Not only that, but the parking lot is extremely small for the number of people who vote there (many of whom drive large SUVs), and there’s one awkwardly-placed entrance which has almost no line of sight to the parking lot once you drive in. It’s poorly designed and tough to turn around once you’re in it in order to leave. And it’s often dangerous, especially if you’re a senior citizen and can’t sprint across the lot to get inside to vote.

I understand our polling place used to be within my district's boundaries years ago, but the business/building hosting it closed and there was no other practical place at the time, so it ws moved where it is today.

I’ve worked that poll on election day many times and seen a few near-misses. I’ve heard some of the residents who vote there complain about it. So, I figure, nobody else is being proactive and doing anything about it, so I will. There's no longer any reason it has to be there.
I do my homework. I call the BOE and ask them what has to happen to relocate a poll. They tell me. So I set about making those things happen. I line up a proposed new site (photo, above), the new Calvary Church (formerly Victory Church, 601 N. Park Avenue), inside the voting district. It's got great access and a huge parking lot with a number of reserved handicapped spaces. It even has a good sized lobby for voters to wait in if the weather is poor.

I make sure the tenant and landlord of that building are OK with it and have appropriate facilities to support voting there.

I talk to the area leaders of both parties, and both of them tell me that they think it’s a great idea and can support it (although I'm aware the Republican party area leader, Doug Hager, is part of the ‘other’ Republican faction here in Lower Providence and has interjected himself in my election campaign in the past, supporting my old-guard opponent - so who knows what his word is worth. I'd like to believe him, but I'm not naive, either). Speaking of my opponent, Kathie Eskie, she never once responded to my letter and phone calls to her on this subject, so my take on that is that she's working against it.  At any rate, I did what the county told me I needed to do.

Most importantly, I speak to the voters directly. I go knocking on doors with a petition, and ask our Republican voters what they think and with only one exception, they agree and sign. I spoke to 25% of our registered ‘supervoters’ which, statistically speaking, tells me that more than likely most of the rest of them support it too.

When I’m done with all of this, I contact the person I spoke to initially and provide all this information so they can check it out, and they do. And then….nothing.

I happened to be at the BOE on other business a few weeks later and ran into this individual, and asked what the status is. I’m told that they checked it out, but because ‘no one has complained’ that they’ve decided to leave it where it is. And, this person mentioned that an email had gone out (supposedly to me) about it. Well…that’s interesting, because I never got an email, a letter or a phone call from anyone at the County about this. Or from anyone else, for that matter.

I asked for a copy of this correspondence, but then I’m told that this person ‘just cleaned out their emails and deleted it’. I’m sure the County’s legal department would be thrilled about that (then again, given all their other legal issues, maybe they really ARE thrilled about that). Still, there must be a ‘Right to Know’ law or record retention violation there somewhere. But I digress.

This brings me to Mr. Passarella. I contact him, as my contact’s supervisor, to obtain a copy of this correspondence. I mean, I’m a reasonable person, if they have a good reason and made a good faith effort, I’m fine with that. But I also suspect that there was a miscommunication, and I wanted to get straight from him exactly what the criteria truly is for such things. If, in fact, it’s ‘complaints’, which is not what I was told initially, then I would think that ME complaining should be enough, not to mention, I don’t know if he knows that our voters signed a petition supporting it.

Additionally, a number of the petition signers brought something to my attention that I hadn't even considered initially - they felt this was an outstanding idea because it's 'green' - meaning a large number of our voters can actually walk to this new polling place instead of having to drive.

Well, I’ve written to Mr. Passarella, and I have called him several times. I’m still waiting. At this point, I want to know why the County apparently thinks it can trump the will of Lower Providence voters. And, why it apparently doesn't think we deserve even the courtesy of a response one way or the other, or the opportunity to discuss it. I think we all deserve an answer, don’t you?


Anonymous said...

Those county people all forget why they are there and who put them there. They all need to go, from the top on down. They more worrie d about themselves.

musicman said...

Janice you might have to virtually stalk him by dropping in on him. I can never get anyone from any county office to return calls about anything. And good luck trying to get a live person on the phone either.

Anonymous said...

Seems like a no brainer to me, keep at it.