Monday, December 26, 2011

On Frozen Pond

Despite what the thermometer has been telling us lately, according to the calendar, winter officially began a few days ago. And, beginning in early October, so did the official start of the professional ice hockey season. In less than a week, the NHL's Winter Classic, an outdoor hockey game played on a specially constructed, temporary rink (this year, inside the Citizens Bank Park --normally the home of the Phillies) will be played between our home team Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers. The Winter Classic was developed by the National Hockey League a few years ago to replicate the feel of how 'real hockey' originally was played, outside on a frozen lake, stream or pond.

What does any of this have to do with Lower Providence?

If you  have driven down Oakland Avenue on your way to or from Trooper Road recently, you might have noticed a curious new development taking shape over the past few weeks. On a private yard, outside a home situated where Oakland intersects with Clearfield, ice hockey rink.

Granted, it's nowhere near professional size, but it's serviceable enough. Being a devout hockey fan myself, I'd driven by it several times when my curiousity got the better of me, and I stopped in to talk to the owners and find out what possessed them to construct it.

The owners, Phillip and Kathy LeBoutillier, explained that their son, Phil, a senior at Methacton High School, plays as a forward for the Methacton Ice Hockey JV Team at Center Ice in Upper Providence Township, and wanted a place to lace up/warm up at home.

Mrs. LeBoutillier told me that her father had built similar backyard rinks himself in the past, and they asked him how it was done.  It soon became a family project as the LeBoutilliers tried to see if they could replicate the rink to the specifications provided by her father. If all else failed, an Internet search also turned up some sites that provide instructions. 

First the wooden frame (approx 20'x30') was built; then the liner was inserted. Last, about 6" of water was added and the waiting began. A week or so ago it had begun to freeze, but the arrival of 60 degree weather temporarily suspended that progress. Hopefully the arrival of January and February will bring weather cold enough to freeze it entirely.

Mrs. LeBoutillier said that the project has definitely generated interest. She joked, "People have asked if we're planning to hold our own version of the Winter Classic".  Of course, it's just temporary, and will be removed in the spring.

There are a couple of other families I'm aware of in our township that have built similar rinks in the recent past, but neither of them were in high-traffic areas such as this one; one was on Lloyd Lane and another on Breckenridge Boulevard (both in my neck of the woods in Trooper).

If you've lived around here long enough, you might remember that we used to have a real ice hockey rink in Lower Providence, at the old General Washington Country Club, where the Club at Shannondell/Chadwick's now sits. In later years numerous problems with the ice making machine and other components of the building caused it to be out of operation more often than not, and when it was finally closed down and reborn in its current form, the rink was not included in the plans. This rink used to be the home ice for the Methacton team, even back when I attended Methacton in the late 70's/early 80's, and a number of our former players still live in the area.

By the way, for whatever reason, Methacton doesn't officially recognize or support its hockey team like they do their football, baseball etc. teams, and didn't when I attended school there, either. They're a great bunch of kids who are playing an expensive, demanding, and exciting sport. I strongly encourage you to come out and root for them during their games (schedule can be found here) and whenever you see them holding a car wash or other fundraiser, to be as generous as you would to our other teams. The Varsity team is the defending PAC 10 champion, so you're missing some exciting hockey! 

Here's hoping that soon, we'll have a deep enough freeze to turn the 'pond'  into something solid enough to put skates on.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The Shot Heard 'Round The Township

By now most of you have probably heard that long-time township manager Joe Dunbar was unexpectedly and unceremoniously dismissed from his duties late last week by the current Board of Supervisors.

Well, by most of them, anyway (Rick Brown, Chris DiPaolo, Don Thomas voted in favor). Mrs. Eckman voted against it. Mrs. Altieri didn’t even know it was coming;  she left after the public meeting adjourned and before the evening’s second executive session commenced. It wasn’t on the agenda, and apparently no one spoke to either of the women beforehand, so they appear to have been ambushed by it as much as Mr. Dunbar was.

There are all kinds of rumors swirling around as to why.  Officially, it was due to ‘personal reasons’ per the Times Herald. I don’t know or have any evidence as to whether any of those rumors are true or not, or what “personal” reasons are being referenced, so I’m not going to perpetuate them here. As with anyone who’s a public figure, you make friends and you make enemies in the course of doing your job, and Joe’s no exception.   Joe and I haven’t always agreed, but we did respect each other’s backgrounds and abilities and always remained friends over many years.

Personally, I doubt any alleged ‘personal’ reasons were to blame. Those stories were circulating long before Joe’s contract was renewed earlier this year, and those rumors did not prevent the supervisors from renewing it. Now we have to buy him out of his contract, for which two and a half years remain, AND hire someone else.  It just seems like a handy excuse to me. My guess is, Joe was dismissed purely to clear the position for a Rick Brown crony to take.

The timing is suspect to me, as is the ‘search committee’. 

With two new supervisors coming on board in a few short weeks, continuity is crucial, and Joe would have been the main person to help bring them up to speed on the processes and issues of immediate concern, educate them as to the practical rules and guidelines that apply to various scenarios, and ensure no balls are dropped during the transition.  

Then again, if you are expected to vote in unquestioning lockstep with the chairman, I suppose you really don’t need to know anything, or do anything other than answer your phone when called and told what to do. Independent thinkers need not apply.

The ‘search committee’ is comprised of not only both new supervisors (one of whom, Jill Zimmerman did not support the dismissal and one, Jason Sorgini, who did) but a supervisor (Chris DiPaolo)  who is not only stepping down in less than a month but who could not get re-endorsed by his own party to run again after the still-continuing fallout of the 2009 defamation lawsuit, in which court documents show he played a central role.  Why on earth is HE on this committee?

As to the timing, well, we just concluded an election less than a month ago in which I was a candidate, and I am all too aware of instances that got back to me where promises were made in exchange for certain people to do, or not do, certain things to advance my opponent’s cause, or to just stay home and not help me out, one of which was the promise of a particular seat on a particular township board if someone just changed their driver’s license address to their business address (which is located in LP).

The ‘bill’ for those favors comes due shortly.  It should be interesting to see who fills the vacancies.  It is, just as I said during my campaign, yet another example of putting personal agendas ahead of what – or WHO – is best for the Township, and whether you liked the guy or not, Joe WAS the best guy for that job.
As I wrote about in another post some time ago, the overwhelming consensus has been (both here and in other communities in our area) that Joe did an outstanding job as an ambassador for Lower Providence. Everywhere I went while campaigning this year, whether meeting with residents or business owners, with only one exception I heard nothing but rave reviews about him…how responsive he was to issues, how quickly he followed up, etc.  He is innovative and kept us on the cutting edge of best practices.  He was both knowledgeable and tirelessly devoted to his job and this community. He has great connections – something absolutely irreplaceable in an age where so many issues that affect us are regional -  and was a driving force in his ability to get things done. He’s a respected community leader and an excellent people manager, in my observation.  He knew how to motivate to get the best out of anyone, and the township staff was known to be exceptionally loyal to him.
 In short, if there is anyone more in love with this Township than I am, it would be Joe Dunbar.  We’ve had good ones and horrible one in our past, and a good township manager can really put you in the top tier of communities. Joe was one of those, and it’s truly a big loss for us.
Best of luck, Joe…our loss will be someone else’s gain.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The View From The Edge

"I want to stand as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can't see from the center". ~ Kurt Vonnegut Jr.

No question, running for public office requires putting yourself out there. This year, I did just that.

I called Jason Sorgini Tuesday evening and conceded the supervisor's race, congratulating him and wishing him well. We had a good and productive conversation and I sincerely offered my help if there was ever anything he wanted to know more about or way I can be of service.

While our efforts fell short yesterday (due to all kinds of things which I will write about in the coming  days) it certainly was a learning experience on several fronts. Yesterday, I saw things from my fellow Republican committeepeople and some of our elected officials that I thought I'd never see...that I was very disappointed to see. Bottom line, it left many of my fellow Republican voters ashamed, disgusted and embarrassed.

But, I'll save that for another day. And for those of you who may be worried (or hopeful), no, I haven't jumped off a ledge either. I'll instead use this space for thank-you's.

  • Thanks to all my dedicated and fierce pollworkers who had to spot and fight dirty tactics used on the front lines yesterday and deal with numerous conflicts and confrontations. Each of you had the same grit that I do, and for that, I'm grateful.
  • Thanks to MCRC for having my back when our own local party thumbed their nose at the voice of our voters, and largely wasn't there for one of its own candidates.
  • To the drivers who drove me and my running mate as we knocked on hundreds of doors to meet voters. You helped us cover a lot of ground despite weather that didn't always cooperate and kept us pumped up. It can be a boring and tedious task for drivers, but you made it fun. Thanks for your time, knowledge of where every road and house is, and details about each voter that made it easier to do our job.
  • To the sign crews who distributed a combined 500+ yard signs in public areas and to private homes that requested them, and by the time this is posted, will have picked up most of them.
  • To my campaign staff, for all the wisdom of their experience, phone calls, conversations, looking up people on lists, emails, guidance, advice, fundraiser planning and the miscellanous minutiae of running a campaign. It's a huge task, but we got a lot done, and I'm so proud of the innovation, creativity and work ethic that you all brought to the table. I know we had the best team out there and it gives me great personal satisfaction to know that because they couldn't win on the issues, we made our opponents' backers get their rear ends off the sofa and work hard to beat us.
  • To my employer, my boss and my coworkers: thank you for believing in me and supporting my efforts. The flowers and card you sent today really touched my heart (and thanks to everyone who sent me flowers and dropped off tokens of appreciation).
  • To my running mate, Jill Zimmerman. Congratulations and best of luck. You will need it.
  • To the voters who supported me. Over 2400 of you believed in me and my message, and I'll continue to fight for your interests. I'm not going anywhere. I will continue to do what I do best, which is try to hold those in office accountable and expose any shady things they do. 
  • Last, but certainly not least, thank you to my children. It was tough having mom away so much or having people dropping in at our house all the time, but your belief in me, the roles you took on, and pride in what we were doing kept me going. It all meant so very much to me to have your support, and I am so blessed and proud to call such terrific people my kids. You inspire me more than you'll ever know.

Monday, November 7, 2011

As The Township Turns

In the latest episode of the soap opera known as 'As the Township Turns", I got another piece of smear mail today ... the one I had heard last week was coming, and to which I've already responded in a mailer that dropped over the weekend.  Honestly, people, I didn't start this nonsense, but when attacked I will finish it. One only gets one reputation, and over the years I have been diligent in defending myself. This race has been no exception.

While it claims that I am saying anything to scare voters, this piece from opponent Sorgini claims all kinds of outrageous things, many of which were raised and responded to in the Spring before I won the primary.

To me, the most ridiculous ones - again ,from someone who never attended so much as one meeting or hearing that I participated in during all my years of service, so he has no personal knowledge as to whether what he's being told is true - were Sorgini's claims regarding the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB), including that 'she exceeded her budget'.

While I served 5 years, and chaired for two, the ZHB has no budget to exceed (in any municipality). The ZHB cannot control who files challenges to ordinances passed by the supervisors, nor can it control who appeals their decisions. The Township is obligated to pay the ZHB's legal bills, whatever they are, and the individual zoning members have absolutely no control over nor say in how much is allocated or spent on conducting its business. It didn't help that our current supervisors' chairman saw fit to cause the Township to sue his own ZHB several times to help his political friends. We can't control that either.

There was also never a time I "voted" not to allow residents to speak. Questions from the public, and public comment periods, are by law a part of every public hearing conducted by any municipal board. The mailer doesn't even reference with any specificity within which  of dozens of hearings this allegedly occured. 

The rest is pure nonsense, again put forth by someone with no personal knowledge and who either doesn't understand legal process, evidentiary rules, when a party is considered to have standing or not,  or how municipal meetings and hearings are conducted, or is intentionally bending the facts to mislead voters. Either way, they're not qualities you want in your leaders.

The information we put forth about the landfill was fact checked by an MCRC attorney, appeared on the supervisors' most recent agenda  (for Nov. 3), and I stand by what it said. 

Curiously, that same meeting on which the landfill topic appeared was inexplicably canceled at the last minute. I can't remember the last time that happened, if ever, and it couldn't have been because they didn't have a quorum, because three of the five supervisors were seen by me and my family having dinner at a restaurant we were at, that same evening, during the time the meeting would have been in session. Things that make you go "hmmm"... perhaps they wanted to wait until after the election?

I have always been diligent about making my personal phone numbers available. Residents with legitimate questions are always welcome to contact me to get all sides of an issue. Otherwise, the nonsense on this mailer belongs in the circular file.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Notes from the campaign trail

You might have noticed I haven't posted anything in about six weeks, and there's a good reason for that. Running for elected office of any kind is, if done correctly, time consuming. Let me just say that my home needs a thorough cleaning, the laundry pile needs tackling, and my grocery list is approaching the size of the federal tax code, so you know I have been focused on the race!

One thing my running mate, Jill Zimmerman and I did was sit for interviews with the Times Herald. While I was misquoted and/or quoted out of context in a couple places, overall I was happy with how it went. I believe the print version is available today.

Just knocking on hundreds of doors to introduce yourself to voters and ask for their support takes every spare hour you have, but it's so important. How else do you have any idea what is on people's minds? Jill and I have spent the last 8 weeks or so traversing the ten voting districts that comprise Lower Providence. We believe that elected officials should listen to, not dictate to, its residents.

My understanding is that during the primary, one of our opponents, Jason Sorgini considered this a 'waste of time' and that he 'doesn't see the value in it'. Even though he claims he’s knocking, not one home out of the hundreds we've visited has ever mentioned that he had been by, which is unheard of in a contested race. We've not seen so much as one of his door cards. We have actually crossed paths with the other candidate, Kelbin Carolina, however and seen evidence that HE’S been hitting the pavement. I have to wonder why Sorgini doesn't want to hear what issues are of concern to ALL our residents, not just those he surrounds himself with.

Anyway, some miscellaneous observations from the campaign trail:
  • If I and Jill are elected, it will be the first time in Lower Providence’s 200+ year history that we’ve had a three women to two men majority on the Board. Not that this is a reason to vote for us, but I have a funny feeling that we ladies can get a lot more positive things done than the guys have.

  • I’m aware of emails going around to voters from sitting supervisor Rick Brown, encouraging voters to support his candidate by bullet voting for him and claiming that I have ‘duped voters once again’. Rick, if anyone is duping voters, it’s you with your never-heard-from-before-2011 candidate trying to dupe voters into thinking he’s ‘dedicated’ and ‘committed’ (yes this is the same guy who’s so dedicated and committed he can’t manage to find time to attend township meetings or knock on doors). Heck, half of what comes out of his mouth came off my campaign literature or website. Why buy the copy when you can have the original?

  • Several contested races have generated a ton of mail, and this one is no exception. If the stakes weren't so high, some of it would be laughable. Sorgini attempted to frame legal opinions rendered after hearings he did not attend & has no personal knowledge of as somehow faulty, and it's clear to me he has no idea what he's talking about. Perhaps he needs to add one more degree to the three he already has – a law degree.
For example, one case he referenced in his latest mailer hinged on several legal issues, one of which was the legal definition of abandonment. Even though he attended none of the public hearings and heard no testimony upon which to arrive at a conclusion, he attempts to blame me alone for a decision arrived at by a board of five after hours of painstaking hearings, mountains of evidence and oral argument, and exhaustive review of applicable case law. Mr. Baird and his buddy Rick, at taxpayer expense, appealed this decision twice; it was denied twice and is now on appellate review that is substantially narrower in scope on only one of the several issues initially raised.

 Try asking Sorgini what any of the other complex legal issues raised in this particular case were. I bet he can't name one without first getting it, and regurgitating it, from someone else.

 In another case regarding billboards, it’s important to note that state law prohibits a municipality from legislating against specific uses such as billboards, adult entertainment, cell towers or mobile home parks. Bottom line, our zoning must accommodate these things.

The case we were presented with raised the issue that our ordinance was defective because it constructively did not provide for billboards at all. We had to cure the ordinance and rule on the application. We elected to allow them on the outskirts of the township along 422 where the least number of our residents would be subjected to them, rather than adding more along Egypt road, where a larger number of our residents WOULD have to look at them.

We have a duty on our boards and commissions to be fair to the applicant property owner and surrounding residents, and, in the instance of the Zoning Hearing Board, can only render decisions that comply with state and municipal law and case law, based on what's entered onto the record, or we risk being overturned on appeal. The resident who was on the losing end of this particular decision, Ted Baird, has (besides sour grapes) a powerful friend – Rick Brown – who’s arguably backing Mr. Sorgini for his own political survival – and Baird and Brown are undoubtedly where this version came from, since Sorgini himself was never there. No decision I was a part of rendering was ever overturned.

Sorgini’s arguments about the rest of the cases he mentioned – including the sewer lawsuit – is similarly defective. Yes LP was sued by the regional sewer authority, but it sued the sewer authority first. The regional sewer authority countersued.

  • Some may wonder why my running mate and I declined to attend the candidate forum held on Oct. 24. From my perspective, any event sponsored by a group started in the early 80's by supervisor Rick Brown, (who has come out publicly in support of Sorgini), and which is a group populated by Mr. Brown's cronies (some of whom were on the losing end of the above-referenced case, among others), cannot possibly be UNbiased.
Instead of asking the League of Women Voters to sponsor such an event, this group clearly only held the event to turn it into the Jason Sorgini show, and when you also consider:
    • it was held on township property (when the township has historically been apolitical)
    •  that long-standing policy against political broadcasts was thrown out the window to allow for rebroadcast of the forum on our cable channel
    •  AND that it was all paid for using taxpayer funds

               it was definitely something we did not want any part of.

Anyway, win or lose, it’s been an adventure that’s been both rewarding and trying at times. There are other aspects I’ll write about after Tuesday. Either way the best part for me has been getting to know our residents and our community better, and I’ve made some terrific new friends as a result.

Whoever you support, wherever you are, whichever party you identify with, come out and vote on Tuesday.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Dog Days

As I mentioned back in the Spring, I promised my kids that if I won the primary election, we could get a dog. And, true to my word, I did let them get one (we already have a couple of cats and a chinchilla). Perhaps I should have put some restrictions around the kind of dog they could get, but it didn't cross my mind. I reasoned that with approximately 150 breeds out there, surely the odds were good that they'd pick something I could live with, and we'd discussed breeds often enough over the years that I thought I had a good idea what types of dogs appealed to them. There were really only two breeds I wasn't interested in...Rottweilers and Pit Bulls.

Well, sure enough, one day they came home with a purebred Rottweiler puppy. And, I have to say, even though there have been some bumps in the road (she has a tendency to chew on things, for example), she's really growing on me.

In fact, I credit Keira (Gaelic for 'little dark one') with making me stop and smell the roses a little bit. I've been more diligent about making time for walks or jogs in the park (at this point, with Keira at about 50 lbs and growing rapidly, I'm not sure who's walking who, but I digress). She loves to run, and can keep up with me when I jog.  

One thing owners of dogs such as Rottweilers are told is to socialize them often and early with other dogs. I recalled hearing that neighboring Upper Providence Township had recently opened a 4-acre dog park off of Longford Road (a left turn off Egypt Road), something a few other surrounding townships have and which are growing in popularity. I'd driven by it a couple of times, so, one day that Keira was bouncing off the walls with energy to burn, I decided to take her there and check it out.

We've been there a few times since then, and I have to say I'm really impressed with Upper Providence's execution of the idea. While they had a few hiccups early on ---some residents weren't diligent about picking up after their pets; the park was closed temporarily for sanitary reasons, but residents now understand they will lose this park if they don't comply -- it's been clear sailing ever since. And, the park connects directly to the county trail system, so you can walk your dog on the trail if you want.

If you haven't been, it's immensely popular. There are two large fenced-in areas for larger dogs, and two smaller fenced-in areas for smaller dogs. There are plenty of stations and supplies for disposing of dog waste. At any given time dogs are coming and going with their owners. The last time I was there, there were 13 dogs in the large dog pen. Owners obviously must remain with their pets.

I love going there. It's like the new water cooler. How often do we go about our business without seeing or having time to chat with our neighbors? In this environment, everybody's happy and anxious to talk about anything, especially their dogs, but politics and current events has come up too. I've even run into folks from Lower Providence there. The dogs are so happy to hang out with their furry friends and are well behaved. It's so neat to see them run together and play and chase balls and frisbees. And, the best thing is, when Keira comes home, she's exhausted and sleeps for a good while.

The Upper Providence park was able to come into being because a former Montgomery County attorney had a provision in his will leaving $100,000 to Upper Providence Township for creation of the park...and the park had to be created within six months or they'd lose the money.

From the first township budget meeting I attended last week, I realize that 2012 is going to be extremely challenged financially, and there simply is no money for open space anytime in the near future (and we have no similar benefactors to provide funding). Perhaps we can do what Conshohocken is in the process of doing, funding theirs with entirely private, non-taxpayer funds.  However, whenever we possibly can, one thing I think our community in Lower Providence could really benefit from - and that we don't currently have - is a similar spot for our residents with dogs to visit.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

422 tolling/rail plan gets a failing grade

I spent last evening with residents from all along the 422 corridor who came out en masse to the tune of several hundred attendees to participate in a panel discussion at Pope John Paul II High School,  hosted by Rep. Mike Vereb (150th), on the subject of "fixing 422", how to pay for it, and whether a rail option should be part of the plan.  Our township manager, Joe Dunbar, and supervisor Colleen Eckman attended from Lower Providence.
Barry Seymour (DRVRPC), Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, Times Herald editor Stan Huskey, and Rep. Warren Kamp (R-157) (photo courtesy Pottstown Patch)
Panelists included Rep. Marcy Toepel (147th), Rep. Warren Kampf (157th), Rep. Tom Quigley (146th), Stan Huskey, editor of the Times Herald, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Hoeffel, and Barry Seymour, executive director of the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission.

The forum allowed for residents to have an interactive voice, posing questions to the panel via card, and permitting panelists to elaborate on key provisions of the proposed plan. As several attendees told me afterward, they didn't like the plan as presented - which includes the possibility of tolling and takes into account a new regional rail line - and wondered aloud 'If this is Plan A, what's Plan B?"

Attendees first reviewed a Powerpoint summary of the current scenario.  The document indicated projected population is anticipated to increase 50 percent in the corridor region over the next ten years, bringing with it increased gridlock and delays. Financial data included the revelation that funds generated by tolls - about $60 million a year, increasing over time, of course,  would only cover about 25% of the money needed to operate and maintain 422 and the proposed rail line. Rep. Toepel later stated that 'the numbers don't make sense'. 

Pointing out that federal transportation funding will decrease 35% over the next six years and that PennDOT has $1 billion less to spend than it did four years ago, Seymour hoped that Gov. Corbett would seriously consider implementing the Governor’s Transportation Commission’s suggestions to increase transportation funding by $3.5 billion. If that happens, tolling may not be needed on 422 at all.

Residents questioned every aspect of the proposal, including, but not limited to, why 422 was singled out for tolling when improvements to 309 and 202 were not; what's happened to money already allocated for road improvements; how to keep the toll from being a permanent solution; what the potential costs of implementing tolling would be and what would the impact be on local jobs and roads; exploring other, more fair, avenues of revenue generation such as increased licensing and registration fees and increasing the gas tax - options which spread the cost to all state residents; and of course the train/rail line aspect. The sentiment of the vast majority in attendance was that legislators needed to find ways to do more with less and perhaps find ways to cut spending in other areas to pay for needed transportation improvements - and remove the rail aspect from the plan entirely.

The cost of the proposed rail plan is estimated at $370 million. Hoeffel said that figure could be eliminated from total cost of the project. Estimates indicated that it would cost about $750 million to improve Route 422 and replace the Betzwood Bridge, and pulling the $370 million rail line cost out still leaves the  project short by about $500 million. 

Many fear the creation of yet another 'authority' to supervise and (mis?)manage funds generated by tolling and view tolling as yet another way to divert transportation funds to chronically nonself-sustainable SEPTA.  As Joe Hoeffel observed, however, all forms of transportation are subsidized in some fashion by taxpayers - airlines, buses, and highways, so why not rail? (Hoeffel's repeated use of the word 'investment' in terms of this project did not endear him to any of the folks I talked to).  One resident cautioned planners "not to assume the revenue will be there", as  many commuters would likely choose to avoid 422 in favor of using free local roads even if they have to sit in traffic to do so.

The toll would be collected not via traditional toll booths, but with E-Z pass technology. Seymour said that those without E-Z Pass would be billed through the mail based on photos of their license plates. Some attendees questioned the costs of doing that.

One question submitted asked why this issue could not be put out for vote by referendum. Rep. Vereb observed that this had not been done since the open space referendum a few years ago and that there are considerable costs to put out a referendum; it was felt that a meeting such as this forum would elicit stakeholder feedback more quickly without incurring the costs.

While the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce has endorsed the plan (surprised? I'm not) the question was put out as to whether the local Montgomery county Chamber of Commerce had taken a position on the plan. New Chamber president Kathy Brandon was in the audience and contributed that while the Chamber had not taken a position, they had polled their  members and found no support for it, adding that there 'are too many unanswered questions' at this point.

Privatization was also raised as possibility and the panel indicated that this option may be a part of the ongoing discussion.

The panelists reiterated that "only the State can create a local tolling option", that nothing will happen without legislation being introduced, passed, and signed by the governor; currently there is no legislation proposed. 

Frequent applause and cheering at key points, along with a few loud audience members who shouted out comments, made it clear that the vast majority of the attendees were not in support of either a tolling option or a rail line.

You can see other articles from Reading, Pottstown, and Norristown publications containing more details and photos here,  herehere and here.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reflection, Remembrance and Renewal: Lower Providence Observes 9-11

Like many other communities around the country this weekend, Lower Providence will mark the ten-year anniversary of the tragic events of September 11, 2001 by dedicating a new memorial in a ceremony this coming Sunday morning. Constructed entirely with donated materials and labor, the memorial (pictured) is an elegant yet solemn, peaceful tribute to those who lost their lives that day.

According to the township's website, the memorial "will include a five-sided reflection pool in honor and remembrance of those who died in the terrorist attack at the Pentagon and twin towers of the World Trade Center and a 40-step water feature in memory of the 40 lives lost in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The Township also will be receiving artifacts from all three sites."

I visit the township building often and have seen this project in all stages of development. Now that it's finished, I can tell you it's absolutely stunning in design. It's simple, yet makes a powerful statement. Kudos to the designers at Architectural Concepts of West Chester and Wade Associates of Harrisburg for the classic elegance it embodies and deep emotion it conveys.I know personally that every time I walk past it, I will recall the events of the day that substantially changed life in America as we know it.

Stopping by the township building yesterday to pick up some forms and address a couple of constituent concerns, by coincidence I happened to arrive at exactly the same time as an artifact from the World Trade Center (which appeared to be a piece of steel from one of the twin tower buildings) was being offloaded. It was touching to see the reverence and respect paid to the artifact and what it symbolizes when everyone present silently lined up along the walkway, removed headwear and bowed our heads for the piece's journey inside the building.

I understand that we have also received a stone from the Shanksville, PA, site where United Flight 93 crashed. These will be placed on display (with photographs) in the township's meeting hall.

If you're around Sunday morning (it's supposed to be dry!), consider attending the dedication ceremony at the township building at 8:30 am (plan to arrive earlier to allow for parking and seating), and/or consider joining the growing list of sponsors contributing to the cost of the project.  All attendees are invited following the ceremony to join together for light refreshments, view a slide presentation, artifacts and sign a book of remembrance.

As for Methacton School District, an announcement released to school district families earlier this week indicated it plans to
mark the anniversary with events planned for this Friday and Saturday, September 9 and 10.

Per the announcement, on Friday, September 9, students, faculty and staff are invited to wear red, white and blue in honor of Patriot Day. On Saturday, September 9, all school district students and families are invited to join the Methacton High School Warriors at Saturday's 1 p.m. home game vs. Upper Merion [UPDATED INFO BELOW...GAME LOCATION HAS BEEN MOVED DUE TO WET FIELD] and help honor the men and women who keep our community and our nation safe. Kickoff is at 1 p.m., and service personnel and first responders are invited to attend at no charge. As I try to attend all Warrior home football games, I know I'll be there, and hope to see you too.

Follow this link to read more about how Methacton will mark the 10th Anniversary of 9.11.01. 

And, most of all, "Never forget"

As of 4 pm on Friday 9/9 Methacton sent out a notice that "The football game scheduled for Saturday, September 10 at 1 p.m. vs. Upper Merion has been moved to Phoenixville Area High School. The exorbitant amount of rain has caused the field to be unusually wet, which hindered any ability to cut and line the field. The game will now take place at 3 p.m. at Phoenixville Area High School, located at 1200 Gay Street in Phoenixville.

Special events planned for the game in recognition of the 10th Anniversary of 9/11 WILL GO ON AS PLANNED at Phoenixville, including the performance of patriotic music by the MHS Band.

Students and families are invited to join the MHS Warriors at Saturday's 3 p.m. game, and help us honor the men and women who keep our community and our nation safe!

We invite service personnel and first responders throughout our area to attend at NO CHARGE, and be honored at half time.

From Germantown Pike, travel over the Collegeville Bridge and make a left on Rt. 29/Second Ave. Turn left on Starr Street, followed by a right onto Manavon St., which later becomes South Main Street in Phoenixville. Make a right onto Purple Pride Parkway, followed by a slight left onto Gay Street.

Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience."

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Goodnight Irene

Flooding at Arcola Road
At long last scary megastorm Hurricane Irene has headed to points north, taking her tornado warnings and soaking rains with her, leaving lots of flooding, high winds, and downed trees in her wake. Montgomery County in general seems to have dodged the bullet better than most. Judging from news reports, Chester and Delaware Counties seem to have been hardest hit.

Luckily, most people in Lower Providence heeded warnings to prepare well ahead of time and stayed off roads during the storm and the morning after. Our emergency responders had their hands full with flooded roadways, traffic lights out, disabled vehicles and other typical issues that crop up on a 'normal' Saturday night. I'm sure by now they are all exhausted and hopefully heading home soon for a well-deserved rest. Thanks from a grateful community!

I headed out after lunchtime to check on a few friends who live near riverfront property (all are OK although their homes may not be) and take a few photos. As you can imagine, all bridges across the Perkiomen are flooded out and closed so getting around is a little difficult. Hoy Park is also flooded. Parts of the Evansburg area/Level Road are without power. I didn't make it down to Audubon but I have to think some of those who live near Valley Forge National Park, especially in the Gertrude Avenue area, may be experiencing significant flooding. I sincerely hope people, pets and property are all OK. I've posted some photos and video. If you want me to post your photos or have a comment about your experience, send it over!
Downed tree on Level Road

At my house, we got by with a little drama but thankfully very little damage. Even though we live at the top of a hill we often get water in the basement, which our sump pump usually handles easily. Early in the storm, however, we were down in the basement hooking up our generator and noticed the sump wasn't doing anything. I called around and found what was probably the only sump pump left in the tri-county area, at the Collegeville Sears. I headed out to pick it up, and my brother-in-law ran home to his house in Worcester for some parts (his neighbor is a plumber) and soon we were back in business. All in all, we wound up with maybe an inch of water in the basement - far better than it could have been if I could not have found a replacement sump pump.

Let's hope this is the only hurricane the people of Lower Providence and surrounding areas have to make it through this fall and most of all I hope everyone is safe and dry. A related story (especially as it pertains to Gertrude Avenue) can be found here.

Arcola Road

River Road at the Perkiomen Bridge
Perkiomen going from LP into Collegeville (photo credit: Chuck Mandracchia)

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Road Toll Is For Thee

I was just checking the online version of The Times Herald, and noticed in their headlines of May 31 "Tolling of Route 422 On Agenda of Transportation Funding Commission"  that the subject of tolling on Route 422 has reared its ugly head again. I was considering writing about it when I noticed Lisa Mossie did so last week based on the Times Herald's sister publication's (Pottstown Mercury) article on the same topic. She wrote eloquently and comprehensively on the subject, which you can read here). How odd that this latest press release about 422 was offered for publication and buried in the newspaper over the Memorial Day weekend when presumably most people who'd find it of interest might be away on vacation.

As I posted last fall, I dislike this idea for several reasons, chief among them because Lower Providence already suffers substantial traffic congestion, which will only be exacerbated by cars seeking to avoid paying a toll on 422, instead routing themselves through roads inside our and other municipalities to avoid it. For us, it's definitely NOT a 'smart traffic solution'. We're already a gateway community through which motorists travel to get to other places (like Norristown, King of Prussia, Collegeville, or Philadelphia) and while I hope they  spend money here while they're coming through, none of those funds raised via tolling will be coming to Lower Providence to help us deal with infrastructure improvements inside our boundaries to support avoidance traffic.

Aside from the fact that our taxpayers already are paying money through federal and state fuel taxes and licensing fees which PennDOT themselves indicate will go toward funding road improvements on other area roads such as US 202 - and which could and should be applied to improvements on 422 - it's interesting to me that the presentation of what is referred to as the "US 422 Corridor Master Plan' (ie the tolling plan) given to our supervisors in June 2010 (for more detail on the information presented at that meeting, see the meeting minutes, Item 7, here) doesn't seem to match what its supporters are claiming now in both the Times Herald/Pottstown Mercury pubications. A year ago the presentation and discussion centered largely around funding for a commuter rail system. Now, according to the article cited above, they claim it's necessary 'above and beyond' normal state funding sources to pay for 'transportation spending' and appear to be downplaying the rail option, almost as if it's an afterthought.

Unfortunately, our sitting supervisors unanimously voted to support the US 422 Corridor Master Plan at their July 1, 2010 meeting (documented in the minutes of that meeting, Item 11, here). 24 other 422 corridor communities in Montgomery, Chester and Berks counties were also pitched the same presentation that we received, as part of what the County referred to as a 'land use transportation study'.  Of those 24 communities, I could not determine how many of them have supported the plan by resolution. Of course, the FAQs on the website claims that:

Q. The US 422 Corridor Master Plan resolution supports the idea of studying 422. If my municipality signs the resolution, are they automatically supporting tolling on US 422?

A. No. By signing this resolution, municipalities are not endorsing tolling.
While tolling is one of the options described, there are many other strategies identified in the Master Plan.

If your hometown leaders endorse the resolution, it means only that your local officials are willing to work with their community, the state, the participating counties, and other alliances to explore the 10 planning strategies outlined in the Master Plan.

Well, if you look at those 10 planning strategies as summarized in this handy-dandy brochure put together for each municipality, here, (which oh-so-thoughfully even provides a draft resolution to speed its adoption by each stakeholder muncipality), it strikes me as odd that the only 2 of the 10 I've heard discussed in any meaningful detail in  conjunction with this master plan are the supposed road improvements and the rail line. The fluff of the 10 points all sounds good, but as Ms. Mossie points out, it does seem like the underlying motive for the entire effort to toll is the "government run, public union-staffed, tax dollar subsidized public transportation system that will have absolutely no positive impact on the traffic that 422 commuters sit in every. Single. Day."

The resolution that our Board of Supervisors passed on July 1, 2010 did not carve out any of the ten options as ones they could not support. It endorsed all the 'principles and strategies' in the plan including the two which were primarily discussed, one of which was tolling 422, for however the money would ultimately be used.  In contrast, sister communities Upper Providence and Limerick Townships voted to support the plan but specifically excluded the 422 tolling provisions. As of at least September 2010, two other communities had opposed the master plan in its entirety.

Before tolling on 422 can become a reality, it needs the support of the state legislature, our governor, PennDOT and the federal Dept. of Transportation.  Our new governor has pledged that he will not raise taxes, and the argument can be made that a toll is a tax. Now is the time to contact your elected state and federal representatives and let them know where you stand on this topic, before tolling on 422 becomes a 'runaway train'.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


Yesterday's local election resulted in my earning one of two positions that cleared the primary to run in the General Election in November on the Republican ticket for Lower Providence Township supervisor.

Of course, although it's my name that's out front on the ticket, nobody gets to victory alone. Although there were far too many individual contributors in ways big and small to list here, special thanks goes:

First and foremost to my family - my parents and my children. They each were there for me in tangible and intangible ways, and their support of something I love doing so much meant the world to me, especially since their lives were impacted the most by my campaign. Of course, I am now on the hook for a new dog, which my kids extracted from me as my first campaign promise that I must deliver !

To each and every friend of mine who worked the call list hard, wrote a letter or sent an email supporting me, put a sign up in their yard, came to my fundraiser, gave valuable advice or moral support, worked long into the night on my behalf, or did something else on a long list of things that had to be done. My longtime friends were there for me, and I made some wonderful new ones, too. I love you all, and from the bottom of my heart, thanks.

One of those newer friends is Lisa Mossie, who was just elected township supervisor in our sister township, Upper Providence. We bonded last year over blogging and politics in general, and share similar sensibilities and work ethic. We collaborated, shared resources and lent each other moral support this election season, and I am looking forward to working with her on things that may impact both our communities.

Thanks to my employer for allowing me the flexibility of time and location to get this done and still carry my workload. Their support of my passion is one thing that makes me work harder for them, and they know it. I appreciate their belief in my talents and allowing me to follow my dream.

Extra-special thanks to all my poll workers who stepped up to do this tough job, and happily got it done in the trenches - in the rain, no less. No matter if they worked a few hours or all day, they delivered big. They kept us from being in the position of having run a great campaign only to fumble the ball on the goal line - so thanks for your dedication, perseverance and work ethic.

With nothing but All-Star players and a bench loaded with talent, I couldn't lose.

Last but certainly not least, thanks to each voter who took the time to talk with me at the door, to read my literature, to research who I am and what I've done, to call me with questions, and to trust me with your vote. It's something I hold precious and pledge not to lose sight of going forward. You will always know where I stand and be able to find me to talk.

~ Janice Kearney

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

I promised you a surprise, and it WAS delivered yesterday (before the rain we're supposed to get, thankfully). This particular one came in a plain brown wrapper, which ordinarily isn't all that festive a package, but in this case, I think it's a welcome color. Check out the 'before' and 'after photos:


Well on the way to 'after'

As I knocked on doors while campaigning, many residents (particularly those in Audubon) told me their biggest gripe was the chartreause green and polka-dot paint job on the former 'Bud's Bar'. They felt it was an eyesore and gave Lower Providence Township a negative image, as it is the first thing you see when you come into the Township via Audubon.

Well, Audubon, I heard you. Trying to be proactive, I reached out to the property owner and asked, how about if we spruce up the building/property a little? Can I get in there to repaint for the good of the community? He said he had no problem with that, and that had anyone only asked him, this could have been done long before now. Being a person of action, I decided to get it done before he changed his mind (and before rain in the forecast arrived). 

I donated the paint and organized friends (and friends of friends) to come do the work. I think you can agree, it looks fantastic. Hopefully, our neighbors in Audubon are a little happier today, and our Township is a tad bit easier to market to those businesses interested in locating here as we begin our new marketing and branding campaign to attract such interests to Lower Providence. 

Long term, we need to come up with a solution that both preserves this 300+ year old building, (one of the original historical structures in Lower Providence), and does not inhibit the flow of ever-increasing traffic through our Township from other places. Until that day arrives, at least this is a little easier on the eyes.

UPDATE: To hear more about this story, listen live to WYFL 1180AM on Monday morning, May 16 at 8 am (to be rebroadcast again at approximately the same time on Election Day, May 17).

Thursday, May 12, 2011


I love surprises. Wait, let me rephrase that. I love GOOD surprises. Birthday presents, spontaneous weekend getaways, an unexpected promotion, flowers for no reason. That's all good. Unexpected layoffs, favorite friends and relatives who pass too soon, a flooded basement (and negative campaign mailers full of inaccuracies, LOL), not so good.

Well, I was able to organize a good surprise for Lower gift to you, regardless of the outcome of next week's primary. As I have campaigned, knocking on hundreds of doors in the Township over the last couple of months, it's something that many people (whether they can vote for me or not) have told me is high on their 'wish list' for this Township. I am thrilled to be able to bring it to you.

Stay should be delivered tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

A Little Audubon PR on Google

This, from one of my coworkers (who clearly has more time to read than I do these days, LOL), and of possible interest to our Lower Providence residents, since Audubon once resided here:

To see it in use as it actually appears:

If you're not aware, Google (and to some extent, Yahoo) change their logos to observe or commemorate everything from seasons to events to holidays to cultural phenomenons. It's cute and usually harmless.  

It might only be up on their site today, but I know you can search on past logos they've used.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

And They're Off!!

This year in the election cycle is a year in which we elect our next county commissioners and our row officers (everything from sheriff to register of wills to clerk of courts, treasurer, prothonotary, etc). In the last such election, the Democrats in Montgomery County made some inroads, scoring some of those seats.

This time around, the Republican Party is locked, loaded and taking aim to win them all back. Some seats are running unopposed in this spring’s primary (May 17); some have several people competing on both the D and R sides of the ticket for the slot. To see a full list of Republican candidates, check out my district website at, or the county MCRC site at . For a full list of Democrat candidates, check

This is also the year in which we in Lower Providence, a Second Class Township, elect two supervisors. Supervisors are the equivalent of a smaller municipality’s mayor. A total of five hold staggered terms so that every couple years, one or two seats are open. Because so many people have asked me to consider it, I have decided to run for one of them. If I don’t already have it, I hope to win your support.

So, if I’m not posting here much over the next few weeks, it’s because I’m out knocking on doors, holding fundraisers, and putting out signs. As a Republican, I’ll only be knocking on those doors - Pennysylvania has a closed primary, so only those registered in one party or the other can vote for their respective candidates - but if you’re out when I stop by, or you just have a question or comment to relay, I’d be happy to hear from you. You can always reach me at my email ( or my home phone (610-539-5175).

My campaign website is located at

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And Now A Word From Our Sponsor

Earlier this month, I did something I haven't done in a really long time....I missed attending a Board of Supervisors' meeting in person. Oh, I know, it shouldn't be a biggie, because we can usually catch the broadcast later, at home (I say "usually" because lately our community broadcast channel has, more often than not, experienced technical difficulties). Nevertheless, sometimes life gets in the way of the things we want to do with our free time, and I had to work late. In this economy, that's a good problem to have.

I don't know if he was emboldened because I wasn't present, but I heard that Audubon resident Tom Borai decided this was a good opportunity to criticize me and this blog on camera, and some of the topics I've chosen to write about.

 I respect his right to his opinion. of course. If you don't know Tom, he's not only a former supervisor and former-and-recycled ZHB member. He's also a frequent "letter to the editor" writer and self-described 'town watchman". He's also someone who befriended me when I could be useful to him back in 2002 when plans were submitted to build the Walgreen's in Trooper, and he was going door to door trying to get neighbors on my street stirred up to fight it. And he did get me involved. I credit him with being the guy who got me attending BOS meetings regularly for the first time since the mid-90's. Ever since, though, he's decided I'm the enemy. Why? Who knows. My guess is that it's most likely because during the course of my political involvement I have not always agreed with him or his associates on the BOS.

I think he's a little bit of a loose cannon, and frequently misguided, but generally harmless...I think he means well, most of the time, although sometimes some of the things he'd say during public hearings during ZHB meetings were things that made me cringe because they could create liability for the Township (or himself). It appears to me that those in power like to use him from time to time as an audience plant at BOS meetings to bring up issues in which they themselves do not want to get their own hands dirty, but hey, who am I to judge if he likes playing that role?

I realize politics on every level is full of players like this. Still, it's amazing to me how many people - people you've had in your house, worked on a project with, had a beer with or talked to in your front lawn - once they realize you can't be controlled by them, and that you think for yourself and educate yourself instead of relying solely on their prepackaged brand of gossip, viciously turn on you. Or if you, heaven forbid, commit the mortal sin of disagreeing with them.

I grew up part of a large, extended Irish-American family. Somebody is always disagreeing with someone about something. I learned pretty quickly that people can think differently without being 'bad' or 'wrong' and that you don't have to toss an entire relationship with someone in the trash just because you disagree in one or two areas. I don't know about you, but I appreciate differing perspectives - have often learned from them - and am very much an 'agree to disagree' kind of person. What wisdom I've been able to assemble in my years on this planet has taught me that most hills just aren't worth dying on. I wish that people like Tom, and others, shared the same value. 

I’ve had to tolerate several forms of harassment from a few local residents over the years because I dare not walk in lockstep with the powers that be. The details of that are a story for another day, but suffice it to say I found out through a highly placed, credible source that Tom was the driving force behind one of the harassment campaigns. Disagreement, I'm fine with; harrassing someone (usually anonymously) because of it shouldn't be acceptable.

I'm a big girl. I realize that if one is opinionated and outspoken and candid, and especially if you tend to point out an issue or disagree with the public spin that's put out for public consumption by those in power, or call out a discrepancy - some people - usually those people with an agenda, or something to hide - aren't going to like it. How often throughout the annals of history have we seen those in power going to extremes to silence opposition, to crush resistance, to disenfranchise some portion of the population (usually folks who disagree with those in power)? To thwart efforts to shed light? I have learned to expect nothing different from some of those running the show in LP. That's just how the world works.

Last I heard, the First Amendment was alive and well. I realize my style isn't for everyone, and some people are just plain uncomfortable with assertive women in general. That's each his own.  Like it or not, you'll always know where I stand, and where you stand with me. Most people tell me that's refreshing, especially in politics. One only has to look at the surging popularity of politicians such as NJ Gov. Chris Christie to illustrate the point. The guy is the closest thing to a rock star the Republicans have going at the moment, largely due to his incredible candor and willingness to go after his detractors. I wonder how Tom feels about him?

What I do with this blog is not all that uncommon anymore in local politics. There are many local bloggers reporting on politically charged situations and people in their communities, as I do. There are now a number of us in Montgomery County, PA alone. Some have even gone on to elected office. A good friend of mine, a prominent local blogger, was just endorsed by her municipality's Republican Committee. Blogging has become an acceptable way to bring to light and discuss issues our local papers don’t have the time, resources, or interest to cover.

One of my favorite quotes is this: “The art of life is to show your hand. There is no diplomacy like candor. You may lose by it now and then, but it will be a loss well gained if you do. Nothing is so boring as having to keep up a deception." - E.V. Lucas, English author and critic, 1868-1938

And, as the quote on my profile says “You have enemies? Good. That means you've stood up for something in your life." ~ Winston Churchill. I think Winston is onto something.

If standing up for something – a concept, an issue, a principle – and being candid in talking about it – means making a few enemies out of people who may have a less-than-above-board agenda, well, I guess that's the price that has to be paid, but the upside is that so many more people value candor than despise it.