Monday, October 28, 2013

Sign Language

‘Tis the season…for campaign yard signs! Nobody really likes them, but they are effective ways for candidates to gain name recognition and for residents to show support, so I suppose they aren’t going to go away.

part of my district (2-3) in sign per candidate! (2010)
As a committeeperson (who are the journeymen and women of each party who do the political grunt work on the ground to get candidates elected), one of my duties is to put out such yard signs for candidates on our ballot.

I take a lot of pride in the work I do.  I don’t put out too many signs, make sure they get replaced or stand them back up if they fall over, and I get rid of them quickly when the election is over. In  representing my own voting district,  I always ask permission from the property owner (even when they’ve allowed me to place signs previously) and I always commit to picking up signs I’ve placed as soon as the election is over because I know people don’t really like looking at them. Usually, the same evening after the polls close, and certainly no later than the next day, I’ve pulled all of mine.

Some elections are worse than others. The 2011 election was memorable for the sheer number of candidates (county commissioners, county row officers, local school boards and local township supervisors/borough commissioners) all up at the same time. With numerous candidates, the signage to promote them all was off the hook.
However, in all the years I’ve worked on campaigns or been a candidate myself, I never saw anything like what greeted me this past Saturday afternoon when I was out running errands. All up and down Ridge Pike through Lower Providence, one candidate had literally carpet-bombed us with their yard signs. There were literally 25 or 30 placed on EACH SIDE of some intersections, and spaced so closely that no other candidates’ signs (of either party, for all contests) were readable. It was a truly obnoxious display of self-promotion.

Worse, with the 35-mph winds that day, some of the sleeves had blown off the stakes and were flying loose into the adjacent lawns or the street.  They weren’t sunk into the ground well, so some were twisted sideways or had been blown completely over onto the ground. Some signs I’d placed within my voting district were pulled out of the ground and tossed aside in the process of this invasion.  All in all, it looked absolutely hideous and it was visually overwhelming.  

I don’t mind saying that the signs were placed by a candidate from my own party, but had anyone come to LP and done this, I’d have had the same reaction.
2-3 polling place, primary election, 2013
You should also know that it’s against the law to remove campaign yard signs you did not place, yard signs belonging to another candidate, and removing signs on private property. I believe it’s a misdemeanor and there’s a fine involved if caught and convicted. It’s also considered bad form to drop signs on someone’s property without their permission, a practice I’m aware that one of the candidates running for supervisor this year has been doing. Thus, there wasn’t much I could do myself since I was not the property owner where the signs were placed and I did not place them myself.
Outraged at this veritable trashing of our community, I contacted our municipal party leader, Jim Van Horn, who, for reasons unknown, was utterly uninterested in doing anything. I was told “there’s nothing we can do about it”.  Faced with this unwillingness to confront the perpetrator, I contacted the individual – again, a member of my own party - myself. Giving the benefit of the doubt, I explained that aside from the larger issue of what happened and how terrible it looked, I also expressed my opinion that trashing up our community this way not only made this particular candidate look bad, but it reflected poorly upon our party and my fear that disgusted voters would take it out on her and potentially other candidates on our ballot on election day. At that point I’d already heard from two voters who saw the mess after I did and had called to ask about how it came to be there.
I was frankly also fearful that my constituents who live here and friends who traverse through LP, knowing that I place campaign signs in my district, would think that I was responsible for this visual assault. No committeeperson I know of either party in this area would ever have placed this many signs in this way. Not to mention, signs aren’t cheap, and it’s waste of a resource to place so many in one area.
I am happy to report that the candidate was horrified, and relayed that a third-party contractor was purportedly hired to place their signs, but they were never told to place so many signs so closely together. The candidate agreed with my assessment and by 9:30 Sunday morning, the vast majority of them had been removed. I applaud their responsiveness and concern for our community; they communicated with me several times to assure that they’d done a good enough job of repairing the damage. While there are still a number of them around, at a ratio that I’d say is about 5:1 of every other candidate’s sign out there, it’s far better than it was.
Whatever your personal feelings about campaign yard signs, just know that come November 6, the day after the election, they’ll all be going away…until next spring’s primary!

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Bridges of Montgomery County

If you live or have to travel anywhere near the now-barricaded Arcola Road Bridge, you might have read last week with great interest the list Montgomery County published enumerating the 19 structurally deficient bridges it has deemed a priority for repair. I know that, like me, many of you eagerly scoured said list, expecting to see the Arcola Road Bridge at or near the top. But alas, it was missing entirely.
I wondered why, as did many of you I’ve spoken to. Life post-closure in August has been painful, both for the people who regularly use the bridge and must now go well out of their way, and for the residents whose neighborhoods are impacted by additional traffic. The article the list appeared in neither asked nor answered the question as to where OUR bridge was in terms of the list and priorities, so I called Montgomery County’s Dept. of Assets and Infrastructure to see what they had to say.
The young lady who answered the phone explained that the list excluded the Arcola Road Bridge because it is already closed and the process of getting it replaced has already commenced. Those 19 bridges are on a separate RFP just approved by the County, and they’ve hired a consultant to help prioritize them.

She added that they have received a LOT of calls about this bridge. I'll BET they have!
"Ugh! These detours! WHEN will the Arcola Road Bridge be open again??"

Speaking of the bridge, at tonight’s Board of Supervisors meeting, township manager Richard Gestrich tried to make it abundantly clear that it is a COUNTY-owned bridge, not a TOWNSHIP owned bridge. My guess is angry residents and travelers are blaming (incorrectly) township officials for the closure and delays in getting it replaced.  

Some updates shared at tonight’s meeting: LP Township officials are meeting biweekly with county officials and state Rep. Mike Vereb as to the status and progress of the project, along with ways to mitigate the pain in the meantime. They have discussed ways to mediate the traffic impacts and make recommendations to PennDOT as to how to rectify them.  The County has appointed Indian Valley Appraisers to meet with adjacent residents to secure rights-of-way to enable the start of construction.
Police Chief Bud Carroll mentioned that he has worked with PennDOT to resync the timing of the traffic light at the intersection of Pawlings Road, Park Avenue and Egypt Road to allow for better traffic flow by increasing the length of the cycle a little bit. Also, we were able to get PennDOT to free up some funds ($125,000!) for a traffic control device at the Perkiomen Bridge intersection that monitors traffic in real time to improve flow to and from Germantown and Ridge across that bridge.  The device is available to us now and we are awaiting its installation, which will hopefully allow us to see some relief from congestion. It’s expected to be in place on or about November 1.
The County now believes it can start the construction in January 2015 and conclude it by August 2016, shaving a good six months off prior time estimates.
All of the above is great, but here’s my question: I, like many of you, signed up at the County’s August Arcola Road Bridge meeting to receive email updates on the project. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t received ANYTHING from the County about this since then, especially not the part about the appraisers or shaving six months off. Transparent? I think not.  
Nice job, though, by our municipality to stay in the loop, have an active voice in what happens and be a part of solutions. Maybe the number of people blowing up their phones and email about this bridge will go down just a bit.