residents of west vincent: fight for your right to speak at public meetings

Chickenman has sent out a rather important e-mail within the last hour.  Allow me to share:

Hi
I received Monday evening’s Agenda for West Vincent Township. It looks interesting.

Especially # 11 Meeting Policy. According to David Brown, this is an issue where the Supervisors want to limit Public comment from the audience. The Supervisors say time and time again that they want more people to attend the meetings so that they participate in what goes on. Now that the room is filling up and people are commenting, asking questions and pointing out the conflicts, contradictions and mistruths of the Supervisors, it is time to muzzle the mouths of the people that dare speak up. What the Supervisors say and what they mean is two entirely different issues. I recommend going to the meeting on Monday night at 7:30.
To see my previous mailings please click on http://tinyurl.com/westvincentinfos  As usual, if you want to be on or off my list, or have some comments or suggestions, or know someone who would like to be on the list, please let me know.  Feel free to forward this email on to anyone you think might be interested.   Especially though, if you don’t want to continue to receive my mails, please tell me, it will be done.  Just hit reply to this email or write to chestercountynews@gmail.com

Why Supervisor David Brown, how very Lawyer err Lower Merion Township of you.  Is that where you learned this?  It was from whence came you, is it not?  Before you adopted the mantle of country gent?

This is wrong.   Public participation is a hallmark of American  government  and politics, like it or not.  To muzzle the public to me = government with a huge problem = NOT good government.

Take where I have spent the last 30 some odd years: Lower Merion Township on the Main Line.   At the commissioners meetings (you have supervisors, they commissioners) the public is often quite constrained on not only what they can say, but how long they can say it.

Generally speaking, you get 3 minutes to speak as an individual and 5 if you are representing a group or organization.   You are not supposed to address figures like the Township Solicitor and the Township Manager, and if you do that, you are generally chided like a child in elementary school.  You are not allowed to have back and forth conversation on a topic with the commissioners.

Basically you speak and they have a timer on you.  When the buzzer sounds, you are done.  If a commissioner chooses to respond to something a member of the public says, they can say what ever they want, and you can’t respond back.  No matter what they say. I have attended a couple of public meetings where they have decided there was to be no public comment whatsoever.  In essence the public was allowed to watch, thereby making the meeting open, but there was not public comment.  And in Lower Merion, there are recurring issues with sunshine.  The commissioners, however, have no restraints on what they can say, how long they can say it.

Is that what you in West Vincent want?  I have been told by long-term residents that things in your local government were not so bad when Proctor Wetherill was alive.  I know little about him, other that it is a fine Philadelphia name. I found some history on him on Ancestry.com :

Philadelphia Inquirer, 18 Jan 1985:

Note:PROCTOR WETHERILL, 73, CHRISTMAS-TREE GROWER

Proctor Wetherill, 73, one of the Philadelphia area’s leading Christmas tree growers, collapsed Wednesday evening at the wheel of his truck. Found in the parking lot of the Limerick Diner, he was pronounced dead, apparently of a heart attack, at Pottown Memorial Medical Center.

Note:Mr. Wetherill, who lived at Wetherhold, his tree plantation near Chester Springs in Chester County, was active in conservation and environmental- preservation efforts in the area.

Note: Socially prominent, he rode to the hounds and lent his support to historic- preservation efforts.

He was active in political and civic affairs as well, serving as a supervisor in West Vincent Township. He was active in the Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Association, a group producing annual horse shows for the benefit of Paoli Memorial Hospital.

Note: He served on the boards of the Pickering Hunt Club and the Historic Yellow Springs Association, and he was a member of the board of the Green Valleys Association.

So, is this what Proctor Wetherill would want for his community if still alive? Would he have allowed an eminent domain attempt on Ludwig’s Corner Horse Show Grounds?

And for just a minute, let me share another bit of interesting:

Developer, Officials Disagree On Future Of Evergreen Farm The Project Would Keep The Trees. The Pines, Not Native To The Township, Are Ecologically Incorrect.

August 02, 1992 | By Nancy Petersen, INQUIRER CORRESPONDENT

Exton developer Jack Loew thinks the thousands of pine trees in his tree farm are just fine. They’re green, they’ve been there for years and they’ll look great in his new subdivsion.

Not everybody agrees with him. The trees are basically outsiders and as such do nothing for the ecology of the township, said David Harper, a student of landscape architecture. Harper surveyed Loew’s pine tree-laden 151 acres in West Vincent Township and wrote:

“The evergreen plantation should be removed . . . to allow for the establishment of ecologically functional native plant communities.”

Loew said that was open-space planning gone amok.

“If it is the intent of the open-space plan to replace existing vegetation,” said Loew, “it may go beyond what is prudent.”

Loew and West Vincent Township officials are sparring over the arboreal future of Loew’s development, called Wetherill Estates, a 74-lot development that Loew has proposed for a former Christmas tree plantation operated for decades by Proctor Wetherill.

“The pine forest is what will make the community special,” said Loew.

He thinks the township’s newly adopted open-space plan is going a little too far, if it requires developers to remove a perfectly decent, maturing pine forest in favor of planting native saplings.

So.  Who were your supervisors back then, West Vincent?   People in communities all over would love developers that wanted to actually preserve trees, so this seems nuts to an outsider like myself.

Back to the present: David Brown, formerly of Lawyer Merion Township, who wants to limit public comment at meetings.  Can it be supposed they think you all too ill-informed to participate in your own government?  Good residents are seen and not heard?  I find it curious that in West Vincent less seems to be more with this township as far as posting things on their pretty and I am sure over-priced website.  Here’s the link I found to February 27th’s agenda which is in draft form.

Chickenman would like you all to be reminded that  tomorrow night, Monday, at 7:30 PM, there is a West Vincent Township Supervisor’s meeting at the West Vincent Township Building 729 St. Matthews Road Chester Springs, PA.

I am going to cross-post a topic from the SAC site having to do with Radnor Township.  There is an issue or two brewing between Radnor Township residents and Villanova University.  Here’s the LINK, and the reason I am doing this is to point out that there are local municipalities in SE PA that actually try to do the best by residents.  Seriously, Radnor Township residents got lucky when Dave Bashore was exited and Bob Zienkowski  was hired as Township Manager.

And while we are speaking about Radnor, let’s talk about what I know about their policy on public speaking.  In Radnor, they not only do not limit residents as to speaking at meetings, they also allow interaction.  The public can ask questions of township commissioners and public officials.  Mind you, I have seen them corral people once in a while who were kinda filibustering (and it was darn entertaining public access television viewing), and some joke their current Board of Commissioners President would have five-minute meetings with everything decided ahead of time if it were legal (he likes to run meetings like a geriatric Speed Racer) , but Radnor (generally speaking) are among the most encouraging municipalities when it comes to public participation and public comment.

I can’t help but wonder what West Vincent is so nervous about that they would wish to limit public comment? It’s where you the good people of West Vincent call home, and if I were a resident I would fight this tooth and nail just like eminent domain.  And out of curiosity, how can you legally recall any or all of your supervisors and all that good stuff?

 

2 thoughts on “residents of west vincent: fight for your right to speak at public meetings

  1. Some concerned citizens in West Vincent sent out an e-mail this morning:

    “PROTECT YOUR VOICE — Please Attend the Board of Supervisors Meeting tonight 7:30

    I’m afraid the best way for you to really learn what is happening in the township is to attend the meetings, because our local news does not always accurately report the meetings as they occurred. For instance, the DLN reported that the supervisors identified the mistake in the proposed zoning ordinance. However if you attended the meeting you will know that it was the residents who attended the meeting that challenged the wording that was being used which resulted in an Executive Meeting (a meeting of the supervisors, manager and solicitor in private — while we all waited) lasting more than one hour before they returned to tell us they need to “test” the new ordinance. Interestingly enough, the supervisors want to censure this kind of challenge from the residents, thereby pushing through their agenda’s with little public comment or challenge. (FYI — Had the zoning gone through as written the density of the township, particularly on large parcels of land (aka The Deitrich Estate) would have INCREASED not DECREASED as the Township Solicitor tried to explain).

    This leads me to tonight’s meeting where the agenda states “Meeting Policy” will be addressed. If you are a resident of West Vincent Township — PLEASE ATTEND tonight’s meeting. It may be the LAST TIME that you will be able to VOICE YOUR OPINION without censure. Without your voice, all future opinions may never be heard. If you wait until you have the personal need to address the supervisors, it will be too late! For more information on this, please follow this link Chestercountyramblings .

    ALSO ON THE AGENDA

    Also being discussed tonight is the Sustainability Work Plan. This may sound innocent and timely, however as a resident, you DO want to pay attention to this. Many things you now know and love, may change with this plan. It is lengthy, and there are some very good points made in it, however it appears that it also carries a very large price tag (through taxation) as it requires things like (note this is only a FEW things pulled out).

    Convert gas powered police car fleet to hybrid or electric
    Purchase and operate high-mileage alternatively powered jitney to help residents circulate through the Ludwig’s Corner area.
    Create and implement township multi-modal transportation plan
    Increase the number of students who walk or bike to school
    Require township residents to pump septic systems at least every three years
    Reduce use of gasoline-powered mowing in township.

    Please review the document yourself for items that may interest you!

    SUSTAINABILITY WORK PLAN
    SEE FULL AGENDA

    SEE BILLS LIST (aka — your tax dollars!)
    Don’t miss the Bills List — this is your tax dollars going out the door. You have a right to question and see any invoice on this list. (of course that may change after they change the meeting policy!)”

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