rest in peace, barbara bush

Photo found on a Google Image Search

NPR is reporting that former First Lady Barbara Bush has died.  She lived an amazing life, but as an American, I am so truly sad.

Barbara Bush was the embodiment of a life well led.  Barbara Bush was an amazing First Lady and woman. Barbara Bush totally spoke her truth at all times, and I so respect that. Barbara Bush was always her own woman.

I am a fan of the Bush family and while some might find that surprising, it shouldn’t.  They are as a family, literally a  legacy of service to Americans. None more than the senior Bushes, or Barbara and the first President Bush, President George H.W. Bush.

And I have a Barbara Bush story. Or two, actually.

Photo found on a Google Image Search

My parents had neighbors who arrived on the Main Line as sort of political exiles after the Bushes left Washington.  They had worked for them in Washington.  The wife subsequently worked in the second Bush White House. Anyway, these neighbors fostered a love of day lilies in me, and they did something really nice for my late father one time.

After the Bushes Senior returned to Texas, my father was going to be in Texas on business so their then neighbors arranged for him to attend some luncheon where he got to meet and spend time with Barbara Bush.

Image result for barbara bush

Photo found on a Google Image Search

Also decades ago at this point, I was an executive assistant to a financial services executive.  One of his friends was one of the non-political Bush family members.  One day that person was in the office and noticed a photo of my dogs on my desk. I had a pair of liver and white English Springer Spaniels at the time.

A few weeks went by and a Fed Ex arrived from Kennebunkport, Maine.  Inside was a note from Barbara Bush and a personalized autographed and pawtographed photo of her and Millie, her beloved liver and white English Springer Spaniel.

It was one of the coolest things ever. And I still have the photo.

The Bushes made you believe in being a Republican.  There were no late night Twitter tirades, they were just the embodiment of class and dignity in the White House.  I was always sad President George H.W. Bush only did one term.

It was because of Republican women of a certain era like Barbara Bush that I then went on to be a media relations volunteer for the RNC 2000 in Philadelphia. And it was when I came to terms with the fact that this kind of Republican was lost at the onset  and uptick of the “tea party” and a Twitter President, that I eventually stopped being a Republican.

Barbara Bush, you were everyone’s First Lady and an amazing human being.  May your memory be a blessing.

NPR: Former First Lady Barbara Bush Dies At 92
April 17, 20187:47 PM ET
TOVIA SMITH

Former first lady Barbara Bush died Tuesday at the age of 92, according to a family spokesman.

statement issued on Sunday by the office of former President George H.W. Bush said that Bush had elected to receive “comfort care” over additional medical treatment after a series of hospitalizations.

“It will not surprise those who know her that Barbara Bush has been a rock in the face of her failing health, worrying not for herself — thanks to her abiding faith — but for others,” it said. “She is surrounded by a family she adores, and appreciates the many kind messages and especially the prayers she is receiving.”

 

Image result for barbara bush

Photo found on a Google Image Search

when lisa vanderpump comes to town….

My friend Trish went to the Ardmore Wine and Spirits Store yesterday to celebrate a little rosé all day!

Lisa Vanderpump of Bravo fame (Vanderpump Rules and Real Housewives of Beverly Hills) was in town with her daughter Pandora to sell their namesake rosé.

She sold out!

As a rosé drinker, I look forward to trying it when back in stock.

Many thanks to my friend Trish for letting me use her fun photos!

Thank goodness she left Jax in L.A.!

a great garden related kind of day

A great kind of garden related day is when I end up with a few plants, a new gardening book, and hear a garden talk that truly resonates with me.

About two years ago I found out there was a Hosta society that serves our area. So I joined. The Delaware Valley Hosta Society. They meet a few times a year and life has gotten in the way until today where I finally was able to go to one of their meetings. Today was their spring meeting and they had a guest speaker I had wanted to meet, Jenny Rose Carey.

Ms. Carey is the Senior Director of Meadowbrook Farm , which is now a Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (“PHS”) site, but was once the home of Liddon Pennock.

Liddon Pennock was THE Philadelphia Florist once upon a time. My parents knew him, so I remember meeting him growing up. He created this amazing space which he left to PHS and his legacy continues. But I digress.

Jenny Rose Carey is a well known garden lecturer and she practices what she preaches at her own gardens (follow her on Instagram at Northview Garden or via her blog Before You Garden.)

She came today to the hosta Society meeting to speak on “Glorious Shade”. That is also the title of her new book on shade gardening available through Timber Press. (I was psyched to buy a copy and have the author autograph it for me!)

An approachable and engaging speaker, I was thrilled to learn that a lot of her favorite shade garden plants were also mine! She said with regard to shade gardening, that “slow and steady wins the race.” I was interested to hear that because I never really had a lot of shade gardening to do before we moved into this house. So I have learned in part by trial and error, but I was happy to learn that my gardening instincts have been good.

She went through a wonderful list of plants that are also good companions to hostas. Plants like:

  • Red bud
  • Eastern (native) dogwood
  • Fothergilla
  • Witch Hazel
  • Hydrangeas
  • Rhododendrons/ Azaleas
  • Asarum (wild ginger)
  • Ferns
  • Twinleaf
  • Bluebells
  • Mayapple
  • Trillium
  • Bloodroot
  • Hellebores
  • Heucheras

She also taught people how shade gardens are different. A lot of people expect shade gardens to be as neat and orderly as those sunny beds with all your sun loving flowers. But that is not how they work.

Shade gardening is so very different. It’s softer, it meanders. It’s not perfect and it evolves over time. Or, this is what I have learned over the past few years and really getting into it for the first time.

The ideal shade garden to me is something less formal, less structured. My gardens go into the woods. And I keep trash and what-not out of the woods and remove invasive plants like burning bush when they pop up, but for the most part I let my woods be. I don’t want to overly clean up my forest floor, because what hits the ground is sanctuary for critters and disintegrates into making good things for the soil (fallen leaves, etc.)

Forest floors weren’t meant to be completely tidy, and that was one thing that I got out of this lecture today and it made me glad that we were doing the right thing. I also protect the tree seedlings I find that will help keep my woods going. And some of those seedlings I transplanted into different areas of my garden – like the native dogwoods and volunteer Japanese Maples!

Ms. Carey also encouraged people to have little seating areas. Paths. Water features, as in even a birdbath.

I love hostas a bit excessively, as all my friends and family know. I’m a bit nutty about them. So it was kind of a kick to be in a room full of people that love hostas too! Plenty of the gardeners I met today were from Chester County and other deer heavy areas.

So today was a great day. While not actually in the garden much, I love having the opportunity to meet and spend time with other gardeners and listen to a great gardening lecture. I also came home with a new gardening book and four spectacular hostas!

Thanks for stopping by and happy gardening!

the historical stigma of mental illness: mary lum girard

Stephen Girard (1750 -1831) PA Historical Marker

The Pennsylvania Historical & Museum Commission put up a marker to Colonial Financier Stephen Girard in 1993. It is in Girard Park in Philadelphia on West Shunk Street.

I remember him from history classes of long ago, but never knew about his wife Mary Lum Girard.  She was someone who suffered from mental illness and was committed to the mental ward of Pennsylvania Hospital around 1790, and there she stayed until she died in 1815.

Well, technically she is still there.  She is buried in an unmarked grave on the grounds of Pennsylvania Hospital.

I was born at Pennsylvania Hospital. I spent the first almost 12 years of my life in Society Hill.  My father was a perpetual student of Philadelphia history and yet I never heard of Mary until I started to read Thom Nickel’s Book Philadelphia Mansions: Stories and Characters Behind the Walls!

As I was reading, I was astounded that this woman still lies in an unmarked grave at Pennsylvania Hospital. The stigma of mental illness of essentially 200 years ago is so strong, that The University of Pennsylvania Health System (“Penn Medecine”) can continue to grow their empire but can’t mark her grave.  I am astounded.

Here are a couple of things I found on Ancestry.com:

I am NOT sure what biography or whose writings these are from as the were posted but not correctly attributed. On ancestry I also found something compiled by a woman named Barbara Samans.

Here is what Barbara Samans published on Ancestry: Mary Lum and husband Stephen.  Here are some excerpts (And I think it was from US History.org originally by the way- they had published something by Mike DiMeo, Girard College graduate (1939) and author of “The Stone Cocoon,” about the college):

In early 1785, the world around Stephen Girard began to crumble. With a suddenness that was alarming, his wife exhibited prolonged periods of uncontrolled emotional outbursts. Mental instability accompanied by violent rage over time led to a conclusion that Mary Girard was insane. They had been married but eight years.

Girard was devastated. For two years, he tried without success to have the medical community help her. But in 1787, Girard finally recognized that his marriage was ended. He took a mistress, Sally Bickham, into his home to replace the lost affections of his wife. At that time, there was no stigma associated with the practice of acquiring a mistress. Girard no longer had a wife with whom he could continue a peaceful and compatible relationship. Sally Bickham would fill the void….His concerns in those troubled times were compounded by the increasingly deteriorating condition of his wife, Mary. She had been insane for five years, and there appeared to be no hope for recovery. In August of 1790, Girard had his wife committed to Pennsylvania Hospital as an incurable lunatic. This was not done without total awareness of the enormity of his actions. Girard, sparing no expense, made certain that there be effort made to ease his wife’s discomfort; she was afforded every luxury possible. While confined, Mary Girard gave birth to a baby girl that died in infancy. There has never been conclusive proof that Stephen Girard fathered that child nor any proof to the contrary.

Thom Nickels also wrote about Mary Lum Girard for the Philadelphia Free Press:

Is Pennsylvania Hospital hiding ‘Shame’ of Mary Lum Girard?

While the City of Philadelphia may honor Stephen Girard, the founder of Girard College, and the primary financier of the War of 1812, not much is known about his wife, Mary Lum Girard.

Who was Mary Lum, and why has her name been undersold in a City that purports to honor its historic figures?

A clue can be found on the first floor of Pennsylvania Hospital. A large plaque honoring Stephen Girard’s contributions to the hospital also mentions that his wife, Mary Lum, lies buried somewhere near this spot.

Plaques of this size and stature don’t usually tell lies, and if Mary Lum is buried somewhere on the grounds of the hospital, where is she, and why isn’t her grave noted?

he question has irked Federal Government Signal Corps retiree Joe Vendetti for almost 25-years. Mr. Vendetti traces his interest to Mary Lum to his friendship with Girard College grads Charlie Roseman and Col. Bob Ross, two World War II-era pals, who spent a lot of time talking about their college days.

“When these two guys and I would get together they talked about their college days. When I retired in 1973, I took up research about Stephen Girard and I thought, ‘Oh my God, Stephen Girard’s wife has been forgotten and ignored.’”

Biographies of Stephen Girard indicate that during their marriage, Mary was committed to a mental ward in Pennsylvania Hospital (in 1790) until her death in 1825. Because of her special status as the wife of Stephen Girard, she was permitted to have a series of rooms and a parlor on the hospital’s first floor. Other mental patients had a much harder time of it, as they lived in what Dr. Benjamin Rush (who was responsible for committing Mary Lum) in rooms that were “cold and damp in the winter, hot in the summer, lacking ventilation, stuffy and malodorous…” Mary Lum’s status as a mental patient no doubt had everything to do with the fact that she is buried in an unmarked grave somewhere on hospital grounds. But for Charlie Roseman’s 1939 classmates, an unmarked grave was hardly acceptable, so they purchased a tombstone for Mary Lum and donated it to the hospital.

Mr. Vendetti says that the first gift of a tombstone, which occurred some twenty years ago, was not accepted by the hospital. He notes that Girard College wasn’t all that eager to help with the tombstone project, either. A shadow of embarrassment and shame seemed to cover Mary Lum’s legacy, proving that the stigma of mental illness, while far worse in the in the 19th century, still carried considerable weight in modern times.

Now in Philadelphia Mansions (page 38) is something I find so interesting (and odd):

“when asked about Mary Lum’s commitment at the hospital as a patient, Stacey Peeples, curator and lead archivist at UPHS, said she was not permitted to discuss any patient.” 

Umm ok, she is the wife of a historical figure from TWO CENTURIES ago, right? (You can contact Ms. Peeples HERE.)

It makes a body wonder what happened to Mary Lum Girard while in-patient in the late 18th to early 19th centuries , doesn’t it? And why can’t she be remembered with a simple plaque on hospital grounds since she spent a fair portion of her life there? And died there?

Dr. Marilyn Lambert wrote for Girard College’s Steel & Garnet about Mary. She also wrote about this in Stephen Girard Forgotten Patriot

Dr. Lambert wrote in Forgotten Patriot:

….Few know the extent of Girard’s accomplishments. Still fewer know the story of his marriage to Mary Lum,the  early years of their life together, the slow decline of Mary’s mental health, and the final difficult decision that necessitated her commitment to Pennsylvania Hospital.

We have learned the facts about the Girards’ early life together primarily through the correspondence between Stephen and his family. It began with a letter to his father stating, “I have taken a wife and with whom I live happily.”1 The naming of his first, solely owned, schooner Mary was the highest tribute the merchant/mariner could pay his
wife. Over the years, those early, happy, and productive days, have been forgotten, minimized, speculated about, and/or distorted. Those who failed to investigate evidence provided by Girard himself, led to and perpetuated misconceptions about the man and his marriage.

Even as Mary’s mental health deteriorated, one thing remained consistent – Girard’s effort to seek out and obtain the best treatment known at that time. That this gradual process took place over a period of five years is a testimony of his desire to restore Mary’s mental health and return to the happy days of their earlier life together. It also
demonstrates the character and compassion of the man as he struggled with the complexities that accompanied the impact of mental illness on his life. Yet, in his own words, he is able to show us his very human response to a situation that no one could have anticipated and few are prepared to
address: “the illness of this virtuous woman has so  so unsettledmy life…”

You can also read about this on another blog about Stephen Girard “Get to Know Stephen Girard.” And Philadelphia Magazine wrote an article on Stephen Girard which also sources Thom Nickels in 2016.

So you have this mammoth health system which has always put a lot into mental health medicine, right? (See Wikipedia on Institute of the Pennsylvania Hospital or Pennsylvania Hospital for Mental and Nervous Diseases which was at  48th and Haverford from 1841 until 1997.)  So the Institute at Penn as it was called when I was growing up grew out of the overcrowding of the mental health wards at Pennsylvania Hospital, correct? Where Mary Lum Girard lived out her life after commitment? Ironically when Pennsylvania Hospital sold The Institute, they moved their mental health facilities back from when they came as in Pennsylvania Hospital? (Also see Asylum Projects on The Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital.)

But back to Mary Lum Girard. She is is a fascinating and ghostly figure of American history and Philadelphia history.  Compare to other mental patients of early America, she lived out her life somewhat luxuriously given the wealth of her husband, correct?  She was thought to have suffered from bipolar disorder or Schizophrenia, right?

Are we historical figure shaming (Stephen Girard) if too much is known about Mary Lum Girard? Why won’t Penn talk about a 200 year old woman? How can they say with a straight face that they are protecting a patient information?  She lived and died a couple of centuries ago and Penn Medicine did not even own Pennsylvania Hospital back then, did they?

So why is Penn Medicine being an obstructionist of history?  What is it people would learn if they disclosed historical data about her? Why can’t they even mark her grave simply? She is buried on the grounds of Pennsylvania Hospital and there are no records of her remains being moved, are there? Is the stigma of mental illness still so strong a 200 year old woman can’t have her grave marked?

It’s a veritable Nancy Drew mystery.  I suggest people buy Philadelphia Mansions for more of these amazing tales of our regional history.  It’s not just the houses, it’s the people who lived there.Thanks for stopping by.

Post Script: Received the below response from Penn Medicine. I asked them to tell me more precisely where the plaque is, because I find it odd that they would put up a plaque on the hospital grounds and not just tell people because it has been a bit of a controversy and not just via my blog post. I also did not receive a photo of this plaque. And to be honest, a plaque is not the same as a headstone. She lived the remainder of her life and died there, she didn’t just visit on a special occasion.

along 401: “where is she?”

It has been a year. Anna Maciejewska, people have not forgotten you.

Anna Maciejewska is still missing.

If you have any knowledge of Anna’s disappearence, please,please,please come forward and let law enforcement know.

Anna Maciejewska came to this country from Poland to find her American dream. Not to end up in an American nightmare.

things that make you wonder in chester county…

Things that make you wonder include this.

Why would Janssen Biotech, Inc NOT do their legal advertising for this in a Chester County PA paper? If their office is in Malvern, unless they’ve moved Malvern it’s still in Chester County isn’t it?

Does that seem odd to anyone? I have to ask a question and the question is this is: is it good legal advertising if you don’t advertise in the paper that is the daily paper to the area where this would occur? Or would this just still be considered satisfactory legal advertising, albeit slightly sleazy?

And how will potential discharge affect this creek? The Valley Creek? Wonder what Trout Unlimited thinks?

Doesn’t the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection think that poor East Whiteland has enough going on?

I guess people that live in Chester County are going to have to start looking in Delaware County newspapers too? I just don’t understand why this wasn’t put in The Daily Local News? That is Chester County’s daily newspaper, right?

Here is the raw link to the notice:

Page=PublicNotice&AdId=4604583

little pink house is coming to town, and why you need to see this movie

Little Pink House is coming to town. I got this e-mail today inviting me to a screening.

April 27 – May 3:  Philadelphia, PA: Landmark Ritz East

Based on a true story, Little Pink House is about a small-town paramedic named Susette Kelo leaves a bad marriage, and starts over in a new town. She buys a rundown cottage with a gorgeous water view. She fixes it up and paints it pink. Then she discovers powerful politicians want to bulldoze her blue-collar neighborhood for the benefit of a multi-billion dollar corporation. 

With the help of a young lawyer named Scott Bullock, Susette emerges as the reluctant leader of her neighbors in an epic battle that goes all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, inspires a nation, and helps millions of Americans protect their homes.

Most of you probably have no idea what this means. Or care. But I think you should.  It is the movie about the 2005 United States Supreme Court Case Kelo vs. New London, and what Susette Kelo and her Fort Trumbull neighbors endured at the hands of Pfizer and New London, Connecticut.

Susette Kelo taken in front of her little pink house around 2008 (I think) – It has been a long time since I looked at these photos. Scott Mahan photo.

And all of a sudden, I am taken back years.  I see faces I haven’t thought of in years; hear voices and snippets of long gone conversations.  Ardmore, PA to Washington, DC and Virginia.  What a long strange trip it was.

Dick Saha of Coatesville (left), Scott Mahan (center), Nancy Saha of Coatesville (right). I took this photo in June of 2006 down in DC/VA at an Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition conference on Eminent Domain.

My friends and I were ordinary people who became accidental activists via the Save Ardmore Coalition.  I resigned my position at Save Ardmore Coalition (“SAC”) in 2011 when diagnosed with breast cancer. I do not know if the organization still exists at all or not, truthfully. I am not there any more. My friends and I have all moved forward into our lives, and now we are mostly like local folklore.  Normal people who went to Washington to fight eminent domain and hang out with people like Susette Kelo.  But it’s not folklore, or urban legend as we did all that and lived through all of that.

Scott Mahan (left), Susette Kelo (center), Ken Haskin (right). Scott Mahan photo (again circa 2008 or thereabouts)

It was a long road for those of us who were the original SAC and we paid heavy prices for our activism at times (it was not pretty), but I would do it all over again as it was the right thing to do. We were part of the Institute for Justice/Castle Coalition’s eminent domain fighting communities.

My friends from Ardmore and I (the original Save Ardmore Coalition)  went to Washington once upon a time as I mentioned when Susette Kelo and others (like Long Branch NJ and the Sahas of Coatesville, PA and the other New London, CT /Fort Trumbull folks) were fighting eminent domain for private gain. We lived this with the Institute for Justice as we fought (and won) Ardmore’s battle.

They were crazy times and I am proud of what we did in Ardmore back then. I am honored I got to spend time with Susette Kelo and the other amazing folks from other cities and states along with the people from the Institute for Justice.

Here is the Institute for Justice Press Release:

Little Pink House Movie Hits the Big Screen, Seeks to End Eminent Domain Abuse

Biopic on Supreme Court’s Landmark Kelo Ruling Shows How Eminent Domain for Private Gain Destroyed Lives and an Entire Community

  • Eminent domain creates strange political bedfellows: Once-developer and now-President Donald Trump, along with liberal justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, came out against ordinary homeowners and in favor of the government and private developers.
  • But for the government’s use of eminent domain, corporations would be powerless to take someone else’s home.
  • The release of Little Pink House provides a rare opportunity for political unity. It should unite the Left, which wants to limit corporate influence on government, and the Right, which wants to limit government power over property.

Little Pink House is both a major motion picture and a cautionary tale that shows what happens when the government teams up with powerful private interests to take an entire working-class neighborhood for a glitzy development—a project that 13 years later is nothing but barren fields.

Starring two-time Academy Award nominee Catherine Keener and Emmy nominee Jeanne Tripplehorn, Little Pink House opens on April 20 and will be screened in theaters across the nation.  It tells the true story of Susette Kelo (played by Keener), a small-town paramedic from New London, Connecticut, who buys her first home—a cottage—and paints it pink.  When the governor and his allies plan to bulldoze her little pink house to make way for a development benefitting the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, Kelo fights back, taking her case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Although national polls at the time of the Kelo ruling consistently showed that the public overwhelmingly rejects the use of eminent domain for private gain, the issue made for strange political bedfellows.  It was the U.S. Supreme Court’s liberal justices who made up the majority that ruled against Kelo and in favor of the government, and when the Kelo ruling was handed down, developer Trump said, “I happen to agree with it 100%.”  Trump had earlier sought to employ eminent domain to take a widow’s property in Atlantic City for his private use.  After becoming President of the United States, he said, “I think eminent domain is wonderful.”“As the Atlantic City eminent domain battle showed, unless the government abuses its power of eminent domain, private corporations are powerless to take someone’s property; they must negotiate because they cannot use force,” said Institute for Justice Litigation Director Dana Berliner, who successfully represented the widow at the heart of the Atlantic City lawsuit and who argued Kelo’s case before the Connecticut Supreme Court.

As documented in the film, after Kelo lost her U.S. Supreme Court case, her struggle sparked a nationwide backlash against eminent domain abuse that today helps millions of Americans better protect what is rightfully theirs.  The Supreme Court used the Keloruling to radically expand this government power—allowing eminent domain for the mere promise from a developer that it might pay more taxes if given someone else’s land, rather than for an actual public use, as required by the U.S. Constitution.  Because of the grassroots backlash at the state level against eminent domain abuse, however, the Kelo case is justifiably seen as a situation in which the government won the battle, but lost the war.  Still, the Institute for Justice, which represented Kelo, stated that more reforms are still needed if the abuse of this government power is to be ended once and for all.

Little Pink House wonderfully captures what the fight for property rights is all about,” said Institute for Justice President Scott Bullock, who argued the Kelo case before the U.S. Supreme Court.  “A house is typically someone’s most valuable asset, but the value of a home goes well beyond its mere monetary worth.  For so many, it is an extension of who they are and what they value.  It is where a person might raise a family, grow a small business, celebrate, mourn and grow old.  Eminent domain abuse, as depicted in this film, is not only unconstitutional, it is profoundly wrong.  Little Pink House vividly documents the heroic struggle of Susette and her neighbors to not only fight for their homes but for the constitutional rights of millions of others in America and throughout the world.”

Little Pink House should unite those on the Left who want to limit corporate influence on government, and those on the Right, who want to limit government power over property, said Bullock.  Eminent domain abuse disproportionately strikes poor and minority communities, and there is often a giant gap between the promises made by redevelopment supporters and the promises such plans actually deliver.  In just a five-year period, there were more than 10,000 instances nationwide where eminent domain for private development was either used or threatened by the government.

Government officials and the developer promised that the project that replaced Susette Kelo’s tight-knit blue-collar neighborhood would thrive and would make New London tax-rich.  Now, 13 years after the landmark Kelo ruling, all that remains there are barren fields; nothing lives there now but weeds and feral cats.

“It was all for nothing,” said Susette Kelo.  “The government put us through all that torture and now, more than a dozen years later, they have literally nothing to show for it.  But even if they turned what was my home into an emerald city, that still wouldn’t have made it right.  The government and their corporate confidants destroyed our neighborhood and our constitutional rights.  We need to keep fighting this until we end eminent domain abuse once and for all.”

Eminent domain hot spots remain around the country.  For example:
In Garfield, New Jersey, the town’s redevelopment agency is using a bogus blight designation to take a zipper manufacturing warehouse, along with its neighbors’ homes, for a private developer to build private retail and housing.
Cumberland, Maryland, is trying to bulldoze a number of homes to make way for a chain restaurant.
The Bae family left Korea and built a successful dry cleaning business in East Harlem, New York. But city officials want to demolish it so a developer can build an entertainment complex.

Little Pink House has been lauded by The Hollywood Reporter and Deadline Hollywood, among others.  In addition to attracting stars Keener and Tripplehorn, Little Pink House features the original song “Home Free,” written and performed for the movie by rock legend David Crosby.

The independent film was directed by Courtney Balaker and produced by her husband, Ted Balaker.  It will open on screens across the nation with more screenings being added each week.  In those markets where Little Pink House is not being shown in theaters, the public can follow a simple process to bring the movie to their hometown theater or enter an email address at littlepinkarmy.com and a representative from the film will walk them through the process.

Courtney Balaker said, “Eminent domain abuse is a fancy term for legalized bullying.  It happens when insiders take advantage of outsiders.  Developers and politicians promise more jobs and more tax revenue, so it sounds appealing to lots of people.  But all the high-minded talk obscures what’s really going on—they’re forcing people out of their homes.  If you own your home and you want to keep living in your home, you should be able to stay in your home.  Eminent domain abuse happens far more often than most people realize, and it rarely brings the kind of economic development its supporters promise.  It should come as no surprise that poor and minority communities are especially likely to be targeted.”

Eminent Domain for private gain is legal stealing, economic segregation, and more often than not, class warfare. When you receive a notice of a taking, your world turns inside out, not just upside down. At first you feel like you are in the battle completely and utterly alone. But you aren’t alone. There are a lot of us out there.

I didn’t set out in life to become a grassroots activist on any level, but eminent domain is an issue that, as an American, I found I simply could not ignore. I loved Ardmore, where eminent domain threatened a block of small businesses in a local historic business district. Ardmore to me was a quintessential old fashioned main street-oriented town. It represents the bygone days of small town America.

The township (Lower Merion)  had declared this block “blighted,” and it intended to acquire these properties in a certified historic district for inclusion in a mixed-use development project to be owned by a private party.

One of the first lessons we learned as SAC was that when you are fighting a battle like this, you become an instant pariah. SAC next contacted the Institute for Justice and newly formed Castle Coalition, who gave us a crash course in grassroots activism.

We held rallies, protests and community meetings. We wrote letters to the newspapers until we had writer’s cramp. We took every opportunity to speak at public meetings. We lobbied government officials on a state and national level.

My friend Si Simons with Susette Kelo, June, 2006. My photo.

And we hit roadblocks. Although eminent domain had become a national issue when Susette Kelo took her case to the U.S. Supreme Court, in the Philadelphia area we discovered it was hard to get media attention from anyone other than the local papers. Eminent domain wasn’t sexy enough—it was just “a local issue”. We were called NIMBY and castigated publicly by certain local elected officials at public meetings, who referred to us as “a small group of mean spirited individuals.”

When someone told us in a letter if we didn’t like how government was run we should “change the face of who governs us,” our resolve as a group was strengthened. We decided to change literally the faces of those who were governing us. We had an upcoming election. We didn’t back one candidate in particular but decided they should all adopt our position and take IJ’s pledge against the use of eminent domain for private gain.

We were successful. In November 2005, we watched as five new faces against eminent domain were elected to the 14-member Board of Commissioners.

During this whole time before and after the election, we had the good fortune to finally get some national and even international media publicity. We networked further with other eminent domain fighting citizens locally and nationally.  Members also gave testimony before both the Pennsylvania Senate and the Pennsylvania House of Representatives. We submitted written testimony to the U.S. Congress and became part of the record on HR 4128.

February, 2006 walking Congressman Sensenbrenner (left) around Ardmore. Scott Mahan (right). I am behind them on the left with then Congressman Jim Gerlach on the right)

In February 2006, then Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner came to town with Congressman Jim Gerlach to discuss eminent domain. In March 2006, the five new commissioners who came to office promising to end the specter of eminent domain did just that: they proposed and passed a resolution to end eminent domain. The businesses were free.

I will not lie. It was an exhausting process fighting eminent domain.  I went to so many municipal and other meetings during this time, that even today I have a hard time going to meetings.

For me, there was also the fact that I hid my activism from my employers.  I was working for then Wachovia Securities (now Wells Fargo), and while not officially forbidden, such outside activities were seriously frowned upon.  We were supposed to be good little examples of Corporate America at all times, no matter what our position.

Susette Kelo is and always will be one of the most courageous people I have ever met. I have been waiting for this movie to be finished. (See Little Pink House Movie website too!!)

This is a story that still resonates.  See:

The Volokh Conspiracy    The story behind Kelo v. City of New London – how an obscure takings case got to the Supreme Court and shocked the nation
By Ilya Somin May 29, 2015

LAWNEWS
Dreams Demolished: 10 Years After the Government Took Their Homes, All That’s Left Is an Empty Field
Alex Anderson / @alexanderJander / Melissa Quinn / @MelissaQuinn97 / June 23, 2015

Eminent domain still under fire

June 23, 2017 by NCC Staff

POWER PLAY
Seized property sits vacant nine years after landmark Kelo eminent domain case
Published March 20, 2014 Fox News

The Kelo House (1890)

March 20th, 2009 Posted in Folk VictorianHousesNew LondonVernacular

Visit The Institute for Justice website. There is a Kelo vs. New London timeline.

Seriously….see this movie.  This can happen to anyone.  It happened to people I know and people I met.  And if you follow the current pipeline debacle, how do you think Sunoco has gotten land from Chester County residents? It certainly wasn’t candy and chocolates, it was the threat of eminent domain, wasn’t it?

And you can try to get Little Pink House played where you live by contacting the filmmakers HERE.

Thanks for stopping by.