is plausible deniability the cornerstone of american politics?

I was having a conversation with a friend recently. They aren’t someone who is particularly political. All they wanted was a straight answer out of the township where they lived. But they weren’t supposed to bother township staff. They were supposed to go through elected officials. That would be (depending on where you live):

  1. A Commissioner
  2. A Supervisor
  3. A Borough Council Member
  4. A City Council Member
  5. A Selectman or Selectwoman
  6. An Alderman or Alderwoman

(You get the idea, right?)

So this person I know was turned over to a newly elected local representative/official. And the new person sadly appears to be merely the patsy of a more established political cat, a/k/a a more senior and longer duration elected official who feels free to be a puppet master of less experienced officials.

I am speaking in generalist terms and not saying where this friend lives, because this is not anything new. It’s as old as the art of politics itself, and goes on everywhere. I have experienced it in Chester County.

A few years ago now, I was told I should not bother the township people who worked in a township building. I was told the best practice was that I should go through an elected official. I did that at first until I realized it was a way to try to control residents and also for a way to ensure township residents wherever did not build relationships with township staff. I then decided that I didn’t want a politician translating for me all of the time. Sometimes it’s handy to have a politician translate for you, but really as a resident wherever you live you should be able to speak to the people that work in your municipality, right? (Yes that’s right, live dangerously and email your local municipality!)

What I have discovered with dealing with politicians versus municipal staff wherever, is municipal staff will answer an email even if they don’t have the answer. Politicians are more cagey. They only want to have a conversation, they don’t want anything in writing. And the reason for that is a term called plausible deniability . Plausible deniability refers to circumstances where a denial of responsibilty or knowledge of wrongdoing can not be proven true or untrue due to a lack of evidence proving the allegation.

Yes indeed, plausible deniability is a true hallmark of politicians from the tiniest of municipalities through to state houses and Washington, D.C. Without plausible deniability, politicians would not be able to give you that trademark blank or politically shocked stare and say murmuring “kindly” things like “I am so sorry I did not know” or “I was not aware.”

(Of course with this as a best practice, it is probably why there shouldn’t be a Tweeter in Chief with all their Stepford Tweeter Minions, right? )

But it’s no wonder nothing ever gets done anywhere because all of the politicians today are like various versions of Sergeant Schulz from Hogan’s Heroes. They see nothing.

When was the last time we truly had accountability in politics? Again , on any level, from the most local of levels through to the nation’s capital? And this is a problem with both Republicans and Democrats alike.

So why is it we keep electing these people? Or is this a corruption which occurs when they become sitting politicians?

Just some of the random things I think about with regard to politics. The politically jaded will now sign off.

Thanks for stopping by.

in the wee small hours

Conshohocken State Road just after Hollow Road in Penn Valley on the edge of Gladwyne. Now vines and an unkempt forest of sorts, there used to be old silos that once stood and a spring house.

Gloaming is evening twilight, the time just before dusk when the sky is pink and fading.  Morning twilight is that equally beautiful quiet time just before dawn.  Mind you I am not awake then on purpose, sometimes it is just when I wake.  The past few nights it has been the yipping and calling of the foxes plus that even more eerie sound raccoons make when they call to each other – it’s almost a warbling that has awakened me before dawn breaks. It is a time for quiet contemplation, these early moments before dawn, and sometimes I wake up thinking about things and pondering.

Such was the case this morning.

This morning, I was thinking of how to make people see how quickly development takes over farm land.  This morning as I lay there in the twilight while everyone in my home slept, I remembered a couple of examples.

When I was little before we moved from the city to the Main Line, and even when we first moved to the Main Line, the more rural bucolic roots of Penn Valley and even Gladwyne peeked through the modern suburb of it all.

When you turned off of Hollow Road (when you get off the Schuylkill Expressway if you go right, it is River Road, left is up Hollow Road to Conshohocken State Road) onto Conshohocken State Road, for years the remnants of a farm eerily stood in this valley off the side of the road.  Silos and a spring house.  I watched them deteriorate over time, until vines and trees and woods have now basically swallowed them up.

I am not sure whose farm it was.  Along Hagy’s Ford Road (where Welsh Valley Middle School is among other things) until the 1950s there was the Charles W. Latch family farm  and other farms.   According to the Penn Valley Civic Association, this farm once provided a lot of fresh produce for the area. It is so jam packed full of houses today, it’s frankly hard to believe.  But before all of the development, it was farm land, including Pennhurst Farm owned by Percival Roberts.   Pennhurst was over 500 acres.  Pennhurst had among other things a prized heard of Ayrshire cattle (another fact gleamed from the very interesting and well written Penn Valley Civic Association website. (So all of the prize Ayrshire cattle weren’t just on Ardrossan in Radnor, were they?)

The Penn Valley Civic Association continues (and they credit Lower Merion Historical Society with all of these marvelous historical facts):

Other farms included that of George Grow on Hagys Ford Road. Sold in 1921, it is still known as Crow’s Hill (the “G” having become a “C”). Another farm was the Grove of Red Partridges on Old Gulph Road near Bryn Mawr Avenue. The property later was part of the tract of 302 acres belonging to James and Michael Magee. John Frederick Bicking, who operated a paper mill along Mill Creek, owned ten acres where Summit Road ends at Fairview Road. The Bicking family cemetery, mentioned in Bicking’s will of 1809, still exists at this location. Ardeleage, the estate of Charles Chauncey at Righters Mill and Summit roads, was torn down in 1938, and fourteen homes were built on the property. 

 

(Read more of the history of Lower Merion here and farming in Lower Merion here.)

I also remember visiting a dairy farm in King of Prussia that was somewhat commercial when I was a kid where you could get literally farm-fresh ice cream. I don’t remember the name.

Yes, King of Prussia.  It is hard to remember that what today is just thought of by the every growing malls and a casino, was once prize farmland too. (Do you see where I am going now, Chester County?)

If you visit the Valley Forge website, you will find this great post with an even more interesting 1953 zoning map of Upper Merion: 

RETAIL REWIND

March 13, 2017 by Dan Weckerly – VFTCB Communications Manager

Because I grew up in the area, I have long-term memories of King of Prussia Mall….author-historian Michael Stefan Shaw…

since his 1992 transplant to the area, he has looked at the mall through a surprising lens, that of historian rather than shopper.

Shaw is in the midst of capturing the full story of King of Prussia Mall, tracing its development from when it was just a little prince.

And even further, before it was born….

“I wrote a book in 2013 on railroading in King of Prussia, and that got me looking into the backdrop of Upper Merion Township,” Shaw says. “That led me to the mall.”

His research showed interest in a large-scale retail presence long before the 1963 official opening of King of Prussia Mall.

“In writing the railroad book, I came across a 1955 zoning map of the township,” Shaw describes. “And because of the coming of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and the Schuylkill Expressway, there’s a spot on the map marked ‘shopping center.’ In 1955, it was listed there. That’s way before the 1962 soft opening or the 1963 grand opening.”…

The map shows a candy-cane coded plot of land amid fields that were mainly devoted to dairy farming.

So there were cows onsite long before a purple one selling ice cream.

King of Prussia Zoning Map

 

That was then.  This is now. I guess my point is Chester County, that the farmland continues to disappear under the pace of development. I have to ask, will people in 50 or 60 years be looking at where we all once lived and will they be trying to imagine farmland too?

Do we really want farm land and open space to become just memories?

Check out two videos on YouTube about Nor-View Farm now owned by Upper Merion Township:


(You can also visit the King of Prussia Historical Society for more information.)

We don’t live in a bubble.  Chester County isn’t the only part of Southeastern PA threatened by development.  But if we learn from the mistakes of other PA municipalities, maybe we can hope for a little bit of balance?

Farming is brutally hard work.  Ask any farmer.  This state and this country really do not support farmers enough in my opinion.  But without our farms and farmers, where are we? Growing micro-lettuces on a green roof?  Green roofs are not open space.

Open space once, it is gone, is gone forever.  Along with our history, the architecture, and the farms themselves. And the wildlife.  Check out the Wikipedia page on Penn Valley for example:

Before Welsh development, Penn Valley’s forest was home to bears, cougars, wolves, rattlesnakes, otters, beavers, weasels, turkeys, grouses, woodland bison, trout, and bald eagles. However, after forest destruction by the Welsh and eventual home building after World War 2 many of the rare animals left.[12]

Today, the area is filled with red foxes, white-footed mice, horned owls, red-tailed hawks, skunks, raccoons, rabbits, chipmunks, pheasants, crayfish, songbirds, butterflies, and white-tailed deer. The white-tailed deer pose an occasional problem in Penn Valley because they can halt traffic, destroy the forest underbrush, devour expensive ornamental flowers, and spread Lyme disease. When last counted, Penn Valley contained 44 deer per square mile, 34 more deer per square mile than the recommended average. 

Just food for thought.

Thanks for stopping by.

will 2018 mark the year of history at risk at the ruins of ebenezer on bacton hill road, frazer in east whiteland?

Veterans at Ebenezer on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer PA in November, 2016

It has already been a year since my friend Al Terrell left this earthly plane. And almost two years sine Ann (A.V.) Christie has died. I am glad both of them are not around to find out what I discovered this morning.

I have been home with the flu, so I have been playing catch-up with municipalities. I started with East Whiteland.  They have a Supervisors’ Meeting this Wednesday, January 10.  

One of the things there of note, is a couple of more resignations from within the township building.  One resignation is the guy who has only been there a short amount of time but came to East Whiteland from the Montgomery County Mall Township known as Upper Merion.  Scott Greenly is leaving.  He was/is East Whiteland’s Planning & Development Director. But I digress.

BACK to the reason for this post, only it actually what worries me was from RIGHT before Christmas (always have to pay attention before major holidays or in the dead of summer or stuff sneaks on it, right?) as in the  Planning Commission December 20, 2017:

Sketch Plans
1. HP Flanagan, Inc.: Sketch plan proposing a 6 lot subdivision and associated improvements. The property is located at 100 N. Bacton Hill Road, is zoned R-1 Single Family Residential and is approximately 6.6 acres in size.

 

(Deep breath)

This is proposed for right on top of and across the road from….wait for it….the ruins of historic Ebenezer AME Church and Cemetery.  When I last wrote about Ebenezer, it was late November, 2017 and it was about an oral history.  Before that, you know all of the posts about the history and the various articles from 2016 (click HERE and click HERE for two of them.)

Well shame on me for not paying closer attention in December 2017.  Here is what it looks like (100 Bacton Hill Road Sketch Plan):

Here is a close-up so you can see (right or wrong) why I am alarmed:

These houses are right on top of Ebenezer on one side.  A  concern I have is a lot of us have always wondered if there were more graves on each side of the fences (See blue arrows). A new development right on top of this site of ANY size puts this historic site at risk, in my humble opinion. Which is why a lot of the conversations concerning this development have to also include protecting this historic site, right?

This is a historic site that East Whiteland has never seemingly wanted to deal with (except for the historic commission as they have wanted it better preserved only how do we get there?), and the AME Church always seemingly wants to pretend it never exists. (I mean remember that promise Bishop Ingram made the Inquirer reporter Kristen Holmes to check this all out? And what do you bet he never, ever did? (Sorry I don’t see slick city bishop walking through the mud at Ebenezer, do you?)

Do we need to worry that if the AME Church finds out about development they will try to sell these old souls to the highest bidder to make a buck or two? (It’s a valid concern, I think.)

Here is a close up of general notes on the plans so the players and potential need for a variance are made plain:

Doug Buettner still owns the land now.  I have met him.  A nice guy. He actually helped with Al’s clean-up of Ebenezer in 2016. I have also been told that owns Malvern Court the mobile home park on the other side of Ebenezer.  The developer is listed above at HP Flanagan in Malvern.  They are an unknown to me.

I have been told that Mr. Buettner has wanted to develop some of this land for years.  I seem to remember he mentioned it to me in conversation the day I met him cleaning up at Ebenezer.

My largest concern is how close this all is to the ruins of Ebenezer. This is not a big plan being proposed, mind you, and it would have escaped my radar except for the fact it is next door to our beloved Ebenezer. And well a development could detrimentally impact this historic site as I feel the site is fragile to begin with. I have fears that once construction vehicles move in to start construction if this plan is approved that it will cause the remains of the church to crumble from vibrations.  When Al Terrell was alive we had wanted to try to get the AME Church to give permission for funds to be raised to stabilize the ruins.

A development of a 6 lot subdivision like this adjacent to a historic resource and a mobile home park is one of the ways Chester County Zoning is so strange to me.  None of the things go together.

I still feel the pace of development is staggering in East Whiteland .

When does it stop? I have to ask if Mr. Buettner owns clear to the corner as I was told, would it be possible to shift those houses down? Or eliminate one from the plans to create a buffer zone next to the old souls of Ebenezer?  After all, it is not generally considered good karma to disturb a burial ground is it?  Freed slaves, member of a once vibrant early black community and black Civil War Soldiers matter, don’t they? Shouldn’t they?

And you see on the plans they also want setback variances? Bacton Hill Road is a speedy road.  So no new development anything should be perched right on the edge of the road in my humble opinion.

Look, I wish this proposed plan, this sketch plan, wasn’t on top of Ebenezer, but it is.  And Hiram Woodyard, Joshua Johnson, the Reasons and the other dear old souls here deserve respect. (See Daily Local article November 2016)

Bacton Hill is the location of some of the richest black history in Chester County.  It was an early settlement of freed blacks among other things.  This history here just keeps getting erased. I don’t think that is right.

Here is my wish list:

  1. NO development (which I doubt will happen as it is East Whiteland, after all.)
  2. More realistically, REDUCED development to protect the cemetery with a good buffer.
  3. As a condition of approval the developer gets permission to stabilize the church ruin and put up a better and more proper fence with a gate and a couple of pebbled (drainage is a problem over there already, right?) parking spaces in the buffer zone so people can visit Ebenezer.
  4. And developer also helps with maintaining the grass and weeds going forward

Here is hoping if something comes of this, the dead are respected, right? Ebenezer has been around since what? 1831 into 1832?

Ok signing off now.  My thoughts are simple: Ebenezer should be and needs to be preserved.  It is history that matters.  And more people need to care. (For more on East Whiteland history click HERE.) People, this is a sketch plan, but it is under active review.  If you have an opinion, please voice it to East Whiteland (politely.)

Ebenezer AME and her ruins are just something which should be saved, right?

perversion

From Radnor Democrats Public Facebook Page. It had as a caption “Radnor Democrats
June 11, 2016 at 4:41pm · We always say that the Radnor Democrats have a big, diverse tent and to “join the Party.” Well, today, at the Wayne Music Festival, the Radnor Democrats LITERALLY have a big tent!”

Where to begin? Let’s start at the bitter end of September when news broke that there had been a not-local (as in NOT Radnor PD) law enforcement raid had occurred in Radnor Township.  The target? Phil Ahr, newly minted as of this summer President of the Radnor Board of Commissioners. 

News has swirled when he missed the regular meeting shortly after the raid and  then and this past Monday, some commissioners had wanted Ahr to resign. But the Democrat commissioners (Nagle, Higgins, Schaeffer) blocked the efforts.  I will admit that while they were speaking the truth about guilty until proven innocent, BUT this is the second scandal to rock Radnor Democrats with a Board of Commissioners president given the fact that in June former Commissioner and Board of Commissioners President Bill Spingler was found guilty by a Delaware County jury  of “indecent assault on a person with a mental disability.” (His 100+ year old former mother-in-law.) Ironically, Mr. Spingler is to be sentenced or something tomorrow a lot of newscasters in Philadelphia were stating today after Phil Ahr turned himself in to police.

See NBC10 Philadelphia’s reporter Deanna Durante’s 6PM report on Mr. Ahr goes to court. Also see a pretty comprehensive article by the Philadelphia Inquirer and Main Line Media News.

It’s child porn and lots of it.  It’s horrible. Truly horrible. Almost inconceivable.

Earlier this evening, Radnor Township itself held a press conference.  I contacted the township and they provided me with what they had handed out except for the PDF of the court docket – I found that myself. Today was the preliminary arraignment. 

Anyway, here it is and I will warn you it is truly disturbing:

 

 

So back to the three commissioners in Radnor who blocked a motion to have Ahr resign. Earlier this evening, they fell back behind the cloak of the Home Rule Charter of Radnor Township.  So while they perhaps could not have made Ahr resign as of Monday, given the scandal their township and political party has endured in recent months, shouldn’t they have convinced him to resign?  Or how about perhaps they should have NOT played politics at all and lived up to their oaths of office and convinced him to resign because they are supposed to look out for the best interests of the residents?

Once again, deeply troubling times for a township where I have many close friends….including those with children.

I am going to say, however, that no matter what your opinion is here, please allow law enforcement and those in the legal system do their jobs here.  Please respect the terribly difficult jobs they have, especially with this case.  Also respect the residents of Radnor Township who have to deal with this, especially the residents of Ward 7, Garrett Hill. Garrett Hill is a tight knit community that is suffering greatly.  And pray for Phil Ahr’s family.  He has now given them a terrible burden they will carry always.

Here’s a question for all of you: should local elected officials have to submit to comprehensive background checks including criminal in order to hold elected office?

Thanks for stopping by.

path and price of freedom

I sit and reminisce once in a while.  What a long, strange trip it has been. This life we live has highs and lows, ups and downs, triumphs and sorrows.

We all lead ordinary lives and eventually something hits us and just doesn’t sit right. Then you become active where you live.  It is somewhat of a NIMBY prospect (Not in My Backyard) because you often do not realize how wrong something is until it is happening in your own backyard.

Trust me; it is far easier to just be a sheeple in your community accepting at face value verbatim whatever local politicians and power brokers tell us must be so. (You know the theory of they say it is so , so it must be so?)

Some assert that it is far easier to just vote the way you are “told” — and yes, volunteering in local elections many moons ago I literally heard someone say that as they walked an elderly person into a polling place say “Now you just vote the way we told you to.”  That very memory is one of the things that always makes me tell people to vote in all elections, including local .

You don’t realize that our vote is such a powerful voice.  Check out the candidates…and also whenever able check out who supports them financially as that always tells an interesting tale.

If you are in a group trying to enact change, never, ever back a candidate for political office when they come calling.  Ask them to take YOUR position, i.e. what are they willing to do for you? Don’t be used by politicians. They are public servants, they work for us.  That also means that anyone at any time should be able to speak to an elected official.  If they as politicians, do not have time for everyone, replace them with those who do have time. Keep replacing until you get the ones you want representing you.

I have never had the desire to run for elected office.  I don’t have the long-term stomach for the games and the inevitable deal making.  Politics however will always fascinate me and repulse me. It makes for interesting people watching, that is for sure.

I have, however, had the privilege to know some amazing elected officials in my life from the most local of levels to Harrisburg to Washington D.C.  Like me, like you, they are just people.   I have no hero worship, just appreciation for some of them because they do care and they do work darn hard to make a difference.

We live in a dangerous and somewhat crazy political climate right now.  As Americans, we have watched in horror as people have shot up schools, Congressmen on ball fields, random people in malls and movie theaters.  A week ago today we all awoke to the news that Las Vegas was the scene of a massacre engineered by a mad man.  All those poor people were doing was listening to music at a concert.

Yeah, we need to have a conversation about gun control, but NO ONE can do that CALMLY in this country.  All people and officials on both sides of the issue do is SCREAM at each other.

We live in a crazy political climate and most of what we hear out of a sitting United States President appears on Twitter.  In my opinion , as an American citizen,  I not only find the behavior embarrassing that we even have a Tweeter in Chief, but somewhat removed from everyday reality.

Along with friends I have fought eminent domain for private gain.  It was a whirlwind and we fought all the way down to Washington, D.C. alongside folks like ordinary people from Long Branch, NJ , Cramer Hill Camden NJ, Coatesville Pa (Saha Farm), and Suzette Kelo of New London, CT (as in the U.S. Supreme Court Case.)

Another time, other friends and I found ourselves the recipients of a congressional commendation for a specific volunteerism campaign we had initiated and completed.

I have done what I have done because I believe in community and a sense of greater good; because it was the right thing to do.

Along the way I have grown less idealistic and naïve.  Sadly, I can be jaded now.  But as you age and watch how bloody cruel and duplicitous human beings can be to one and other, you change.  But you have to remember the good in people, as hard as that is at times.

I am just a person.  I was not born with other than an immigrant pedigree.  Italian, Irish, and Pennsylvania German.   To me that makes me a quintessential Pennsylvanian.

I believe in our Constitution and the freedoms our founding fathers fought and bled and died for.  Yes, the same values and freedoms that subsequent generations of Americans have fought and marched and bled and died for. It seems as Americans that we have been perpetually fighting for our rights and freedoms.  But is that not the very nature of preserving and enhancing freedom?

As an American born in the birthplace of American rights and freedoms, I believe in the First Amendment.

Be independent-minded in life.   You will be glad of it.

“SLAPPED”…again

Social media page screenshotted above FIRST is one of the many pages which I follow.  I am not an administrator or page owner.  The SECOND screen shot is from the public docket  –Case #2017-03836-MJ. The developer has filed for reconsideration.

Timing being everything, this all happened around the same time this week as State Senator Larry Farnese’s press conference in Philadelphia City Hall regarding the anti-SLAPP legislation currently pending in the PA house. (Visit this link http://www.senatorfarnese.com/farnese-delaware-riverkeeper-network-news-conference-on-anti-slapp-suit-legislation)

CLICK HERE to find out about the bill and please contact your State Representative in PA and urge their support. Residents in Chester County, please contact YOUR state representative and urge passage of this legislation.  CLICK HERE to find out who represents YOU as a Chester County, PA resident.

And as I was asked to prepare a statement for the aforementioned press conference, here is what I wrote- Farnese Press Conference Philadelphia PA 9.13.2017

CLICK HERE for the link to the PA DEP page on Bishop Tube.

Thanks for stopping by.

don’t we have enough billboards in chester county already?

I am not a billboard fan.  Never have been. I am not a West Whiteland resident, but I am a Chester County resident.  There is a video which residents in West Whiteland who got the letter were also invited to watch.

Here is the link: https://vimeo.com/212812871/8e07f2f03b

Here is property listing on LoopNet and it shows that it is off the market.

My opinion is Route 100 is such a zoo already, and this would bring the potential for additional light pollution, wouldn’t it?  And would it be a hazardous distraction on accident prone Route 100?  The video shows their farm market concept, which  by itself without the billboard I have no problem with, except to wonder about the traffic there and is there truly enough space?

The property is next to that place that looks like it is a motel, but I guess are apartments?  And what about the creek that runs right there?  And if you take out all of those trees, how will that potentially affect the residents back up behind there even if there was no billboard?

Yes, it’s an ugly site, but is this the best solution? And is the entire parcel all in West Whiteland or is part in Uwchlan maybe?

I hear neighbors are up in arms already at the proposal, and can you blame them?

I only ask reasonable questions as an observer and resident of Chester County. It will be interesting to see how his proceeds, won’t it?

ww outdoor