This. It’s a miserable and rainy Monday morning. Here we are in the midst of a global pandemic known as COVID19 or coronavirus, and one of my most favorite, true, and steady voices of local journalism has announced his retirement.
I am just super bummed. Phil Heron thank you for everything and your friendship. I know why this makes me sad. Phil is an old school paper and ink newspaper guy. “Stop the presses.” (Only I don’t know if Phil ever said that!) These are our heroes of local journalism.
As a citizen journalist (well we bloggers are called that even if some of you don’t like that term), true journalists don’t always give you the time of day. Phil Heron is one of those newspaper guys who always has had the time. A true professional in his industry.
I got to know Phil in part not just because of my community activism days back with the original Save Ardmore Coalition over issues including eminent domain, and when the billboards saga started in Bryn Mawr, Haverford Township. I also have to say my friend, the late Tom Murray, another true paper and ink newspaper guy, deserve credit here. Tom liked connecting people.
Phil will still be around, but it’s still sad because our local journalistic voices just become fewer and fewer. How can they not when they are bought by hedge funds and venture capitalists who don’t actually give a damn about local journalism, local issues? Phil for example has also been a leading voice on the pipeline issue. Local editors and local journalists give our issues voices, they help amplify our own personal voices.
If you missed the note I tacked on to the bottom of today’s Letter From the Editor, allow me to make a personal note. It’s the column I always dreaded writing. Because it’s the last one.
After nearly 38 years, this will be my last week at the Daily Times. I started in 1982. June 14, Flag Day, to be exact.
I will write more about it later this week, but since the word was leaking out there already, I figured I would get ahead of the curve and formally announce here in The Heron’s Nest as well. This is my decision, at least in part. It’s probably not the way I envisioned it, but it is time. I’m not quite sure how to wrap up 38 years, but above all else what I will remember is the people – both those I worked with every day, and those loyal readers who picked up the newspaper every day, or who now visit the website.
So Phil Heron, I wish you well in retirement, and God knows you have earned it. But I think the future of local journalism got a little more grey today.
This is what community looks like. This is what it truly looks like when people come together for a greater good, and to support friends and neighbors.
Geoff Partridge is still missing.
Last evening it was bitter cold down on the Schuylkill, and still they came one by one to Flat Rock Park in Gladwyne for the Candlelight Vigil for Geoff Partridge. People who could not be there lit candles in their own home and posted photos on the event page.
A candle in Phoenix, AZ burned brightly last night during the Gladwyne, PA vigil. Courtesy photo from candlelight vigil for Geoff Partridge event page.
Last night you saw an example of the best kind of humanity. It’s the week before Christmas, and I don’t know about you but I’m praying for a Christmas miracle.
If you know anything concerning the whereabouts of Geoff Partridge please contact police.
And Philadelphia area media? Especially the television stations? Would it kill you to keep showing Geoff’s face on TV? I have seen what you have done with other missing persons, so please help his family out.
Lower Merion Township? I realize you all are not happy with this publicly but this is someone’s friend, son, husband, family member, neighbor and so on. And you know what? If this was someone beloved in your families these people would do the same for you. That is the thing about this community. I have seen it over the years.
True community like this is magical. Seeing these photos made tears well up in my eyes.
Pipeline and sinkhole. Just The Fact Please photo. November, 2017
Before I moved to Chester County, I was somewhat ambivalent about Sunoco and their pipelines. Among other things, I grew up with a father who was for years, in-house PR for a then major oil company. And part of that was during the Exxon Valdez era. But oil companies had deep pockets and what did I know? Nothing was near where we lived and those oil company deep pockets were always giving box loads of stuff to schools, bought full page ads in school newspapers for the kids of employees, etcetera.
When you first hear about problems with pipelines, pipeline construction, or even fracking, it is like this fuzzy thing out of focus ahead of you in the haze. It can’t possibly affect you. Until it does. And in my opinion, it is. I have friends who hail from Western Pennsylvania who literally have been warning people for years. And they are just nastily labeled “fracktivists”. Guess that is the new label for “concerned citizen”? Because I have got to tell you, the people I knew who once lived in Western PA are…wait for it…MOMS. You know how dangerous moms are, right?
Then it seems like in an instant but a couple miles in either direction from where you live as far as the crown flies in any direction, stuff starts to happen.
You feel like local municipal officials and politicians are just covering their ears saying “na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na,na” in order to NOT have to listen to residents. Respected environmental activists are labeled as being alarmists.
When Danielle Otten woke up Monday morning, she didn’t expect to see men working on the Mariner East 2 pipeline construction site that sits about 40 feet from her backyard, along Devon Drive in Uwchlan Township, Chester County.
For one thing, work in the area had stalled after drilling dried up and damaged nearby water wells this past summer. And just last week, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection issued a court order halting construction along the 350-mile long pipeline after Sunoco/Energy Transfer Partners continued to violate its permits, causing damage to private water wells, streams and wetlands…..When DEP issued a stop work order to Sunoco last week, it appeared that all work would halt aside from drilling and erosion controls that had to be continued in order to prevent additional environmental damage. But a spokesman for the DEP now tells StateImpact that when it comes to anything other than earth disturbance or water crossings, the agency doesn’t have jurisdiction.
In Chester County, as a resident, you can’t avoid the truth of the pipelines. And the risks and dangers. So many of us are on wells. And so many with wells are already having issues. And then there are those other pesky things…you know like sinkholes and so on?
The jarring visuals you see with your own eyes like the beautiful swaths of lands torn assunder are burned into your brain. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it and you wish you could.
Swing sets and play houses of small children sit in macabre juxtaposition to giant earth moving machines and huge pieces of pipe.
Giant walls, pipes, and earth moving machines also sit across the driveway from senior citizen apartment complexes and grocery stores.
Pipeline so close and on top of churches and schools in addition to residential neighborhoods and please, tell me, how is that safe?
Next to firehouses too? So basically, Sunoco puts those supposed to protect us at risk as well?
You have friends and former neighbors who have Sunoco gobbling up their land for the pipeline. You count your blessing like we did that we moved long ago from certain parts of Chester County because otherwise this view could be your very own backyard:
Uwchlan Safety Coalition photo
Only you can’t help but wonder if your slice of heaven will remain unmolested by pipelines? Like Medieval Feudal Lords, you are never quite sure what they will swoop in and take, are you?
You are, as residents of Chester County and elsewhere, supposed to bend over and accept these new vistas:
My photo, taken July, 2017
When you say “no I think this is bad” there are people who will jump all over you. “It’s perfectly safe. You don’t know what you are talking about.”
Sunoco is raping our land. They are depleting it, irrevocably changing it and in my opinion putting us all at risk. It is not OUR pipeline, it is THEIR pipeline being forced upon us all and we are not benefiting from it. This isn’t OUR infrastructure, it’s Sunoco’s infrastructure. What they take is being shipped OVERSEAS.
As another friend Ginny said to others:
Sunoco cannot replace the large, mature trees they are chopping down for this. Nor can they restore the fragile and important wetland there if they wreck it, just as they couldn’t restore the private wells that they wrecked in Marchwood this summer with this pipeline.
Living with hazardous liquefied natural gas lines is not a part of living in suburbia. In fact it is reckless to put these lines through densely populated areas, right alongside houses, schools, apartment buildings, shopping centers, seniors homes, etc.
When does it stop? When did Corporate America’s rights become more meaningful than ours in Chester and Delaware Counties and elsewhere in Pennsylvania? Why are we as residents being forced to live with something that destroys and takes and give nothing back in return? Why don’t residents matter? Why do we spend so much time feeling like our elected officials have forsaken us on this issue?
And why is it when you mention anything about not liking or distrusting pipelines some fool will always hop up and cry foul partisan politics? I mean do they really think we are such imbeciles that an issue which is non-partisan and affects EVERYONE is an example of partisan politics? Take off the dunce caps, because opposition to Mariner East is clearly bi-partisan.
Pipeline, East Goshen. My photo. Summer/Fall 2017
Today in addition to the CBS News report, Del-Chesco United for Pipeline Safety is a nonpartisan, fact-based, grassroots coalition of locally-based safety groups, made up of concerned Pennsylvanians from across our Commonwealth issued a press release:
Well guess what? I believe these folks, and this pipeline and it’s march across Chester County and elsewhere terrifies me. These people protesting are our neighbors and friends. And there are quite the growing numbers of experts, environmentalists and others who believe these residents.
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!”
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?
Ok so Sam got booted from the play. You would have thought that was the end of it. But no, now his school district and school board ( Penn-Delco School Board) are thinking of expelling him. The irony is this kid Sam is a really good student, vice president of his senior class, and is such a nice kid he gets awards to that effect.
Ok wow. Talk about a heavy hand, right?
This is the crap about educators and school boards I don’t get. Was Sam right? His heart was in the right place and instincts as far as protecting someone who was hurt, but the actions, NO. Not right for many reasons.
However the flip side of this is bullies in schools aren’t just the kids so it makes you wonder doesn’t it about this adult the director doesn’t it? Reducing students to tears and causing extremes in negative emotion/action? Of course when educators and school boards wonder why some kids end up anti-establishment maybe they need to look in the mirror, huh?
So I decided to blog this. I don’t know Sam, will never meet Sam, yet I think Sam is getting the short end of the stick here.
Sam was wrong laying hands on anyone. That accomplishes nothing. But it is entirely understandable human nature to go to another human being in crisis. And as Phil Heron says in his editorial :
“Sam Schmucker is a Life Scout and was scheduled to receive the American Citizenship Award for the second straight year before this tempest in a teapot exploded.”
Translation: this is a good kid that half the parents in the world wished their kid could be like who made a mistake. And in my mind he was standing up to bullying.
One of my largest problems with educators and school districts today seems to go across the board from district to district. It happens in private schools, Catholic schools, charter schools. They talk a good game about bullying but don’t actually do much about it. And don’t tell me it doesn’t happen, have seen it with my own eyes.
Bullying is not always just from the kid on kid angle. I have seen plenty of adults in positions of power who were the biggest bullies of all. Please, if we are honest with ourselves we experienced it. Some experienced worse.
How about the pretty girls who are preyed upon by lecherous male teachers? We’re not talking the girls pretending to be Lolita and experimenting with their own sexuality with deliberate behavior that got them into a pickle (not that it was right for adult males to think playing with underage girls is ok), we’re talking about girls who were true innocents. Think it doesn’t happen? It happens. It didn’t happen to me thank God, but can’t say the same for everyone I know.
My point is this: I never quite believe when schools say they don’t know this stuff is going on and wonder how much is a surprise and how much they just didn’t check out when they could have. For example in this case with this drama teacher, were there ever complaints or whispers of issues with him being too heavy-handed with kids? Did he have a pattern of only looking to himself and not to the best interest of the children he was responsible for? Were plays for his own glory or for the students?
Maybe you think I should not have taken this brief detour or think I am co-mingling too much, but my other point is the kids aren’t always at fault are they? What of extenuating circumstances? What if these girls who were preyed upon by male teachers had been booted out of their schools for not saying “no” for example? How would that make people feel?
Sam the senior in high school is not too young to learn the lesson of consequences from laying hands on another person like that. He got tossed out of the play and served a 16 day suspension. Enough already. This school board wants to make an example out of him and prove what big adults they are. Enough already. Seems to me that their overreaction might be covering up other issues? Issues that have nothing to do with this kid Sam?
Why should this school board have the power to ruin this kid’s life? This is a college track kid with a bright future ahead of him who screwed up. Does he deserve to pay with his entire future?
I don’t think so. I don’t think what he did was right although I think his heart was in the right place. But this is not some hardened juvenile delinquent. This is a good kid who did a dumb thing. Good lord I think actual juvenile delinquents and school bullies get more chances than this Sam is getting.
#FreeSam and Save his future.
And as an aside, I thought the name of the school board’s lawyer rang a bell so I Googled Barry Van Rensler, after all how many lawyers who represent school districts with that name can exist? This is what I came up with:
Investigators, at the direction of Auditor General Robert P. Casey Jr., arrived in Upper Darby yesterday to begin scrutiny of lawyers’ bills in six Delaware County school districts.
The special investigation, ordered by Casey on Tuesday, is noteworthy for the rapidity with which the investigative team was mobilized. Under the direction of former federal prosecutor Peter J. Smith, investigators will determine whether there is any basis for criminal charges…….Casey ordered the special investigation after articles in The Inquirer this week reported that the Upper Darby School District paid solicitor Barry Van Rensler for working more than 24 hours a day on six occasions since 1997.
Taxpayers footed the bill because school officials never noticed
So it seems to me that Solicitor Van Rensler got a bunch of second chances because he is still representing school districts isn’t he? So why can’t he suggest his clients be more magnanimous with a kid?
Here’s the media coverage on Sam. What do you think?
Published: Friday, March 15, 2013 By LAURA WISELEY Times Correspondent
ASTON — A Sun Valley High School senior will continue to serve out a suspension for his role in an altercation with a school employee while the Penn-Delco School Board deliberates whether he should be permanently expelled from the school.
About 75 people came out to support Sam Schmucker, 17, during a two-hour expulsion hearing Thursday at the district services center, after which the school board voted 4-3 against allowing Schmucker to return to school while they deliberate his possible expulsion.
…. In his testimony Thursday, Schmucker said he was talking with another student when the play’s lead female role, who is also Schmucker’s girlfriend, ran past him and into the school’s basement, saying she “couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
What she couldn’t deal with, Schmucker testified, were comments from play director John Baxter. Schmucker said Baxter came looking for the female student, and as he passed Schmucker, the student grabbed Baxter by the shirt and yelled at him….Schmucker said he could not recall details of the conversation or whether he had pushed Baxter against the wall, but said he did try to apologize to the director about 10 minutes later…..Barry Van Rensler, the attorney representing the district…“If this was a C student who never got in trouble, but never did any activities, are we saying we wouldn’t throw him out?” he asked the board. “Because this student has an A average and a wonderful family and lots of friends and can pay an attorney, he should be different?