respect small businesses 

Things that happen to small businesses that I hate. Not in Chester County but my old stomping grounds of Ardmore, PA. 

So apparently someone hired this landscape company because someone put out big planters on Lancaster Avenue (see above.)

Now this is the Main Line so of course you have to hire someone to plant a couple of plants in a planter, right?


Well that is fine provided said service provider is NOT blocking public walkways, rear business entrances, and oh yes parking in someone’s posted private and non-municipal parking.


Well completely disregarding all of the above award of the week goes to Charles Friel Landscaping. They did this to one of my closest friends who is a small business owner. 


And when she went out to basically ask him to move he was like he would be done soon and he had these plants to get in. My friend kept trying to explain that the guy was blocking her rear door (fire and safety hazard), parking in her customer parking on private property, and blocking a public walkway. 

That is not right and for some reason he could not tell her who had paid for the planters (don’t people usually know for whom they are working?). None of the businesses (even the ones with them in front of their stores) seem to know where the big plastic planter boxes have come from.

I am all for community beautification in business districts as so many business districts just don’t bother. But what I am not for our people who do things like this landscape truck did today. Ardmore is horrible for parking. It gets as congested as the Borough of Malvern or downtown West Chester. But people need to be considerate of small businesses. These mom-and-pop shops make our communities unique and careless behavior like this literally takes business away from them because of people can’t get to the store they’re going to go someplace else.

contrasts

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Yesterday was a study in contrasts. Started out my morning in Chester County, and headed up to New York City for the day.

New York City in October is very alive and bustling. A cacophony of sights and sounds and smells. I worked in New York for a few years when I was younger and fall and spring were my favorite seasons. It is such a contrast now to go from the quiet of Chester County to the very definition of urban.

From the east side to the west side, New York City is a sea of constant motion…and taxi cabs. It’s beeping and honking and massive waves of people bustling across giant intersections.

It is one of my favorite places to take photos, but yesterday there wasn’t time for that. I appreciate the beauty and the urban canyons of Manhattan, but I truly am a Chester County person now….I love getting back to the trees and fields.

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From New York City it was back to Ardmore for the last First Friday Main Line. The event was the Happy Howl O’Ween dress up your dog contest.

Since 2006 First Friday Main Line has been there to bring art and music to every day life ; bringing local artists, musicians, and small businesses together. Inspired by the Old City (Philadelphia) First Friday, First Friday Main Line has had people discovering art in unexpected places.

Because Ardmore doesn’t really have gallery spaces, the art and music were tucked in alleys, store fronts, restaurants and on the street. All of this was done by Executive Director and Ardmore business owner and resident, Sherry Tillman. These were never Lower Merion Township as in municipal sponsored events. Many municipalities are deeply involved in the First Friday celebrations of their communities, but the extent of Lower Merion’s involvement was basically collecting permit fees.

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First Friday Main Line was something I was deeply involved in until the spring of 2013. I did the publicity and event photography and it was an amazing ride, including a Congressional Commendation in 2010 for our Operation Angel Wings initiative.

But change is inevitable. Sherry called me a couple of months ago to let me know she was putting First Friday on hiatus. I had stopped actively participating because of my move to Chester County and new life here. I was sad to hear her news, but understood. She wanted to focus on different kinds of art events and get back to creating on her own. Sherry is an artist in her own right.

Coming back to the last First Friday Main Line was a bittersweet, yet sentimental journey. I had spent so much time in Ardmore between First Friday Main Line and the community activism I was part of a few years ago. (Lower Merion Township had once to seize part of the historic business district via eminent domain for private gain.)

Coming back to the area I once called home is now like being a stranger in a strange land. What once was home, is now just a place I used to live. The contrast was very pronounced to me this visit. I loved seeing all the old and in many cases beloved familiar faces, but I see everything now through different eyes in a thanks for the memories kind of way. I no longer belong to these old places, I belong to Chester County.

Part of the contrast which was sad to see is just well, how grungy and almost worn around the edges Lower Merion Township seems to look. And that isn’t just the business districts. When I was a kid Lower Merion really was a beautiful place to live. Now it is just an expensive place to live, which is not the same thing.

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What I observed was a lot of the sense of community and neighborliness no longer seems to be self evident. A lot of strangers bustling by, and I wonder are there still people stepping up to foster a true sense of community? Or maybe it’s no longer that kind of place?

I have to be honest I do not miss the congestion and traffic of the Main Line nor do I miss the constant development. I felt really old passing by locations where I remember the house and the people who lived there, only now planted on those spots were condos and McMansions and such. All of what replaced what was in these spots are built out to the last possible inch with no real attempt at human scale let alone compatible style. In fact, no real style at all, these projects between Wayne and Ardmore scream nothing more than “new”. Sad.

Down the street from where my parents used to live, I read recently about a house which has a property which is now the subject of potential development. I knew it as the Woodruff House.. The super family which once lived there is long gone and sadly mostly passed away. Realistically, the development will probably happen. There is no zoning and planning to prevent it even if it is a ridiculous and vastly inappropriate spot for infill development.

But it has been almost 40 years at this point since Lower Merion Township had a comprehensive plan update, and the lack of planning is showing. What worries me about what is happening on the Main Line is the same developers snapping up whatever they can there are also in Chester County.

Take Downingtown, as in the borough. If they don’t watch it, they will make the same mistake that Malvern Borough did with Eli Kahn and Eastside Flats, which should really be seen from the rear too. An article appeared in the Philadelphia Inquirer recently:

Archdiocese sells Delco property, 2 others for $56.2M By Harold Brubaker, Inquirer Staff Writer POSTED: October 04, 2014

…..In addition ……..the archdiocese said that it had an agreement to sell a 454-acre property in Northampton County for $5.5 million, and that it had sold 55 acres in Chester County for $3.7 million.

The $3.7 million from the sale of excess land at the St. John Vianney Center in Downingtown, a behavioral-health center for clergy and women religious, was deposited into the archdiocesan priests’ pension fund. That fund previously had a $76.3 million deficit.

The buyer was Woodbine Partners L.P., a partnership of Chester County developers E. Kahn Development and J. Lowe & Associates.

Stephen Sullins, Downingtown’s borough manager, said the expected mixed-use development was significant for the town, which covers just two square miles.

“It looks like it is going to expand our tax base somewhat. We’re looking forward to some new jobs,” Sullins said.

Yep, Eli Kahn.again….Eastside Flats which still look vastly out of place in Malvern and unfinished although they are finished and the project is for sale (See Philadelphia Business Journal, July 2, 2014) .

And remember that very telling Patch article a couple years ago that told a very different tale of how much money Malvern Borough would actually make off of this project?

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$60,000: East King Revitalization’s Impact on the Borough The new apartments and businesses won’t be a windfall for the borough. By Pete Kennedy (Open Post) Updated June 29, 2012 at 1:38 am

During a discussion…at….Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

“That’s it?” Yeager replied, expecting a bigger payoff from the several new businesses and hundreds of new residents that will be moving to the east end of the borough.

Downingtown can afford a development misstep even less than Malvern Borough. And I love Malvern, but if there is some benefit to having that Christ awful development once you get beyond having Christopher’s there and Kimberton Whole Foods moving in, I haven’t seen it. And the development looks like giant Lego buildings (with about as much finesse) plunked down in Lilliput.

There are a lot of empty store fronts in Eastside Flats and the borough itself, and last time I was there to have lunch at Christopher’s there were cigarette butts all over the sidewalk in front of the nail salon. Of course I also wondered why such “high end” and new real estate could only get a nail salon? And have you ever see Eastside Flats from the rear? It shows it’s backside to a lot of Malvern residents over the tracks and wow, a little landscaping might help. But do developers like this care about the existing residents?

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My travels yesterday merely reaffirmed the true contrast between urban, suburban, and Chester County. And suburban doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be the mini-me to urban, and well for us out here in Chester County, we shouldn’t want developers to spin their tales of the Emperor’s New Clothes out here and give us the awkward new urbanism fairy tale or hybrid cross of what they are shoe horning in everywhere else. Maybe that is NIMBY (not in my back yard) of me, but heck I have lived with bad projects and bad planning in my back yard–it’s one of the things I was happy to leave behind on the Main Line when I moved to Chester County.

I still believe Chester County is incredibly vulnerable to these projects, and these tiny towns and boroughs need to think carefully before jumping to the extremes of these very dense developments. Places grow and evolve and not all development is bad, but there is just way too much of it. The pace needs to slow.

The open space and gracious rolling farm lands,fields, and forests which make up Chester County are worth preserving. So is the way of life which accompanies it. Thanks for stopping by today. I know this post has rambled along, and when I started out with my original thought of contrast I wasn’t quite sure where this post would lead me.

Enjoy the beautiful day!

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if septa is considering cutting service past paoli, why does malvern need T.O.D.?

malvern train stationI remember years ago as a college student without access to a car when I wanted to go visit friends at West Chester University, if I couldn’t get a ride I had to take a train to Paoli and then get one of those scuzzy cabs to West Chester. And Paoli train station on the side going towards Malvern felt just as creepy and isolated then as it does today.

I was happy when Malvern and beyond opened again on Septa.  And people ride the train.  When I was transitioning out to Chester County for a while I took the train out from the Main Line.  I was going through radiation treatment for breast cancer and a lot of the time towards the end of my treatment I was too tired to drive. This was when Malvern train station was under construction.  It was then I realized there was no handicap access at either Paoli or Malvern – quite frankly during that time I would have welcomed a ramp versus steep stairs – I was just that tired. At Malvern during the heat of that summer I was going through radiation was when you not only had to climb  steep stairs, the train station also had no place for you to sit to wait to be picked up and a car couldn’t get near enough to pick you up.  Instead you had to wind your way through a construction site and around through to the other side via the roads on a sidewalk that was not the best.

So now there is the tunnel and the station is rehabbed (but still isn’t truly handicap accessible) and during the summer Malvern Borough officials were putting on charettes or whatever for T.O.D.  Transit Oriented Development, otherwise known as borough officials see dollar signs and have no brain cells. I wrote about T.O.D. before.

I said then I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses. It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

To say that people in suburbs and exurbs and quasi rural areas will give up driving is just ludicrous.  These municipalities and developers should just be honest: they don’t have the ability to put sufficient parking in all this new age urban-like development.  They don’t care so much about the environment and being green, in my humble opinion it is all about the green they can bank in profits. And who suffers? People already living around these infill development targeted sites.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

TOD stands to add hundreds of living units. Hundreds as in someone told me in excess of 600.  Malvern is no way capable of handling that many additional living units and cars and people.  That has a trickle down effect to the schools too. And we aren’t talking real estate taxes, we’re talking overcrowding.

TOD in Malvern will also adversely affect their neighbors in East Whiteland.  Much the way Tredyffrin affected Radnor residents downstream along the Gulph Creek when they allowed Church of the Savior and some other things to super-size.  East Whiteland should stay on top of this from a municipal perspective.  No one needs trickle down issues.

So why am I writing this? Because of something that appeared in Malvern Patch that was copied from Plan Philly.

The long and short of it there is a very real chance SEPTA will cut stops off the R5 Paoli/Thorndale Line.  As in NO MORE train service. Stopping at Paoli again.

(See  septa-s-complete-service-realignment-plan-and-letter-to-state-secretary-of-transportation-barry-schoch.original )

eli kahn

So I have to wonder if Septa will even do the makeover planned for Paoli train station?  And if the service is truncated and stops at Paoli, how will Paoli even if their grand plans make it to completion handle the influx?

I put forward that Malvern Borough Council and Borough staff /administration need to be watched.  They want to shove, shove, shove through new development yet they have no substantive planning that I can see. I know what they see- they see ratables.  What is happening (for example) with the Gables Greenhouse property on Warren and Second Ave?  There were a couple of things in Malvern Patch which seem to have disappeared?  The comments indicate on the remaining article that like five houses are being considered for that property?

Malvern Borough has lost it’s way.  They don’t seem to listen to their residents.  They also can’t seem to get much money in the end for development projects.  Remember when people checked out what they were getting in ratables for East King Street/Eastside Flats? See:

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the  of Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

And oh yeah what exactly in the realm of new businesses is Eli Kahn actually bringing to Malvern? Besides Kimberton Whole Foods?

I feel I must say again that in addition to better planning by municipalities and boroughs throughout Pennsylvania, there also need to be updates made to the Municipalities Planning Code.  After all Zoning blames Planning and Supervisors/Commissioners.  Supervisors/Commissioners blame flaws in Municipalities Planning Code.

Want to see bad planning?  Look no further than Lower Merion Township and take Ardmore as an example.  There is a short film surfacing about development there and the fact that when it occurs a lot of businesses and residents will have ZERO parking for two years and reduced parking after that. Why?  Because Lower Merion is essentially giving away land to a developer. I think you can view the documentary short by following this link: https://vimeo.com/72950877

Getting off the soapbox now.  Just been chewing on this a few days.

let’s talk election turkey, chester county

Politics and I have a love hate relationship. Lately it has been a supreme turn-off basically because I feel under assault from robo calls and a mind boggling display of obnoxious lawn signs (from both parties).

Seriously GOP, a robo call from Newt Gingrich at 7:15 in the morning is a bit much. This morning Arizona Jan Brewer called me.  Because you know she and I are tight BFFs, right?  I have also received robo calls from Barbara Hafer, Newt Gingrich, and no foolin’ home schoolin’ Rick Santorum. And Ann Romney – she and I have also made a date to go shopping, apparently.

If the political inundation isn’t enough from THAT side of the aisle, there are all the people who call for Obama that aren’t Obama. And then there are the Democrats’ ads.  You know like pick your congressman by their hair.  Really Manan Trivedi, that was the best you could come up with?

Here is how I feel about Jim Gerlach: I like the man and have known him for years.  I will admit I am a little disgusted the way he seems to have been sucking up to the fringe of the Republican Party and may have drunk too much tea, but I think that is more his campaign than him.  I know the good Jim Gerlach is capable of and does do every day.  He was my congressman in Lower Merion before my move to Chester County.  I am no one special and he has made much time for me and my questions over the years, so for the measure of the man, I still think he is aces.

I have met Manan Trivedi too.  He gets bonus points for being a candidate that doesn’t politick at non-profit sponsored events.  Which is more than I can say for Lower Merion ex-pat Bret Binder (but I will get to that in a moment.)

Manan Trivedi might be nice, he may have served his country admirably, but that doesn’t mean he is the right choice or equipped for public office.  He was plucked up last Obama election cycle by the Democrats to ride Obama’s coattails.  I think they figured their other election strategies hadn’t worked against Gerlach (they had pitted the whiny Lois Murphy against him, and others like Bob Roggio who used to politick at every non-profit event possible) so they picked Manan.

I think they picked Manan Trivedi basically because he represented another minority.  That type of political pandering is disgusting. He is a nice man, but he doesn’t have the chops, nor am I sure he actually lives in the district.  He is sort of like the Democrats’ answer to Rick Santorum on the whole residency thing and we all know how well that worked out at the time, don’t we?

I can’t vote for Manan Trivedi.  He is a nice guy who will just be a puppet.  There is enough of that in Washington.

But let us talk about the PA senate race for a minute, shall we?  As a woman, Tom Smith terrifies me.  Period.   Bob Casey will never light the world on fire, but I just can’t go the extreme to Tom Smith as a woman. (And I believe interestingly enough that before Tom Smith was a tea partier, he was a Democrat? Is that like confusion in politics?)  I also have a parent who collects social security and is on medicare, and I don’t believe his about-face on social security and medicare.  He can trot out aged mama in all the television ads he wants but the simple truth is his mother would never be affected by cuts to either as her son is a very wealthy man. And Tom, global warming is not a hoax.  Look at Hurricane Sandy.

Onto State Senate.  I am new to Chester County, but I like Andy Dinniman.  truthfully, I could not even tell you the name of his opponent.  Andy truly tries to work in a bi-partisan way for all the residents he serves.  I happen to respect and like that in my state senator.

However, I can’t say that I will show that love to Democrat Bret Binder.  Bret Binder is running for State Representative.  He is an ex patriot of Lower Merion Township, and to be honest, having recently moved out of Lower Merion and having lived how the Democratic majority there has made a mess out of Lower Merion even though they claimed they wouldn’t, I just can’t support someone like Binder.

And I am annoyed when he tells people he is “fully local” and is from Lower  Merion in the same breath.  Never the twain shall meet.

Hey look, as someone new to Chester County from Lower Merion I am not going to tell anyone I am “fully local”. I am not.  I am new to this area. Period.  And as someone who literally feels like they can breathe because I have escaped the horrid politics of Lower Merion I am not going to support someone born out of Lower Merion Democrats.  And that is not to say all Lower Merion Democrats are bad, but those who are in power do not even represent all the voices of Lower Merion Democrats.  Suffice it to say it is very Boss Tweedy in Lower Merion and I don’t want that again where I call home and I do not believe without the financial support of those outside the district he wants to run in, would he have made it this far.  Bret Binder’s campaign finance reports tell a tale of support from OUTSIDE Chester County. That is fine, everyone has a right to contribute how they see fit, but the thing is this: he is going to represent us, and who the heck is he?  Other than a Democrat from Lower Merion?

And what else? Oh yes, Bret Binder is currently running an ad against Dan Truitt where he laments the public school system.  People, he went to Harriton, which is a study of privilege and excess.  It’s certainly not your average public school, so I wouldn’t bet the farm on him from that angle, either.  Bret Binder also stretches and shapes the truth to fit his needs (as any good lawyer is wont to do) as far as Charter Schools getting money.   What is wrong with charter schools seeing some of the educational money available?   Does Mr. Binder have or has he had children in the public school system in West Chester?  The West Chester Area School District is haphazard and broken in my opinion (and I am allowed even if some will find that opinion irritating).

Mr. Binder should not be judged harshly if he is single and has no children in the district, don’t misunderstand me on that.  But I do know a lot of people in the West Chester Area School District who have pulled their kids out of this school district because of the problems in this district.  If you can’t afford private or parochial school, charter school is one of the few options out there.  And let me tell you this much: because of the West Chester Area School District feeling threatened by charter schools, charter schools in this area probably get about half of what they deserve.  And do not tell me that the WCASD can’t be petty about this, just ask anyone who wants their kid on a bus for any school other that West Chester Area School District Public Schools.

Mr. Binder made an appearance at the East Goshen Farmers Market which was recorded for posterity. Now the East Goshen Farmers Market is run kinda by a non-profit, right? The Friends of East Goshen? So why would Lisa O’Neill who is a member of this 501(c)(3) and one of the people who runs the farmers market be in a political ad so to speak?  Binder gets a grade of an F of politicking at a non-profit sponsored event that is SUPPOSED to be NON political and using it for campaign purposes like advertising and marketing, but wow really? One would think the farmers market folks would have known better?  That is the kind of stuff that can harm a non-profit status is it not?

Bret Binder candidate for State Rep. at East Goshen Farmers Market with Lisa O’Neill who runs the market for Friends of East Goshen Township

Now onto the presidential vote of it all.  I have to tell you that as of this minute writing this post, I am torn.  There is quite frankly so much I do not find appealing in both major candidates.

At the end of the day it may come down to the size of government, however.  While we have suffered through an economic period potentially as devastating as the Great Depression there is one sector that has had enormous job security: big government.  It keeps getting bigger and more Orwellian big brotherish.  I am not comfortable with that.

In this case, maybe change is good? Tomorrow will see.  But please, whatever you do, vote your own conscience tomorrow.  Do not vote a certain way because you were told to.  Hope, change, and forward are just words. Remember that.

I remain, as always, an opinionated inveterate ticket splitter.  I have not been compensated for any of my opinions by any candidate, nor do I donate finacially to campaigns.  I make my own decisions and am my own woman politically.  Sometimes it makes me feel like Alice in Wonderland Party of One, but seriously? I think that is the best way to be.  Politically Stepford I am not, and no matter how you vote tomorrow, that is what I encourage people to do: do not be politically Stepford.

Do not just pull one lever for one party if you have doubts about some candidates.  Mix it up.  It’s between you and your God, no one will know unless you tell them.

In my mind, the solution in American politics is simple: we need a return to balance.  Political extremism is ruining this country. So is not being able to hear the actual voice of the candidates over the din of the political party machines.

One size does not fit all in politics, either. And my last word on the subject? I wish municipalities would zone the SUPER sized political signs out of existence.  They are obnoxious.

sandy storm photos – send them in for posting!

Hi there gentle readers.  I hope everyone has battened down the hatches for however Hurricane Sandy turns out?

I have a proposition for all of my readers: send me storm photos for posting.  I learned a long time ago that if you want to enact change, photos help. The photos you are CURRENTLY looking at are photos I took where I used to live in Lower Merion Township and one from Conshohocken. The snapped tree was courtesy of Irene last year.

So if you have flooding photos and you want them out there, send them to me via sandysnaps <at> spamex <dot> com

That is sandysnaps @ spamex . com – Sorry due to spammers, I will not have this as just a hyperlink to click and go.

Alternately you can tweet me at @gossipgirl19380

I am happy to attribute photos, tell me who gets credit, and *MOST* importantly give me precise locations. Or I will post photos anonymously if you live in a municipality that has shall we say, issues?

I am particulalrly interested in photos where development may be occuring or is currently occuring or has just been completed. I am also interested in areas that chronically flood and often wait until the bitter end for help to arrive.

One spot  of particular curiousity which should not be overlooked by anyone is where the Borough of Phoenixville is building their over-priced new municipal hall.  I passed it last night while in Phoenixville and thought I should defininately put that location out there as a site for good storm photos because it always floods, doesn’t it? And correct me if I am wrong, but the plans for that needlessly overpriced new borough hall doesn’t really have proper flood remediation built in, does it?  Wasn’t that the plan where the plan is put the garage underneath so everyone’s cars drown and there is lots of potential litigation from that?  Anyway, I figure a way to preserve the taxpayer investment and future costs here is to have irrefutable proof that they need a real plan or they should stop and move sites.

Phoenixville has a fun downtown at night.  They need better parking and I notice they have the parking authority people out chalking tires on a Saturday night, and truthfully, most municipalities don’t do that.  They leave it as the police can tow people from certain zones and are done with it.  But then again, people tend to question how Phoenixville spends money – they spend way too much on a manager, they spend way too much on a school superintendant – seriously for a borough barely squeaking by in any economy they pay Main Line prices.

But enough picking on Phoenixville which always floods so badly, from Tredyffrin through to West Vincent and Oxford and wherever, if you have storm photos, or storm info, send it in.   Also feel free to leave comments about where the power is out and if roads are blocked.

Hopefully Sandy will be a non-event for Chester County.

My final note is DO NOT PUT YOURSELVES IN HARM’S WAY TO SEND ME PHOTOS. 

But do document flooding and damage.  It is helpful for getting things corrected so situations do not repeat themselves. I will also take Main Line storm photos if it will help any of you out there near where I used to live.

Thanks and stay dry!

 

 

bad form.

I will preface this post with the fact that I honestly do appreciate the jobs that those in the public sector do.

Firemen, policemen, nurses, teachers, EMTs, etc.  I know many, many amazing people in these job categories.   But there has been this photo making its rounds on the web that just irritates me.

Check it out and then I will tell you how it makes me feel as someone in the quote end quote private sector.

Have you read it now?

You know how this makes ME feel?  Like I am the enemy.  I also live within my means, did not accept bailout money, do not live in a multi-million dollar home, did not crash the markets, and so on and so forth.  This simple statement smacks of class warfare, and that is unfair.

Getting a bit more controversial, many of these public service employees have fabulous health and benefit plans.   Yes there are hiring freezes and things like that because guess what?  The economy is in the toilet and almost everyone is feeling a pinch. Millions of people are out of work.

Maybe this sector of people would get more in this country if say, more municipalities and hospital systems were willing to trim upper management fat, and give back.  Check out this link for an interesting list of salaries from Main Line Today Magazine which says for example that an assistant township manager in Lower Merion makes $122,921 and a township manager makes $193,324 …and it is going up and I will get to that.

Like it or not, and average workers do not identify with upper level management in the public service area, but you want to know where your increases go if you are from that employment sector?  To management level employees. The article in Main Line Today was from 2011 and it lets you get a peek as to a whole lot of salaries.

The other truism is this:  reality is someone will always be doing better or earning more than you.  It’s life.

And when it comes to benefits, well I don’t know coming from the private sector how much sympathy I have.  I used to work for an employer who did not offer benefits or access to benefits.  So for a few years now, I have been self-pay on my benefits.  Including self-pay through breast cancer.  So to me, everything is relative, and if I had employer or taxpayer-funded benefits that were for the most part paid for, I would not object to chipping in.  Again, because my perspective is different and I do this myself for myself.  (which of course opens the whole conversation about Obamacare, and sorry, I haven’t seen the benefits, and don’t know that I ever will.)

But let me remind all of you, just because I have these opinions, it doesn’t mean I don’t respect public service employees.  I just think that sometimes people need to get a little bit more realistic about life.

Now, as to respect.  Which to me seems to be an underlying theme in the photo of that statement above.

Respect is earned.  I have met and know some fabulous firemen (volunteers), EMTs, police, and so on.  I have also met some who leave a lot to be desired.  For example, as a   photographer of public events I have been what only can be described as menaced a few times by police personnel who have no clue what no expectation of privacy in a public space  actually is.   The most memorable occurred at a music and food festival a few years ago.

There I was with friends, taking photos (and there were a few dozen cameras around me at the time, some with those super long and fat “paparazzi” lenses), and speaking to the person who happened to be the driving force behind this  event.  I was not even using a flash.  I was on a public street, at a public event, taking photos.

All of a sudden out of nowhere is this police officer.  Literally so close to me, that it could be described as invading my personal space. He tried to take my camera. As in made a grab to yank it off my neck. As in touch me.  He singled me out and ordered me to stop taking photos. Mind you all around me, camera after camera was still snapping away.

I stepped back, away from him and asked why and reminded him this was a public event on a public street.  I also believe I asked why he was not attempting to confiscate any other cameras.  I did not get an answer other than telling me he could do this.  At that point, someone I knew, a lawyer, stepped in and he disappeared.

That event really upset me.  It ruined the event, I felt bullied and harassed and I know I had done nothing wrong.  Some would have filed a complaint, I chose not to.  I figured maybe everyone is entitled to a bad day and working crowd control at a huge summer event couldn’t be much fun.

But a few years later, when I see things like that slogan above, this is something I think about.

And on the 4th of July, something occurred involving a public service employee that I find abhorrent and unacceptable.  It involves a Paoli first responder. Who apparently gave people the finger during a 4th of July parade. The huge Welcome America parade.

So how is this o.k.?  How is this something the public at large is supposed to respect?

When I saw this on Main Line Media News’ website I was truthfully shocked.

Paoli Fire Company has issued a statement about this July 4th incident on July 5th:

July 5, 2012
Dear Citizen,
On July 4th, 2012 Paoli Fire Company proudly participated in the 2012 Wawa Welcome America Independence Day Parade in Philadelphia, PA. Afterwards, the fire company was made aware that a member of the company made an obscene hand gesture while riding in the rear of the engine. Not only was this gesture apparent to spectators, but was also captured on the live television broadcast. First and foremost, the Paoli Fire Company would like to express a profound and sincere apology to the parade organizers, event sponsors, 6abc and the City of Philadelphia for this inappropriate and disrespectful act. Moreover, Paoli Fire Company apologizes to all of the citizens who witnessed the gesture; both live and on the televised broadcast.
Paoli Fire Company does not condone such behavior, nor does it believe that these actions should be tolerated. We expect the highest level of professionalism and respect from all of our members in all situations, especially when interacting with the public. As such, the member in question has been indefinitely suspended pending further disciplinary review, and we are currently reviewing our internal policies related to conduct and training.
The fire company, comprised almost exclusively of volunteers from Chester County, prides itself on providing highly skilled fire, rescue and emergency medical services to the community of Paoli and its surrounding areas. We recognize the importance of a strong and supportive relationship with the citizens that we serve and other first responder organizations that work with us. This trust is not easily earned, but we will do all that is necessary to demonstrate the momentary lapse in judgment by an individual member does not reflect the principles and operating standards of the organization.
Respectfully,
John Beatty                              Ira Dutter
   President                                      Chief
Check out what Bob Byrne wrote in Tredyffrin-Easttown Patch:

Paoli Fire Co.Tries to Put Out a PR WildfireA one-finger gesture seen ’round the world  puts the Paoli Fire Company in the middle of a public relations firestorm.By Bob Byrne July 7, 2012

The volunteer firefighter, riding in a rear-facing seat in the back of a Paoli Fire engine cab, flipped the TV camera – and the world- the bird in a live broadcast originally aired on Philadelphia’s WPVI-TV/6ABC and then rebroadcast around the globe on CNN. The video now also lives in infamy and (most likely) perpetuity on the internet.

The gesture and the way the fire company first responded touched off a flurry of bad publicity and angry comments on websites across the internet.

Also on TE Patch: FingerGate: How should Paoli Fire Company Handle the Scandal? Patch readers weigh in.

At first the Paoli Fire Company said viewers did not actually see what they thought they saw. 

So now, let’s talk about upper level management who eat all the monies that should perhaps be more evenly disbursed in a municipality.  Your taxes pay for this.  Whether local, state, or federal, taxes pay for this.
In Lower Merion Township where I used to live a controversy is in full bloom.  Douglas Cleland, the Township Manager is renegotiating his contract.
Cleland’s contract if approved, as per Main Line Media News, means that his salary will end up around $207,000 per year.  If I recall prior conversations about this salary, this means Cleland makes more than the Mayor of The City of Philadelphia, Mayor Michael Nutter, more than high-ranking members of Congress, and more than United States Supreme Court Justices. And for what?  In the scheme of things, some are speculating that his package would come out over $240 and up to $300K and over is you count all the perks and deferred compensation and so on.
As a former resident of Lower Merion I can tell you, this is not a man who is user-friendly or accessible to residents.  He in fact controls the majority of the commissioners more than they control him. Through his dictums you have a hard time reaching other management level employees, like the township solicitor – and the truth of the matter is, usually township managers and so one are accessible to the public.  Of course, it doesn’t help that the President of the Board of Commissioners Liz Rogan used to be his employee before a former commissioner made it possible for her to go into politics.  And the Vice President of the Board in Lower Merion?  Paul A. McElhaney? His brother is the head of the workers’ association. (It’s not a true union, nor is membership mandatory.)
This package will get passed, and so if people think things are wacky in places like West Vincent, they also should check out Lower Merion. Lower Merion in a manner which makes people understandably hate local governments is vetting and voting on this in the dead of summer.
However, in all fairness, when discussing public sector employees, you need to look at the cream of the crop.  Some of whom are in Radnor Township.  Newly promoted Lt. Andy Block and Lt. Chris Flanagan are two examples.   These two men deserve the accolades they receive from their home township and community at large.
Another public sector employee who is the cream of the crop is Radnor Township’s Manager Bob Zienkowski.  I am a huge fan of this man.  Not only has he taken a township and turned it around after a huge scandal involving the former manager Dave Bashore could have tarnished Radnor forever, but he is the real deal when it comes to public sector employees.
Recently, instead of asking for more, he voluntarily gave back.   Lower Merion Commissioner Jenny Brown wrote to constituents recently and summed up what Zienkowski has done:

Last week, the Manager for our neighboring municipality, Radnor Township, showed the type of leadership that we should be able to expect from a first class township manager.  According to a Radnor Township Commissioner, the Radnor Township Manager recently went to his Board of Commissioners and offered to reduce his overall compensation.  Among the things he offered (and that have been incorporated into his new contract):

1.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to no increase in salary for as long as he works for the Township (his salary, which is significantly less than Lower Merion’s manager’s salary, will remain at its 2010 level);

2.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to pay for his own life insurance (previously funded by taxpayer dollars);

3.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to personally pay for (the Township will not have to pay for) his attendance costs at any conferences or training;

4.         Radnor’s Manager has agreed to pay 10% of his family health insurance premium in 2013, 11% in 2014, and 12% in 2015.

5.         Radnor’s Manager will contribute 2% of his gross salary towards OPEB (other post-employment benefits)

In addition, I note that while Radnor’s manager may participate in his township’s deferred compensation plan, it is only with his own money, there are no employer contributions (Lower Merion’s manager gets an 8%, legally questionable, taxpayer-funded contribution).  As well, unlike Lower Merion, the Radnor manager is required to live in the township he manages.

In Lower Merion, not only is the manager paid excessively more than any other township manager, he has demanded a raise for next year and expects the township taxpayers to pay for all sorts of perks, including the nearly unrestricted personal use of his township-owned car and he wants the taxpayers to continue to pay for all of the gas he puts in his car – can you imagine not feeling any “pain at the pump”!?!  There are other inappropriate perks that I don’t have room to detail in this email but will discuss at the meeting.

That is leadership.  That is a public servant in the most positive and proactive sense of the word.  I am sorry, but there is something to be said about a man who gets where a lot of us are who don’t have government or public sector jobs.
I felt it was important to show good form along with the “bad form” I am writing about in this post.  Radnor’s Manager is not taking the fat for himself, he is sacrificing when he doesn’t have to.  He is leading by example.
Here is the article from Main Line Media News and Philadelphia Inquirer about Lower Merion’s manager issue.  While not a Chester County issue or topic, it is well worth reading because it is just so outrageous.  But then again, this is a municipal manager who kept his job after a failed bid years ago of eminent domain for private gain.
There are many fine individuals who work in Lower Merion Township, don’t misunderstand me.  But I think Lower Merion needs different leadership.  This is a well-heeled municipality, yes, but you would never know to drive through it.  Check out the condition of their public parks, or even the roads.

In Lower Merion, a dispute over town manager’s pay comes to a head this week

By Marie McCullough  Inquirer Staff Writer

In a slow economy, how much is too much to pay the manager of an affluent township of 60,000 people on Philadelphia’s Main Line?

That question, debated for months in Lower Merion, will come to a head this week.

Republican Commissioner Jenny Brown, and several others on the township board, say a $275,000 pay package for Township Manager Douglas Cleland is “excessive.”…

Others on the Democratically controlled board counter that Cleland, manager since 2002 and a 28-year township employee, has saved the township hundreds of thousands of dollars with efficiencies, has protected and capitalized on a stellar AAA credit rating, and has negotiated fiscally sound contracts with employee unions.

Cleland, who has been working without a contract since December, has a base salary of $202,989 a year. Benefits bring his total compensation to $275,000, commissioners said.

He is among the best-paid municipal administrators in the region and, as Brown likes to point out, takes home more than the Pennsylvania governor or Philadelphia mayor….

Cleland “knows Pennsylvania law. He’s been able to refinance our debt, saving us money,” said Commissioner C. Brian McGuire, a Democrat. “We are one of only four townships in the country with a AAA credit rating. He’s done an excellent job, and we are lucky to have him.”

Cleland, who did not respond to an e-mail request for comment Sunday….the meeting, which will be held at 6 p.m. at the Township Administration Building, 75 E. Lancaster Ave. in Ardmore.

Lower Merion manager’s salary to rise to $207K in proposed contract

Published: Monday, July 09, 2012

By Cheryl Allison callison@mainlinemedianews.com

Lower Merion Township has now posted terms of a proposed new two-year contractfor its manager, Douglas Cleland. ….He would receive a 2-percent pay hike, to $207,049, effective Jan. 1, 2013, and extending until the end of the contract period on Jan. 6, 2014.

He would also continue to receive longevity increases the same as other township employees, based on his base salary for 2012.
In addition, according to the terms, Cleland would continue to receive deferred compensation of 8 percent, slightly higher than most other township management employees.

So when we hear about situations like firefighters getting caught on camera giving people the finger on 4th of July, or township managers up for fat contracts which are utterly outrageous in this economy, it is easy to understand why emotions might run high when people discuss “public servants.” (I hate that phrase, incidentally.)

 

But when we hear about the negative things, we should also remember the positive.

 

At the end of the day however, we are experiencing an economy that probably hasn’t been felt as keenly since the Great Depression.  That means that all of us have to give a little.

 

How do you feel about the public service people in your community?  I believe they do deserve our respect, but I do not feel one size fits all.  I also think other communities should pay attention what goes on in their neighboring municipalities.

 

I for one hate to say it, but am very glad I am out of Lower Merion Township.  Lower Merion in my childhood was such a beautiful place to live.  Now it is well, tarnished.  Radnor on the other hand, is really an example of what can happen when government and residents work together for a common good as opposed to pandering to special interests.

as the west vincent churns…..

They are taking names in West Vincent, apparently.  I am a ChickenMan aficionado.   What he does takes courage some days, and since I have blogged a few years now over a few issues I can appreciate that.

It seems that ChickenMan follows the credo of the truth is your best defense, only his local yokels want all to be rosy in the alfalfa patch and he upsets their apple carts on occasion. (As long as he doesn’t throw their goats off their milk, I suppose it’s all good, right?)

When you blog, there will always be a turd out there who doesn’t like what you have to say.  And they will “challenge” you to their higher moral playground of delusion, because instead of doing the common sense duh thing of stopping reading a blog or e-mail newsletters or whatever (it’s not compulsory reading, after all), they want YOU to stop.  Why?  So they can be more comfortable in their own skin, that’s why.  But hey, if they are living clean, whatcha’ got to worry about?

Anyway, I am one of the people on Chickenman’s e-mail list, and I got an update a little bit ago that says (and I quote):

 

Hi….And while you are about it, ask yourself why I dare not tell you who I am, or who the people are who help me?  Would it not be a whole lot easier if I could openly tell you who I am and who the people are that I work with?  I could be famous (!!!) for running this list.   Why do almost all the people who write to me ask that I hide their identity?  Why are most of people who oppose the current administration scared to say who they are?  Really, it should not be like this.
David Brown recently wrote and suggested I should reveal to him my mailing list. He actually wrote 
Here’s a challenge: let Chickenman publish his e-mail list, so others can participate in a fair discussion of any issue he chooses. 
I replied Anyone can write to me.  Most letters get printed.  Now if it seems that most letters are supportive, that is because most of the letters I get are supportive.  I have already stated that a bigger proportion of non supportive letters are published compared to supportive letters.
I dare not publish my mailing list.  I have seen what happens to people who are known to be my supporters.  I will never publish my list.  My subscribers addresses are safe and will not be published.
But if I did publish we may find that if I do that innocent ladies are accused of running a brothel, or that efficient businessmen are accused of shoddy work, or that others are accused of not living at the address where they sleep.
The first of my theories above is a guess.  The second two have actually happened………….
Your identity is even more secure than is mine.  And after 205 emails no one has yet found me…………………
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. I’ll take you off the list immediately.   Just hit reply to this email or write to chestercountynews@gmail.com
Best wishes
Chickenman

Ok, so I am new to this rodeo.  I became interested when West Vincent tried to give residents eminent domain for private gain for Christmas.  Until that point, I had tuned in and out, occasionally being regaled with tales of West Vincent silliness from people I know.   But thanks to eminent domain, I am now a ChickenMan devotee.  And apparently so are several media outlets because I see lots more on what was only known as sleepy, bucolic West Vincent to us “foreigners”.  (Of course if that jackass master plan in West Vincent goes through, it will no longer be either sleepy or bucolic, it will be over-developed and ruined.  But hey, if they think the drive thru modern Eagle is a pleasure cruise, to each their own, right?)

But I got off on a tangent.

So who is this David Brown?  One of the Supervisors in West Vincent.  He’s one of the three bears – the other two are named Clare Quinn and Ken Miller. 

I used to buy cheese from Ken Miller’s Birchrun Hills Farm at Farm to City Markets and other places until eminent domain came calling at the Ludwig Corner Horse Show Grounds.  Now, I couldn’t in good conscience buy the cheese.  Truthfully, I bought to try to support local PA and well, his isn’t the best anyway, so it hasn’t been so hard to give up. Hails Family Farm (Wyalusing), Shellbark  Hollow Farm (West Chester) , and Canter Hill Farm (Malvern)…and well if you want to taste heaven try Yellow Springs Farm’s goat cheese AND they have a goat cheese CSA too….

Again, the tangents…sorry…back to this odd request from a Supervisor and purported proponent of good government.

Is he that neurotic that he needs to know who is on the list? Who cares? After all if he hasn’t done anything wrong and everything is peachy keen and coming up roses in West Vincent, why does it matter?

But maybe he needs a good mailing list for spam or something.

I am going to suggest that MORE people sign up for ChickenMan – he must be doing something right if a country supervisor neeeeeeeds his mailing list.  You can visit his website http://chickenman.medianewsonline.com/ and can e-mail Chester County’s Favorite Chicken at chestercountynews@gmail.com .

When government officials keep clucking….it’s time to keep reading….such pettiness in government is highly counter-productive.  I am glad I am but an observing auslander.  I might be branded a witch or something….

Good government is as good government does, Supervisor Brown.  In my humble opinion (allowed by what? Oh yes, we got that as one of those pesky inalienable rights courtesy of our founding fathers), you all need to knock the warped Mayberry crap off.  But hey, I thought your name was familiar and a lookee on your website shows where you learned your “old school rules”: Lower Merion.  411? They do things a little differently now in the Republican Committee of Lower Merion and Narberth.  They have a thing about sunshine and transparency.   Old school, back door, borderline bully politics are going out of fashion…..

Just sayin’…not accusing…just sayin’