playing politics with the deliberately uninformed

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Until the last U.S. Presidential Election I was a life-long registered Republican.  I even took my corporate vacation during the RNC 2000 in Philadelphia so I could be a media relations volunteer the entire duration of the convention. I loved that experience. I met so many interesting people, and even lent a Congressman who was a platform speaker of some level cab fare so he could get to the Philadelphia Convention Center when he came to Philadelphia on Amtrak but forgot his wallet.

But the Republican party changed.  And maybe I have changed too, but if I am honest with myself and you my readers, the majority of my life I have always been a ticket-splitter.

You see, I do not subscribe to the quackery that if a candidate is of a particular party they are a bad candidate and I can’t vote for them.  I look at the candidates themselves NOT the political party to make my decision.  I have no misplaced sense of obligation to either political party, which is probably WHY I became an Independent.

But politics, including in Chester County, has continued to disintegrate since he who shall not be named took the Oval. Sorry, not sorry, it is the unfortunate truth.  And my opinion. This country is now like a daily episode of the now defunct ABC series Scandal.

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No longer does political civility exist.  Republicans think Democrats are evil and Democrats think Republicans are evil.  It is the theatre of the absurd. You can’t discuss the merits or lack thereof of ANY candidate.

And heaven forbid you not act like a perfect little political Stepford wife and share an article you find interesting. Like this one:

Philly-Area Media Chain Tells Readers: Don’t Vote for a Single Republican
“There are some Republicans that do a good job and should be taken seriously,” says the editor. “But they are sort of sacrificial lambs, unfortunately.”

by VICTOR FIORILLO· 10/31/2018, 9:12 a.m.

With the most contentious midterm elections in memory coming up in a matter of days, news publications across the country are publishing their endorsements of their chosen candidates. But one group of media outlets outside of Philadelphia has taken a much different approach.

West Chester–based Brandywine New Media, which owns the Times of Chester County, the Unionville Times, the Kennett Times, the Coatesville Times, and the Downingtown Times, has run a staff editorial telling readers that they should “not vote for any Republican candidate on the ballot.”

Here is the Times of Chester County original editorial:

Editorial: An electoral shock to the system needed to save GOP
Oct 28th, 2018

As has been the case since the earliest days of The Times, we had planned to make endorsements in all of the 2018 elections….

But 2018 is a unique time in the history of American politics.

While some would try to paint a false equivalency that both of our major parties are bad, lacking ethics and are slaves to electoral expediency, we find ourselves unable to agree.

One party has been gripped by a mania, a cancer, and seems unwilling or unable to return to its roots, and instead panders to fear, anger and the worst instincts of a minority of its members: the Republican Party…..America needs two functioning parties to provide political balance and steady leadership. America needs a healthy Republican Party, as a counter balance to the occasional excesses of the Democratic Party — something sorely lacking now. If the current path continues unabated, we will see the end of the Republican Party as we know it.

….we suggest that you do not vote for any Republican candidate on the ballot. We know this is a difficult ask for many, but these times and our democracy cry out for a reset and only staggering losses will get the attention of elected officials and the party’s voter base in a meaningful way.

I have provided but an excerpt of BOTH the article and  editorial, but I strongly suggest no matter what your political persuasion you should take the time to read BOTH pieces in FULL.

I wasn’t going to write a pre-midterm election post, but when I shared the Philadelphia Magazine article by Victor Fiorello on Facebook a woman piped up and said because I shared the article and suggested it was an interesting read that I was making a political endorsement.  Allow me to quote her directly:  ““Well worth taking the time to read” is a political endorsement. Your message is not sharing information but suggesting endorsement of a political view that many in Chester County find reprehensible.”

Can I say WTF now? I mean WTF?  I am NOT suggesting endorsement. IF I was suggesting endorsement of candidates, I would say so. Suggesting an article about the current state of politics is an interesting read or a good read is NOT an endorsement of anything other than the actual article!

I actually would like to say thank you to Victor Fiorello for writing about an editorial I saw but did not take the time to read until he pointed it out. And I would like to say thank you to Publisher and Editor of Brandywine News Media Mike McGann. Mr. McGann that editorial is nothing short of honest and spot on.  And a little bit sad.

I am truly sorry that so many lack intellectual curiosity about the political times in which we live, or are afraid to check things out lest they turn into a pillar of salt like Lot’s wife (Genesis 19).

I am so sorry so many choose to be deliberately uniformed. It seems to me life is more interesting when you don’t behave like a veritable ostrich and bury your head in the sand, but what do I know, right?

I also realize some love to hate me because I speak my mind and am a blogger and am just different from them, but lordy. I fully accept although I find it fantastical at times some people (even other women) cannot handle women who do not conform to some pre-conceived set of notions that remind me of 1950’s housewives wearing kitchen aprons. These people should keep their own side of the street clean and do not presume to tell me or anyone else what to do. Because in fact, THAT is what is reprehensible here.

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Being American means freedom of choice when you vote. It means being your own man or woman and voting your conscience.  Being American also means you have the freedom to read a couple of local articles without fear of being put in the stocks like some renegade 17th century New England Puritan. (calling Hester Prynne and all that)

Grow up and remember your collective pride in what it is to be an American and to enjoy the freedoms our forefathers fought and bled and died for.  We have the right, actually a duty to question the political status quo as Americans.  Right now the status quo has some major suckitude going on.  The political process is at present so incredibly contorted that our country is to be succinct, MESSED UP.

And to other women out there:  it took until 1920 and when 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, stating, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. Oh and another fun fact? Women in the state of Georgia could not vote until 1970.

Read up and vote next week people.  Vote for who you choose, not who some political party bobblehead from either party tells you to vote for.

Thanks for allowing the rant and Happy Halloween.

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historic philadelphia tour guide memories

I love Philadelphia history. As a child born in the Society Hill section of Philadelphia in the 1960s I was literally raised in it, with it, immersed in it.

My late father worked on the Continental Congress reenactment. That was 1974. It was super cool. I remember it. We got to meet Jimmy and Roslyn Carter before he was President among others. (I found a video on YouTube about it, actually .) The First Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the autumn of 1774, so in 1974 in advance of the US Bicentennial, there was this reenactment.

Circa 1975 I was 11. And my parents somehow convinced the then Superintendent of Independence National Historic Park, Hobart Cawood, to let me be a volunteer tour guide of the Todd House (Dolly Todd Madison’s Philadelphia home way before she was a First Lady- I was obsessed with her as a kid and even have a China doll my mother made for me from a kit still), and the Bishop White House (the Philadelphia one, not the Rose Tree one White sent his family to during the Yellow Fever outbreak in late 18th Century.)

I gave my tours in Colonial garb. My mother made me a costume that included a mob cap (from a pattern similar to the one above I saw on eBay). I was a kid, but I loved Philadelphia history so I did research and made sure what I said was historically accurate. Grown-ups who took my tour told me then that my tour was better and more interesting than a lot of the grown-ups like Park Service folk giving tours. Regular lay volunteers were nice to me the precocious kid. Actual Park Service guides? Mmmm they tolerated me. Sort of.

Hobie Cawood allowed me to have memories to carry with me forever. It was a magical experience. Better than any camp I could have gone to that summer.

Around the same time I also helped a Philadelphia gardener named Bill Spann plant the kitchen garden at the Todd House. I contributed one of the plants to the garden from my own garden – Irish Camphor. My paternal grandmother had smuggled it home from a trip to Ireland and gave me a piece to grow, and I split part of my plant and donated some to this garden which was planted then to be historically accurate for a Colonial kitchen garden. I do not know if they still have a garden there or not.

Flash forward to the mid 1980s and starting to look for a “real” job. One of my great aunts had been a Civil Service employee her whole life (starting in World War II) and she used to get these paper catalogs of job listings for government jobs. She used to give them to me because to her a government job was the best kind of security. I looked through one of the catalogs and they had jobs that were either GS3 or GS4 grade Park Ranger jobs at Independence National Historic Park. I applied for a job, and to my surprise, got it.

I got this job as my friends were getting ready for one last post-College summer at the beach. I didn’t really want to go to work, but my parents were insistent. I went and got my polyester Smokey The Bear uniforms (complete with hat.) I will admit Main Line friends at the time mocked me.

I remember going to report for work at the visitors’ center. As an entry level baby Park Service employee, I had orientation and also shadowed park ranger tour guides and was tasked with also creating my own tour. I went back to my first Independence National Historic Park first loves – the Todd and Bishop White Houses. I was shocked at how historically inaccurate or historically sloppy the tours were at that time. I actually found it depressing.

So once again, now as a young adult, I researched and created my tour. No one really checked it, but I made it historically accurate. I did not embellish. It was tough being a new kid though. The established rangers viewed new kids on the block much like you would view a pesky younger sibling and were very cliquish. I will admit that was pretty much the only job I never really made friends.

Working for the Park Service in the cradle of American liberty in the mid 1980s did come with a pass key. I happily on breaks and lunch times explored photo archives that existed on upper floors of either the First or Second Bank (I forget which.) One time I also went with people to the tippy top to the wooden bell tower where the Liberty Bell once hung. That was super cool. All around inside the bell tower at that time were the signatures of famous people and regular people who had climbed to the top. I signed my name in ball point pen near where Ronald Reagan had signed his name. I have no idea if my signature or even his and others still exist as restoration work was done a few years ago.

In the post 9/11 world, I doubt as a Park Service employee that you can just wander at will like you once could. One of the drawbacks which I don’t know if it has changed was dealing with the unbalanced and homeless who frequented the historic sites. That was hard and sad.

I will admit that while I loved giving tours of my favorite houses from my childhood and it was a kick, I hated the job. I hated the scratchy and super ugly polyester uniform. I did not like the government worker cliques I encountered. So I maybe lasted a couple of months. And I quit and much to my parent’s anger, went back to the beach for the majority of one last summer.

Many years passed and I remember another time years ago now doing the tourist thing with a friend in from out of town. I remember taking them down to the Independence Hall area. We went on a tour of houses, Independence Hall, Carpenter’s Hall, and even a carriage ride tour. It was so historically OFF that to this day, I have never recommended those tours again. I recommend self-touring.

Well, in April’s Philadelphia Magazine there is an article about these tours. It’s worth reading. Thanks for stopping by and below is a very small excerpt:

Fact-Checking Philly History Tours: Truths, Half-Truths and Truthiness
Philadelphia Magazine
By Don Steinberg


….Sightseeing tours of historic Philadelphia are like blizzards of candy factoids raining from the sky. As the landmarks whiz by, guides shower visiting pilgrims with history-book facts, anecdotes about the founding fathers, incredible backstories about public art, impressive and begging-for-fact-check firsts and biggests and oldests….It turns out not every truth, at least when it comes to Philadelphia history tours, is self-evident. Based on my small sample size, I’m putting it at about 83 percent. That means — good news! — our city sightseeing tours are mostly accurate. But there’s still a fertile area of dare-you-to-disprove sketchiness and just enough whacked-out face-palmers to keep the city’s vital tourist audience entertained. What could be more American?

Ten years ago, Philadelphia City Council passed a law, and mayor Michael Nutter signed it, that said anybody who wanted to give a paid sightseeing tour in Center City had to pass a Philadelphia history test to get a license. That ordinance remains on the books, and this April we celebrate the 10th anniversary of its never being enforced.

giggles all the way.

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I read this article just now that had me rolling laughing.  I want to have a drink or lunch with the author just because I loved it so much and I totally don’t even know her.  Ladies, it is something we can all appreciate if we are honest: dating hell.

Remember the good old days? When you wanted the dates to be debonair like Bogie above, only sometimes they were just…less so?

Here, read an excerpt:

Dating in Philly After 30: Ugh.

What’s it like to reenter the dating pool in your early 30s … after a divorce … when the last time you were single, Facebook was a print product? A tale of iguanas, E-A-G-L-E-S chants, and one really big glass of panic pinot grigio.

I was a little nervous. Maybe more than a little nervous. It had, after all, been a solid 10 years since I’d been on a first date, and if my memory served me correctly, I wasn’t all that good at them.

But I relaxed a little when he finally walked through the door of Johnny Brenda’s. Tall, well-dressed, seriously great smile — this was going to be just fine. We had met a few days before while waiting for our tables at brunch, and he was so charming that I agreed to follow-up drinks before remembering that I wasn’t ready to date…..“I’m so sorry I’m late. I was waiting on a friend,” he explained as he pulled out a chair and put his book on the table…..“His name is Jesus Christ.”  It was then that I realized the book on the table was a Bible.

Ok she had me at Jesus. This article was so honest and funny I got to thinking, maybe it was time to share a couple of horror date stories. When they are so bad they are funny. Enough time has passed….one of the benefits of hitting 50 and above you give yourself permission to tell these occasional stories.

I hated dating. From the time I was a teenager, I was a lousy recreational dater. My mother whether she realized it or not piled on the dating pressure…always. And  I was always infuriating my mother because if I was not dating someone I was particularly wild about, I came solo to date bearing occasions as decreed by her. I disliked blind dates and set ups. I just was never very good at it or the juggling of people aspect to it. And my mother would make these declarations of how I couldn’t go to such and such without an escort like it was Victorian England or some episode of something on Masterpiece Theater.

Every once in a while my mother would  attempt a set up. It was always after tales of what a fabulous date she was back in the day and so on. One time early on in the set up of it all was The Philadelphia Charity Ball. 1981 to be precise — which was my cotillion year.  I was not dating anyone in particular and settled on doing the cotillion dance part of it with a guy friend of mine. Lots of other girls and guys I knew were doing the exact same thing…and their parents were fine with it.

Well my mother was having none as in N-O-N-E of that.  He wasn’t her choice. She set me up with an “appropriate” date from Wharton. Now she had not interfered quite so much since my sophomore year in high school when she decided I could not go to my sophomore prom with whom I wanted to go with.

I was mortified. 17 years old, a freshman in college and my mother chose an “appropriate” Charity Ball Date…her version. (Translation: Mommy’s taste was so 1950s.)

Yep, so I just decided to get through it. She could not foist this guy into the middle of the cotillion so Bobby Scott would still be announcing my name with the guy friend. So date shows up with flowers from Robertson’s (gorgeous). The date? Not so much. We had nothing as in zero in common and nothing to talk about and he was way shorter than I was. I am only 5′ 6″. It was painful…for both of us.

Like any infuriated at her mother teenage girl, I eventually ditched him at the Bellevue Strafford in Philadelphia.  Mama San was furious. He showed up in the program book the following year photographed sitting on a bench all alone in the Bellevue somewhere reading a program book with some slightly sarcastic photo caption. Oh the drama in my house when THAT happened. It took my mother years to get over that.

That was not her only set up attempt during the course of my singlehood.  Then there was the guy who was a son of a social friend of hers. The mothers connived because shock and horrors they had single adult children. The guy called a couple of times and he seemed nice. Good conversationalist so I thought ok one dinner wouldn’t be so bad.

He picked me up in a filthy dirty car with some smelly old duds in the back.

He took me to one of my favorite BYOBs at the time. Dinner was the best part of the date. My date spent the entire date talking about himself. Nothing about what did I like to do, so on and so forth. It was all the world according to…him. And I found out later he took me to an out of the way BYOB in case I was unattractive. (Nice. And amusing considering he is not what one would consider pretty or handsome…)

So date ended I said thanks politely and thought that was the end of it….nope…he called like the next day to critique the date and tell me why he wasn’t going to take me on a second date.  I thought I was on candid camera or being punked or something. I actually had no witty retort since it was just so astoundingly rude. He married someone off a dating site a few years later I am told.  God bless her.

My mother gave up on mommy pre-approved and contrived dates after that. (Thank goodness)

Other dates that are memorable in their horribleness was the portfolio manager type years ago from a rather important local investment concern.  We met for coffee.

Again, seemed nice enough…until he decided to tell me his dating philosophy. He viewed these coffee dates as like….wait for it…tryouts. Yes, really.

So I am just sort of sitting there like a deer in headlights and he goes on to say after tryouts there will be “cuts”.  At that point I found I could not sit still a moment longer and told him varsity football was so 1981 (when I graduated from high school). I was out of the door like a shot. “Coach” is probably somewhere still having try outs. That was the date where I learned no coffee dates.

I think bad dates whether you are male or female are a funny part of life.  Kind of like the job interviews we have all gone on for jobs we don’t really want.

‘s piece tickled my funny bone. And my it made me realize how lucky I am NOT to be single.  (And how lucky I am God did a lift-out a few years ago and landed me where I am supposed to be and with whom I am supposed to be with!)

what bishop tube looks like (and more legal stuff filed)

DSC_8760I went to Malin Road and stood outside the fences of Bishop Tube today.  Totally creepy and deserted.  I was glad to see an unmarked police car do a drive by a couple minutes after I got there, the place gave me the willies.

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I took photos from outside the fencing on the road. What a weird feeling to be out on such a gloriously beautiful day, yet there was the overwhelming creepiness of the Bishop Tube Site, all abandoned and the only way to describe it was the place seems to radiate negative energy.  Don’t see how that feeling will be eradicated by plastic townhouses marching row after row.  The site doesn’t appear to be particularly secure and given what appears to be vandalism, nor does itappear as if it has been for years has it?

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Staring at the site, I couldn’t help but wonder where the PA DEP was on this? I can find on the Internet where they were in the past, but not in the present. Or the EPA, which is so screwed up just read THIS and THIS and THIS.  Here let me share this:

The EPA Should Resign in Shame over Orange River

Let States Step Up to the Plate on the Environment

The cause? None other than a mistake by the US Environmental Protection Agency. The Wall Street Journal reported details on the incident Sunday, noting that the spill was initially downplayed by the EPA, and that it was much larger than first reported. Most importantly, as of Sunday, the mine is still releasing wastewater at a rate of about 500 gallons per minute. The pollution incident is ongoing.

This latest toxic release is yet another example of the EPA spectacularly failing at its primary mission. As I’ve expressed in this space before, the government is not particularly competent at environmental remediation and management.

When you read things written by critics of the PA DEP, it is often not much better. Look these government agencies have good intentions but they all seem to get in their own way and in the end are the accomplishing their goals of protecting all of us?

Just check out this article from 2014 about fracking contaminating drinking water :

The Pennsylvania DEP has been criticized for its poor record of providing information on fracking-related contamination to state residents. In April, a Pennsylvania Superior Court case claimed that due to the way DEP operates and its lack of public record, it’s impossible for citizens to know about cases where private wells, groundwater and springs are contaminated by drilling and fracking.

“The DEP must provide citizens with information about the potential harm coming their way,” John Smith, one of the attorneys representing municipalities in the lawsuit, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “If it doesn’t record and make available the violations records then it is denying the public accurate information, which is unconscionable.”

When is the last time the PA DEP or EPA took a good look at sites like Bishop Tube in Pennsylvania?  These aren’t new sexy disasters, they are plodding along existing trouble spots so now that there don’t appear to be lots of  government money floating around for clean up ( a la “Growing Greener“) who cares about these toxic sites like Bishop Tube?

Now the PA DEP mentions Bishop Tube in it’s 2014 report, yes but it isn’t in so much detail is it? I found the annual reports on the DEP website which crashes a lot. So where are State Representative Duane Milne and State Senator Andy Dinniman on Bishop Tube?  Aren’t they supposed to be looking after Chester County residents on this topic as well?

I happened to check the court dockets on the Bishop Tube litigation mention in prior posts when I came home and there are a few more filings on the case of ordinary hard-working people vs, everyone involved around Bishop Tube.  Here are the two most interesting:

Plaintiff Memorandum Response Bishop Tube 2015

Amended Complaint With Jury Demand Bishop Tube 2015 Aug 12

Apparently although The Daily Local did that curtain raiser of an article a couple of weeks ago, no other media seems interested in a toxic superfund site in bucolic Chester County? Or are there media inquiries and other inquiries starting to foment and ferment behind the scenes?

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Here are a couple of gems from all this legal stuff:

From the plaintiffs’ memorandum (2:15-cv-01919 (GJP) filed 8/10/15):

Table of Auth

Page 4: “The Plaintiffs have alleged that, during the Defendants’ respective ownership and operation thereof, they discharged hazardous substances into the environmental which have migrated onto and into the Plaintiffs’ property including the Plaintiffs’ drinking water. It is further alleged that the Defendants have failed to remediate the contamination, the regulatory authorities have failed to require the Defendants to remediate the contamination and additional response work will be necessary.”

Page 6 “It is alleged in the Complaint that, during their respective periods of ownership and operation of the Bishop Tube site, the Defendants used or permitted the use of hazardous substances, including trichloroethylene (“TCE”), during the manufacturing processes for their seamless stainless steel and other products and that, as a result of the Defendants’ ownership and operations at the Bishop Tube site, hazardous substances, including TCE, were disposed into the environment, including the Bishop Tube site’s soils and groundwater. See Complaint,¶¶34-35. It is further alleged that subsurface migration of contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site has and continues to contaminate the aquifer beneath the Bishop Tube site and beneath off-site premises including the Plaintiffs’ home. See Complaint, ¶36.”

Page 7 “Accordingly, in or about 1999, the PADEP took over response actions at the Bishop Tube site, which included periodic sampling of soil, surface water, groundwater, vapor intrusion pathway analysis and maintenance of monitoring wells in the contaminated aquifer as well as the installation of a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system designed to capture and remove contamination from subsurface soils at the Bishop Tube site. See Complaint, ¶¶42-43.

However, none of the Defendants have taken any steps to actively remediate the contamination that originated on the Bishop Tube site, which has and continues to migrate onto the Warren property and neither the EPA nor the PADEP have taken any steps to compel such remedial activity. See Complaint, ¶44. Further response action is necessary to abate the release of the hazardous substances at the Bishop Tube site which have and continue to migrate onto the Warren property. See Complaint, ¶45.”

A Notice of Intent to Sue was served on all Defendants as well as the EPA and PADEPon December 8, 2014, to which no one responded”

Page 11: “III. Plaintiffs’ RCRA Claim Must Not Be Dismissed

Johnson Matthey next argues that the Plaintiffs’ RCRA claim must be dismissed because it does not adequately allege an “imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment” and because the State is diligently addressing the contamination.

However, as described in detail above, the Complaint alleges that TCE contamination from the Bishop Tube site has migrated into the Plaintiffs’ well water. TCE is a volatile organic compound “used mainly as a solvent to remove grease from metal parts, but it is also an ingredient in adhesives, paint removers, typewriter correction fluids, and spot removers.

Trichloroethylene is not thought to occur naturally in the environment. However, it has been found in underground water sources and many surface waters as a result of the manufacture,use, and disposal of the chemical.” There is evidence that TCE affects the developmental and nervous systems in humans and is also carcinogenic. Specifically, there is evidence that TCE can cause kidney cancer and limited evidence for non-Hodgkin lymphoma and liver cancer as well as various tumors in animals. See United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, Toxic Substances Portal for TCE, http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/substances/toxsubstance.asp?toxid=30 (last visited August 7,2015).

Accordingly, it is respectfully submitted that it is disingenuous for Johnson Matthey to claim that Plaintiffs have not adequately alleged sufficient imminent and substantial endangerment to health or the environment to sustain a RCRA claim.”

Page 13: “Conclusion

Simply stated, in support of their federal CERCLA and RCRA claims, the Plaintiffs have alleged that: (1) the Defendants, including Johnson Matthey, discharged hazardous substances, including TCE, into the environment at the Bishop Tube site which have migrated onto the Plaintiffs’ property and, specifically, into their drinking water; (2) that the Defendants have failed to remediate the contamination; (3) that the regulatory authorities have failed to require the Case 2:15-cv-01919-GJP Document 6 Filed 08/10/15 Page 12 of 13 10 Defendants to remediate the contamination; and (4) that additional response work will be necessary. Indeed, TCE is a carcinogenic. Based on the foregoing, it is respectfully submitted that the Plaintiffs have alleged sufficient facts, which must be presumed true for purposes of this Motion, to withstand a Motion to Dismiss pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the FRCP”

From First Amended Complaint With Jury Demand:

Page 5: 37: “During their respective periods of ownership and operation of the Bishop Tubesite, the Defendants used or permitted the use of hazardous substances, including trichloroethylene (”TCE”), during the manufacturing processes for their seamless stainless steel and other products.”

 TCE

const dr ptnerbish tuNegligence Bishop Tube80 81Ok above are just snippets of the legal documents, quotes, excerpts. You can read for yourself the entire thing as they are uploaded in this post:

Amended Complaint With Jury Demand Bishop Tube 2015 Aug 12

Plaintiff Memorandum Response Bishop Tube 2015

I did not create any of this it is all on the court record.

I am a cancer survivor. I would not wish that on anyone. I have also known people who have seen their children through cancer and trust me, it is too gut wrenching for words. In my opinion based on the research available to publicly peruse, this is site is toxic is it not? And then there is General Warren Village.  Those residents deserve peace of mind don’t they?  They have always been directly affected by Bishop Tube haven’t they?

I am a realist. This might be a creepy site but it is this chunk of land that developers are salivating over (don’t know if they are glowing in the dark from walking around it, however.) This site will be made into something although really it should be cleaned up and left alone since it is also my opinion that this site will take years to properly remediate, and can’t you agree that is reasonable?

But the thing is this: a plan like that not only affects people who want their piece of the American Dream and want to live in gorgeous Chester County who might purchase these cram plan slab on grade no basement wonders if they are built, but potentially every east Whiteland resident in the future, correct?

How can East Whiteland say for certain they would not ever become a party over litigation surrounding this site?  They can’t, can they?  And they have an obligation to current and future residents to see beyond the shiny promises of developers oh so familiar to them, see beyond and some new ratables  down the road, and must put their heads down and see that this site is properly remediated and even get alternate land uses investigated, right? The bottom line is the owner of the land knows how to remediate this properly, they have the experience, correct?

Approving a development plan here while this litigation is ongoing and remediation isn’t complete can be considered a case of putting the cart before the horse, yes? And why is it all we hear is about the developer planning on “capping vapors” with the concrete slabs for the townhouses, yet the current litigation mentions aquifer again and again which is ground water, drinking water, and so on, right? A little different from vapors, right?

East Whiteland has a lot of development balls in the air and should we worry about how the land planning with all the developer driven zoning overlays are getting done?

East Whiteland, you have to do this right. Lives depend upon it. Please.

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is the bishop tube site in malvern completely remediated for environmental hazards?

Bishop Tube in Malvern PA courtesy of Abandoned Not Forgotten

It is a fairly simple question: has the Superfund toxic waste dump of a site known as Bishop Tube been completely remediated? And if not where is it in the process?

According to court records from 2005, the Bishop Tube site groundwater contamination was first formally recognized in 1980:

In 1980, Congress enacted CERCLA. Groundwater contamination associated with the
Malvern Site was first identified in the spring of 1980 in residential wells. (Pl.’s Resp. Ex. 2 at
56412.) In September 1983, the Malvern Superfund Site was listed on the National Priorities
List. (Id.)

Yesterday I wrote a post on Bishop Tube and the latest proposed development. I had the link to a health report. So…Ok look but the thing is this – that health report thing says a LOT about Bishop Tube. The site has been targeted as toxic and been investigated a bunch of time since 1972, correct?  A cancer cluster was alleged in March 2007 by the community, correct?

Community folks reported 1-2 cancer cases in every household at that time, correct? A plume of contaminants from on-site has spread and is in the groundwater and local wells, correct?  A creek flows through there. Traces of the crud have been discovered a mile away, correct? There has been activity to clean up the contaminants at the site, but is it REALLY complete? Until it is complete, crud will continue to move in the plume, correct?

Additionally, since I posted my post I have seen the post shared on social media.  Residents of the area who grew up in and around General Warren have shared memories like this one:

” I remember being evacuated in June 1982 due to chemical spills and clouds of toxic stuff being in the air. Still clear in my mind since was studying for finals and we had to spend the night up in the old school in town. Also remember how my parents felt since there were fire police knocking on peoples’ doors to get out of their homes while the cops stayed in their cars and were using  speakers to get people out.”

Lots of current and former residents who also had relative who worked for Bishop Tube have commented. And have you ever read any of the obituaries of people who worked for Bishop Tube? How many of those people died of cancer? Also getting a lot of reads is a 2007 Daily Local article that was part of a series on Bishop Tube:

Keith Hartman and Dave Worst have many things in common.

They were both born in the 1950s, two years apart. They both grew up in General Warren Village, the modest, working class subdivision located south of Lancaster Avenue near the intersection of Route 29, and named for the historic General Warren Inne.

Like many of their neighbors in General Warren, Hartman and Worst worked at the nearby Bishop Tube Co.

Most significantly, the two men know of former Bishop employees who suffer from potentially fatal illnesses that they believe may have been caused by their exposure to trichlorethylene (TCE), a suspected carcinogen, during their tenure at the plant.

Hartman’s father, Lester Hartman, who worked alongside him at the plant, suffers from Parkinson’s disease, a neurodegenerative disease. Worst has stage two melanoma and lesions on his liver and kidneys that his doctors are monitoring.

According to a report from the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, breathing high levels of TCE may cause nervous system effects, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma and possibly death.

Hartman and Worst can also run off a list of fellow Bishop Tube workers who either died from cancer or nerve diseases, or currently suffer from them.”

Ok so then you peruse all the East Whiteland Planning Commission meeting minutes you can find online that discuss Bishop Tube and here is a sampling:

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING February 25, 2015

ZONING ORDINANCE AMENDMENT; CONSTITUTION DRIVE PARTNERS (BISHOP TUBE) – RRD RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT.
Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire and Bo Erixxon and Chuck Dobson
The proposed ordinance is amending the “Table of Development Standard for Residential Districts” for the RRD Residential Revitalization District for the maximum tract density by reducing the number from 20 units to 12 units per developable acre. Other changes provide for reduction in setbacks from street and building spacing. The applicant had held a meeting with the adjacent tank farm owners and residents from General Warren Village. They have been able to satisfy the access of school buses, tanker trucks and emergency access under the railroad overpass. The total number of units being proposed has decrease from 303 to 264 units.

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING April 23, 2014

ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE

Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Frank Tavani, John Benson

The applicant is requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts.” The property is located on the south side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation. Mr. O’Neill advised that he has partnered with Benson Companies to construct townhouses on South Malin Road.

Mr. O’Neill stated that he met with the Township’s Fire Marshal who expressed his concern with the ability to handle a fire for multi-story structures at this location. Therefore, Mr. O’Neill has reduced the number of units to 305 down from 537 units. Density has been reduced by two-thirds from the original proposal. There will be no building on “hot spot” within the property, thereby, providing more green space. These “hot spots” will be capped. The new design is a rear entry building with 16 or 20 foot widths, three stories and approximately 1,900 sq. ft. The issue of a school buses being able to maneuver was investigated and determined not to be a problem. Changes to the intersection timing at Route 30 and South Malin Road will require modifications. Emergency vehicles only will have access to a keyed gate through Village Way. Members were advised that stormwater runoff will be controlled and the water will be cleaning before discharged to protect the Valley Creek. Discussion ensued.

Mr. David Babbitt presented his finding of the Fiscal Impact Study. He advised that the financial impact is positive for all entities: township, school district and county. He reviewed the report and stated that this development will not have a negative impact on the school district. Discussion ensued.

Members were advised that stacked townhouses are three and one-half stories tall and approximately 1,600-2,300 sq. ft. Mr. O’Neill addressed the screening for the units on the west side facing the tank farm and the exterior building materials being proposed. He offered to provide a four foot berm in front of the homes facing the tank farm for additional protection. Members suggested: 1) further review by the Fire Marshal for the new plan configuration; 2) traffic study review; and 3) approval of the building heights.

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING February 26, 2014

ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE

Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Guy Wolfington

They are requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts. The property is located on the southeast side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The permitted uses are by right, special exceptions and conditional uses. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation.

Mr. O’Neill advised that the Bishop Tube property access is restricted due to the railroad tunnel. Various other development proposals have failed due to these restrictions. He is suggesting developing the property by demolishing the buildings. He will build 34 townhouses and 360 loft apartment with underground parking. There has been a cooperative effort from all parties to clean up the site. Discussion ensued concerning the safety limitations out of this area. Mr. O’Neill offered other developments where similar access limitation exists. He offered to provide the members a tour of these other locations he’s developed.

EAST WHITELAND TOWNSHIP PLANNING COMMISSION MEETING May 28, 2014

ZONING ORDINANCE TEXT AND MAP AMENDMENT – RRD –RESIDENTIAL REVITALIZATION DISTRICT – SOUTH MALIN ROAD – BISHOP TUBE

Represented by Lou Colagreco, Esquire, Brian O’Neill, Frank Tavani, John Benson

The applicant is requesting to add a new permitted residential district by amending Section 200-19 “Permitted Uses for Residential Districts.” The property is located on the south side of Malin Road formerly known as Bishop Tube property. The intent of the RRD Residential Revitalization District is to

provide for and encourage reuse, redevelopment and revitalization of tracts that have undergone remediation.

They are proposing to construct 305 townhouses. The density has been reduced by two-thirds from the original proposal. Mr. Colagreco stated that this most recent plan has been presented to Ken Battin, Building Official/Fire Marshal, and he gave a favorable review of this plan. Members were advised that they can satisfactorily comply with the items listed in McMahon Associates letter, dated May 23, 2014. Changes to the intersection timing at Route 30 and South Malin Road can be accomplished. A discussion ensued relative to the County Planning Commission review letter. The solicitor felt that they had not been given them credit for the revitalization. Ms. Woodman asked, if the two properties under agreement with the Benson Company, contained any contamination? She suggested that the applicant investigate Section 200-25.1 (A) which requires that the properties either will or have undergone remediation standards. To date, the Township has no “brownfield” notification on these two parcels. The applicant was advised the the surrounding community is interested in the status of the cleanup. Mr. Colagreco suggested that information be forward to the Township for incorporation on the website.

ACTION:

Mr. Laumer made a motion to recommend to the Board of Supervisors approval of the Zoning Ordinance Text and Map Amendments to creating a new RRD- Residential Revitalization District and applying this District in lieu of the current I-Industrial Zoning District designation on three parcels including the former

Bishop Tube property located on South Malin Road east of the Buckeye Tank Farm. The motion was seconded by Todd Asousa and the vote was unanimous.

Ok, so all this craziness mostly talks ONLY about HOW many units. From a couple hundred to over five hundred, to three hundred to two hundred and sixty four and apparently after last evening’s meeting oh goodie two hundred and thirty some odd units.

But where is everyone on where exactly is the remediation of this toxic site? As of April of this year (as in 2015 in case you read this post years from now), there is a Federal Law Suit filed that is NEW about this site. Filing a Federal suit (Bishop Tube et al 2015 litigation) is not something someone wakes up one morning and decides to do like putting on a blue shirt versus a pink dress. It is a little more complex and complicated is it not?

Oh and as pursuant to the resident remembering an evacuation in 1981:

1981 Bishop Tube Acid Spill

So where is the remediation?  I have been checking old HSCA Remedial Sites Listing and De-listing Dates on the web from the state and have NOT found any de-listing of Bishop Tube, so what is going on?

If this site is NOT completely remediated , why the cart before the horse scenario? Isn’t it a little bass ackwards to be discussing a development plan if a site is not completely cleaned up?  And is it true it can take decades to properly clean up a site like this because you never know when little pools of toxic goodness will bubble up? And can’t these chemicals get trapped between rocks and stuff and get released anew if moved?

In 2007 State Senator Andy Dinniman talked a good game on TCE, or Trichloroethylene (reference July 2007 newsletter item “Dinniman Gets Tough on TCE“), so where is he now? Where is he on the Bishop Tube site? What about State Representative Duane Milne?

Ok so what about the court/legal pissing match between Constitution Drive Partners LP and the PA DEP?

Excerpt:

Philadelphia (July 18, 2014, 5:09 PM ET) — A Pennsylvania court ruled Thursday that the owner of a contaminated tract of Chester County land could not appeal a Department of Environmental Protection letter ending an agreement in which the landowner agreed to take measures to rehabilitate the site in exchange for protection from liability.   

The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board said that the letter the DEP sent to Constitution Drive Partners LP — which purchased the site of a former precious metals and steel processing facility in 2005 — was not appealable because the letter itself had no effect on the company…..When CDP bought the former Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township, it reached an agreement with DEP to take certain steps to remediate the existing soil and groundwater contamination, according to the opinion.

Then, in 2011, an independent contractor hired by CDP damaged piping and protective covering on a soil vapor extraction and air sparging system while conducting salvage operations on the site…..But in January, DEP sent the company the letter citing the 2011 damage and accusing the company of breaking the 2005 agreement…..CDP is represented by Jonathan Sperger and Lynn Rauch of Manko Gold Katcher & Fox LLP.

The DEP is represented by in-house counsel Anderson Lee Hartzell.

The case is Constitution Drive Partners LLC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, case number 2014-019-M, in the Environmental Hearing Board.

So how  does the above affect this potential development?  And should there even been anything in the approval process of a municipality when remediation doesn’t appear to be complete and there is a Federal level law suit pending?

In 2007 the PA DEP out a press release which says in part:

DEP TO HOLD HEARING OUTLINING TREATMENTS FOR CHESTER COUNTY SITE CONTAMINATION

Public Invited to Comment on Plans for Bishop Tube Property

NORRISTOWN — The Department of Environmental Protection will hold a public hearing at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 30, to give residents the chance to comment on a proposal to address soil and groundwater contamination at the Bishop Tube site in East Whiteland Township, Chester County. The former industrial facility is being cleaned up under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA), a 1988 law that authorizes DEP to investigate and clean up hazardous waste sites. “We have a unique opportunity at this site to partner with the current property owner to make sure that groundwater and contaminated soil can be treated simultaneously and efficiently,” DEP Southeast Regional Director Joseph A. Feola said. “We will present these plans at the Jan. 30 hearing for public comment.”

The site consists of a large area of contaminated groundwater associated with the former Bishop Tube Company. The company used, and most likely released, hazardous substances into the environment, including trichloroethylene (TCE), nitric acid, hydrofluoric acid and various heavy metals including nickel and chromium. TCE is of particular concern since it has been detected in groundwater on the former Bishop Tube property and in wells and springs off-site.

Although DEP activity on this site began in 1999, most recently, the agency has been concentrating its efforts on three distinct source areas of contaminated soil.

Last September, a DEP contractor installed monitoring wells to help determine the extent that contaminated groundwater from the Bishop Tube site is affecting the Little Valley Creek, part of the Exceptional Value Valley Creek Watershed.

From 1999 through 2006, DEP completed three phases of remedial investigation work at the site, mapping onsite soil contamination and conducting stream and sediment sampling while conducting groundwater investigation work. Within the last year, the agency has initiated a feasibility study to evaluate options for addressing the discharge of contaminated shallow groundwater to Little Valley Creek.

The 13.7-acre Bishop Tube property is currently owned by Constitution Drive Partners (CDP), who purchased the site in 2005 to redevelop it for commercial or light industrial use. As part of the site purchase agreement, CDP will finance the purchase and installation of equipment needed to remediate contaminated soils in the three source areas and work with DEP to address groundwater contamination issues. This will enable DEP to better coordinate cleanup actions with the developer’s plans to renovate the site for productive use.

So what happened? What is the latest? My research thus far that save development discussions as in how many units, will there be playing fields and so on I can’t find anything much over the past few years about where the clean up process is can you? Now yesterday on this contractor builder “smart bid” site I found an interesting drawing:
bishop tube site TCESo these are hot spots and contaminated areas that they know of? (And isn’t it amazing this project is being all put out for bid consideration like it is a done deal? Is it a “done deal”?)

Last night I heard a handful of residents attended the East Whiteland Planning Commission Meeting. Early reports of citizenry perspective can be summed up in one word: disappointment.  East Whiteland has a grave responsibility here don’t you think? Shouldn’t a plan with so many external balls in the air be tabled until things are settled? Like any litigation involving the site and site remediation being completed? What happens if they just close there eyes, hope for the best and approve without all of that stuff being taken care of? Litigation where the township could be added to, correct?

And a word to the wise to residents who think this plan doesn’t affect them: even if you don’t live in or around General Warren Village this affects you. Traffic, infrastructure, and costs associated with any future litigation over a site contaminated with toxic waste for starters, right? Couldn’t any potential township involved litigation related to this site be economically crippling to a municipality?

Residents in East Whiteland should stand with the residents of General Warren on this. Those people in General Warren have taken it on the chin with things like Cube Smart (and the stories of how some residents were treated are a little alarming, right?). The negatives thus far outweigh the positives of any development at Bishop Tube, don’t they?

And there is another thing to consider  – so once upon a time there was this moratorium on development in East Whiteland. See:

Fate Of Debated Building Moratorium Hinges On E. Whiteland Race

Posted: October 28, 1999

Town Eyes Construction Moratorium East Whiteland Would Take 18 Months To Develop A Comprehensive Plan. Some Say The Proposal Would Not Stand Up In Court.

Posted: February 23, 2000

East Whiteland has no regrets on moratorium Such measures were recently struck down. Still, the break from development was valuable, officials say.

Posted: July 05, 2001

Ok so this went all the way to the State Supreme Court. And it was struck down. Which isn’t any great surprise given things like, oh I don’t know…. the Municipalities Planning Code and whatnot?  At the time former supervisor Virginia McMichael was quoted as saying:

“We knew we were sticking our necks out a little bit, and people said we should wait to enact a moratorium,” Virginia McMichael, vice chairwoman of the East Whiteland supervisors, said recently.

“But by not waiting, we did have a year to work on our comprehensive plan without having to accept new plans, and that was helpful to us. Now, we’ve lost one of our arrows.”

The article continued:

The township’s 18-month moratorium was adopted in February 2000. It was suspended last July after the Zoning Hearing Board found it invalid because proper review procedures were not followed. Supervisors reinstated the moratorium in September.

On June 20, the state Supreme Court ruled that while a municipality can regulate land development, it cannot suspend it through moratoriums.

Eyes rolling. How much did Virginia’s Folly cost East Whiteland tax payers? We may never know, right? And the irony of this woman championing a moratorium on development back then and by the time she skeedaddled to  wherever she went after she stepped down she was a champion of development and do I have that straight?

Who says you can’t have it both ways?

So if you do the math starting with plans that started getting presented when McMichael was still supervisor to the present day how many living units are in the works for East Whiteland?  1200+?   1500+?   Or more?

East Whiteland is awash in a Where’s Waldo of development. But hey, since East Whiteland is working on another comprehensive plan maybe they should have a Groundhog Day and try another moratorium on development? (Kidding but if only it could happen, right?)

Look Bishop Tube is scary stuff. Why can’t they clean it up completely and get some sort of cleaned up certification from PA DEP or the EPA before proceeding on anything else? And why can’t East Whiteland ask for that?

And as far as development goes East Whiteland would be best served by taking a breath just because a developer decrees build it and they will come, it doesn’t make it so. Especially when you are talking about sites like Bishop Tube which have the distinct potential of becoming Silkwood meets Erin Brocavitch, right?

The bottom line here is we all have to care, all of us. We just have to.  Can we say  that lives and future lives depend upon it? Here is hoping in a strange collision of the universe that politicians and developers and municipal folk care about doing this one right.

Bishop Tube 20140908_Report_of_Findings Bishop Tube

Figure_12_-_TCE_Source_Area_Location_Map

Bishop Tube Environmental Impact Assessment

Chester County Hazard Vulnerability Analysis July 2009

PRESENTATION ON HAZARDOUS SITES CLEANUP FUND REPUBLICAN POLICY COMMITTEE HEARING DECEMBER 6 2007

Bishop Tube Earth Engineering Report Letter

heightened awareness

DSC_0182

This post has nothing to do with Chester County, per se.  It is just one of those things that makes me think. It made me think of a girl who once lived in Bryn Mawr. A girl who was raped and murdered in her dorm room at prestigious Lehigh University in 1986.  Jeanne Clery.

At the time, it shocked everyone who heard about this even if you had never met the girl. She was the same age give or take a year as my own sister who attended another not so far away prestigious Pennsylvania college. This girl was also but a few years younger than I was and was from the same area I grew up in: the Main Line. You just don’t think about nice Main Line girls from Main Line prep schools going away to college and getting raped and murdered do you? Especially at schools like Lehigh, right?

The story of Jeanne Clery galvanized the greater Philadelphia area and the country.  Eventually, on July 22, 1988, the murderer of Jeanne Clery was sentenced to death after being convicted of her murder.

In the years which have followed, Jeanne Clery’s parents Howard and Constance Clery have devoted their lives to campus safety. As People Magazine wrote at the time:

During the trial, he and his wife learned about the lapses in security at Lehigh, and shortly after the verdict was announced, they filed a $25 million suit against the college for negligence. It was to be the first round in a campaign that would touch state legislatures, colleges and concerned parents across the country. The Clerys had lost a daughter, but the loss ignited a cause.

The suit was settled out of court (the family is prohibited from disclosing the amount), but the Clerys were not ready to close the book. They used the cash, as well as their own money, to launch Security on Campus, Inc., a nonprofit clearing house for information and advice. They began lobbying state lawmakers for statutes requiring colleges to publicize their crime statistics—not a detail generally found in cheery recruitment brochures—and in May 1988, Pennsylvania Gov. Robert Casey signed the first such bill mandating that all state colleges and universities publish three-year campus-crime reports. In addition, schools are required to have clear policies regarding alcohol and drug consumption on campus. Three more states have followed Pennsylvania’s lead, 21 others have statutes in the works, and the Clerys have already begun campaigning for a federal bill as well.

 

It is because of the perseverance of the Clery family that the Jeanne Clery Act came to be. As per The Clery Center for Security on Campus: 

The Jeanne Clery Disclosure of Campus Security Policy and Campus Crime Statistics Act (20 USC § 1092(f)) is the landmark federal law, originally known as the Campus Security Act, that requires colleges and universities across the United States to disclose information about crime on and around their campuses. The law is tied to an institution’s participation in federal student financial aid programs and it applies to most institutions of higher education both public and private. The Act is enforced by the United States Department of Education.

The law was amended in 1992 to add a requirement that schools afford the victims of campus sexual assault certain basic rights, and was amended again in 1998 to expand the reporting requirements. The 1998 amendments also formally named the law in memory of Jeanne Clery. Subsequent amendments in 2000 and 2008 added provisions dealing with registered sex offender notification and campus emergency response. The 2008 amendments also added a provision to protect crime victims, “whistleblowers”, and others from retaliation.

 

 

What made me think of Jeanne Clery and all her family has accomplished after all of these years? Two disturbing stories of sexual assault on college campuses.  One from May 2014 in Philadelphia Magazine about Swarthmore College and a recent front page story in The New York Times on Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Excerpts:

Rape Happens Here PHILADELPHIA MAGAZINE

For 150 years, leafy, progressive Swarthmore College tried to resolve student conflicts in the best Quaker tradition — peacefully and constructively. Then came 91 complaints of sexual misconduct. In a single year.

BY SIMON VAN ZUYLEN-WOOD | APRIL 24, 2014

In the early 1980s, staff members in one of Swarthmore’s libraries began hanging reams of white computer paper in the bathroom stalls, which students would use to gossip about cute boys or gripe about homework. A few years ago, pieces of white paper of a different sort began appearing in campus bathrooms. They’re printed up by the administration and emblazoned with the words SEXUAL ASSAULT RESOURCES…

As the issue of campus assault gains national media traction, stories about incompetent or callous administrators have become bleakly — almost numbingly — familiar. ….The unrest that’s roiled the little U.S. News & World Report juggernaut 11 miles southwest of Philadelphia over the past year — including dozens of allegations of student-on-student sexual assault, two federal investigations, two student-filed federal lawsuits, and four (unprecedented) expulsions for sexual misconduct — nominally revolves around a campus rape problem and an administration accused of abetting it. But the conflict in fact runs deeper: Swarthmore’s 150-year-old Quaker-inspired governing philosophy has collided with the far less forgiving demands of contemporary campus life.

….ON APRIL 25, 2013, Swarthmore sophomores Hope Brinn and Mia Ferguson stood on Independence Mall in Philadelphia and told assembled media that the college had badly mishandled claims of sexual assault; in response, they were bringing a Title IX complaint to the federal government. This was just days after the duo filed a separate Clery Act complaint alleging that Swarthmore had systematically underreported such incidents. The complaints were part of a larger strategy — they later met with high-profile attorney Gloria Allred — in which Brinn, Ferguson and a couple dozen co-complainants aimed to use their personal stories to shame and ultimately reform their college.

Ferguson, from Brookline, Massachusetts, wrote an op-ed, “Raped and Betrayed,” for a student newspaper. Brinn, from Wilmington, Delaware, stood before the school’s board and told how she was sexually assaulted, stalked, and then met with “grave indifference” by the administration. Within a couple months, the Department of Education began investigating the school for Clery and Title IX violations. The controversy only increased when the New York Times ran a story in which Ferguson suggested that she had been denied a campus job in retaliation for her activism. By the end of the year, it seemed everyone was lobbing one accusation or another at Swarthmore. In 2012, 11 incidents of sexual assault were reported to the school’s public safety department. In 2013, that number — covering everything from harassment to rape — spiked to 91. (One-third of them concerned incidents from previous years.)….“Sally,” a 2012 graduate, said she was at a party in the fall of her freshman year when a fellow student cornered her, pushed her against a wall, and began to kiss her…Later that night, Sally awoke to find the same student had entered her room and climbed on top of her. She managed to push him off. When she told associate dean Myrt Westphal she wanted to pursue charges through the College Judiciary Committee (CJC), she says, Westphal asked her to say “harassment” rather than “assault,” and questioned whether she really wanted to “pit her two friends against each other.” Discouraged, Sally declined to pursue judiciary action. (Westphal, who retired last spring, declined to comment.)

Similar stories are legion. Jean Strout, a 2010 graduate now studying at Harvard Law School, says that after she was pinned to the ground by a naked, drunk rugby player, she spoke to a male administrator by phone, who told her it sounded like a “misunderstanding” and that she should ask the offender for an apology.

A recent graduate who now practices law in New York City says that when she told an administrator she had been raped, the administrator said, “You don’t sound as if you were raped,” and, noticing the cross hanging around her neck, asked if she wanted to see a priest…..However, after months of conversations she calls “frustrating” and “invalidating,” she ultimately declined to pursue it: “I was tired of fighting, and wanted to focus on healing.”

Another student, according to the Title IX complaint, was raped in her dorm room by a friend of a friend with alcohol on his breath. Before he left the room, he looked at her, smiled, and told her, “It’s your word against mine.” After she recounted the incident in a long email to a member of the administration, her complaint says, school officials never got in touch with her or did any investigation.

 

 

(in both publications, these are HUGE articles, click on the hyperlinks above each excerpt to read then in their entirety.)

 

The New York Times:

Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t
How One College Handled a Sexual Assault Complaint
By WALT BOGDANICHJULY 12, 2014

GENEVA, N.Y. — She was 18 years old, a freshman, and had been on campus for just two weeks when one Saturday night last September her friends grew worried because she had been drinking and suddenly disappeared.

Around midnight, the missing girl texted a friend, saying she was frightened by a student she had met that evening. “Idk what to do,” she wrote. “I’m scared.” When she did not answer a call, the friend began searching for her.

In the early-morning hours on the campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges in central New York, the friend said, he found her — bent over a pool table as a football player appeared to be sexually assaulting her from behind in a darkened dance hall with six or seven people watching and laughing. Some had their cellphones out, apparently taking pictures, he said.

Later, records show, a sexual-assault nurse offered this preliminary assessment: blunt force trauma within the last 24 hours indicating “intercourse with either multiple partners, multiple times or that the intercourse was very forceful.”…It took the college just 12 days to investigate the rape report, hold a hearing and clear the football players. The football team went on to finish undefeated in its conference, while the woman was left, she said, to face the consequences — threats and harassment for accusing members of the most popular sports team on campus….

At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.

Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.

 

For women to report sexual assault at any age is traumatizing.  Read articles about the topic and you learn the common denominator: victims are often victimized again through any judicial process. But what we are talking about here is on college and university campuses. Which in my mind is always geared first to protect the school and administration.

So as far as we have come in this country with things like the Clery Act and heightened awareness on the topic, it seems like many colleges and universities are still treating issues like this poorly if not sweeping them under the carpet? Remember the 2007 front page stories of the Villanova football players accused of raping a girl in her dorm room? Remember but a few days later the victim halted the rape case?

The Philadelphia Inquirer at the time reported on it and said in a July 27, 2007 article: 

A Villanova University student who told the school that she had been raped by three incoming freshman football players, who have since been kicked out of school, does not want to press charges, Radnor police said yesterday…..Villanova’s department of public safety does not have arrest powers, he said. Radnor police are working with the District Attorney’s Office to clarify Villanova’s obligation to report allegations of serious crimes, he said.

……For colleges, whose capital lies in their reputations, the only thing worse than a scandal is getting caught trying to hush one up.

At Eastern Michigan University, president John Fallon and two other senior officials were fired last week for covering up the rape and murder of a 22-year-old woman in her dorm room in December. The university denied knowledge of foul play for 10 weeks to protect the school’s image, according to a federal investigation.

Schools typically “keep as quiet as they can” about crime on campus, said Kathryn Reardon, senior lawyer at the Victim Rights Law Center in Boston, which provides legal aid to alleged sexual-assault victims.

Villanova’s handling of the matter “seems pretty speedy,” she said.

 

The Swarthmore College article by Philadelphia Magazine and the New York Times article on Hobart William Smith has ignited this topic once again.

In 1986 I was much younger and what happened to Jeanne Clery was seen from the scary perspective of that girl was my sister’s age and only a few years younger than me.  The recent Philadelphia Magazine article and New York Times article hits me as an adult who not only had friends that attended both of those schools but have friends who have kids of their own or nieces and nephews and even grand children at these schools today.

The Hobart and William Smith article in the New York Times was very hard for me to read. I remember going there back in the day to visit friends from high school and I remember how much my friends loved the school.  I remember how terrific I thought the school was and how pretty the campus was.  And now, decades later, these same friends, male and female are horrified by the New York Times article.

So is this a case of everything that is old is new again? Even as far as we have come with raising awareness on college campuses and laws on the books about how and what campuses must report and so on, are we still dealing in the murky waters of reality versus the veritable machines that are colleges and universities?  After all, negative little things like crime can really hurt the old ratings, rankings, grants, and donations right?

But as a newish parent person  now I have to ask, would you rather deal with a school that tells the truth and acknowledges issues or covers it up and makes everything seem all ivy walled and bucolic with Skip and Sissy walking down a brick lined path to class holding hands?

As someone who was a young adult when Jeanne Clery was murdered I think I would rather have the truth, please.  After all, for what parents fork over in tuition, don’t they deserve the truth? And our kids, don’t they deserve the truth and don’t you want them to feel and be safe, especially if they have to report something heinous like an assault?

Anyway, this made me think about this topic again, and I guess I just don’t get these schools.  I get they want to protect their hallowed halls but the truth shall set them free, right? It makes me wonder how honest schools around this country are with their Clery Act reporting.

Also worth reading? A great piece on the topic in Slate.

Excerpt:

Slate: New York Times Reports Another Campus Sexual Assault Horror Story. Now We Need the Data.
By Emily Bazelon

Can universities handle their role as independent investigators and adjudicators of sexual assault? You may conclude that the answer is no after you read Walt Bogdanich’s big story in the New York Times about the aftermath of an alleged assault at Hobart and William Smith Colleges in New York. It’s called “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t” because from the point of view of Anna, the student who says she was victimized, her school did almost everything wrong….What a disappointing, dismaying mess. And yet, I’m not ready to give up on the whole university adjudication system. People ask me all the time why universities have any responsibility for dealing with rape accusations in the first place. These are serious allegations. Shouldn’t they be in the hands of police, prosecutors, and judges? The answer is that there are supposed to be two parallel tracks. It’s not either/or. In passing and enforcing Title IX, the federal law that’s a shield against sex discrimination in an educational setting, Congress gave schools an independent obligation to investigate allegations of sexual assault and harassment. That doesn’t mean that there shouldn’t also be a police investigation.

 

Stories like Anna’s make the schools look at best bumbling and insensitive, and at worst like craven slaves to their own images and, too often, their athletic departments. I should also say that male students have complained of being falsely accused, railroaded by school judicial procedures, and unjustly expelled. Still, before we give up on colleges, Congress and the Department of Education, which oversees Title IX, should demand transparency. We hear horror stories about individual cases but we don’t have the data to know what’s happening across the board.

 

Then of course there is the rather predictable I-really-didn’t- beat-my-spouse response in the New York Times from Hobart and William Smith’s Chairwoman of the Board of Trustees:

Re “Reporting Rape, and Wishing She Hadn’t” (front page, July 13):

The Hobart and William Smith Colleges community is heartbroken by our student’s experience, and we deeply regret the pain she has suffered. Her experience does not reflect the environment, values and traditions we have built and maintained for nearly two centuries at Hobart and William Smith. As an alumna, a proud mother of a daughter who graduated from HWS, and chairwoman of the board of trustees, I write with a heavy heart.

Like all colleges and universities, HWS is challenged to ensure that we are meeting the demands of a shifting legal landscape — especially in the area of sexual assault — as we also work to meet the needs of students while fostering a safer and more collegial learning environment.

We welcome the conversation about whether higher education should even have a role in adjudicating cases like this one. However, until federal law changes, we are required to carry out internal investigations and adjudicate cases based on the preponderance of evidence standard, as we did in this case.

 

….MAUREEN COLLINS ZUPAN
Chairwoman, Board of Trustees
Hobart and William Smith Colleges
Geneva, N.Y., July 15, 2014

There are more letters underneath that one, but that was enough to share. I hate to say it but it seems that Maureen Collins Zupan has more empathy for a Somalian refugee that was cleaning her office ladies room in September 2011, than she does for women on the college campus of Hobart and William Smith Colleges?

She wrote about that Somalian woman:

Screen shot 2014-07-16 at 12.54.08 PM (2).png

 

In all fairness I wouldn’t want to be president of the board of trustees of this school right now for all the tea in China, and perhaps her response was in part crafted by the college’s spin doctors and image consultants?  It’s not as if all she was saying is wrong, to me it was kind of sort of HOW she said it. She calls herself a feminist, mother, daughter, and so on.  I have never met a true feminist yet who would sit still for something like this do you?

Also worth reading? A June 10th essay in The Atlantic.

All She Said Was No
A dangerous misunderstanding of sexual assault
JAMES HAMBLINJUN 10 2014, 1:35 PM

Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist George Will wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday that being sexually assaulted has become “a coveted status that confers privileges” such that “victims proliferate.” His remarks hit at the core of the misunderstanding and denial that condone sexual assault in its most common form:

Consider the supposed campus epidemic of rape, a.k.a. “sexual assault.” Herewith, a Philadelphia magazine report about Swarthmore College, where in 2013 a student “was in her room with a guy with whom she’d been hooking up for three months”…Six weeks later, the woman reported that she had been raped.Now the Obama administration is riding to the rescue of “sexual assault” victims. It vows to excavate equities from the ambiguities of the hookup culture, this cocktail of hormones, alcohol, and the faux sophistication of today’s prolonged adolescence of especially privileged young adults.

That Swarthmore vignette is sexual assault—not “sexual assault.” Most sexual assault is perpetrated by an acquaintance, not a masked man in the bushes with a knife, and its definition hinges not on physical force but absence of consent. This is a quintessential example of the shape sexual assault takes when it goes unreported and unpunished. Apart from editorial missteps like using skeptical quotes around sexual assault, and accusing an entire generation of faux sophistication while using “herewith” in a thoughtless take on a critical public-health issue, citing the Philadelphia rape story is fraught in that its resonating importance comes in the paragraphs just after Will stops quoting it.

….According to a report today from the U.S. Department of Education, the number of sexual assaults reported on college campuses increased by 50 percent between 2001 and 2011—from 2,200 to 3,300 cases. That’s actually more heartening than disconcerting, in that it’s unlikely that sexual assault increased by that much; rather, more victims are coming forward. They come forward when they don’t feel they’ll be blamed for being raped, dismissed as drunken sluts, and when there are appropriate outlets for reporting and justice. But it’s still underreported and underpunished, thus condoned.

 

 

James Hamblin makes a whole lot of sense.  The US Department of Education and US Department of Justice report can be found by clicking on this link here.

We can’t and shouldn’t helicopter parent  and can’t wrap them away from the world in cotton wool, but kids should not only learn quite clearly that no isn’t necessarily a negotiation and should mean NO, but they should be as safe as humanly possibly on college campuses.

Remember Jeanne Clery.

 

Thanks for stopping by.

 

 

in bad taste

figgypudding

This post has been surprisingly hard to write.  I did not know what to call this post.  “queen of shameless self-promotion needs dinner” was one thought.  Re-titling the e-mail I am about to share “feed me” was another. “give her some figgy pudding…puleeaazze” almost made it.

But then I just cringed because it occurred to me that although I have little respect for a certain Main Line area fauxblicist , I thought maybe she just didn’t know how she sounded.

Then I woke up.

This one is no stranger to the “I, me, my” of it all. And well, not to be mean, but if you read her website or her Facebook page for her business,  there is never much in the way of original thought, and when there is…well…you end up with the “feed my family for Christmas Eve and we’ll all dress up as the Von Trapp Family Singers courtesy of ABC boutique, DEF make-up, Dr. GHI Botox, and whammo always free for me photography.”

What am I speaking about?  Quite frankly the strangest pitch I have ever seen anyone send out. It is worthy of a Saturday Night Live skit it is so awful.  And I can’t take credit for ferreting this all out, I was sent it via a friend who knows Philadelphia Magazine writer Victor Fiorillo.

Sarah Lockard2

Sarah Lockard

Oh MY, aren’t you just embarrassed for Sarah Lockard?  And wow talk about giving legitimate, hard-working publicists a bad name.

How is it innovative to feed her entire family for free on Christmas Eve? And who goes out to dinner on Christmas Eve anyway that is Catholic or Christian? Unless your family member owns a restaurant? Don’t you gather with family and friends on Christmas Eve or go to church or both?

How is this exciting? And who exactly is this exciting for precisely? Maybe for her because she is in essence asking for a free meal before services are provided.  Sheesh I will Tweet and Instagram just because I like a restaurant.  Heck we all do that these days. And Paris Hilton she ain’t…..but she does need a refresher course from Emily Post. Hey, here’s an *idea* – she can contact EmilyPost.com and ask if her whole family can get a refresher course on basic etiquette and Sarah will tweet about it, give 5 Instagram photos and so on and so forth?

Sarah Lockard fashions herself to be a publisher, publicist, and social media wizard. She has had a website called AroundMainLine. I guess people use it, I never find much that I didn’t see someplace else and most of the content contains photos of Ms. Lockard herself. So maybe she is her own best client? Wonder what she charges herself?

I will tell you straight up I am not a fan.  People who try to climb so desperately and so obviously make me cringe, and well?  To me this is trying too hard to belong.  But then again this is quintessential Main Line of today, and why I don’t miss it.

She likes to say she started Main Line Restaurant Week, which truthfully has less and less to do with the Main Line every year…the thing is this, it was another Sarah who is an actual publicist who did the original Main Line Restaurant Week years and years ago.   I have never understood why she can’t acknowledge that.

I have provided publicity for people as a publicist, and it is in essence what both of my parents did their entire professional career lives. I also have personal friends who are publicists.  So I know how it is done.

This is not it.

I get that Sarah Lockard obviously wants to feel good about herself. As women we all do.  But to put out an e-mail like this in my humble opinion is akin to social / professional suicide.  Except for the fact that the Main Line of today is not your mama’s Main Line. And this one does this unfortunately all of the time and never has the good graces to be the least bit embarrassed.

So break out the figgy pudding y’all, Sarah wants you to buy her family Christmas Eve dinner.    God bless us every one, yo’.

 

Here’s How to Get Your Restaurant Publicity On AroundMainLine.com, Or: How Bad PR People Ruin the PR Industry

By  |  December 10, 2013 at 4:54 pm

Restaurants of Philadelphia, sometimes just being a great restaurant isn’t enough to get publicity for your restaurant. In some cases, you need to buy a publisher and her whole family dinner on Christmas Eve.