UPT Board Meeting Notes 11/5/18 Episode 18: Chickens Return Home; Find Place to Roost

Gentle Readers, the November 5 Board of Supervisors Meeting clocks in at a brutal 2 hours and 37 minutes.

In fairness to the Board, it was a heavy agenda.

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When it only seems like time is folding in on itself.

In fairness to the rest of us, however, my conservative estimate of how much time John Pearson wastes with general incompetence in his capacity as Chairman of the Board, during this meeting alone, clocks in at around 45 minutes. I’m not sure how he can be prepared to read his insipid little story every week (another 3 minutes of your life you will never get back), but when it comes to actual Board business, somehow his computer doesn’t work, he can’t find his notes, he doesn’t know how much things cost, or he simply needs the procedure explained to him for the umpteenth time.

This level of unpreparedness is, quite frankly, not only irresponsible and embarassing, but it’s downright inconsiderate of everyone’s time. At almost one year into his fourth term into office, there really is no excuse for this.

There is probably another 45 minutes that are devoted to the ramifications of just two of Pearson’s bad decisions of the past eleven months. Karma never loses an address.

Take out all of this Pearson-related time wasting, and you are left with a wholly reasonable hour and four minute meeting.

Before we get to public comment, we have to get through what is now becoming traditional confusion over the previous meeting minutes. This finally ends when Calci seconds the motion to approve minutes for a meeting for which she was not even present.

The Once-ler of Oaks

Resident Chuck Stoll approaches to let the Board know that SEI has cleared a section of woods that they were supposed to leave up to screen the neighborhood from their parking garage. They also altered the path of a stream, and removed several large trees. Pearson says that he took a ride to the site “the other day,” after he received Stoll’s email and verified that Stoll is correct. He tells him he doesn’t know what they are going to do, but it’s definitely on the Board’s “radar.” What a comfort.

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Ooops. Sorry.

It will be interesting to see what, if anything the Board does about this. SEI is one of the largest employers in the Township; however, their consideration of the neighbors, particularly those in Indian Head, has historically left quite a bit to be desired. If large trees have already been removed, this is irreparable damage to the screening that SEI promised the neighborhood. I’m not sure how the neighborhood can be made whole in the loss of mature trees.

Pearson says he went down there a “a few days ago,” meaning he had plenty of time to determine a course of action–for starters, calling SEI, perhaps? But Pearson has far more pressing matters to worry about this week because a couple of chickens are coming home to roost right on his shoulders.

RECkoning

Resident Jerry Prescuitti (with apologies for probably hacking the spelling of his name) approaches and tells the Board, “I want to raise the issue of the Rec Center, again, the continuing fiasco from the summer which should never have come up to begin with.”

Mr. Prescuitti states that the original hours were 6 am to 10 pm, Monday through Thursday with the Rec Center closing early on Fridays. The new hours, since the Board’s ham-handed announcement in June to close the Fitness Center with no plan to repurpose the space, are 8 am to 10 pm Monday through Thursday with an early close on Friday. Prescuitti tells the Board something he should not need to tell them: that most people’s workdays start at 8 am and end around 6 pm, so anyone who wants to work out before they go to work is out of luck under the current operating hours. Prescuitti says this is unfair to folks who want to work out in the morning and proposes that the Board open the Rec Center an hour earlier and either closes an hour earlier or just extend the Rec Center hours by one hour.

“Well Jerry, w-w-w-I’m well, you know, I got your email, okay? Uhhhm, it was sent to Tim and I, I got copied on your email, ummm, we discussed it earlier today. Ummmm… I found out that in order to change just those two hours, just to accommodate, w-w-we, they have a-a-a uh a swipe up there that every time someone comes in, we know who’s coming in and what time, okay? A-a-a-and they went back over the last year or so, and it indicated that there were two people, maximum, most of the time, on occasion there were maybe four people. The expense involved in, in, in, in turning, opening that thing up two hours early every day turns out to be roughly $10,000 a year. And we’re not, we’re not, I personally, am not going to approve something like that. I don’t know about the rest of the Board, you can ask them their opinion.”

Prescuitti counter with the following points:

First, he’s not asking for two hours, he’s asking for one hour.

He’s asking for a shift in hours, not an additional hour, and there should be no incremental cost if you shift the hours.

He would also like to request the swipe data for two years to verify the usage Pearson is saying.

(Note to Mr. Prescuitti: File an RTK with the Township. I’d be more than happy to help you with that. The link is here.)

Prescuitti then says he’d like Pearson to explain why they are cutting off access for one group of people while another group has access for four hours in the evening.

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Let’s be frank: 8 am is a ridiculous time to open a gym in the morning, since most working folks have to be at work by 9 am at the latest. As a person who goes to the gym before I leave for work in the morning, even a fitness center that opened at 6 am would be useless to me, as I must leave my house at 6:30 to begin my hellish commute to Center City, only to arrive at work just as our Rec Center is opening. My gym opens at 5 am and on the all-too-often occasions when they open even five minutes late, it messes up my day.

Barker:

“The change in hours was not determined by this entire Board, I want to make that clear from the beginning. Up until about a year and a half ago, I was a paying member of the Recreation Center, and I worked out between 6 and 8 in the morning. I am not able to do that now because of my change in employment. I would agree with you, that it should be changed, and I don’t know whether the hours are part of the ordinance that was adopted, the fee schedule, we have a fee schedule for the Recreation Center that I don’t believe is being followed now, it’s being changed. But we have an adopted fee schedule which includes sewer, permits and everything else. But I, for one, would agree with you that is should be opened earlier. And my card does not swipe anymore, but it did swipe, and I don’t know how it’s determined what’s a valid swipe and what is not a valid swipe.”

Prescuitti also wants to get the financials for the last two years and for the next year. This will be a neat trick. Good luck, Mr. Prescuitti. If they even exist, I’m not sure I’d trust the numbers. But more on that a bit later. Prescuitti continues:

“I’m pretty sure that the incompetent decision to announce the closure of that facility without any viable plan except bird identification classes, or whatever your lead candidate was, already cost the Rec Center, probably at least $10,000. I’m pretty good with data, so I’m going to go through that data, in detail, and I’m going to come back to this meeting with that assessment of how much we’ve already lost, and I guaranty you it’s already more than $10,000, because of that initial decision.”

Vagnozzi tells him he can file an RTK request or just ask the Township Manager, who would be happy to get the data for him. Prescuitti is not done, yet, however:

“When that original case was made to shut down the Rec Center because of not enough utilization of the facility by the entire community, ironically, I come home today for dinner, and I get our nice monthly flier from the Township. (Note: the Township newsletter is only published 2x per year) I see in here on page two, ‘Skate Park Project is Underway.’ Can you tell us what the costs for the Skate Park enhancements are, and what your utilization assumptions are for that usage?”

Prescuitti then asks the audience, by show of hands, if anyone present will use the skate park.

Higgins states that the people who are in the market for the skate park are not present in the room. Barker says that the skate park is the most utilized park in the Township, and that he would support it even though he doesn’t skate. Prescuitti then asks how much it costs, and Barker tells him $385,000 plus concrete. Prescuitti responds:

“So $385,000 for the skate park and it’s $10,000 to adjust the hours of the Rec Center to make it more usable for a more broader amount of people, because you are pretty much shutting out anyone who wants to work out in the morning?”

At this point, once again, Bresnan steps in to do the job Pearson is supposed to be doing in his capacity as Chairman. Bresnan says that the public comment has gone beyond the usual allotted time and it’s become more argument and demanding answers than public comment.

And as we all know by now, it’s a waste of time asking questions because Pearson has no answers for this boneheaded decision.

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Lookout! Oncoming unplanned motion!

Always quick to grasp the lifeline once it’s thrown to him, Pearson is noticably relieved and quick to get Prescuitti to sit down: “Eh-eh-th-thank you for stepping in and we’ll get you the information that you need.”

Oh no. Here it comes. Another Unplanned Motion!

Vagnozzi, talking over Pearson and Prescuitti:

“If I could? We either have a Rec Center, or we don’t. I read Mr. Prescuitti’s email, I don’t think it’s an unreasonable request. So I make a motion that we direct the Township Manager to open the Rec Center one hour earlier, at 7 am and going forward within 30 days. Only during the week. I’ll make that motion.”

Barker immediately seconds.

After a stunned beat or two, Pearson recognized the motion on the floor and calls for a vote. Calci asks for clarification on whether the Board is voting to shift the hours or add an hour. Barker says, “Al’s motion was to open the Rec Center one hour earlier. And it’s not just the fitness center; you can’t open the fitness center without the Rec Center.” Vagnozzi confirms and Barker reconfirms his second.

The vote goes down 3 to 2 in favor of opening the Rec Center an hour earlier, with Vagnozzi, Barker and Calci voting Aye and Pearson and Higgins opposed.

Call him Ishmael

If you have not figured it out yet, this issue, which was wholly maufactured by Pearson back in June, is part and parcel of the petty score settling portion of Pearson’s Failed Agenda of Petty Score Settling and Crony Favor Granting.

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Very simply, I believe John Pearson is trying to kill the Rec Center. Parks and Recreation has been Pearson’s White Whale since long before the Rec Center opened in 2011, and he is determined to strangle the life out of it.

First a bit of history: As mentioned above, the Rec Center opened in the summer of 2011. When I was first elected to Board and took office in 2012, one of the first things John Pearson wanted me to look at was the Rec Center because he said he “knew” it was losing money. (Note well, Gentle Readers: At that time, Pearson and I were friendly; indeed it was not until 2015, a year he ran for, and lost, re-election, and fell in with the Upper Providence First Worst crowd, that Pearson turned on me.)

It was not until about 9 months into my first year in office that I realized that the origin of this gambit was Pearson’s personal vendetta against then-Rec Center Director, Sue Barker.

I asked Pearson to provide me with financials demonstrating what he was telling me: that the Rec Center was losing money and, further, that it was Sue Barker who was running it into the ground, and all this within it’s first year of operations. For several months, Pearson badgered me to act on this, while I kept responding by asking for the numbers. Because the first question I had was, if there were no existing financials on which to monitor the performance of the Rec Center, how did Pearson “know” it was losing money?

Finally, he had the Finance Director put some spreadsheets together for me. Upon reviewing the information I was provided, I noted that, among other things, the Rec Center was being charged for all manner of operating costs, i.e. electric, heat, air, internet, etc., that the Township Administration Building, the Public Works Building and the Meeting Hall simply charged off to some magical “Building Fund” in order to make the Rec Center look like it was doing worse than it was.

Please note, Gentle Reader: there is literally no service that your Government provides that makes money. Running government “like a business” is a myth and rarely achievable. Township-provided services, i.e. police, fire, road maintenance, sewer, etc: it all costs money with nothing but your tax dollars to pay for it. Ironically, the Fitness Center at the Rec Center is the one Township service where membership fees were actually offsetting some of the costs of provision. This is the service Pearson and his Girls® decided to cut. None of the replacement programming they suggested would generate significant ongoing offsetting revenue streams like the fitness center membership; in fact, almost all of the alternative programming that was suggested in June would only cost the Township money.

Needless to say, I had Pearson’s financials normalized back in 2012 and insisted on receiving them and monitoring them for two years. What I observed was not concerning, especially for a startup venture; indeed, memberships and swipes generally increased steadily during the whole first year and a half of operations before leveling off. This was accomplished, by the way, without any formal marketing plan, which, you may recall, was a major gripe of the disgruntled membership when Pearson decided to close it this past June (for a refresher on that memorable meeting, see HERE). In fact, when the electronic sign for the Rec Center was budgeted for 2016, Pearson wanted to cut it; he insisted the Rec Center was under performing (despite fiscal evidence to the contrary that he was incapable of interpreting) and did his best to hamstring the operation every chance he got.

The change in hours at the Rec Center is just a tactic to create a self-fulfilling prophesy: make it so inconvenient to work out there that members begin resigning. Without membership, the Rec Center loses more money, and viola! Justification to close it. This is an old strategy of Pearson’s, simply executed in a different way.

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From Hell’s heart, I stab at thee

Pearson made no secret during his numerous runs for office that one of the reasons he was running was to “get rid of” Sue Barker. Unfortunately for Pearson, Sue Barker denied him his pound of flesh when she separated from the Township’s employ last November, prior to Pearson’s taking office. The only recourse left to Pearson to satisfy his lust for revenge is to strangle the Rec Center into oblivion, destroying whatever is left of the good work she’s done there, then somehow try to pin it on her post-humously.

It’s worth noting that the word on the street is that the Township’s Rec Director, Jen Steffenauer, who was hired by this Board less than a year ago, has also tendered her resignation within the last two weeks. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s two director level employees lost this year: Josh Overholt, Upper Providence Fire Chief, who submitted his resignation in July, and now Steffenauer this month. It’s not conicidence that FEMS and Recreation were Pearson’s two areas of focus this year. It would seem that his brand of political chaos doesn’t provide for a very stable work environment.

And can we talk about that penny pinching reluctance to open the Rec Center so people can use it in the morning? The excuse that the extra hour is going to cost the Township an extra $10,000 a year is lame beyond belief for two reasons: first of all, that money was already budgeted for 2018. Second, and even more ridiculous: because of Pearson ‘s ham-handed and short sighted approach to the closing of the fitness center, it is costing the residents up to $57,690 to conduct a township wide survey so that the residents can actually tell Pearson what he should do with the building.

Because he has no idea what to do with that building and he never did; he has no vision for this Township whatsoever. His thinking is small, compartmentalized and short-term. His style of governance, if it can even be called that, basically consists of tamping down one self-ignited dumpster fire after starting another. His short attention span precludes any consistent, long range, big picture or analytical thinking about what’s best for the Township. It’s only about what’s best, politically and personally, for John Pearson.

That’s why for want of saving $10,000, he’ll spend almost $60,000 on a survey to justify it.

No Relief in Slight

We’ll now move on to the crony favor granting portion of Pearson’s Failed Agenda of Petty Score Settling and Crony Favor Granting. At about 1:33:00, another bad Pearson decision chicken comes home to roost in the form of the vote on the distribution of the Fire Relief Association money.

First, a word about this funding: Relief Association money comes from the State to the Township for them to pass along to the various first due volunteer fire companies that serve the Township, and it must be distributed within 60 days of receipt of that money. As has been mentioned ad nauseum in this blog this year, the Township is served by four, first due volunteer fire companies (coverage areas illustrated in the map below). In addition to passing along Relief monies from the State, the Township also provides annual funding from the Township’s general fund. A significant portion of the local Volunteer Fire Companies’ annual funding comes from taxpayer dollars.

Screenshot_2017-05-02-10-06-58-1 (1)

At this meeting, the Board is determining the distribution of the State Relief monies only.

Gentle Readers, you can always tell when Pearson wants to avoid discussion of an uncomfortable topic, because he will announce the agenda item and immediately say, “I think we all know what this one is about. I’ll entertain a motion,” in an effort to curtail comments.

And that is exactly what happens here.

Unfortunately for him, Assistant Manager Bortnichak has a presentation to accompany this agenda item:

“Staff’s recommendation is that the formula that’s been applied to the general funding allocation to the fire companies most recently be applied to the relief funding distribution for 2018. The amount we received this year was $186,000 and change, unfortunately it’s down over $41,000 over the past two years.”

“The formula is worked out by district size, by population within that district and the call volume within that district: 30% for district size, 30% for population and 40% for call volume. So it is weighted slightly in favor of the calls that the fire companies run.”

Bortnichak then goes on to explain the allocations this year. The graphic below shows the calculation and the final award numbers:

Relief allocation

Note well, Gentle Reader: when Bortnichak says that staff recommends “the most recent formula that’s been applied to the general funding allocation,” he’s talking about the very same formula that the Democrats campaigned against last year as a “cut” to Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company’s funding. (See HERE for a detailed post about that funding).

In fact, Frequent Flyers may recall that despite numerous occasions to do so, the newly elected Board never exercised their right to reopen the 2018 budget and correct what they portrayed as a grievous slight to the Black Rock Fire Company all during the campaign of 2017, as demonstrated by the following campaign mailers they sent out last year:

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1MailersideA

What they are about to approve is a distribution of Relief monies calculated by the very same formula they told voters was a “cut” to BRVFC’s funding.

Pearson blathers:

“I know you guys are all tired of hearing me beat this dead horse to death, but I’m not uhhh, real happy with theeeee, the uhhhh, way that this money is being distributed, but so be it. I’ll entertain a motion.”

And that’s it. Vagnozzi makes the motion and Barker seconds. Pearson calls for the vote and it passes unanimously.

Let me say that again:

It. Passes.

UNANIMOUSLY.

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Pearson was anxious to put this agenda item behind him, but, unfortunately for him, when he’s just inches from a clean getaway, Barker brings the issue back up at the end of the meeting during Supervisor comments.

We’ll pick up the meeting at 2:30:00 just after Pearson promises Barker that members of the Schuylkill Canal Association will be attending the next meeting to tell the Township how they are using the money the Township has been giving them every year. Barker to Pearson:

“You raised a question about the firehouse funding and was it a fair distribution of funds? And when I look at it, the number of fire calls, we don’t determine that; that’s predetermined as far as what they report as fire calls. The second one is square miles, the other one was population within the district. So the only thing that we could change, is if we change the response district, which would increase their square mileage and the population; that’s based on the box there, the first due district. So it’s not something…it’s not something we could arbitrarily change unless we change the box.”

Pearson responds,

“I get it and, and pretty much everyone in here has seen me beating this horse, and I get it, the vote was taken, it’s fine, but, for the, and I made this comment earlier, and ma, and Al kinda corrected me, for the last coupla years, it was uhhh, it’s been a different…it’s been a different, uhmmmm…pardon me? [At this point, Calci says, “Formula?” and Pearson says “Thank you. Thank you for completing my sentence.”] It’s been a different formula. What I wanna do is, okay, don’t change the formula any more, stick with what it is, leave it the way that it is, so that, so that, so that it doesn’t get skewed any further that what it is, where it’s at. I’m not happy with the distribution either, but you know, that’s neither here nor there, I don’t wanna get, I don’t wanna get into it. I-I’ve been beating every, I’ve been beating everybody up, except for you [Barker] about it. You’re lucky because your ears would still be going agh, I wish he would shut up.”

Barker, clearly not getting or not caring about Pearson’s telegraphed message that he doesn’t want to talk about this subject any more, says,

“I just kept looking at it to see where we could change it and the only thing we could change was the box. We could change the first due box locations and maybe give them a bigger area which would then give them a bigger population. But that’s based on the distance from the firehouse and the response areas.”

Pearson:

“Well what I was hoping, what I was hoping for was that, cuz, cuz, I have no experience at this whatsoever, what I was hoping for was to take on John Muir, and I called him this morning, but he was not available, um and I was gonna ask him his opinion how other municipalities handle it, or how he would handle it, or what, or what other companies have done, and I was gonna go with something like that. I…I just, you know, I just have a problem with it, you know. It’s just, and it’s my problem, not the Board’s, so I’ve let it go.”

Calci then jumps in to ask Barker if he feels like it’s a fair formula. Barker responds that it is fair because the Assistant Manager can’t change it, the Manager can’t change it, the Board can’t change it, and Calci says, “It’s not arbitrary.”

Barker nods agreement, then says it could only be changed if the fire service decides that another fire company should service the area, which would possibly give them more calls, more square miles and more population, “But it’s not something that anyone of us could….”

“Arbitrarily change.” Calci concludes.

Bortnichak states that the formula is not subjective and Barker agrees, saying, that the formula is “not some arbitrary formula that Josh [Overholt] came up with to favor one fire company over another.”

Pearson chokes down a few more stutters in response then repeats how he doesn’t want to get in to it.

“It’s been done, it’s been voted on, ah, all I can say is that I’m not happy with it and I’m not in favor of it, you know, I voted for it because I wanted everybody to get their share, and then it’s like whatever, and move on from it, so…um um I’m ok with it, you know.”

Calci says she feels like it’s fair enough, but, as usual, defers to the experts and suggests they still check with John Muir. Pearson promises it will be one of his first questions when he sits down with Mr. Muir.

Barker then reiterates that this formula is not something that anyone of them can alter so that one fire company gets any more than another. The meeting adjourns shortly thereafter.

I didn’t see a beating. Did you?

Phew! I’m actually sweating FOR Pearson after that exchange! Could he be any more uncomfortable?

So let’s start with the obvious: when you are an elected Supervisor, and you are one of five members on a Board, what is it that you can do it you are “not happy” with a issue?

How would you express disagreement with a policy decision?

Hmmm….what is it? What could it be? What possible action could an elected Supervisor take on an issue that he was “not in favor of?”

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Gentle Readers, far be it for your Humble Blogress to propose, but if I was “not happy” with a vote I was about to take, do you know what I could do?

I could vote against it.

Yet Pearson clearly voted in favor of this funding formula. Just like he did on every single vote he took when he sat on the Board with Barker and me. Oh, he was “not happy” with plenty of those votes, but the public only found out about that alleged “unhappiness” after he got voted out of office and whined to whoever would listen about how he had been shut out. Recognize this for what it is: Nobody forced Pearson’s votes during any of his numerous terms in office; indeed, he could have thrown a “no” vote at any time on any given issue, but instead of doing that, what he did was try to take credit for the great policies that were put into place “during his tenure” when he ran for, and lost, re-election in 2015. It wasn’t until the next year, when he was trying to expand the Board with Upper Providence First Worst, that he was suddenly claiming that he was locked out and forced to vote for things he didn’t really want to vote for.

Like tonight.

He talked about beating a “dead horse to death” regarding this issue, yet from the public’s point of view, Pearson rolled over. Just like always. As an observing member of the public, I didn’t hear a single argument or point made that justified Pearson’s stance against this funding formula. Just that he was “not happy.”

And just how much beating of that “dead horse to death” did he actually do with the rest of the Board, since he was not able to convince a single Board member —not even himself—to vote against the funding formula?

Nobody even looked the slightest little bit conflicted or uncomfortable. There was no discussion necessary to justify anyone’s vote in favor of this formula.

Pearson’s assertion that he “has no experience in this whatsoever,’ is also a bald-faced lie, unless he’s going to sit there and say he’s never discussed or voted for Relief Money distributions to the volunteer fire companies during all of his previous three terms. Was he sleepwalking through those votes, like he’s sleepwalking through this term?

There is only one possible conclusion that we can come to here: Pearson’s objections are so embarrassing, so blatantly self-serving and unsupportable, that even he cannot dare to voice them at a public meeting.

Relief allocation

It’s further worth noting, and probably related, that this year, BRVFC will be getting less money than they ever have from Relief funding; this is primarily due to the overall decrease in relief monies distributed by the state. I highly doubt that BRVFC will be understanding in this regard, even though they are still, as usual, getting the lion’s share of the funding.

Call it a hunch, call it intuition, but your Humble Blogress strongly, strongly suspects that Pearson’s flop sweat has little to do with any philosophical or intellectual objection to the “fairness” of this funding formula, and much more to do with the number of promises he’s broken to the BRVFC, and the ramifications of same.

2019 Budget

The Board voted to advertise the 2019 budget, which is available for public inspection on the Township’s website. I would note that Budget is Policy and you can get a good idea of what the Board’s priorities are for the coming year by examining what it is they want to spend taxpayer dollars on.

Gentle Readers, forgive me, but after sitting through a 2 hour and 37 minute Pearson flub-fest, I simply did not have the time or the stamina to do a comprehensive review of the 2019 Budget as part of this post. Obviously, the big ticket item for next year is the centrally located Township Firehouse. I will note for the record that the Supervisors cut some $830,000 from the initial proposed budget, for which they should be applauded.

A further discussion of the Budget, if warranted, will be covered in a subsequent blog post. In the meantime, by all means, look it over yourself. Pubilc comment is open for 30 days from advertisement.

Interesting Developments

Residences at Providence Town Center: Audubon Land Development (“ALD”) came before the Board for a conditional use hearing and tentative sketch plan approval for the Residences at Providence Town Center. Residents of Upper Providence may be otherwise familiar with this project as the proposed 585 unit apartment complex and hotel between Providence Town Center and White Springs Farms.

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The developer met with the Residents at White Springs Farms to discuss their objections and make what modifications to the plans that they could.

This being a somewhat major development, Pearson at least came prepared with what past experience suggests were questions formulated by his girlfriend, Gayle Latch, who used to sit on the Planning Commission (and now sits on the Zoning Hearing Board). Pearson was even kind enough to share his crib notes with Calci, who asked about open space, specifically, “where it is and how much is set aside.” Our instructor for Township Supervisor 101 this evening was ALD’s architect, Seth Shapiro, who patiently pointed out that the open space was everywhere the buildings, the roads, and the parking lots weren’t. These areas were helpfully shaded in green on the plans shown on the screen.

The Planning Commission reviewed and recommended for approval both the Conditional Use and the Tentative Sketch plan, however, the Board requested an extension on the Conditional Use and voted to table the approval of the tentative sketch plan.

HB Frazer: This was a relatively simple approval of a 30,000 square foot office/warehouse development off Egypt Road adjacent to the Meadows. HB Frazer will be moving its headquarters from King of Prussia to Upper Providence.

Phil do you have any questions
Do we have any questions, Phil?

Apparently no Democrats bothered to do their homework on this development, because when the presentation was over, all three Democrats looked at Barker to see if he had any questions or concerns.

Land development is a difficult concept to grasp without Barker. And because Barker was ok with the development, so was the rest of the Board. Approved unanimously.

Other Board Business

  • At a previous meeting, Barker asked for the “tiny house” applicant at Lewis Road and 422 to come before the Board to explain what it was that they were trying to do so that the Board could determine whether or not to send the Solicitor to oppose the application. The land is a small plot with a tiny, overlapping building envelope. After a most annoying, contradictory, and nebulous presentation by the landowner’s attorney, the Board voted to let the ZHB “do their thing.”
  • The Board also agreed to let the ZHB “do their thing” at 615 Port Providence Road development. Regular readers may recall that this applicant, whose project is in the vicinity of a certain dive bar of some renown, was the subject of a shakedown request by Pearson for public water for the “residents of the neighborhood.” The applicant has decided to wait to see if they are granted the zoning relief before pursuing public water options.
  • The Board approved applications for the following grants:
  • Multimodal grant for the Lewis Road corridor
  • Multimodal grant for improvements to the intersection of Black Rock Road and 113.
  • Approval of a grant consulting agreement with Firehouse Grants LLC for a SAFER grant, which will offset the costs of the salaries of two full time firefighters.
  • The Board tabled approval of the latest changes to the Administrative Code per Barker’s request.

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MAGA don’t play in SEPA

It’s time for some harsh truths in what is left of Republican SEPA and this post is probably going to “trigger” some of you.

The last thing I am in the mood for right now is another election recap blowing sunshine and rainbows up my ass over the glorious gains in the U.S. Senate and the not-as-bad-as-we-feared losses in the House of Representatives. Of course, that’s exactly what we got from the Montgomery County Republican Committee this week (Yahoo Mail – Election Recap), as if repeating this mantra of “things are just GREAT!” often enough will make it so.

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Forgive me, but I’ve heard this song before, from basically the same folks, though I guess this post-election recap is marginally better than the one we got last November (Oh. That’s right. There was no election recap last year. Just an invitation to a Christmas Party.)

It was during the 2017 General Election that we first witnessed the white hot heat of anti-MAGA sentiment and pussyhat rage that decimated our municipal offices. This year, SEPA was devastated and lost 9 Republican legislators; good people, many of whom are my friends and political allies. Philly Voice:

In the House, local Republican incumbents Kate Harper, Tom Quigley, Rebecca Corbin, Warren Kampf, Eric Roe, James Santora, Alex Charlton, and Duane Milne all fell to Democratic challengers.

Incumbent Bud Cook – a Republican from Southwest Pennsylvania – holds a slim lead, but the race is too close to call.

Local Democrat Helen Tai also lost. So did Democratic incumbents Mike Hanna and Bryan Barbin – neither from the Philly area.

In the Senate, local Republican incumbents Tom McGarrigle and John Rafferty also lost. Republican Robert Tomlinson clings to a small lead in Bucks County, but his competitor, Tina Davis, has not yet conceded.

These losses were the result of voters choosing to cast a vote against the Party of Trump instead of a person, once again in hopes of “sending a message” to Washington and thinking that Donald Trump actually cares about who represents this corner of Montgomery County, PA in Harrisburg.

He doesn’t.

No matter how Tuesday’s election turned out, if we know anything at all about Trump by now, we know he’s going to spin it into a victory.

Trump wasn’t on the ballot officially on Tuesday, but for Democrats (and many suburban women, regardless of party) he was, and they voted like he was. We can comfort ourselves with tales of voting machine woes and candidates who didn’t knock doors, and yes, maybe addressing those issues would have cut into the losses, but it wouldn’t have put any of our people over the finish line.

We need to address the literal elephant in the room.

We’ve got at least two more years of Trump and another local election cycle to get through before the Presidential. How are we going to get voters to see through their fog of Trump rage, overcome it, and vote for our quality candidates?

Well, for starters, Pollyanna, it’s time to stop accentuating the positive and start being REAL about what’s happening here or we will never stop the hemorrhaging and we will never get our County back.

In Southeastern PA, in Montgomery County, Republicans are in trouble, and it didn’t just start with Trump. The blue tide has been creeping steadily westward for years as liberals leave the city for a better life in the burbs, only to vote for the same policies and party that ruined the city in the first place. Because a picture is worth a thousand words, the graphic below, from Montgomery County’s own voter services website, shows how the statewide races (Governor and Senate) broke by municipality this past Tuesday. It is sobering.

Blue Tide

A friend of mine mentioned that the US House Redistricting we bemoaned in February brings home the reality of the Republican situation that we’ve been ignoring for years. Gerrymandered districts hid the truth from the parties about the Democratic creep into Montco. Powerful state reps could redraw their own districts and make deals across the aisle with other powerful reps to keep their seats safe.

A Democrat friend of mine tried to make the case to me that Democrats worked harder this cycle, specifically in the 44th State Senate District that formerly belonged to longtime legislator John Rafferty. I’ll concede that point, at least in the 44th: there is no doubt that Katie Muth worked harder. She pounded the pavement and was a very visible and accessible candidate. But what she worked hardest at was honing the Democrats’ best weapon this cycle: stoking anti-Trump anger and translating it into votes for Democrats. If I were to nominate a person who best represents the mood of the Democratic party right now, the angry Katie Muth would be my choice as their poster child.

I submit that her hard work didn’t matter. As a control race, let’s examine the results of the 150th. There were no incumbents in this race and the seat has been traditionally Republican for years. Nick Fountain, the Republican candidate, worked his butt off. He had major surgery over the summer and was back out knocking doors within days. Nick had actual experience in local government and a vibrant, hard working team behind him. Meanwhile, from where I’m sitting, the only energy I saw demonstrated by the Joe Webster campaign was the effort it took to slap some “Veteran” stickers on some of his yard signs.

The only thing that mattered in that race was the R or the D after the candidates’ names. So let’s not talk about door knocking or hard work this cycle. It would not have mattered.

So the question is: do we cede the ground, or do we fight to take it back?

Submitted for your consideration

Before we dive back into this episode of What’s the Matter with Montco, here is some relevant food for thought from around the internet on the national results of the midterms: (each worth a click through for the whole article.)

Allahpundit at Hot Air from the impressively titled post, Soft-Spoken, Introspective Trump To Graciously Accept Responsibility For Dems’ House Takeover

He’ll do a pro forma congrats to Pelosi, I assume, and allow that he bears “maybe some” responsibility. But most of the hour will be spent on the following buck-passing points:
1. Forget the House. The Senate is all that matters.
2. Losing the House is actually good news, as a lot of the RINO-cuck deadwood has been cleared away. Now the GOP can focus on building a permanent Trumpist minority.
3. If anyone’s to blame it’s House Republicans themselves for not embracing him more closely. (He’s already floated that idea, actually.) What Carlos Curbelo should have done in a district that’s 70 percent Latino is gone all-in on ending birthright citizenship.
4. It’s Paul Ryan’s fault, of course. Reportedlyhe was workshopping this one yesterday too:

We talk often about the liberal mainstream media bias, but we rarely, if ever, note the damage done by our own right wing media. One of my favorite columnists, Kevin Williamson, makes this point at NRO:

Fox News has censured Sean Hannity for appearing at a Trump campaign event. I wonder if they have ever watched his show or listened to his radio program, which are explicitly and unapologetically campaign vehicles. It is not as though Hannity et al. were part of the Republican campaign apparatus — they are the Republican campaign apparatus, far more consequential to the political and (mercy!) intellectual direction of the GOP than is, say, Ronna McDaniel. (Who? Exactly.) The right-wing media caucus is a new kind of political constituency, one that now has a great deal more power than the Chamber of Commerce or other more traditional Republican interest groups. Conservative talk radio is an endless soap opera with only one story line — “Betrayal!” — which inevitably influences Republican political strategy. A Ted Cruz or a Scott Walker has basically two choices: Try to build a larger electoral coalition by bringing in more independents or a few Democrats alienated by (see below) the party’s direction, or go all-in on the Kulturkampf stuff and try to win your race by turning out the hardcore partisans and writing off everybody else. The narrative structure of talk-radio politics precludes compromise and coalition-building, being as it is oriented toward the takfiri model of discourse. That works, until it doesn’t.

The Editors at National Review (Yes, I know what you are thinking: oh Lisa, don’t you know how anti-Trump National Review is? I do. Which is exactly why Republicans should be reading it—to keep things in perspective. More on this in a minute)

President Trump and congressional Republicans have delivered important conservative policy victories, but they have not expanded the Republican coalition. Trump himself has alienated college-educated suburban voters who used to back Republicans, and the congressional party has not won the allegiance of all the formerly Democratic working-class voters who backed him in 2016. To win the elections of 2020 — to hold the presidency and the Senate, let alone to rebound in the House — they will probably need to do better with both groups.

Jonah Goldberg talks about the Hollowing Out of the American Political Parties: `

Outside groups — the National Rifle Association, Planned Parenthood, unions, etc. — often do more to effectively organize voters around single issues or personalities than the parties do. The Kochs, Tom Steyer, George Soros, and Sheldon Adelson serve as party bosses, only outside the parties.

Technology is another, less obvious force siphoning power from the parties. For instance, as political historian Michael Barone has noted, the telephone dealt a grievous blow to political conventions, where insiders have outsize power

(…)

The Internet and cable TV have accelerated the eclipsing of parties. Opinion websites and TV and radio hosts now do more to shape issues and select candidates than the parties do. It’s a bit like comic books. Readership of comics has been in steady decline, but movie studios and toy manufacturers still feed off the brands created generations ago.

(…)

And yet, Americans keep talking about partisan politics as if the parties are in charge, and base voters on the left and the right keep railing against the party establishments like mobs unaware that they’re kicking dead horses.

Among the many problems with the rotting out of the parties is that the rot spreads. The parties are supposed to be where politics happens. McConnell’s point about money in politics is analogous to the larger trend. When you take political power out of the parties, other actors seize it.

When wielded by people who aren’t supposed to be in the politics business, that power corrupts. This is why every Academy Awards ceremony is peppered with asinine political jeremiads, and why late-night-comedy hosts serve as de facto Democratic-party organizers.

So what’s the way forward? I don’t have the answers, but I have a few thoughts we might consider in order to begin the long process of building bridges with the Democrats, Independents and formerly Republican Women that we need in order to win elections, because first and foremost, we don’t have the registration numbers. Locally, Republicans have benefitted for years by having Barack Obama in office. Regardless of the overall registration numbers, while he held the Presidency, Democrats were pretty much uninterested in local elections and for the most part, they stayed home and Republicans ruled the off-year Election Days.

Now that’s over. They are woke.

The Cult of the Presidency

Remember those Obama days? Remember how we laughed and laughed at the Democrats’ fawning worship of the Light Worker? The pretentious Greek columns? “We are the ones we are waiting for?” Hopenchange? Remember how ridiculous we thought that all was?

What happened? Because, by my reckoning, our own party has been overcome by the same cult of the Presidency. Politics infects everything. It’s exhausting.

Look, I’ve been very clear about my reasons for not discussing national politics on this blog, but national politics is bleeding into local politics and we need to find a way through it. So that being said, let me also say this: I support the President. He was not my first choice (or my second) but he is who we have, and overall, I have been pleased with his policies, his judges, and the economy, which is why I voted for him.

I hate his rhetoric, his tweeting and his constant trolling and I think he conducts himself in a most un-Presidential manner. I hate that his administration seems to always be mired in chaos. This—and pretty much this alone—is why he is so loathed by the left and moderates. The policy stuff is really an afterthought and you have to be politically engaged to really understand the ramifications of policy enough to be enraged over it. It’s Trump’s character and personality that are immediately accessible to even the most politically unengaged citizen. People want their President to act Presidential.

In the end, Trump is just a man. He’s not a super genius playing three dimensional chess on the worldwide stage. Not every bone-headed embarrassment for the administration is part of some grand master plan to which only he is privy and that he’s executing with the precision of a Swiss watch. He’s just a man, and a fallible one at that. We used to not be afraid to admit when one of our guys made a mistake and we used to not be afraid to call him out on it. Now you are some sort of traitor to your tribe if you even dare to criticize.

What happened to us?

To be very clear: I understand what liberals want. They want us to abandon Trump, deny him, renounce him. They want Republicans to save them from Trump and many of them are not going to be satisfied with anything less from our party.

I’m not talking about reaching out to those folks and I’m not talking about abandoning the President or his agenda. I think there is a certain part of their party, just like in ours, that is unreachable.

I’m talking about breaking through the tribalism, which is just another form of bigotry. Stop looking at everyone as a Democrat or Republican and start looking at them as an individual with fears and concerns unique to them. Most hyper partisans are just parroting what they’ve seen elsewhere. Individuals engaging individuals —without making everything about Trump—is what I’m talking about.

I could go on about the Cult of the Presidency for days. It’s one of the most disappointing trends I’ve seen in this country on both sides of the aisle and betrays an utter lack of education in American civics. Plus it totally lets Congress of the hook. What are we paying those people for but to be a co-equal branch of government? But I’m going to stop here before I meander too far down another tangent.

Stop Trolling Liberals

You can either agree with that assessment, or you can, like many Trumpers I know, gleefully embrace this behavior and take it on as your own when engaging with liberals.

snowflak

Newsflash: Your facebook meme isn’t changing anyone’s mind. It’s only serving to keep that anger stoked and solidify those divisions. So by all means, if you want to keep dealing with broken glass Democrats at the polls twice a year for the duration of Trump’s presidency, keep doing your part by pouring gasoline on the dumpster fire that already is social media. Snowflakes may not be commenting on your posts while you are drinking their salty tears, but they sure are reading.

And for God’s sake, why are we provoking voters at the polls? Is your message sign going to change anyone’s mind on their way into the polls? Is that “Jobs not Mobs” or “Stop Socialism” sign going to miraculously convert a Democrat and make them pull straight R on their way in to vote? No. It’s only going to further inflame them, so stop it. It serves no purpose.

Bottom line: Trump acts a certain way, but that doesn’t mean you have to. I was raised on the adage, “You catch more flies with honey,” and “Kill them with kindness.” I’m one of those folks who believes that it makes a difference if you are a little extra courteous on the road when your car is sporting a political bumper sticker. I believe each Republican is a representative of our party and every day we have an opportunity to engage with neighbors, co-workers and acquaintances and represent Republican values and morals. People who become centers of influence, who are able to convince people of their opinions, who can change people’s minds, do not go through life intentionally trying to piss people off for the twin goals of amusement and political point scoring. As I’ve said before, only Trump can be Trump. And only he should be.

Lose the Whataboutisms

When I’ve tried explaining the point above to fellow Republicans and partisans across the aisle, I get a full dose of the “whataboutisms.” You know what I’m talking about: “Well, whatabout when Obama did X? Was that ok?” “Whatabout when Trump did that?”

Who cares?

Just because the other side does it, it doesn’t mean its ok. Republicans should be better. We should be above it. If I can go back to another childhood adage: if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you do it too? Or who remembers this one: I don’t care WHO started it, I’m ending it!

Stop using the bad behavior of others to justify your own. Republicans can and should strive to be better. I don’t care if the other side is unhinged, and freely admit, many of them are. We are not trying to convert a movement; we’re trying to covert individuals. One at a time.

Every time you interact with someone, it’s an opportunity to sell your party, just by the virtue of you being a good person with membership in a larger voting block and belief in the values that built this Country.

Turn off talk radio

You will never learn how to build a bridge to the other side if you don’t understand how the other side thinks. And you won’t understand that if you stay inside an ideological echo chamber. Talk radio contributes to the polarization. Listen if you must, but don’t let that be your sole information diet. Think for yourself.

hannity
Conform. Stay with your tribe. Don’t think for yourself.

Now I’m not saying go crazy here. I’m not saying tune in to Rachel Maddow every day, or subscribe to Vox, but at least listen to how liberals are framing the issues so you can start talking to them instead of past them.

And let’s be clear here: The Democrats believe that they are doing what’s best for the Country. They do not think they are destroying the country; they think they are making it better. They believe in social justice and they believe their way is THE way and they believe they have the moral high ground.

Just like we do.

Calling them evil, no matter how much we disagree with their views, is not an argument against their ideas. Ad hominem attacks don’t work on us, why would they work on them?

Related: Stop whining about media bias. We know it exists and we know we’re the target and we know it’s unfair. This is our lot. Get over it and deal with it.

Dear MCRC: It’s not 1985 anymore

Ronald Reagan is not the president anymore and we have a registration disadvantage of about 50,000 voters. People do not just blindly pull the lever for Republicans in Montgomery County anymore. And why should they? We’ve been taking our voters for granted for years and we’ve stopped bothering to make a case for their support.

It’s time to admit that we are the minority party and we need to start acting like it.

80
Oh, the glory days….

This means stop the destructive power struggles. There is literally nothing to fight over except a wheezing organization that is limping from election to election. What kind of power comes with that?

Stop the picking and choosing of winners and losers with your favored support. Recognize you are in a rebuilding phase and stop acting like you actually have the luxury of destroying viable, quality candidates because of petty political differences or because someone gave you more money than someone else. The turnaround is not around the corner. It’s going to take a long time to get anything back and if a qualified candidate volunteers for the meat grinder that is running for elected office in this climate, you support them no matter what.

For that matter, stop endorsing candidates based on their ability to self-fund. We did that a couple times in recent memory and it was a disaster every single time. If you recruit good, viable, charismatic candidates, the party faithful will get behind them.

The Democrats were in the minority for years and they patiently chipped away at the majority. Now they are the majority.

And they have all of the problems that come with it. The Democrats are not an unbreakable monolith with no fault lines. There are very clear rivalries and divisions within their own party. There is infighting, power struggles and tons of incompetence, especially resulting from the emotionally cast votes of these last two elections (see just about every other post in this blog). Democrats have some #metoo problems of their own. They have problems governing.

Find those weaknesses, highlight them, and exploit them.

And stop letting them run unopposed, especially in the State House.

We used to know how to do this and now it’s almost like we are afraid to take them on, especially the more powerful amongst them.

Stop making deals with Democrat politicians. It almost always goes bad, and we have been betrayed in big and small ways by even those “good” democrats we think we can work with. Politically, first and foremost, they are Democrats and they will put party over a deal with a Republican every day of the week and twice on Sunday. Do you know why? Because they can. Because they are the majority party.

Oh, and as President Hillary Rodham Clinton once said, Josh Shapiro is not inevitable. Stop pussyfooting around him. It’s Montgomery County’s fault he made it to Harrisburg on the red carpet we laid out for him. We should not let him take another step up his very well defined political ladder. We owe that to the rest of the state.

Be smarter in how you deploy committee people

Committee people should be plugged in to their municipalities, highlighting those local issues where possible. How can the committee people endorse or promote a municipal or school board candidate if they are not attending meetings or plugged into the issues facing their communities?

The day the green ballot died
The day the green ballot died.

And while we are talking about committee people, is there a bigger waste of a committee person’s time than handing out literature at the polls? Hardly anyone takes it, hardly anyone reads it, and it changes no one’s mind. Yet not only do we insist on continuing this practice (and spending thousands of dollars on the printed materials), but we stress out over the green ballot, a handout that was forever rendered absolutely meaningless in the 2015 County election.

Even more ridiculous, we expect the candidates to pay for the privilege of appearing on this flyer. I’m not sure when it became the candidate’s responsibility to financially support the party apparatus, but this, too, needs to end.

A better use of a committeeperson’s time is that of striking. On Election Day, I’d say have a manned table outside and be more passive by just making the literature available. Voters don’t like walking the gauntlet, but for some reason, we think that putting them through it will earn us their vote.

In fact, I’m of the opinion that the only people who should be approaching voters on Election Day are candidates or elected officials. And elected officials should work a poll at every election—it gives them free face time with their constituents.

LOCAL LOCAL LOCAL

MCRC social media should not simply be a regurgitation of national news or Trump propaganda. MCRC exists for one reason and one reason alone: to elect local candidates. All MCRC should be talking about is local issues and how Republican governance can address these issues better than our Democratic counterparts.

Don’t stop at social media either. Send out regular press releases. The dead tree media loves content they don’t have to pay for. They will print it. Use the media for something other than attacking other Republicans.

The bench for higher office comes from our local municipal and school boards. Promote these folks, nurture the good candidates and support the local committees in their recruitment of candidates.

The County Party needs to be thinking longer term. They were caught flat footed in when the US Congressional Districts were re-mapped earlier this year and for the first time, after years of ceding our congressional representation to Chester County or Delco candidates, Montco finally has a congressional seat of their own. The race was a blood bath. But MCRC should already be thinking about and vetting candidates to take on Madeleine Dean in 2020.

But the Courthouse. The Courthouse has been under almost exclusive Democrat control for the last three years and in spite of several issues that have been gift wrapped and hand delivered to the County party, MCRC has been largely silent in making the case for Republican governance at the Courthouse. We are going to need a full slate of candidates ready to go in January and we haven’t begun to tell voters why they should be considering Republicans instead of Democrats.

There is really only one person who has been calling out County Democrats. Which brings us to….

Make your peace with Joe Gale

joe gale

Do whatever it takes to make this happen.

A good start would be to hire another, less compromised, person to do “security” for the next MCRC dinner.

I’m tired of hearing about bullet voting and the butthurt from 2015. There were sins committed on both sides of that election, which, in case you haven’t figured it out yet, was more about keeping Republicans busy fighting amongst ourselves so Josh Shapiro could coast to victory. Only one “Republican” benefitted from that election and when he’s not hustling “bipartisan” photo ops with his boss to desperate Republicans, he’s running fact-gathering missions for him disguised as “security” gigs .

Love him or hate him, Joe Gale has his own network of voters and he has a loyal following. He did not self-fund, but ran a successful, grassroots campaign that raised enough money to get him elected. This success cannot be denied, and he did this facing significant headwinds from the County Party. Republicans cannot afford another costly internecine war like 2015.

Start over. Start fresh and heal the party divide. MCRC leadership must check their egos at the door and work to get all members of this party back under the same tent.

Closing Thoughts

The bottom line is this: we have a very large registration disadvantage and we’re losing ground one tweet at a time. MAGA don’t play in SEPA, so we need to work around it. We need to make our party palatable first; viability and victory come afterward. That unquestioning Trump loyalty some of you insist upon? Yeah, you are going to need to go do that in the deep red center of the state, not in the Philly collar counties.

Image result for what can men do against such reckless hate? gif

There are many folks we’re simply never going to sell on Trump, but a lot of them once believed in our ideals, our competence and our candidates.

Admittedly, I’m not talking tactics or even strategy here; I’m talking about changing the tone. Stop seeing party and start seeing individuals. And though we share many of the same goals and ideals with each other, we need to make sure we are also being seen as individuals and not being lumped in as a just another unremarkable member of nameless, faceless group. End this toxic tribalism.

I’m not talking kumbaya here. Ok, maybe I am, a little bit. But it can’t hurt. And I’m not excusing the outrageousness of the far left, who has effectively taken over the Democrat Party. I’m just talking about being civil to your neighbors to begin to give folks an viable alternative to this exhausting level of contant rage that infects everything in our society.

Republicans are the underdogs in SEPA. And America has always been a sucker for an underdog.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 10/15/18 Episode 17: The Burning Ring of Fire

The October 15 meeting was truly noteworthy for several reasons. Pearson is jittery and nervous throughout the entire meeting, having trouble following the agenda, fumbling papers, losing his place. The reasons for this will soon become apparent.

Calci is not present for this meeting.

I don’t want to belabor the opening of this post with yet another snarky commentary about Pearson’s ridiculous opening “story,” but, believe it or not, this one is particularly relevant to the meeting. The story is called “The Post Turtle:”

While suturing a cut on the hand of a 75 year old Texas rancher, whose hand was caught in a gate while working cattle, the doctor struck up a conversation with the old man.

Eventually the topic got around to politics and then they discussed some new guy who was far too big for his shoes as a politician.

The old rancher said, ‘Well, ya know, he is a post turtle’. Not being familiar with the term, the doctor asked him what a ‘post turtle’ was.

The old rancher said, ‘When you’re driving down a country road and you come across a fence post with a turtle balanced on top, that’s a ‘post turtle’.

The old rancher saw a puzzled look on the doctor’s face, so he continued to explain. ‘You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place.’

Fear not, Gentle Reader: I’ll have some snarky comments about this story a bit later on in this post. For now, let’s dive in to the heart of this meeting.

John Pearson’s Ten Minutes of Hell

We’ll begin our examination of this meeting at the 12:48 mark. It is at this point that the Board is contemplating the appointment of representatives to the joint committee with Trappe Borough, tasked with exploring a regional solution for Fire and Emergency Services and moving the Trappe Fire Company into Upper Providence Township. This issue was discussed at length, and agreed to unanimously at the September 20 joint meeting with Trappe Borough, the fact of which Pearson needs to be repeatedly reminded over the next ten minutes. Recall as well, Pearson has already tabled this vote once, at the October 1 meeting, and now it appears that his two week reprieve is over. Pearson:

New Business. On n-new business this evening, we have…there are two items on tonight’s new business. One is to consider appointing Township representatives to serve on a joint Fire and EMS Services committee with representatives from Trappe Borough and the second one is to consider authorizing the appointment of representatives from Trappe Fire Company on the Emergency Services Facility Design Committee.

Pearson then takes a big breath, and reads from his prepared remarks, which translates to one, big, run-on sentence. The punctuation is mine, Gentle Reader, for ease of your comprehension:

I’m recommending that we table these two items, again, this evening, until we bring Mr. John Muir aboard, before we start making any decisions with Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company and then our regionalizing efforts with Trappe, regarding Fire and EMS, we need to re-read the several fire studies the township ordered and listen to what Mr. Muir has to offer, I welcome Mr. Muir’s expertise in guiding us through this process, I am not opposed to moving forward, I have very little knowledge in this area and have decided to walk cautiously through the process, this is a major endeavor and a costly one and I want to get it right the first time around and not second guess my decisions later on down the road, ummmmm, I am open to whatever comments the rest of this board would like to make on this, but my recommendation at this point in the game, is to table these two items.

Barker asks if Trappe Borough has not already established a committee.

ehhhh
Please table this. I’m begging you.

Tieperman responds that they have appointed three members, consisting of Trappe Borough Council President, Vice President, and Borough manager.

Vagnozzi reminds everyone that there was a joint public meeting with Trappe Borough, where everyone present—including Pearson—agreed that both municipalities would move forward with a regional, combined fire company, to wit: Appoint council, share costs, and appoint representatives from each municipality, and explore moving the Trappe Volunteer Fire Company into Upper Providence Township. (Details on that meeting can be found HERE).

Vagnozzi goes on:

“Their seven members and our five, there was nobody at that meeting that had an issue with it. All were generally in favor of it, pending working out the details. During the meeting, we all spoke about the need for regionalization and improving the fire services in the northern part of town. No deference to the Black Rock Fire Company, they are in the southern part of town and we have an 18 square mile township. Trappe Fire Company is in need of a new building, and we all decided that it would be in our best interests for both communities to explore improving the building, which would improve the fire service to our Township.”

Vagnozzi then states that at this point, all that is left to do is appoint counsel and appoint two members from the Board to represent Upper Providence. This is not entirely correct, since counsel, John Muir, was appointed at the 10/1 meeting, for which Vagnozzi was not present. The confusion on this is wholly understandable since John Pearson’s desperation to avoid taking a vote on this will continue to hinge on his appeal to Muir’s authority. Everyone has forgotten he has already been appointed; a fact which Bresnan clears up later in the meeting.

Vagnozzi concludes, “Again, everybody discussed, and everybody agreed, that this was a good direction to go into.”

Ladies and gentlemen: It’s time to tap dance.

I’m not, I’m not against this, Al. I’m, I’m, I’m not opposed to, to us, you know, doing this. I’m opposed to doing it right at this moment until we get a little bit more information. Uhhhh, uhhh, I’m not, as I said, I’m not an expertise in this field, I have very little knowledge, all I, all I know is what I’ve read in some of the fire reports that we, that we’ve requested over the years. Uhhhhmmm, I wanna, I want, I want to see where Mr. Muir can take us on this, uhhhhm, I, I, I’m looking forward to somebody GUIDING us through this thing, I, I, I don’t wanna, uhhhh…..ehhhm…ahhhh,.I wanna make sure that it’s right, I don’t want, I don’t wannnaaaaahh….”

Joe Bresnan steps in and mercifully calls a halt to Pearson’s stammering before he hurts himself. But before we move on with the rest of this meeting, I just have to say:

Sounds like bullshit
Hmmm….what does this sound like? Oh yes. It sounds like bullsh#t.

Come. On.

This performance and pathetic excuse making must challenge even the most generous of those Regular Readers, who have, up to this point, still been willing to suspend disbelief and give John Pearson the benefit of the doubt where Fire and Emergency Services are concerned.

That John Pearson has “very little knowledge” about Fire and Emergency Services is a given. He was, after all, willing to hand the entire operation over to his bar buddies at the Black Rock Fire Company.

This has all been meticulously documented through numerous posts throughout the year and the post detailing the findings of the RTK I filed at the end of July. When questioned about the documents contained in the RTK on September 4, both John Pearson, and his automatic “yes” vote, Helene Calci, immediately disavowed the policy they had been pushing through behind the scenes for several months. As a reminder, this policy, which first surfaced through emails in March of 2018—before any vote on Fire and EMS Services had been taken on this matter at a public meeting—contained the following documented points, many of which were either enacted or well underway to implementation:

  • The centrally located Township paid Engine 93 crew would cease to respond from the centrally located Township Municipal campus on Black Rock Road and instead be moved to the southeastern section of the Township, to BRVFC’s Oaks Firehouse.
  • The Township’s paid crew would be merged into BRVFC’s organization (Station 99), instead of vice-versa, i.e. become a volunteer organization that is supplemented by career staff.
  • BRVFC would have command at all scenes over the Township’s paid Fire Chief
  • The Township’s paid Fire Chief would get demoted to Fire Marshall and his call number would not be 99, but 68. He would also have no ultimate authority over Fire operations.
  • Mandates for equipment reductions were removed.
  • Training standards and minimum qualifications were removed.
  • A committee to redraw the “boxes,” the service areas for all of the responding fire companies, was formed with only Township and BRVFC members included.
  • A committee to provide input on the design and specifications of the proposed, centrally located building was formed with only Township and BRVFC members.
  • The proposed, centrally located Township fire house is referenced in “Draft” policy documents as “The Black Rock Fire Company Central Station.”
  • BRVFC named the primary fire service provider of Upper Providence Townships through the sole authority of John Pearson.

Other critical points of development on Fire and EMS over the last year include, but are not limited to, the following:

Very little knowledge
“I have very little knowledge.”

For a guy who “has very little knowledge” about fire and emergency services, John Pearson sure seemed to be the only Supervisor engaged in the development of the FEMS policy that has dominated a majority of the Board meetings in 2018. Indeed, of the eighteen meetings the Board has held this year, including the joint meeting with Trappe Borough Council, in-depth discussions on Fire and Emergency Services have taken place at twelve of them; and at some of those meetings, FEMS was the only topic of discussion.

Now, back to our regularly scheduled meeting.

Bresnan, bless his heart, seems to think that Pearson’s desperation in removing this item from the agenda is somehow procedurally related. (LOL. As if Pearson has any idea of what the procedure should be that he would recognize a deviation.) Bresnan, who is admittedly unclear as to what Pearson’s problem is on this, bottom-lines it for Pearson, stating that all legal and procedural hurdles have been cleared, so he is free to take a vote on this.

Www….well, well, there’s a whole, l-look, look: I, I, I keep saying, I’m, I’m, aaahhh—I’ve got very little knowledge in this area and it bothers me. And, and whenever I need legal advice, I go to my solicitor. Whenever I need engineering advice, I go to my engineer, okay? When I have, when I have questions or comments th-that, that I need answers from, I’m going to expect that I can go to this gentleman and, and he’s gonna give me the correct answer. So all I’m saying is at this point in the game, I’m, I’m asking that we table this, I mean it’s okay if, if, if ehhh, someone wants toooo make a motion and do this, that’s fine! And we’ll take a vote on this, I don’t have a problem with doing, you know, going through the process. Uhhhmmm, you can probably already figure out which way I’m gonna vote on this thing. My, my, my point is….I wanna get it right, I don’t want any, you know, ehhhhh, having marrying two fire companies is a very difficult process and I have never seen one that goes through without any hitches. And that’s my reason for this whole thing, it’s like, ehhhh…..”

It’s easy to understand Bresnan’s confusion in response to this stammering mess. Plus, Bresnan can remain cool since he is not the recipient of the unnerving glares from BRVFC President Joe LoCasale and completely non-affiliated, non-official non-spokesperson, the unshamable Lori Kasper, who have wisely chosen to sit outside of the Township camera angles for this meeting.

“Do you mean you want to speak to John [Muir] first, before the vote?” Bresnan asks.

And now Person is panicking and clearly agitated, as if being called upon to answer for this inexplicable stance is somehow everyone’s fault but his.

thumb image

Indeed, Pearson is so worked up by the end of this stuttering diatribe that he’s practically choking on the words. In spite of his protestations to the contrary, it is abundantly clear that he does, indeed, have a problem with all of this.

“Well, no, I’m asking him to look into this information, to see, you know, uhhh, to give me uhh, an idea as to see, you know, where I am before we start taking steps forward on this. Ehhhh….I, I , I have nothing, I have no problem, I have no problem, I have no problem moving forward with this, but I’m waiting to get some more information from the expert here before I start moving forward on this thing. I have no problem with the, with the whole concept of, of, of ehhm…making one unified fire company, I have no problem with trying to regionalize with Trappe, I, I, I’m all for that. I’m just not ready to take the step now without having some expert (unintelligible) without ha–, without having some expert in here, guiding me along through this process, that’s all I’m saying.”

I have no problem I have no problem
“I have no problem. No problem with any of this. Really.”

A couple of points here before we get to Phil Barker’s coolly laid out motion, which is now on the tracks and heading downhill without any brakes straight on for Pearson.

So is Muir supposed to “look into this information” without first being engaged by the Township? Pearson’s request/excuse here is ridiculous on its face since if Muir hasn’t been appointed, he would need to be appointed before he would be “looking in to any information,” and Pearson doesn’t even want to do that. Since he has been appointed, and Pearson himself cast a vote in favor of that at the 10/1 meeting, the whole appeal to authority is moot. What “information” is Muir going to “look into” without the fully populated committee who hired him? It’s the Joint Committee who is responsible for “looking into this information” and Muir was retained to advise them, not John Pearson individually.

And let’s not forget how important sticking to the sacred Timeline for Implementation of the Glorious Milestones has been since the April 16 meeting. As has been documented in numerous blog posts, as well as by the Township’s cameras, pushing through the Fire Services policy this year has been happening so quickly, most times Pearson isn’t even waiting for a vote to move the policy forward. He is on record at several meetings this year, pointing to the need to stay on the Timeline, the overall impression being one of getting Pearson’s and BRVFC’s policy in place before anyone figures out what’s happening.

In fact, once the light of day hit this policy direction, in the form of a confrontation by Vagnozzi at a public meeting on September 4, Pearson and Calci could not back pedal away from it fast enough, denying anything had been moved forward, denying knowledge of policy points, denying that the policies BRVFC had allegedly written were anything but “drafts.”

I'm not an expertise in this field
“I am not an expertise in this field.”

Now here we are, a mere six weeks later, and suddenly it’s time to slow down. Pearson needs to re-read studies that are at least four years old. He needs to proceed with caution, to make sure we get it right. This, after Pearson went on record as being 100% supportive of the regionalization efforts at the joint meeting with Trappe Borough on September 20. This, after Pearson has repeatedly shrugged off Township issues with the Black Rock Fire Company over the course of his three terms, wherein he has opined in my presence, more than once, that Fire and Emergency Services needs to be regionalized rather than work through any issues. As is still the case today, the heavy lifting on any problems with BRVFC was left for others to do.

paint into corner

Gentle Readers, I cannot abide this, and I cannot even give Pearson the slightest benefit of the doubt here. My theory based on careful observation throughout this year, and again, your mileage may vary, is that Pearson made promises to Black Rock Fire Company and Pearson made statements at public meetings as the Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, and he simply cannot follow through on one set of statements without completely betraying the other. He has very neatly painted himself into a corner.

Having spent most of his previous terms on the Board of Supervisors completely uninterested in fire matters, I don’t believe that Pearson’s interest in this subject has increased; rather I believe the intent here was to simply punt again, in typical Pearson fashion, but this time to punt to Black Rock Fire Company and let them act as the “expertise” Pearson so dearly needs to “guide” him through his responsibilities.

It was a good deal for BRVFC, who instead of having to fight for an increase in their share of Township funding, would have access to the whole pot of money, especially once the “boxes” had been redrawn. They would not only have ground floor access to decision makers and influencers at the Township, but their members would be first in line when the Township starts inevitably hiring full-time firefighters. Additionally, all of that pesky accountability those noodges at the Township were demanding, that would all go away once they were in charge. It was the smart move for an organization that saw the writing on the wall for the future of volunteer fire companies and was unwilling and/or unable to adapt to the increasing demands that come with the changing industry and accountability attached to tax dollars as a primary funding source. Unfortunately for them, they put their faith in a flawed leader.

Now, once again, back to our meeting:

Barker:

“When we left that Trappe meeting, we all agreed that we would get a committee together to look into it. We’ve not made a commitment other than, develop a committee to investigate it and find a neutral person who has done this type of process before. His credentials have been forwarded to us, and I think are exactly that. So I’d like to make a motion on item number 4 to appoint Al Vagnozzi and Helene Calci, and Assistant Manager Bryan Bortnichak to our committee to represent Upper Providence Township in this joint Fire and EMS Services Committee. And along with that, to appoint Mr. Muir as the professional consultant to that committee.”

Here comes the motion
Oh God. Here comes the motion.

At this point, Bresnan interrupts and states that the appointment of Mr. Muir was handled at the previous Board meeting and his role clarified. Barker makes the motion, and Vagnozzi immediately seconds. Pearson calls for the vote.

Vagnozzi and Barker vote Aye

Pearson votes No.

Pearson then looks at Higgins and says, “I didn’t hear from you.”

Higgins: “I was hoping there would be a little more discussion, perhaps John instead of Helene, but since this is the vote….”

Barker explains that he nominated Helene because she was actively involved in all of the other fire policy discussions, and Pearson jumps in and tells her, “I have no problem not being on it.”

After which, Laurie Higgins votes Aye.

Pearson can’t move the agenda along fast enough, and when the next item, the item to appoint two Trappe Volunteer Fire Fighters to the Emergency Services Facility Design Committee, Barker throws Pearson a bone and magnanimously agrees to table that item. If Pearson wants to. Which he does. Absolutely.

But before he can just let it rest, Pearson feels compelled to address this issue one more time, and though his remarks are ostensibly addressed to the Board, I suspect these comments are really aimed at two members in the audience, who are strategically sitting off camera with their arms crossed, glaring at him (one of whomto be clear— has nothing whatsoever to do with the BRVFC):

“Just to reiterate here, okay? I want everyone at the Board here to understand. I’m not opposed to us going forward with all of this. I’m opposed to us going forward at this particular time. I, I’ve already made my case on this thing and there’s not much else I can do about it, the Board has decided it, they are going to move forward with it. So be it.”

Translation: I tried the best I could guys, but I was outvoted. It’s totally not my fault that this all fell apart. See you at Quizzo next week?

The now infamous John Muir gives a presentation to the Board at the end of the meeting. Muir has an extensive and impressive background in Fire and Emergency Services. I met him last year when I first began meetings with Trappe, Royersford and Collegeville and he came in to give the group a presentation with background on regionalization and how it had been handled in other municipalities.

During Supervisor comments, both Higgins and Pearson make a point of thanking BRVFC for the use of their hall for Township meetings. Pearson however, has taken the time to compose a love letter and reads from prepared remarks:

I wrote a little something about that too. Sometimes we lose sight of the important things in life, our parents taught us to be polite and do the right things. But even as we mature, we forget the little things in life that are so meaningful and important no matter how small. Please and thank you are important, so to Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, please forgive me for not showing my appreciation for the use of your hall. Secondly, I thank you for hosting us while we await the opening of our facility, like Laurie said, we appreciate, ehhh, we at the Township appreciate your generosity.

Bleh. “Please forgive me for not showing my appreciation for the use of your hall….?” What the heck is that supposed to mean? C’mon man. Now you’re just embarrassing yourself.

Before we cover the rest of this meeting, there are a few things here that cannot go unremarked upon.

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby

First and foremost: Kudos to Laurie Higgins. Sincerely.

I am fully aware of how relentless I have been with Pearson’s Girls® this year, and there is a reason for that.

Making decisions as a Township Supervisor is both difficult and easy. It’s difficult in that, as a Supervisor, you are tasked with learning about all manner of dry subject matter: land development, sewer, planning, zoning, roads, budgeting, finance, public safety, recreation, etc. Add to that, time spent dealing with issues brought forth by the public and solving problems for your constituency. Anyone who thinks this is simply a part-time job is fooling themselves.

long way

So it naturally angered me when, after John Pearson’s Upper Providence First Worst PAC successfully campaigned 2016 to expand the Upper Providence Board of Supervisors from three to five members on the premise of having “two more sets of eyes” on the issues, those two other sets of eyes opted to be willfully blind. For the better part of the year, the two Democrat women seemed more interested in providing backup for Pearson’s Agenda of Petty Retribution and Crony Favor Granting than actually even learning basic procedure, let alone getting up to speed on the issues in front of the Board. This is doubly offensive to me when local and national Democrats are embracing identity politics and putting forward candidates whose only qualifications are their two X chromosomes.

In recent weeks, however, Higgins, at least, has been showing signs of life. She has been engaged in development projects that have come before the board, and has obviously taken the time to read the review letters and come up with relevant pointed questions.

She was on record as early as February as being interested in a regionalized solution for Fire and EMS. Yet it is abundantly clear to any outside observer of this meeting that the vote she threw in favor of the appointments to the Joint Committee with Trappe was a difficult one for her to cast: continue to provide cover for your inept political ally or do what you think is best for the Township.

Which brings us to the easy part of making decisions as a Township Supervisor: always do what’s in the best interest of the Township. I have often said that if the Board members are acting with this axiom at heart, there would be far more agreement amongst them. That judgment can only be clouded if Board members are putting their trust in others for doing the research they should be doing themselves and letting others make their decisions, which is why I harp on the homework aspect of the job so much.

To be clear, I’m not giving kudos to Higgins for voting the way I wanted her to vote, though I am pleased that she did; I’m giving kudos to Higgins for voting independently, for the good of the Township. I don’t expect that Higgins will always vote the way I’d like her to, but as long as her vote is HER OWN, and she arrived at it independently, through her own research, and in good conscience, to paraphrase another Supervisor, “I have no problem with it.”

The Post Turtle

To revisit our little fable from the beginning of the meeting, courtesy of John Pearson’s ego, let’s skip to the punchline: What is a Post Turtle?

You know he didn’t get up there by himself, he doesn’t belong up there, he doesn’t know what to do while he is up there, and you just wonder what kind of a dumb ass put him up there in the first place.

Coincidentally, a friend sent me this fable referring to Pearson sometime back in February after I started up this Blog. I actually got quite a chuckle out of the fact that Pearson used this tale as his insufferable little “story” at the beginning of this meeting.

But it raises really good questions: Pearson didn’t get up on that post by himself. He clearly enlisted the help of Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, Republicans members of Upper Providence First Worst and Area 4 Democrats, among others, to get him up there. The Fire and Emergency Services Policy that was so rapidly being implemented between March and September of this year was very obviously payback to BRVFC for services rendered in service to his election.

Quizzo at the dive bar
Upper Providence First Worst members in a “bait” photo posted in June 2018. L to R: Julie Mullin, UPT Tax Collector, Lori Kasper, not affiliated with BRVFC in any way, John Pearson, Chairman, UPT Board of Supervisors, Bill Kasper, Assistant Chief BRVFC, Jim White, Appointed Upper Providence Township Vacancy Chair.

The Area 4 Democrats have some skin in this game as well. Not only did they wholeheartedly support the Democrat ticket in Upper Providence, but they actually endorsed Upper Providence First Worst member and proud Quizzo participant, Republican Tax Collector, Julie Mullin. Further, they didn’t even put up a Democratic challenger against her last year for her “very lucrative part time job.” They also, for some reason, endorsed a Republican candidate for School Board, who beat Laurie Higgins’ sometime canvassing partner, Democrat Kathleen Drennan. Drennan was the only Democrat on the Upper Providence ballot to lose in a year when most folks were voting straight Democrat.

What have the Area 4 Democrats gotten in return for their investment in John Pearson’s leadership?

Not a single municipal appointment or contract. Upper Providence was a ripe, rich, juicy plum ready to be plucked for Montgomery County Democrats and, almost a year later, they have absolutely nothing to show for their efforts.

The question I have is: Why?

Why did Pearson enlist so much help and make so many deals and tell so many lies to get himself elected?

Post Turtle

He’s not good at this and he doesn’t even seem to enjoy it. He truly doesn’t belong up there and he clearly doesn’t know what he is doing. He’s demonstrated little to no interest in subjects he can’t easily politicize. The subjects he can politicize, he does so ineptly. He hardly canvassed at all last year, preferring instead to let Higgins handle the door knocking while he stayed back at the Fitz, “holding down the fort.” His big contribution to the “Fresh Perspectives” campaign was the Port Providence Paddle school bus, on which he hung his obnoxious campaign banner and then parked illegally all around town, notably at Wegmans and at the Rec Center during Upper Providence Community Day.

Nobody enlists this many favors in service to their election, while exerting this little personal effort, for a job they don’t seem to have that much interest in, just to spend their entire term paying back those favors.

There is a reason that Pearson needed to win election last year.

It’s really worth pondering on a serious level: What kind of a dumb ass put Pearson up there and what is it that they want?

Meet me in the Middle

After many years, the Lower Perkiomen Valley Regional Sewer Authority (“LPVRSA”) is finally ready to move forward with the middle interceptor. This 3,000 foot section of pipe has been the source of a years’ long protracted battle between LPVRSA and Lower Providence Township, whose residents fought the placement of the pipe on their properties. The drama and histrionics of this battle have been covered in-depth elsewhere (see here for an excellent summary of the issue) and will not be rehashed here.

LPVRSA is seeking a zoning variance for the impact of the steep slopes on the Upper Providence side of the creek. Barker, familiar with the history of this issue, says there is no reason to send the solicitor to oppose the application, since it no longer impacts any structures on the Upper Providence side of the creek. After years of taking their property piecemeal for the Arcola Road Bridge, the Perkiomen Trail Bike Path, and the sewer, the home that was being impacted the most by the Middle Interceptor was finally purchased and demolished by the sewer authority.

Barker remarks that, “It’s not where we want it, but there is nowhere else for it to go.” Even though a motion opposed to sending the Solicitor to the ZHB on this matter is not required, Barker wants the record to reflect that the Township supports the project.

Twilight Zone, Again

There is another prolonged discussion regarding an item before the zoning hearing board and whether or not the Board wants to send the solicitor to oppose it. Again, general confusion

Confused Confusion GIF

is demonstrated by Pearson as to what it is that they are discussing and asked to decide upon. The application is from an individual who wants to build an oversized house on an undersized lot on the north side of 422 at the end of Yeager Road across from the entrance to the school. This is his second time before the ZHB and the ZHB denied him the first time. Barker, who agreed with the ZHB’s original decision, would like the applicant to come before the Board and explain what, exactly, his hardship is. Pearson, of course, is willing to punt to the ZHB as usual.

Barker’s concern, which I share, is if the variance is granted, that there are a lot of these small, undersized lots all around the Township and if one gets approved, they will all seek approval of this. Perhaps if the applicant comes before the Board, they can understand what it is the applicant is trying to do and maybe work with him to put something more favorable there.

Bresnan suggests that since the ZHB is scheduled to hear this on November 1, that they vote to send the solicitor, contingent upon the applicant granting a continuance, when he can come in to make a case before the Board.

Barker makes the motion and successfully makes his case, and the motion passes unanimously.

Other Board Business

  • There is a bit of confusion and discussion at the beginning of the meeting on the approval of the previous meeting’s minutes, of all things, primarily due to Calci making a motion for the wrong dollar amount.
  • The Board approves budget workshop meetings to take place on October 29, October 30 and November 1.
  • After three tries, the Township was successful in getting a $927,000 multi-modal grant to realign the intersection at 29, Jacob and Walnut Streets in Mont Clare.
  • The Township was awarded a $196,000 grant for Lot 60 Upper Schuylkill Valley Park trail.
  • Township got a 50% cost share grant for the purchase of body cameras for the Upper Providence Police.
  • Holly Brinton is introduced as the new Rec Center Manager.
  • The Recreational Needs Assessment Survey, which will determine the future of the Rec Center, should be going out to residents in November.
  • The Board approves sending a letter drafted by the Township Planner to the Limerick Board of Supervisors asking for traffic concessions for the proposed Restaurant Depot. This was a result of a resident’s concerns voiced during public comment at the October 1 meeting.
  • The Board approves to apply for a grant to improve the intersection at Black Rock Road and 113.
  • The Board approves an amendment for the contract to complete the Lock 60 trail design costs in the amount of $26,529.
  • Bresnan reports that all of Barker’s requested changes have been made to the administrative code. Barker requests that the motion to approve the code be tabled, since he only got it the Friday before and has not had an opportunity to thoroughly review.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 10/1/18 Episode 16: Hodge Podge Dodge

The October 1 Board of Supervisors meeting was held at the Oaks Firehouse.

Again.

I am not sure if this is a quasi-permanent change in venue until the new meeting hall is opened or why this change of venue was dictated by the Board. Recall that the Board was previously meeting at the Rec Center, but since September, they have been meeting at the Oaks Firehouse.

crowd
No need for a bigger meeting hall.

Was the change made to avoid still-angry Rec Center members from stopping in to a Board meeting after their few remaining workouts? Was it made as a concession to the BRVFC? The change of venue could not have been because the Rec Center room was too small to accommodate the public, could it? After the Democrats campaigned so diligently against the new building, I’m sure they’d be completely content to continue to ignore residents standing outside the glass, being unable to participate in the meetings.

Since the purpose of this change in venue was never announced, sadly, we can only engage in rank speculation as to the cause of it. At least we know the end is in sight, as in response to a question during public comment, Tim Tieperman announced that after some water problems in the existing building, they should be able to hold meetings in the new meeting hall by November.

Related image
I could share my random thoughts!

Pearson’s tiresome “short story” this evening is not a short story at all, but as he calls it, a random collection of “thoughts.” It appears that this week, he actually is just reading bumper stickers and he’s more nervous than usual. Even though I mentioned this in the previous Meeting Notes only as a commentary and not as actual advice, the overall depth and usefulness of the philosophy remains constant.

Thanks for reading, John!

Vagnozzi was not present, which left Barker to shoulder all of the heavy lifting alone for this meeting.

The meeting clocks in at a fairly reasonable 1:21. There’s a veritable cornucopia issues to cover and, along with that, so much responsibility to avoid. Let’s dive in, shall we?

High Water Mark

The Township’s Emergency Management Coordinator, Rich Ressel, approaches the Board to explain a proposal to put another flood gauge in the Township. Upper Providence has a flood gauge on the Schuylkill River down by the Reynolds Dog Park; this is a proposal to put one on the Perkiomen Creek. The proposal needs to come before the Board because the best location for the flood gauge is on the County-owned Arcola Road Bridge and the Township needs to enter into a contract with the County in order to place it there.

As long-time residents know, the Perkiomen Creek is very susceptible to flooding and tends to rise and fall rapidly during stormy conditions.

Pearson then claims that he goes out on the FEMA website to get statistics on the Schuylkill River. He wants to know if we are going to be able to pull this information up online. Speaking of the Schuylkill flood gauge, Pearson says, “It’s a good tool for me for where I have a property, so…uh…”

Image result for titanic flooding gif
If I could just…SEE….that flood gauge…….

Ressell says that will be available “eventually.” He also says that our Schuylkill River flood gauge is the only flood gauge in the country with its own Twitter feed, where people can get updates every 20 minutes. According to Ressell, The USGS will not put a flood gauge on their website until there are two solid years of data available. At this point, the Schuylkill flood gauge has only been active a little over a year. The same thing will be true of the proposed Perkiomen Creek gauge, but, according to Ressell, that information will be available to “us.” I am unclear as to whether this means Township employees or the general public. The Schuylkill Twitter feed is available to the public and can be found here. Presumably, the Perkiomen Creek flood gauge will have the same Twitter functionality, but the proposal here is for a camera as well, so folks can actually see how high the creek is.

Imagine how useful this will be for someone who, for instance, owns a kayak rental business! Someone whose home fronts the Perkiomen Creek and whose Canal Street business fronts the Schuylkill!

Kayak Rescue

Patch, October 8, 2018:

PHOENIXVILLE, PA — Two kayakers were rescued after they became stranded on the Schuylkill River near Phoenixville over the weekend.

The incident occurred at around 1:45 p.m. on Sunday on a small island near where French Creek empties into the creek.

Two boats, one from Phoenixville Fire Department, and one from Friendship Fire Company Diving-Rescue Unit, were dispatched to assist.

Once rescuers located the kayakers, they had to cross a shoal and a deeper stretch of river to reach them, officials said.

The two individuals were taken safely back to Canal Street in Port Providence without any injuries.

WFMZ, August 6, 2018:

UPPER PROVIDENCE TWP., Pa. – Two kayakers were rescued from the Schuylkill River Sunday afternoon.

Officials say the rescue involved a man and woman in Upper Providence Township, Montgomery County.

The man’s kayak flipped over when it hit debris. Officials say he was hanging onto that debris when he was rescued.

The woman’s kayak did not flip but emergency crews helped her out of the water.

Officials are warning people to be careful around rivers in the area after the past two weeks of heavy rain.

Missed Appointments

You can always tell when Pearson doesn’t want to have too much discussion on an issue before the Board. When the agenda item to appoint attorney John Muir as a professional consultant regarding Fire and Emergency Services matters comes up, he tries to curtail any discussion and immediately asks for a motion:

I think…I’m, I’m pretty sure we all know what this is all about. Ehhh, we wanna hire this guy to give us some direction to get us moving in the right direction with our fire and emergency services situation. So I’ll just entertain a motion on that.”

nothing to see

Not so fast.

Barker wants to know: “Will he not come before the Board to do a presentation of some sort?”

Bresnan says that the direction he got from the joint meeting with Trappe was that all parties wanted to move forward with Muir as a consultant. Further, Bresnan’s direction from staff was to move this forward as quickly as possible so the joint Trappe-UPT committee can begin to have meetings regarding Fire and EMS.

Barker says he is willing to take him on as a consultant, but if the Township is unable to work out an agreement with Trappe, then Muir will have nothing to do.

Bresnan responds that this is just preliminary to get the ball rolling and see Muir’s fee schedule. Barker agrees to that and makes the motion to appoint, which passes unanimously.

Moving right along, Pearson continues on to the next agenda item, which is an event fee waiver, but before we move on, Gentle Reader, there is the small matter of the two missing agenda items, highlighted on the agenda below.

Draft Agenda1

I know, I know: “It’s just a DRAFT!”

Agenda Item 8 is to put two Supervisors on a joint committee with Trappe to hammer out the details of a regionalized Fire and EMS department with Trappe Borough.

Agenda Item 9 is to put two Trappe Volunteer firefighters on the building committee. This committee will provide input into the design and specifications of the Township’s proposed new centrally located Fire and EMS building.

Recall that previously, the Fire and Emergency Services Steering Committee to Implement the Glorious Milestones on the Road to Fulfilling Campaign Promises made on Quizzo Night had appointed only BRVFC members and Township staff to this committee, there were no volunteers, representing either EMS or Fire, from any of the Township’s other responding organizations, though, presumably, they would have been using this building as well. Interestingly, there were two Trappe Volunteer Firemen in the audience, yet no one was present from BRVFC, unless you count BRVFC’s non-official, non-spokesperson Lori Kasper.

Why were these items tabled, but the appointment of John Muir was not?

Caution: More Rank Speculation Ahead:

speculation

I would assume that the appointment of Muir was necessary in keeping the timeline for moving forward with the joint Trappe-UPT meetings simply because Muir represents an outside third party, and they cannot afford to dawdle with his engagement. After all, the Township is committed to the consulting attorney per the joint meeting on September 20. The appointment of the two supervisors to the joint committee and the appointment of the Trappe Firefighters, however, those could be, and were, put off until the next meeting, October 16 because they are appointments internal to the municipality.

My guess is that Pearson simply did not have enough cover, or guts, at the October 1 meeting to be seen as a leader continuing to steer the township away from its previously determined (and promised) course (as outlined in the “Draft” documents found HERE) on Fire and EMS. And though I truly wasn’t paying attention, I would bet that I was not the only recipient of a glare from Mrs. Kasper—who, to be clear,  per her facebook page (which has since gone private) is NOT affiliated with the Black Rock Fire Company, no matter how much she presumes to speak for them or involve herself in their business. Indeed, Pearson couldn’t scurry to her side fast enough at the conclusion of the meeting. Would a discussion of a Quizzo night strategy warrant his anxious rush to have a hushed conversation with her?

Taking for Grant-ed

The Township’s Traffic Engineer, Ken O’Brien talks about the Black Rock Trail connection from Route 29 to the Township campus. PennDOT recommended that the right turn lane from 29 on to Black Rock Road be improved, as the turn is too tight and trucks cannot properly make the turn, and they are consistently running over the curb and damaging it. The cost for the change order is $38,140.98.

Mr. Grant
How about another $38,140.98?

Barker wants to know: what was the total amount of grant money the Township received for this project? O’Brien says the Township initially requested $250,000 and the state approved $196,000. The estimate for this project was $205,000 before the PennDOT requested change order. The Township has already spent $75,000 in engineering and inspections.

Doing the math, Barker notes that the Township is approaching $300,000, leaving them on the hook for about $100,000 for this project and asks O’Brien if they will increase the grant. O’Brien says he does not anticipate that they will, but that he can ask.

It’s a problem making the motion to approve the change order, because neither of Pearson’s Girls® is quite sure how to do it. Eventually they “move to make a motion” and end up approving unanimously.

Code Breakers

Most of the last half hour of the meeting is spent by the Board— rather, just Phil Barker— discussing the Administrative Code. For the uninitiated, the Administrative Code is essentially the law, or ordinance, that determines how the Board of Supervisors will govern.

So in other words, it’s THEIR code. It’s kind of a big deal–at least it should be— for that reason.

Nothing to add
Phil’s got this. Nothing for us to do but sit on our hands.

Unsurprisingly, Barker appears to be the only one who has done his homework on this issue. Pearson’s Girls® did not even bother to bring their laptops to this meeting, so they have no documents to reference for this, or for any other agenda item at the meeting. Pearson, who has his laptop, doesn’t squint at it at all. They sit on their hands and look at Barker, while Barker reads and discusses questions he has marked up and annotated on his printed copy of the proposed code.

Ironically, the Township’s Administrative code has not been updated for many years, but the expansion of the Board of Supervisors makes these changes to it quite a bit more of a necessity. And Pearson, who along with his Upper Providence First Worst PAC, drove the expansion of the Board. Now that he has satisfied his goals towards increasing his own personal his power, he apparently has no interest in dealing with the ramifications of the very initiative he championed.

For all of the Democrats, it’s like this whole issue affects someone else.

And sitting in the audience, it was abundantly clear that none of them had read the document.

I get it. Some of this township stuff is pretty dry. I understand that to the average layperson, development plans, engineering, sewer, fire and emergency services, etc. can be pretty dry stuff.

So I’m left wondering: Why in the world did these folks campaign for these jobs?

These Democrats wanted these jobs so badly they walked miles, knocked on hundreds of doors, talked to hundreds of people, (well, Higgins walked miles, knocked doors and talked to voters; Calci accompanied her a couple of times. And Pearson only hung out back at the Fitz, to “hold down the fort”). They also spent thousands of dollars and told countless lies in order to get these jobs. And now that they have these jobs, it truly seems like they have no idea what they are supposed to be doing, and they show little interest in figuring it out.

Related image
I have no responsibility here whatsoever.

It’s like they came in with a little personal to do list and if the mundane business of actually, you know, governing the Township comes up, they leave the heavy lifting on that to Barker and Vagnozzi.

To be clear, it doesn’t matter whether they are interested in a particular subject or not, or whether they can politicize it, or whether it’s on their list of particular hobby horses: they are responsible for all of this stuff, and the least they could do is make an effort to appear interested and informed. Thus far, only Higgins has shown sporadic flashes of this type of engagement.

I understand Pearson’s interest in being a Supervisor, even though I think he’s the worst one we’ve ever had. Pearson came in with an agenda and made promises to his cronies. He has yet to deliver on his sponsor’s agenda, and his success in delivering his own agenda has thus far been mixed at best.

But Higgins and Calci I just don’t understand. I find I am constantly asking myself why anyone would do all that work to win an election, and then sit up on a dias just to be a “Yes Girl” to Pearson’s Agenda of Petty Revenge and Favor Granting. Why would anyone sign up to take responsibility for Pearson’s embarassing and ham-handed political manuevering?

It just never ceases to boggle my mind.

Plan ahead

Township Planner Geoff Grace notes that a meeting was held to form a subcommittee of the Planning Commission to look at the Comprehensive Plan. I attended this meeting and submitted a letter of interest in participating in this subcommittee. The development of the Comprehensive Plan update will be a 12 to 18 month process with probably monthly, hour-long meetings. Interested residents should email Geoff Grace at ggrace@uprov-montco.org with a letter of intent and/or a resume, but do it soon.

Just Making a Living

Laurie Higgins mentions that she attended a County program called “Farmer to Brewer” at the property known as Two Particular Acres. Higgins says that it was a good meeting for farmers to meet up with potential buyers so that they can actually “make a living” farming.

hobby farm

Regular readers may recall that Two Particular Acres was the subject of a bit of controversy earlier in the year, as it was the owner of this property who was seeking, and won, a zoning variance to put a cellphone tower on his property. His property is zoned residential and cell towers represent a variance from existing zoning law. Recall also that the previous Board, in concert with the Township’s existing zoning and the wishes of several surrounding communities, sent the Township solicitor to oppose this zoning change.

Recall as well that one of the first actions of the new board this year was to reverse the previous Board’s decision to oppose this action, after which, the cell tower variance was approved.

For the uninitiated, cell tower leases are a great deal for the landowner. Like billboards, owners incur virtually no expense and basically just collect rent. I have no idea how much this cell tower lease was worth, but according to this website, top tier providers, like Verizon, are paying up to $156,000 per year.

An income stream like that would sure take the pressure off having to rely on growing barley and selling it to local brewers, to “make a living,” right?

Speaking of not having to rely on the income from one’s farm to “make a living,” in addition to the Foleys, who own the property, Higgins made a point of mentioning that the Duhovises were also in attendance.

Other Board Business

  • During citizen comments, resident Chris McQuaid is concerned about a Limerick proposal to put a Restaurant Depot at the Corner of Buckwalter and Township Line Roads and he is looking for help from the Township. As the project in question is in Limerick, Pearson recommends that Mr. McQuaid attend the Limerick Planning Commission meeting, but that the Board will reach out to Limerick Township.
  • Ashenfelter Road Bridge is not urgent; the repair is recommended to be reviewed in context of the 2019 capital budget. The Board tables this recommendation indefinitely.
  • The Board approves a restrictive covenant for an in-laws quarters at 137 Buckwalter Road
  • The Township authorizes the Township Manager to sign a contract with PennDOT for completing improvements with a Green-Light-Go grant award of $232,000 Township Line Road and Linfield Trappe Road. Barker notes that the Township has already spent $125,000 on this intersection, and, addressing resident Mr. McQuaid and his concerns about the Restaurant Depot, notes that Upper Providence has not had much success in the past with cooperation from Limerick. It is noted that there is other money escrowed for this project, contributed by a developer, and is currently the subject of litigation.
  • The Board discusses a timeline for beginning Budget discussions. The goal is to act on the preliminary budget by November 5, with the final budget by December 3. Big discussion items will be capital items related to Fire and EMS expenditures.
  • The Township Police Department will be partnering with Lowes at a public safety event on October 20 from 11 am to 3pm

Pathetic Paparazzi

Why does Lori Kasper feel the need to capture my ladies’ room visit on her cell phone?

What possible interest could she have in my restroom visit that she felt compelled to surreptitiously capture it on video?

This is a question I find myself asking as I review the video of the 10-1-18 UPT Board of Supervisor Meeting (full write-up in process and forthcoming).

fully operation

Now witness the power of my fully operational glare!

I noted that Mrs. Kasper was in attendance when I arrived at the Board meeting. At about quarter after eight, I got up from my seat to use the ladies’ room. When I emerged, I was so preoccupied, and quite frankly , amused, with the obvious effort she was putting into the glare she was aiming at me, that I did not notice that she was recording me on her cell phone.

lori

And I didn’t even know about it until I watched the video of the meeting. The picture nearby is of the back of Mrs. Kasper at the Monday, October 1, 2018 Upper Providence Board of Supervisors Meeting. So there can be no confusion on the videos that follow, Mrs. Kasper appears on the bottom right of the screen. She is wearing a black short sleeve shirt and has long brown hair. She is sitting immediately behind the two follicly-challenged Trappe firemen.

Here is a clip of the relevant part:

 

 

Or you can simply fast forward in the video of the full meeting (below) to the time counter 1:14:17.

Here is what you are seeing:

At 1:14:17, the Township camera picks up Mrs. Kasper getting out her cell phone and aiming it towards the Ladies’ Room. This was when I left my seat.

At 1:15:46, you can see Mrs. Kasper zooms in on the folding chairs, and then raises her phone to focus on the Ladies’ Room exit.

At 1:16:26, you can just make me out on Mrs. Kasper’s cell phone as I emerge from the Ladies Room. After a few swipes and clicks, Mrs. Kasper takes off her paparazzi hat, does whatever it is she is going to do with this valuable and controversial piece of footage and sits back in her seat.

Why would anyone do this?

It’s laughable.

I’m sure she’ll try to come up with some kind of lame passive-aggressive excuse for this creepy behavior now that it has been caught on Township cameras. But it’s really all part and parcel of the crowd she runs with. As disturbing and creepy as this behavior is, this is really nothing new for me. When you stand up for what you believe in, you inevitably make enemies. And sometimes you get one who is both especially spiteful and charmingly charismatic, who is able to recruit a whole cadre of pliable minions, including Mrs. Kasper, to do his bidding.

This has been my life for about three years.

In April of 2016: my husband was sitting in his truck in our driveway when a township employee drove past my house, slowed down, and blatantly snapped a picture of my house while on Township time. Caught outright by my husband and confirmed via GPS, the employee admitted to taking the picture, but supposedly deleted the photo immediately thereafter and claimed that he was just “fooling around with his phone,” an excuse that nobody was buying. I let the issue pass rather than put the Township through an ugly and embarrassing personnel issue, but I have no doubt whatsoever that he was put up to this task.

Why does anyone need a picture of my house? For that matter, why would anyone drive down my street, past a restored 1951 pickup truck, past a house under construction, and past a house that had been abandoned for 8 years, and think that MY house was the most interesting thing on the block on which to “fool around with” a new camera? It’s not to get ideas for that curb appeal show on HGTV, that is for sure.

February of 2017 marked the beginning of my campaign for re-election. My two running mates, Paul Newlin, Kevin Holohan, and I met at the Perky Café in Oaks for an initial campaign strategy meeting. It certainly wasn’t a secret meeting, but I never anticipated that someone would not only photograph us, but eavesdrop and report back to one of the minions as well. The following text was sent to Kevin Holohan by Upper Providence First Worst Chairman Jim White, as if a meeting as part of the endorsed Republican ticket for Supervisor, was somehow a betrayal. Turns out it very much was, at least as far as Jim White and his pals in Upper Providence First Worst were concerned.

text1

text2

I decided to make lemonade with the picture.

Screenshot_2017-02-13-20-58-03

Here’s a super controversial picture from last February, 2018,

Lisa Mossie pic at 20 Meredith Rd

taken of me getting into my car after getting a signature from a resident, John Leonard, for my petition for state committee. This picture was presumably taken by Jim White. White sat on this photo until June, when he finally sent this bombshell to every member of the Upper Providence Republican Committee (including me), the Area 4 leader of the Republican Committee, and the new chairman of the MCRC, Liz Havey, as evidence that I….know some people in my township who will sign a petition for me.

The screed accompanying this picture can be found at the link below, but be warned, the hyperbole and anger level will exhaust you. I include it only for context.

WhiteLtr020916

There are two sides to every story. White’s is linked above; in a nutshell, White claims Mr. Leonard “stole” his money.

Mr. Leonard, on the other hand, claims that the money in question was a payment from White—made by personal check—for services rendered: those services having to do with an attempt to publicly smear me, allegedly at the request of White and John Pearson, at a Board of Supervisors meeting in late 2015. Mr. Leonard telephoned me in April 2016 to apologize to me for listening to what he said were “all sorts of lies” about me and for allowing himself to be used for a political dirty trick. Coincidentally, this is the only reason I ever got to know Mr. Leonard, and I was never aware of his supposed “host of crimes.”

It’s always slippery when one attempts to paint someone else as guilty by association, especially when that guilt has not been established. And if you are a person who regularly socializes with someone who pleaded guilty, the morning after Josh Shapiro was elected as Attorney General, to defrauding PennDOT of almost a million dollars, it could be a little dangerous, too.

Montco businessman charged in PennDot graft probe 041715

But some folks live their lives by the motto, “Do as I say, not as I do.” As long as they keep writing checks, feckless politicians will still clamor to sip their chardonnay.

just like us

I don’t even remotely understand this behavior. Of what possible use can these pictures be for anyone? Are these minions doing a feature for Us Magazine: Lisa Mossie, she’s just like us! She goes to the Ladies’ Room! She has a house! She goes to local restaurants! She drives a car! She knows people!

I kid, I kid. I mean, I’m really quite sure it’s more nefarious than that, but unfortunately for them, I live a pretty boring life.

Keep in mind, these are just the incidents that I know of (and let’s not even talk about the folks who were allegedly hired –possibly on the taxpayer dime—to follow me around in 2017). It’s as if these people have no sense of boundaries.

Speaking of boundaries, this story made the news today; the man arrested was a former Township supervisor in Northampton Township, Bucks County. Was he just a sexual predator, or did he target these women for political reasons? This story just broke today and is still developing, however, color me intrigued.

A former Northampton Township, Pennsylvania, supervisor and his girlfriend are accused of getting a woman drunk and then using spy glasses and a webcam to take photographs of her while she was unconscious.

Lawrence Jay Weinstein, 44, and Kelly Drucker, both of Northampton Township, are charged with false imprisonment, invasion of privacy, recklessly endangering another person, criminal conspiracy and violations of the Pennsylvania Wiretap Act.

Investigators say Weinstein and Drucker plotted last fall to spike a woman’s drink with high-proof alcohol so that she’d be unable to drive and be forced to go to Drucker’s house where a webcam was placed in the bathroom.

“Don’t let her go to the bathroom until she gets back to your place,” Weinstein allegedly texted Drucker.

Gross. Like taping someone going to the ladies’ room. Full story at NBC10.

Look, I fully understand the consequences of politics. I have never played nice in the sandbox with powerful politicians who want to damage my Township, and sometimes it can hurt a fragile male ego when a girl won’t just succumb to that charming charisma, and let the power players off easy like she’s supposed to.

But even puppet masters have bosses, and sometimes those bosses are more concerned with their own ambition than with any sense of loyalty. It’s all fun and games playing Quizzo down at the Dive Bar, until one of these days, one of these angry little minions that have been expertly wound up into a frothy lather of obsession and hate crosses the line and exposes the big mahoff to even a tiny hint embarrassment by association.

That day is coming, because these people are out of all reasonable control with their behavior.

If you ever wondered, Gentle Reader, why I blog with such intensity, it’s because my passion for this Township has not cooled simply because I am no longer in a position to make decisions for it. But a portion of my reasoning—a good portion—is for self-defense. And to expose to residents to how they are being manipulated by the political players behind the scenes. As an elected official, I couldn’t say any of this, but as a private citizen—and that’s what I am, a private citizen, not a celebrity or a public figure—I can finally tell my side of the story.

Make sure you get my good side next time, Mrs. Kasper.

Quizzo at the dive barQizzopt2

UPDATE

So if you follow your humble blogress on Facebook, you know that this post caused a bit of a firestorm.  What I didn’t expect, and could not have hoped for, was that these folks would so generously confirm for the whole world that they have, indeed, been creepily stalking me and that the incidents I cited above are by no means the only ones.

Incredibly, within hours, Jim White (far right, in the picture above) put up the following post; his wife and Mrs. Kasper were eager to comment:

white keepbloggin

white comments

I’m sure that White thought this picture would embarass me, and it’s true that it’s definitely not flattering and certainly not when I was looking my best.  However, I’m so very pleased that he posted it because it perfectly illustrates EXACTLY who these people are.

As for those “one sided” blog posts Mrs. Kasper is complaining about….well, yeah.  This is a blog.  There’s a disclaimer right up in the right hand sidebar EXPLAINING that these are my opinions.  Mrs. Kasper has never been shy about posting her opinions on her own facebook page, yet for some strange reason, there has never been a single rebuttal to any of the “fairy tales” that are contained in this blog.

Curious.

And now we’ll never see them, since she took her facebook page private.  But she couldn’t leave without a parting shot:

LoriPost

Oh wait.  She’s not quite done…one more parting shot:

duped

There’s really only one thing I can say about this:

It’s laughable.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 9/20/18 Episode 15: UPT Joint Meeting with Trappe Borough Council

It wasn’t widely publicized, but the Board met twice during the week of 9/17: the regular Board meeting of Monday, 9/17 and a joint meeting with Trappe Borough Council on 9/20. In fact, the only mention of the 9/20 Joint Meeting was as a housekeeping item at the end of the 9/4 meeting when the Board was asked to come up with some dates for this meeting.

While I have no doubt that this meeting was properly advertised, I found no notice posted on the Township’s Facebook page or on the News section of the Township’s website. An agenda was posted on the Township’s “Meetings and Agendas” page on September 19. It was, however, a public meeting held at the Trappe Borough hall and I attended that one in person. There is no video available for this meeting.

The primary purpose of this meeting was to discuss the regionalization of Fire and Emergency Services between Upper Providence Township and Trappe Borough.

Upper Providence and all of our neighboring municipalities are each supporting domiciled volunteer fire companies monetarily. However, Upper Providence funds three additional first-due fire companies (see HERE for details on fire funding in Upper Providence Township). The township has one domiciled fire company, the Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company, which covers approximately 60% of the Township. The other 40% is covered by three other companies, as illustrated by this coverage map, below.

Screenshot_2017-05-02-10-06-58-1 (1)

Trappe Borough Council was represented by Nevin Scholl, Scott Martin, Kathy Johnson, Brett Yeagley, Pat Webster, Phil Ronca and Stewart Strauss. Also in attendance for Trappe was Borough Manager Tamara Twardowski and Solicitor Dave Onorato, who also chaired the meeting.

Upper Providence was represented by the full Board: John Pearson, Helene Calci, Al Vagnozzi, Laurie Higgins and Phil Barker. Also in attendance for Upper Providence were Solicitor Joe Bresnan, Manager Tim Tieperman and Assistant Manager Bryan Bortnichak.

Agenda is below:

Agenda

John Pearson sets the Tone

Onorato began the meeting by going around the dais and asking each member to introduce themselves and briefly state what it is they hoped to get out of this meeting. John Pearson was the first elected official to speak.

Pearson stated his reason for being there was to facilitate the creation of one regional Fire and EMS service company.

This statement represents a vastly different direction than was envisioned in the “Draft” documents revealed in the RTK.

Perhaps it will come as a surprise to some readers, but Pearson has been touting regionalization of our FEMS for quite some time. As readers may recall, Pearson served with me until December 2015, and during all that time, he demonstrated little patience or support for the BRVFC, and any problems the Township had working with them were usually answered by Pearson with a dismissive suggestion that we needed to regionalize this service. He had little interest in actually doing any of the heavy lifting to accomplish this, or solve any of the problems; it was more like he thought of regionalization as a way to relieve the Township of some of this responsibility.  I always assumed Pearson did not want to be bothered with FEMS and indeed, his relatively new, documented coziness with the BRVFC is something that only developed after his defeat in the 2015 election and his subsequent efforts with Upper Providence First to expand the Board.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows, and now that he has accomplished his objective of getting elected, there seems to be little reason for continuing to stick his neck out for the BRVFC.  The surprise here is not that this alliance appears to be falling apart; the surprise is that it existed in the first place and lasted as long as it did.

I can only imagine the reaction to this change in direction.

Patrick Spongebob Squarepants What Thats Insane

As they went around the dais, it was clear that all representatives from both municipalities were on board with this idea.

It should be noted that although this regionalized approach to Fire and EMS Services is on the UPT Board’s milestones, approved at the 4/16 meeting, regionalization was not scheduled until “Phase 3,” which was not anticipated to be addressed for another 3 to 5 years. In my opinion, it is smarter to look at regionalization sooner rather than later, and I was pleased to not only see the UPT Board taking this step, but to see them acting unanimously on matters of public safety for a change.

For what it’s worth, regionalization discussions with Trappe, Royersford and Collegeville had already started to take place under my leadership in the summer of 2017, given that a regional approach, especially for Upper Providence, who supports four, first-due fire companies, is the only logical long-term solution for the challenges in the delivery of public safety. The growing tension is in efficiently and effectively providing Fire and EMS services with rapidly dwindling volunteerism and while not breaking the bank. Regionalization is the best solution for tackling these objectives.

Discussion of the Problems

Scholl outlined some of the financial and infrastructure problems that Trappe Borough is facing with regards to the Trappe Volunteer Fire Company, to wit: Trappe VFC is operating out of 100-year-old building and their ladder truck was purchased circa 2000. And unsurprisingly, like every other volunteer fire company across Pennsylvania, they are experiencing a decline in volunteerism.

At this, Pearson asks Trappe VFC Chief Brian Long, who was in the audience, how many volunteer there are at Trappe. Long gives a refreshingly honest answer: they pull from about 15 to 20 regular volunteers.

Figure 3 Population density and station proposal
Chart from 2014 FPA FEMS Study commissioned by Upper Providence Township

Vagnozzi notes that Upper Providence has experienced significant growth in population in the center of the Township in the last 20 years. These are the areas that were traditionally farmland prior to the development boom. He also notes that because there is no centrally located firehouse in the township, it is this area that has experienced the most significant fire losses in recent years. When the Oaks and Mont Clare fire compaies were established over 100 years ago, they were built where the population centers were at that time. He states that you have to build a firehouse where the volunteers are and, referring to a map (to which the public was not privy) notes that many of the Trappe Volunteers live either within Upper Providence’s boundaries, or in close proximity to the proposed new firehouse location at 113 and Hopwood.

Vagnozzi also states that the Fire and EMS divisions of Trappe VFC must separate their financial statements; fire and ambulance must each create separate P & L statements and balance sheets. Currently Trappe VFC’s financials are blended and in order to move forward there can be no commingling of funds; the municipalities must have a definite idea of the profit and loss of each organization.

There is enthusiastic agreement around the dais to this suggestion.

Because no meeting of the Upper Providence Township Supervisors is complete without taking a detour for a lesson in Township Supervisor 101, Calci takes this opportunity to ask Trappe Borough Council how Trappe Ambulance gets their money.

facepalm
Oy vey.

Uhhhhh…wut?

Why doesn’t she already know this????

I realize I’ve been pretty brutal on the Upper Providence Board for what I view as their continuing refusal to come prepared to a Board meetings, but this question not only betrays a willful ignorance, but glaring irresponsibility to her duties as a Township Supervisor. How could Helene Calci have possibly cast an informed vote on 4/16/18 deciding how EMS services are delivered in the Township if she still doesn’t have a basic understanding of how the ambulance companies are funded?

Calci Prepared Notes
Reading her Pearson-approved signing statement on 4/16/18

Wasn’t that the crux of the Democrats’ argument in favor of the lame medic responder unit? That putting an ambulance in Upper Providence would have a negative financial impact on the companies currently servicing the Township?

Wasn’t Calci the a member of the Board’s subcommittee tasked with studying this issue for the first three months of the year?

Finally, before casting her vote on the ambulance, wasn’t it Calci who read the following prepared (and vetted) statement into the record:

After an exhaustive 360 degree look at fire and EMS, the staff including Tim Tieperman, Bryan Bortnichak, and Josh Overholt, came up with a comprehensive presentation for the residents and supervisors of Upper Providence Township. They spoke with subject matter experts from within out Township, such as Oaks Fire Station President Joe LoCasale and the various EMS agencies that serve the area. They collaborated with experts outside of our township, such as Cheltenham Township and Montgomery County, even reaching up to the state level to make sure what they were representing and bringing to us was on track and made sense for our situation. These discussions helped formulate forward thinking solutions for the increasing emergency services needs for our residents. A matrix was created scoring the various solutions. The dashboard scoring points us to the best recommendation for the Township, which I am voting in favor of. As conditions change, such as an increase in call volume, enough to support an additional ambulance, we will re-evaluate the fire and EMS situation. I want to take this moment and thank the many people who worked hard in order to provide me with the information to vote on this resolution. We are fortunate to have such competent staff.

Look, I understand asking questions at a meeting in order to get clarity or better understand an issue. But upon review of the meetings leading up to and including the Board’s vote on the Township’s Fire and EMS milestones on April 16, Helene Calci did not ask a single question about how the ambulance companies were funded.

Yet she cast her vote on this issue based solely on ambulance financing, a concept of which she clearly does not have a thorough understanding.

Apparently, Trappe Borough Council has no time to provide this week’s lesson and the meeting moves right along.

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Scholl insists that Ambulance and Fire should continue to solicit subscriptions/donations after the merge.

Barker points out that there will be a tax impact to both municipalities if/when they decide to move forward to 24/7 paid crews. And the implementation of a tax could impact the companies’ ability to solicit donations.

Vagnozzi says that the new firehouse will require changes to be made in first due responses.

How will this be managed by the municipalities?

Council and Board discussed three primary options for managing the intermunicipal cooperation. The options are summed up below, in order of municipal control:

  1. Trappe Borough and Upper Providence Township fund the new building; Trappe VFC relocates to the new building in Upper Providence and shares the space with Upper Providence’s paid staff. Black Rock Fire Company would continue to operate out of the Oaks Station. All companies operate independently.
  2. Each home municipality adopts a new ordinance that operates under on entity under control of Upper Providence Township. Black Rock Fire Company merges into the Trappe VFC/Township organization.
  3. Create a legal entity called a “Cooperation of Governments” or “COG” so that both the Borough and the Township have control and provide direction for the new regional fire company.

A general discussion ensued, with option 1 being almost immediately dismissed as lacking in vision. Vagnozzi stated it was little more than picking up Trappe VFC and moving it to Upper Providence Township.

Options 2 and 3 with regard to the level of municipal control, as well as the fire command structure, were discussed at length. A flavor of that discussion follows:

As an example of a COG, Scholl cited the Collegeville-Trappe Public Works and Water Company.

Vagnozzi urged those present not to overcomplicate this and Webster responded by asking him to keep an open mind on the COG. She said that her vision for this option would be to provide high level oversight. As elected officials, they have the right and the responsibility to demand accountability as to how taxpayer dollars are being used. Ronca proposed that with a reliable stream of income, these organizations could operate differently. Johnson noted that the Fire and EMS guys just want to fight fires and respond to emergencies. If the municipalities are providing resources, then they should also provide oversight. Barker stated that the organization would be regulated through joint meetings with a set of standards, and Pearson noted that the Upper Providence Recreation Committee grew out of an existing COG.

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Vagnozzi countered the COG discussion by pointing out that the paid staff, which will also service Trappe Borough through the new regional organization, are employees of Upper Providence. His vision is to decide on a capital contribution from Trappe to offset the cost of the new building and determine an annual operational contribution as well. Upper Providence will unavoidably be absorbing most of the costs of this proposal.

A need to involve the volunteer fire companies was discussed, and Barker suggested perhaps a return to the old FEMS committee if there is one company.

Scholl noted that if the companies do not blend, there could simply be separate cost centers for Trappe VFC, BRVFC and the Township staff.

Barker notes that this meeting represents a change in course for the Township’s previous direction with BRVFC.

Bresnan states that currently the volunteer organizations are completely independent from the municipalities except for workers’ compensation insurance. Bortnichak adds that the volunteer entities can still remain independent and Bresnan says the municipalities can provide oversight of all organizations, and if they are unsatisfied with how they are operating, the municipalities can withhold funding.

Calci wants to know if the Fire Chief will have control over the entire organization, and Bortnichak, who is apparently still operating from those “Draft” documents that supposedly “nothing has been done with,” instead of the Township’s Chapter 85, which designates “Chief,” says that the Director of FEMS would write and enforce the policies with Onorato adding that each company would continue to operate independently, a united fire company with two different command structures. Barker says that the municipalities need to have some control.

Conclusion

Unite the clans

While nothing was decided on the ultimate structure of the regional organization, in my opinion Upper Providence does not improve their position in keeping three separate fire companies, each with their own command structure. The whole point of regionalization is to combine resources and gain economies of scale; maintaining three different companies (Trappe VFC, BRVFC and Upper Providence Township), with three different command structures, simply continues the status quo from the Township’s perspective. The Township gains nothing unless a true regionalized solution is adopted, under a single command structure.

And, as was demonstrated earlier this year, having the Township’s paid Chief of FEMS (or Director of FEMS, or whatever it is they are calling Overholt’s old position this week) enforce Township policy is ineffective at best, especially if the politicians are involved. The regional solution needs to be set up like the police department, with one chief empowered to enforce policy and a command structure under him for day-to-day operations and the municipalities providing high level oversight and budgetary approval.

It also has not been decided if BRVFC will be part of the new regionalized company, and if so, if it will continue to operate out of Oaks.

thumbsup

Board and Council members agreed to get feedback from their respective fire companies and reconvene for another meeting. They also decided to create a subcommittee consisting of two elected officials from each municipality, the Managers and the solicitors. They also agreed to engage an attorney specializing in mergers and regionalization of Fire Companies.

UPT Board Meeting Notes 9/17/18 Episode 14: The Dog Ate My Homework

The 9/17 meeting was notable primarily for its brevity, which clocked in at a mere 40 minutes: a record for this Board in spite of the many starts and stops to educate them on matters that were either procedural or otherwise included in their packet.

Bumper Sticker Philosopher

bumpersticker
The meaning of life is on there somewhere.

As usual, Pearson starts out the meeting with his typical ego indulgence, reading a little tale which contains all the profundity one can usually glean from a bumper sticker or a meme on the internet. Believe it or not, even though they have nothing whatsoever to do with the business of the Township, these banal stories are actually reflected into the official minutes of the meeting. At least Pearson’s time wasting is on the record for all posterity.

I usually refrain from commenting on the actual content of these hackneyed little vignettes, but I found this particular bit of dime-store philosophy a little offensive. It’s entitled “Find Happiness,” and it’s about a bunch of meeting attendees who are asked to find their names on a bunch of balloons; needless to say, they cannot find their correct balloons until they all work together.

The lesson of this story, according to Pearson:

And this is the purpose of human life: the pursuit of happiness.

So Pearson, from the lofty heights of his folding chair at the Oaks Firehouse, is not only pontificating about what the purpose of human life is, but is stating that the sole purpose of human life is mere hedonism.

This empty philosophy may explain a great deal about Pearson’s own life. But it also aptly demonstrates why winning an election does not qualify him preach life advice to the rest of us in the form of vapid little morality tales. Another version of the story ends on a somewhat less nihilistic tone:

And this is one of the purposes of human life…
Learn to put a smile on someone’s face, and you will also smile in due season.

I like this one better. I doubt Pearson can tell the difference between the two.

Table Time

The Board tables resolution number 2018-66. Pearson does not explain what this resolution is, but a perusal of the minutes and the attached Board packet reveals that it is a resolution for a Budget Amendment to fix the Ashenfelter Road Bridge. Recall Pearson complained about spending money on this project at the June 18 meeting. The Resolution itself contains no dollar amount, but the proposal from the Township’s Engineer, Gilmore and Associates, includes a quote for $119,850 and a proposal from CKS Engineering services for $85,500. These quotes are for engineering alone and do not include construction.

It is unclear why this resolution was tabled.

Remedial Municipal Governance

The five lot development plan for 239 Grace Street is back before the Board. The plan is going to the Zoning Hearing Board to file for special exception relief for steep slopes on the property and a variance for the width of the driveway to the cul-de-sac on one of the lots.

Once again, it seems the Board is caught not doing their homework. Pearson is confused and asks whether they need to come before the Board for this relief first. Bresnan steps in to the rescue, explaining that the only reason the developer is before the Board this evening is for the Board to determine whether they want to send the Solicitor to the Zoning Hearing Board to oppose the application.

It’s actually painful watching the Board blunder through this agenda item, as it seems no routine matter before this Board is TOO routine for Pearson and Calci to feel any reluctance whatsoever to just stop the proceedings and ask for a re-education of the process.

homework

I would remind readers that this is John Pearson’s third term in office, and that his longtime fiancée, Gail Latch, is on the Zoning Hearing Board. One would presume, at a minimum, that he would have the basics of the process down. Pearson is clearly caught off guard as to what his responsibilities here actually are. Perhaps in an effort to look more engaged than he actually is, he starts fumbling through some half-baked questions about rain gardens and drainage, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the relief the applicant is requesting.

Higgins’ questions, again, are relevant to the matter before them and again, I commend her for at least doing her homework before sitting down at the dais.

Calci, in an effort at damage control, blames the whole thing on Barker, who is not there, stating that it was Barker who wanted to see these applications come before the Board.

This is true; however, this procedure was only implemented because of the lack of Staff meetings, the discontinuation of which created a hole in staff communications with the Board. The Board had previously reviewed these matters during Staff meetings and the tension here seems to be to keep the regular board meetings to a reasonable length of time while still keeping the Board informed of pertinent matters. Barker’s request on this was wholly reasonable; that the Board should know about matters going before the ZHB in case the Board decides that the Township wants to oppose it.

Recall also that the Board sent the Solicitor to oppose such a zoning application last year for the Cellco Tower. Upon taking office earlier this year, Pearson quickly reversed the previous Board on this matter, preferring instead to let the ZHB “do their thing,” a policy of which Bresnan reminds them before the end of this segment.

It should be noted that the Board is provided with a bi-weekly Manager’s newsletter, presumably highlighting and explaining these issues. If perhaps the Board didn’t need to take regular time-outs for Township Supervisor 101, maybe the meeting length could be more reasonable. In other words: Do your homework.

And lest we forget, Pearson is still presumably conducting his Secret Monday Morning Meetings (with one other Board member) when he gets briefed on all of the issues before the Board. Perhaps if it’s not a matter he can easily politicize, it just never really gets on his radar.

Intersections of Ignorance

The Board approved the Act 209 Land Use Assumptions report as recommended at an earlier public hearing. The next steps in implementing the ACT 209 plan are traffic study, then cost estimates of improvements then approval of impact fees, all of which need to be completed by July 2, 2019.

question

Lack of homework again evident: Calci, whose husband was appointed to the Act 209 committee that produced the report, betrays a lack of fundamental understanding of how the ACT 209 program will work, as far as which road improvements will be funded by monies received for this program. Pearson asks the same question only a few minutes later and Higgins asks if bridges can be included. Once again, the Board takes a time out to have the Township Consultant –and Vagnozzi–provide a lesson to Calci and Pearson on public time.

I understand that all three Democrats attended the public hearing on the report that took place immediately prior to this Board meeting, where they all had the opportunity to ask these questions as well.

Not to mention that this can all be covered at the secret Monday Morning Meetings.

Hello darkness, my old friend…..

Pearson read into the record the following letter from Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company:

Black Rock Volunteer Fire Company understands the concerns of the local residents related to the fire company’s house siren. After the September 4 Supervisor’s meeting, officers of the fire company spoke with members of the community to assure them that the issue is being addressed and they understood the concern with sleep deprivation. The fire company has investigated expanding the use of voice and digital pagers, but there are areas where our members work that the signal does not penetrate. Example: Concrete buildings, facilities with electronic shieldings.

Effective Sunday, September 16, the house siren was turned off, with the caveat that if the fire fighter response is negatively impacted due to a lack of a siren, the fire company will re-evaluate the decision to turn off the siren. The residents need to understand that the fire fighters also suffer from sleep deprivation caused by the emergency calls to which they must respond during the evening hours. The fire company is working with the Township to provide 24-hour in station staffing that will eliminate the need for the house siren. Currently, there is in-station staffing from 7:30 am to 5:30 pm, Monday through Friday [Note: This in-station staffing is provided by the Township’s paid staff] and this will expand to 6am to 6pm in January, 7 days a week [Note: This expansion of hours is also proposed to be the Township’s paid staff per the 4/4 meeting]. The fire company also has a live-in program from 10 pm to 6 am at its Mont Clare station. Additional volunteers are being recruited to staff the Oaks station from 10 pm to 6 am. The fire company has mentioned to various residents that they could use assistance with various technologies, finance, and general building maintenance, but unfortunately, the response has been limited at best. If you have an hour a week to support the fire company, please contact them and volunteer your time. Thank you.

Other Board Business

  • The Board awarded a bid to BRB Contractors for 464 East Linfield Trappe Road demolition project.
  • The Board authorized advertisement of bids for the Second Avenue sanitary sewer pump station force main replacement project. Pearson notes that it is good for the Township that we only have two pump stations.
  • The Board approved a Utility Relocation Reimbursement Agreement with PennDOT for the Second Avenue culvert replacement project force main relocation. PennDOT is reimbursing the Township 100% for this project.
  • The Board set November 5, 2018 for a Public Hearing to consider a Conditional Use Hearing for the Residences at Providence Town Center. These are the apartments that are proposed behind Wegman’s/Providence Town Center.
  • The Board concurs that the traffic light at Egypt Road and route 29 should be made permanent and agrees to pursue a Green Light Go grant to pay for that.
  • Township Planner Geoff Grace would like to have a meeting for a Comprehensive Plan subcommittee on September 24.

Joint Meeting with Trappe Borough Council

Unmentioned at the end of this meeting, or on the Township’s Facebook page, or on the Township’s “News” section of the Township website, is the September 20 joint meeting with Trappe Borough Council. This meeting took place at Trappe Borough Hall. An agenda was posted to the Township’s website on September 19.

This meeting will be the subject of a separate post.