Maxwell the hypocrite…or is that Maxwell the politician? Oh, right…same thing.

Josh Young and Josh Maxwell are both running for State Representative.  Young recently sent out a campaign flyer claiming Maxwell’s facebook “like” is a clear indicator that Maxwell wants to privatize our colleges.  That isn’t a huge leap, since Maxwell is endorsed by (and seen often with) Senator Dinniman who is sponsoring the bill to privatize colleges.

Maxwell cried “FOUL!” and had this to say on May 13th (on facebook, of course), “Here is a good lesson for all the future politicians out there.  My opponent in next weeks primary sourced a Facebook post that I liked and used it in a negative mailer, claiming that this “like” was evidence that I want to privatize all public schools.  I feel really bad for my friend Dan, who feels guilty that his post was used in this way.”

Note that Maxwell did not say that Young’s flyer was incorrect or misleading.  Maxwell has not taken a position on whether he thinks state colleges should be privatized. Why?  Could it be because he agrees with Josh Young but can’t say so, since that would oppose Dinniman?  Or, perhaps Maxwell agrees with Dinniman but knows it will cost him votes if people know that?  Maxwell needs to man up and stop being the quintessential politician.  He has learned well — talk a lot but say nothing, and never ever take a position on anything controversial (until you’re in office).

Here’s the kicker.  Maxwell’s flyer arrived in the mail today, and it was about a thousand times worse than Young’s.  Maxwell’s flyer would probably qualify as bulk hate mail.  What Young said was logical and supported by Maxwell’s own actions.  What Maxwell did was a complete fabrication intended to incite peoples’ anger against Young.  One can only hope that the voters see Maxwell’s true colors and vote accordingly. 

Here’s what was on Maxwell’s flyer and the stock photo down he photoshopped in the lower left hand corner.  And Maxwell had the nerve to whine like a baby when Young stated the obvious about Maxwell?  How absurd.   Image

Will Josh Young whine about it on facebook like Maxwell did?  Probably not.  That isn’t his character.  Young is competent, confident, and has years of experience.  What about Maxwell?  Ask him.  He’ll probably brag about Downingtown being on Philly Magazine’s “top 10” list, the STEM academy, Downingtown’s top-notch school system, Main Street Association, Downingtown’s AA credit rating (which dropped from AAA), not raising taxes, etc etc.  Ask Maxwell how much he had to do with any of those things.  The answer is, “Not much!”  The mayor is in charge of the police department.  That’s it.  The office of mayor is one of prestige, not responsibility, action, or voting power.  I guess you could say that the mayor is more like a professional schmoozer, and Maxwell has done that very well.

This post is long enough.

PLEASE GET OUT AND VOTE ON TUESDAY!!!!  Democrats, please vote for Josh YOUNG.  He will represent YOU in Harrisburg. 

Secrets, secrets, and more secrets

Feldman wasn’t allowed to see Main Street’s minutes even though she’s on Council and participated in the vote when they were given $25K two years in a row. Councilor DeStefano is on the Board of Main Street. Mayor Maxwell is on the Board of Main Street. Councilor Rakoff is heavily involved with Main Street. MSA is even funded by the borough. Yet Councilor Feldman isn’t allowed to see their minutes. Why not? What are they hiding? What is so damaging that Main Street doesn’t dare let Feldman or the public see their minutes?

Check out this Office of Open Records’ denial of a Right to Know records request appeal. Neither the Borough nor Downingtown Main Street Association would provide Main Street’s minutes to Ann Feldman when she requested them. So, Feldman appealed to the Office of Open Records, and they also denied the appeal saying Downingtown Main Street Association isn’t subject to the Right to Know law.

Here’s what Feldman submitted and Main Street Association’s attorney, Jay Fischer, submitted this response. The Office of Open Records found that MSA isn’t subject to the RTK law, because the borough isn’t in “control” of Main Street. Oh really? If the borough (a.k.a. taxpayers) didn’t pony up $25K, there wouldn’t BE a Main Street Association at all. That sure looks like control to me.

Take a look at the copy of their bylaws that were submitted to the OOR (at the above link). Note that two pages are missing. Note also that they have whited-out several paragraphs, and they added in a sheet that isn’t part of their bylaws at all. What’s with that? What are they hiding even from the Office of Open Records?

This is the group that has currently received $50K in taxpayer dollars. What have they done with our money? They have paid Steve Plaugher — ex-D’town police officer and ex-assistant borough manager — $25K each year for his part-time work. What work? We’ll never know, because no one is allowed to see their minutes. MSA put up lights on the trees along Lancaster Ave., they have put up “Downingtown” flags that were supposed to be paid for by sponsors, they have put up a wind chime that was supposedly donated, they have cleaned up the little raised gardens along Lancaster Avenue (they refer to them as “pocket parks” — presumably because they’re small enough to fit in your pocket), and they painted the Mexican restaurant with money from a grant. That’s what they did with twenty-five THOuSAND dollars of taxpayers’ money. “Impressive” is the last word that comes to mind. This year, the big project is a mural on the side of Amani’s restaurant. It’s only going to cost $11,500. Such a bargain. If you live in the Borough, every time you drive past the flags and the mural, you can smile (through gritted teeth) and say, “I paid for that!”

Go ahead and submit your own Right to Know Request. You know, you can submit a RTK to any agency for any public information. No, you don’t have to say WHY you want the records. In fact, if the agency (i.e., Borough) asks why you want the records, go ahead and report them. It’s your business, and your business only. What would you like to know about that goes on in your municipality? Do you want to see minutes, records, emails, itemized expenditures? You can get those, but make sure to be specific, such as, “Please provide a copy of the document that Council President handed to Councilor Brenda Brinton during the Comprehensive Plan public hearing on September 4, 2013.” Who knows, maybe you’ll have more success than your elected representative in obtaining public records.

March 19 Council meeting video available

This video is in three parts. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCIIL5izFiV7XRtRIc6Sk8Zg

Prez Gazzerro was on his best behavior and actually let council members discuss the Human Relations Commission ordinance, for the most part. He still has a god-complex thinking he can interrupt, take the floor, answer questions directed to the solicitor, or rephrase (“steal”) others’ questions (to redirect focus away from the speaker). How sad that Councilman Winkler actually thanked the prez for allowing discussion — as if Gazzerro was granting a favor — that is Council’s RIGHT and RESPONSIBILITY that the VOTERS granted and the Constitution upholds, NOT a gift to be given or withheld at the whim of his lordship.

The mayor was his typical self. Lots of words. Lots of attitude. Rude. This is the person who is running for State Rep. Ugh.

What’s up with Main Street??

Main Street Association won’t share the minutes of their meetings — not with the public or even with council members. I heard their meetings are closed, but I never tried to attend one so can’t verify that.

Ann Feldman asked for a copy of Main Street’s minutes and was denied. That was a surprise! So, she asked for them as a member of council. After all, Council gave them $25K two years in a row, so Council should be privy to MSA’s meetings, right? Nope. That didn’t matter. Plaugher denied Councilor Feldman’s request for a copy of MSA’s minutes.

So, Feldman filed an appeal with the Office of Open Records –> http://public.zipcloud.com/dql77dusv0.16165371.

Main Street Association’s attorney, Jay Fischer, filed a response –> http://public.zipcloud.com/dql7e8wkn2.16165371

What’s interesting about MSA’s response is that pages 4 and 5 are missing from their Articles of Incorporation, and info in their bylaws was obviously whited-out. Why would MSA want to keep info from the Office of Open Records? Why, it sure does look like they’re hiding something, doesn’t it?

The OOR is supposed to provide their decision within 30 days (unless they request an extension). This should be interesting.

So, hey, if you’re bored, go ahead and file your own Right to Know Request with Main Street for a copy of their minutes. Maybe you’ll have more luck.

Be at the March 19th Council Meeting

Ordinance 2014-05 has been advertised in the Daily Lacka News and will be adopted this Wednesday the 19th. A big thank you to the people who attended and spoke out at the March 5th meeting. The one person who said he’s okay with 2014-05 just happens to be on Main Street Association and needs to stay in Council’s good favor in order to get his skate park built in the flood plain in the middle of Kerr Park. Other than him, citizens were not in favor of Council adopting this ordinance. Really good questions were raised, but Council Prez Gazzerro and Councilor Rakoff plowed ahead to get it voted on (with a minimal change proposed by favored newbie Pat McGlone). The solicitor said he hadn’t really read the ordinance, so wouldn’t you think Council would want him to read it over prior to taking a vote?? Nah.

Why is Council going to pass 2014-05 that creates a Human Resources Commission? Is it because the LGBT community is not protected against housing and employment discrimination? Nope. That can’t be the reason, because Council does not have the ability or authority to provide protection. Even though everyone on Council was in agreement that LGBTs should be protected from employment and housing discrimination, the State does not currently provide such protection. If the State doesn’t have a law about it, the Borough can’t take it upon themselves and create their own. Imagine what laws this Council would make, if they didn’t have to comply with State law! The Borough cannot enforce anti-discrimination acts against LGBTs, because the State has not given them the authority to do so. It’s as simple as that.

So, why is Council going ahead with this ordinance when it could land the them in court? More than likely, it’s because Josh Maxwell is running for a spot on the State Legislature. This ordinance would be a fine feather in his cap and would appeal to the LGBT voters, right? Let’s hope not. Any person with half a brain can see that this ordinance is NOT enforceable and NOT legal. It’s nothing more than a political stunt at the taxpayers’ expense. It is powerless to protect LGBTs against housing and employment discrimination. There are no laws in PA that provide such protection at this time.

Welcome to Downingtown. Check your rights at the door, please.

Ordinance 2014-05 Human Relations Commission also known as Ordinance 2014-05. Just like bad wine and limburger cheese, this ordinance pairs perfectly with the older Ordinance 2011-13 (Borough exempts itself, and anyone building on borough property, from complying with the zoning laws).

Ordinance 2014-05 adds Chapter 90 “Borough of Downingtown Human Relations Commission.” Sounds all nice and warm & fuzzy, doesn’t it? Sure. Nice and fuzzy just like Stalin in a teddy bear costume.

Actually, the PA Human Relations Commission was established in 1955, and it is a pretty solid Act. It was amended in June 1997 by Act 34 of 1997 (43 P.S. 951-963). Look at the dates. In 1955 discrimination was rampant and measures were needed to ensure that minorities and others were not discriminated against for housing and employment opportunities. Sixty years later, we have the Equal Employment Oppty Commission (EEOC), the Fair Housing Act, and volumes of case law that clearly define discrimination and defend people from being discriminated against. So, WHY would we add another layer of bureaucracy provided by lay people and at the taxpayers’ expense?? And WHY would we allow our elected officials to “deputize” volunteers to decide our fate? Those are good questions to ask on Wednesday.

With the adoption of Ord 2014-05 Council would appoint five citizens to hear discrimination complaints (who needs courts or the Constitution?). There are two options. (1) The Commission could just hear discrimination complaints and try to get the parties to play nice by using “persuasion, conference, or conciliation”, or (2) The Commission could adopt “expanded procedures”. Those expanded procedures are mighty scary to anyone who embraces the Constitution. Hey, isn’t Borough Council supposed to embrace the Constitution? Don’t they take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Pennsylvania and to execute the duties of their office with fidelity*? Why, yes they do! Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute. The Council prez Chip Gazzerro said in a public meeting that he doesn’t really know the Constitution (right after he tried to prevent Councilor Feldman from speaking as a citizen). How can he (or the rest of Council) support the Constitution if he (they) doesn’t even know it?? Disgraceful. It’s like putting chimpanzees in charge of a construction site; there’s a lot of activity, but most of it ends up in disaster for someone else to clean up.

This “expanded” Commission will have the authority to subpoena other citizens (“gimme your private records and shaddup about that there 5th Amendment.”), listen to testimony from attorneys, accept evidence (ah, but the rules of evidence are relaxed. Hearsay anyone?), and then act as judge and jury to decide if the “accused” is “guilty” of discriminatory practices. Why, they even get to impose hefty fines (we’re talking five figures).

Ah, and let’s not forget about the cost to taxpayers. This expanded Commission can hire people, and there will be attorney fees.

Scared, yet? I am.

* FIDELITY
1. strict observance of promises, duties, etc.: a servant’s fidelity.
2. loyalty: fidelity to one’s country.
3. conjugal faithfulness.
4. adherence to fact or detail.
5. accuracy; exactness: The speech was transcribed with great fidelity.

Who has the Power?

Who has the Power in this borough? Does the Power reside with the People? Not in Downingtown, that’s for sure. The Council President has decided that the Power is his to wield, and his alone.

Although 36% of Downingtown had no power, Council President Gazzerro refused to cancel last night’s council meeting. That’s right. Refused. According to PECO, they service 3,700 customers in Downingtown Borough. Yesterday, 1,317 of those customers were without power.

What was so important that the meeting could not be postponed until Feb 19th? Nothing. Nothing at all. However, President Gazzerro knew that most people would stay home due to the storm, and that’s exactly what he wanted — a meeting that was not well attended — particularly when he and his cronies were going to abolish a commission that has been around for 85 years, has been successful, has done nothing wrong, and has many supporters who were planning to attend the meeting. He knew most residents would stay home, because that’s what most rational people do when there’s a state of emergency, or they have no power, or a tree might fall on their house at any moment.

Ah, but there’s the rub. Rational people stay home, but irrational, duplicitous, sneaky, conniving council presidents (and mayor and council members) use that situation to their advantage. This was Gazzerro’s opportunity to do what he wanted while avoiding any responsibility towards his constituents to hear and consider what they want for the future of their borough.

The Council President, Chip Gazzerro, is so irrational that one must wonder if medical intervention should be sought, and quickly. He appointed new council member Pat McGlone as the liaison to the Historical & Parks Commission, knowing that it would be dissolved less than 10 minutes later! Where’s the sense in that?? Councilor Feldman then made a motion to re-appoint Tricia Hartoonian as a commissioner to H&P (or to whatever it becomes). It was voted down, of course. No surprise there. What was surprising is that Gazzerro actually questioned why Councilor Feldman made theh motion to re-appoint Hartoonian since the Commission was being dissolved. Seriously?? He had just appointed McGlone to H&P! Did he not realize how stupid he sounded? Apparently not. He would have to have insight and an ounce of sense in order to see the contradiction and sheer stupidity of his comment. Sadly, he appears to have neither insight nor sense.

Obviously, he has other designs that he and his minions have not made public. Perhaps it has something to do with the 501c3 Sullins mentioned and the significant amount of H&P’s money that now becomes the Borough’s (and the 501c3’s?) to spend as they please.

So, who has the power? Whoever is crafty enough to steal it from the People and get away with it, that’s who. Those are the same people who routinely abuse it — Gazzerro, Mayor Maxwell, DeStefano, Rakoff, Sullins, the borough solicitors, their favored 501c3s, two or three favored developers, a few favored businesses, and their devotees.

It’s time for the People to take their power back.

“Nefarious” – Extremely Wicked or Villainous

That describes the actions of four borough council members (with lots of help from the mayor, the borough manager, the borough solicitor, and most likely Main Street Association). The four members are: Council president Chip Gazzerro, Council VP Alex Rakoff, Cara DeStefano, and newcomer Pat McGlone. They already voted once to abolish H&P, and they will be voting on it again on Feb 5th. You can listen to the 7 1/2 minute audio of the Jan 15th meeting here http://youtu.be/rAjB7uRdoKQ. Their current plan is to completely abolish the Historical & Parks Commission. Council members Nick Winkler and Ann Feldman knew nothing of this proposal or decision prior to the Jan 15th meeting.

There are plenty of juicy details to this story…plenty…but you’ll have to come back after the 5th to read about them. For now, know that four members of Borough Council, the Mayor, and the Borough Administration (with help from their pals at Main Street Association, I’m sure) want to disband a Commission of very effective, dedicated volunteers (no cost to the taxpayers) and take over H&P’s responsibilities (paid staff and $25K in the 2014 budget for Main Street Association). Are you disgusted yet? Then please show it by emailing all of Council and showing up at the Feb 5th meeting in support of keeping the Historical & Parks Commission and keeping it out of Council’s, Main Street’s, and Administration’s grubby mitts.

(less) Access to our Local Government

 

 

http://www.dailylocal.com/opinion/20131120/public-notices-must-remain-in-the-newspaper

 The state Legislature is considering measures that some lawmakers are trying to sell as a means of reforming local government, bringing it into the 21st Century and saving money.

But the legislation will not accomplish either of those goals.

The General Assembly is considering several bills that would relieve local governments from having to advertise meetings, solicitations for bids on contracts, ordinances, regulations and other business in newspapers of general circulation.

The measures would permit local governments to advertise such things by posting notices on their websites.

Maybe that seems like it would bring Pennsylvania’s antiquated patchwork of local governments into the digital age. But as with just about any effort borne of good intentions, there are unintended — or maybe intended — consequences.

In essence, this would give government control over information, something that is not healthy in a democracy. It would give government the opportunity to bury controversial proposals deep in the spider-webbed corners of its sites. It could limit local governments’ ability to cast a wide net when seeking bids for contracts.

It would create the impression that government is being less transparent at a time when trust of government, from Washington to Harrisburg to your local town hall, is at an all-time low. It doesn’t take much imagination to foresee a time when local governments bury public notices in their websites, probably as .pdf files that only open half the time or cause your browser to crash. It’s not like many local governments are going to take to social media to spread the word that they are looking for new trash haulers.

And even if they did, would it lead to wider dissemination of public notices?

No.

Newspapers reach 83 percent of adults every week. Newspapers also already have fully embraced digital technology and have a searchable database of public notices, at publicnoticepa.com, provided at no cost to local governments.

Those who would miss public notices include senior citizens, farmers, the poor, the disabled and minorities. Some 22 percent of Pennsylvanians don’t have Internet access. Just 41 percent of farmers do. As much as 59 percent of the disabled population lacks Internet access in their homes.

Yes, newspapers have a vested interest in keeping these ads in their pages. But newspapers also have an interest in protecting the public trust.

And newspapers aren’t alone in opposing this measure. Among those joining in opposition are the AARP, the League of Women Voters, the Disability Rights Network of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Council of Churches.

It’s not just a newspaper, or a media, issue. It is a good government issue.

The notion that it would save tax dollars is a fallacy, not factoring in the cost of establishing and maintaining a digital repository of public notices.

It may appear that the idea is to bring local government up to date. But the reality is it would be a step backwards.

If the Legislature is really interested in bringing local government into the 21st Century, maybe it should focus on property tax reform. That would benefit all Pennsylvanians and not just the few public officials inconvenienced by having to advertise what they’re doing in their local newspaper.