HAPPY BIRTHDAY, AMERICA!

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While you’re enjoying a happy and safe 4th of July, take a moment to consider WHY fireworks are part of today’s celebration. Imagine for just a minute the sacrifices of the men, women, and families 239 years ago in their quest to “secure the Blessings of Liberty” for themselves and future generations.  Don’t let it be in vain.  Keep fighting to protect our freedom with YOUR VOTE.  It’s every American’s right AND duty!

If you aren’t registered to vote in PA, download and print a Voter Registration form here.  You can find out about the Presidential candidates at this site www.ontheissues.org.  Their mission is:

to provide non-partisan information for voters in the Presidential election, so that votes can be based on issues rather than on personalities and popularity.

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More Borough Building Blunders?

Molly’s went belly-up in only a year.  The borough managed to get the $75K out of escrow and using the money to put in the parking lot that Molly’s was supposed to complete prior to opening.  Interesting that Molly’s got their certificate of occupancy and borough approvals to open for business when they didn’t have any parking.  This blog isn’t about Molly’s, though.  That was just the opening act.

For their next act, the borough is selling the 66-car public parking lot next to Molly’s so it can become an eight-story behemoth (seven stories above and one below ground level) complete with 6,540 sq ft of retail space, 72 “upscale apartment units”, and a parking garage that supposedly provides 83 public parking spaces.  The number of public parking spaces is artificial.  Read on to see why.

You can click on the following links to see the Tripoint Union Place proposal, the parking lot as it exists today, as well as the Daily Local News write-up.  Before going any further there are a couple of things to say up front.  Changing the municipal parking lot into a mixed use development isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  As a matter of fact, Georgio had a remarkably similar plan that he presented to the Planning Commission a few years back.  Georgio’s plan also offered mixed use and quite a few more public parking spots.  But, certain people in the Borough don’t like Georgio.  Perhaps they’re jealous of a man who immigrated from Greece as a teenager, didn’t know any English, wasn’t from a privileged background, and yet went on to become a very successful business and property owner.  Not surprisingly, the reception to Georgio’s idea was chilly.  A member of the Planning Commission responded by telling him to go build his “empire” somewhere else.  Ah, but now that someone they LIKE presented a similar plan, it’s a super idea and front page news!

Let’s look at what the Borough Code says about required parking:

1.  According to the Borough Code, apartments must provide TWO spaces PER UNIT.  So, 72 units equals 144 required parking spaces.  But, the proposed plan provides ONE parking space PER BEDROOM.  There are 14 two-bedroom apartments and 58 one-bedroom apartments.  How convenient.  Instead of providing 144 parking spaces as required by the Borough Code, the developer would only have to provide 86 spaces.  Are all 58 “upscale” one-bedroom apartments going to be occupied by only ONE person with only ONE car (and a really good salary in order to afford the upscale apartment)?  Unlikely!

2.  According to the Borough code, retail businesses must provide one parking space for every 250 sq. ft. of retail sales space.  To make the math easy, let’s assume 1,540 sq. ft. will not be used for retail sales, which leaves 5,000 sq. ft. of sales area.  That means 20 parking spaces are required to support 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space.  The proposal has ZERO spaces allocated for the retail locations.  In fact, the bottom of page 3 states, “Retail customers will be able to use the easily accessible public parking lot in the building’s parking garage.”   Council  has been (and still is) schizophrenic, particularly when it comes to parking.  Fee-in-lieu charges have varied from $250 to $2,500 per parking space.  Off-site parking is allowed for some but not others, etc.  It keeps things interesting.

3.  IF COMPLYING WITH THE BOROUGH CODE, the number of parking spaces required to support 72 apartments and 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space is 166 parking spaces.  If you add in the existing 66 public parking spaces, the total would be 232 parking spaces.  The proposed development would provide a total of 171 parking spaces, which is a LOSS of 61 public parking spaces.

Another point of interest with the parking is the money.  First of all, Council (except Feldman) recently voted to spend $115K on parking kiosks.  What will happen to the kiosk planned for this particular lot?  Can the Borough get their money back?  Second, the developer (Tripoint Properties owned by Andy Hicks) proposes that the profits from the public parking fees would be split with the borough 50/50.  50% of the profits, not 50% of the gross receipts.  The costs of the parking “arm” and maintenance would be deducted first.  The borough currently receives 100% of the parking fees (and violations) of 66 spots.  Unless parking fees are raised, the borough sill lose money on the parking.

Just for fun let’s walk through one possible scenario.

John and Jane Doe are young professionals ready to start their life together.  They decided to rent an “upscale” apartment instead of buying a home and building equity.  The one-bedroom apartment is a bit pricey, but they can swing it with two incomes.

Problem #1:  They have only one designated parking spot, which John insists is for Jane to use (chivalry is not dead).  There are no overflow spots, so John has to use one of the public parking spots, which creates an additional monthly expense for the young couple.

Problem #2:  The retail locations on ground level, the new restaurant next door (that also lacks adequate parking), the local businesses, and the new McDonald’s are fabulously popular now that the Borough has an “upscale” and “urban” feel.  That’s great, right?  Not for John.  It’s 5:30 on Friday, and John has been sitting in local traffic for 45 minutes along with the other tenants in their quest to get home before bedtime.  John finally gets to the garage only to find that it’s full.  Now what?  There are no options other than to park in another lot illegally (and risk getting towed) or park on a nearby street.  John’s glad it isn’t winter and icy…yet.  Jane doesn’t add to the traffic congestion, since she’s a nurse and works odd hours.  John and Jane are pretty smart and have figured out how to ensure they’ll always have a parking spot.  Whenever possible, they use Jane’s car from their reserved space and leave John’s car in the public lot.  Their neighbors do the same.  Hey, public parking is first come, first served, and John (and the other 71 tenants) were there first.

Problem #3:  John’s turning 30!  Happy birthday, John!  Jane wants to invite a few friends over to see their new place and to celebrate John’s birthday.  See Problem #2 and multiply it by the number of guests invited.

Problem #4:  John finds a spot in a far corner of the lower level that is often open, and happily parks there.  He takes the elevator up to his and Jane’s lovely new apartment and looks forward to a weekend of relaxation.  Then the rain starts.  The light rain quickly turns to a major storm, and Downingtown is flooded once again.  John and others who parked on the lower level file their insurance claims on Monday.  The good news is that John and Jane don’t need that second parking spot anymore.  The money they used to spend on public parking is now being saved to buy a new car for John.

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.