Are Fair Housing Rules being Broken in the Mt. Pleasant Community of Tredyffrin? How Can we Help these Residents?

If you have been following the St. Davids Golf Club and the ongoing sidewalk saga, you have probably seen Christine Johnson, who has attended and spoke out at recent Board of Supervisors meetings.  A passionate Mt. Pleasant resident, Christine has been very vocal in her support of sidewalks and of her Panhandle community.  I have written several posts concerning the struggles of Christine and her neighbors re college housing and associated planning and zoning issues; and police enforcement (primarily noise and speeding concerns in the community). 

Back in the fall at a Board of Supervisors meeting there was agreement to conduct meetings between Mt. Pleasant neighbood members and township representatives including the police, zoning officer, township engineer and supervisors.  Informal discussions were held and a town hall meeting was planned with the residents in mid-December.  Unfortunately, that meeting was cancelled due to snow.  Another town hall meeting date was chosen for early 2010 but again that meeting needed to be cancelled due to snow. 

As far as I know, a third date has not been chosen for the town hall meeting. This ongoing situation is frustrating for Christine and her Mt. Pleasant neighbors . . . as the problems with college rentals and zoning issues remains unsolved. I am committed to providing updates and to continue to shine light on Mt. Pleasant’s challenges until we can reach a resolution on their problems.

Christine in her quest to research and better understand her rights as a resident of Mt. Pleasant community has reached out to the Fair Housing Council of Suburban Philadelphia.  Based on the information that Christine is providing below, there has been some stretching of the fair housing laws by some of the landlords in the advertising of college housing in Mt. Pleasant. 

I know that Tredyffrin Township does not have specific zoning regulations that deal with college rentals as do some of the neighboring municipalities.  As a first step, I think we need to get the town hall meeting back on the schedule and then start working on helping the Mt. Pleasant folks.  I think Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Kichline are onboard to represent the Board of Supervisors; can I appeal to help find a new date for the town hall meeting?

     Violating Fair Housing Laws

According the the Fair Housing Act,  you cannot discriminate against families.  Shouldn’t famillies have the chance to  live in Mt. Pleasant?  I’m sick of seeing our houses advertised as “Rental – Student Approved”  “Student Approved House” “Villanova Student Rental” “College Rental” “Great for College Students” etc, etc, etc.

When describing your rental, please be aware the misuse of a phrase can, however innocently used, be in violation of federal fair housing laws. The list below is fromHousing Opportunities Made Equal (HOME) www.homeny.org:

The following list of words and phrases are considered to be in violation of the federal fair housing laws when used in advertising of the sale or rental of housing because they may indicate a preference, limitation or discrimination to the ordinary reader. This list is not all-inclusive but should be used as a guide and example of unacceptable language.

  1. Max 2 people, 3rd extra charge
  2. Great for one
  3. 1 Person pref.
  4. ideal for couple
  5. ideal for working couple
  6. ideal for adults
  7. Suitable for couple
  8. In quiet adult community
  9. perfect for working single
  10. adults pref.
  11. ideal for 2 adults
  12. professional & students only
  13. looking for professional
  14. mature adults
  15. professional couple pref.
  16. 1 person pref.
  17. employed couple or single
  18. ideal for a single
  19. employed male/student
  20. ideal for students
  21. ideal for single person /couple
  22. perfect for students
  23. suits 1-2 employed adult/student
  24. Ideal for male/female
  25. great for students
  26. no pets or children
  27. max 2 people
  28. ideal for single female
  29. working single
  30. male/female suitable for one
  31. 2 bedroom maximum/2 person occupancy
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A Couple of Political Points of Interest . . .

I found a couple of interesting political notes in the last couple of days . . .

On the Republican side:  Phoenixville Councilman Ken Buckwalter (R) who is running in the Pennsylvania State House 157 primary race, has received an endorsement from longtime friend Ed Shanaughy.  You may not know Ed personally but I bet that you know his restaurant – Our Deli in Paoli (with the large steer out front).  Ed served as president of Paoli Fire Company for 35 years, recently stepping down (John Beatty is now president) to become the fire company’s Chairman of the Board.  As a Director of Paoli Business and Professional Association, Ed serves with me on the Board as Director Emeritus.  

Both Ken and Ed are local small business owners and have known each other for 30 years; in fact Ken attributes some of his early success with Buckwalter Framing to Ed’s support.  Ken Buckwalter stated in his press release,

To have his [Ed Shanaughy] endorsement is gratifying.  I had stated at the candidate interviews in early February that I live in one major end of the district and have done business for many years in the other.  I am well-known throughout, and my public service is largely without controversy.”

On the Democrat side:  I found this next political tidbit an interesting sidebar on the local Pennsylvania Senate primary race,  Senator Arlen Specter (D) vs. Congressman Joe Sestak (D).  Yesterday in a press release, Specter claimed that Sestak does not pay all his campaign staffers a living wage, or even the minimum wage, unless they are a member of his family.  Specter’s report shows Sestak employees receiving what appears to be far less than the minimum wage.  The response from Sestak’s camp is that those are all part-time employees who split their time; people who work 10 percent of their time for the campaign. 

In a second press release today, Specter called for Sestak to clarify the reports, or turn himself into the authorities for violating minimum wage law requirements. Sestak’s email response to Specter’s latest pronouncement,

“It’s a shame with the enormous challenges facing our country that Senator Specter is spending his time working on this, rather than focusing on getting our economy in shape or reforming our healthcare system. This kind of petty diversion and focus on personal attacks is why so many people hate Washington-style politics.”

The Mega-Billion Dollar Lawsuits of Brian O’Neill and Citizens Bank Will Not Keep Wegmans Supermarket from Opening!

Like many people I have been watching the progress (or lack there of) of the Uptown Worthington project on Route 29 in Malvern. Back in the fall, Citizens Bank had sued Brian O’Neill and O’Neill Properties for $61 million, claiming that the company had defaulted on bank loans. Last month, Brian O’Neill countersued Citizens Bank for $8 billion in damages ($4 billion in compensatory damages and $4 billion in punitive damages), claiming that the bank wrongly called for loans before they were due and that the bank did not follow through with their end of the agreement with construction financing. With O’Neill and Citizens Bank pointing fingers at each other, I was concerned where that left the project. I feared that Uptown Worthington would just become a very expensive mud hole, and one we could look at from 202 for years to come.

The $540 million Uptown Worthington mixed-town center plan called for 752,500 square feet of lifestyle retail space, 227,960 square feet of office space, 753 residential units and 160,000 square feet of hotel space. The site location of Uptown Worthington is on Route 29, between Route 202 and Route 30 in Malvern. My real fascination with this project, beyond the obvious unfinished appearance of the 100 acre site, was the Wegmans supermarket story. A planned anchor store at the Uptown Worthington center, construction had continued on Wegmans. But after multiple delayed openings, I wondered if the grocery store would remain shuttered; a byproduct of the legal wrangling of O’Neill and Citizens Bank.

Good news. I received what I hope is official news; Wegmans supermarket is nearing completion and is set to open in June! Further good news, Wegmans has decided to model the Worthington location after the Collegeville Wegmans. Yes, our new Wegmans will have ‘The Pub’ inside the supermarket. Of the 75 stores in the Wegmans chain, the Collegeville store was the only one with a supermarket pub. This was a social experiment of sorts, connecting one of life’s most mundane chores of grocery-shopping with something that could go a long way toward blunting its misery: alcohol. I have a husband that hates running out to the grocery store, but that attitude may change with the opening of Wegmans. Wegmans will offer spirits for consumption on the premises and will also sell six-packs of beer for carryout. For the singles in the area, there’s even a chance for romance. Apparently, the pub at Collegeville’s Wegmans is reporting one engagement – with the happy couple toasted with champagne.

The Pub experiment at the Wegmans Collegeville location was intended to fill a gap in the store’s Market Café complex, where shoppers can buy prepared foods either to take out or to eat at nearby tables. The Pub is a full-service restaurant where you have a complete meal and enjoy a drink with the meal. Assuming that our Malvern Wegmans stays with the Collegeville model, domestic 12-oz beers go for $3.75; 15-oz drafts range from $3-4. Wine is $5 a glass. Cocktails – $5.25 to $10. And no tipping allowed! The notion being that you don’t tip the guy at the deli counter for a pound of roast beef. I wonder if Wegmans thinks that if you have a drink or two, you may end of running up that grocery tab. You come in, have a couple of cocktails and may buy all sorts of things you didn’t come in for.

Our new Worthington Wegmans supermarket is advertising that it will be open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The opening of Wegmans is just one more reason to countdown to spring!

Semi-Automatic Weapons in Valley Forge National Historical Park . . . Do You Feel Safer?

This past week brought much discussion on Community Matters about sidewalks, trails and paths.  Several people suggested that if you want to walk or bicycle, why not just use the paths at Valley Forge National Historical Park.  With that in mind, I wrote the following post with the hope of engaging some lively discussion.

______________________________________________________

The next time you decide to visit Valley Forge Park to enjoy a bicycle ride or an afternoon of sledding with the kids, are you going to feel safer? 

Did you know that as of this week, fellow visitors with proper gun permits can legally pack heat inside our national parks, including Valley Forge National Historical Park?

Yes, a law that took effect Monday lifted the long-standing ban on bringing guns into our national parks.  In Valley Forge National Historical Park, as we walk the trails and enjoy family picnics, tourists will be allowed to carry guns – handguns, rifles, shotguns and AK-47s. Now, as long as guns are allowed by state law, licensed gun owners can bring firearms on park property.  Guns will be allowed in all but about 20 of the park service’s 392 locations, including some of its most iconic parks: Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon, Great Smoky Mountains, Yosemite and Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as historic parks, including our own Valley Forge National Historical Park. Guns will not be allowed in visitor centers or rangers’ offices, because firearms are banned in federal buildings, but they could be carried into private lodges or concession stands, depending on state laws.

The new rule allows people to carry firearms, including semi-automatic weapons, in most national parks and wildlife refuges, so long as they follow the gun laws of the state. (That could get a little complicated, as more than 30 parks occupy land in multiple states.) The rule means people can now carry concealed weapons while camping in places like Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and Yosemite.

I admit up front that I am one of the people with issues concerning the availability of guns in this country.  My stance on stricter gun control rules will certainly strike a chord among some of the readers. I know the argument that strict gun control does not reduce crime because it does not keep weapons out of the hands of criminals. Criminals do not abide by waiting periods or registration requirements. The only people affected by these so-called “gun control” measures are law-abiding citizens, who are rendered less able to resist crime. However almost daily, our world is filled with news of gun violence in this country . . . in shopping malls, on college campuses, office buildings.

Gun crimes in any setting are horrific. However, crimes committed on the grounds of an academic institution take on an almost macabre air because of the serene atmosphere associated with such places. Gun violence on school campuses is a stark reminder that guns cannot discriminate amongst their victims, nor can they discern the intentions of those who wield them. This is repeated so often that it may as well be a cliché. If events over the past decade are any indicator, no positive response seems forthcoming. Though it is a human who pulls the trigger, there is no violent crime without the proverbial smoking gun. National parks [Valley Forge National Historical Park] like our educational institutions, are places that enshrine the ideals of knowledge and tranquility . . . should we not feel beholden to preserve these places as a utopian ideal for the future?  Do we want to be remembered as the generation that put guns into paradise?

The way I see it there are two camps on this.  First, there are the people who will feel safer knowing that they can be armed in our national parks, just in case they run into troublesome people or dangerous wildlife.  The second group will feel more unsafe.  You willl never know who is armed, and anytime there is a confrontation, firearms bring a whole new sense of alarm into the equation.  Once you pull that trigger, there’s no taking it back.  From my vantage point, toting firearms into our national parks poses a serious threat to the public.  There, I said it. Personally, the next time I am walking in Valley Forge National Historical Park, I am not going to feel safer knowing that fellow visitors on the path may be legally packing a weapon.

The new law permitting licensed gun owners to bring firearms into national parks has come over the objections of gun-control advocates who fear it will lead to increased violence in national parks.  Responding to the new law, John Waterman, President, US Park Rangers Lodge, Fraternal Order of Police offered the following statement:

The Ranger Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police has opposed this ill-considered law from the beginning. The new law goes beyond concealed carry to include all guns anytime.  The chances of an inexperienced visitor who has not seen a bear or buffalo wandering through a campground, gets frightened and takes out the now readily available firearm and shoots blindly at an animal or a person in a misguided effort to “protect themselves” from a perceived threat is now increased.  Allowing untrained and unlicensed people carrying guns in National Parks is an invitation to disaster. It puts the safety of the public and rangers at increased risk and virtually invites the desecration of our natural and historic treasures. 

Pennsylvania has fairly loose restrictions on carrying guns.  As long as a person is legally entitled to own a firearm – for instance they must have no past felony convictions, mental-health commitments or protection-from-abuse order restrictions – there is little stop a person from carrying a gun in public. I am sure that there will be readers who completely disagree with my position on the danger of guns in Valley Forge National Historical Park.  In fact, I am certain that some people will suggest that their ‘right’ to carry a gun should not stop at the park entrance.   

Township Lawsuit . . . Where Does it Stand?

I received the following from John Petersen this morning in regards to the township lawsuit.  There has been much discussion and debate concerning the lawsuit; I think it is important that the facts be presented in John’s own words.

Just so everyone is clear about the [law]suit – I did speak with Tom Hogan at length on Tuesday. I have decided, for the time being, to stand down on the suit so that the subcommittee can go forward.

However….

I have made it clear that the new subcommittee cannot suffer the same fate as the BAWG. I, along with many of the people here, will pay close attention to happens with that process. I note with interest, the stimulus funds that have been received on behalf of sidewalks. I do wonder what this new process means for those funds….

I want to leave you with Bruce Parkinson’s comments:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8aILCXIcLQ

When he looked to his left, he was looking at me: re his comments about this matter being a “political football”. If there is a political football, it is because Kampf, Lamina, and especially Olson, have made it so. My issue is about following the rules. Parkinson on the the other hand, apparently believes that as a member of the club and the club itself, is subject to a different set of rules. And to that end, the government can break its own rules for the benefit of the club and its members. At least, I think that is what he was saying. When it comes to political footballs, I take Parkinson’s comments to be nothing short of a political threat.

in other words, they were instrumental in getting people like Olson back on the board…they could be instrumental in getting people removed. In other words, Parkinson was telling the BOS to “play ball.” There is simply no other way to take his comments.

For the record, Parkinson is a local committee for the GOP and is also a member of the county GOP executive committee. Further, he was chairman of the building committee in 2005 when the development was approved.

Parkinson was the one, along with the club president, to agree to the sidewalks. You didn’t hear him talk about that on Monday….did you????

I simply do not have any more time to waste on folks that are so intellectually weak that they could be placed in a position to break the rules (Kampf, Lamina, Olson and Richter). And for sure, I don’t have any more time and patience to deal with the country club set and that faction of the GOP that believes it is OK to corrupt the government so long as it suits their needs.

I believe that if I went to court, I would prevail. However, that victory would not result in a thorough review of the sidewalks, trails and paths. That is what the subcommittee is supposed to do.

If it turns out to be a ruse, there will a stiff price to pay for that.

Political committee seats folks..that is where the path to taking our government and community back begins. That is what I’ll be concentrating on now.

Views from the High School, Part I: Conestoga Students Support Their Teachers During TESD Budget Discussion

Members of Conestoga High School editorial staff weighed in on the District’s 2010-11 budget deficit in a recent issue of The Spoke. There were a couple of editorials that I found of particular interest and will post them separately.  This Op/Ed piece indicates student support for their teachers; attributing their educational successes to the faculty.  Based on past TESD budget and teacher union commentary on this site, views from our high school students present another interesting angle.  Do you think that the views of these specific students are representative of the student body?  Do you think that the teachers influence the students; in hopes that the students will help influence their parents (the taxpayers)?  Comments, anyone?

With early dismissal of school today, maybe local teachers and students can offer their opinions.  I will provide Views from the High School, Part II in a separate post.

Printed originally on p. 7 of The Spoke’s Feb. 23, 2010 edition.

Unsigned editorials represent the views of The Spoke editorial board, and not necessarily those of the administration, student body, community or advertisers.

      Defining our education

The recent economic downturn is affecting all corners of the country, causing numerous financial problems and leading to the loss of millions of dollars and jobs, both at the national and the local level.

As evidenced by the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District’s budget proposal for next year, the school board is also experiencing economic pressures as it tries to overcome a $9.25 million deficit without sacrificing the quality of the district’s educational program.

Nevertheless, to the consternation of many students and parents, the school board is making an age-old mistake. When tackling budget issues, all businesses naturally target areas with large expenditures. For schools, this leads to the reduction of some very important individuals: the teachers.

In a draft of budget reduction proposals discussed on Feb. 8, the school board’s finance committee acknowledged that “change is particularly challenging in schools where success has become the norm.” While this may be true, the board must also recognize that any success of the students is directly attributable to the high caliber teaching staff we have in the district today.

Still, several proposals in the budget draft will undoubtedly affect some of the most commendable employees in the field. Part of the proposal states that 19 teachers, including those who plan to retire or resign, will no longer be part of the school district next year. An increase in the number of instructional periods for Conestoga teachers is also recommended in the draft.

If this latter suggestion becomes a mandate, high school teachers will have to bear the brunt of extra pressure. An integral part of the school community, teachers serve as accomplished role models for students both inside and outside the classroom. Always available during school, teachers nurture individual student growth and help create learned citizens of the world—all this in a day’s work.

In fairness to the board, we in T/E are facing trying times, and difficult decisions must be made. However, teachers are invaluable resources that cannot be removed simply to alleviate economic woes. They are the most important and influential members of the school community and sacrificing them—though it may offer temporary economic relief—will only have a detrimental effect on the overall growth of students.

The suggestions made in the budget draft are not set in stone, though, and any ideas presented in the proposal can be changed. We, the Conestoga student body, need to step up. If you don’t like certain aspects of the proposal, then make your voice heard. Instead of showing your displeasure through Facebook posts, go to a school board meeting and directly address those who are involved in the decision-making process. It is, after all, your education. It’s your future.

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Cable Show Hosts Bill DeHaven & Dan D’Addizio Invite John Petersen for an Episode

Former Township Supervisor Bill DeHaven and sidekick Dan D’Addizio have hosted the local cable TV show, The Good, The Bad, The Ugly for several years.  Their lively discussion on township situations runs the gamut from traffic issues to local politics and everything in between.  Down-home charm, amusing stories and their honest way of looking at everyday issues have created a perfect formula for Bill and Dan in the township’s cable TV line-up.  About 3 years ago, Judy DiFilippo and I had the pleasure of joining Bill and Dan on their show to talk about the events that we had planned for Tredyffrin 300 — a wonderful experience!

Local political activist John Petersen joined Bill and Dan on the set of The Good, The Bad, The Ugly this week.  The taping occurred post-Monday night’s Board of Supervisors Meeting.  I am sure John offered his opinion on the supervisors meeting as well as providing his own local political observations. 

The Good, The Bad, The Ugly with John’s appearance is scheduled for tonight at 8 PMGrab your popcorn . . . and tune in for some lively discussion!

You can find The Good, The Bad, The Ugly as follows:

Comcast – Channel 2, Verizon – Channel 24

Air-Times:
• Sunday, 8:00 AM
• Monday, 8:00 AM
• Monday, 2:00 PM
• Thursday, 8:00 PM
• Saturday, 8:00 PM