Our Fire Companies Should Not be Political Pawns

Working together, the volunteer firefighters of Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies serve  Tredyffrin Township.  Many of our residents and their families are involved in the volunteer firefighting effort and proudly serve our community.  Firefighting is demanding. There are hours of training involved, requirements to be met, standards to uphold, and volunteer firefighters are not compensated in the traditional way. There is no big paycheck or large monetary bonus to work harder.

John DiBuonaventuro has served as a volunteer firefigher for the Paoli Fire Company for many years and is passionate in his support.  In his position as a member of the Board of Supervisors, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro also serves as the fire company liaison.  As an audience member in this week’s Board of Supervisors meeting,  I witnessed an uncomfortable exchange between Supervisors DiBuonaventuro and Warren Kampf in regards to the fire companies and their funding.  Understanding DiBuonaventuro’s long-standing support of the  fire companies vs. Kampf’s vote against full-funding of the fire companies in the township’s 2010 budget . . . one might question Supervisor Kampf’s sudden interest in our local fire companies and their funding. 

Our volunteer firefighters deserve our community’s support . . .  but I think we would all agree they should not be used as pawns in a political campaign. Today’s Main Line Suburban newspaper includes the following As I See It opinion article, The continual politicization of our fire services, which speaks directly to this topic.

    As I See It: The continual politicization of our fire services

By John V. Petersen

As if the big cardboard-check moment during the Dec. 12, 2009 Tredyffrin Township Board of Supervisors meeting wasn’t enough, we had another play at Monday night’s BOS meeting involving the fire service as a political football. As we all know, Warren Kampf, current Tredyffrin BOS member and previous chairman, is seeking to challenge Rep. Paul Drucker for the State Representative seat for the 157th Legislative District. At Monday night’s BOS meeting, Mr. Kampf stated that he met with members of the Berwyn Fire Company and the topic of a stable long-term firefighter-funding source was discussed. What Mr. Kampf failed to tell the public was his visit to Berwyn was in connection with his 157th candidacy, not in his capacity as a Tredyffrin supervisor. For the record Supervisor and Paoli firefighter John “J.D.” DiBuonaventuro serves as the fire liaison.

 In that capacity, Supervisor DiBuonaventuro has had such meetings concerning the fire task force and funding with Berwyn and Paoli FDs and updates on that progress have been shared with the public, most recently at the March 1, 2010 meeting. On that same day Mr. Kampf sought the Montgomery County endorsement for the 157th and therefore did not attend the March 1 meeting and clearly was not aware that the matter was already discussed during the previous meeting.

What I find disingenuous is Mr. Kampf on one hand stating the importance of finding a stable long-term funding source for the fire companies and on the other hand, most previously in his role as BOS Chairman, supporting cuts to the fire service and at the same time retaining funding for the annual July 4 fireworks display. These two viewpoints are completely irreconcilable. It should also be noted that earlier in his tenure on the BOS, Mr. Kampf served on fire task force. Accordingly Mr. Kampf has already had an opportunity to address the issues that are currently being addressed by Supervisor DiBuonaventuro. It is clear that the only motivation here is Mr. Kampf’s pursuit of higher political office. And to that end he is seeking to use the fire service as a pawn in his political chess game. Between the big cardboard-check event and last night’s meeting, it is clear Mr. Kampf is using a public forum dedicated to township business for his own political purposes. In a word it is inappropriate.

When the firefighters and EMTs perform their heroic work, they don’t ask about party registration. To be used as a political football of sorts is to denigrate that heroic work. Ultimately Mr. Kampf is free to run his campaign as he sees fit. As citizens we have forums like this to hold candidates and office-holders accountable. All I would ask is that Mr. Kampf campaign on his own time, not during the time when the business of Tredyffrin Township is to be addressed. Further, I would ask that all candidates leave the fire service out of their political calculus. There are plenty of other matters ripe for politics. The fire service is not one of them.

John V. Petersen lives in Paoli.

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State Rep. Paul Drucker’s Bill to encourage ‘green’ building for schools passes House

News from Harrisburg . . . Our State Rep. Paul Drucker’s House Bill 689 to provide incentives for school districts to construct cleaner and more efficient schools has passed the House with a vote of 106-85.  My understanding is the roots of this legislative bill began in 2008 under former State Rep. Carole Rubley’s direction.  With some 2009/10 updating, Rep. Drucker was able to successfully move the bill through the House’s voting process.  The following is excerpted from Pennsylvania State House press release:

 Current law requires school boards to first receive voter approval before commencing any major construction plans over a certain dollar amount, including new buildings or significant renovations. That law, he said, inadvertently impedes the construction of environmentally friendly schools due to the high up-front cost, which may push the cost of green construction over the limit. House Bill 689 would exclude any costs incurred by a school district in the construction of a school building that meets the Green Building Standard from the calculation of construction costs when determining if voter approval is needed. At a minimum, Green Building Standard projects must include performance-based credits that will improve a building’s energy performance and promote the use of environmentally friendly building materials and technologies. Documentation to support the energy efficiency of the project is required. Green Building Standard projects must also employ third-party, post-construction review and have a performance record of certified green buildings in the United States.

The bill includes a requirement that Green Building Standard costs be submitted to the Pennsylvania Department of Education at the same time that construction cost estimates are submitted for approval. Drucker said that inclusion of Green Building Standard costs with construction costs would allow districts to demonstrate any long-term savings produced by investment in green building technologies.

“Over time, green buildings save money by reducing energy costs and provide a healthier internal air quality for our children,” Drucker said. “My bill would allow school districts to realize these long-term benefits without being burdened by the up-front costs associated with green building.”

Rep. Drucker’s bill will now go to the Senate for consideration and here’s hoping for a successful outcome!

Public Invitation Includes Speakers Gerlach, Toomey and Kampf . . . but Where’s Buckwalter?

A friend gave me a public invitation she received in today’s mail.  Here was a part of the invitation:

Come and Hear:

Congressman
Jim Gerlach

Tredyffrin Supervisor and State Representative candidate
Warren Kampf

Plus a Surprise Speaker!

Sponsored by Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee http://www.ttgop.com

 I am puzzled and confused by this invitation.  On February 20th,  both the Democrats and the Republicans held their nominating conventions and I wrote about both of the conventions.   For the State House Representative 157, incumbent Paul Drucker was endorsed by the Democrat Party.  However, at the Chester County Republican Convention neither Warren Kampf nor Ken Buckwalter were endorsed by the party.  After three rounds of voting (Round #3, Kampf 29 – Buckwalter 27)  the decision was to recommend, not endorse either candidate.  To receive the party’s endorsement would have required one of the candidates to receive 60% of the votes.  To read about the Chester County Republican Committee vote which I posted, click here.

So then I look at this invitation and wonder to myself if the TTGOP is sponsoring this public event in a public place (the event will be at the Strafford Library, April 12, 7-9 PM) a couple of things jumped out at me.  First thing, I wondered was where was Ken Buckwalter’s name?  Warren Kampf is recommended (just like Ken) and this is sponsored by the local Republican party, so shouldn’t both of their names appear on the invitation? Shouldn’t Ken have the same opportunity as Warren to speak at this public forum?  Was this a simple oversight . . . a miss-step . . . or what?   The opportunity to participate in this forum should be open to both candidates.  If Warren had been endorsed by the party, this would be a different matter but he was recommended, just as was Ken.  I think that Ken should be included and given the same opportunity to participate; level the playing field.

Then the next question I have about the invitation is re Jim Gerlach.  Is this invitation intended to imply that Gerlach has endorsed Warren Kampf?  That’s the way it reads to me but I don’t recall seeing a press release to that effect. Has Gerlach endorsed Kampf?  Did Gerlach OK this invitation?  Does Gerlach know that Ken Buckwalter was not included?  For the sake of party unity, I would think that Gerlach would want to treat both candidates fairly until the primary.

Now my third comment on this invitation, I was curious who the ‘surprise speaker’ was?  I did some checking around — and was able to track down the surprise speaker — Pat Toomey.  Very interesting . . . I wonder if Gerlach was told about the surprise speaker?  Interesting trio of speakers – Gerlach, Toomey and Kampf.  Comments anyone?  Do you agree that Ken Buckwalter should be asked to join this group on April 12 and given an opportunity to speak?

Bringing Attention to our Small Business Community, State Representative Paul Drucker Chooses Paoli for Re-Election Campaign Office

State Representative Paul Drucker  is kicking off his State House 157 re-election campaign and Paoli office opening this Monday, February 15.  His new campaign office is located at 12 E. Lancaster Avenue, across the street from Starbucks and the Paoli Train Station. 

Due to the economic downturn, Paoli, like so many areas of our community, has empty storefronts. Conditions for small business remain challenging.  Taking one of those storefronts for his local campaign office provides Paul with continued visibility in the community; highlights the Paoli Train Station redevelopment project; and brings attention and awareness to  Paoli’s small business community.  By keeping the flow of business and energy in the neighborhood, everyone can play a vital role in regenerating the economic growth of Tredyffrin.  I am looking forward to our community emerging from survival and in to the growth mode, ready to focus on the future again.  Supporting the business community of Tredyffrin Township supports everyone.  State Representative Drucker’s campaign office in the heart of Paoli will provide an opportunity for residents to understand the ongoing need for revitalization and encouragement of our township business community.

I applaud the choice of Paoli for State Representative Paul Drucker’s campaign office but would suggest that his website, www.votepauldrucker.com needs to be updated.  I just checked and the last entry is November 2008, following his election to the State House.

Tredyffrin’s Republican Candidate for State House 157 Withdraws from Race . . . Leaving me with the Question, Where is the Integrity and Honesty in this Township?

I have really struggled for the last 2 days as to how write this post.  On Wedneday night the TTRC held a straw poll which included the State House 157 race.  There were 3 candidates — Judy DiFilippo, Warren Kampf and Ken Buckwalter.  As a result of the straw poll, Judy did not feel that there was support from the Republican committee for her to continue in this race. 

Challenging myself to remain fair and balanced on issues, I feel compelled to speak out on this topic.  Sure, Judy and I have been the best of friends for nearly 20 years, so I openly admit to bias when I say that many Republican committee people of Tredyffrin Township simply ‘got it wrong’ on Wednesday night.  It escapes me why you would not support the person with the highest level of integrity, honesty and commitment of anyone that I know.  Judy is the kind of person who governed with honesty and fairness, as she did for 20 years as a member of the Board of Supervisors.  Judy doesn’t look at issues based on a political slant, or make decisions based on how many votes that she may ‘win’ or ‘lose’.  Judy didn’t just ‘serve’ the township, she was one of us . . . she loves this community and its residents, not because it was her ‘job’ but because she believed in us! 

But instead, many of the township Republican committee people cast their vote for Warren Kampf. Have you not been watching the actions of Mr. Kampf for the last 2 months; his decisions in regards to the BAWG report, the $50K cash offer from St. Davids, the political ‘cardboard check’ for the firefighters rather than restoring funding to the township budget, and then his latest decision . . . casting out policies and procedures of our local government in lieu of  ‘making up the rules’ and setting precedent for special treatment for a  country club. 

I know many of the Republican committee people personally so I am left wondering, when did integrity, honesty and commitment to this community and its voters stop mattering?  With her withdrawal from the race, Judy is no longer a choice for the Republican committee members. Before you take your vote to Chester County Republican Committee meeting on February 20, I would encourage you to seriously review the actions of Mr. Kampf on the Board of Supervisors (particularly during the last 2 months).  After review, I think that you should then look at Republican candidate Ken Buckwalter from Phoenixville.  I had the pleasure of meeting Ken and he represents that same type of commitment to the community as Judy.  He believes in serving all the residents with equal and measured leadership.  I want to see a May primary between current State House Rep  Paul Drucker (D) and Ken Buckwalter (R); they both represent experience, honesty and integrity.

Even as Judy makes the disappointing decision to leave the State House race, she does so with her brand of honesty and truthfulness.  Below is an email sent to her supporters:

Dear Friends –

As many of you know I have been seeking support as a candidate for the 157th State House District.  I am writing to you to let you know that today I have officially withdrawn my name from consideration. 

A straw vote taken last evening showed that the majority of the Republican Committee members have decided to support one of two other candidates.  I have called both of them and wished them well as they endeavor to win a recommendation or an endorsement.

 I want to let you know how much I appreciate the support you gave me through your words of encouragement, by your willingness to allow me to use your name on my letterhead, or by saying, ‘How can I help?’.  

 I know not what the future holds, but I know I have been blessed with your friendship.

With deepest gratitude,

 Judy

House Majority Policy Committee is Bringing Harrisburg to Tredyffrin . . . State Rep Paul Drucker to Co-Chair Redistricting Reform Hearing on January 28

I spoke with State Rep Paul Drucker this morning concerning State House Bill 2005.  Rep Drucker introduced this legislation which would reform the legislative redistricting process in Pennsylvania.  The proposed bill would change the redistricting process by reducing the opportunity for “gerrymandering”; ensuring compact and contiguous legislative and congressional districts; and provide for competitive elections throughout the state.

What is “gerrymandering”? Gerrymandering is the process of diving a region in which people vote in a way that gives one political group and unfair advantage. According to the League of Women Voters, Pennsylvania is the second-most gerrymandered state in the union.

State Rep Drucker’s legislation would establish a nine-person committee made up of the top eight legislative leaders from the House and Senate and one chairman appointed by Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Under the bill, the chairman would have to be a registered voter in Pennsylvania for at least two years, would not hold federal, state, or local office and would not have held a position within a political party in the previous 10 years.

State Rep Paul Drucker will host a House Majority Policy Committee public hearing on Thursday, January 28 at 2 PM at the Tredyffrin Township Building to discuss redistricting reform in Pennsylvania. Policy Committee Chairman Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster will co-chair the hearing with Rep Drucker.  The public is not only encouraged to attend but also to offer comments.

Roulette & Blackjack Needed to Resolve State Budget

When I decided to begin writing Community Matters, I assumed it would be issues relating to Tredyffrin Township.  But I now recognize that exploring how other areas are handling similar situations makes for an interesting comparison.  Governor Rendell’s notion for solving some of the budget issues at the state level with an expansion of the table-games bill caught my attention.  Somewhere in the dark recess of my brain, I think someone told me that Tredyffrin’s past included ‘betting’ places, and I recall one was located where Barnes & Noble now stands; this was also before there was the Valley Forge Music Fair but I believe the betting window was at that general location.  Am I dreaming this?  If Bill DeHaven is reading this, perhaps he could weigh in . . . I’m thinking that this was back in the day when he was working in Tredyffrin as a local cop.  Anyway, this is how I move from Tredyffrin’s community to my interest in using roulette and blackjack to help the state budget problems.

The clock is ticking on the state budget. Although Governor Rendell signed the budget in October there remains an unresolved issue of the table-games bill. This table-games bill is estimated to be worth $250 Million in license fee and tax revenues to the state; the governor believes that the passage of the bill is necessary to keep the government running. The tables-games bill would permit blackjack and roulette games at slots parlors. Apparently the House and the Senate can not agree on whether to add another resort-casino license to the 14 slots licenses already authorized. There is also debate on how to distribute the gambling proceeds in Philadelphia. Part of this problem stems from Mayor Nutter’s unwillingness to give up the city’s control on the distribution of gambling proceeds. Mayor Nutter is absolute that gambling proceeds generated in Philadelphia should remain in Philadelphia.

If the table-games bill is not passed by January 8, there is a good possibility that 1,000 state employees will lose their jobs. During 2009, 800 state government jobs were cut as a result of the budget crisis and additionally 1,800 open state jobs went unfilled.

Another sad reality to the current state budget situation is that there is once again talk of closing state parks, the State Museum and decreasing discretionary grants. Many nonprofits (particularly historic preservation) are finding themselves in a precarious situation due to our nation’s economic downturn, so the idea of losing state grant opportunities is cause for concern. The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission laid off 85 employees last month which represented approximately one-third of their staff. They received the highest percent employee layoffs of any agency as part of the overall state employee downsizing. It is unclear how the Historic Commission would function if further cuts are imposed. As a member of the Tredyffrin’s Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB), our board and all state HARBs and Historic Commissions rely heavily on the expertise and advice from the Historic Commission.

I am reaching out to our State House Rep Paul Drucker for his comments on the table-game bill — where do you stand?