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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Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor Volunteer Firefighters . . . Our Hometown Heroes!

Strafford Station Apartment fire, photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer, Jim DeStefano, Sr

Saturday morning, with frigid temperatures in the teens, a fire broke out at the Strafford Station Apartments, which is close to the Strafford train station. The initial 9-1-1 call came in to the Berwyn Fire Company at 9:25 AM. Berwyn’s Engine 2-3 raced to the fire, arriving at 9:31 AM, reporting that fire was coming from the 3rd floor. Also rushing to the initial first alarm call were firefighters from Paoli and Radnor fire companies. The Tredyffrin Police assisted with the evacuation of the first and second floors of the apartment building, as the blaze quickly went through the 40-unit building. A ‘working fire’ was dispatched at 9:28 AM . . . A second alarm was requested at 9:35 AM . . . and at 10:02 AM a third alarm was requested for the Strafford fire.

As dark billowing smoke shot into the morning air, residents had very little time to get out, grabbing what they could as they raced from their apartments. Thrust in to the cold, the residents were grateful for their lives but were left trying to cope with their sudden loss.

Local firefighters battling Strafford Station Apartment Fire, photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer Jim DeStefano, Sr

The landlord and the Red Cross of Southeastern Pennsylvania are coordinating help for the victims. The Red Cross assisted 60 people who were forced out of their homes by the fire. They distributed money and food to anyone who was in need, and their medical personnel refilled lifesaving prescriptions for several tenants on the scene. The landlord aided the displaced tenants with temporary relocation to local hotels.

By the time the third alarm was requested for the Strafford Station Apartment fire, Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies were joined by volunteers from an additional thirteen fire companies*. Fire company apparatus responded from Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties. The fire extended into the roof and then traveled the roofline horizontally from one end of the building to another, gutting 24 apartment units in its wake.

Interior photo of gutted Strafford Station Apartment, which displaced 60 residents. Photo by Berwyn Fire Company photographer Jim DeStefano, Sr.

 At the height of the fire, over 100 volunteer fire/emergency service personnel were on the scene. The fire brought under control around 11 AM and the final fire units cleared the scene just after 3 PM. The Strafford Station Apartment fire is under investigation by the Chester County and Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshals. Early comment is that the accidental fire may be the result of a second floor heating unit. Damage is estimated at $1.25 million.

It was a stroke of fortune that no one was killed or injured as a result of yesterday’s three-alarm fire. Please join me in saluting our local volunteer firefighters from Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies . . . thank you for your quick response and for protecting our residents.

____________________________

*In addition to Berwyn, Paoli and Radnor fire companies, the following compaies also responded to the Strafford Station Apartment fire: Malvern Fire Company
East Whiteland Volunteer Fire Association, Newtown Square Fire Company, Valley Forge Volunteer Fire Company, King of Prussia Volunteer Fire Company, Goshen Fire Company, Bryn Mawr Fire Company, Gladwyne Fire Company, Lionville Fire Company, Narberth Ambulance, Lafeyette Ambulance (Upper Merion), Good Fellowship Ambulance (West Chester), and Phoenixville Fire Department Ambulance.

 

Fire Company ePetition Administrator Speaks Out

I am hoping that this will be the last entry on the firefighter’s ePetition.  Last week, I posted TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in which he stated that he signed the firefighter’s ePetition.  Research on the ePetition showed that his name was not on the list which caused a major debate about whether or not Mr. Alexanders’ name was simply removed.  Only one person who could answer those accusations – Laurie Elliot, the firefighter’s ePetition administrator.  It only seems fair that I post her response on the subject – a Letter to the Editor which is in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.

Included in her statement, Laurie includes a link to the ePetition if anyone wants to check the signatures.  Laurie created the ePetition as a vehicle for residents (like herself) to show their support of the fire companies and to encourage the supervisors to reinstate the fire companies budget cut.

On the same subject, it has been a month since the unveiling of the cardboard check at the December 21 Board of Supervisor Meeting.  To bring you up-to-date on the promised contributions, yesterday I emailed Supervisors Lamina, Kampf and Olson for an update on money collected.  My latest information is that the supervisors have collected $8,950. I am hopeful that more money has been turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company for distribution, but as of today I have no further updates.  On the $5K in matching funds from the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee, Mr. Alexander’s last correspondence indicated that just about all that money has been delivered to the fire company.  In my last phone call from Supervisor Olson, he stated that the $23,200 total would be delivered to the fire company by March 31st. 

This is all about making sure that the volunteer firefighters receive their promised money — nothing more, no political agenda on my part.  Since the township’s 2010 budget was passed with the fire department cut, I take it seriously to make sure that these volunteers receive the total contribution as promised by Supervisors Kampf, Lamina and Olson.

Fire companies need support

To the Editor:

This is in response to a letter in last week’s paper by Tredyffrin Republican Party chair John C.T. Alexander. In it he claims to have signed the “Internet petition in favor of reinstatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget.”

As the administrator of that e-petition, I monitored it during its 10-day online life and closed it on Dec. 21 when I presented a copy of it to the Board of Supervisors at their meeting that evening. The petition and all those who signed it can still be viewed at tredto.epetitions.net.

In total, 534 people found their way to the Web site and signed the petition. But John C.T. Alexander’s name is not among them.

Further, it is difficult to understand why Mr. Alexander would claim he signed it. His very public position that the long-term needs of our volunteer fire companies can be met through ad-hoc private donations misses the whole point of the petition and clings to a Band-Aid approach.

The fire companies not only needed their 2010 funding restored, but they need a comprehensive, long-term solution that provides support for their operating and capital expenditures in the future. And not until such a plan is in place can the community “move on” as some are suggesting.

Sincerely,

Laurie Elliott, Wayne

Do CT Alexander’s “Actions Speak Louder than his Words”?

Do Actions Really Speak Louder than Words?

Maybe we can apply that phrase to  TTRC Chair CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life.  Mr. Alexander claims that  he signed the ePetition for the reinstatement of the firefighters budget cut, when we now know that his name does not appear on the list.  On one hand, Mr. Alexander publically speaks of his support for the firefighters at the December 21 Board of Supervisors meeting and in his position as Chair of the Tredyffrin Township Republican Committee he commits $5,000 in matching funds to the firefighters.  (It appears from my correspondence with Mr. Alexander, that his organization has almost completed their $5,000 committment). So, . . . do we want to believe that Mr. Alexander was not using his position as Chair of TTRC in a politicizing manner but want to believe his actions were pure and out of support for the fire department? 

Then on the other hand, in his Letter to the Editor, I quote Mr. Alexander, ” . . . From earlier shows I remember Bill’s encouragement to sign an Internet petition in favor of re-instatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget. I signed that petition and added that I had a plan. . . “   We know now that Bill DeHaven never spoke of  the ePetition on any of his Good, Bad and Ugly shows.  But we have further learned that the Firefighter’s Support ePetition does not contain CT Alexander’s name as he claims in the Letter to the Editor.  Not to “beat an old horse” myself as Mr. Alexander suggested of Bill DeHaven, is there significance in the words that Mr. Alexander wrote? Does it matter that Mr. Alexander apparently did not speak the truth when he wrote his letter?  Or, is it just important that he made good on his promise and delivered most of the TTRC’s $5,000 donation to the firefighters? 

I am trying to understand the  motive behind Mr. Alexander’s words  but maybe the motive doesn’t matter . . . You decide.

TTRC Chair CT Alexander Updates on Contributions; Bill DeHaven Responds

As I mentioned in yesterday’s posting, I was going to contact TTRC Chair CT Alexander concerning his organization’s pledge to the firefighters.  Mr. Alexander responded to my request with the following information.  Based on his email (and my math), it would appear that the Berwyn Fire Company has received $4,325 from the TTRC, with the remaining $675 expected by the end of February.  One question I neglected to ask Mr. Alexander but I guess that it does not matter — what exactly the $5,000 in matching funds meant; matching to what?

” . . . I am posting today a letter with three more checks to Rip Tilden. Of the $5,000 pledged by individuals, so far all but $675 has been paid in, with “checks in the mail” to me of an additional $500. I have but $175 to collect. My goal is to get that amount to the Fire Company by February 28th. . . “

For those of you who did not see Bill DeHaven’s comments to Mr. Alexander’s letter to the editor, here they are.  I just love Bill’s community spirit and humor!  And it’s good to know that he has not beaten any horse, dead or alive! I have watched Bill and Dan’s Good, Bad & Ugly show in question and as far as I could tell those remarks related to the negative campaign mailers were made immediately following the election, back in November.  Also to set the record straight, Mr. Alexander’s letter to the editor stated that he personally signed the ePetition in support of the reinstatement of the firefighter’s budget cut . . . however, no one can seem to find his name on the list.  The only other loose end is an update from Supervisor Olson (on the total contributions to date) which I hope to have before Monday night’s Board of Supervisor meeting.

Bill, on January 14th, 2010 at 5:35 pm

  • Never have i beaten any horse, alive or dead. Can’t see the connection between the cardboard check and the stupid republican mail piece. The show on which we discussed that was taped in November. Didn’t mention the petition on the GB&U but did send an e-mail to all local addresses including Mr. Alexander with the petition address asking recipients to please read and sign.

    Local Fire Companies should be funded by tax dollars when necessary. Firefighters should not have to raise money. This is a volunteer position that requires significant training and 24hr. coverage.

  • As part of the above: Mr. Alexander was contacted before this post. He will continue to assist B.F.C. raise money and stands by his comments.

    Letter to the Editor . . . TTGOP Chair CT Alexander Takes on Retired Supervisor Bill DeHaven

    Just when I think that we are ‘moving on’ as the title of a Letter to the Editor in this week’s Main Line Suburban Life would indicate, I am immediately taken back to that December meeting when the ‘cardboard check’ to the firefighters reared its’ ugly head. Below is a letter from TTGOP Chair CT Alexander to Bill DeHaven that was listed under the category of ‘Support of Berwyn Fire Company’ in the paper’s opinion index.  The letter from Mr. Alexander  which comments on Bill’s ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’ cable TV show, and the suggestion that Bill & Co. is beating an old horse certainly caused me pause this morning.

    All I can say is unbelievable to Mr. Alexander’s letter!

    OK, let’s revisit the cardboard check of 2009 and where we stand with contributions to date.  How much of the $23,200 promised money has been delivered to date?  The last time that Supervisor Olson called me, the total turned over to the Berwyn Fire Company was $8,950 (that total was several weeks ago). When we last spoke, Supervisor Olson said that he would call me when he delivered the next contribution installment to the fire company.  I have not received any further calls, so should I think that there’s been no further contributions?  I think we need an update, don’t you?

    As for Mr. Alexander, where does he stand with his $5K contribution in matching funds to the firefighters from the TTGOP?  Can I assume that since Mr. Alexander is calling Bill DeHaven out over this matter, that his organization has made their total contribution as they promised last month?  As follow-up I will email CT and let you know if I have an update on that front. I’m wondering if Bill or Dan (Bill’s sidekick as quoted from Mr. Alexander) have any response to this Letter to the Editor? Let me know if you have a comment; I’ll be glad to publish.

    Since I’m on the topic of the firefighters and the Firefighters Holiday Drive, can I ask that Berwyn give us an accounting at Monday’s Board of Supervisor Meeting on the contributions to date.  From someone who has done a bit of fundraising, getting the commitment of the gift is one thing, . . .  it’s the collection that often times proves the most challenging.  I know many of our residents were confused and thought that the presentation of the cardboard check meant that the fundraisers had that money is hand already — folks, that was a promise check . . . there’s still collection required for that $23,200.

    Here’s CT Alexander’s Letter to the Editor:

       It’s time to move on

    To the Editor:

    Watching TV Channel 2 the other night I observed Berwyn icon Bill DeHaven and his sidekick using valuable air time to excoriate a political mailer from an election that took place over a month ago, akin to “beating a dead horse.” From earlier shows I remember Bill’s encouragement to sign an Internet petition in favor of re-instatement of the Berwyn Fire Company’s budget cut from the [Tredyffrin] township’s 2010 budget. I signed that petition and added that I had a plan. Thereafter, through a timely and generous private-sector outpouring, that shortfall was eliminated and then some.

    This is a great opportunity for Bill & Co. to turn his attention to asking those same petition-signers – all 500-plus – to write a check for $10 and send it to Berwyn Fire Company to show tangible evidence of your support – “put your money where you vote was.” In no time the fire company would realize a windfall of $5,000, doubling the matching grant of the private citizens that inspired the whole public solicitation in the first place, thus funding an innovated fund-raising mailer scheduled for January 2010 piggybacking township tax notices.

    Bill, it’s time: stop beating a dead horse – start beating the drums of support for Berwyn Fire Company!

    John C.T. Alexander, Strafford

    P.S. It’s tax-deductible!

    Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors – Some are Political Party Committee Members – is this OK? Radnor Township Says No for their Commissioners

    Tredyffrin Township is governed by Home Rule Charter, and you can find a copy on the township website, www.tredyffrin.org.    With a new year, and 3 new supervisors on Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors, I was curious about something.  When someone is a committee person for a political party and is elected to serve their community, I wondered how this subject was handled under Home Rule Charter (or was it even addressed).  From my vantage point, supervisors are elected to serve all the residents, and by remaining a committee person for a particular party, I would think that there is an appearance that a political committee person would ‘lean’ in the direction of their party.  Of the 7 members of Tredyffrin’s Board of Supervisors, we now have 3 supervisors who are also Tredyffrin Township GOP committee members (Kampf, Kichline, Richter).  I think that Supervisor Kampf is also a PA State GOP committee member – but I’m not 100%.

    I checked Tredyffrin Township’s Home Rule Charter and this subject is not addressed.  So I looked to our neighbor, Radnor Township who also uses Home Rule Charter for their local government.  I guess the residents of Radnor Township share my concern with political party committee people serving in elected positions, as they are very clear in their Home Rule Charter. Radnor Commissioners are prohibited from holding an elected or appointed political office.  The information below is cut and pasted directly from Radnor’s Home Rule Charter.  Reviewing Radnor’s regulations on elected officials holding political party office, I was also interested in their ‘Conflict of Interest’ section (also included below).  Reading this,  I am wondering if Radnor Township’s Commissioners would have been permitted (under their ‘Home Rule Charter’) to solicit to businesses on behalf of Radnor Fire Company?  Interesting question, don’t you think?

    From Radnor Township’s Home Rule Charter

    § 21.9-904. Prohibitions.

     A. The activities which follow shall be prohibited in the operation of the Township government.

       1. Discrimination. No person shall, in his employment by the Township in any capacity, appointment to any Board, Commission, or Authority, or removal therefrom, be favored or discriminated against because of age, race, national origin, sex, handicap, or political or religious opinions or affiliations in violation of applicable Federal or State laws. No person shall be accorded favored treatment in employment or appointment because of family relationship.

       2. Improper Gifts. No person who seeks appointment on any Township Board, Commission, or Authority, or employment by the Township in any capacity shall, directly or indirectly, give or pay any money, service, or other consideration to any person in connection with such appointment or employment. In addition, no elected or appointed Township official or employee shall receive any money, service or other consideration in connection with such appointment or employment.

       3. Political Party Office. No Township official elected under this Charter, no appointed official, and no full-time Township employee shall hold any elected or appointed political party office.

       4. Improper Political Influence. No elected or appointed Township official and no employee of the Township shall request any Township employee to make a political contribution or engage in political activity.

       5. Other Government Service. No Township official elected or appointed to an elective office under this Charter and no full-time Township employee shall hold any other Township employment or any other elective or appointive Township position. No Township official elected or appointed to an elective office under this Charter and no full-time Township employee shall hold any full-time employment, or any other elective position, with Delaware County or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This provision shall not apply to employees of School Districts or of other educational institutions.

     B. Violation of any provision of this Section shall constitute grounds for forfeiture of office, termination of appointment, or dismissal.

    § 21.9-905. Conflict of Interest.

     A. No elected or appointed official of the Township and no Township employee, shall engage in any activity which follows.

       l. Take any action as a result of information acquired as a Township official from which action the Township official or employee or any other person or entity in whose welfare the official is interested, shall realize a gain or advantage. Such action shall not, however, be construed to be prohibited if the gain or advantage were realized generally by a group or class of citizens as the purposeful result of such action.

       2. Solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, favor, service commission, or other consideration that might reasonably tend to influence that official or employee in the discharge of the duties of office.

       3. Seek to influence, directly or indirectly, the awarding of any contract where such Township official or employee, or other person or entity in whose welfare the official or employee is interested would benefit directly or indirectly, financially or otherwise, from said contract.

     B. Disqualification from Action. Any elected or appointed official and any employee of the Township, having a direct or indirect financial interest with any person or business entity proposing to contract with the Township for the purchase or sale of land, materials, supplies, or services of any kind, or seeking formal action of the Board or any petition application, request, or appeal, whether that interest be as an employee, a party, a partner, or a stockholder, shall disclose fully said interest and except where stock holdings in a public corporation shall be minimal, shall not participate in the discussion or formal action relating thereto. Violation of the provisions of this Section shall render the contract of such actions voidable by the Township.