An Editorial Follow Up – Activist Invites Pottstown Council To See Poor Living Conditions In Permitted Rental

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On Saturday, June 30th, the Mercury published a piece on Pottstown’s first Open Slum House Tour. Members of Pottstown Borough Council were invited to come and see first hand the horrific living conditions in a rental unit at 501 King Street.  The rental unit was issued a permit by Pottstown’s Codes Department. 

An open house was held on Saturday afternoon from 2:00pm to 3:30pm and hosted by Katy Jackson, a King Street resident and community activist.

What I am about to report is typical and totally disheartening.  Only one Borough Councilor showed up!  Fifth Ward Councilor Dan Weand!  Councilor Weand was accompanied by his wife Polly (a Pottstown School Board member).  John Armato, Pottstown School District Director of Community Relations also attended the open house.  Thank you Dan, Polly and John for taking time out of your Saturday to give a damn about Pottstown!

(The elephants in the room)

  1. Where in the hell was Pottstown Borough Council President, Steven Toroney or First Ward Councilor Mark Gibson, whose ward contains the offending property????????????????? 
  2. Pottstown’s Codes Department apparently deemed this property A-OK and issued a permit for the owner to rent the property.  Considering the horrific state of the property in question, does this not make you wonder exactly what metrics borough codes employees are using?  Would you want to live in a house of horrors like this?  Is this not a huge red flag that there might be a problem?  Is this not indicative of a broken process? 
  3. As an elected official, whose job it is to serve the taxpayers of Pottstown, taking an hour out of your Saturday to get first hand knowledge of a serious problem should be a top priority.  It would have been prudent to notify Mrs. Jackson that you had a prior commitment that precluded your attendance so as not to appear indifferent to the plight of the people who elected you into office!

Based on the pictures and description of the property, it sounds like it should be condemned and torn down, not given a rental permit!

Steve, if you aren’t up to the task of being Pottstown Borough Council President, we think you should step down.  We see no evidence of leadership, no vision and no way forward being presented.  Sitting in your North End home and ignoring everything south of Wilson Street isn’t much of a strategy. 

Pottstown is spiraling out of control.  Key employees are leaving, councilors are resigning, crime is high, poverty is high, slumlords and Section 8 housing are pulling Pottstown down while property and school taxes go up, up, up…  Is the goal here to become the next Pennsylvania community accepted into the Act 47 program for financially distressed municipalities?

There was just a home invasion in the 800 block of Queen Street.  There are too many shootings.  There are hookers and drug dealers lurking in the alleys of the core neighborhood.  There are tumbleweeds blowing down High Street.  Borough Council does not support the few struggling businesses downtown nor does Pottstown enforce laws for loitering and panhandling which deter shoppers, diners and theatre patrons.  There is a homeless problem you refuse to deal with and the list goes on and on.

Pottstown deserves a Borough Council who is willing and ABLE to lead the community down the road to prosperity.  Those who can’t should step aside and let those who can DO! 

Sticking one’s head in the sand and ignoring all the warning signs is not what you were elected into office to do.  People expect action.  People expect and want change for the better.  Status quo is not an option.  Neither is taxing people to the point of having to choose between paying taxes or buying food and medicine.  Look at all the for sale signs around town.  Look at the abandoned properties where homeowners have simply walked away.  All is not well!  Get a clue!

Either lead or get out-of-the-way!

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21 comments on “An Editorial Follow Up – Activist Invites Pottstown Council To See Poor Living Conditions In Permitted Rental

  1. Roy, you have hit the nail on the head! This is not an isolated property in town by a long shot. Why are these rentals being approved? You are also correct on the homeless problem, it is just ignored. They removed HARB from downtown and our historic sections look just awful. The computer school on King St. is selling food without a license or health department inspection. Why is he open? When will rules be enforced and by who? Then we have the huge red trash bins that have added to the circus like atmosphere in the borough and the list just goes on and on…. Where did they leave their thinking caps?

    • Roy, You should check you facts in point 2 and apologize that you made incorrect statements about the rental permit. Since when does anyone from Borough Council, codes or any citizen need to answer to Katy Jackson? Who is she besides just a local citizen?

      • Another point, why did the tenant move into the house if it was in poor shape? Unless the tenant destroyed the home, the stove, refrigerator, sink and everything else was in this condition at move in. I guess you and Katy feel that the tenants should not take any responsibilities for their family’s safety and happiness.

      • John, are you saying there was no rental inspection/permit? The Mercury cover said it was a permitted rental. I also believe the former tenant stated it was inspected.

        Katy Jackson is a homeowner in that neighborhood. I would suspect she would like her neighborhood to be safe and clean for starters. She is just a local citizen but in case you haven’t noticed the borough government isn’t exactly falling all over themselves to clean up Pottstown, so it falls on the taxpayers to speak up since they are footing the bill through their taxes.

      • John, my suspicion would be they are poor people who have to take what they can afford. Nice rentals in Pottstown are very expensive. Reasonable rents can only be found in neighborhoods I personally would not live in. In the 90’s I lived the 100 block of King Street but as time went on, the neighborhood went downhill so I moved over near the hospital. Less than a year after I moved, someone was murdered across the street from my old apartment. There was also drug activity across the street which became a great concern the longer I lived there.

      • Roy, I do not work for the Borough so I will not make any definite statements if the owner had it inspected. It might be prudent to get a definite answer because I don’t think it should be assumed Codes is at fault. You mention that elected officials should have reached out to Katy and told her they couldn’t make it?Why. She is a citizen and they have no responsibility to call her, you or me and tell us what they are doing on the weekend. It would have been nice if they attended, but not mandatory.

        If we assume the house was inspected or not inspected by codes, didn’t the tenants see the condition prior to moving in? Why would they move into a dump? The Mercury or your blog has not held the tenant reponsible for their action of paying the security deposit, rent and actually moving in. What is your opinion of their responsibilty?

      • Roy, if the home was inspected and the tenants can take what they can afford they should not complain about the old appliances, bad paint colors, or small rooms. They got what they paid for. Now if the home is unsafe we have a different story.

  2. Have you ever thought about posting some of these on Patch.com? Seems like it gets a better read count and a wider audience. Your views need to be heard. I love the fact that I was directed to this site. You really speak your mind. If only more people cared as you and I do.

  3. Thanks, but I don’t read the Patch and I am not interested in posting my writings on any other forum but my own. I get plenty of readers :)

  4. And I won’t read the Patch any longer. The editor lets a former irresponsible, defaulting, slum property owner harass and stalk Golden Cockroach, Katy Jackson for telling the truth about the filthy housing and criminal slumlords. Everyone who’s read her sick comment thinks Deb is mental. So we wrote the editor and told them how we fee. I said, “stop approving her mean, nasty comments or I’ll stop reading your paper.” They still let her comment. To hell with them.

  5. Oh yeah I agree with everything you said Roy. It is criminal that people have to live the way they do and the slumlords get away with it. I went to that apartment I could not believe the smell, there were bugs everywhere and it’s NOT SAFE at all. The girl that was moving told a bunch of us that Charlie Beller? ( I didn’t catch his name but he’s a codes officer that inspected her apt.), she said that she thought that he was paid by the owner to pass the inspection and her sister said the same is true where she rents too because there is no way a trained codes person could be that stupid and still have a job.”

    Borough Hall looks corrupt and that includes the police chief, codes, Steve Toroney and the councilors that hide from reality. They all need to be investigated.

  6. Roy, your integrity and the strength of your intention point the way to the road less traveled in our community. You have my gratitude, Katy

    There are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. Buddha

  7. J.Hogan (landlord) – right. Deb Campbell failed landlady. Give it up Deb, call yourself anything you want in the comments but your style is blatantly obvious your limited vocabulary gives you away AND your continued demand that ANYBODY in P.town EVER apologize to a slumlord is ludicrous.

    eh hemmmmm….”Roy, You should check you facts in point 2 and apologize that you made incorrect statements about the rental permit.”

    What the hell do you know about the situation? Other than what I was wearing on Saturday at the Open House. The only way you would know if there was or wasn’t a rental license is if you heard it from the owner, Ken Kaufman at your Western MontCo Landlord Club or you filed an RTK with the borough and I KNOW you didn’t do that, it takes too much time.

    If Ken Kaufman DIDN’T have a rental license, what does that say about Ken Kaufman? He moved his tenants in without abiding by the ordinance and he should get the MAXIMUM penalty for defying the borough, the taxpayers. I’d like to see him ordered by the court to live in his slum, that is how I spell justice. I’d like to see him ordered to pay re-location expenses for his displaced renters and first month’s rent on a new pad. I’d like to see him ordered to make restitution to a community that makes do with so little – I’d feel vindicated if I saw him ordered, by the court, to put in 1000 hours of community service. You tell me why not? You tell me Deb, go ahead and push that envelope of indecency on this community and they are going to send it back “undeliverable” just like the parasites do when they refuse their certified mail from the borough.

    If he did move them in with an inspection and a rental license then THE SYSTEM IS COMPLETELY FAILED and this community deserves to know why. He’s complicit, the borough is complicit in peddling filth and uninhabitable housing. TENANTS DO NOT GET WHAT THEY DESERVE, and don’t you dare hold them in contempt for the sneaky, creepy, dishonesty of the property owners. The scum lords get what they give. Renters with limited incomes have choices all right:

    “let’s see shall I take the apartment that has raw sewage leaking into the kitchen, the one with no HEAT, or the one with black mold lining the bedroom and bathroom ceiling..hummmm decisions decisions.” Like this encourages model tenants to apply? IT DOES NOT. It encourages drug dealers, hookers, scrappers, people who yell at their children: “Shut the F up or I’ll slap you silly.” And people like you further victimize the children in this community because you DON’T GIVE A DAMN, except for the bottom line. People of your ilk are the real low-life.

    Either way, it doesn’t look good for Kenneth Kaufman or any parasite in P.town that runs their mouth blaming everyone and anyone who stands in the way of personal gain because I’m not shutting up and I’m going to encourage tenants to continue to speak up and they are becoming bold, they are feeling supported and they want to tell their stories….and it’s about time.

    Take your worn out old story somewhere else Deb. It’s lame and we don’t want to hear it any more.

  8. Katy & Roy, I have found that the people who protest and defend themselves the loudest ALWAYS have much to cover up. An honest, legitimate, responsible landlord – or ANYone – will take the criticism, accept responsibility, and DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! Section 8 gets a bad rap because of Scum Lords like these. They prey on the poor & the helpless, their ONLY INTENT to cash in on as much money as they can at everyone’s expense! Steve Toroney and his “minions” on Boro Council should have to live in some of the nastier rentals in town. After just one day they’d be “running home to momma” But unfortunately, they would still do nothing about it. They and their supporters are all as guilty as the Scum Lords. Pottstown’s Codes department needs a thorough and ruthless investigation and clean-up. Greed, greed, greed. Indifference, indifference, indifference.

    Mr Rhoads, you were wise to get out when you did. I fact, I can’t believe you stuck it out as long as you did! You can’t be proud to say you were a part of this Boro’s government! None of us would be!!

    • Hi Roy,
      Since I am not registered on your blog, would you please post my comment since I was mentioned in #14 in your article.

      “I am proud of what I did and spoke for. I can honestly say I have not been proud to be a part of Borough government. I have told many people in the past that one must be ashamed to be part of it. As time has moved forward, I must say I feel shame to HAVE been a part of it.”

      Jody

  9. To the person who inquired why the tenants accepted the condition(s) and moved in. That is something only the tenants, themselves, could answer. No one, but they, know their circumstances. Given the appearance of the place, I will take a stab at answering the question.

    It would seem to me (given the location and appearance of the unit) they were of low to minimum or fixed-income. It was a place they could afford (assuming they receive no assistance).

    It is possible they had no where else to go. It is possible they felt this living situation was better than being homeless.

    It is possible they truly need financial assistance in order for them to afford ‘something better’.

    It is my understanding that new (housing assistance) vouchers aren’t being issued at this time. If/when enrollment resumes, I imagine there will be a waiting list that is years long. I imagine the vouchers are in extreme demand, given the current economy. More people than ever need this benefit. Few will actually receive the assistance they need; primarily due to the fact that there is no time limit for which a family can remain in the program. Meaning, the same people are enjoying the benefit for a lifetime while others will never have the opportunity.

    If any of my speculation is even remotely close to the actual situation, is it really any surprise, that if one finds themselves in the position of being one slumlord away from homelessness, they would choose the slum?

    • “If any of my speculation is even remotely close to the actual situation, is it really any surprise, that if one finds themselves in the position of being one slumlord away from homelessness, they would choose the slum?”

      AMEN!

  10. Possibility, that was an excellent guess and beautifully said.

    Once a renter scrapes together the required deposit, first month’s rent they aren’t able to move. It takes 30 days, by law to get their deposit back and most slumlords BANK on the fact that the tenant will choose not to pay the rent when they figure out that he/she isn’t going to fix anything and they are stuck.

    Their mistake is that they have to escrow the rent money, by law, and they have to make their requests for repairs in writing, certified return receipt snail mail, so they will have evidence that will stand up in court against the slumlord. I’ve never lived anywhere in my life that didn’t have tenant/landlord handbooks at the legal aid office. Pottstown doesn’t and renters don’t know their rights so slumlords take advantage. For many, that IS where homelessness begins.

  11. For what it is worth. I don’t know why the boro doesn’t charge enough in license fees so the boro could have at least one if not two code enforcement officers dedicated to rental properties. Why should a portion of my taxes pay for code enforcement of these properties?

  12. Pingback: An Open House/The Story of a Slum Owned by Kenneth Kaufman |

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