SW Germantown ‘Rising’ Thanks To Program

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia ...

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Philadelphia County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

ANYONE INTERESTED in learning the true meaning of perseverance should spend some time in southwest Germantown.

After years of attending meetings, making phone calls and lobbying the city, community organizers have succeeded in bringing the neighborhood under the fold of the PhillyRising Collaborative.

The collaborative, an idea from the Managing Director’s Office, seeks to combat quality-of-life issues in crime-ridden neighborhoods by working closely with area organizations.

Organizations like the Southwest Central Lower Germantown Civic Association, run by Allison Weiss.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/20140223_SW_Germantown__Rising__thanks_to_program.html#76vcBFGG46d2ojRA.99

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Time To Top 20 Percent Turnout In Tuesday’s Election

Map of Pennsylvania

Map of Pennsylvania (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Something perplexing happens in municipal elections like the one coming up Tuesday.

The public officials being elected have the most direct impact on people’s lives.

Yet turnout of registered voters – usually less than 20 percent – is the lowest in the four-year election cycle.

These officials make sure roads are plowed in winter and grass in parks is mowed in summer. They hire contractors for road repairs. They oversee police. They pass zoning laws that dictate where housing developments should go and where businesses should be built, which can impact land values.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=518129

Mt. Airy, 3 Local Towns On ‘Best Places’ Lists

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Several local towns and a Philadelphia neighborhood got kudos in the Money magazine’s annual round-up of “Best Places to Live.”

Chester County‘s West Goshen is No. 10 on the main list, which this year focuses on “small towns,” with 10,000 to 50,000 people. No surprise there, since West Goshen made the Top 25 on the last two “small towns” lists, in 2011 and 2009.

West Goshen Township has a lush, suburban feel, with quiet, tree-shaded residential areas, lovely parks, and a full slate of community activities,” Money summed up.

Horsham was No. 34 this year, off a little from No. 31 in 2011, while Ardmore, No. 45 in 2011, failed to made this year’s Top 50.

No. 1 was “one-time summer resort” Sharon, Mass.

Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/news/Mt_Airy_3_local_towns_on_Best_Places_lists.html#sV1lv9l4Th0LvM1I.99

Survey: Chester County Residents Upbeat But Hate Traffic, High Taxes

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Chester County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Chester County residents like the county’s open space and scenery, but also value highly its proximity to metropolitan areas. They use its libraries and parks like gangbusters, and are confident its 911 and emergency response systems.

They do not, however, like the traffic and road conditions they encounter or the taxes they pay.  They wish the county government would do more to help create job and business opportunities and manage the suburban sprawl that continues to plague the countryside.

In general, county residents see they place they live as an excellent place to raise a family, get a good education, and buy a home — even if they have a sense that it might not live up to the same expectations when looking to retire, open a business, or find a job.

Those, in part, are the results of a unique survey done to assess the quality of life in Chester County, completed earlier this summer by the Center for Social & Economic Policy Research at West Chester University.  The survey results follow up on a similar project completed in 2009 by Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster.

Read more:   http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20130729/NEWS01/130729442/survey-chester-county-residents-upbeat-but-hate-traffic-high-taxes#full_story

New Facebook Page, Crime In Pottstown, Is Valuable Tool For Residents

There’s a new Facebook page dedicated to crime in Pottstown.  Unfortunately, there is a need for such a thing to exist.  The delusional  leadership doesn’t seem to think there are any problems in town but if you read this page you will see ordinary citizens telling their stories about being victims of crime.  Burglary is a big problem in Pottstown along with drugs.  Probably because they go hand in hand.  This is an eye-opening read which helps keep residents and those who work in town up to date.  We urge you to share information and keep informed.

We have listed Crime in Pottstown under our Important Pottstown Sites on the right hand side of the page.  Here is a link to click on which will take you directly there.

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Crime-in-Pottstown/149360611925992

James Street Improvement District, Lancaster Alliance Join Forces

James Pirrung 03:48, 12 April 2007 . . JaMikeP...

James Pirrung 03:48, 12 April 2007 . . JaMikePA . . 2,304×1,728 (5.97 MB) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Good organizations evolve to meet changing times.

Three years ago, the Lancaster Alliance scaled back the broad reach that had established the city’s security camera network and helped find a home for the Lancaster Barnstormers.

In an era of diminishing resources, it would not duplicate efforts being done by other groups.  The alliance board chose to work behind the scenes with a focus on city public safety, finances and forging partnerships with other organizations.

Six years ago, it was the James Street Improvement District that changed.  The northwest city group expanded its reach to take in the duties of the Downtown Investment District under a contractual arrangement.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/864115_James-Street-Improvement-District–Lancaster-Alliance-join-forces.html#ixzz2X4k57mp4

BOSS 2020 Seeks Boost For Sinking Spring

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sinking Spring‘s BOSS 2020 organization is getting ready to ask the state Department of Community and Economic Development for a $300,000 grant for its bold plan to remake the 100-year-old borough.

According to officials, $250,000 would supplement a $346,860 PennDOT grant for sidewalk improvement on the downtown’s west side.

The two-part project would consist of putting a sidewalk on Penn Avenue between Park and Wynnewood avenues, and widening the sidewalk on Penn Avenue from Columbia Avenue to Hull Street to six feet.

Right now, according to Sam Loth, consulting coordinator for BOSS 2020, the sidewalk is only 21/2 to 3 feet wide in some portions, which sometimes forces pedestrians to walk on the road.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=486342

Economic Development Coalition Begins Long Journey To Revive Greater Reading

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What should Berks County’s economy look like in 10 or 20 years?

That’s what eight economic-development and workforce groups explored when they collaborated on the Ride to Prosperity report three years ago. The group wanted to create a greater Reading where residents are more prosperous and happy to live here, where businesses are more innovative and there’s more opportunities.

To start the work, the group filled the report with specific action items that could be done in three to five years.

Three years later, the group has checked some big items off the weighty to-do list.  Berks Park 78 became shovel-ready and attracted three tenants.  A fast-track development program has moved several projects through an express-lane approval process.  Key players stress the importance of eight economic and municipal groups working together for a common goal: a stronger and prosperous economy.

Read more:  http://businessweekly.readingeagle.com/economic-development-coalition-begins-long-journey-to-revive-greater-reading/

Penn Cinema Partner Plans York Theater

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting York County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Cinema entrepreneur Penn Ketchum is heeding the advice of 19th century American newspaper editor Horace Greeley.

“Go west, young man.”

Ketchum, managing partner of Penn Cinema, intends to develop a small, luxury two-screen movie theater in York city.

But he said Friday that he has no intention of going south into Lancaster city and doing the same kind of project there.

Ketchum’s $750,000 venture in York was disclosed Thursday by York Mayor Kim Bracey in her State of the City address.

Read more: http://lancasteronline.com/article/local/848107_Penn-Cinema-partner-plans-York-theater.html#ixzz2T2FcRToY

Norristown Municipal Administrator Responds To ACLU Lawsuit

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

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

NORRISTOWN — Norristown is standing by its rental license ordinance as it is written and declared in a statement that in no way does it “discriminate against any persons, nor does it punish victims of domestic violence.”

The Norristown ordinance penalizes landlords and encourages them to evict their tenants when the police are called to a property three times in four months for “disorderly behavior,” including responding to incidents of domestic violence, according to the federal lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on Wednesday.

“The ordinance provision currently in effect contains all of the constitutional due process provisions required to protect the residents of Norristown,” said Norristown Municipal Adminstrator

 in the statement released Thursday, “explicitly stating that no property shall be condemned for any reason under Norristown’s property maintenance code based on occurrences of disorderly behavior, and stating that no tenant shall be evicted or forced to vacate a rental dwelling for violation of the ordinance provision.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130426/NEWS01/130429637/norristown-municipal-administrator-responds-to-aclu-lawsuit#full_story

ACLU Sues Norristown Over Landlord Ordinance

Location of Norristown in Montgomery County

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

NORRISTOWN — A federal lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a Norristown ordinance that penalizes landlords for the alleged behavior of their tenants was filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.

The Norristown ordinance penalized landlords and encouraged them to evict their tenants when the police are called to a property three times in four months for “disorderly behavior,” including responding to incidents of domestic violence.

The lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the ACLU of Pennsylvania, and the law firm of Pepper Hamilton LLP against the municipality, former Municipal Administrator David Forrest, Interim Municipal Administrator Robert Glisson, former Police Chief Russell Bono, Interim Police Chief Willie Richet and Code Enforcement Manager Joseph Januzelli.

“We are planning to file a motion for preliminary injunction to prevent Norristown from enforcing the December 2012 ordinance while the case is pending,” said Sara Rose, a staff attorney for the ACLU of Pennsylvania.  “We hope we will have a hearing soon.  We hope this will be resolved quickly.”

Read more:  http://www.timesherald.com/article/20130424/NEWS01/130429765/aclu-sues-norristown-over-landlord-ordinance#full_story

Quality-Of-Life Amnesty Programs Pay Off For Reading

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With finally final figures, the city announced Monday that it will gain $628,563 from Mayor Vaughn D. Spencer’s amnesty program for long-overdue quality-of-life tickets and rental-housing fees.

That’s after quietly keeping the program open for an extra month, which gained the city more than another $17,000.

Spencer had announced last fall that the amnesty would run two months, from Dec. 17 to Feb. 15.

The sweetener was that late fees would be waived; the threat was that those who ignored the offer would be turned over to a bill collector, who would add a 15 percent penalty.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=464966

Crime Is Focus Of Community Forum

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County

Map of Pennsylvania highlighting Berks County (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With quality of life one of the top factors businesses consider in deciding to move into a community, the Greater Berks Chamber of Commerce & Industry focused on one local quality-of-life issue at its “State of the Community” breakfast Friday: crime.

Panel members, chief among them Berks County District Attorney John T. Adams, said crime is not as bad as it might seem.

“There’s a misperception of the rate of crime in the city,” Adams told more than 100 Chamber members gathered at the Crowne Plaza Reading, Wyomissing.

He noted that, comparing the local rates of murders, robberies and assaults with comparable cities and counties in the region, Reading and Berks are in the middle of the pack, not worst of the pack.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=463136

City Of Reading Amnesty Nets $351,000 In Fees And Fines So Far

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsyl...

A 1947 topographic map of the Reading, Pennsylvania area. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

With less than two weeks left to go, the city’s amnesty program for overdue rental housing fees and quality-of-life fines has reached $351,000, or about 70 percent of its goal, codes manager Ron Natale said Monday.

The offer that began in mid-December ends Feb. 15, and property owners who don’t contact the city by then will be turned over to its new collection firm, Harrisburg-based National Recovery Agency, Natale told City Council.

The city has about $2.8 million in delinquent quality-of-life fines and rental housing fees from 22,000 unpaid bills.  Officials had hoped to collect about $500,000 of that with the amnesty program, which waives penalties and late fees if the property owners pay the original amounts.

Read more:  http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=450373

Nashville’s Latest Hit? The City Itself

NASHVILLE — Portland knows the feeling.  Austin had it once, too.  So did Dallas.

English: Collage of Nashville landmarks. Top r...

English: Collage of Nashville landmarks. Top row: 2nd Avenue, Kirkland Hall (Vanderbilt University), The Parthenon; Middle row: Nashville Skyline; Bottom row: LP Field, Grand Ole Opry, Ryman Auditorium. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even Las Vegas enjoyed a brief moment as the nation’s “it” city.

Now, it’s Nashville’s turn.

Here in a city once embarrassed by its Grand Ole Opry roots, a place that sat on the sidelines while its Southern sisters boomed economically, it is hard to find a resident who does not break into the goofy grin of the newly popular when the subject of Nashville’s status comes up.

Mayor Karl Dean, a Democrat in his second term, is the head cheerleader.

Read more:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/09/us/nashville-takes-its-turn-in-the-spotlight.html?pagewanted=1&_r=0&hp

West Reading Program ‘Got It Right,’ State Official Says

Editor’s note:  We heartily agree! West Reading is a happening town!  Maybe the leadership from Pottstown should rent a bus and take a field trip to see what revitalization actually looks like!  It sure as heck isn’t found on High Street!

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United Stat...

Map of Berks County, Pennsylvania, United States with township and municipal boundaries (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A state official praised West Reading on Wednesday for being ahead of the curve in its efforts to revitalize the community.

“For a borough of 4,000 people, they’re doing an awful lot of good things,” said Secretary C. Alan Walker of the state Department of Community and Economic Development.

During a tour of West Reading led by Elm Street Program Manager Dean Rohrbach, Walker said borough officials have a good vision.

“They know what they want to do and they’re carrying it out,” he said, referring to streetscape and building-facade improvements throughout West Reading.

Read more: http://readingeagle.com/article.aspx?id=423186

Property Taxes Are Killing Pottstown

Location of Pottstown in Montgomery County

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

Editor’s note:  This is a well-written opinion piece from the Fishwrap that was sent to Governor Corbett and other state and local officials.  Sums up the state of Pottstown pretty well.

An open letter sent to Gov. Corbett and copied to state Rep. Thomas Quigley and Pottstown Mayor Bonnie Heath.

Gov. Corbett:

There’s a lovely stone house for sale on High Street in Pottstown.  Yes, it’s our house.  It’s reasonably priced and has piqued the curiosity of many prospective buyers but one item makes them turn and run.  “What is so frightening?” you ask.  It’s the property taxes!  Over $7,500 per year on a house assessed at $150,000.  That’s outrageous!  We have friends in other Montgomery County communities such as Springfield Township, Abington and Upper Dublin.  Their houses are assessed higher than ours but, in some cases, they pay less than half our taxes.  There is something drastically wrong with this scenario.  Pottstown ranks seventh in school taxes out of 500 Pennsylvania districts.  We also rank at the top for producing underachieving students.  We have 13.4 percent of our residents over 65, an inordinate number of Section 8 and transient residents in this blue-collar town, and high unemployment.  Property values are spiraling downward, creating a dismal sinking into the quicksand of urban destruction.

Our delusional council and school board keep raising taxes as though we were a booming town but we’ve lost our industrial base that employed hundreds at Bethlehem Steel, Firestone, Mrs. Smith’s Pies and other long-gone businesses.  Sadly, we’ve also had to say good-bye to our wonderful Pottstown Symphony.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120928/OPINION02/120929459/property-taxes-are-killing-pottstown

The Most (And Least) Livable States

Editor’s note:  Another poll showing the top ten and bottom ten states.  Pennsylvania does not appear on either list but several states around us make one or the other.  Some surprises and some expected results.

A new poll suggests that today’s relatively affluent states are likely to still be among the best places to live in the future. But residents in those states often are less optimistic about the future than those in poorer states.

Check out the results here: http://money.msn.com/investing/the-most-and-least-livable-states

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!

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)

Editor’s note:  We can not stress enough the importance of Mr. Toroney and his fellow Councilors taking an hour out of their day to see this in person.  This is the tip of the iceberg and we think it is HIGH TIME that Pottstown Borough Council starts walking the talk and demonstrating in a tangible way that they have some inkling of interest in the citizens they respresent!  You all could use some street cred!

Thank you to Katy Jackson for continuing to stand vigilant and taking on a job that nobody else is willing to tackle!

POTTSTOWN — It’s supposed to be a warm Saturday afternoon, how about taking in a nice open house?

Well you might find it interesting, but it seems unlikely anyone would use the word “nice” to describe it.

From 2 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, activist Katy Jackson is inviting anyone interested — and the members of borough council specifically — to come and see the conditions in which a resident of Pottstown has been living at 501 King St.

“Monday I was invited to see the living conditions that a couple have endured for several months,” Jackson wrote in her invitation to council members, which was copied to The Mercury.

Read more: http://www.pottsmerc.com/article/20120629/NEWS01/120629312/activist-invites-pottstown-council-to-see-poor-living-conditions-in-permitted-rental