POTTSTOWN, PA – Several dozen people stood in front of Pottstown Borough Hall, before tonight’s council meeting, to protest the rash of violence, including a homicide, that has gripped the borough in the last few weeks. NBC 10, the Reading Eagle and ace Mercury Reporter, Evan Brandt were all on hand (sorry if I missed anyone). Motorists honked and shouted encouragement from time to time as the protesters held up signs asking Pottstown Borough Council President Steve Toroney to resign.
Despite the threatening weather, the demonstration went on. Around 6:30 pm, Mr. Toroney arrived and entered the building by the front door. He appeared indifferent to the demonstrators.
The meeting started at 7:00 pm with the Call to Order. For the Invocation, President Toroney briefly spoke about former Pottstown Mayor Anne Jones, who passed away a few days ago. A moment of silence was then observed for Anne and her family.
The agenda then moved through the Pledge of Allegiance, Roll Call, Approval of Minutes and then Comments from Citizens Present.
The first commenter was well-known Pottstown civic activist, Katy Jackson. Speaking on behalf of the Pottstown Citizens Action Committee, Mrs. Jackson read with emotion from her prepared statement, which outlined in less than five minutes the flawed leadership of President Toroney. She was interrupted at 4 minutes to tell her she had one minute left and to “wrap it up”. No other speaker was interrupted. See my Roy’s Rants Facebook page to view video.
Dianne Krumm, another member of the Pottstown Citizens Action Committee echoed much of Mrs. Jackson’s concerns. She also cited Pottstown Police Chief Richard Drumheller’s goal to reduce crime in Pottstown by 1% when he took office. She suggested Pottstown ask for help from the state to aid the beleaguered police department.
Cindy Conard, former challenger for the 7th Ward Council seat, stressed the need for conversation and communication between the residents and the borough. She also mentioned the lack of vision and direction as contributing factors to the frustration of taxpayers.
David Garner, Esquire addressed the 7th Ward Councilor for ignoring his emails (not the first person with this issue). He again offered his help to the borough, even after being told his help “was not needed and not wanted”.
Several others addressed council with comments like “come live in my neighborhood for a day or a week”, “my property value has dropped $40,000 in 5 years” and “the borough manager rejected my request for an appointment”.
A young woman told a horror story of being abused by an extractive property investor. His property was inspected by the Pottstown Codes Department, there were major violations yet nothing ever happened to her landlord. She had no heat for two months and duct tape over the windows and doors to keep the air out, “you could see outside”. She called the Pottstown Police Department because she was being terrorized, nothing happened. They were more interested in running her information to see if she had outstanding warrants than they were to protect her from defiant trespass. She had to go to Norristown to get help and moved before her lease was up. She rightly wonders why her landlord was not held accountable for the ordinances she found on the borough website and why the police department was not interested in helping her. Great questions.
The last person who spoke expressed his frustration with being told he, as a taxpayer, is not doing enough to help fight crime in Pottstown. He is a life-long resident of the borough, an upstanding citizen who does call the police and tries to do the right thing. Being told he is not doing enough “pisses him off”. He lives within a block of the recent murder (and a previous murder). He also mentioned shootings, arson and cars being vandalized in his neighborhood. Blaming the people who pay your salary is never the way to go.
So after all these taxpayers poured out their hearts to borough council, a red-faced Steve Toroney read a prepared statement touting his 15 ½ years on Council. Normally politicians can rattle off a list of their accomplishments at the drop of a hat. Steve is proud of what he has accomplished but did not offer one illustration of any accomplishment in his statement. Interesting. See my Roy’s Rants Facebook page to view video. Mr. Toroney got a “jab” in at former Sixth Ward Councilor, Jody Rhoads in his remarks about not resigning.
The next item was the Mayor’s Report. The mayor had three talking points. First she talked about Anne Jones. That was very nice. Then she talked about Edgewood Cemetery, at some length. Basically, it’s abandoned and the borough does not own the property. The cemetery needs to be maintained… the problem. Lastly, Sharon addressed crime. She talked so long the video card filled up and my camera stopped recording. Sharon did mention the last citizen’s comments in her remarks about crime.
The Borough Manager’s Report was short. He mentioned the upcoming Pottstown Rumble volleyball tournament and that the hours are changing at borough hall. He did not acknowledge any of the citizens comments.
I left after his remarks.