The Brick House Versus The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority

It never ceases to amaze me how The Fishwrap inserts itself into Pottstown’s affairs.  There is a fine line between reporting the news and “creating” the news.

The most recent article about the dispute between PDIDA and Brick House owner Dave Walsh is a sterling example of taking a bad situation and making it worse, under the guise of “the public has a right to know”.  The article is slanted in favor of PDIDA and against one of the most successful merchants downtown.  It paints an unflattering picture of Dave Walsh.

I have read the study on the use of opera and classical music to remove vagrants from business districts.  I agree it was worth a try.  I also understand business owners have a right to their opinion, even if that opinion disagrees with PDIDA.  Without business owners there would be no PDIDA.  Frankly, downtown Pottstown is in the worst shape I have ever seen it; since moving here in 1983.  Antagonizing and bad-mouthing Dave Walsh is spitting in the face of one of the few reasons to even go downtown.

I interviewed Dave Walsh a while back and found him to be one of the most down-to-earth people I have ever met.  He answered all my questions, he was forthright, polite, genuine in his desire to help Pottstown and was a pleasure to talk with.  It was the first conversation I ever had with him.  He was a wealth of information.  Instead of pissing him off, maybe PDIDA should pick his brain and find out why and how he is so successful!  He readily shared that information with me.

As for Bonnie trying to mediate this “crisis” I LOL!  Bonnie is firmly on the side of PDIDA, or should I say her agenda. 

Andrew Monastra had the only sensible comments that were reported.  And trust me Andrew, you are right on when you say Dave has valid points which are not personally driven.  Dave Walsh could be a great asset to PDIDA.  He is already a great asset to Pottstown.

As for the loitering problem downtown…we do have a police department, don’t we???  We have laws on the books.  As usual we don’t use our existing tools to solve problems.  The only way to turn Pottstown around is to clean it up.  The police department is a key part of the equation.  Playing opera only keeps undesirables away while the music is playing.  We need to send a clear message that we will not tolerate this behavior on our streets and that can only be done by enforcing the law.  Private citizens can not do that.

I really do applaud PDIDA for trying something.  Sometimes things do not work, for a variety of reasons, and we need to regroup and move on.  Demonizing Dave Walsh is neither productive nor proper.  Dave is not the problem here.  You should extend an olive branch and tap into what Dave knows.

5 comments on “The Brick House Versus The Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority

  1. Roy,
    Thanks, as always, for your input.
    I was a little surprised to see you think this article is slanted in favor of PDIDA since the feedback I’ve received was quite the opposite and the folks at the PDIDA meeting did their best to keep as much of it from me as possible.
    I suppose slant is in the eye of the beholder.
    Like you, I too have interviewed Dave, and I too have found him to be forthright and have enjoyed his establishment many times and consider it one of Pottstown’s positives.
    I have also interviewed Sheila and have found her to be enthusiastic and dedicated to trying to make Pottstown a better place. I also consider Grumpy’s sandwiches to be one of Pottstown’s positives.
    I’m trying not to take sides in this, and rather than trying to make the situation worse, I do hope that putting it all out on the table helps to get it resolved. Certainly, keeping it under the table for quite some time seems to have done little to get it resolved.
    Given the recent hub-ub over HARB (that was a fun phrase to write), we thought it newsworthy to point out yet another example of agencies seeming to act unilaterally without getting buy-in (or even input in some cases) from the businesses affected.
    I agree with you that Mr. Monastra’s comments are on point, that hearing and, if necessary, adapting to input from those who disagree with you is often the best way to move forward.
    I also admire people who step forward publicly and use their real names when they see a problem they think need to be addressed.
    As it turns out, you fall into that category.
    Nonetheless, I do find it unfortunate (although not “amazing”) that you chose to ascribe motives to a story I’ve written without talking to me or having any other information than what you’ve read; particularly given that, as you note here, you’ve already picked a side, but that is of course your right.
    As I said, slant is often in the eye of the beholder.
    See you at the next council meeting.

  2. Consensus was nearly unanimous from the merchants to “give it a try”, before the music even played. Except Dave, who was unable or unwilling to communicate his wishes, for whatever reason(s). Every effort was made to touch base with each merchant. The borough was made aware and it was all on the up and up. WPAZ was enthusiastic and offered assistance to clean up, line up and make general repairs to an antiquated system – all at NO COST to the borough or the merchants.

    For my 2 cents worth, while visiting London, the practice of playing orchestral and operatic music in public spaces, like subway hubs and fine shopping/dining areas, served to keep would be pickpockets, addicts, dealers, and so forth on the move. The music served as a salve for the hectic pace of city life, a calm in the storm. It’s not new, it’s time tested and proven. I loved it. I suggested it for Pottstown.

    When given the opportunity to do a short story, at the start of this musical trial, not one representative from the local presses, blogs, on-line papers, etc., that were contacted, gave it any credence. Could a brief commentary, note or other acknowledgement of this process served to allay the worries and concerns of people who were not “in the know”? I think so, but we will never know.

    I’m disappointed. I was on High St. with WPAZ and Sheila the first day the music played. It was magical. The street took on a sophistication, a certain calm and a sense that “all is right with the world.” It was quite a juxtaposition to the norm. As the vagrants disappeared and we stopped to chat with each merchant about their thoughts on this experiment, not a discouraging word was spoken. One merchant pronounced: BRAVISSIMO !! Another, “I’m not a fan of opera, really, but the results speak for themselves and High St. feels good. Can the music be left on through the early evening too?”

    Sure, there were kinks to work out but the brain power, man/woman power were at the ready. A tenant of a 2nd floor building explained that he works night shift and the music was keeping him awake. On inspection it was discovered that the speakers were aimed right at his window, they were re-aligned and all was well.

    I want to support the downtown merchants and I have been a good customer of the Brick House, (although the mounds of cigarette butts at the entry door have been a turn-off for quite some time), I overlooked them and went inside anyway. Prior to the music, my ventures on High St. early this Fall, have left me feeling defensive, sad and overwhelmed by the panhandlers, working girls, dealers and general loitering folk. I try to see High St. from a outsiders point of view and I can find nothing that would beckon one to pull into a parking space to take a stroll, shop, dine or linger.

    For now, my visits to High St. will only consist of a play at the Tri-Pac or a visit to the Gallery School when I can park nearby. The music was a simple, delicate way of creating good energy and giving people space to breath deeply and come to appreciate High St. It has turned into a reason for every malcontent to rear their ugly heads in the Mercury comments and for old wounds to be re-opened at the expense of progress and moving forward. I’m not sure Pottstown can survive much more of the push and pull that goes on between personalities and if this beautiful notion of music on High St. can become a catalyst to learn why “things go so wrong” in Pottstown, it will have served a noble purpose, and it is my hope that each and every player in this latest Pottstown drama will take moment to examine their motives and make the choice to work with each other.

    Katy Jackson

  3. Katy,
    Thanks for adding your voice.
    As an FYI, once Sheila came over and told us about the music, we scheduled a story that waited only for us to get video (and sound) of the music playing downtown.
    We visited no less than five times at different times of the day on different days.
    In each instance, we failed to hear any music. Others we asked said the same thing, they hadn’t heard it. We felt it important to capture the thing the story was to be about.
    That was the only think holding up the story and then we became aware of Mr. Walsh’s e-mail and the story changed.
    For what its worth.

  4. O.K. Evan. The music was off then on over the course of about a week and a half as the speakers were being adjusted. With respect for the complaint from one merchant, (who’s name was not disclosed to me at that time), and the resident I mentioned above, it became apparent that each speaker would have to be inspected and aligned to get the best quality and positioning. Plans were in place to continue to work with WPAZ and they had arranged for a volunteer technician to address the issues this coming week.

    Although there was not enough time to fully evaluate it’s success it was apparent, (even with faulty speaker’s), that it has merit. The project was in it’s infancy and if allowed to proceed the speakers will be tuned up, re-adjusted and ready to hearld in the holidays for Pottstown’s traditional celebrations.

  5. P.S. Just returned from PIPPIN at the Tri-Pac. If you haven’t seen it- DON’T MISS IT. It was beyond any expectations I may have had. There are four more showings next week-end.


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