Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clean-up time?

In a year-end editorial, The New York Times suggests that voters in that state vote out their entire legislature in 2010.

Pennsylvania voters won't get that full opportunity, but we should all reflect on the performance of our state legislators.

When you get an appetite for pork

Read the Washington Post's story about Pennsylvania Congressman Murtha's penchant for pork projects and how that's mostly a flat out waste of public (i.e., taxpayer) money.

Then think about this on a local level.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Buckwalter wins in Pennsylvania Supreme Court

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has ruled in favor of Phoenixville Councilmember Ken Buckwalter in his suit against the Borough. In a December 28, 2009 decision the court held that “the Phoenixville Borough Council lacked the authority to change its councilmembers’ pay during incumbent councilmember’s terms.” The Borough's ordinance violated Article 3, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania constitution.

The opinion authored by Mr. Justice Eakin (in which five other justices joined) and the concurring opinion of Mr. Justice Saylor can be found here and here.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Aspiring to cognitive dissonance

The Parking Authority’s ‘narrative’ presented to Council last week refers to the $100,000 five-year loan (which the Borough is being asked to guarantee) as a ‘short-term vehicle.’

Mr. Cassidy tells Council, in response to questions, that the Authority would want to pay off the loan as soon as possible.

Mr. Krack tells Council that the loan being negotiated (the terms are apparently not yet set) will be interest-only for a year and that possibly it will be interest-only for the entire five years, with a balloon principal payment at the end.

Krack and Cassidy can’t even get their stories straight. And will the Council notice?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Unexcused absence

Conspicuously absent from the summary of the PASD forensic audit is any mention of what is being done to recover the misspent funds.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ethics Forms -- the Evans way

The Parking Authority members should perhaps take a lesson from Planning Commission Member James E. Evans. He filed his Statement of Financial Interests on March 9, 2009, almost two months before the deadline.

Evans’ filing (item 10) states that he has no “direct or indirect sources of income.” Also, to item 13, requiring disclosure of “office, directorship or employment in any business” he writes “Managing Director of Non-Profit 501-3c” [sic].

According to records of the Pennsylvania Corporation Bureau, Evans is the President of two business corporations: Evans Management Group, Inc. and St. Peter’s Management Corporation, Inc. Both those companies’ addresses are 2 Emmett Street, Evans’ residence; the other listed officers are Evans’ family members. Neither of the companies is mentioned in Evans’ financial interests filing.

Publicly available non-profit filings of Federal Forms 990 for St. Peter’s Housing Development Corporation, Inc. and Church Housing Corp of Phoenixville show that in the years 2005–2007 they paid over $800,000 to St. Peter’s Management Corporation, Inc. Other filings show that Evans received a salary from that company.

Evans’ financial interest filing is for 2008, and the 990s for 2008 are not yet on line. So perhaps the management fee payments and Evans’ salary situation are different from those reported on the earlier 990s, though it seems that he was the President of the two for-profit companies in 2008.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Parking Authority Majority: We don't need no steenking ethics forms

The files of the Phoenixville Borough Secretary show that as of August 20th a majority of the five members of the Parking Authority (Messrs. Friday, Cummins, and Abbott) have failed to file their Statements of Financial Interest as required by Pennsylvania’s Ethics Law. And, not surprisingly, there is no filing for the Authority’s Director, Barry Cassidy. The filing deadline was May 1st.

The pertinent parts of the Ethics Act state:

65 Pa.C.S. §1104(d) Failure to file required statement.--No public official shall be allowed to take the oath of office or enter or continue upon his duties, nor shall he receive compensation from public funds, unless he has filed a statement of financial interests as required by this chapter.

65 Pa.C.S. §1109(b) Financial interests statement violation.--Any person who violates the provisions of section 1103(d) through (j), 1104 (relating to statement of financial interests required to be filed) or 1105(a) (relating to statement of financial interests) commits a misdemeanor and shall, upon conviction, be sentenced to pay a fine of not more than $1,000 or to imprisonment for not more than one year, or both.

Something to think about as Borough Council moves to blindly guarantee the Authority’s borrowing.

Friday, July 31, 2009

A Friday quotable

Just a short excerpt from a biographic blog entry by Phoenixville Parking Authority member David Friday on a Temple University blog:

“I serve on the board of administration for the Phoenixville Parking Authority (real f------g fun).”

To see the full entry, go here and scroll down to David F's posting of 6/19/2008.

I am sure that the residents of the Borough will be thrilled to know how much fun you are having in public service and how well you are able to express yourself.

Update: Since the original posting of this blog entry, Mr. Friday has replaced his entry with something even more offensive at the same location.

Mr. Friday's original posting was as follows (emphasis supplied):

I loved my time at Temple University. I think in college you get out what you put into it. I've read some other reviews and I respect their experiences but my honest opinion is that maybe they didn't apply themselves to the experience of college. I mean, some people take things way to serious. And listen, college is a serious time when you should focus in on what you want to do in your future (aka - the rest of your life).

Having said all of that, I don't know about you folks but I have lived a serious number of years (41 to be exact) and I still don't know what the hell I want to do for the rest of my life. I travel in my full time job selling building materials to lumber yards and hardware stores, I serve on the board of administration for the Phoenixville Parking Authority (real f......g fun), and I own a retail store called Hipster Home (as many of you know by now). Oh, and did I mention I have a BS in Exercise Physiology and worked in Cardio/Pulmonary Rehab for 8 years (ugh). So you can definitely see how all the dots connect (NOT). I mean you can't be all over the board any more than I am and I know I am not alone. But currently my main focus is on our store and making it successful.

So what the hell does this have to do with TU. Well, like I said, way to many people take their time in college waaaaaaaay too serious. I think that college is learning about people, friendships, hardships, growth, scholastics (had to throw that in), living with other people, social life, decision making, etc. and then having to prioritize all of that so that you accomplish your goal of getting out with a degree. That is unless your in med school or law school.

But honestly, ask any adult that went to college to study and I bet that most of the folks do not work in the field of their original study. They have probably worked in 3 or 4 different fields and are still seeking more. The final point is that college is about learning about yourself and what you need to do to accomplish any goals you have in life. Whether it be in sales, nursing, physiology, teaching, art, homemaker.... Enjoy your times and don't let those things you can't control take over and control you. Temple taught me all of that and the realization that I am always learning and willing to learn. Do I get graded on this because I still think there is a paper I have that is past due from my English Lit class since '91 (what was that professors name again)?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who has seen the wind?

In a news item from Wind Gap, PA, the Washington Post reports that a township supervisor passed out a public meeting. Turns out that he was drunk and was therefore cited for public intoxication.

Having passed out at the meeting, at least the supervisor did no public harm.

Anyone want to contribute to libations for Phoenixville’s Council? Meeting (cocktails?) tonight at 7 PM.

If they have enough, perhaps Phoenixville will experience a gap in its governmental wind.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Parking Authority's Proposal

The following is a letter that I sent today to the Members of Phoenixville's Borough Council.

March 30, 2009

Dear Council Members:

I write with regard to the proposal presented to Council on behalf of the Phoenixville Parking Authority at last Tuesday’s meeting.

In my view, the proposal is totally lacking in necessary specifics. At the same time the proposal advocates what amounts to not only a carte blanche financial guarantee from the Borough, but also a scheme to hide the current costs, keeping them off the Borough’s financial statements and outside of the Borough’s control. Acceptance of this proposal by Council would be the height of irresponsibility.

The financial guarantee is accomplished by the artifice of having the Borough transfer ownership of the Prospect Street lot to the Authority, so that the Authority can collateralize (mortgage) that property. (Note that this is the only lot which the Authority wishes to own. It is satisfied to lease the rest.) Although the proposed transfer and collateralization is not stated as being a Borough guarantee of the Authority’s debt, it is a guarantee in its effect.

The only source of repayment of the proposed loan (or any other debt or expense of the Authority) is the Authority’s revenues. The Authority has not said how much of a loan it is seeking, what repayment terms it anticipates, or how the loan funds will be used. It has not presented any estimate of revenues or expenses, or any explanatory narrative of how the estimates were constructed. Thus, there is no way to evaluate whether the Authority will be able to repay whatever it may borrow against the Prospect Street lot. Further, once the lot is transferred to the Authority, the Borough has no control over the loan transaction, just as it has no control over the Authority’s other financial affairs.

If the Authority is unable to repay the loan, the Borough will be faced with the alternative of repaying the loan (to maintain public ownership) or allowing the creditor to foreclose on the lot and sell it. The Borough may in effect be forced to repurchase its own parking lot. Since the loan transaction is not within the Borough’s control, this is actually worse for the Borough than an ordinary loan guarantee. In an ordinary guarantee, the Borough would have to specifically enact the guarantee and would thus have the opportunity to exercise control over the risk to taxpayer funds.

The lack of any financial estimates underlying any of the proposal is profoundly distressing. The Authority proposes to assume operating responsibility for the lots, but says nothing about what it thinks the costs will be or what revenues it expects to be able to achieve to cover those costs. Amazingly, the Authority proposes that it will develop its budgets only after the “disposition of the existing lots is ascertained.” That is just the wrong sequence for any sort of a business plan.

(As an aside, the Authority proposes to carry out many of its lot maintenance responsibilities by contracting with the Borough. This is little more than a bureaucratic soixante-neuf: ugly and devoid of redeeming social value.)

Another example of the superficiality of the proposal is the reference to establishing a two-hour nonmetered zone on Bridge Street, enforced by chalking tires. One needs to go no further than West Chester to discover that there are actually handheld electronic devices that allow a parking enforcement officer to record the plate number of parked vehicles in such nonmetered zones, along with the time, so that enforcement can be done in an accurate and trackable manner.

I am frankly at a loss to understand how the Authority, whose members I understand to be persons with business experience, could forward this proposal. Council should demand that the Authority propose meaningful specifics before Council undertakes any review, much less any action, on an Authority proposal. The purpose of the Authority was, after all, to get parking matters into the hands of people with the expertise (hah!) and time to work out the details.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A missed opportunity

Take a look at this picture (from the New York Times) of Fresno, California.

PPG could have done this for the steel site, if only we had let them.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Borough Hall to be relocated

If you missed this news, look here.

(Just kidding, of course.)

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Back to being a tout

The publisher of the Phoenix has apologized (as he should) for the shabby piece about the late Spiedie Bistro.

The publisher then continues to reaffrm the paper's role as a promoter of business in town. (He knows who pays his way.)

What about being a newspaper -- you know, printing timely and accurate accounts of local events of importance?

Friday, January 16, 2009

In the chamber pot

OK, Spiedie Bistro goes out of business. The Phoenix, well known for its several Pultizer prizes for standardless journalism posts a picture of the now defunct eatery with a snide caption. Exit stage right.

Enter stage left and move to center stage the President of the Phoenixville Regional Chamber. When The Phoenix ran a front page advertisement March 7, 2008 (oops, they pretended it was a news item) touting the bistro's grand opening, the Chamber President had no criticism. Now, however, he writes a letter to the editor taking umbrage at the paper's treatment of the business.

He then proceeds to take a pot shot at the paper for the value (if any remains) of its parent company's stock and finally asks "when your number is up, who's going to dance on your grave?"

The only question is who's behavior is worse, the paper's or the Chamber's?

The curtain descends, to a funeral march.

Cash strapped developer finds religion

In the wake of the financial challenges faced by the Delta Organization, its head, Walt Logan, has turned to G-d.

Click here to read Walt’s article of faith.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Phoenixville's web site -- errors and omissions

The Borough's website continues its tradition of being incomplete and just plain wrong.

Although the 2009 proposed budget was eventually posted (last year), now that a budget actually has been approved, it has vanished from sight.

The "Agendas and Meetings" page states the Council meeting schedule incorrectly as being "the first Tuesday after the second Monday," even though Council has changed it to be simply the second Tuesday.