Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Garage Bids Rejected, No Tax Hike, Insect Invaders

Township commissioners made it official Monday night, rejecting all bids for the new $2 million public works facility at Heather Place.

Commissioners Chairman Elwood Taylor cast the only no vote.

He said characterizations of him being disappointed by the outcry from the Oct. 2 meeting at which many residents spoke out against the project were inaccurate. He said the township had been exploring the issue for many years and this was the outcome and he supports the process.

Nevertheless, Taylor said he looks forward to the alternatives produced by a committee of residents who volunteered to look into the matter.

Discussion of the township budget also indicated that in its current draft form, no tax hike is anticipated, although there was some spirited discussion about the annual cost of sewer service, voiced mostly by the audience.

And our friends in the insect family are really bugging folks in Upper Pottsgrove.

Township Manager Carol Lewis said the township is receiving lots of complaints about the invasive species spotted lantern fly, which comes here by way of Korea and is a danger to trees.

Commissioner France Kazalkovich, who lives in a townhouse development said "I have exactly one tree on my property, and it was covered from top to bottom with these things."

State Sen. Judy Schwank, D-11th Dist., will hold a hearing on this threat on Wednesday, at 9 a.m. and the hearing will be livestreamed on her web site (click here).

In the meantime, Lewis is pursuing a PECO grant to replace the ash trees on public property the township is expected to lose (those that were not harvested for lumber) to another invasive insect, the emerald ash borer.

Before I release you to revel in the live Tweets from the meeting, I would be remiss if I did not share a new term Township Solicitor Charles D. Garner Jr. invented, which talking about the intersection of the zoning ordinance as it relates to farm animals, and the animal control ordinance adopted this year -- "horse densities."

Evidently it relates to a "horses-per-acre" ratio, and not a measure of how dense your horse may be.

And without further ado, here are the Tweets:

Monday, October 16, 2017

YWCA Hosting Week Without Violence Events

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by YWCA Tri-County Area.

How does violence against women and children impact our community? What resources exist for women and children in our community? What can we do to make positive change?

YWCA Tri-County Area will participate in Week Without Violence, Oct. 16-20, a national YWCA movement raising awareness of the devastating effects of violence in our society. 

As a part of its mission to promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all, YWCA Tri-County Area works to bring communities together to combat violence and injustice.

According to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence, since 2006 Montgomery County ranks fourth among Pennsylvania counties in fatalities linked to domestic violence.

YWCA Tri-County Area will host a number of activities during Week Without Violence to raise awareness of violence in our community, and of the inequities, biases and “isms” that lead to violence:
  • "Persimmon Purse Bingo" from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 20, at Norco Fire Company, 144 W. Schuylkill Road, North Coventry will raise awareness and support YWCA's Teen Dating Violence Awareness program, which helps teens learn about healthy relationships, and how to recognize danger signals from their dating partners. The color persimmon reflects the strength and confidence of YWCA. Register here: yw3caBINGO.eventbrite.com
  • YW’s Tri-County Area’s Early Education Center will host an open house and informational event from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at 315 King St., Pottstown. Representatives of the Women’s Center of Montgomery County will be on hand to offer information about gender-based violence prevention, support, and resources.
  • Young artists are invited to take part in a Youth Art Contest marking Week Without Violence. All youth grades 6-12 in the Tri-County Area are invited to submit original art celebrating YWCA’s mission of promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all.
  • Children from YW’s Early Education Center will take part in a Clothesline Project, a national project founded to raise awareness of violence against women. The children will create T-shirt- shaped posters promoting YWCA’s mission of peace, justice, freedom and dignity.

Artwork from the Youth Art Contest and the Clothesline Project will be displayed at YWCA Tri-County Area during an open house from 3 to 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 19, at YW’s Early Education Center, 315 King St., Pottstown, and at the Persimmon Purse Bingo event from 6 to 10 p. m. Friday, Oct. 20, at the Norco Fire Company, North Coventry.

YWCA Tri-County Area is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women and promoting peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. YW3CA is a leader in advocacy for women and girls, works to eliminate racism, and empowers women through quality affordable childcare, adult literacy, and a host of programs to support the health and vitality of women, girls, and families.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Re-Learning the Lessons of the Vietnam War

Watching the epic Ken Burns/Lynn Novick documentary "The Vietnam War" over the past two weeks has been both a revelation and a confirmation.

The confirmation? Politicians lie.


What came as a revelation is something I think I also already knew but didn't want to face so baldly -- the depth of the lies politicians will tell and the lengths they will go to to preserve them, no matter the cost in lives, trust or treasure.

Watching, hour after hour, I confess to being constantly staggered by what they told the public, versus what they knew and said in private -- now known thanks to the passage of time.

There is no partisanship in this observation.

The first and formative lies were told by Democrats -- first by JFK, perhaps our most revered president, then by LBJ, who watched as his Great Society anti-poverty agenda was slowly crushed bneath the weight of a war he could not win and did not think he could not afford to lose.

Needless to say, Republican Richard Nixon was no slouch in the lying department, but by the time he began to tell his whoppers, no one could claim to have clean hands when it came to Vietnam.

There was nothing clean about it.

It was a dirty war, in reasoning, rhetoric and reality.

The soldiers in the field were fighting a dirty jungle war, with no front lines, no clear mission and, no end in sight.

How could a soldier, or anyone for that matter, be expected to maintain their composure, their
motivation, hell, their sanity, after crawling up hill through hellfire and watching friends die to take ultimately meaningless high grounds like "Hamburger Hill," only to have them abandoned by command days later,and quickly re-occupied by the enemy?

The government our soldiers were fighting to preserve in South Vietnam was filthy with corruption and the government that had sent the soldiers there to fight was making a mess of things back home.

Soldiers were shooting students, African-Americans were rioting in the streets and protesters at political conventions, thousands were marching both for and against the conflict and soldiers in Vietnam were asking themselves exactly what they were doing in Southeast Asia.

I was, I admit, admiring of the role the press played in revealing the lies and contradictions at the time.

Reporters like Morley Safer, Joseph Galloway and Neil Sheehan, risked their lives, their reputations and repeatedly spoke truth to power, over and over again, in their pursuit of the truth.

In all honesty, as proud as it made me to be a part of that profession, I don't think I would have had the balls to be a battlefield reporter during that war.

Without their steadfast reporting, most of the country would not have realized what was really going on in Vietnam, as opposed to the lies their government was telling them.

Civilian women and children were among those murdered at My Lai.
Sadly, pieces of that truth -- the comparatively isolated incidents of crimes and atrocities like the My Lai Massacre -- were too broadly applied to the returning veterans who had fought with honor as best circumstances allowed and were shunned by a nation which owed them a sincere apology.

The war, opposition to it, and Nixon's brilliantly perceptive "southern strategy" in winning the election -- recognizing and cultivating the deep desire of white suburbanites to just make it all go away so their lives could continue on as before -- combined to gouge deep divides in this country which are still visible today in red/blue states on election night maps.

And I fear the lessons of the Vietnam era are lessons we may forget because so much high school history only manages to get as far as World War II, or perhaps the Korean War. And so few people are curious to learn more about a war we "lost."

Worse yet, I fear this forgotten history is on the verge of being repeated as our leadership -- whose only consistent theme seems to be to undo everything accomplished by the previous administration -- shambles incoherently toward a mixed menu of disasters which may soon find us plunged into war, or environmental destruction or an unsustainable disregard for our less fortunate citizens, or all of the above and more.

I have seen some of the criticisms of the film, that it over-simplifies things or has left things out. That may be true. In fact, given the complexities of the time and the length of time it covers, how could that not be the case?

But born in 1964, I am too young to be the judge of that by personal experience.

My earliest memories of an awareness of the war are asking my parents, who were in the kitchen washing the dishes, how many wars America had won and how many had it lost and being puzzled by the meaningful look they exchanged.

Regardless, whether it is complete or not, it strikes me that the 20 hours of education masterfully assembled by Novick and Burns is as good a place as any to start learning those history lessons in the dwindling hope that we don't re-live it.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hopewell Honors Volunteer With Original Quilt

Hopewell Quilters from left, Becky Hughes, Elverson; Eve Biamonte, Coatesville; David Blackburn, Hopewell Furnace NHS Site Manager; Lee Norman, Oley; Beth Shugar, Reading. Quilt recipient, bottom right Ellen Boyer of Pottstown.

Blogger's Note: The following was provided by Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site

A handmade quilt was presented to Pottstown resident Ellen Boyer at the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site Visitor Center.  On Wednesday, Oct. 4.

The quilt was made by The Hopewell Quilters, a group of volunteers at Hopewell Furnace that demonstrate the art and craft of quilting to park visitors. Mrs. Boyer, a long time volunteer at Hopewell Furnace, has created historic costumes for events and activities at Hopewell Furnace for many years. 

Fabric used in the quilt was provided by Boyer and represented many years of her costume work at Hopewell. 

The quilt’s design, “Spools and Thimbles,” was purchased by Boyer and represents 305 hours of work to create it. 

“The quilt is a wonderful representation of how heritage, tradition, life ways, and volunteerism connect to the work we do at Hopewell Furnace NHS” said Site Manager David Blackburn.

Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site preserves and interprets an early American industrial landscape and community. Showcasing an iron plantation and its surrounding countryside, Hopewell Furnace was active from 1771 to 1883. 

The park’s facilities are currently open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. It will return to a five day a week operation, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, the week of Oct. 29. 

The Historic Site is closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Hopewell Furnace is located five miles south of Birdsboro, PA, off of Route 345. Admission to the park is free. 

For more information, download our app, stop by the park's visitor center, call 610-582-8773, or visit the park’s web site at www.nps.gov/hofu.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Garden Award and Harvest Party at Mosaic Saturday

The Mosaic Community Garden at 423 Chestnut St. has won the "Garden of Distinction Award" from the Pennsylvania Hosrticultural Society.

The Mosaic Community Land Trust's garden at 423 Chestnut St. will be awarded the Garden of Distinction Award from the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's "Gardening and Greening" contest, according to an email sent out by garden manager Daniel Price.

"This is due to the amazing community and plot holders that have put years of work into these gardens. You continue to showcase how beautiful of a community Pottstown truly is," Price wrote.

To celebrate that achievement and to thank all for an amazing year, the community is invited to the gardens' end of the season Harvest Party tomorrow, Saturday, Oct. 14th between 12 and 4 p.m. at the garden at 423 Chestnut Street

Similar to last year, the event is in conjunction with Haunts on High and Pottstown Arts Walk and is an open house for the entire community. Food and drink will be on hand, but pot luck dishes are welcome too. (Perhaps it’s something made from vegetables in your plot or home garden.) 

Feel free to invite friends and family and spread the word to your neighbors. All are welcome. 
A "Harvest Party" will be held from 12 to 4 p.m. Saturday

In addition to the food, there will be activities for children as well plant swapping for recreational gardeners that participated or would like to participate in next year’s garden contest.

"I want to thank each of you for being involved in our community gardens this past year. With the departure of Laura (Washington) and with me hitting the ground running in spring, the last six months have flown by," Price said in his email. "The entire community has been extremely welcoming and I’m eternally grateful for your energy, love and patience this year."

As the season winds down, registrations will available for new members as well as a sign up list for returning members from this or previous years. 

Mosaic is also inviting suggestions for names for their two gardens, one at 423 Chrstnut St. and the other at 615 Chestnut St..  

"As we move forward and grow, the goal is to get each garden to have it’s own identity and committee. I know myself and the Mosaic board would love to hear your ideas of what that would look like," Price wrote. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hill School Donations Headed to Hurricane Victims

Submitted Photos
Members of The Hill School hockey team load a bus full of donations to be shipped to Puerto Rico hurricane victims.

Blogger's Note: The Following was provided by The Hill School.

Members of The Hill School boys’ hockey team loaded Hill’s “Big Blue” school bus with supplies meant for Puerto Rico's hurricane victims Friday.

Loaded were: 60 cases of water; 24 large cases of diapers; 50 flashlights with batteries and extra batteries; 15 large boxes of canned food; 24 boxes full of dry goods ranging from cereal to Ramen noodles; and 12 large boxes of toiletries and personal sanitary items. 

Hill Instructor of Computer Science Damian Baraty, along with Heather Gelting, human resources director, and Lisa Demetrio, Sodexo dining manager, then drove the bus to Allentown to deliver the supplies to be shipped to Puerto Rico.

This effort was part of a larger endeavor led by Mrs. Demetrio’s neighbor, Ty Solis, a Pottstown resident and native of Puerto Rico. Solis’ family resides in Patillas, Puerto Rico, one of the many areas of the island that has suffered great devastation in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

In just 10 days, students, faculty, and staff, and the greater Pottstown community came together to support the people of Puerto Rico to collect the greatly needed items. After an initial call for assistance in an email sent to our community by Gelting, and publicity from local press, The Hill School’s Business Office and Gatehouse soon became temporary collection centers as Hill employees, parents, and community members generously dropped off basic need and emergency items, as well as monetary donations.

In addition to the collection, Quin Mastrangelo 2018, president of the campus Young Republicans Club, organized a bake sale to raise money for this effort.

Quin Mastrangelo, center, is joined by Heather Gelting and
Lisa Demetrio purchasing supplies in Costco.
His sale amassed $300, which was added to the contributions, for a total of $2,058. 

Quin accompanied Gelting and Demetrio to the local Costco to purchase additional items, which were included in the delivery to Allentown and then transported via a shipping container that Mr. Solis had arranged to have safely delivered to Patillas.

“We estimate that more than $3,500 of goods were donated on Friday, although it’s very hard to put a value on all the donated items dropped off,” remarked Heather. “It really was an amazing effort.”

Water for Puerto Rico | Grassroots Efforts Led by Hill Alumni

While The Hill drive has concluded, the need for assistance by residents of Puerto Rico is ongoing. For those still wishing to help, Hill alumnus and resident of San Juan, Alejandro Calaf Reichard and his Hill classmate, Ian Stewart, both class of 1996, have created a Facebook effort, Water for Puerto Rico

They are collecting various basic need and emergency supplies, in particular water filters and filtering systems. All items are being sent directly to Alejandro who will travel to the affected neighborhoods to distribute to those who need it most in Puerto Rico.

The efforts of Reichard and Stewart have reached across the world, thanks in part to their strong Hill ties and connections with classmates and other Hill alumni. What started as a small grassroots effort on Facebook to collect resources for clean water has now grown into a group nearly 400 strong with a growing list of initiatives, including connecting charitable organizations with donors and cancer patients with stateside hospitals.

“What started as one package being sent, has evolved into a group conversation on Facebook,” said Stewart. “From there it has grown into a group with more than 350 members. As of the first 30 hours, we estimate about $10,000 worth of supplies were in motion directly because of this group.”

While Reichard and Stewart are focused on the immediate needs of residents of the island, they also recognize that this is just the beginning, and they are committed to assisting with the reconstruction of Puerto Rico.

“After things get settled with water and the aid gets to the last person in need, the reconstruction begins,” noted Reichard. “Ian and I know the need here for helping people reconstruct their homes and lives is long, and it's a complicated issue altogether.”
Donations are dropped off in Allentown.

“We figure we can keep our initiative going by evolving it into getting building supplies to those who need it the most, in particular the basics which we can't make in Puerto Rico, including wood, nails, nuts, bolts, and washers,” he said.

If you are interested in learning more about how you can help, "Like" the Water for Puerto Rico Facebook page or request to join the group planning page. Reichard is very active on the page, posting updates, news, and videos of his travels. A “Wish List” of items also is available on Amazon.com, which can be ordered and shipped directly to Alejandro in San Juan.

Reichard plans to be at Patillas when the donations from The Hill School and Pottstown arrive on the island. The success of these endeavors truly is a testament to The Hill School’s concern for the greater good and the back of each, the strength of all.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

And the Mural of the Story Is ... A New Law

For all of you who were hoping for a dramatic last minute change of heart on the ongoing sage of borough council's vital mural law debate, only Councilman Joe Kirkland provided some drama when he changed his vote to oppose it.

After all, this is borough council, not a Disney movie.

Having dealt with this interesting but ultimately secondary concern, council moved forward with the single most important thing it does each year the budget.

No, I'm just kidding.

Council President and Finance Committee member Dan Weand said there had been some discussion about ways to cut costs and increase revenues, but he couldn't discuss them because .... well, to be honest that was not entirely clear.

I suppose we should just rest assured its in capable hands.

But Council member Dennis Arms isn't so sure. He noted that he has provided several suggestions to cut costs but they are all still in the draft budget. He did not specify other than to say "we're still spending $100 a month for "plant-scaping here in borough hall. I don't need to see plants when I come in to pay my $300 water bill.

And Council Vice President Sheryl Miller, who has refused Weand's request that she resign from the finance committee, said engineering costs from the borough authority's engineering form, BCM, "put us over-budget in 2016. It is every council member's responsibility to be looking at this budget, not just the finance committee."

Arms also agitated for more discussion about replacing retiring Borough Manager Mark Flanders, who steps down at the end of December.

Mayor Sharon Thomas suggested a transition team that puts Assistant Borough Manager Justin Keller in the job now to save time and money. "I've been through this a few times and we always spend a lot of money to decide we need to hire from within," she said.
A rendering of the homes proposed for the 500 block of Lincoln Ave.

There was a surprise visit from the Governor's Office of Local Government, who responded to Miller's call for a review of salaries and operations saying that is what was done in 2007 and the office remained available to undertake another.

In other news, council undertook a conditional use hearing for a proposal to build six attached single family homes in the 500 block of Lincoln Avenue.

And a review of the proposed land bank law, which council voted to advertise, with only Arms voting against.

With that, here are the Tweets.