Monday, February 22, 2016

Someone Should Do Something...

We're all busy, I get it.

And I will be the first to admit that were I not being paid to be there, I don't think I would willingly spend so many of my evenings at Pottstown School Board meetings, as nice as the people are there.

But I also don't want to spend my days living in a down that slowly disintegrates, helped along by our collective disinterest in helping.

This evening there are any number of opportunities to get involved in making this community something other than a place you put down on Facebook.

You can check out The Hill School's efforts at revitalization in the neighborhoods immediate adjacent to it by heading over to The Ricketts Center/Olivet Boys and Girls Club at 6 p.m.

There, the plans for making those 600 parcels a better place to live will be laid out, and your input, your ideas, are being sought.

Or, maybe you live a little west of there and need some help fixing up your house.

Then maybe the Rock the Block meeting an hour later at Victory Christian Life
The Walnut Street house being rehabbed by

Habitat for Humanity.
Center at the corner of King and North Washington streets is for you.

There, volunteers from a broad spectrum of community organizations will begin identifying properties in the 300 and 400 blocks of Chestnut, Walnut and Beech streets.

Those properties will be candidates for collective repairs, starting on April 15, as part of a program spear-headed by Habitat for Humanity.

At the same time, the Pottstown School Board will be sitting down in the cafeteria of Pottstown High School hoping to hear ideas from taxpayers about how keep taxes down.

The fact that they set themselves up to be shouted at by raising a $90,000
administrative re-organization plan at the prior meeting may be poor planning on their part, but it does not mean you shouldn't offer up your ideas anyway.

As a U.S. citizen, you of course have the right, some might say obligation, to speak to your elected representatives on any number of subjects in any number of forums. But no matter what you think about how your comments will be received, they will have a harder time ignoring you when they specifically asked you to come.

Yes they have a bit of work to do in the creating-an-environment-that-welcomes-input- department.

Last week Ron Williams complained that the public does not come to meetings to get involved.

It might just have something to do with the fact that visitors are only given three minutes to speak; they are told their questions will not be answered on the spot (they have to come back) and often enough, the information under discussion is not on the agenda in enough detail to make useful input possible.

Williams might as well have bemoaned "why won't anyone cross the lake of fire to be ignored by us."

Still, at least they're asking.

Three days later, the school board is asking again.

This time community input is sought in the search for a new superintendent.

Again at 7 p.;m. and again in the high school cafeteria, the results of the on-line community survey about what is important to you in the leader of the largest taxing entity on your tax bill will be revealed.

Then you will be asked to give your opinion. Don't skip the meeting and then complain about the choice they make.

On Wednesday, at 7 p.m., is your chance to provide your ideas and input for making the downtown holiday events the best they can be next Christmas. That meeting is at the offices of the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority, 17 N. Hanover St., across from The Mercury building.

Pottstown has big problems folks and they won't all be solved next week.

So also, please don't make the mistake of thinking you can show up once, drop some wisdom those folks on the other side of the table, and walk away having solved the problem they're too dumb to figure out.

The only thing that will be effective, and remember there is no guarantee it will be effective, is consistent, steady application of new ideas to old problems; ideas which should be abandoned if they are proven not to work, and embraced if they do work, even a little, because its unlikely there is one big change that will solve everything.

Consider just this conundrum: There are currently more property assessment challenges being filed in Pottstown than in any other municipality in Montgomery County.

Each successful challenge raises your tax bill that much more and erodes a little bit more of our collective tax base. The only thing that makes those challenges unsuccessful is rising real estate values.

And in case you missed it, I suggest you click here and check out the list of the borough's top employers that School Board member Tom Hylton recently published in The Mercury.

When your two local governments -- school district and borough -- are on the list of top 25 employers, along with other non-profit organizations and places like Wal-Mart, you have en economic sustainability problem.

When the Golden Gate Bridge was fabricated at Pottstown's Bethlehem Steel plant, that was money into town from outside. People in California were putting food on Pottstown tables.

When your top employers work for public institutions, its your own money going around in circles. And, when those employees live outside the borough, its your own money headed out, not outside money headed in.

Bethlehm Steel is not coming back.

So we're going to have to turn our adoring gaze from a glorious past and squint
ahead into a hazy and uncertain future for the jobs that are to come.

Council President Dan Weand has made 100 new jobs with salaries that can support a family as his goal for 2016. That is an excellent start.

Do you have an idea how to make that happen? Better yet, is there something you can do to make that happen? If so, have you called Dan?

Here is something you can do and stay in your arm chair for a few more moments.

Fill out the survey here:

This is the one that will help a company that wants to bring high-speed fiber Internet through Pottstown assess how many customers it might find there.

That's outside money in folks.

And, if we can convince them to come here by FILLING OUT THE SURVEY it has the potential to be a selling point to high-tech start-ups that are looking for cheap real estate, a livable community, with super high-speed connections.

Again, outside money in.

Pottstown is not suffering from a shortage of armchair activism.

When I made the point on The Mercury's Facebook page that people should accept their school board's invitation to offer input and go to the meeting rather than Sound Off or post on Facebook, someone responded that public officials should be open to and seeking input from any source.

And while that is most certainly true, to a point, it is also true that if you truly believe your input to be valuable, go to the extra effort to offer it in the forum those officials have specifically set up to receive it to ensure it has the best chance of being adopted.

I was struck Sunday while looking at The Mercury's Facebook page not so much old Gruber Mansion in North Coventry will be town down, that was to be expected, but by the near uniform nature of their response.
by how many people responded to the news that the

"Someone should have ...."

"They should be ashamed ..."

"Why didn't the historical society do something?...."

"That shouldn't be allowed to happen ....."

And I found myself asking, "what did YOU do to stop it? What did YOU do to help?"

Not one commenter that I saw said "hey folks, lets try to get together to see what we can do to save this historic building...."

"What are you prepared to do?"
I have tried to embed in my life a line from an otherwise mediocre movie, "The Untouchables," that Sean Connery's dying character repeats again to Elliott Ness ... "what are you prepared to do?"

The point being that Ness should not despair as the situation begins to escalate and spin out of control, but rather ask himself whether he is willing to do what is necessary to face it, face it and overcome it.

Going to a meeting doesn't sound like too much to ask of us.

Remember what Margaret Mead said:
 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
No one is going to swoop in and fix Pottstown for us folks.

It's time to start asking ourselves what we're prepared to do.

1 comment:

  1. When my daughter was in Pottstown (class of '07) I went to the school board meetings. When I would speak before the board, they would all look at me with a glazed look in their eyes. Like I was taking up their time with a mundane problem they had no interest in. This also goes true with the boro council. When will the members realize that you can have new jobs in town, but the only reason to live in town is to send your children to Pottstown Schools. Make them the best they can be, so people will WANT to live in Pottstown.