Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Leonhauser votes against restoring chief of police

The Republicans may have begun to see their campaign promises unravel at Tuesday’s meeting of the Board of Supervisors. Only about 12 percent of all registered voters in Middletown Township cast their ballots for Gallagher, Mallon and Kreiling. The entire Township will probably be paying dearly after so many voters stayed home on Election Day.

During a budget discussion, they found that their ideas for hiring more police officers without increasing the budget were like smoke in the wind. The police department’s $9.2M budget represents 66% of the overall township budget, with the next closest department coming in at $1.9M, or 14% of the budget. With the township manager proposing flat revenue and flat expenses for 2010, we have a shortfall of $3M. That is without hiring more police officers.

So, with the budget already falling short (meaning a tax increase), how can the township afford hiring more officers with no tax increase (as the Republicans promised)? Additionally, their campaign promised to “dedicate all community policing revenue earned at the Oxford Valley Mall, Sesame Place, and special events to the police budget – not to the general Township operating funds.” The Township Manager confirmed last night that this revenue is ALREADY allocated to the police budget so there is no silver bullet there either. What really surprised us is that Mr. Gallagher and Mr. Kreiling seemed shocked that their campaign promises may have had no merit (Mr. Mallon did not attend the meeting). This shock would seem to indicate they might have actually believed their campaign bluster. That’s scary!

Earlier George Leonhauser made a mockery of their campaign promise to restore the position of chief in the Police Department. In an attempt to acquiesce to what was reported to be the wishes of those who voted on November 3, Supervisor Robert McMonagle introduced a motion to abolish the resolution creating the position of public safety director and restore the position of chief.

Mr. Leonhauser should have been delighted, right? Final vote, 4-1 with Mr. Leonhauser voting against the motion.

One final observation: during the meeting, Mr. Leonhauser referenced that the newly elected Republican supervisors would be “in power” soon. Those two words (“in power”) represent most of what is wrong with politics today. Politicians are not elected “to power.” They are elected “to serve.” If more politicians remembered this key difference, more might be accomplished in government. We hope that Mr. Gallagher, Mr. Kreiling, and Mr. Mallon do not share Mr. Leonhauser’s feeling that they were elected to be “in power.” We hope they will be there “to serve” all residents of Middletown Township.

Friday, November 6, 2009

In the Arena

Middletown Township residents were either lied to or misled by at least two of the supervisor candidates elected on Tuesday. That fact alone means that it is now more important than ever to monitor the newly elected Republican majority closely as they are sworn in and take office at the January reorganization meeting.

Bookmark this site and together with your help we will keep the community informed and hold our supervisors accountable to every last word they printed or said during the campaign. If warranted, we will also illuminate their abuses over the next two years – and, if we rally enough support for the lone Democrat on the Board, Robert McMonagle, maybe there will be times where we can even stop them.

Mr. Gallagher Mr. Mallon and Mr. Kreiling said they want to hire up to 10 more police officers without raising taxes. As residents, we immediately need to start asking how they going to do that? We’ve suffered through double-digit tax increases from them before. Under Republican control, we went through tax hikes of 15.3% in 2006, 18.3% in 2007, and 11.3% in 2008. When Democrats regained the majority on the board, the 2009 tax increase was limited to 6.7%. After three years of double-digit increases, Democratic leaders got spending under control.

Now, we have returned to a Republican majority on the board. A big reason for those tax increases in 2006, 2007, and 2008 was, under a Republican majority on the board, there was no oversight of the out-of-control police department budget. In 2008, overtime for the police department shot up to $1.1 million, with the sergeants on the force leading the charge by raking in an average of $130,000 per year. One sergeant even went over $165,000! If we are to believe our opponents are correct in saying only four officers are on duty at a time (when our police force totals over 50 people), how can we, as taxpayers, justify this kind of spending. Further, with over 50 officers on the force and assuming only four are working at any given time, this would seem to indicate that no officer is working anywhere near a full-time schedule for a 6-figure pay package. How can that be right? Our community is currently outraged over teacher salaries, which average less than the police department and, using the numbers published by our opponents during the election, teachers are working many more hours. Again, how can that be correct or even possible?

A new contract for the Middletown Township Police Department will be negotiated next year. It’s time to ask ourselves why friends and family members of certain police officers worked so hard to get our new supervisors elected. If the police wives and emergency services workers who were at the polls on Election Day were truly “non-political” as we heard them claim all day, consider these questions:

1. Why did those police wives and other emergency services workers claim they were organizing “as a result of recent campaign literature,” when, as early as July 2009 and possibly earlier, they were holding meetings to discuss defeating the entire Democratic ticket?
2. Why were they pushing the entire Republican ticket? How did endorsing candidates for auditor, tax collector, and constable contribute to public safety?
3. Why were there no attempts to talk to the Democratic candidates about their public safety concerns in order to endorse those individual candidates that best reflected their point of view?

The answer to these questions is simple: follow the money. Our newly elected supervisors, along with current supervisor George Leonhauser, have promised to protect the culture of entitlement that a handful of officers in the department demand. They have promised not to safeguard the financial interests of the township and taxpayers, but instead to safeguard the financial interests of these members of the police department.

To repeat what we said during the campaign: “Ninety percent of the members of the Middletown Police Department are honest, hardworking men and women of the highest integrity; a credit to the uniform and a source of pride to our Township. We salute you. But, as in any large organization, there is always a small group that will resist any form of progress or management by disrupting operations, abusing authority, and fighting to maintain an impossible status quo. The rest of the force is embarrassed by them, and many have said so, but would never do so publicly.”

We know that addressing concerns about public safety will be a priority of our new board of supervisors. For the good of the township, we hope they will address these concerns in conjunction with doing something about the arrogance displayed by and entitlement demanded by this small group within the police department. We cannot address public safety without addressing the corruption that exists in and disruption that is caused by a small segment of our police department.

We will keep you informed and highlight important issues that impact your township in this blog. It is up to you to do something with that information and make a difference in our community.

We are proud of the work we did over the last two years to try to get Middletown Township back on a stable course – where problems and needs of residents were addressed without skyrocketing budget increases. In the end, the bluster of our critics won out. So today I will leave you with this quote from a speech President Theodore Roosevelt made on April 23, 1910;

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Moving Forward in Middletown Township

I sat at the Middletown Municipal Center last night and watched our community at odds. As a resident, I was ashamed of and embarrassed by most of the behavior I witnessed. Rather than residents working together for the good of our community or simply communicating effectively, many resorted to screaming, bullying, heckling, and finger-pointing. How is it possible that people who all have the same goal (a safe community) cannot have a productive conversation?

Allow me to look backwards for a brief moment to state a fact. I’m not placing blame or pointing a finger – I am stating a fact. Members of the fire companies asked last night how they were dragged into politics. Republican flyers distributed as early as this past summer claimed the Democratic candidates ‘failure to support our volunteer fire and emergency services.’ As a resident and a candidate, this deeply offended me. Prior to this claim appearing in Republican literature, nobody ever asked me how I felt about emergency services so how is it possible that somebody could claim I failed to support them? For the record, I have the highest respect and regard for all emergency responders and I value the significant contributions, and personal sacrifices, they make to ensure that our community and our residents are safe. There are some administrative issues that need to be addressed in both the police and fire departments, but that has absolutely nothing to do with the service or performance of our police officers or our volunteer fire fighters. As an example (and this came from a volunteer firefighter in Middletown Township), each of the four fire companies that serve our township may need to purchase new hoses. When this occurs, each company purchases what they need. What a firefighter suggested was why not pool these purchases together and buy a total of, say, 800 feet of hose instead of each company purchasing 200 feet individually. Grouping purchases like this, and therefore using economies of scale to our advantage, is an example of the kind of administrative issues that need to be addressed. To ensure clarity, I am in no way trying to change how our police, fire fighters, or EMS respond to emergencies. They are experts in their respective fields and they do an outstanding job for our community. Listening to suggestions for improved administrative efficiencies directly from our emergency responders and then working with them to make these kinds of changes ensures that Middletown Township will continue to receive the best possible emergency services.

I have said to many people that I will talk to anyone with a concern about our township anytime, anywhere. However, that conversation must be reasonable, rational, and respectful. I will not engage in shouting matches, I will not be unprofessional in my communications (nor will I tolerate a lack of professionalism from others), and I will seek to solve problems, not place blame. This township must look forward and ensure we are prepared for whatever new challenges may be ahead. Everyone pointing fingers at everyone else only looks backwards, and looking backwards does not solve problems. I am not interested in looking backwards and I am not interested in figuring out who is to blame for a particular issue. I am interested in moving forward, solving problems for our community, and never again seeing what I saw last night.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Facts about a Debate in Middletown

“We find this outrageous that any sitting elected official would refuse to engage the citizens of our community so voters could better understand the positions of every candidate for office.”
(Source: Republican flyer to Villages of Flowers Mill residents)

"The true loser in this situation is the voters as they are being denied the ability to see all the candidates at the same time, ask questions and make a decision prior to Election Day.”

(Source: 10/14/09 Letter to the Editor of Bucks County Courier Times by Tom Gallagher)

"Instead of crediting Tom Gallagher with attempting to setup a debate, Ms Sauerbry-Smith's only contibution (sic) to this matter is the above letter attacking the one person who tried to do something."
(Source: Middletown Republican Committee Website)

With the Republican candidates making statements like these, one might assume that they are anxious to get a debate on the calendar. The reality is that nothing could be further from the truth.

I wrote a letter to the editor of the Bucks County Courier Times in response to the 10/14/09 letter written by Mr. Gallagher, and only a portion of the letter was printed in the newspaper this morning. The full version of the letter (which was under the newspaper’s 200-word limit) can be read

The reason there will likely not be a debate in Middletown Township this year is because of the “delay and duck” tactics employed by the Republican candidates. Here are the facts:

1. On August 25, the Bucks County League of Women Voters told Mr. Gallagher they would be unable to host a forum. He then waited until October 14 to write a letter to the newspaper saying any attempt at debate now would be ‘doomed to failure.’ With seven weeks to find an alternate host for a forum, he chose to do nothing. He also chose to not communicate this response to the Democratic candidates until we read it in the newspaper on October 14.

2. The Democratic candidates for supervisor coordinated with the Bucks County Courier Times to provide a moderator for a debate at the Middletown Municipal Complex, on live TV.

An e-mail was sent to the Republicans candidates on October 14, requesting to coordinate a date and time for this live debate.

4. As of October 16, there was no response from the Republican candidates so the
Democratic candidates proposed a date and time.

5. On October 20, the Republican candidates
finally responded and said they were already committed to another event on the proposed date and time.

6. Also on October 20, Chuck Thompson (on behalf of the Democratic candidates)
requested that the Republican candidates select an alternate date and time for debate, saying "this educational opportunity for the voters of Middletown Township is too important to not reschedule any event we may have on the date you choose."

7. As of October 26, there has been no additional response from the Republican candidates.

We do not need elected officials who make statements like "the true losers in this situation are the voters" (Tom Gallagher, 10/14/09 letter in Bucks County Courier Times) and "anything else would be doomed to failure due to logistics" (10/14/09 letter in Bucks County Courier Times). The residents of Middletown Township deserve leaders who will put residents’ interest first, take quick action when quick action is needed, and actively work to promote a positive community spirit, not individuals who delay, make excuses, and only tell part of the story.

I encourage all residents who have any questions about Middletown Township or this election to email
Chuck, Harry, or me directly.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Middletown Candidate's False Claim of Ivy League MBA

News Release
For immediate Release

MIDDLETOWN - Candidate for Middletown Township Supervisor Andrew Kreiling may be confused about his alleged alma mater, or he may simply be misrepresenting it.

On several publications paid for by the Middletown Republican Committee and distributed by Kreiling himself, he lists his education as having earned an MBA from Columbia University. In addition, two Middletown Republican Web sites list the same credential, with one stating that Kreiling is a “Former union contractor with an MBA from Columbia University who understands job creation at every level.”

While Kreiling’s job-creation skills are unclear, his problem with telling the truth is long-documented. In a March, 2003 application for appointment to the Middletown Board of Supervisors, Kreiling submitted a résumé indicating that he was working to complete his “M.B.A.—Columbia University (Fall 2004).” However, an April, 2009 brochure lists “*MBA—Columbia University (2009 Spring)”. Columbia, like most universities, limits post-graduate programs of study to a five-year completion window. By Kreiling’s own statements, he has been in Columbia’s MBA program for nearly seven years.

Whatever Kreiling’s education, honesty and ethics must not have been part of the curriculum. On the business networking Web site Linked In, Kreiling’s profile lists Columbia Southern University under Education. On May 17th, his profile published by the League of Women Voters Web site listed; “Enrolled working on my MBA Columbia Southern (working),” which also calls into question the “2009 Spring” completion that he listed on his more recent brochure.

Columbia University is a world-renowned Ivy League institution that graduated four U.S. Presidents and eight Supreme Court Justices. Columbia Southern University is an unaccredited, online correspondence school in Alabama. Companies like Columbia Southern are commonly referred to as “degree mills,” where one can purchase a degree in just about any discipline. Andrew Kreiling’s repeated claims of an Ivy League education from Columbia University are an attempt to deceive the voters of Middletown Township into believing that he is something he is not – by a long-shot.

“It makes you wonder what else he is being dishonest about,” remarked incumbent Supervisor Chuck Thompson. “Is anything on his résumé true, or is the entire thing fabricated?” Thompson’s running-mate Harry Arnold found the revelation more dubious. “If someone will go so far as to lie to secure elected office, it kind of makes you wary of what he will do if he gets there.”

Kreiling and his running mates, Chuck Benhayon, Ray Chapman, Tom Gallagher, Pat Mallon and Kathleen Passaretti refer to themselves as The Team that Will Restore Integrity and Pride to Middletown. “They may want to re-think that slogan,” said Supervisor candidate Julie Sauerbry-Smith. “I think it’s kind of sad, really.”

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Great Community We Call Home

The Neshaminy High School Class of 64 held its 45th reunion at the Middletown Country Club this past weekend. As a member of the planning committee, I enjoy keeping in touch with my classmates and learning how their lives have gone over the years.

As we gathered together Saturday evening, many of the conversations brought to mind the words of my running mate, Julie Sauerbry-Smith, in her last post on this blog. Those who remained here in Middletown Township talked about what a great community it has been and continues to be to live in and raise a family. Those who moved away remarked on how happy they are to return for these gatherings and how Middletown still holds a special place in their memories.

I was one of those who moved away after graduating from Neshaminy – and ultimately spent more than 30 years in other communities. I never lived far, so I was back here visiting friends and family on a pretty regular basis. And, over the years, I realized that Middletown has never lost its luster as a premier community.

Some 12 years ago, my wife and I returned here to take care of my ailing father. We now own the home I grew up in, and what I find both interesting and telling is that two neighbors on my block also own the homes they grew up in. Another fellow graduate in Quincy Hollow bought his childhood home and a number of others bought homes nearby.

Children returning home to live and raise families after college is a sign of a community’s vitality. Julie, Harry Arnold and I have pledged to work with our residents to maintain this quality of life and insure that future generations can enjoy this great community we are privileged to call home.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why do you want to be a supervisor?

The most common question I am asked when people find out I am running for the Middletown Township Board of Supervisors is “why do you want to be a supervisor?” I begin answering the question by saying that it is a very personal reason and it has to do with family and role models.

I am a lifelong resident of Middletown Township. I grew up in the Highland Park section of Levittown before moving to Langhorne when I was fourteen years old. My grandfather was very community-minded – he served as President of the United Way in Bucks County for ten years, was a charter member of the Kiwanis Club of Lincoln Highway, donated space to the Penndel-Middletown Emergency Squad when they first organized, and supported virtually every local cause that he came across. He came to Bucks County from Iowa at a young age, borrowed money to buy Greenwood Dairies with only his 4H ribbons as collateral, and spent the next fifty years building it into a highly successful restaurant that many people in this area have a fond memory of. This was a family business so I spent a lot of time there growing up, learning how to manage a business, effectively manage people, and handle adversity. One of the best lessons I learned was how to treat everyone – no matter what their position – with respect. I also learned that people will allow you to lead them when they trust that you are willing to work alongside them to get the job done. Not when you speak loudly, speak just to hear yourself speak, issue orders, or belittle their efforts but when they trust that you are willing to work alongside them to get the job done. It’s been over twenty years since Greenwood Dairies closed, but all of the lessons learned there are life-long.

After college, I chose to return to Middletown Township and after getting married, my husband and I chose to call Middletown Township home. We have lived here for thirteen years and have been Middletown homeowners for eleven years. When our first child was born last year, I began thinking about all of the lessons learned from my parents and grandparents, and I saw them from a very different perspective – that of a parent. The questions I ask myself every day are “what example am I setting for my child today” and “what lessons am I helping her learn today.” When the opportunity to run for Supervisor presented itself earlier this year, I realized that not only could I set a good example and provide an opportunity for her to learn important lessons, I could also work to have a direct impact in the community that I love and in which I have chosen to raise my daughter. I grew up in this wonderful community, getting to know great people, participating in community celebrations, and feeling tremendous pride in where I lived; this is what I want for my daughter and I will do my part to ensure that Middletown Township affords her the same experiences it has given me.

I am running for Supervisor to maintain the positive quality of life that I love about Middletown Township and I am willing to work alongside every resident to do the right things for our community.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Revisiting the "Outpost of Freedom"

You gotta love the internet. Kids off to college can instantly communicate with their mothers and fathers – and, of course, boy friends and girl friends. Facebook keeps us current on the activities of friends and relatives. And even Twitter has some advantages, although I am not totally sure what they are.

I just discovered that I can even rekindle relationships I developed during my tour of duty in Berlin 40 years ago. I was a member of the Army Security Agency, which was under the jurisdiction of the National Security Agency rather than the Pentagon. In Berlin, I was a voice intercept operator, listening in on the conversations of East Germans in the Central Committee, the ruling agency in East Germany.

Since we weren’t supposed to discuss our activities with anyone and since we spent all our duty time cooped up in a small room with banks of tape recorders, we necessarily became close friends.

I’ve often mentioned to my wife, Chris, that I wonder what became of my best friend over there, Brock Garland. The other day when I mentioned it again, she said why not try to find him on Facebook or by searching on the internet. I wasn’t able to find him on Facebook, but searching on the internet I did find – and joined – a Yahoo Group for Field Station Berlin veterans. In the introduction, the moderator points out that “We Field Station Berlin veterans have lots to discuss that we were not allowed to talk about back then.”

I’ve already begun reminiscing with some of the guys who were there during my time but in different units. So who knows, I may ultimately find Brock or another friend and character, Gene “P. Rap” Brown (he was in charge of packing and wrapping material we sent back to NSA and not really related to the infamous H. Rap Brown). And maybe someday I will finally write that book about our experiences in the “Outpost of Freedom.”

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Loaded Question

A common practice in politics is the use of the loaded question; that is, a question with a false or questionable presupposition designed to mislead the reader or listener. A typical example of this often used in logics classes is the question “Have you stopped beating your wife.” It presupposes that you have beaten your wife in the past. No matter how one answers a question like this, the listener will often have doubts about the veracity of the answer.

The Republicans are masters at the use of the loaded question. Take for example, the inclusion in one of the health care bills of a provision giving the option for an elderly person to discuss end-of-life issues with his or her doctor. End-of-life issues could be anything from the discussion of hospice care for a chronically ill person through living wills and directives to funeral planning. These are issues that are commonly discussed today – and should be – but are often not covered by one’s medical insurance.

All it took was for Sarah Palin to make the charge that the government health reformers were creating death panels whose task it would be to decide who would live and who would die. Of course that is a charge based on a totally false presupposition, but it was enough to blow this much needed provision right out of the water.

Members of the Middletown Republican Club – I always try to distinguish them from the good, decent registered Republican voters who are my friends and neighbors and whom I have met in my travels throughout Middletown Township – have been perfecting the art of the loaded question for years.

In a recent mailer to residents of the Village of Flowers Mill, they basically ask why I would refuse to engage the voters in a debate. They took a statement I made out of context – that I would be reluctant to accept an invitation to debate at the Village of Flowers Mill – and exclaimed with great flourish that “We find it outrageous that any sitting elected official would refuse to engage the citizens of our community so voters could better understand the positions of every candidate for office.” (Not that anyone could understand their positions on the issues that face Middletown Township from their literature, but more on that tomorrow.)

The article in question was about a resolution passed by the Board of Supervisors allowing Township Hall to be used for a political debate, which would be televised so every resident in the Township would have the opportunity to view it. Given that premise, I said I would be reluctant to hold a debate in the Village of Flowers Mill since the audience would be restricted to members of this community when we now have the means to reach all residents of the Township. A fact our Republican opponents neglected to mention is that the president of the Village of Flowers Mill’s Board agreed that a debate in Township Hall would be preferable.

Also left out was the fact that one of their candidates was quoted in that same article saying that they were contacting the League of Women Voters to set up a debate. This, of course, never happened.

I am sure a lot worse is coming. When candidates don’t have any issues to run on, they attack, distort and obfuscate to try to cover their own inadequacies. Now there – inadequacies – is something they have in abundance.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Shredder Truck in Middletown - Saturday, 9/26

If you type “identity theft statistics” in Google, you will end up with a few million results. If you visit even just a few of the links, you will find alarming statistics:

1. The number of identity theft cases continues to increase each year – one study reported a 22% increase from 2007 to 2008.
2. One third of identity theft victims spend 4-6 months trying to recover and repair the damage caused.
3. Low-tech methods, like stealing a wallet or going through trash to find sensitive information, is the most common for stealing your identity.

There are many ways to help prevent identify theft, and one of them is to shred sensitive documents (including your credit card receipts) instead of just discarding them. If you don’t have a shredder or if you have years of documents to be shredded, mark your calendar for Saturday, September 26th. There will be a shredder truck available from 10:00 am – 1:00 pm in the parking lot of the old Levitz Store in Levittown (1661 E. Lincoln Highway). This event is sponsored by the Democratic Party of Middletown Township, and is free for all Middletown residents.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Family Caregiers: You Are Not Alone

On October 10, I will be attending the reunion of the Neshaminy High School Class of '64. I am also a member of the organizational committee. One rule we have for our meetings is that no one is allowed to talk about their aches and pains or other maladies.

However, something often discussed during my past 10 years working with this group is the difficulties some of us have had in caring for aging parents. It is the reason I returned some 12 years ago to the home I grew up in.

Family caregiving is virtually exploding in the U.S. Studies have estimated that approximately 26 million adults in the U.S. provide unpaid assistance to adult family members who have a disability or chronic illness. And, according to the National Family Caregiver Support Program, the stress associated with performing family caregiving tasks can result in an increased risk of infectious disease, depressive symptoms, and chronic illness such as diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

Shortly after moving back here to help in the care of my ailing father, I joined Children of Aging Parents (CAPS), a national organization founded right here in the Levittown portion of Middletown Township by Mirca Liberti some 32 years ago. CAPS provides information and support to caregivers, and the assurance that they are not alone. Shortly after that, I was encouraged to join the Board of Directors and served as president for a year before it was decided to merge with Contact Greater Philadelphia about six years ago.

While CAPS has a number of caregiver support groups in 15 states, I realized some time ago that we could never adequately serve the needs of all the caregivers who desperately need help, information and encouragement. As a result, I started and still maintain an online caregivers support group. This group currently has more than 900 members who share stories, discuss resources and vent frustrations.

If you are the caregiver of an elderly parent, relative or friend, and the stress seems to be unbearable, remember that you are not alone. Visit the CAPS Web site to see if there is a support group near you. If not, look in the right-hand column of the home page for the box to join our free online support group. You will be welcomed the moment you send your first post.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

What's the hurry?

At least once every day this week, I have heard someone express serious concerns about children walking longer distances and more dangerous routes to bus stops. Parents have explained that children need to cross streets in neighborhoods where there are no stop signs at the intersection, or that they need to cross streets where the average speed on the road is 40 mph (even though the speed limit is 25 mph!). Not only have I heard what these residents are saying, I have observed the speed at which some people travel on their neighborhood streets. Speeding is a problem everywhere, and Middletown Township is no exception. It is a problem on most every road in this Township, but with school starting next week, it is especially a problem within our neighborhoods.

How do we bring attention to this problem now, and encourage people to slow down, especially on residential streets? One child hurt by a speeding car is one too many so how can we fix this problem now? We’d love to hear your ideas – leave a comment here or drop me an email with your suggestions.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Kudos to Nancy Blank

It was a pleasure last night to represent the full Board of Supervisors in honoring Nancy Blank with a proclamation for her 40 years of service to Middletown Township.

I presented Nancy with a pin for her 40 years of service on Wednesday, June 24 at an employee appreciation breakfast. I noted then that the Township is “exceedingly fortunate to have some of the most dedicated employees I have ever met.” Nancy stands out as a role model.

Her service started on April 24, 1969 in the records department of the Middletown Township Police Department as a student intern while attending Neshaminy High School. On October 1, 1984 she was promoted to the position of secretary to the Detective Division.

As the proclamation states, “throughout the years, Nancy has worked diligently to learn the criminal justice system and the Bucks County Court System … [and] with professionalism and confidentiality Nancy has insured criminal complaints and case files are complete and ready for prosecution.”

In addition to her duties with the Police Department, Nancy also serves our community by volunteering her free time to the Penndel-Middletown Emergency Squad.

With people like Nancy serving the community, we can be sure that Middletown Township will continue to earn its reputation as a desirable place to live.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Committee, unions, government work to make park reality

All five Township supervisors agreed to lend the Veterans Memorial Park committee the $250,000 it needs to complete the facility located on Veterans Highway next to the new municipal Department of Public Works building.

The loan will be paid back by the committee through fundraising at the rate of $50,000 a year for five years.

Members of the local carpenters, operating engineers, electricians and other unions have donated about 1,000 hours of labor to the park, and other volunteers have donated another 1,000. We are really lucky to have such public spirited unions in our area – if you see them working in the park, stop by and say thanks.

This is going to be a beautiful facility and I for one am looking forward to seeing it completed by the end of the year.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Making government work

Because of the action we took at last night’s Board of Supervisors’ meeting, an untold number of residents of the Levittown section of Middletown Township will be saved from paying a $135 fee and appearing before the Zoning Hearing Board before they can apply for a building permit.

This problem was brought to our attention by Harry Arnold, a member of the ZHB and my running mate in this year’s election.

The problem is the fact that nearly every home in Levittown is designated as “non-conforming” because, by the current codes, the lot sizes are too small for the homes that sit on them. A strict reading of the codes indicates that people whose homes are deemed as non-conforming must apply to the ZHB for a “certificate of non-conformance” before they can apply for a building permit, even if the permit application wouldn’t require a variance of any kind.

For years, this provision was just ignored by the zoning officer. Recently a new zoning officer was appointed and began to enforce this provision. Mr. Arnold told the supervisors last evening that he felt this was both unfair and unnecessary. We agreed.

The Township has been working on codifying the ordinances and Manager Ray Stepnoski and Solicitor Mike Savona agreed that this stipulation could be removed during the codification. Vice Chair Robert McMonagle successfully motioned to direct the zoning officer, in the meantime, not to enforce this requirement and for the Township to reimburse those who have paid the fee.

This is a prime example of why I ran for office in the first place and am running again in November – making government work for the citizens it serves.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Wet and Happy

Well, it’s over. The Middletown Township Parks and Recreation Department’s Second Annual Lake Luxembourg Paddle Boat Regatta has come to a successful conclusion. And, while there was some confusion, I think everyone had a good time.

There was one aspect I did find interesting. While there were several politicians who entered the race, only the Democrats actually got into the boats and did the paddling. That was kind of a metaphor on the difference in the two parties. While our opponents stand around – or, in the case of a few here in Middletown, sit around – and bask in their own glory, the Democrats dig in and do the hard work that can help improve their community. One need only watch the Middletown Township Board of Supervisors’ meetings to see what I mean.

Democratic supporter Nicole Palfy with
Supervisor candidates
Harry Arnold, Julie Sauerbry-Smith
and Chuck Thompson.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Culture of Entitlement

At the June 23, 2009 meeting of the Middletown Board of Supervisors, the Middletown Policeman’s Benevolent Association, (PBA), filed four grievances on behalf of their members. These grievances helped illuminate, for the public, a systemic pattern of abuse of the PBA contract – abuses that may explain why there is a culture of entitlement within the police department.

First, I should explain how retirement pensions and permanent disability pensions are addressed in the PBA contract. If an officer has served enough time to retire, he or she will receive a pension equal to 55 percent of wages earned, averaged over the last three years of service, much like the rest of the U.S. workforce.

If, on the other hand, an officer is retired on permanent disability, this pension goes up to 75 percent of the three-year average, which the retiree receives for life – tax free. A prime example of this is Supervisor George Leonhauser who receives about $80,000 a year on a disability pension. The disability-pensioner is free to secure other employment; Leonhauser, for example, has a full-time position with the Bucks County Tech School.

More on Leonhauser, later in this post.

Of the last 18 retirements from the Middletown PD, all 18 retirements were permanent disability retirements – not one of them merely served his/her time until reaching retirement age. Coincidence? Or abuse of the system?

A now-common grievance came in the request for a permanent disability at the June 23 meeting from Detective Brian McDonough, who allegedly tore his rotator cuff while moving a treadmill while he was on a county detail, although it is unclear why he was needed by the county to move a treadmill.

I have known a number of people who have torn their rotator cuffs, including my mother, brother-in-law and half-a-dozen friends. All had them repaired with routine surgery and have no further problems today. McDonough, however, is refusing surgery and the township cannot order him to undergo it.

Had the Board of Supervisors approved McDonough’s grievance, he would begin receiving a tax-free, lifetime pension of $89,595.89 per year. McDonough turned 38 less than a month earlier; at a life-expectancy of 77 years(1), the cost of this one pension would be well-over $3-million(2).
Further, there is no contractual provision for recompense to the township if, in the future, McDonough elected to have surgery to correct his rotator cuff. Not a bad deal, huh? And, just because this grievance was denied by the Board of Supervisors does not preclude an arbitrator from granting the request.

The second grievance pertained to a new policy that prohibits officers from using the Township gym and weight-lifting equipment while on-duty. Under the former rules allowing gym use during lunch, officers were prohibited from changing or showering after workouts because they are always on-duty – including while on lunch break. The administration thought the liability was too great to continue to allow this practice.

More light was shed on that liability in the next grievance considered. Officer Michael Rosenstein requested a permanent disability pension after injuring his rotator cuff – yes, one of those again – and tearing his right pectoral muscle – while working out in the gym during his lunch break. (There have been conflicting stories about exactly which gym it was.)

The last grievance under consideration was lodged by Officer Michael Stum who was injured during a training exercise in Doylestown. Because the injury was not serious, Stum was put on light duty over the next three working days. The PBA, however, argued that since he should have been home on injured-on-duty, (IOD), status, the three days of light-duty should have been paid at overtime, or, time-and-a-half, rate, in addition to his straight salary. Yes – you read that correctly, and if the PBA’s position sounds backward, or upside-down, that is because it is, relative to the real world, where you and I live and work.

It is this culture of entitlement that we expect to change under the direction of the new Director of Public Safety. It is also this culture that Supervisor Leonhauser is fighting so hard to protect. Anyone who has attended or watched our meetings over the last year-and-a-half cannot help but notice that the only issues Leonhauser addresses are those involving the police. He doesn’t care what a policy costs the taxpayer, whom he is sworn to represent, as long as all benefits, no matter how ridiculous or absurd, are preserved.

One might wonder why he would be so strident now that he is out and enjoying his own 75-percent-for-life salary benefit. Might it have to do with the fact that he has two sons and a son-in-law on the force?

One also might wonder why Leonhauser – a lifetime member of the PBA with three family members on the force – is even allowed to vote on issues concerning the police department. Where is the outrage from Leonhauser’s co-conspirators, including attorney Michael Fitzpatrick, who worked so hard to get rid of Supervisor Kathy Heuer last year, filing four frivolous, but costly, lawsuits, under the guise that they were “only trying to protect the taxpayers”?

Maybe this cabal sees their culture of entitlement, built so assiduously over the past couple of decades, under attack and crumbling. The best thing taxpayers can do to protect themselves from this wanton abuse and corruption is to find out who these people are supporting in the November election, because, if elected, they will not be working in your best interests.
2 Avg Salary over three years = $107,461.18 x .75 = $80,595.89 x 39 years = $3,143,239.70

Friday, June 26, 2009

The Heroes We Grew Up With Redux

On May 11, I wrote a post about attending the 64th anniversary reunion of the shipmates on the USS Evans DD552. A friend just sent me some photos to post on the Evans Web site. A few of them are worth posting here.

Shipmate Bill Heron in front of
Display Ship USS Barry
where we held our memorial service.

Shipmate Ade Lorentson salutes after the wreath
honoring those who died on May 11, 1945 is dropped.

Chuck Thompson presents shipmate Bill Wilson,
whose family sponsored this reunion,
with a certificate of special recognition
from U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recognizing Those Who Make the Township Work

I had the pleasure yesterday of handing out years of service pins to Township employees. The employee appreciation breakfast and the awards were conceived by the Township department heads and Manager Ray Stepnoski. It is the first of what will now be an annual event.

In the photo above, Nancy Blank receives her pin for 40 years of service.

We are exceedingly fortunate to have some of the most dedicated employees I have ever met. From the Parks and Recreation personnel through those in the public works department to the fire marshal and those who work for him, people are hard at work every day helping to make Middletown Township the desirable community it is in which to live and work.

Their dedication also shows in the number of years they have worked for the Township. The pins were given out for 5-year increments through 40 years of service – and there were a lot of people picking up 25, 30 and 35-year awards. There were even two who had more than 40 years on the job.

I enjoyed the opportunity yesterday to sit and talk with many people I have come to know during my tenure on the Board of Supervisors and to meet many new friends as well. I was honored to be able play a small role in showing them how much they are appreciated. I hope the next time you are in the municipal center and are pleased with how you are treated, you let the person you are dealing with know how much you appreciate their service to you.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

High Price of Partisan Politics

Across the Country, many State legislatures are struggling with budget shortfalls. Pennsylvania is no exception and in recent months Republicans have been playing partisan politics with the taxpayers’ hard earned money.

Last week, the state House of Representatives Appropriations Committee voted down Senate Bill 850, the Republican-sponsored budget that would have dramatically under-funded many programs that are critical to Pennsylvania’s economic well-being.

The votes were clearly cast along party lines with all 14 House Republicans on the committee voting for Senate Bill 850 while the 20 Democrats wisely voted against this unbalanced budget proposal. SB850 would put the state budget at a 1.5 billion dollar short fall in just two years. In my opinion, that is irresponsible and a clear example of why we must reject partisan politics and elect people who will enact legislation and create budgets with only one thing in mind, the taxpayers’ best interest.

The Republican plan would use Federal stimulus dollars to balance the budget and make unacceptable cuts in essential programs, which is not the objective of the stimulus funding. Under their plan, pre-kindergarten, veterans homes, state parks, child care for working families, nursing homes, persons with disabilities, libraries, and many other services would be cut.

These cuts would have long-lasting negative effects on our economy. Local governments and school districts are already tightening their belts and struggling to balance fiscal responsibility with the need to provide quality education and extracurricular programs for our students. This is evident in the highly-debated Neshaminy School District’s most recent budget. If the Pennsylvania GOP get their way, it will have devastating effects on our children’s ability to receive a quality education while at the same time shift the cost burden directly to taxpayers.

There is some light at the end of the tunnel. We still have time to make the right decision and work together for a compromise budget with input from both sides. Governor Rendell has consistently said that he wants to meet with legislative leaders from both parties on a regular basis to arrive at a compromise budget. It is time for the people of Pennsylvania to have their voice heard on this issue. I urge everyone to contact their state legislator, no matter your party affiliation, and urge them to start realistic negotiations and stop pretending that the Senate Republican budget is balanced or workable for state finances.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Fun at the "Gates"

Our Run the Gates 5-Miler and 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk – which benefits four Bucks County agencies that provide services to disabled persons – broke all records Sunday, June 7. The almost 200 runners and walkers who participated more than doubled those who showed up last year.

Part of the reason for the great turnout lies in the support our committee received from the Middletown Township Parks and Recreation Department. By partnering with groups sponsoring township events such as the Run the Gates 5-Miler, the department is continually expanding its offerings and the success of the event is enhanced for the sponsoring organization.

Anyone who looks through the department’s summer recreation calendar – which is 28 pages long – can’t help but be amazed by the wide variety and affordability of the events that the department offers. Regardless of what your interest might be – from a challenging 5-mile run in Run the Gates to a healthy steps program for seniors to the second annual paddleboat regatta – the department will most likely have something for you.

As a community, we are indeed lucky to have such dedicated, energetic and innovative people working to improve our quality of life in Middletown Township.

We believe the department’s support of the Run the Gates 5-Miler helped lead to the explosion of participants this year and will enable us to turn it into a premier event in the running community – it is already being talked about among runners as a challenging and enjoyable event.

So, if you are a runner or someone who just wants to come out for the music and excitement in the park – where the runners start, pass through at the half-way mark and end – mark Sunday, June 6, 2010 on your calendar and we’ll see you there at the 5th Annual Run the Gates 5-Miler and 1-Mile Fun Run/Walk. You may just win one of the 24 awards given out at the end of the run.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Fairer Way to Raise Revenue

With all the threats facing us in the post 9/11 era, there is one that is very close to home and, in my opinion, threatens the very fabric of our community – ever escalating property taxes.

Middletown Township has been fortunate over the years. We have a large base of senior citizens living side-by-side with young families raising their children in what can only be called an idyllic community. And, we are doubly fortunate in that many of our graduates decide to return home after completing college.

Not surprisingly, then, the median age for males in Middletown Township is 37.8 and for females, 39. This is indicative of a very stable community with the human resources to thrive.

But we are at what I would consider a tipping point – witness the outrage this year over the possibility of a significant tax hike that will result from the cash-strapped Neshaminy School District’s budgetary needs. Seniors on fixed incomes are facing the possibility of having to sell their homes in order to survive and young people are finding it difficult to find an affordable home.

Using property taxes alone to support school districts and local and county governments is inherently unfair. It means the burden for these services falls on the homeowner alone.

The 2006 Taxpayer Relief Act restricted how much school boards can raise property taxes and also provided an average of $200 in reductions to property taxes. But we all know that more must be done.

According to Townships Today, a quarterly newsletter published by the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, Gov. Ed Rendell and a group of local government associations are working on a tax reform plan that will allow counties to levy a 1 percent sales tax on the same goods and services subject to the state’s existing 6 percent sales tax.

Participating counties would receive 50 percent of the funds collected, townships and boroughs would be given 40 percent and 10 percent would be deposited in an account to support collaborative projects, such as regional police departments and joint equipment purchases, according to Townships Today.

Both county and local governments would have to use at least 60 percent of their allocated funds to reduce your property taxes and offset dollars they lose from exempt properties. This is a much more fair way of raising taxes since the burden is shared by everyone who buys taxable goods rather than just homeowners.

“The bottom line is that we, as a state, have to take a long, hard look at how we are funding government services,” Kenny Grimes, PSATS president, is quoted as saying. “The property tax isn’t working and it isn’t fair. Therefore we have to find a better way to balance the tax burden while still providing townships, counties and boroughs with adequate—and increased – funding that doesn’t come from a property tax hike. The optional county sales tax is our best option yet.”

I agree.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Politics of Obstruction

It is absolutely beyond me why anyone would oppose the emergency services study committee created by the Board of Supervisors on May 12. We are facing 21st century challenges and it is the obligation of the Board of Supervisors to insure the Township’s emergency services are prepared for whatever may come in the years and decades ahead.

Supervisors George Leonhauser and Jasper Caro, however, proved once more that there is no limit to their willingness to put politics over sensible public policy. 

In the June 9 edition of the Courier Times, Leonhauser said “the new committee was formed out of the blue with no prior discussion or notice to the emergency services agencies that cover the township.” I am not sure what he means by “out of the blue” – it is often difficult to comprehend what Leonhauser means – but if he means this new proposal was made without consulting him, that is my prerogative, just as it is his to make new proposals without consulting me.

According to the story, Caro said “he has no problem with the new advisory board, but didn't like the fact that Thompson was given sole power to appoint members.” We know how these two work to obstruct and tear down – witness the actions of Leonhauser when we were trying to hire a public safety director – and we decided this new committee was too important to allow them to send it into next year trying to populate it.

If anyone doubts that I appointed people strictly on their abilities and expertise, check out their party registrations – I believe at least four and possibly all five are Republicans.

I sincerely believe this committee will create a master plan for the delivery of emergency services that will give our board and subsequent supervisor boards the tools needed to insure the health, safety and welfare of Middletown Township residents. The added bonus is that it may ultimately lead to a significant reduction in the cost of property insurance for homeowners as well.

There is no excuse for voting against the creation of this emergency services study committee. There is no downside to investigating our emergency services to determine if improvements can be made. Ultimately, any and all recommendations will have to be voted upon by the full board. It only goes to prove once more that Leonhauser and Caro prefer the politics of obstruction to dedicated leadership.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Middletown Township Earth Day

Check out the Middletown Dems at the township's Earth Day celebration. Ignore the chain saw that went all day in the booth next to ours. The vendor was sculpting tree trunks. Actually, I think it was a GOP conspiracy. (Only joking, Mr. Gallagher.)

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Politics of Disruption

As we were leaving the township meeting Tuesday evening, a resident walking out with us said, “How do you guys manage to get anything done with that guy on the Board?” He was referring to Supervisor George Leonhauser, who takes every opportunity to disrupt or poison discussions of issues that are often vital to the efficient and cost-effective operation of government.

This gentleman, whom I had never met before, even went on to note that Leonhauser seems to “object to anything that may be good for the township.”

He doesn’t know the half of it. Leonhauser is a former Middletown Township police officer who retired on a disability and is being paid nearly $80,000 a year tax free. He’s a guy who sees nothing wrong with the fact that more than $1 million in overtime was paid to Middletown cops last year while all other departments combined only racked up $85,000 in OT. He’s a guy who has no problem with a police officer making over $160,000 a year and is always eager to thwart our efforts to bring the department under control.

When we were interviewing candidates for the new position of Public Safety Director – a move Leonhauser vehemently opposed – he did all in his power to sabotage the process, sending out e-mails to potential candidates to discourage them from coming here or to their superiors letting them know they had applied. His dissemination of confidential material has become so disruptive that it has become virtually impossible to hold executive sessions on personnel or contract matters.

It was Leonhauser who politicized the tragic death of Det. Chris Jones. Fortunately those who initially supported his efforts to demonize some elected and appointed public officials who haven’t bent to his will recognized how poorly this reflected on the memory of Det. Jones and the honor he deserves. Residents familiar with the controversy were almost uniformly appalled over his antics.

In the words of one of my colleagues, one can only conclude that Leonhauser’s sole motive “is to tear down the Board of Supervisors in some ill-contrived effort to elect more people like him.” Residents should be careful to identify those candidates with whom Leonhauser has aligned himself to protect their tax dollars and the integrity of their local government.