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.