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When Borough Council meets as a governing body, the Councilors represent the People; that is our form of government. And as our representatives, they are there to hear testimony from affected residents about the matters at hand. At the recent Billboard Meeting, right from the start, Council President set a tone of discomfort and lack of decorum more suited to back-room, club-house negotiations than would be appropriate for a legal proceeding.
President Berger encouraged Councilors to abandon their customary, assigned chairs to join him on the council chamber floor. Nevertheless, the Solicitor, Borough Manager, student “Junior Councilor,” and two Councilors, Jared Brennan and Sue Murtha retained their formal seats, as correct protocol would dictate.
And so, as the meeting quickly deteriorated into a series of deflections and defenses of actions taken (or not taken) by individual Council Members,—appointments of blame and evasive posturing took over—fair, representative government left the building.
Do I read too much into details? I don’t think so: Berger’s tactic was a hollow ploy, symbolic of failure throughout the proceedings in at least two important ways:
1) Order was barely maintained throughout the nearly four hour long ordeal, with comments shouted from the floor, Councilors speaking out of turn, and arguments between participants emphasized by the glaring inability of Chairman Berger to maintain order and follow a constructive procedure.
2) Many questions about and requests for documents were repeatedly brushed aside with “we can get that for you” and “we don’t have that information with us.” Why not? Wasn’t that the reason Council advertised this Public Meeting? To disseminate facts, dispel rumors? Council came unprepared. If this were a legal court (it is), the Borough Council lost the case.
Instead, we were subjected to a slide-show deployment as Berger tried to sidestep his pivotal involvement in the Great Billboard Debacle insisting that he didn’t want to consider questions about “what is past” but wished to focus on “where do we go from here.” With good reason the residents weren’t buying it. They had come for answers and few were available…or would be available “in 30 days.”
“Where do we go from here,” indeed—if you can’t see where you are, and want to ignore how you got us there, you won’t be going anywhere from here.
But failings aside, let us examine a few of the suggested “remedies” brought forth by our “representatives in governance.” There remains a need for constructive solutions and a positive direction to fixing this travesty. How our “leaders” see it is evidenced by comments made at the Billboard Meeting:
(quotes may be a paraphrase of actual wording used):
Samantha Snow—“We can plant trees to hide the sign.”
There is no species of tree that will grow so large in our lifetime as to hide that Billboard. Furthermore, when the Shade Tree Commission planted trees in Hetzel Park several years ago we discovered how limited is our right to plant trees in Hetzel Park. The underground oil/gas pipes need to be kept clear of vegetation to allow for aerial inspection. Reminds me of that age old philosophical thought experiment conundrum: if a billboard is hidden in the forest where no one can see it, is it a billboard?
Dawn, Borough Manager—“We could think about maybe putting a picture of the sky on the back side of the billboard to disguise it from view.”
Same conundrum as above: if a billboard is painted to resemble the sky it is blocking, is it a billboard? Do we need a giant picture of God’s sky overhead to remind us what we are missing? What advertisement revenues will that idea bring the Agency that owns “Sky Billboard?”
Samantha Snow—“I promise I would never do that again” referring to the realization that she had cast a vote for the Billboard while she was misled, misinformed, under informed or uninformed.
This is almost the exact phrase I heard Mary Hopper use several years ago at a Council meeting where she, Mary Hopper, as Council President was pushing for the Council to go ahead with a sweetheart land deal to sell off cheap a portion of Borough Park Land at Eastlake Park across the creek from the highway garage to the benefit of her Party Friends on West Ridley Ave. At that time Mary said “If we do it this one time, I promise it won’t happen again.” Truly, Mary hasn’t done it again…yet; she left Council years ago, but don’t say “never again”—Mary Hopper is running for Sheriff this November.
Bob Berger—“We don’t want to dwell on the past here tonight, but where do we go from here?”
How about if everyone in Town becomes familiar with the Code of Ridley Park, provisions and purpose of Planning and Zoning, the Comprehensive Plan, the Historic Copeland Landscape Plan for Ridley Park, The Shade Tree Ordinance, the intent of the Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB) and the Historic Commission. And don’t ignore the Delaware County Regional Planning Commission (DCRPC) if you want to know what direction the County sees for local development. Stay alert, an informed citizenry is our best defense against abuse, and the way toward securing the better future of our dreams. And may I humbly suggest, that be “where we go from here.”
It's is great to see people in Ridley Park coming online on RPOL to discuss a major problem for "ALL" the people who live in Ridley Park. The borough workshop meeting is tomorrow night at 7:00pm
Tim, your summary is SPOT on. I was there for that meeting and recorded it. ALL 4 hrs. of it. I don't know about you, but I didn't come away with anything from that meeting. It ended the same way it started, with no answers. The one constant throughout the meeting was certain and that is council members still looking like they haven't a clue what's going on. Honestly, I think they're in shock over the backlash this billboard has created. I think they expected all the resident to lay down and roll over.
"Where to we go from here?" If I owned the billboard company I'd never voluntarily take down my sign. I'd use my advertising revenue from that one lonely sign and pit it against the tax payers money to keep it that way. I'm slowly realizing we residents will be losing money over this and the lawyers will still be winning...so...where do we go from here?
I welcome hearing from those people running for council how they would help the residents of Hetzel Park. There's no better time than now.
Speaking for the Democratic candidates, we stand for a return to traditional Ridley Park values of honest and open borough government, fair play for all residents, fiscal responsibility, and accountability for elected officials. There must be an end to budget overruns and financial mismanagement.
We oppose secret back room decisions, like the Hetzel Park billboard case, and we support the extraordinary efforts of our Hetzel Park area neighbors in their struggle to remove the giant lighted billboard from their park.
All of us -- Jeanne Frantz, Dan Broadhurst, Dan Pierro, & Nina Walls for council, Ken Harper for mayor-- are committed to preserve the character of our Victorian rooted community while addressing the challenges of the future.
Tom, no worries. If I do happen to get elected to council, I would obviously resign as committee chair.
I don't have time for both jobs
Unlike the other side, Democratic committee chairs have no money and no influence anyway.