Did you know that Jenkintown Borough Council creates an audio recording of all their meetings to use in the generation of its official minutes? Given that you no longer see anyone at the meeting typing a transcription, this makes sense.
Did you also know that once the Borough creates the minutes document it destroys the audio recording? News to us as well, and given that these recordings create an MP3 file less than 150 megabytes in size, a one terabyte hard drive could hold more than 6500 recordings, or about 125 years worth of Council meetings.
Right now, you can buy a one terabyte external hard drive on Amazon for $55.00. Why does the Borough delete these historical records?
Enclosed is one such historical record from March 27, where you can hear at least three Jenkintown residents put Borough Solicitor Sean Kilkenny in his place, and even catch him in a lie. Mr. Kilkenny states on several occasions in this recording alone that he is not allowed to give legal advice on criminal matters, and yet we hear Chief of Police Albert DiValentino revealing that his office did just that.
The comment period of this particular meeting largely involves the ongoing ordeal at 303 Runnymede, for which the Borough has dragged its feet for an interminable amount of time. Judge for yourself.
Deborra Sines-Pancoe extolls the virtues of transparency, but her actions drown out her four minute statement.
Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe delivered a rambling four-and-a-half-minute statement last Monday that considered some of the controversies currently swirling around 700 Summit Avenue. Much of this statement sounded like a defense of her and her colleagues on the board, but she also took some swipes at the “inordinate” number of Right to Know requests, and the verbal attacks that she and others in Borough Hall have had to endure in the past several months.
We’ve taken Ms. Sines-Pancoe to task in the past for her curious cluelessness, which she exemplified last Monday when she observed a “full house” at the meeting, when in fact only eight people turned up. In the past, she told Borough Manager George Locke that she thought the sidewalks “looked great,” when in fact they look like a sloppy hodgepodge.
Like George W. Bush telling former FEMA head “Brownie” he was doing a “great job,” we start to wonder about Ms. Sines-Pancoe’s comprehension of the realities that confront this borough.
Most of her statement addressed her commitment to transparency and openness, especially in light of recent developments and the announcement that the Borough may sell its properties for redevelopment. This assertion flies in the face of her actions in the recent past where she:
Did not dismiss George Locke’s request withhold posting the Borough’s full budget on the website because it shows the line-item with Mr. Locke’s current salary ($115,000) and the percentage increase (23.5%).
Held a public hearing about the Cedar Street acquisition advertised only in the legal notice section of the Times-Chronicle just barely before the 48-hour deadline, and posting the agenda on the website a half-hour before the actual hearing.
Continues to hinder the effort to set up procedures for community e-blasts informing of major announcements, especially those that affect the broader community and/or would commit it in a financially significant manner.
Refuses to ride herd on the Borough Manager to put an end, once and for all, to the egregious and flagrant zoning violations taking place at 303 Runnymede and the criminal activities of its occupant.
Defends Borough Solicitor Sean Kilkenny despite the fact that he was caught in a lie providing prohibited advice on a criminal matter with regards to 303 Runnymede during the March 27 council meeting, at which she should have asked for Kilkenny’s resignation right on the spot.
Ms. Sines-Pancoe also took great pains to remind us all that she, her fellow council members, and the mayor serve as volunteers. “We are performing community service,” she stressed. The implication being, of course, was “You should all stop being so critical.”
As previously stated, I applaud anyone’s sense of volunteerism, but just because you do not accept compensation for your efforts does not put you beyond reproach — especially when you assume the reigns of power. For many people, power is its own reward. Our volunteer council has the power to take our homes, to put it bluntly. Volunteers that don’t know how to do their jobs or who abuse their positions do us no favors.
Finally, with regard to the Right-To-Know requests, I myself have filed maybe a dozen in the past six months. I know for a fact that two other residents have also busied themselves filing requests as well, mostly to learn more about Borough activities.
Speaking for myself, I file them because there is simply no other way to get the information I need to draft proposals for improving my community or to build a case illustrating Borough ineptitudes. Ms. Sines-Pancoe complained about the cost to the Borough of these requests, but I can assure her that if the Borough was indeed transparent, we would’t need to file the requests for the information.
I am currently engaged in an effort to receive official information about a one particular Council member, and the Borough has retained Kilkenny’s office to cynically and illegally obstruct this request with prohibitive demands.
The grapevine tells me that Deborra Sines-Pancoe plans to run for reelection, but to paraphrase Henry II, will no one rid us of this meddlesome councilor? I rather that she would spare us any further lip service to providing the good government she falsely asserts she is providing.
As I have stated numerous times before: This is a tiny borough. There is simply no excuse for our government to serve us so poorly and to work so hard to keep us in the dark.
Jenkintown Borough seeks to sell its properties and our Council president promises an open process
On April 20, the Jenkintown Borough website posted an announcement about the possible sale of Borough properties for redevelopment. The announcement made it fairly clear that they were approached by a developer, and that last night’s meeting would have this matter on the agenda.
Reading between the lines of that announcement, one could plainly see the effect of the Cedar Street fiasco: “It is Council’s intent to lead a transparent process with ample constituent input, and Council will review all information and scenarios before making any decisions.” We only ask that Council also give the community ample and conspicuous notice for this input — not just the strict legal minimum.
True enough, the Borough’s properties do occupy some of the choicest locations in this tiny borough, and their redevelopment offers some interesting opportunities — providing they do it right. On the agenda, Council listed a motion to advertise the potential sale and redevelopment via an RFI (request for information), although the fact that a developer has already approached the borough likely prompted this action. The RFI will solicit ideas from interested developers, and in theory, Council will choose the best based on its merits.
On its face, we regard this as potentially good news. We doubt that anyone would object to the demolition of the current Borough Hall and its bunker-like design, but Council did not address its own relocation. (Perhaps another generous resident has offered up their home for below-market value?)
As promised, we live-streamed the meeting, which you may see on this site shortly. What you won’t see is the exchange we had with Ms. Sines-Pancoe as we packed up our equipment.
The Council President responded to our real-time comment wondering when they held a public hearing for the purchase of the Cedar Street property. “It was held right in this room,” she pointedly remarked.
Was that the hearing advertised in a paper that few people read any longer, in a section that only paralegals bother with, and outlined in an agenda posted on the Borough website a half-hour before it actually took place?
Who showed up to this hearing besides Ms. Sines-Pancoe’s cronies and members of the EAC? That hearing was so hastily arranged that some Council members didn’t know about it until last minute.
We applaud Ms. Sines-Pancoe’s newfound embrace of transparency and openness, and we take some credit for it. Unfortunately, there’s still a lot of work she and the rest of our Borough government needs to do on that front.
And finally, not that we don’t like Hawaiian shirts, but could Rick Bunker please show up to these meetings recognizing at least a little decorum?
In Garbin’s case, his objection is monetary. He thinks the property would bring in new tax revenue. To that I ask: Couldn’t a park raise property values of all the surrounding, already existent homes? Plus, Jenkintown got the property for a sweet deal. They actually saved green while buying green.
Well, no, the Borough didn’t “save” anything. They spent $250,000 (of our money) that they otherwise would not have spent had anyone had the chance to object to Deborra Sines-Pancoe’s slimy parliamentary maneuverings. You don’t “save” money by spending it, especially on something you didn’t need in the first place.
And no, the park will not raise property values to surpass when they will ultimately lose. The Borough continues to propagate its disingenuous message that they will only lose $9,000 per year. Actually, they and the school district will lose more than $20,000 per year at the very least in potential tax revenue by preventing any development.
Whatever might have been built there would have had to go through planning and zoning. Claiming that a developer planned to build five units in that space amounted to a scare tactic designed to bring out the NIMBY’s, and sadly the residents of Cedar fell for it, hook, line, and park bench.
So much for Brian McCrone’s healthy sense of journalistic skepticism.
Just so Jenkintown residents understand the level of discourse that they can expect when voicing any opposition to the party line, I offer this screen grab. On January 2nd, at 1:43 in the morning, Rick Bunker posted this comment on our website. He apparently had second thoughts and removed it, reposting instead something more innocuous, but I suspect he didn’t realize that Disqus sent out this notification first.
Frankly, this is what we’ve now come to expect of our current president in Washington, but it saddens us to know that the Council’s vice president embodies much the same mentality, especially when it comes to those who question his authority. If Mr. Bunker can’t stand the heat, well…