Less local news coverage = more municipal monkey business

Jenkintown residents should easily identify with a segment aired on today’s Saturday Weekend Edition with Scott Simon. In that segment Scott spoke with professor Meghan Rubado, who explained how shrinking newsrooms can potentially impact the number of candidates who run not just for mayor, but for any local elected position.

After the remarkable election Jenkintown had two years ago where a write-in candidate for mayor garnered more than 35% of the vote, it looks like we’ll be getting back to normal this November. In Jenkintown, no one runs for office. They are appointed and serve until they’re sick of serving. This describes both Borough Council AND the Jenkintown school board.

Ms. Rubado’s study asserts citizens left unaware of their officials activities won’t find motivation to launch a challenge. Sound familiar, Jenkintown?

Runnymede storm drain fixes break sidewalk and curb work

Last week, Jenkintown Public Works under the supervision of George Locke made an attempt to address an ongoing water drainage issue on Runnymede Avenue. According to the Borough, it seems that a spring somewhere between Hillside Avenue and the 200 block of Rodman gets expecially overactive after snowmelts and rainstorms and gushes water down the hill and into the yards of properties on the 200 block of Runnymede. In the winter, this is especially problematic since the water that pours into the street tends to freeze, creating a hazardous condition.

Mr. Locke proposed expanding the capacity of the storm drains on the 200 block of Runnymede to handle the overflow. I’ll be the first to admit I’m not civil engineer, but it seems to me that it might make more sense to address the water at its source.

That said, JPW dug into the street to lay pipe and to install new drains. The work caused damage to existing and recently repaired sidewalks, aprons, and curbs — some of it severe. This section of Runnymede was repaved in 2015, and the patch applied promises to accelerate the eventual deterioration of the street.

We’ve stated this on many occasions: For a town that prides itself on its walkability, it seems to actually care little about it. This is not workmanship worthy of such a town.

For the record, George Locke earns a salary of more than $125,000/year plus benefits.

This gallery shows some of that work.

Jenkintown School District

Peeking under the rock of the Jenkintown School District

Dr. Takacs suggested that I do my research on the school budget, and so I have. In some ways, it’s even worse than I originally believed.

Dr. Takacs asserted that a capital budget can’t be used on things such as lunches, pencils, and laptops, and she is of course correct. What she didn’t say is that this capital budget comes from yet another $1.2 million loan acquired by the school with no specific capital intentions. This additional debt adds to the district’s $19.7 million liability it services to the tune of over $1.2 million per year. The District’s total budget outlays for this year are projected to be $16.3 million, or $3.4 million less than its total debt.

I will admit to you right now that I’m not an accountant, but it sure seems an unhealthy place in which to be where your annual income is so much less than what you owe the bank. Maybe I’m wrong.

The original estimates for the vestibule came in at about $350,000. Why it escalated another $150,000-plus I don’t yet know, but in listening to the several of the meetings on Soundcloud, I heard a few people essentially agree with my take on this reckless expenditure.

Sadly, the one person who blew Dr. Takacs whole case out of the water, a clinical psychologist and a professor, who cited more effective methods of diffusing such dangers through proper counseling and a better prevention folded under Dr. Takacs withering — and largely unsupported by science — rhetoric.

So, no we can’t spend the half million on school lunches, but in truth, the picture is even worse. We’re borrowing the money for this folly.

I welcome anyone to step forward to fill in the details for me or to express their own feelings about this — as some already have. You can count on my complete discretion.

You can download the JSD budget from this link. You will NOT find it at their website.

More news coverage for Jenkintown

More news coverage coming to Jenkintown

Walkable Jenkintown first appeared on the internet in April, 2015, a week after Louise and I received notice that we had to fix the Borough’s sidewalk. I can still provide a litany of reasons why no aspect of this policy makes any sense, but exploring this problem got me far deeper into local issues than I ever expected.

Suffice to say, I picked up the rock and looked under it, and what I found belied Jenkintown’s happy place reputation. Whether my neighbors liked it or not, Walkable Jenkintown became the only consistent source of news and commentary dedicated solely to Jenkintown.

This exploration connected me with many concerned citizens and neighbors, sustainability activists, and members of the local, regional, and national media. Early last month, one of those connections reached out and offered me a job. As of today, I am the new editor of GlensideLocal.

At GlensideLocal.com, I will join Michael Golden’s well-funded effort to fill in the void traditional media left behind by ignoring the communities outside of Philadelphia. As residents of Jenkintown know all-too-well, our own government operates safe from any media scrutiny, and because of that, they’ve gotten away with everything except maybe murder. Jenkintown’s representatives are accountable to almost no one except the political machine that has put them there.

That ends today. GlensideLocal will cover not only its original territory of Cheltenham and Abington, but now Jenkintown as well. Eventually, the name of the site will change to incorporate or acknowledge our little town in some way.

GlensideLocal is part of an expanding group of hyper-local news outlets that currently include MoreThanTheCurve.com and AroundAmbler.com.

We report on pretty much everything, from lost pets to grand openings to government matters. If you have a tip, please share. Anything you think that your neighbors should know GlensideLocal wants to know as well.

What happens to WalkableJenkintown? Not sure yet, quite frankly, but I will keep its archives online to serve as a historical document of Jenkintown’s last four years. Meanwhile, we’ll see where this little adventure in journalism takes me, but I’m happy to say that I get to do more of what I’ve been doing with WJ and now I get paid for it.

My goal with WalkableJenkintown was always to help make Jenkintown a better, more accountable, and viable community. This does not change as I take on this new role.

See you around the Borough!

Mayor Allyson Dobbs

Jenkintown Borough Council Highlights

At last week’s Borough Council meeting we learned:

More apartments for Jenkintown. Jeffrey Lustig came before council seeking approval for his plans to build apartments on the second and third floor of the Wells Fargo bank building at the corner of York and West. He got it, but not before the owner of Buckets voiced his concerns about — what else — parking. Credit goes to Council president Deborra Sines-Pancoe for pointing out to Mr. Bramen that his signs posted all around his lot warn that he will tow cars that don’t belong there.

Parking meter fees will be doubling, from twenty five cents to fifty cents per hour.

The Borough has issued a demolition permit for the Salem Baptist Church property. Look for wrecking balls soon.

Melissa Ashton Young Resigns — right on time. Council’s agenda listed its intent to accept the resignation letter of Melissa Young and then to appoint Maxine Marlowe, a former council member, to her post. These two agenda items were tabled without explanation. Ms. Young has largely been AWOL on the board in the past year and made no secret of her displeasure of serving. Her term was set to expire this year, but in a classic tactic, she will resign early to allow for an appointment and to avoid any primary fight. Democracy at work!

Mayor Dobbs is camera shy? Someone needs to explain to our elected representatives, maybe upon swearing in, that they are public officials and when in a public hearing, they have no right to privacy. So, when a reporter or a citizen comes and starts taking pictures, maybe they should just shut up and deal with it. When I pointed my camera at Mayor Allyson Dobbs (above), she launched a tirade about my rudeness. “What would David Sedaris think?” Madame Mayor, I don’t give a rat’s ass what David Sedaris thinks.

Bunker suggests selling our sewers to Aqua. Social Media Bully and Council Vice President Rick Bunker raised an obvious question not asked at this months earlier public works hearing: In the face of the huge bill faced by the borough for sewer remediation and redirection from Cheltenham to Abington, why not just sell off the sewers to Aqua? As previously reported, Aqua is expected to close a deal to take over Cheltenham’s system, which may lessen our financial burden, but perhaps we can kill two birds. Pros and cons on both sides, so expect this issue to dominate community discussion for much of this year.