Jenkintown Council President Deborra Sines-Pancoe

Lateral damages

The town that works harder to attract visitors than it does to keep its own residents eventually loses both. 

We keep sending that memo to Jenkintown, and it stubbornly refuses to read it. This week, realtor Andrew Smith sent out a memo of his own that asks Council to reconsider a 2017 ordinance requiring inspection of sewer laterals before a property sale. Of all the claims made, the assertion that these inspections waste large, equity-devouring sums of money and do no good should resonate the loudest.

Our borough council has a real problem truly understanding the concept of financial hardship. They pay lip service, but they do not act upon their feeble expressions of empathy. It makes one want to call for them to release their tax returns if only to show the hypocrisy of joining a party that blames the nation’s ills on the apathy of the one-percent.

With this ordinance, rarely does a “For Sale” sign pop up in Jenkintown without a backhoe appearing to dig up the front yard, a brand-new sidewalk, and sometimes a chunk of a freshly paved street. Don’t move here unless you can afford this council’s unsubstantiated environmental agenda.

The lateral ordinance was snuck onto the agenda and passed in 2017 despite Cheltenham’s eventual abandonment of a similar program that they found fixed nothing and cost too much.

This latest example of expensive municipal folly follows the surreptitious acquisition of the Cedar Street property, the vindictive persecution of Peggy and Dave Downs and their subsequent lawsuit, and the grossly mismanaged sidewalk repair “program”. In all three cases, the Council ignored the facts, leaving onerous and unnecessary burdens upon hapless homeowners. 

It’s no coincidence that this municipal dysfunction started about the same time Deborra Sines-Pancoe ascended to Council leadership. It’s also no coincidence that council has become a revolving door or that it has an open seat going into the general election. People who value their time do not want to share that board with her. 

Pancoe has not contented herself with running the main meeting, but she now exerts undue influence into the committees as well. Rick Bunker quit his seat in a huff during a fire commission meeting after Pancoe, who wasn’t even a member, hijacked it. She has even gone so far as to refer to herself alternately as Jenkintown’s manager and its leader. As Council President, she has no managerial authority at all. Officially, Jenkintown has no leader.

Pancoe, a Quaker, serves also as a director for Abington Friends Academy. Quakerism’s central tenet of non-violence should make one wonder how a professed believer can be so blind to the violence that financial disaster can bring to struggling families, the elderly, or anyone who desperately wants to jump ship before she steers it into the iceberg.

Twenty years from now, when the history of Jenkintown’s decline and annexation by Abington is written, look forward to an entire chapter devoted to Deborra Sines-Pancoe’s role in this sad development.

Escape from Jenkintown

One now-former resident tells his story and why he waited to get out before telling it.

The hype that surrounds Jenkintown often describes it as a “A Big-Hearted, All-American Town“, and if you remove the politics or the insidious machinations of our public officials, and maybe it is.

We settled here in 2002 and in 2015 made the mistake of looking under the municipal rocks. It wasn’t pretty.

This reporter has heard from several hostile quarters, “Why don’t you just move?” or “If you don’t like it, leave,” or most famously, “Jenkintown isn’t for everyone,” as if other towns don’t have their fair share of Rick Bunkers, i.e. apathetic fools tone deaf to the needs of their constituents and unfit for public office.

Lucky is the person who has the resources to do exactly that. We receive emails, calls, and discrete taps on the shoulder on almost a monthly basis from people admitting to a fearful reluctance to speak out against our government. Indeed, we heard from Jim Smith much earlier this year who asked me not to convey his opinion about Jenkintown’s ongoing decline for fear of retaliation by George Locke.

Now safely ensconced in nearby Rydal, Jim posted the following on the Jenkintown Community Page:

We moved. Seriously. After 48 of 51 years in Jtown; my wife, kids, and I graduating from JHS; and our holding out hope that things would get better, we finally threw in the towel. Over the last few years especially, it appeared that the town was going in the wrong direction – increasing storefront vacancies; a school district running a deficit despite increasing taxes; spiteful Borough management; the ‘curb fiasco’; failure to see the ‘big picture’ and take actions beneficial for the future; and more, we finally decided that our dream of living happily ever after in the borough was just that – a dream.

We stayed in the zip code (Rydal) and will continue to support the vendors in the borough as much as possible (filled with wonderful business owners who deserve our support), and we really hope our fears of continuing deterioration of the town don’t come to fruition, especially because what makes the town so special is the residents. Jenkintown is a very unique place… but as evidenced by how things are being run, it appears there is a major disconnect between what the residents want and deserve and those making the decisions.

So instead of voting with our mouths, we voted with our wallets. Instead of continually being angry over things like the Downs situation (just a microcosm of bigger issues), we can watch what happens without a ‘dog in the fight’, so to speak. We hope for the sake of all the great people in Jenkintown, present and future, that things change for the better – perhaps the elections next year will be a step in that direction. Kudos to all of you who are putting in the time and effort with the hope of making a difference – our hearts and hopes will be with you!

Having visited hundreds of similar small towns across this country and reporting upon those in varying degrees of decline or revival, we’ve come to the inexorable conclusion that the blame for decline — like ours — almost universally falls at the doorstep of borough/township/city hall.