Examples of poor sidewalk construction on Greenwood Ave, Jenkintown

Poor construction on Jenkintown’s Greenwood Ave

We missed a few examples on Greenwood that show Jenkintown needs a more pedestrian-first policy.

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And the point of this is? Yes, as we have already established, the Borough gives slate curbs a pass, but apparently the original developers of this street lined the entire road with slate. We still have a few quaint remnants of that construction, but a wholesale approach would have removed this once and for all, allowing for unified curbs designed to last at least a generation or more. This just looks sloppy.
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Just six feet away, weeds have taken up residence in the cracks in that slate. More Jenkintown sloppiness. We deserve better.
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It didn’t take long for that new sidewalk block to crack, and the patch has already crumbled away. Water will seep in, turn to ice, and destroy that block in short order. If the Borough itself contracted to do the entire street at the same time it paved it, everything you see here would look nice and clean, and last much, much longer.
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Another shoddy, apathetic example of Jenkintown borough’s inspection process. Who cares if the sidewalks look like a stretch in North Philadelphia? The street is nice and smooth. Don’t blame the abutting property owner: They only need do what the Borough requires.

 

Jenkintown Borough

Walking Away

We have made our case. Either the citizens of Jenkintown will accept and embrace the concept of public responsibility for public assets, or it will continue to allow the status quo to molder on and degrade our walkable environment.

The facts are these:

  1. The public financing of roads but not of sidewalks amounts to a subsidy for automobile usage. In an age of climate change and an obesity epidemic, it shows a misguided priority for machines over man.
  2. The borough claims facetiously that it cannot afford to take on this responsibility. Actually, it has the money, but it chooses to spend it elsewhere, and often on things where it should not. (For instance, we have more police cars per capita than New York City.)
  3. The borough does not choose to lead the way. It can if it wants, but an element on the Council sees no reason to change its ways or to even discuss it. Such attitudes speaks not only of ignorance, but it leads to dangerous long-term consequences for the viability of the community.
  4. The current sidewalk policy has resulted in an unsightly hodge-podge of substandard construction that will degrade far faster and cost more than a unified, single-payer approach. The process has proven arbitrary and subject to political manipulation. In other words, it helps to know someone.
  5. The current process currently does not accommodate hardship. You either pay up or you will go to court, face a fine, and ultimately find a lien slapped on your house. The borough shows no interest whatsoever in working with families that for reasons beyond their control cannot afford to maintain what is public space.

This situation will not change without public pressure. I have done my best to enlist the help of my neighbors, some of whom have urged me to draft a petition to get this changed. In fact, most of the people I’ve spoken with about this issue tend to agree with me, but what they will do to further this remains an open question.  I would happily help in this effort, but I cannot and should not do it by myself.

I stand ready to press on, but I will need your help. If you would like to meet to discuss what more we can do, let me know. Velvet Sky makes for a perfect meeting spot, and its one of those places that I’ll miss when my family and I can finally move away — which we will if this borough — and commonwealth — continues its oppressive policies against working class homeowners.

Jenkintown Borough

Bunker’s Mentality on Better Sidewalks

I attended the Council’s Administration and Finance Committee hearing meeting last Monday to discuss the budget, PennDOT’s Multi-Modal Fund, and to present this blog’s $25 Sidewalk proposal.

First, the committee’s explanation as to why the projected 2014 $2.2 million budget carryover didn’t necessarily constitute a “surplus” did not clarify things much. As it was explained  to me, Council budgets money so that they need to buy stuff for the next year.

“So the money is earmarked?”

Well, no, but we may need to buy a fire engine.

“So, the money is discretionary?”

Not exactly.

I will leave this issue for a discussion with an accountant with no ties to the Borough and plenty of patience. And I will take the Council up on their invitation to attend the budget planning meetings.

Second, I asked whether or not the Borough applied for — or at least considered applying for — the state’s Multi-Modal fund as  a possible source of money to pay for repairs to our sidewalks. The committee and Borough Manager George Locke expressed awareness of the fund, but didn’t seem to think that it applied to Jenkintown’s needs.

Mostly, my sense was that no one even considered the fund for this project. George Locke asserted that with regards to sidewalks, the state intends  the fund to go to commercial districts that feed to transit. Given that the Jenkintown train station sits in a mostly residential section of town, one might reasonably assume that PennDOT would make an exception if indeed one needed to be made. Besides, I have a list of applicants from the PennDOT website that would belie this assertion.

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Councilor Rick Bunker says, “No better sidewalks for you!”

Finally, after presenting my $25 Sidewalk plan to the committee, Councilor Rick Bunker showed that he continues to labor under the false assumption that the Borough does not own the sidewalks. I pointed out to him that in fact, according to my property markers and the county’s website, the sidewalks are indeed part of the public right-of-way.

Then, he flat out told me, with hand pounding on the desk, that he didn’t see any reason why Jenkintown should break with the rest of the state and take on the maintenance of sidewalks, despite the fact that it’ll be cheaper and produce better sidewalks. In his own words, “This is the we’ve always done it, and it’s the way the rest of the state does it. I see no reason to support this change. No one is complaining about the way we’re doing this.”

In the words of Admiral Grace Hopper, “The most dangerous words in the language are ‘It’s always been done that way.'”

Much to her credit, Councilor Laurie Durkin interrupted Bunker’s tirade, saying, “I do think this is worth considering. I think we should look into it further.”

After all, this is all I’m asking.

Jenkintown Borough

13th heaviest property tax burden and no trash pickup (or sidewalks)

This is the average amount of residential property tax actually paid, expressed as a percentage of home value. Some states with high property taxes, like New Hampshire and Texas, rely heavily on property taxes in lieu of other major tax categories; others, like New Jersey and Illinois, impose high property taxes alongside high rates in the other major tax categories.

Source: How High Are Property Taxes in Your State? | Tax Foundation