Jenkintown Zoning Hearing Board: Borough Vs. Peggy and Dave Downs

Grab your popcorn, folks! This is the hearing in its entirety. We apologize for the sound quality (again), but this is what we’re using for a microphone:

There’s an omnidirectional mic at the base of that Solo cup, which does a decent job picking up voices. Unfortunately, because we’re always in the gallery, it also picks up coughs, paper shuffling, and chair moving.

George Locke’s code violations of the mind

We will comment in much greater detail  about last night’s zoning board hearing soon, but one thing stands out.

Borough Manager George Locke went on record explaining what could constitute a zoning violation akin to what the Downses are contesting. If you help a neighbor mow their lawn or clear their yard, you could be cited. Mowing someone else’s lawn — for whatever reason — labels your activity as “commercial” and you are in violation of Jenkintown zoning code.

This is an excerpt of the full 3-plus-hour, monumentally wasteful and pointless, zoning hearing where Peggy and Dave Downs find themselves defending against a code violation that never occurred.

Jenkintown Borough Council meeting for November 27, 2017

Last week’s Borough Council meeting brought us good news, bad news and worse news.

Good news: No property tax increase.

Bad news: It will still cost more to live in Jenkintown.

Worse news: No property tax decrease.

Rick Bunker, social media bully and council member, proudly announced that the 2018 budget will contain no property tax increase, but trash collection will cost more and parking fees will double.

The worse news that you still won’t find a tax decrease comes mostly as a result of Deborrah Sines-Pancoe’s Gang of Twelve’s tone-deaf attitude that such a thing can never happen.

Case in point, Council approved a resolution suggested by the aforementioned councilor to donate $700 to buy T-shirts for a well-meaning, but municipally irrelevant cause with no discussion. Rick Bunker in the blink of an eye made a motion to donate 700 dollars from Borough funds. Seconded, and then unanimously approved.

Anticipating the “But it’s only $700!”, argument, please re-read this post that argues it’s not the money, it’s the attitude. This organization could more readily raise that and more through its own GoFundMe campaign, but why go through the trouble when a simple plea to Council entrusted with our tax dollars renders a check fired off on a whim. The Borough will buy T-shirts, but they won’t fix their sidewalks.

Pocket Albatross Park

Your taxes also won’t go down because the Borough must now deal with a flooding problem on Cedar Street. According to our own engineer, remediation could cost upwards of $900,000 — or the equivalent of one pocket park.

Remember also that the Borough must soon chip in for sewer repairs, a tab that they must cover with borrowed money coming from a lending market seeing increasing interest rates. That will cost about two pocket parks.

Speaking of taxes, the Borough also awarded the tax collection contract to a new company called eCollect. At the last meeting, the owner of the company gave a rather lackluster presentation, and couldn’t quite recall the exact number of employees he had. “Approximately thirteen,” he replied. In committee Rick Bunker claimed to have check references, but the minutes did not mention names.

This might be a good point to remind readers that our borough solicitor Sean Kilkenny currently finds himself under investigation by the FBI for his association with a pay-to-play scandal involving Allentown’s mayor and Northeast Revenue Services, a tax collection firm headquartered in Wilkes-Barre. Allentown was Kilkenny’s client.

Record retention policy upheld

Also of note from the last meeting, Council also approved Rick Bunker’s resolution to continue adhering to the state’s records retention guidelines. Rick all-but-wanted to let this pass unnoticed, however for anyone concerned about the Borough’s record on transparency, this is actually a big deal.

The state’s records retention guidelines, approved in 2006, come from the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission. One of these guidelines allows the Borough to destroy its digital recordings of the minutes as soon as the Borough commits them to paper and approves them — or one month. In 2006, most municipalities probably recorded their meetings on tape, which makes archiving and organizing this record burdensome. However, today the mp3 file of a Borough meetings is only about 140 megabytes large. In other words, one thumb drive could store about five years worth of meetings.

Why bother? Well, why not? The Borough need not use its own hardware. readily and easily stores all digital media from anyone free of charge.

The guidelines also allow the Borough to destroy all emails when it determines they no longer have any official value. Given the Borough’s fight to prevent us from reviewing them upon request, I’m sure they’re relieved about that. Bet Hillary Clinton wished she worked here.

Speaking of transparency, the Borough posted its 2017 budget on their website as a PDF graphic. This implies that someone in Borough Hall printed out the Excel spreadsheet to paper, scanned the 60-plus pages back into a PDF document, and then posted it online. They could have more easily generated the PDF directly from the spreadsheet, saving the Borough considerable time and cost. Unfortunately their method produced a document that prevents the viewer from selecting the embedded text. There’s no excuse for this incompetence.


Jenkintown Borough Council Meeting October 23, 2017

We skipped more than a few meetings thanks to summer activities, but we’re back with the last Council meeting before the election. (Vote for Peggy).

No real drama here, except yet another resident comes to complain about the Borough’s lack of code enforcement. Rather than tell George Locke to do something immediately, Borough Council President Pancoe resorted to her typical wishy-washy stance to ask George to maybe look further into this. “We’ll be monitoring,” she assured the less-than-convinced resident, who first reported this problem six months ago.

Also, the wife of J.C. Glass at 301 Runnymede apparently fulfilled her duties to Jenkintown’s Democratic Machine by engaging in what can only be described as pre-election shenanigans. In a bumbling attempt to paint mayoral candidate Peggy Downs in a bad light, she came to read (yet another) letter of complaint about activities at the Downs’ residence. Apparently, there should be a law against mowing your lawn twice a week. This thinly veiled attempt at dirty politics orchestrated by Rick Bunker et. al. would be laughable if it weren’t so pathetic and out of character of our town.

The rest of the meeting is pretty much standard stuff, although we do learn that a new restaurant will be occupying the old Family Cafe space and that Neshaminy plans a spring beer fest next year. We also learned that George Locke attended Borough Manager school and apparently passed. We wonder how much that cost and what it will ultimately get us. A manager that walks around our walkable community a little bit? Doubt it.

Jenkintown Borough Council Meeting, June 26, 2017

In June’s meeting Council discusses ice cream trucks, appoints two new part-time police officers (welcome!), and listens to a presentation from Marley Bice about the Jenkintown 2035 Plan. Sadly, the presentation slides make for poor viewing, and the report provided by Ms. Bice has not appeared on the web just yet. Suffice to say, it does a fine job singing the praises and potentials of Jenkintown, even if it does fail to suggest that parking must be restored to Old York Road.

Your feedback is welcome.