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The Bucks County Association of Township Officials Will Study What Works & What Does Not Work to Encourage Emergency Services Volunteerism

The Bucks County Association of Township Officials Will Study What Works & What Does Not Work to Encourage Emergency Services Volunteerism | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The Bucks County Association of Township Officials is organizing a database of available and proposed resources to push emergency services volunteerism in the county.

 

Volunteerism rates for fire departments especially show an “alarming” downward trend, and the association hopes the database will help bolster volunteer rates by educating municipalities and departments about past, present and possible future state programs and laws to help bolster volunteer numbers.

 

“Options are available to decision-makers to help encourage residents to volunteer for emergency services duty in our communities,” association President and Lower Southampton Supervisor Vice President Joe McFadden said in a letter to municipal managers and officials.

 

As examples of past and present laws, McFadden in his letter cited Act 172 of 2016, a municipal tax-credit program for emergency volunteers (read “Some Bucks Towns Opt for Volunteer Stipends”), and Senate Resolution 60 of 2004, which established a legislative commission for laws to provide direct and indirect volunteer assistance.

 

“The problem is, how do you get your arms around it all to decide what is the best option for your township or department,” McFadden added.

 

McFadden also referred to a current senate resolution, SR-6, introduced by state Sen. Randy Vulakovich, R-38, Allegheny County. Also known as the SR-60 Reboot, the bill is a follow-up study to the 2004 resolution.

 

The database is not ready yet, but the project did take its first steps with the association’s Municipal Cooperative Survey, an initial information-gathering effort to shape the next steps of the overall project.

 

The association’s goal is to develop not only a list of volunteer retention programs, but also collect information on how those programs did or did not work.

 

Only elected officials and certain township staff are asked to participate in the survey.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Consider these sobering facts (abstracted from a PSATS OpEd):

 

  • Volunteers at fire companies across Pennsylvania have dropped from 300,000 strong in the 1960s and ’70s to below 50,000 today.
  • At least 75 percent of fire companies are struggling with manpower at a time when the state’s population is aging. The average age of a firefighter is 50-something, and people are busier today than they were decades ago.
  • Communities would have to raise taxes almost $10 billion a year to switch to a paid model for fire service, according to the office of the state fire commissioner. Who can afford that kind of property tax increase in their community?
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News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents
These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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How Does Newtown Township’s Website Stack Up?

How Does Newtown Township’s Website Stack Up? | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A recent analysis of municipal websites and their social media pages by Bucks County Courier Times (BCCT) found that most sites succeed as “one-stop shops for information — budgets, agendas and minutes, videos of meetings and planning documents — that residents can access,” but others offer the “bare minimum.”

Where does the Newtown Township website sit on this “spectrum?”

 

Of concern to me are meeting minutes and video recordings of Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings. I’m primarily concerned about how much detail is included in minutes and how easy (or difficult) it is to search for and find specific information in the minutes or in the video recordings.

 

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A Deeper Understanding of the "Redsk*ns" Conversation


This is a guest blog post contributed by Arla Patch who I met at a recent weeklong series of hearings held by the PA Human Rights Commission at Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township. Ms. Patch was the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Maine Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission when she lived in Maine. She now lives in Quakertown.


Why do some communities hang on with all their might to the term “Redsk*ns,” which is considered a racist slur by many, while other communities hear the Native American voices that ask them to release it? In particular, why do the largely Euro-America members of the Nashaminy school board, teachers and parents say they use the racial slur “R word” to HONOR Native Americans and yet attack, berate and highly disrespect the very Native People who are asking them to stop using it? Even when Native American members of the same community insist that it DOES NOT honor them?

 

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johnmacknewtown's insight:

Further Reading:

  • “Term "Redsk*n" is Offensive, Neshaminy Teacher & Former Student Playwickian Editor Testify”; http://sco.lt/7tgRmL
  • “Use of Term "Redsk*n" by Neshaminy HS is Not Racist, Neshaminy Witness Testifies”; http://sco.lt/6xn5KD
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Beer and Birds Need Clean Delaware River Watershed Water, Say Audubon Pennsylvania & Local Craft Brewers – Including Newtown Brewing Company

Beer and Birds Need Clean Delaware River Watershed Water, Say Audubon Pennsylvania & Local Craft Brewers – Including Newtown Brewing Company | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The National Audubon Society and Audubon Pennsylvania launched, on Jan. 31, the Brewers for the Delaware River Association, a coalition of craft brewers in the Delaware River Watershed united to promote the protection of the watershed as a reliable, clean water source that benefits the people, birds and communities of the region.

 

“Birds, people and brewers all rely on clean water to survive,” said Julie Hill-Gabriel, vice president of water conservation at the National Audubon Society. “Teaming up with local brewers throughout the Delaware River Watershed will not only bolster Audubon’s efforts to preserve the home of more than 400 bird species — like red-headed woodpeckers, sanderlings and red knots; but it also inspires economic growth for local businesses and industries that depend on the health of the watershed and its water.”

 

Making up at least 90 percent of beer, water is an essential ingredient that gives each brew a uniqueness that depends on the quality of the water in each local community. The newly formed coalition joined forces under a shared concern of preserving a steady supply of clean water from Delaware River Watershed, which provides drinking water for more than 15 million Americans across four Atlantic states: Delaware, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania.

 

In January, the National Audubon Society delivered a joint letter signed by 12 breweries from the Delaware River Watershed to the 116th U.S. Congress, urging members to support the watershed and the small businesses that rely on it for economic success. The signees called for congressional members’ support by providing robust funding for the Delaware River Basin Restoration Program in years to come.

 

To date, members of the Brewers of the Delaware River Association include 2SP Brewing Co., Baba’s Brew, Bangor Trust Brewing, Bonn Place Brewing Co., Flying Fish Brewing Co., Goose Island Brewhouse Philadelphia, Newtown Brewing Co., Shrewd Fox Brewery, Tannery Run Brew Works, Tuned Up Brewing Co. and Zed’s Beer Bado Brewing.

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Newtown Supervisors receive long-awaited fire, emergency services study; recommends combining paid firefighting staff with volunteer force & moving station to Sycamore Street

Newtown Supervisors receive long-awaited fire, emergency services study; recommends combining paid firefighting staff with volunteer force & moving station to Sycamore Street | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The main recommendation: the all-volunteer Newtown Fire Association (NFA) and the township’s nine-member paid firefighting and emergency services staff should be combined under one roof to ensure better response times, as well as a better overall command structure.

 

The 62-page report also recommends that a more centrally-located fire station be built to house both squads.

 

[Read “Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study”; http://bit.ly/firestudypost for a more complete list of recommendations.]

 

Fire protection consultant Harry R. Carter, PhD of Aldelphia, N.J. discussed what needs to be done and the equipment which must be purchased to ensure that fire services are adequate over the next decade for the Newtown area.

 

[View this video clip  from the January 23, 2019, BOS meeting, which features Dr. Carter's answers to the many questions posed by the Supervisors.]

 

As far as new equipment, he said that a 75-foot ladder should be purchased, as well as a Quick Response Vehicle (QRV) which would hold a two-member crew and provide mostly a first-aid function in emergencies.

 

One of the current township fire trucks has more than 133,000 miles on it and purchasing a new fire vehicle is in the township’s future capital plans.

 

Former township manager Kurt Ferguson had pushed for the fire study, claiming that such a report is needed before the township can purchase any new fire trucks, which can each cost several hundred thousand dollars.

 

The comprehensive study was budgeted at $30,000 when put out for bid in November 2017, and was to include the Newtown Fire Association, as well as the township’s Emergency Service Department (ESD).

 

For the 2019 budget year which began Jan. 1, $1,043,537 is earmarked for the township’s emergency services, with $75,000 set aside in the capital budget for buying a new fire truck.

 

This year’s budget also includes another $175,100 to fund the Newtown Fire Association.

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Some Council Rock North Parents Livid Over Upcoming Concert, Which is Now Canceled!

Some Council Rock North Parents Livid Over Upcoming Concert, Which is Now Canceled! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

[UPDATE: March 2nd FOP Concert Canceled
After conversations between the Bucks County Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 53 and the Council Rock School District, the FOP has decided to cancel its scheduled concert on Saturday, March 2, 2019 that would have featured the band “Confederate Railroad.” This concert, which was never a district-sponsored event, was scheduled to be held at one of our schools through the district’s facility usage process. - Susan O'Grady, Council Rock Community.]

 

A country music concert event scheduled in March at Council Rock North has angered many parents and community members, who are taking issue with the band's name as well as song titles and lyrics.

 

Confederate Railroad has been booked by the Bucks County Fraternal Order of Police to play its annual Country Music Show event on March 2 at the high school in Newtown. The event is not sponsored by the district.

 

But some parents are not pleased the district is permitting a band with such song titles as "She Took It Like A Man," "Psycho Bitch From Hell," and "White Trash with Money" in their repertoire to play at the local school. Further, opponents state, the band name [and logo – see image] is offensive and promotes slavery.

 

A group of the concerned parents have launched a petition demanding the district cancel the booked performance.

 

"Not only is the name of the band offensive, their song titles and lyrics are degrading to women and many others as well. They refer to people as 'white trash,' 'rednecks,' and 'trashy women,'" says the petition, which was launched by the Council Rock Concerned Community Members group.

 

The petition makes clear the event is not sponsored by the district, but takes issue with the fact that it is even being permitted on school grounds.

 

As of Thursday afternoon, 38 people have signed the petition. You can view it here.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

I signed the petition!

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The Reorganization of Newtown Township's Leadership 2019

The Reorganization of Newtown Township's Leadership 2019 | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Organization of the Board of Supervisors

  • Phil Calabro elected as Chairman
  • Linda Bobrin elected as Vice-Chairman
  • John Mack elected as Secretary/Assistant Treasurer

 

REPORTING DIRECTLY TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO SERVE THE TOWNSHIP WITH COMPENSATION FOR 2019

  • Micah Lewis appointed as Township Manager
  • Micah Lewis appointed as Township Treasurer [Mr. Lewis explained that as treasurer he is responsible for accounts payable and receivable and the budget process. Having the manager as treasurer is a common practice in Pennsylvania.]
  • The Law Offices of Sean Kilkenny appointed as Township Solicitor
  • Briana Stobbe appointed as Board of Supervisors Recording Secretary
  • Extend contract of Kurt M. Ferguson as Management Consultant ($18,000 for "Professional Services" is included in the 2019 budget to cover this expense)

 

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When It Comes to Zoning Variances for the Sit. Stay. Kennel, Some Residents Will Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie

When It Comes to Zoning Variances for the Sit. Stay. Kennel, Some Residents Will Not Let Sleeping Dogs Lie | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Five residents living near Sit. Stay. filed the appeal Friday, arguing the township zoning hearing board issued two variances without proof that the kennel, and noise from its dogs, would not “alter the essential character of the neighborhood.”

 

Five residents living along Winding Lane, near doggie day care and boarding business Sit. Stay., filed an appeal Friday in county court, challenging township zoners’ decision to render the kennel a permitted business.

 

The zoning hearing board issued Sit. Stay. two variances in December, allowing it to operate on the 18.8-acre Roberts family farm off Washington Crossing Road, short of a 25-acre minimum space requirement for kennels in the township’s conservation management district, and located 205 feet, rather than at least 300 feet from one neighboring home. [Read “Sit, Stay Doggie Day Care Allowed to Stay Says Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board”]

 

The appeal argues the zoners approved the variances in error because Sit. Stay. did not prove that the farm’s “unique physical conditions” posed unnecessary hardship preventing it from being used in conformity with local code. The appeal was filed by five residents, four of whom belong to one family.

 

“This is a case of self-created hardship, as a result of the applicant’s decision to have (a dog kennel) use on the property due to (her) desire to maximize the land for her highest financial gain,” said attorney Scott MacNair in court documents.

 

Sit. Stay. met the “unnecessary hardship” standard because it could not change its acreage to meet the minimum space requirement for kennels; the business also presented evidence of economic hardship, per the zoning decision.

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Arcadia at Newtown Claims Its 3rd PRD "Has Been Deemed Approved" Because of Failure of Timely Action By Board of Supervisors. Newtown Solicitor Says It's a "Frivolous Claim"

Arcadia at Newtown Claims Its 3rd PRD "Has Been Deemed Approved" Because of Failure of Timely Action By Board of Supervisors. Newtown Solicitor Says It's a "Frivolous Claim" | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A Philadelphia developer is continuing to push its reasoning that a 76-home development Newtown Township supervisors voted to deny has the green light to proceed because of a technicality.

 

Arcadia at Newtown Holdings published a legal notice Friday advising that its proposal for 23 single-family detached homes and 53 townhomes off Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass “has been deemed approved” under the state’s municipalities planning code “for failure of the Board of Supervisors ... to act on the application within (the) time period required.”

 

The supervisors denied the homes Nov. 14 and township Solicitor David Sander emailed Arcadia attorney John VanLuvanee the board’s decision, outlining its findings and conclusions, on Nov. 24, the day before a 60-day window for tentative approval of planned residential developments expired Nov. 25.

 

The notice says the “decision” approving the project was made on Nov. 26. VanLuvanee argued in two county court cases — a complaint filed Friday and a zoning appeal filed in late December — that the decision Arcadia received Nov. 24 was not certified, and supervisors did not sign it until mid-December, outside the 60-day window.

 

[Related content: “Arcadia Green Three Peat: Sues Newtown Again!”; http://sco.lt/7yKv9F]

 

Though Newtown Township has not yet formally responded to the complaint or appeal, Sander said that officials would “fight these frivolous claims in court at every turn to protect the rights of Newtown’s residents.”

 

“The developer filed this legal notice to try to win its case on a technicality by saying that the board’s decision was not rendered in a timely manner. The board’s decision was rendered in a timely manner,” Sander said. “The developer chooses to rely on obscure technicalities to attempt to overturn the will of the board of supervisors and the significant concerns of residents. The township will vigorously defend its decision in court.”

 

2018 marked the third time Arcadia presented, and was denied plans for homes since 2015 through the tentative planned residential development (PRD) process [read “Summary of September 12, 2018, BOS Public Meeting”). The three municipalities under the Newtown Area Zoning Jointure (JMZO) voted in September to abolish that process, which allowed developers to bypass the traditional approval process for developments in lieu of at least one public hearing.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

The public notice shown here appeared in the January 18, 2019, issue of the Bucks County Courier Times. The case is yet to be decided in court.

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Agenda Highlights for the January 23, 2019 BOS Meeting

Agenda Highlights for the January 23, 2019 BOS Meeting | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Presentation: 2018 Fire and Emergency Service Study - Dr. Harry Carter, Ph.D. For a summary of the recommendations proposed, read “Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study” http://bit.ly/firestudypost

 

Land Development: Bucks County Community College - Waiver of Stormwater Management Requirements

 

Manager's Report

Resolution establishing procurement procedures for the hiring of professionals for Pension Plans, in accordance with Act 44

 

Motion to approve the resolution authorizing the Township Manager to make application and to allocate a maximum of $40,000 local match to apply for the DCED Early Intervention Program Grant.

 

Consideration to approve the Resolution making a supplemental appropriation of funds in the 2019 Budget to allow $40,000 to be allocated for the DCED Early Intervention Program Grant

 

Listen to Andrew Sheaf, Local Government Policy Manager at the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) as he answers Newtown Township Board of Supervisors' questions about the Early Intervention Program (EIP) at the November 19, 2018 Work Session meeting. http://bit.ly/DCEDpreso

 

Motion to purchase 3 police vehicles through Fred Beans Inc. through COSTARS in the amount of $92,269.00

 

Motion to purchase lighting and equipment for 3 police vehicles through HAVIS, Inc. through COSTARS in the amount of $36,730.08

 

Motion to advertise for the purchase of two police motorcycles, lighting, and equipment through PennBID

 

PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Grant Discussion: Mr. Lewis has been identifying grant opportunities to implement the trail plan. The priority is to complete the Lower Dolington Trail funding as it is the number one trail on the list. The DCNR recreation and conservation grants program will be accepting applications from January 22 to April 10.

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Macedonia Baptist Church in Newtown Program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service: "I Have a Dream LIVES" Guest Speaker

Macedonia Baptist Church in Newtown Program for Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service: "I Have a Dream LIVES" Guest Speaker | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Macedonia Baptist Church in Newtown presents its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. program on Monday, Jan. 21 beginning at 7 p.m. The theme is “I Have A Dream LIVES.” The guest speaker will be Rabbi Anna Boswell-Levy from Congregation Kol Emet of Yardley. The church is located at 218 North State Street, Newtown 18940.

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Chipotle Planning Newtown Location, But Has Not Yet Submitted Any Plans to Township

Chipotle Planning Newtown Location, But Has Not Yet Submitted Any Plans to Township | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Chipotle has plans to open a location in Newtown, company representatives have confirmed to Patch.

But key specifics — like where and when — are not currently available, said Erin Wolford, senior director of external communications at Chipotle.

Wolford said the company will be opening a Mexican grill locally but "we're most likely looking at next year."

Wolford said she had no details to share relating to where specifically the restaurant will be opening. "Stay patient people of Newtown! We hope to get there soon," Wolford said.

Newtown Township manager Micah Lewis confirmed on Tuesday that the chain has not yet submitted an application to the municipality.

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Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Hires Philadelphia Captain as Newtown's Next Police Chief

Newtown Township Board of Supervisors Hires Philadelphia Captain as Newtown's Next Police Chief | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The township will soon have a new police chief.

 

At the Jan. 9 meeting, the board of supervisors hired Philadelphia police captain John Hearn to head the township's 31-officer police department.

 

In a quick vote without discussion or debate, the board unanimously approved an employment agreement with Hearn.

 

Voting for the police chief’s contract were: Chairman Phil Calabro, Vice Chairman Linda Bobrin, along with Supervisors John Mack, Kyle Davis and Dennis Fisher.

 

Although Hearn’s name was not publicly disclosed at the supervisor’s meeting, BucksLocalNews.comhas confirmed that he will take over the position sometime this spring after he wraps up his job with the Philadelphia Police Department, where he has worked for nearly 30 years.

 

Once on board in Newtown, the 52-year-old Hearn, who lives in Northampton Township, will oversee 31 officers, commanders and civilian staff members along with a $5.27-million budget this year.

He’ll replace former Chief Rick Pasqualini, who retired in July. In the interim, Lt. Jason Harris has been serving as acting police chief.

 

Capt. Hearn’s resume is both extensive and impressive.

Since 2017, he has been the commanding officer of the 14th District in Northwest Philadelphia, which covers the Chestnut Hill and Germantown sections, as well as East and West Mt. Airy.

Prior to that, he was a lieutenant for 12 years with the Highway Patrol, a specialized unit in the Philadelphia Police Department.

 

While there, he had extensive experience with logistics, security and training.

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Arcadia Green Three Peat: Sues Newtown Again!

Arcadia Green Three Peat: Sues Newtown Again! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Newtown Township supervisors denied Arcadia at Newtown Holdings’ proposal for a 76-home development off Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass in November (read “Arcadia Green PRD Three Peat: Denied Again!”), but the developer argued in a recent appeal the plans actually are approved because it did not receive a signed, certified copy of the decision within an allotted timeframe.

 

The rule of three has held true — a prospective Newtown Township developer has submitted three plans for homes, denied through three votes by supervisors over a three-year period.

 

And, for the third time, Arcadia at Newtown Holdings has gone to county court to contest the board’s denial.

 

But in its most recent appeal, filed Dec. 21, the Philadelphia-based developer argued that Newtown Township actually has approved its plans for a walkable 76-residence community on 21.47 acres off Buck Road and the Newtown Bypass. Arcadia attorney John VanLuvanee said his client did not receive a signed copy of township supervisors’ unanimous “no” decision within the required window, according to court documents. Without a decision by the deadline, the plans are approved by default, the developer argued in the appeal.

 

Arcadia presented its plans to supervisors over four planned residential development hearings between early August and late September, and the board voted down the project Nov. 14, within a 60-day window expiring Nov. 25. Though township Solicitor David Sander mailed the decision to VanLuvanee on Nov. 24, Arcadia contends the document was not certified, and supervisors did not approve it at a public meeting until mid-December.

 

If the court upholds the board’s vote, VanLuvanee said a referee should be appointed to receive additional evidence to review in determining whether supervisors acted in “bad faith” voting at all.

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Term "Redsk*n" is Offensive, Neshaminy Teacher & Former Student Playwickian Editor Testify

Term "Redsk*n" is Offensive, Neshaminy Teacher & Former Student Playwickian Editor Testify | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

District teachers union President Tara Huber and former student and student newspaper editor Gillian McGoldrick said they consider the name Neshaminy uses for its sports teams racist.

 

Neshaminy School District teachers union President Tara Huber was told by Superintendent Joseph Jones III that she should “find work elsewhere” when she brought up the “Redskin” name and logo the district uses for its sports teams, Huber testified Tuesday during a Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission hearing on the issue.

 

During the second day of a weeklong series of hearings being held at Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township, Huber said she brought up the name issue to Jones last year after a meeting of a district committee designed to promote workplace diversity.

 

“I asked him how can we be having discussions about workplace diversity while at the same time having a mascot that is racist,” Huber testified.

 

At one point during their talk, Jones told her she should “find work elsewhere” if she felt that way, Huber added.

 

During her lengthy testimony Tuesday, Huber recounted the long history of the “Redskin” issue as it related to the Neshaminy student newspaper The Playwickian. Huber, an English teacher at Neshaminy School, was faculty advisor to the newspaper from 2000 to 2016.

 

The newspaper first published an editorial opposing the use of the name in 2001, and then two more during Huber’s later years as advisor. In 2013, a majority of the editorial staff voted to ban use of the name from the paper. The district eventually imposed a policy that the name could be deleted from stories but not from submitted letters or opinion pieces, Huber said.

 

McGoldrick, a 2016 Neshaminy graduate and a junior at Temple University, was on the Playwickian staff all four years of high school and was editor-in-chief her last year. She had started attending Neshaminy schools as a sixth-grader after going to Catholic schools before that.

 

She testified that her opinion about the use of the name changed in 2013 during a newsroom debate on the issue.

 

“I just accepted it at first and didn’t think much about it,” she said. “I knew it was a big tradition. During this debate I started on the side that was defending use of the name. Then, somebody on the other side compared use of the Redskin name to (another slur), and that made me just get up and change sides. It felt like I had been lied to, that I had been bamboozled into thinking use of ‘Redskin’ was OK and I had been accepting it for so long.”

 

johnmacknewtown's insight:

 

The suit from the state commission came after a 2013 lawsuit filed by Donna Fann-Boyle, the mother of a Neshaminy student. The suit said her child was Native American and suffered educational and other harm due to the "mascot." Ms. Fann-Boyle is scheduled to testify today (Jan 10, 2019).

 

Related Articles:

  • “Public Hearing to Remove Neshaminy High School's Discriminatory Mascot Name & Image”; http://sco.lt/5qxRbt
  • “Use of Term "Redskin" by Neshaminy HS is Not Racist, Neshaminy Witness Testifies”; http://sco.lt/6xn5KD 
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The Top Ten Local News Stories in 2018: “Curated” by John Mack

The Top Ten Local News Stories in 2018: “Curated” by John Mack | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The following are the TOP TEN viewed local news stories in 2018 in rank order. These stories were “Scooped” (i.e., curated*) by John Mack as being of interest to Newtown residents. See all curated news here. https://www.scoop.it/t/newtown-news

 

5 Doctors Are Charged With Taking Kickbacks for Fentanyl Prescriptions - Lock 'em Up! http://sco.lt/667BBp

 

Doors Blocked With Tables To Stop Council Rock North Walkout, Students Say http://sco.lt/8dyQ65

 

Bucks County Initiates Smart911 with RapidSOS to Quickly Serve Callers http://sco.lt/504cQz

 

Arcadia Green Sues Newtown Township http://sco.lt/7Ns6wz

 

Craft Beer Brewery, Food Trucks and Fun Coming to Newtown Commons This Summer http://sco.lt/94LdU9

 

EWG Report: Perfluorinated Pollutant (PFAS) Contamination of Water Spreading http://sco.lt/4xLDiD

 

In God We Trust. Lower Southampton Supervisors Not So Much! http://sco.lt/7anRk9

 

Opioids Not Better Than Acetaminophen at Reducing Pain to Improve Function for Chronic Back, Knee and Hip Pain http://sco.lt/6GPlwn

 

How Much Does a Family of Four Need To Earn To Live Comfortably In Bucks County? http://sco.lt/9IDSML

 

Falls Wawa Developer Wins Case Brought by Local Service Station But “SLAPPs” a Lawsuit Against Residents Who Spoke Up at Public Meeting http://sco.lt/5UZzxB

 

 

* A Content Curator is someone who continually finds, groups, organizes and shares the best and most relevant content on specific issues online. I curate stories published in local and national media that I believe are of special interest to Newtown residents. Many of these stories relate to issues discussed or acted upon by Newtown Township Supervisors.

 

I use the Scoop.It platform to capture and organize these stories (news articles) online. Each curated story is called a “Scoop,” which is a shortened version of the article. Within the Scoop is a link to the original, long version of the article plus links to related articles, blog posts, etc. Some Scoops include my personal insight.

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Newtown Township Appoints Members of the Newly Created Human Relations Commission

Newtown Township Appoints Members of the Newly Created Human Relations Commission | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

At last night’s Reorganization meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) appointed 5 people to the newly created Human Relations Commission (HRC), which was established by the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance passed by the BOS on November 28, 2018 (read “Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments” http://bit.ly/BOS2018accomplishments)

 

Here are the members of the Commission:

 

  1. Mercy Ingraham
  2. Aamir Nayeem
  3. Joe O'Neill
  4. Angelic Ranck
  5. Amber Ray

 

Thank you Mercy, Aamir, Joe, Angelic, and Amber for volunteering!

 

Learn more about the Commission members here.

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Use of Term "Redsk*n" by Neshaminy HS is Not Racist, Neshaminy Witness Testifies

Use of Term "Redsk*n" by Neshaminy HS is Not Racist, Neshaminy Witness Testifies | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Monday was the first day of a week-long series of hearings at Bucks County Community College on the school district’s name for its sports teams.

The term “Redskin” to refer to Native Americans is not racist in origin, a witness for the Neshaminy School District testified Monday during the first day of a week-long series of hearings being held by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission at Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township.

The commission filed a lawsuit in 2015 against the district for its use of the name for its sports teams and is seeking to force Neshaminy to change it.

Andre Billeaudeaux, who worked with many Native American tribes during his years in the Coast Guard and has written a book “How the Redskins Got Their Name,” testified that the name comes from the former practice of many tribes — including local ones — of applying sacred red paint to their skin before battle.

“Tribes of this region called themselves Redskins,” Billeaudeaux said. “Redskins has many uses, and can be used in a derogatory way, but not from a native’s perspective. This is who they are. This is what they did. The word Redskin is not a racial slur, and Native Americans support it as a name for sports teams.”

The PHRC filed its suit against the district two years after a Neshaminy parent filed one on behalf of her son that was voluntarily dismissed.

On questioning from commission attorney Lisa Knight, Billeaudeux said the imagery on Neshaminy’s uniforms should be modified to be more “region specific.”

During a break from the hearing, he added that the word “warrior” should probably be added to make the team name “Redskin Warrior.”

The public hearings are scheduled to continue from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day this week in the Rollins Center at the BCCC Newtown Township campus, 275 Swamp Road. Commission spokeswoman Renee Martin said the PHRC will not issue a ruling until weeks or months after the hearings are concluded, and that the school district can appeal to Commonwealth Court if the ruling is not in its favor.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

I attended this meeting to see how the PA Human Rights Commission (HRC) operates and meet people who may be of help to the Newtown Township HRC (for more on that, read "

Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments").

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Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments

Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

The following are some notable accomplishments of the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) in 2018. I am proud to have been involved in these decisions along with my fellow BOS members. I look forward to a prosperous and safe New Year!

 

Find the list here: http://bit.ly/BOS2018accomplishments 

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Public Hearing to Remove Neshaminy High School's Discriminatory Mascot Name & Image

Public Hearing to Remove Neshaminy High School's Discriminatory Mascot Name & Image | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

A public hearing has been set in the lawsuit against the Neshaminy School District over the high school's "Redskins" mascot.

 

The Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission, which enforces state laws that prohibit discrimination, has filed suit against the district for the team name and related Native American imagery.

 

The hearing, which is open for public viewing, will be held Jan. 7-11, starting at 9 a.m. each day in the Solarium Room at Bucks County Community College. The college is at 275 Swamp Rd. in Newtown.

 

For years, critics have decried the nickname, calling on the school board to change it because of its origins as a racial slur against Native Americans. The PHRC's lawsuit contends that the name and imagery discriminate against Native American students and create a hostile environment in the district's schools.

 

The suit from the state commission came after a 2013 lawsuit filed by the mother of a Neshaminy student. The suit said her child was Native American and suffered educational and other harm due to the mascot.

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Bucks Towns, Including Newtown, Aim to Boost Local Bird Populations in Celebration of 100-Year Anniversary of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Bucks Towns, Including Newtown, Aim to Boost Local Bird Populations in Celebration of 100-Year Anniversary of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Municipal officials gathered at the Bucks County Audubon Society on Wednesday [December 19, 2018] to discuss ways to promote bird species, while hearing about the curtailing of federal policies designed to protect birds.

 

“This just brings it home,” said McGill, who is board president of the Churchville Nature Center. “That nothing takes care of itself. We’ve got to take action. We’ve got to step up.”

 

The 10,000-foot view of what McGill was talking about was the 100-year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the nation’s primary law offering protections for birds.

 

According to the Audubon Society, more than 1,000 species are covered by the law, which makes it illegal to kill or harm them, and requires property owners and companies to take action to prevent “predictable and avoidable deaths.”

 

But last year the Department of the Interior issued a guidance that reversed a century of federal policy, ruling it would no longer pursue actions under the act when an entity harmed or killed a bird unintentionally. Oil companies stand to benefit the most from the reversal.

 

While the national Audubon Society is one of the groups challenging the new policy in court, its subchapters are taking a more harmonious approach. The Bucks County chapter, which is headquartered on a 110-acre property in a bucolic section of Solebury, was one of the chapters that followed the national organization’s lead in declaring 2018 the “Year of the Bird,” and sought to reach out to municipalities to raise awareness of bird protection.

 

While the national Audubon Society is one of the groups challenging the new policy in court, its subchapters are taking a more harmonious approach. The Bucks County chapter, which is headquartered on a 110-acre property in a bucolic section of Solebury, was one of the chapters that followed the national organization’s lead in declaring 2018 the “Year of the Bird,” and sought to reach out to municipalities to raise awareness of bird protection.

johnmacknewtown's insight:

Newtown Township has been a designated bird town community for many years, regularly sponsoring events to promote conservation. In 2019 the Newtown Environmental Action Committee (EAC) and Pennsylvania Audubon’s Society will be jointly developing and implementing a new program promoting the use of native plants to support bird population. At the November 28, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, a plaque was presented to George Skladany, member of the EAC, to commemorate 2018 as the hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, protecting migratory birds for many decades. The Township also passed the “Year of the Bird” Proclamation. More on that here.

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Council Rock School District Residents Likely to See Property Tax Hike for the 2019-2020 School Year

Council Rock School District Residents Likely to See Property Tax Hike for the 2019-2020 School Year | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Council Rock School District residents could be facing a higher than normal property tax hike for the 2019-20 school year that starts July 1.

School board members reached consensus at a recent finance committee meeting to have administrators apply to the state for pension and special education exceptions that, if granted, would allow the district to raise taxes higher than the 2.3 percent Act 1 Index normal maximum set for the district in 2019-20.

While emphasizing they won’t necessarily use the exceptions and will work as usual to keep any tax increase as low as possible, board members and administrators said it made sense to give themselves the flexibility to raise more revenue via taxes if it ends up being needed. District Business Administration Director Robert Reinhart recommended applying for the exceptions.

Reinhart is retiring March 14 and won’t be around when the board votes on a final budget and its accompanying tax increase — if any — in June. William Stone, now the top business administrator in the Souderton Area School District, is starting as Council Rock’s new business administration director Jan. 28 and will work with Reinhart for several weeks on the budget.

It doesn’t makes sense to tie the new director’s hands by limiting his ability to raise revenue as he develops the final budget, school board members said at the finance committee meeting. Reinhart added that the district’s fund balance, or savings account, stands at $21 million and he would not recommend drawing from it as a way to balance the 2019-20 budget.

“It’s better to have it if you need it,” board member Jerold Grupp said of applying for the exceptions.

“It’s reasonable to leave that door open,” fellow member Mark Byelich added.

A 2.3-percent tax increase would equate to 2.843 mills, or $109 for the owner of a property assessed at the school district average of $38,400. It would generate about $4 million in revenue, Reinhart said.

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Related articles:

  • “School Property Taxes in Aren't going Anywhere But Up”; http://sco.lt/5JhQ7F
  • “Council Rock Raising Taxes Again! Average Homeowner Will Pay $112 per Year MORE for Total of $4,796”; http://sco.lt/8e8W6z
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Median Household Income in the Philly Suburbs is Not Too Shabby According to Census Data!

Median Household Income in the Philly Suburbs is Not Too Shabby According to Census Data! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

New numbers recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau show how household incomes in the Philadelphia region compare to the nation overall. The agency released its "2013-2017 American Community Survey Five-year Estimates" this month, showing that overall, income has increased across the country.

The nation's median household income from 2013-17 was $57,652. That was up 8.7 percent from 2008 to 2012 when the median household took home $53,046. That number includes all households, including people who live alone.

Of the five Eastern Pennsylvania counties that comprise Philadelphia and its suburbs, Chester County had the highest household income. Households in Chester County make $92,417 a year, the data shows.

Here's a look at household incomes for all five Philly-area counties:

Bucks - $82,031
Chester - $92,417
Delaware - $69,839
Montgomery - $84,791
Philadelphia -$40,649

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Newtown Township Supervisors Approve Final $13M Budget for 2019. Read Their Lips: No New Taxes!

Newtown Township Supervisors Approve Final $13M Budget for 2019. Read Their Lips: No New Taxes! | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

After less than 15 minutes of discussion, the board of supervisors approved the final $13,002,335 general fund operating budget for the 2019 fiscal year beginning Jan. 1.

 

The proposed package, which was approved in a 5-0 vote at the Dec. 12 meeting, is a little more than three percent higher than the 2018 budget but includes no property or other tax hike.

 

Voting to approve the 2019 final budget were: Chairman Phil Calabro, along with Supervisors Linda Bobrin, Dennis Fisher, Kyle Davis and John Mack.

 

According to the budget, Newtown will end the 2018 fiscal year on Dec. 31 with an estimated budget surplus of $2,538,208, which is about what was earlier projected.

 

However, Supervisors Davis and Mack questioned whether this so called ‘net fund balance’ is adequate to ensure the township’s future financial stability, of if a higher amount is needed on the books to ensure a healthy fiscal picture for township auditors.

 

“It’s a concern, it’s getting lower and lower every year,” stated Mack.

 

Last year at this time, the township ended fiscal year 2017 with a $3.14 million net fund balance.

 

Chairman Calabro also expressed his concerns of the dwindling surplus, noting, “We need to find ways of raising revenues in the future.”

 

Like many municipalities, Newtown relies mostly on the Earned Income Tax for most its revenues instead of traditional property taxes, as some local governments impose, such as neighboring Lower Makefield and Middletown Townships.

 

Newtown’s EIT accounts for more than half of all revenue collections.

 

In 2019, the EIT is expected to haul in about $7 million, which is slightly higher than the year-end projected numbers for 2018.

 

The Earned Income Tax is by far the largest revenue generator in the budget and is collected on the wages of residents, whether they work in or outside the township, as well as those non-residents who are employed in Newtown Township.

 

Under state law, the tax cannot exceed one percent of a person’s pay. Newtown Township’s EIT is one percent, and if a non-resident’s home municipality doesn’t have one, then Newtown gets the entire amount which it splits with the Council Rock School District.

 

If a non-resident’s home municipality does impose an EIT, then Newtown must split it with that local government.

 

However, over the years more Bucks County municipalities have enacted an EIT, which has affected Newtown’s collections.

 

Another substantial revenue generator is the real estate transfer tax which property buyers and sellers must pay. The township splits those collections with the state.

 

That tax is expected to generate about $800,000 in 2019, up slightly from this fiscal year’s anticipated collection of $719,250 by Dec. 31.

 

But the township’s total real estate transfer tax collections will be about $22,000 lower than original expectations for the current budget year because of lagging home sales.

 

During his budget presentation to the supervisors in October, Lewis had stated that anticipated future shortfalls in revenues “will become more evident with capital expenditures that are needed.”

 

The township’s seven-member finance committee is already targeting what areas to look at for increasing revenues and cutting costs.

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Newtown Township Supervisors Vote to File Civil Lawsuit Against Drug Manufacturers Over Opioid Crisis

Newtown Township Supervisors Vote to File Civil Lawsuit Against Drug Manufacturers Over Opioid Crisis | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Taking the lead of Bucks County and other state, county and local governments, the board of supervisors voted 4-1 to approve filing a lawsuit against the pharmaceutical industry for manufacturing, distributing and promoting opioids.

 

At the Dec. 12 meeting, Chairman Phil Calabro, joined by fellow Democrats John Mack, Linda Bobrin and Dennis Fisher voted to approve hiring the New York City-based law firm of Marc J. Bern & Partners, LLP to file the civil action in Bucks County Common Pleas Court.

 

Republican Supervisors Kyle Davis cast the dissenting vote.

 

The law firm, which specializes in national personal injury and mass tort cases, will be assisted by attorneys from Cordisco & Saile, LLC, which is based in Doylestown.

 

“Basically Newtown is making a stand in principle against these manufacturers,” exclaimed Chairman Calabro. “We’re making a statement.”

 

Newtown Township will not be charged any attorney fees for filing the action, and the law firms will work on a contingency basis which will has yet to be negotiated.

 

According to township solicitor David Sander, that fee could be as high as 50-percent of any eventual damages awarded, but is usually around 30-35 percent.

 

He explained that the suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages and a jury trial.

 

“The action is based on the current opioid crises that not only Newtown Township but the rest of the county finds itself in the grasp of,” Sander noted.

 

“Newtown should stand up and take its place among the many, many other large cities, including Pittsburgh,” he added.

 

In this area, Philadelphia, as well as Bucks and Delaware counties, have already filed separate lawsuits against the pharmaceutical companies that make and promote prescription opioid drugs.

 

Meanwhile, Bensalem Township became the first local government in the region to file a similar civil action relating to the crises. More on that here.

 

These suits allege that manufacturers misled the public about the dangers of prescription opioids and that the drug companies have disregarded their obligation to monitor distribution in the communities and halt any suspicious sales.

 

“The pharmaceutical industry lied when they said [these drugs] were not habit forming,” claimed Supervisor Mack before Newtown Township’s vote.

 

Although several supervisors acknowledged that any damages which could eventually come to Newtown Township might be minuscule, the money could be used for treatment.

 

“Whatever we get, we’ll put it to good use,” Calabro pointed out, “I don’t see a downside to this [lawsuit].”

 

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Sit, Stay Doggie Day Care Allowed to Stay Says Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board

Sit, Stay Doggie Day Care Allowed to Stay Says Newtown Township Zoning Hearing Board | News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents | Scoop.it

Sit. Stay. has the township zoning hearing board’s approval to continue offering doggie day care and boarding services at the Roberts family farm in Newtown Township.

 

The dogs — and their watchers — have had their day before township zoners, and a Newtown Township kennel that came under scrutiny earlier this year can stay.

 

At its latest meeting, the township zoning hearing board voted 4-1 to issue doggie day care and boarding business Sit. Stay. two variances from local code, allowing it to continue operations as a permitted local business on the Roberts family farm off Washington Crossing Road.

 

Sit. Stay. opened its doors 15 years ago on a client-by-client basis and grew over time into a larger business servicing an average of 50 dogs each weekday between 7:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., owner Heather Roberts said.

 

Roberts said she learned earlier this year that Sit. Stay. was not grandfathered in under the property’s agricultural uses, but rather the 18.8-acre farm property was shy of a 25-acre minimum space requirement for kennels. A building used for sheltering dogs was also 95 feet short of a required 300-foot setback from offsite homes.

 

A few others neighbors opposed the variances, saying barking dogs on the property were a nuisance and could negatively impact resale value for their homes. Roberts said it was a noise complaint to the township’s zoning office that led her to learn Sit. Stay. would need zoning relief for the separate space and setback matters.

 

Resident Clara Bonavita, a neighbor who opposed the variances, said she could hear the barking “incessantly” starting this April.

 

Township supervisors opted this fall to cut several sections from local code governing “excessive and unnecessary” noise, including from animals or birds making continuous noise longer than 15 minutes if it is deemed to have “annoyed” people (Supervisor Mack voted "nay" - for more on that, read “Board of Supervisors Decimates Noise Ordinance”). Officials described the section as “subjective” and difficult to enforce, in that dogs often would stop barking between the time they got a call and arrived on the scene.

 

Though Roberts said no one has complained about barking dogs directly to her, she said, if neighbors have complaints in the future, “They know where I am, they know where to find me.”

 

Further Reading:

johnmacknewtown's insight:

At the upcoming "Reorganization Meeting," a few new members of the ZHB will be named by the Board of Supervisors. If you are interested in becoming a member, resumes will be accepted until
December 24, 2018. Please submit a letter of interest and resume to Olivia Kivenko, Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940, by email to
oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or by fax at (215) 968-5368. Members get paid a small stipend for each meeting.

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I am a retired small businessman who has lived in Newtown Township PA since 1995. The opinions expressed here are solely mine and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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Good Government
A good government is an open government where transparency reigns supreme. These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
Human Relations
This board is dedicated to promoting the value of diversity and addressing discrimination based on age, race, color, gender, religion, creed, culture, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, ancestry, national origin and disability. These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
News of Interest to Newtown Area Residents
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Public Health & Safety
These Scoops are excerpts from articles published in local newspapers and other sources. They focus on public health issues such as opioid addiction, water and air quality, emergency services, traffic, crime, etc. Any opinions and "insights" appended to these article summaries are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
Summaries of Newtown Board of Supervisors Meetings
These summaries are based on official minutes and/or audio and video recordings of public meetings.