Friday, May 19, 2017

Scads of Childrens' Events This Week (and a few things for adults, too)

Going to be a beautiful day Saturday. Take the kids to a free movie Saturday morning, then take them to the library for the open house in the afternoon. Also free.

Friday, May 19, 6-8 pm at First Presbyterian Church, Norristown Recreation invites all kids to The Picnic Games. Free admission. Hotdogs followed by games, then sno-cones at the end of the evening.

Friday, 8 pm at Theatre Horizon, "White" continues its run. This week's performances are Saturday at 4:30 pm and 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm and Thursday at 7:30 pm. The play's been held over until May 28. Tickets and performance schedule at this link.

Saturday, 10 am at Centre Theater. Kids Movie Club presents the movie "Moana." FREE.
Saturday from 1-3 pm at the Norristown Library (1001 Powell), the Friends of the Library will hold an Open House in the back of the library. The event is FREE and will include performances by Colonial Revelers at 1 pm, the Norristown School Jazz Band at 1:30 pm, and the Grupo de Danza Nuevo Mexico Dancers at 2:15 pm. Plus you can take a Hidden Library Tour (see parts of the library no one sees), enjoy refreshments and maybe win a door prize. Children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult.

Saturday, 6:30-11 pm at Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). A-Mak Folk Festival. 3 bands will perform.

Sunday, 10:45 am at Christ UCC Church (Marshall and Noble). The cantata "We Are Sailing" with the Chancel Choir and guest instrumentalists, during the regular worship service.
Sunday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Summer Concert Series presents the Allen Reynolds Band. Bring a chair or blanket to sit on. Concession stand will be open.

Tuesday, 7 pm, Municipal Hall. Zoning Board Hearing.

Wednesday, 6:30 pm at Riverfront Park. Monthly meeting of the Norristown Riverfront Community. Now that Earth Day is over, what will be the next project? Come help decide. If it's nice, meet at Riverfront down near the end of the parking lot on the river side, if it rains, meet at Alfredo's restaurant (Hamilton and W Main).

Next Saturday, May 27, 9 am-1 pm at Stewart Middle School. Parents/Faculty Club Flea Market. Vendors $15/space, $20/space with table.

Next Saturday, 10 am-1 pm, New Life Plaza Parking Lot (across from 530 Church St). Yard sale to benefit the homeless and those in poverty. Contact 610-277-1321 Ext. 109 or email outreach@hospitalitycenter.org for info.

Next Saturday, 11 am-1 pm at Montgomery Cemetery. Memorial Day observance by the Historical Society of Montgomery County.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Common Pleas Court Judge Candidates

Okay, last Diary before the election, so here are your Common Pleas Court Judge candidates. I wish I had time to summarize the candidates for Superior and Commonwealth Court for you, but you’ll have to do your own research on those. If it helps, the PA Bar Association evaluation of the candidates can be found at this link.

What is the Court of Common Pleas? That 's where you'll find criminal and civil trials at the courthouse. If you’re called for jury duty in Norristown, those trials are handled by these judges. They serve 10-year terms. Three candidates are running on BOTH Republican and Democratic ballots. You’ll choose two of them.

All three candidates are lawyers, of course.

Joseph P. Walsh from Montgomery Township (near Lansdale) was appointed as a Common Pleas Court Judge last September to fill a vacancy. He’s now running for a full term. He doesn’t list his party affiliation anywhere, but his and other Facebook pages list him as following several Republican committees and Pat Toomey, and endorsing Republican candidates.

Jeffrey Saltz from Lower Merion runs his own law firm in Center City Philadelphia. He has 30 years of courtroom experience, including in Montgomery County. He’s a Democrat and has served on several Democratic committees.

Wendy G. Rothstein of Plymouth is with the law firm of Fox, Rothschild, LLP and has been a respected trial attorney in Montgomery County. She’s a Democrat who was born in Norristown and spent her early school years here (full disclosure: we were classmates, neighbors and friends in elementary school, though I haven’t seen her in decades). Other Norristown connections: she’s a board member of the Elmwood Park Zoo, and also chaired the Liberty in the Law Program, facilitating visits of attorneys and judges to 6th grade classes in the Norristown Area School District. I endorse her. I think she’d do Norristown proud as a Common Pleas Judge.

As I’ve said before, you can see your sample ballot at this link. Choose Norristown from the list, then click on your district.

Please get out and vote. I talked to one woman yesterday who said she “had better things to do” than vote tomorrow. Really? Better for herself, maybe. Not better for our town. If you don’t vote, don’t complain about council or our schools.

I’ll be at Eisenhower behind the 3-3 district table tomorrow. If you vote there, stop by and say hello.

Friday, May 12, 2017

Mother's Day Weekend Events, then Election Day

Once again, N-town is loaded with activities this weekend. Rain is predicted, so forget your garden work. Go to one or more events instead. And remember to vote Tuesday for Council, School Board and judges. Let's have a great turnout at the polls.

Friday, May 12, 7 pm at Ebenezer Methodist Church (234 E Spruce). Pre-Mother's Day Concert with The Sounds of Apostle Linda Henry and The Mighty Aires Gospel Quartet. Donation $10 in advance or $15 at the door.

Friday, 8 pm at Theatre Horizon, "White" continues its run. Availability for tonight's show is limited. This week's performances are Saturday at 4:30 pm, Sunday at 2 pm and Thursday at 7:30 pm. The play's been held over until May 28. Tickets and performance schedule at this link.

Saturday, May 13, 10 am-noon at New Life Internet Cafe (19 W Marshall). Photo ID Clinic. If you're in need of a photo ID, bring ID and proof of residence. If you have questions, call 610-945-6398.

Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm at Selma Mansion (1301 W Airy), a special Mother's Day weekend event: The Ladies of Selma Mansion. A FREE living history open house. Meet the women who made Historic Selma Mansion a home from 1794-1980. Spinning and wool-craft. Learn how mothers used herbs to nurse their families back to health. Churn butter. Handle and try on historic clothing. Take a tour of the mansion to hear about the lives of the women who lived there. More activities for children and adults. Tea and goodies. Children must be accompanied by an adult.


Saturday, noon-4 pm at Norristown Maenner-Chor Club (920 Haws Avenue), Help K9 Officer Jerry Get a Jitney. Fundraiser for a new K9 vehicle for the NPD. Adults, $20; 15 and under free. Food and beer. Listen to the great sounds of the Transister Trio band. (kids under 15 free) Lots of great baskets, large bonus baskets and 50/50. Meet our new K9 Jerry. Purchase tickets from the NPD at 235 E Airy, at the Maenner-Chor Club or at 40 E Main.
Saturday, 5-8 pm at Haws Avenue Methodist Church, Spaghetti Dinner and Sundae Bar to benefit the Dragon Boat Youth Team. Tickets are $15 at door and $13 online at this link.

Saturday, 8-11 pm, usually Second Saturday Jazz at August Moon, but I couldn't find information this month, so call before going.

Saturday, 8-11 pm at Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). Sons of Thunder performs.

Tuesday, 7 am-8 pm, ELECTION DAY at your local polling place.
Tuesday, 2 pm at the Norristown Library (Swede and Powell). Leap Into Science. Since the schools are off for election day, the children's library is hosting a special Franklin Institute Science Program for kids grades K-6. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

The Council Workshop is listed for Tuesday at 6:30 pm, but since it's Election Day, I suspect it will more likely be Wednesday. Call borough hall to confirm. 610-270-0421.

Wednesday, 6:30 pm at Municipal Hall. Special and Events Committee Meeting.

Thursday, 7 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, the 1st Summer Concert Series event of the season: International Night with the Irish Band, Belfast Connection.


Next Saturday, May 20, 10 am at Centre Theater. Kids Movie Club presents the movie "Moana." FREE.

Next Saturday from 1-3 pm at the Norristown Library (1001 Powell), the Friends of the Library will hold an Open House in the back of the library. The event is FREE and will include performances by Colonial Revelers at 1 pm, the Norristown School Jazz Band at 1:30 pm, and the Grupo de Danza Nuevo Mexico Dancers at 2:15 pm. Plus you can take a Hidden Library Tour (see parts of the library no one sees), enjoy refreshments and maybe win a door prize. Children under 8 must be accompanied by an adult.

Happy Mother's Day to all moms.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

School Board Candidates

Here are the candidates running for School Board, listed on the ballot as Norristown Area School Director. All are running on both Republican and Democratic tickets except Turea Hutson who’s only on the Democratic ticket. Voters can choose up to four nominees. Or, of course, you can write in choices.

Eight of these candidates attended the forum last week. They were all asked what issues they believed most important for the position. Here are their answers (again, alphabetical order, to be fair).

SHAE ASHE listed three things: special needs funding, which may be cut off because of the pending healthcare bill in the Senate; the NASD budget; and the false perception that NASD schools are not as good as other districts. Shae, as most of you know, founded The Norristown Project and has worked most of his life in some way or other with the Montco OIC. He now works for Congressman Brendan Boyle and has a degree in finance.

PAMELA ASSENMACHER is on the current school board, but did not attend the forum or send a statement.

KATHLEEN BELLO also listed false perceptions and poor attitudes as a main issue, as well as poor healthcare and nutrition effecting the ability to learn. She was very positive about the district. She believes NASD’s diversity of staff, students and administration is our greatest strength. Her background is nursing, but she also taught at Central Montco, so she’s been in a classroom.

KEN CHRISTOVICH read a prepared speech that frankly, was more like an annual report about the district than an answer to the question. In a very roundabout way, he seemed to say that reputation, funding, long range planning and “strategies for student success” need to be improved.

JOHN C. HOLLAND said that drugs and gangs were the major issues, which he says he knows because he can see them from his house on Freedley St. (He seemed unaware that the police are in charge of these issues, not the NASD board, and that the NPD has juvenile officers in the schools.) He also said that students should be made create peace posters for the Lions Club Contest. He’s retired. (I couldn't find a photo of him.)

TUREA HUTSON is currently on the School Board. Her issues were funding and educational mandates from the State and Federal levels, that the board and community needs to have realistic expectations given current funding, and that collaboration is important. She was an assistant teacher for 7 years and now is a manager for Living Beyond Breast Cancer.

JOHN MAXEY said the main problems were lack of community support for the schools, lack of communication with the community, and high property taxes. He graduated Norristown High School a year ago and is currently a full-time college student at Temple.

MICHAEL MELNYK did not attend the forum or send a statement. He has served on the school board and is currently listed on the NASD Board Joint Operating Committee for the Vo-Tech School. (Could not find photo.)

MATT RIVERA is currently on the school board. He stood and talked, but never answered the question, saying he couldn’t “hyper-focus on any one issue.” Instead he told us, at length, that we should vote for his “team” (he, Shae Ashe, Turea Hutson and Jamila Winder are running as a team, which means essentially that they’re sharing campaign expenses – they still appear separately on the ballot). I wish he had used his time to speak about school board issues instead.

JAMILA WINDER also listed the poor perception of NASD as an issue, as well as the career and college readiness of the graduates. Said the School Board needs to advocate for the students. She’s an Executive Director at Laureate Online Education (part of Laureate Education Inc, the world’s largest for-profit college company, which operates colleges mainly outside of the US, according to Forbes). Personally, I have to wonder if her employment might in some way create a conflict of interest.

So, there you have it for School Board candidates. Please come out and vote next Tuesday.

Monday, May 8, 2017

Candidates for Norristown Council

This year’s primary election is next Tuesday, May 16. The primary is super-important this year because here’s where you get a choice. By November, you might only have one candidate per office running under one or both parties.

I went to the candidate’s forum at the Carver Center last week and heard most of the candidates for council and school board speak. Today’s Diary is about council, especially council-at-large candidates, who are on Democratic party ballots at every Norristown polling place. (Republicans, you can still cast a write-in vote.)

I’ve heard more than the usual complaining about council this year. I’m not sure if there’s more discontent with this council or if it’s because it’s just that more people have public platforms like Nextdoor.com where they can complain. But, here’s how I measure my council reps:

1. If I have a problem in my neighborhood, can I get hold of my council rep or one of the council-at-large reps? Does action follow my communication or do I just get unreasonable excuses? (I’m willing to consider reasonable explanations, but I can also recognize a run-around when I hear it.)

2. Does my council rep or any of the others make any kind of effort to communicate or get to know their constituents even when we don’t have a specific complaint? (ie, well-publicized Town Hall meetings, social media communications, televised meetings, etc.) Do they show up at town events? Do they make an effort to update us on big projects? (And personally, I prefer honest updates from the reps themselves, not dog-and-pony shows from developers where questions and concerns are never addressed.)

3. Do my council reps ask questions at their meetings? Do they make an effort to educate the public about what they’re voting on each month? I want council reps who don’t simply allow non-elected municipal employees to dictate policy and tell them how to vote, but who understand the issues themselves and make up their own minds.

That said, here are the Democratic candidates for Council-at-Large (In alphabetical order, to be fair) and what they said at the forum. Voters will choose up to 2 reps from a field of 5, who’ll go on to November’s election. Anyone, Republican or Democrat, can write in candidates. Just make sure you spell the names right.

SUANNE GARDINER: Suanne is already on council ~ she was appointed to take Marlon Millner’s place last September. She wants to work at keeping residents and businesses here in town, shaping our youth to be leaders (and encouraging them to stay and raise their own families here), and a strong police force because “safety is important.” I wish she had defined just what she meant by strong. I couldn’t tell if she supports the current community policing policies, or if she means what most people mean by strong police force ~ that is, stop-and-frisk tactics. I personally didn’t like the implication that Norristown as a whole isn’t currently safe. We have enough problems with our reputation.

THOMAS LEPERA: His major priorities would be to keep work for the municipality local, to have apprenticeship programs, to provide healthcare for those in our community who don’t have it (he didn’t explain how council could do this) and to fix up the Carver Center. My impression of Mr. Lepera was that he perhaps doesn’t understand the functions of our council. Possibly they might be able to encourage local labor for municipal jobs, but there is a bidding process and I’m not sure of all the legalities involved. As for the rest, council may provide some minimal help and support, but I don't think council is the place to get this done.

DERRICK PERRY: Derrick is the current Vice President of Council. He would like to change the attitudes about Norristown, work on economic development, keep our AA Bond Rating, and get residents to be involved more, both in voting and in “showing up” (I think he meant for meetings). One thing I will say for Derrick, he’s one of the only council reps I can consistently get hold of. When I had 2 separate Public Works problems in my neighborhood the last 2 years, I let Derrick know and the problems were each addressed within 24 hours. He’s on Nextdoor.com and lets residents there know he can help if they have a council-related problem. And I’ve frequently seen him (and his son) around town at events.

REBECCA SMITH:  She would focus on development of vacant properties. She talked about creating a sustainable tax base and encourage homeownership by shifting taxes from residents to businesses, but then said she’d support small businesses (not sure how you can support them, yet raise their taxes at the same time). She said she supported safe neighborhoods through community policing, but then went on to quote crime stats that didn’t sound right, saying Norristown was one of the most dangerous communities in the country. So I fact-checked her. One erroneous Patch article made this claim a few years ago, quoting questionable sources that didn’t cite their own sources. It’s fake news, but unfortunately it's the first result if you google Norristown crime statistics. Ms. Smith apparently read only that and never checked with Crime-Mapping (actually statistics, not heresay) nor did she check Norristown.org which now lists real trends in our crime statistics based on Crime-Mapping, nor did she talk to Chief Talbot. We have enough trouble with our image without a potential council member repeating false rumors.

SUE SORIANO: Sue couldn’t attend the forum because she was out of town on business, but she at least sent a letter that was read at the forum and she asked Buck Jones to speak for her. He stated that her priorities would be to make our government more open and honest, and that she’d like to see better and cleaner gateways into town. In other words, she’d like those places where people enter town - the Dannehower Bridge, either end of Main St, Johnson Highway, etc. - to be kept cleaner and be more inviting, to help change the attitudes of surrounding communities and our own residents about our town.

There you have it. Remember that Council members-at-Large represent you as much as your ward representative. Sometimes the at-large reps may even be easier to get hold of. So choose carefully.

Just a quick note about other council seats. Sondra Fisher Sanders, Ward 1 rep, is running on the Democratic ticket unopposed (she didn’t come to the forum). Valerie Scott Cooper, the current Ward 3 rep, is being challenged by Leigh Peoples. Leigh didn’t come to the forum and I couldn’t find any info about her online.

I'll post about the School Board candidates in a few days.

Please share this information with other residents. To see your sample ballot for next Tuesday go to this link.



Friday, May 5, 2017

The Arts As a Cure for Gloomy Weather

Rain predicted this weekend, but most of the activities are indoors. Take in the play at Theatre Horizon, the classical concert at the Centre, go to Five Saints, or bring the family to the zoo for free on Sunday. And remember, today is Cinco De Mayo, and Norristown has the best, most authentic Mexican food in the region.

Friday, 8 pm at Theatre Horizon, "White" continues its run. Availability for tonight's show is limited and Saturday and Sunday are already sold out, but other shows this week Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm. Tickets and performance schedule at this link.

Saturday, 8-11 pm at Five Saints Distilling (Main and Green). Ken Pierson performs.

Sunday, 8:30 am-1 pm, meet at Riverfront Park. Schuylkill Scrub. Volunteers wanted to clean along Schuylkill River. Contact Kristi Barletta at 610-270-0470 or email kbarletta@norristown.org.

Sunday, 2-5 pm at Elmwood Park Zoo. Free admission for Norristown residents who present a valid photo ID.

Sunday, 3 pm at Centre Theater (208 Dekalb). The First Sunday Concert Series with an ambitious program performed by students of Temple University. Violinist Shannon Merlino, cellist Chen Chen and pianist Silvanio Reis will play Dvorak’s Piano Trio No. 4 in E minor Op. 90, the “Dumky.” Clarinetist Zhou Zan, cellist Mia Angelela, and pianist Joshua Kwon will  perform Beethoven’s Trio in B-flat major, Op. 11. The concert will open with “Tango Tzigane” by the Danish composer Jacob Gade, performed by the cellist Steve Kramer and pianist Maria Taylor. The concert is FREE and open to the public.

Tuesday, 2-3:30 pm at the Norristown Library (1001 Powell). Great Books Group. This month's book discussion will be The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.  For more information, contact Shirley Miller at 610-272-4179.

Tuesday, 7 pm, Planning Commission meeting at Municipal Hall.

Wednesday, 5:30-11:30 pm at Theatre Horizon. Young Friends Night. If you sign up for a FREE membership and buy a ticket to Wednesday's performance of "White" (using the Young Friends discount), you get a pre-theater Paint Party, a Post-show discussion, and a post-show cocktail party at Five Saints. For information and tickets, go to this link.

Thursday, 4:30-6:30 pm at the Carver Center (249 Jacoby St). Driver's License Restoration Clinic. Attendees need to possess a driver’s license number and a social security number. Attendance is FREE, but RSVP to Chad Hoffmann at choffmann@pasenate.com or 610-768-4200.

Next Saturday, May 13, 10 am-noon at New Life Internet Cafe (19 W Marshall). Photo ID Clinic. If you're in need of a photo ID, bring ID and proof of residence. If you have questions, call 610-945-6398.
Next Saturday, 11 am to 4 pm at Selma Mansion (1301 W Airy), a special Mother's Day weekend event: The Ladies of Selma Mansion. A FREE living history open house. Meet the women who made Historic Selma Mansion a home from 1794-1980. Spinning and wool-craft. Operate a drop spindle, rushlight, quills and other historical objects. Learn how mothers used herbs to nurse their families back to health. Churn butter. Handle and try on historic clothing. Take a tour of the mansion to hear about the lives of the women who lived there. More activities for children and adults. Tea and goodies. Children must be accompanied by an adult.

Next Saturday, noon-4 pm at Norristown Maenner-Chor Club Pavilion, Help K9 Officer Jerry Get a Jitney. Fundraiser for a new K9 vehicle for the NPD. Adults, $20; 15 and under free. Purchase tickets from the NPD at 235 E Airy, at the Maenner-Chor Club or at 40 E Main.

Next Saturday, 8-11 pm, Second Saturday Jazz at August Moon.

Feliz Cinco de Mayo!


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Candidates Forum

The NAACP is hosting a Candidates Forum on Thursday, May 4, 7 pm at the George Washington Carver Community Center (249 E Jacoby St). I didn’t know about it last Friday when I put up my events blog for the week. In fact, the forum doesn’t seem to have been publicized very much at all ~ it’s not on Norristown.org or on Nextdoor.com, or even on the Norristown Project calendar, even though Shae Ashe is one of the candidates and says he’s going to be in attendance. Please, spread the word. If you want to do so through Facebook, the event is at this link.

The event description states “Candidates for School District, Municipal Council & Magisterial Judge.” As far as the judge goes, the only person running is Judge Hunsicker, and the only residents who’ll see her name on their ballot live in the first ward (east end). The rest of you don’t need to think about voting for magistrate.

But for Council, there are 5 people running for Council-At-Large, all on the Democratic ticket. And for School Board, there are 10 candidates, 9 of which are running on both tickets. Also, wards one and three will be electing their Council reps.  I’m not sure how many of the above will be at the forum. All of them, hopefully.

You can view your sample ballot at this link. Just select “Norristown” from the list, then choose your district. If you’re not sure of your district, before you select “Norristown,” click on “Where Do I Vote” at the bottom of the page. Fill in your address and it will tell you your district and polling place.

I’ll be doing more blogs before Election Day (May 16), to at least review the candidates for Council and School Board (some of the judges too, if I have time).

Plan on getting out to vote in this primary. Put it on your calendar NOW. As we saw last year, the primary can be more important than the fall election, and candidates chosen by a minority ~ because the majority of citizens don’t get out to vote ~ will never serve us well.