Friday, November 29, 2013

Upcoming Events in Norristown

Comet Ison burned up in the sun, alas, but there are lots of other things happening this weekend.

TODAY from 10 am to 1 pm at Jus' Java, Dekalb and Brown Sts., TRV Protection will have a BLACK FRIDAY Sale. TRV specializes in security and self-defense equipment. 15% off total purchase AND a free Kubotan (self-defense baton).

This is the last weekend for "A LESSON BEFORE DYING" at Centre Theater. I saw this play last Sunday and highly recommend it. Don't miss it. Tonight and tomorrow at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm. Buy tickets at the door or online at

On Sunday, December 1, from 11 am to 2 pm, Elmwood Park  Zoo will host a Hanukkah Celebration. Free with zoo admission. The celebration will begin with the lighting of the Zoo's giant menorah, followed by music, games, food, stories and more. For information, contact Jessica Carter, 610-277-3825, ext. 228.

Sunday afternoon from 2:30 to 3:30, the Historical Society of Montgomery County, located at 1654 Dekalb St, will host a FREE program: "THE POW-WOW PRINCIPLE: Pennsylvania German Folk Healing." Open to the public. Journey back to the Old World origins of pow-wow. Learn how it evolved in Pennsylvania and quietly flourished, side by side with the culture's main-stream practices. From its beginnings in the 19th century, to the famous 20th century "Hex Murder" in York County, learn how pow-wow changed the ways in which Pennsylvania Germans were viewed. Presenter Canddace Kintzer Perry is curator at the Schwenkfelder Library & Heritage Center. Society Headquarters is handicapped accessible. See more information on Facebook.  or call Karen Wolfe at 610-272-0297.

Starting on Wednesday, Dec. 4, Elmwood Park Zoo's 12 DAYS OF DEALS is back, just in time for all your gift giving needs. They'll be offering special, one-of-a-kind items and experiences each weekday. Visit each weekday morning at 10 am to see the deal of the day. Each deal will only be good for 24 hours. The last deal wraps up on Thursday, December 19. For more information on Elmwood Park Zoo's 12 DAYS OF DEALS contact Guest Services at 610-277-3825 ext. 222, or email

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Shopping Local For The Holidays

When people around here think about holiday shopping, they think King of Prussia and Plymouth Meeting, or Chemical Road, or even just over the border, at the Walmart in East Norriton. No one thinks about doing their shopping here in Norristown. Shop at any of those other places and you're not only NOT bringing money into Norristown, you're likely sending it out of state altogether.

Give a gift to Norristown this year and do at least some of your shopping in town at our small businesses. Here are some suggestions:

1. Take a walk up and down West Marshall Street's business district. Most Norristonians still hold onto the old memory of West Marshall as a depressed place. Not so anymore. You'll find a variety of great little shops on these blocks, plus for instance, a terrific bakery with cakes for those holiday parties. Go stroll and browse, at least. Find out what shopping was like before the birth of the "mall."

2. We've got little produce stores all over town. In my neighborhood, I go to Plymouth Produce. I know I can get specialty produce there, like all kinds of dried fruits and chestnuts. They've got the spices and herbs I use in holiday cooking at better prices than supermarkets. Baked goods and fruit baskets are great gifts for co-workers, neighbors or party hosts.

3. Don't forget our flower shops. Anna Catanese, Blooming Affairs, Joseph Genuardi and others.

3. Go to your favorite Norristown businesses--from restaurants to hair salons to auto repair shops--and see if they'll sell you a gift certificate. With the economy the way it has been, lots of people would appreciate 10 or 20 dollars towards a meal or hair cut or oil change.

4. If you can't get a gift certificate, make up a certificate yourself, something like "This entitles my mother to lunch at the Norristown restaurant of her choice." I used to give coupons like this to my mom--a nice way to set aside time together, without my dad and brothers around.

5. Theater tickets make good gifts. Both Centre Theater/Iron Age and Theatre Horizon are in the middle of their seasons and would love to have you and a friend come to a play.

6. Don't forget our in-town charities this season. Our food banks and shelters need support. So do our non-profits, like ACPPA, The Norristown Project, The Norristown Preservation Society, etc. If you know someone who doesn't want a gift but you want to give something anyway, consider making a donation to their favorite Norristown charity in their name.

Shopping in Norristown isn't as hard as you think. It might take a bit more creativity, that's all. Every dollar spent here instead of at a big box store will help built our economy.

No Diary tomorrow. I'll be up early to sing at St. Pat's, then dinner with my family.

Happy and safe Thanksgiving and/or Hanukkah to all.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Tour of Our Justice System

(Or, One Reason We Have Criminals On Our Streets)

I've been following a Norristown police case--or I should say, Montgomery County, because the defendant's been arrested in 4 different communities over the last 2 months. The reason I began following it (besides being a mystery writer with an interest in police work) is that the person misappropriated a good chunk of money from a Norristown volunteer organization. We all know how hard our organizations work to raise money, so I take it as a personal affront against the town.

I don't say "allegedly misappropriated" because the criminal has admitted doing it. The funds were discovered missing over the summer, and the theft reported to the police, but that, it turns out was only the beginning of the story. I'm not going to mention names, because the defendant hasn't come up for trial yet and I don't want to jeopardize any of the cases.

The organization gave the Norristown police all the documentation they had, but before the paperwork was even done, the thief was arrested twice for other crimes. Here's an excerpt from a September Montgomery News article:

"A Norristown man was arrested Sept. 1 following a police chase by officers responding to a call at 8:41 p.m. to be on the lookout for a blue Chevy Suburban occupied by two white men involved in a retail theft at the Walgreens in East Norriton, police said. A Whitpain officer located the vehicle eastbound on Township Line Road...After a brief chase,...stopped and identified as the man involved in the retail theft, police said. He also appeared to be intoxicated and was taken to Mercy Suburban for a blood test, and charges of driving under the influence are pending against him, police said. In addition, he was charged with fleeing and eluding, receiving stolen property, possession of heroin, possession of paraphernalia and traffic offenses, police said... bail was set at $10,000 unsecured.

"The next day, Sept. 2, Hatfield Township police sent out a request to help identify a suspect in an attempted theft of a case of cigarettes valued at $1,650, which occurred in August, police said. From the photos and description of the vehicle, the thief appeared to be [the defendant] and the information was passed along to Hatfield Township, which obtained an arrest warrant, police said."

Here are the court summaries of those arrests:

Arrest: 9/1/13, Whitpain police
Felony - Fleeing from an officer
Misdemeanors - Receiving stolen property, DUI, 2 counts possession, 3 counts drug use, 2 counts of attempted theft, attempted receiving stolen property. Listed as using 2 aliases and as having a prior arrest in 2002.
Unsecured bail for $10,000 ("Unsecured" means the defendant didn't have to put a downpayment on the bail--he only signed a paper saying he'd return for his court appearances.)

While he was in jail, on 9/2, Hatfield police arrested him. 3 more felony counts - Petty theft, receiving stolen property, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds. Unsecured bail in the amount of $25,000. He was released on 9/12.

Meanwhile the Norristown detectives lost the documentation for the local case and the organization faxed them a second copy.

The felon's next court date was 9/23. He failed to show. This should have brought an automatic contempt charge and a warrant should have been issued for his arrest. That never happened.

Skip to the first week of October, the defendant was arrested AGAIN, in West Norriton. Felony - 2 counts of retail theft. At his hearing, his failure to show wasn't mentioned. He was again issued unsecured bail in the amount of $25,000 and let go.

Meanwhile, Norristown AGAIN asked the organization to fax their documentation.  Apparently we have a black hole down at 235 East Airy that swallows evidence.

On 11/16, the perp was arrested AGAIN, this time in Upper Merion on more counts of theft. I didn't get hold of those court documents to know the exact charges, but last Thursday, he was released on unsecured bail AGAIN.

The charges and warrant for the earlier failure to show still haven't been issued. Norristown still hasn't gotten their act together to file charges or issue a warrant for the misappropriation of funds.

So here we have a drug user charged with at least 6 felony counts, arrested by 4 different police departments (Norristown could make it 5), who has already failed to appear for one court date. He's out driving around Norristown and the surrounding area, probably planning where he's going to steal from next. Montgomery County courts just keep giving him unsecured bail and letting him go. Partially the fault of the judges', but mainly the DA's office, I suspect, for not connecting the dots and aggressively pressing the cases, and not following up to see that a contempt charge was issued.

I'm guessing if the felon were black or Hispanic, things would be different. All our guy seems to have to do is bat his baby blues at a judge and he walks.

As for the Norristown police? I don't know, maybe they don't think they have a strong enough case. Maybe they're waiting for the other charges to stick. But losing the documentation, more than once? Chief Talbot, please tell me that's going to stop.

So think about this when you consider whether we should have a drug counseling center on Main Street. It would sure be convenient for drug users like this man, going between the center and the places he steals from and the courthouse, who'll just let him go over and over again. He could do all his activities within 4 blocks.

Can you understand why new businesses won't want to come to Main St. if that center opens? Why existing businesses might leave?

Go to the Zoning Board meeting tonight at 7 pm in Municipal Hall and say no to Gaudenzia.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Are You Paying Attention?

I heard a rumor that a Zoning Board meeting is scheduled for tomorrow night (Tuesday) - [Update: CONFIRMED, Tuesday at 7 pm] - and that the drug counseling center Gaudenzia wants to set up on Main Street is on the agenda. I say "rumor" because the meeting and agenda aren't listed on town calendar. Not that THAT's usual. If you've been reading this blog, you know meetings and agendas haven't been posted until the very last minute all month.

But does it matter? Are you paying attention, Norristown? I've gotten the distinct feeling that you haven't been since the election. I don't mean paying attention to me. I mean paying attention to what's going on around you. Not just what's happening at 235 E. Airy, but all around town.

Saturday, the Norristown Regional Health Center hosted a program explaining the new health insurance law. This was one of the best publicized events in ages. It was shared all over Facebook, bouncing between 3 or 4 volunteer groups and many individuals like a ping pong ball. It was on the town calendar, Linda Christian included it in her newletter, Viviann Schorle put it in her Youth Network emails. I posted about it TWICE on the Diary last week. Yet, Saturday morning when only a handful of people showed up, and Linda Christian sent out an extra emailing and Facebook posting asking where everyone was, people responded that they hadn't known about the event.

Yes, I know the holidays are fast approaching and we've got our minds on other things. This week we'll be preparing for Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, worrying about family coming to visit, or about traveling to visit others, or about shopping on Friday and the weekend. Worrying about the approaching storm disrupting all these plans.

But, honestly, certain members of Council are COUNTING on all this week's activities to keep everyone away from the zoning meeting. They don't want anyone protesting the Gaudenzia proposal. They could care less if the drug users that the counseling center brings in would then hang out on Main Street, attracting drug dealers, and scaring away patrons for our restaurants, scaring away prospective businesses from opening in our empty buildings. These Council members are counting on us to NOT be paying attention.

I'll post as soon as I know if the zoning board meeting is on or not, and the time. But maybe the best thing for our downtown this week might be if that storm hit in time to cancel the meeting altogether.

I'll end on a good note: I saw A LESSON BEFORE DYING at Centre Theater yesterday. The play and performance were excellent and moving. Better quality that most plays I've seen in Philly, and half the price, too. You've got one more weekend to see this first-class production--this coming Friday and Saturday at 8 pm, Sunday at 2 pm. Buy tickets online at

Friday, November 22, 2013

This Weekend: Music, Sports, and Feed the Hungry

Another packed weekend in town.

Tonight at Norristown PAL at  340 Harding Blvd, an All Boys Lock In, hosted by Parents that Care. Open to boys ages 8-17 yrs. Parent must be present for sign up. Come out and enjoy a night filled with fun, food, and games. Contact PAL at 610-278-8040 for details.

I already mentioned the Health Insurance Seminar a few days ago. If you need to get health insurance, go and find out your options. Saturday Nov 23rd, 11 am-1 pm, Norristown Regional Health Center, 1401 DeKalb St. Questions? Call 610-278-7787.

The Centre Theater will be auditioning for its student production of "THE WIZ" on Saturday from noon to 4 pm, and Sunday from 3 to 5 pm. Bring photo and sheet music for the accompanist. Rehearsals will run through December and January, and the 6 performances will be late January, early February. This is a T.Y.A. Production (Theater for the Young). Make an appointment by emailing,,, or

Saturday and Sunday at 6:30 pm, a basketball tournament will be held at the Carver Community Center, 249 Jacoby St.  18 & up. 2 game elimination, $10 a man (I guess that means guys only). Contact Buddy Epps for details 610-279-4556.

Saturday night at 7 pm, Coffee Talk Artists' Co-op at 507 W. Marshall will host Vinnie Roggio and Band, Blues and Jazz evening. $5.00 contribution. For more info call: 610-272-4811.

Also on Saturday night, a Hip Hop Social II at the George Washington Carver Center, 249 Jacoby St. Music by DJ POODA, food, fun. Doors open at 7 pm. Whitney Winters, Blaq N Nappy, Tre Mega, Brock Brown, Nada, and much more. (Same time as the basketball tournament? Is that correct?)

Sunday, Nov 24th at the Norristown Arts Building, 619 W. Washington St, an Open Studios & Exhibition, Open Reception, from 1 to 4 pm. Participating artists will also have an exhibition on display at Pagus Gallery. Call 610-272-8484 for info.

Sunday from 1 to 6 pm, a Feed the Hungry Fall Holiday Dinner at American Legion Post #39, 500 East Marshall St. Turkey Dinner with all the Trimmings! Call Kenny (happy) Peterson, 267-507-8652, Rose Boyd Young, 484-213-6862, Tiffany Boyd, 267-975-3688. If you would like to make a DONATION for this event please call as well. They are looking for food items. It would be greatly appreciated if all food is fully cooked and ready to serve or donated early enough so they can cook it.

Next Wednesday, Norristown PAL will host a FREE 1 Day Basketball Day Camp in 2 sessions: 9 am to noon and 1 to 4 pm. The 1st 100 campers that sign up online get in FREE.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Saving Main Street WITHOUT Council

23rd St, Arlington, VA - 2 city blocks of international restaurants and other businesses 
I have a friend who lives in Wynnewood, and when I visit, I usually stop at a certain bakery and a certain pizzeria, both small businesses. What's special about them is that they offer gluten-free items that I can't get in Norristown, and for both, their food is so good that I look forward to going back.

Two weeks ago I had to go to Wynnewood, so I stopped at the bakery to pick up some of their incredible muffins to bring home with me. As I was paying for my order, I said that I wished we had a bakery like that in Norristown. The guy helping me (who, it turns out, was the manager) asked if there were any small retail spaces available in the borough. I almost shouted "The town's full of them!" but not wanting to scare away his interest, I described the downtown and Logan Square. He was actually familiar with Norristown and we ended up talking architecture (he loves our old jail building).

He gave me the bakery's card and when I came home I emailed the information to my councilwoman, Linda Christian, our Director of Planning, Jayne Musonye and to Ron Story, who mans our Small Business Assistance Center. Ron has helped to bring businesses such as Jus' Java, Almaz and Bahn Mi to town. Last I heard, Ron was following up on my lead.

I don't know if that bakery will end up opening a branch here in Norristown or not, but from the experience, I got to thinking. Several thousand Norristonians commute to work each day. According to the last census, our commuters travel an average of 27 minutes. That means half of us go a pretty good distance away. And many more of us travel a distance to visit friends and family, to bring kids to college, or on business trips. And probably in those locations, we all have a few favorite restaurants, specialty shops or stores that we patronize, especially if they sell items we can't get close to home. Some of them are bound to be the kind of small businesses that would go perfect on Main Street or in Logan Square, or in that little shopping area with the Thriftway on Dekalb, or in a neighborhood corner store like Jus' Java.

So let's say the next time you go into one of these favorite stores, you say something like "I wish we had a place like this in my hometown. You want to open a branch there?" If a thousand of us do that, and even a hundred businesses show interest, maybe we can get a dozen of them to move here. Then of course, we'd have to go out of our way to support them so they never regret their decision.

If you try this and get any leads, email them to Ron Story at , and copy Jayne at To shy to ask on your own? Tell Ron about the business and he'll contact them.

Even if you don't have leads, think about what kinds of businesses you'd patronize if they came to Norristown. How about a sporting goods store? (I think that would be perfect in Logan Square.) Other ethnic restaurants? Greek? French? Thai? Indian? Polynesian? (I'd love to see Main St. become an international foods destination, like Arlington, VA, photo above.) An ice cream shop? A bicycle shop? A cheese shop?

Email all your suggestions to Ron. If you've been to a similar place, describe it to him. For instance, I'd tell him that I'd love to see a little breakfast/lunch place like La Madeleine Country French Cafe in Bethesda, MD, that's sort of like Panera but a hundred times better for the same price. Ron can at least check their website and see what I mean.

Waiting for council to take the lead isn't going to get us anywhere. Their answer in to put drug clinics on Main Street. If all of us put effort into scouting out businesses for Norristown, I'm guessing we could save our shopping districts all on our own. If Ron and the Small Business Assistance Center can't keep up, then maybe we have to bring realtors and businesses together ourselves. We'll see. But nothing's going to happen if we keep waiting for someone else to do it.

Quick note: I'll be teaching again tomorrow morning, so the Diary will be late.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

We're More Than Just Good Looks

I listened to the ceremony for the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address yesterday. The remark was made that the National Park Service takes on not only the onerous responsibility for preserving America's National Parks, but also for preserving America's national stories.

In Norristown, we applaud the efforts of anyone who'll take on the task of restoring our beautiful architecture. And why not? We LIKE our look. It's the reason Norristonians went to the trouble of applying for National Historical Register status for our historic districts, to protect our great old buildings from the wrecking ball. Our architecture needs this protection and preservation, if nothing more, as works of art.

Most of the time, though, the restorers are mainly interested in what function the building will serve after restoration--office building, apartment house, restaurant. They aren't concerned with the stories of previous occupants, of the family or organization that built the building, unless a story can be used to enhance the economic potential of the property. But, of course, not every building will have a famous war hero or notorious criminal associated with it, so the majority of Norristown's stories are in danger of being lost.

We're lucky in that we have our own NPS -- not the National Park Service, but the Norristown Preservation Society. As I've mentioned in a previous blog, the Society owns Selma Mansion, and is in the process of restoring it. In just the past month, the woodwork on the 2nd and 3rd floor exterior was repaired and painted. Above is a "before" photo. At left is the "after" photo. But there's so much more work to do on the building.

The Park Service has a budget from the Federal government, tens of thousands of skilled employees and eager volunteers, "Friends" organizations for most of the parks, millions of visitors each year, and the full support of the American people. The Preservation Society has whatever funds they can raise and a handful of regular volunteers. On the plus side, those volunteers include an historic preservation architect, a contractor, and a few people with experience in historic interpretation (that is, doing historical research and piecing the facts together for presentation to the public). They have an incredibly creative Events Committee, and volunteers who'll show up to decorate and man Selma for each event, even if it means spending hours being cold (keep your fingers crossed--the house may be getting heat soon).

Still, they aren't the SELMA Preservation Society, but the Norristown Preservation Society. They're interested in the fate of other endangered historic buildings in the borough, notably at the moment, the old Montgomery County Prison on Airy Street. And like the Park Service, they're committed to preserving the stories from Norristown's history, as well as our buildings.

I joined the Society's board a month ago, and I can give you hints as to upcoming events. First, Christmas at Selma on December 14 from 10 am to 4 pm. Kids activities, games, music, 18th century mummery (not the string band kind), Civil War history, and Yuletide traditions covering 2 centuries. Proceeds will go right back into the restoration. I'll post more details closer to the date, but put it on your calendar now.

On January 18th, the Society will partnering with The Norristown Project as part of the MLK Day of Service. Volunteers will work in 3 of Norristown's most historic buildings that day: the OIC (old Hancock School), Selma Mansion, and the Centre Theater.

If you're into ghost stories, the Society will be hosting late night and overnight paranormal investigations at the mansion, where you and your friends will be able to come hear about Selma's ghosts. Again, all proceeds go to the restoration fund. More information to come.

What can you do to support the Preservation Society?  If you're interested in volunteering at Selma, email If you're on Facebook, LIKE their page . They post photos of Selma and items about Norristown history, plus information about upcoming events.

The best thing you can do right now is come to the events at Selma, and spread the information about them to anyone you know. The better the attendance, the faster Selma can be restored and the more resources the Preservation Society will have for preserving Norristown's architecture and history.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Health Insurance Seminar This Week

I'm posting this 4 days in advance because I want everyone who needs this seminar to get it on their calendars early. This coming Saturday, November 23, from 11 am to 1 pm, there will be a Health Insurance Information and Enrollment Event at the Norristown Regional Health Center, at 1401 Dekalb. Now, if you go into Google Maps and enter that address, it tries to send you to someplace on Main St. The NRH Center is actually at Fornance and Dekalb--the building directly across Dekalb from the old Sacred Heart Hospital.

I know this is an important seminar for many Norristonians because a lot of us are both self-employed and low income. And that, I personally found out in the last month, is a bad combination.

I truly believe that the Affordable Care Act is better than the old system of health insurance. I've got some pre-existing conditions and it's nice to know I can't be turned down for insurance because of them. Mammograms are now free. Colonoscopies are free, though you still have to pay for anesthesia and if they remove any polyps, it changes from a diagnostic procedure to a surgical procedue which is not free. Annual wellness exams are free, as long as your doctor codes it correctly (mine rarely does). But I do like that all children are covered in some way, and that kids can stay on their parents' insurance until age 26, because many recent college grads I know haven't been able to get jobs right out of school.

Anyone paying for their own insurance and earning over a certain amount per year will be able to get tax subsidies, applied monthy to their bill, so their premiums will be cheaper. It's hard to compare old and new plans, though. All the new plans seem to have higher deductibles.

If you're self-employed and buy your own insurance like me, you probably received a notice saying your policy is being cancelled and you have to enroll in a new policy by December 15th. The last time Blue Cross sent me such a notice, in late 2010, it said my police was being "discontinued" and that they'd work with me to replace it with a better plan. They offered 5 plans with 6 levels each--all except the prescription plans were cheaper, and they gave us more time to go through the process. Of course, what they didn't tell us was that they were doing it so as not have to grandfather in our existing plans in 2014. Now, boom, "cancelled," no real "help" offered, only one new plan/level is comparable to what I have, and it costs $1050 more per year.

I didn't earn enough in 2013 to qualify for subsidies in 2014. Pennsylvania opted out of Expanded Medicaid, so that's not an option. I don't qualify for regular Medicaid. PA's low income health insurance is only an option if you're desperate--I was on it once and it ended up costing me more in out-of-pocket than my Blue Cross premiums. I haven't heard from Blue Cross about whether they'll let me keep my old plan, and my deadline is less than a month away.

People talking about the Affordable Care Act on TV keep saying the segment of America like me is only a small percentage. That may be, but Norristown has a high concentration of low income, self-employed individuals. I know there are a lot of you out there in the same boat as I am--I've talked to a bunch of you in the last month. On the upside, I haven't had any major trouble with the Obamacare website yet, though I know people who have. I went through the application process, but haven't picked a plan yet.

So I'll be going to the seminar on Saturday. Hope to see many of you there.

Monday, November 18, 2013

More DRAMA at Municipal Hall

Richard Zawisza
They always say, if you want to sneak anything in under the radar, announce the news late on a Friday afternoon. Last Friday at 5:23 pm, the Times Herald posted an article about Norristown's finance director, Richard Zawisza, saying he'd been escorted out of municipal hall by a police officer.

This had apparently happened on November 7, and reportedly, municipal manager Crandall Jones was the person who called the police in. Here are statements gathered by Carl Rotenberg of the Times Herald about Mr. Zawisza's departure:

Crandall Jones: "He's on vacation."

Council V.P. Bill Caldwell: "All of that needs to go through Crandall. It’s a personnel matter."

Councilwoman Linda Christian: "It’s kind of open. We will all know more within a week. Richard has not been fired. He is on leave."

Councilman Cyril Burke: "I thought he was going to be away for a short period of time.”

Councilman Marlon Millner: "So far as I know Mr. Zawisza has not been terminated. I can neither confirm nor deny that Richard was escorted out of the building." He also added that council had not been asked to fire Zawisza.

Our other council reps wisely didn't answer their phones.

As noted by Mr. Millner, council does the hiring and firing, so of course Mr. Zawisza can't have been fired because council hasn't met (at least publicly) since November 7. They DO meet tomorrow night, and as is typical for public meetings in Norristown, no agenda has yet been posted.

So let's look at what we do know. Why the police escort? Only 3 explanations occur to me.

1- Mr. Zawisza did something criminal. But then, they don't escort you OUT of 235 E. Airy for that. They take you downstairs to arrest you.
2- Mr. Zawisza was somehow incapacitated enough that he couldn't find his own way out of the building. But then they would have taken his keys and not let him drive.
3- Mr. Zawisza refused to leave the building when asked. But that means he was asked to do so, indicating that this wasn't a voluntary leave. That leads me to believe that, if Mr. Zawisza is "on vacation," as Mr. Jones said, it's because the director is being forced to use up vacation time, and that sounds like he's going to be fired.

I can't speak to the question of WHY Mr. Zawisza was forced to take leave or if he deserved it. Honestly, given our council's track record, I'm certainly NOT going to assume the finance director did anything wrong. Seems kind of suspicious that this incident took place just before the budget workshops get underway.

Regardless, I have to wonder why the powers that be at Municipal Hall would be so imprudent as to use a police escort to make a public spectacle of the event. If Mr. Jones feared that Mr. Zawisza might do some sort of damage if allowed to leave on his own, well then, you do what any business does--a manager quietly walks the worker out of the building. Why publicly humiliate the man after four years of service to Norristown?

Maybe that's how things are done where Mr. Jones is from. Here, Norristown taxpayers would rather see our police officers out clearing the streets of drug dealers and gangs, rather than acting as personal bouncers for the municipal manager. This could have been handled so much better. Why do we have to have drama and secrecy out of Municipal Hall every week? It's like raising teenagers.

I can't make the council meeting tomorrow night. I'm a musician, so as the holidays approach, my calendar is loaded with rehearsals and performances. I hope whoever attends will ask for clarification about Mr. Zawisza's status. Not that I think council will give any kind of an honest answer, but the question ought to be on the record.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Busy Saturday, Game on Sunday

On Saturday, Nov 16th from 9 am to 3 pm, Norristown High School at 1900 Eagle Dr, will hold its 1st Annual Craft Fair. For more info call 610-630-1460, or email

Also on Saturday, 10 am - 12 noon, New Life Plaza at 25 E. Marshall St. will host a Photo ID Clinic. A lot of people have no valid photo ID for various reasons--for instance, if you don't drive due to disability, or you don't drive and moved to another state or changed your name. My mom didn't get a photo ID until she was in her 70s. New Life will help with obtaining IDs and other identity documents. They can also prepare and submit applications for SNAP, LiHEAP, PACE and PACENET, FAFSA.

Saturday afternoon from 1 to 3 pm, Jus' Java, 1601 Dekalb St, Norristown, will present Bobbie Trotter for a book signing of her latest book "My Blessed Bridges."

When you're done at Jus' Java head over to Christ United Church of Christ, 1003 W.Marshall St, where the Norristown Area High School Cheerleading Squad is holding a Spaghetti Dinner Fundraiser from 3 to 8 pm. Cost: $8.00 Adults, $5 Children age 4-11, Children under 3 are free. Take out available. Desserts for sale. Dinner includes spaghetti and sauce, meatballs, salad, and bread.

On Sunday starting at noon at the George Washington Carver Center, 249 E. Jacoby St, Jenkins Brothers Show-Show Satellite Entertainment and DirectV, presents TAIL GATE, "Eagles vs. Redskins."  Game starts at 1 pm. $10.00 Platters.  610-272-7480, email .

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Getting Norristown Youth Into The Arts

Tomorrow night from 7 to 8:30, the ACPPA Community Arts Center (a non-profit arts school in Grace Lutheran's building at 506 Haws Ave.) is hosting a Student Works Exhibition and Performance. Money raised will go back into their programs. If your children or grandkids AREN'T involved in the arts, this is a good chance to go see what's available for them.

Now before you scoff and say "My kids don't need to do that stuff," let me tell you why they do.

MUSIC: Children who take music lessons get consistently higher grades in math and science than kids who don't, and those in band and choir do better in teamwork exercises. I just read a study yesterday that said if kids are encouraged to start singing at a young age, especially those who sing in groups, they'll be able to carry a tune the rest of their lives, even if they stop singing in a group. Isn't it worth it to have Happy Birthday sung to you in tune every year? And to be proud on Karaoke nights?  Even if kids don't have formal lessons, they can benefit from singing with others, so if your church has a youth choir, encourage your children to join.

VISUAL ARTS and DESIGN: A kid made to feel comfortable with a paintbrush in his hand can be a very useful person to have around a house. Seriously, I wished I'd learned more about art when I was young. My oldest brother was an art major. He took a rundown 1950s rancher and turned the inside into a Victorian cottage. Outside he doesn't have a boring lawn. He's landscaped both yards to look like a cross between a nature preserve and a country garden. Meanwhile, I keep thinking I need to something with my front porch but I don't have the confidence to even get started. Think how amazing Norristown could look if we all just had vision and the confidence to make it happen. So train your children in visual arts and they'll apply their creativity to making their surroundings look good the rest of their lives. Not to mention, crafts are great stress reducers.

DANCE: Dance has a natural link to athletics. Teach a kid grace and coordination when they're young and, if they're inclined to play sports in high school, the skills will translate. Adolescence won't feel so awkward. ACPPA will be performing a sneak peek of their Nutcracker ballet tomorrow night. (The performance will be on Dec 20th and 21st.)

THEATER: All teens are drama queens and kings, right? With a little training and experience, why not make those outbursts worthy of a Tony award? Okay, I'm kidding, but I've worked in student and amateur theater since I was in 9th grade, and I think it's an experience all kids ought to have. I was ridiculously shy in elementary school. Now I have to get up in front of people and do presentations and workshops. I learned to do that on stage. The theater is like a crash course in all the other arts. It teaches a kid teamwork, socialization, and creative problem-solving.

ACPPA doesn't do plays and musicals, but Theater Horizon and Centre Theater both have student programs. The Centre will be auditioning for its student production of THE WIZ on Saturday Nov. 23 from noon to 4 pm and on Sunday, Nov 24 from 3 to 5. You can schedule an audition by e-mailing or call 610-608-6514. Bring a photo and sheet music for the accompanist. Rehearsals will run through December and January, and the 6 performances will be late January, early February.

For the other arts, ACPPA has dirt cheap prices for instruction, averaging about 8 bucks a hour (most music lessons these days are $25 and up for a half hour). They offer drawing, painting, cartooning, fashion design, pottery and clay sculture, ballet, jazz dance, hip hop dance, music, singing, guitar and piano.

So go tomorrow night and check them out. And encourage your kids and grandkids to get involved in the arts wherever they can.

Tomorrow morning, I'll be off early to teach 4th graders the art of mystery writing, so there may or may not be a diary entry later in the day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Not Tolerating Intolerance Anymore

I witnessed a lot of intolerance (or at best, severe racial/cultural misunderstanding) in the last week in Norristown. It was as if, as soon as the weather got cold, or the election was over, everyone took it as a cue to stop respecting each other.

I saw one family be extremely rude to a group of Latino children, most of whom weren't older than 7.
I heard someone say that African-American people didn't want anyone not black showing up at "their" events, so why should "we" go out of our way to invite them to "ours." I heard one man say, in a loud, uncontrolled, angry voice, that "the Mexicans" were the reason no outsiders would come to town. I saw several posts by one Norristown man who expressed what amounted to the inferiority of everyone besides him. In the last month, I've heard comments about the evilness of gays, about what women can't or shouldn't do, and about how Christians are better than everyone else.

All these people seem to believe that anyone NOT like themselves has no right to live in town. Maybe no right to live at all.

All my life I've politely put up with opinions like this, because frankly, as in this past week, I sometimes feel so surrounded by such opinions that it seems more prudent to keep quiet. But now, the more that good people are getting together to do great things in this town, the more I'm sick of those who would rather blame anyone unlike themselves for our problems than actually help fix them. It's easier to say "It's their fault," than "What can I do to help?"

On Saturday, a Jewish friend of mine posted this on Facebook: "5 years ago Kristallnach happened. Let's not let hate win ever again." Kristallnacht was "the night of broken glass"--November 9, 1938--when gangs of Nazis destroyed 7,000 Jewish businesses, burned 900 synagogues, and murdered 90 people. By the end of the following day, they'd rounded up 30,000 Jewish men for deportation.

Also on Saturday, one of my black Norristown friends posted a poignant anti-racism video. Yesterday morning, another friend shared this quote from Mahatma Gandhi: "Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding."

They reminded me that we've got many, many people in this borough who hate intolerance as much as I do. I believe the majority of Norristonians just want to live and let live. As long as people next door are good neighbors, their race, religion, gender--all the things that define our differences--don't matter. Quite a few of us love our town's diversity and wouldn't have it any other way. That's a part of what what makes Norristown unique. Diversity is also healthy--no one group can provide everything a community needs to grow. Without diversity, you get a kind of mental and emotional inbreeding.

The problem is, we're ALL pretty polite about our tolerance, which I suppose, goes with the territory--we even tolerate intolerance. But Norristown's never going to come together for the good of the community if we let the haters divide us.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Yes, Virginia, There IS a Planning Commission. Sort of.

This morning, at last, the Planning Commission posted their meeting and agenda for tonight, less than 12 hours before the event. THIS IS NOT ACCEPTABLE. I'm not even sure it's legal to give the public so little notice.

On the agenda is the Kennedy Kendrick retirement community development. I saw the initial Planning presentation for this development and it seemed fairly well-thought out and a good adaptive reuse of the high school. They were just supposed to iron out a few kinks, which should be the gist of tonight's presentation.

Two items of new business are listed: 1) Vacating of Logan Street, and  2) Recommendation to start the Public Process for the proposed Zoning Ordinance.

Number 2 basically means that the product of the zoning workshops some of us went to in August and September will now be presented for public comment. I think a lot of potential problems were caught in the workshops. I hope the final revised codes will give the Zoning Board and Planning Commission the teeth they need to say "no" to bad development ideas. Still, it will ultimately be up to the rest of us to police them, to make sure they don't allow harmful variances. Though, honestly, they seem to do it regardless whether the public protests or not.

That item about vacating Logan Street? I have no idea what that is. Do they mean houses? No specific address was given, not even an indication of East or West Logan. Or was it a typo?  I sent Jayne Musonye an email asking for clarification. I'll update this blog today as soon as I find out (assuming I ever do). If anyone reading this knows what it is, please comment or send me a message.

If you just want to go find out in person, the meeting is 7 to 9 pm at Municipal Hall. Assuming, of course, the Planning Commission actually has a quorum this time.

UPDATE: The portion of Logan Street in question is a little dead-end spur at the very east end, that sticks into the Kennedy Kenrick lot. From Dekalb St, it looks like a driveway.  No houses actually on it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Communication Goes Downhill. On Purpose?

Who's going to come to town when storefronts look like this?  
If you check the Town Calendar at today, you'd think our zoning board and planning commission had dropped off the face of the earth. No meetings are scheduled for them through the end of the year. Council meetings are listed, but no board hearings.

Usually the Planning Commission meets the 2nd Tuesday of the month and the Zoning Board, the 4th Tuesday. Is there a Planning meeting tomorrow? I've asked a bunch of people and no one seems to know. With the holiday today, it's unlikely that anything will be posted to the calendar until tomorrow if a meeting is to take place. Is less than 24 hours notice acceptable?

With issues of public concern coming up, like Gaudenzia's proposed downtown drug rehab, I have to wonder WHY these meetings aren't listed on the calendar. It isn't hard to think of ulterior motives for bad communication. Council wants that drug rehab place on Main St. in the worst way, because through totally backward thinking, they believe it will save Main Street. They can't see that it would chase all other business and consumers away from downtown--that even courthouse workers and jurors on their lunch hour will likely start avoiding those blocks if there are Gaudenzia client (ie, drug users) on the streets.

But if you don't put meetings or agendas on the calendar, citizens can't show up to protest. We saw this happen last week at the council meeting--the agenda went up only two days before, with election day to help distract us from the meeting. No one had time to think about what exactly "Fire Service Billing Program" might mean. Council rushed it through before most of the public was even aware it was on the agenda.

As for zoning, the majority of the residents I've heard from want no more drug rehab places in Norristown, period. They'd rather see Gaundenzia leave town completely, taking all their administrative employees with them, than allow one more drug rehab clinic anywhere within our borders.

It should be noted that Gaudenzia is non-profit and therefore pays Norristown ZILCH in taxes. The ONLY thing we get from that company (according to Bill Caldwell) is a handful of employees occasionally eating lunch at Almaz and Banh Mi. I'm tempted to go down there at lunchtime and actually take a poll of diners at those restaurants, to see if any Gaudenzia employees really are present.

I've come to agree with the taxpayers who think Gaudenzia should leave. Norristown is already fighting a bad reputation. Development of our downtown and Logan Square are hard enough from that perspective. If you're selling a house, what do you do? You clean it stem to stern, make repairs, give it a fresh coat of paint, make sure the landscaping looks like Better Homes and Gardens, and make sure any messy pets are out of the house when prospective buyers show up. We need to be doing the same thing downtown. Make those streets squeaky clean, help landlords fix anything that looks bad, make those blocks look inviting. And get drug users and anyone else projecting a negative image OFF THE STREETS.

But possibly we'll never get a chance to express this opinion, because no one will tell us when the hearings are.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Something for Brain, Body and Spirit This Weekend

Last week, I forgot to mention that the play "I Am My Own Wife" opened at Theatre Horizon (401 DeKalb). It's a one-man show about an East German transvestite who survived a Nazi firing squad and the Russian secret police, and runs through November 24th. For ticket and information, call 610-283-2230 or go to .

At The Centre Theater (208 Dekalb), "A Lesson Before Dying" opens tonight at 8 pm. The play is an Iron Age Theater production about an innocent young man, condemned to death in Louisiana in 1948, and the teacher hired to show him how to die with dignity. Runs through December 1. For information and tickets, go to or 

Tonight is also Family Math Night at GNPAL, 340 Harding Blvd., from 6:30 to 8 pm. All elementary students are invited to come play Mastermind, Set Game, Rush Hour, Dominos and more! Call 610-278-8040 for info.

Tonight from 5-8:30 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm, St. Patrick's Church (714 Dekalb) will hold its annual Christmas Bazaar. Homemade food, baked goods, kids games, attic treasures, religious booth, cheer wheel, Tombola, basket raffles and more. Live auction at 1 pm Saturday for things like overnight stays at area hotels. St. Pat's Mexican Dance Troupe will perform at 3 pm. Park in the lot and use the entrance next to the church. Handicap accessible on Chestnut Street. St. Pat's sponsors many programs for the Norristown community: ESL classes, The Patrician Society Food Bank, prenatal care for women who can't afford it, missions for the homeless and poor, etc.

On Saturday, admission to the Elmwood Park Zoo is FREE for Norristown residents, thanks to Independence Blue Cross. Valid photo ID must be presented as proof of residency. Children must be accompanied by a resident to receive free admission. Contact 610-277-3825 ext 241.

Sunday from 1 to 3 pm, the Dragon Boat Club of Norristown will host Jump Rope Jamboree for kids from 6 to 14 at Riverfront Park, 1 Haws Ave. No charge, no registration, just show up.

Right after the Jump Rope Jamboree, at 3 pm, Dragon Boat Club is hosting its first outdoor workout at Riverfront Park. Anyone over 18 is welcome, no charge. Bring yoga mat, towel, water, and gloves.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Distracted Governing, and Other Notes from the Council Meeting

Things you need to know from the council meeting last night, in order of probable importance:

1. Council voted to approve the Fire Service Billing Program. This mean if you own property in Norristown and have a fire, or if you need to be rescued from your property for whatever reason, your homeowners or business insurance will be charged for fire and rescue services by PA Fire Recovery Service (a third party vendor located in Allentown). That is, assuming your insurance policy has a rider that covers fire department services. Mine does--I'm covered for up to $500 (which, minus PAFRS's 15% fee, won't even cover one firetruck and 3 firefighters coming to my house for a half hour).

PA Fire Recovery Service assured council that individuals would not be billed, only insurance companies.  If this is true, it means those of us who are insured for the services are not only paying for our insurance, but for all fire service costs of the uninsured, and presumably for costs above what insurance covers, all of which will continue to be paid through our taxes. The insured pay twice.

PAFRS also assured council, and states on their website, that the insured "won't even see an increase in their premiums." Council somehow bought that. Sure, we won't have an increase in our premiums to start, but if you have even a small fire and PAFRS charges your insurance company, I guarantee your next homeowners premium will be higher, just as your car insurance premium rises after a fender bender.

Councilman Simpson said the matter had been discussed before. Councilwoman Christian said she believed that, though the matter had been discussed by council, it had never been presented to the public. I looked back through the last 9 months of agendas and minutes and found no mention of Fire Service Billing at all, so Ms. Christian was right. Taxpayers were allowed no public comment before the motion was passed.

2. Bill Caldwell said obtaining a slip ramp for Lafayette St. Transportation Improvement is the most critical development project for Norristown. He urged everyone, businesses in particular, to write to our legislators in support of Norristown getting the ramp, because other communities are also vying for it. Linda Christian pointed out that saying it in a council meeting was all well and good, but asked what was really being done to get the word out?  Mr. Caldwell said the Greater Norristown Corporation is informing business. I got the impression that no one cared if residents were informed, so please write to your state legislators, who you can find by clicking here. Pass the word to other residents.

3. There will soon be an ordinance to prevent large commercial trucks from parking in residential neighborhoods unless making deliveries or performing services. This seems to be a growing issue all over town. In my neighborhood, one of the residents parks a flatbed towtruck either on the street, taking up at least 2 spaces and blocking the stop sign at the corner, or he parks it in his drive in the alley. It's too big and sticks out into the alley 4 or 5 feet. The business owning the truck is only 2 blocks away, which is where the truck ought to be left at the end of the day. The new ordinance will hopefully get some of these large trucks off our residential streets. So thank you, Council, for that.

4. In the last months, I've been hearing from people who attend council meetings that they think the council members and appointed officials shouldn't pay more attention to their electronic devices--phones, tablets, etc.--than they do the meeting. 3 council members and 3 appointees were mentioned, though I can only bear witness to 2 of each myself. So, during the public comment period last night, I asked those present, out of respect for the taxpayers, to please turn off their devices during meetings. Mr. Millner declared loudly that he would continue to tweet and post to Facebook during meetings "to keep the public informed." The only other one to use a device all evening was Mr. Glisson, Director of Public Works, who used his tablet to look up a point of information regarding the trucks in the ordinance above, which is exactly what electronic devices SHOULD be used for during meetings.

Mr. Millner spent perhaps 60% of the meeting typing on his device, which may explain why he repeated the new police chief's resume after Mr. Simpson had already done so, and why Ms. DeSouza,  Ms. Christian and Mr. Caldwell needed to explain information about 2 ordinances in answer to Mr. Millner's questions, after Mr. Caldwell had already adequately explained them for everyone. I checked Facebook this morning, but there were no public posts from last night. Below are his tweets posted during the meeting, in order from bottom to top.

Mr. Millner has 423 Twitter followers, most of whom aren't from Norristown. You decide if the quality of his information was such that it was worth distracting him from the business at hand. I commend Mr. Millner for trying to inform the public, but perhaps he could take a lesson from Ms. Christian, who sends a newletter out to 3rd district residents once a month or so. Actually, I'd encourage ALL our council members to copy that example.

As for information about council meetings, I think I'll stick with journalists like Carl Rotenberg from the Times Herald, who is a true asset to Norristown. Mr. Millner seems to think the only way one can serve our community is to be a councilperson, and that people who want to comment about the way our government conducts itself must run for council or keep quiet. Democracy is nothing without good journalists, independent observers, and involved citizens. And we all have the right to speak up.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Mural Kind Of a Town

Mural on W. Main
In the last two weeks since I wrote about the mural at Dekalb and Lafayette, nearly 200 people read that diary entry. A good percentage of them expressed their opinion on Facebook, here in the comments, or to me personally. Only 1 of those opinions was to "make the mural disappear," and when asked for an explanation, the person denied saying it in the first place. One other person said that Norristown wasn't "a mural kind of a town," but also couldn't explain what was meant by that.

I disagree. Besides the mural at Dekalb and Lafayette, and the new one on the boathouse in Riverfront Park, we have several murals around town, and no one complained about them before.

If you drive west on Main Street from Markley, just after you cross Stony Creek, look up on the side of the building to your left and you'll see the mural above, with the title "Rebirth of the Past." It depicts the Valley Forge Hotel that used to sit where the DEP building is now, on Main, near Swede.

Two more of these murals that show structures that aren't there anymore are on the Duff Building, on East Main, just past Green St, on the right.

On the left side of the door is a mural that shows the old elevated tracks for the Norristown High Speed Line, called then, the P&W (or Philadelphia and Western). The tracks originally went up Swede Street, out Markely, through East Norriton, and eventually out to Pottstown. When I was young, the terminus was on the building next to the DEP, on the corner of Main and Swede.

To the right of Duff's door is a mural showing the old Borough Hall that used to be at Dekalb and Airy Sts. It was Flemish style architecture, a really impressive-looking building. They knocked it down to build the present hall at 235 E. Airy. I suppose the police facilities are an improvement, but the old building MUST have had better acoustics in council hall. You can't get any worse than what we have now, where even speaking directly into a microphone is barely loud enough to hear from the audience.

These are the only 3 of this sort of mural I've seen. There may be more. Let me know.

Drive west on Marshall and look up to the right at Astor Street. The taller building has a mural of dolphins on the top 2 stories of its blank wall. No clue who painted it--probably one of the owners or a renter. Not only do I like this mural, I love the way it draws your eye upward so you notice the really pretty mansard roof and window bump-out of the red building.

There's your tour of N-town's murals. They inspire me to paint one on the blank wall of my porch, though I'm not great at design. If anyone artistic out there wants to help, let me know.

Oh, and as for the rest of the opinions about the  Dekalb and Lafayette mural? Everyone not only wants it to stay, but everyone views it as a gateway to and symbol of Arts Hill.

So, whether or not the concern raised over the mural, in light of the proposed improvements to 201 Dekalb, is valid concern or false alarm, the incident at the last council meeting that started the discussion was a good thing, in that it allowed the people of Norristown to once more raise their voices in support of Arts Hill.

Come to the council meeting tonight at Municipal Hall, 7:30 pm, and hear the end of the discussion  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Council's New Agenda

It's election day, and I'll be working inside the polls most of the day, so I'm doing an early diary entry.

Council finally posted their agenda for Wednesday's council meeting (7:30 pm, Municipal Hall) on If you need reasons to attend, I can point out 3.

1)  They're appointing a new police chief.
2)  They're deciding the fate of 201 Dekalb (the building with the mural).
3)  They're voting on a "Motion to approve the implementation of a Fire Service Billing Program."

I'm not sure what this last item means for us, but in other towns that use that same wording, it means that if your house catches fire, you or your insurance will be billed for firefighters to come put out the flames. In other communities, fees for fire service usually depend on how many trucks are dispatched, what equipment is used and the number of manhours it takes to put out the fire--thousands of dollars, at least. If a third-party vendor does the billing (as is commonly the case in Pennsylvania), residents could be billed tens of thousands--on top of the tragedy of having their home or business burn.

We ought to be ENCOURAGING home ownership in Norristown, to increase our tax income. As soon as insurance companies hear of fire service billing in an area, homeowner insurance rates go up, or they make you buy additional insurance to cover fire service. If you don't have the coverage, you'll be liable for the whole bill. If you can't pay, you could lose what's left of your property. High insurance rates will drive residents out of town. Even apartment residents will leave if the costs are passed on to them in their rent. No one will want to settle in Norristown knowing that even a minor fire could bring on financial ruin.

Not to mention all the people who'll try to put out fires by themselves because they can't afford to be billed. Then again, maybe this would solve our "dense population" problem that council seems to think we have.
So I really hope that's not what council means by "Fire Service Billing Program."

Go vote today, then Wednesday night, come take a gander at our new chief, show your support for the mural and Arts Hill, and let Council know your thoughts on the Fire Service Billing idea. Ask them why this motion does not have a 30 day public comment period, especially when the agenda was made public only 48 hours in advance of the meeting. I assume taxes have been used until now to cover fire service, so ask them what those taxes will be used for in the future.

Wednesday, 7:30 pm, Municipal Hall. Please come.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Will Your Vote Be Based On Robo-Calls and Junk Mail?

I just turned the ringer off on my house phones. Otherwise, I'd get no work done today. Since Friday, I've been getting one robo-call after another about candidates. I don't usually stay on the line long enough to hear who the calls are promoting, though on a few calls, the name was said first. Possibly they're ALL from her.

Robo-calls, in my opinion, are a candidate's way of saying, "I think I'm more important than you. You should drop everything you're doing to hear a message about me that gives you no useful information whatsoever." If you get more than one call a day for the same candidates, they're all the more annoying.

I know of no one who LIKES political robo-calls, so why do candidates do them? If you were interviewing for a job, wouldn't you, at all cost, avoid annoying the person making the final decision?  So add to the message above, "I'm more important than you AND not terribly bright in how I'm courting your vote." Can we expect candidates like this to make intelligent decisions if they take office?

Saturday, I received 2 pieces of junk mail from the same candidate. Not 2 copies of the same piece of junk mail that was inadvertently delivered twice, no, 2 separate pieces--one 8 1/2 x 11, the other 8 1/2 by 14. Both full color.

Being a writer, I'm acquainted with the publishing and print industry. Full-page, letter-sized, double-sided, full-color mailers printed in quantity, with mailing costs, run maybe 50 cents apiece. Legal-sized will cost more. Times that by the number of residential addresses in Montgomery County (maybe 300,000).

Not surprisingly, my junk mail came from the same candidate who apparently has been robo-calling me the most. I also received junk mail from her last week, and I'm guessing that my mailbox today and tomorrow will be filled with more. Times the cost above by the number of junk mailings from any one candidate you've received for this election. That's more money than many Norristown residents see in a lifetime.

If you're like me, the junk mail goes straight from mailbox to paper recycling bin. The message that kind of junk mail sends: "I think I'm more important than the environment AND I waste tons of money."

Yet, the candidates who send out the most junk mail and do the most robo-calls often get into office, because many citizens don't base their vote on more than name recognition and party affiliation. I've been keeping track the last 5 years or so of candidates who've gone on junk mail binges and robo-calling frenzies, then have been elected. What kind of public servants do they make? Pretty much what you'd expect. They don't manage our tax dollars well and they make bad decisions. Yet we keep voting them in.

Before you vote tomorrow, go to the League of Women Voters ballot page for Norristown, click on the candidates highlighted in blue and read their resumes and priorities. Do it particularly for judge candidates, because there isn't any other way to find out about them, besides their junk mail and robo-calls.

Be an informed voter.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Another Busy Weekend, Then VOTE

Here are the events for the weekend and early next week. Once again, lots of things to do in N-town. Plus, don't forget to VOTE on Tuesday.

FALL FESTIVAL, hosted by the Greater Norristown Area Ministerium, tonight, November 1st, starting at 6 pm, at Partners for Families, 329 East Main. Food, fun and prizes. The guest speaker is former 76er Darryl Dawkins. For information, call 610-279-6240. There will also be coats, hat, and glove giveaways, FREE to any child in need.

Also tonight, Montgomery County OIC Presents the HALLOWEEN STEP SHOW and BATTLE OF THE BANDS, 7 pm, Norristown High School Gym, Admission: $15. For tickets call 610-279-9700.

Saturday, Nov 2nd, Christ UCC Church at Marshall and Noble St is having their HARVEST FESTIVAL from 10 am to 3 pm. Rooms of books, games, clothing, Christmas ornaments and decorations, jewelry, baked goods, food, flea markets items, and more. (I've gone to this festival the last 30 years and recommend it. Great homemade PA Dutch food to go, like jars of  soup.)

Also Saturday, Buck Jones and Mom Faye, in association with Ericka Wharton of Learn Through Play Childcare will host CPR CERTIFICATION and Re-Certification Class (certifications will include CPR, First Aid, and AED) at 10 am at GNPAL on Harding Blvd. Light Refreshments will be provided. Cost: $15.00. Call 484-751-2509 for info.

The Norristown Area Football Boosters Club will hold a FUNDRAISER Sunday morning from 8 to 10 at Applebees on Dekalb Pike in East Norriton. Flapjacks for $7 per person, $5 for kids under 10.

Basketball Game at Carver Center, Norristown Heat Flames vs. Jonesy's Little Legends, on Sunday, Nov 3rd at 4 pm. Admission $3.00.

Monday Night Football, GET OUT THE VOTE Tailgate Party, George Washington Carver Center, Jacoby and Arch St, on Nov 4th at 6 pm, $10.00, all you can eat cookout, music by The Jenkins Brother Show and DJ Mike Scott. Call Bud Epps 267-625-7039 or VM610@AOL.COM.

TUESDAY NOVEMBER 5th is the GENERAL ELECTION!  Please get out to VOTE!! If you're a first-time voter, you'll need ID. If not, even if they ask for it, you DON'T need ID. To see the sample ballot for your area, click here and fill in your address.

Next Wed., Nov. 6th at 7:30 pm, Borough Council will officially hire a new police chief at last!. Also on the docket that night, they'll decide the fate of 201 Dekalb (the building with the mural at Lafayette St).

After the council meeting, go to  Jus' Java, 1601 DeKalb St, for OPEN WORDS, featuring Louis Conphliction, Wed. night at 8 pm. Open Conversation plus Spoken Word. Admission is $5. 610-277-JAVA for info.