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.

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