Thursday, December 19, 2013

Council Meeting Post-Game Report

I couldn't get to the council meeting on Tuesday, so I waited for the Times Herald and Norristown Patch to fill me in. Interestingly, there were some discrepancies between the reports, but here's what I pieced together.

First, Olivia Brady was sworn in to fill out the rest of Dwayne Roster/Cy Burke's term. She'll serve until the end of 2015.

Cathy Lawrence was absent. She's actually been absent a lot the last few months. Probably because her term is over on December 31st. Bringing "lame duck" to a new level of disability.

Council officially appointed Rochelle E. Rawlins, Assistant Director of Finance, as acting Finance Director and Municipal Tax Collector, where she will be replacing Richard Zawisza, Norristown’s Finance Director. She's actually been replacing him since November, when Zawisza was given a police escort out of Municipal Hall. Borough manager Crandall Jones says Zawisza is still on administrative paid leave, because of a personal issue. Yes, we're paying Zawisza to do nothing, with no explanation. Read about in Patch.

In other news, J.P. Mascaro & Sons was awarded a one-year extension to its trash collection contract. The Times Herald reported that "the extension will cost each customer $117.56 next year, a 10 percent increase over the current annual cost." The Herald wasn't clear on what was meant. Do they mean an average of $117.56 per customer?  Or is the 10% increase the average and individual taxpayers are going to get socked?

While we're talking about having to shell out more money, Council voted to adopt the 2014 budget, with a 2.8% millage rate increase from 2013. According to Patch, this means a $24.16 increase in real estate taxes per $100,000 of assessment. According to the Herald, the increase will be $34. Where taxes are concerned, I tend to believe the worse case scenario.

The budget passed 5 to 1, with Olivia Brady voting against it. I don't know why she voted against it, but possibly it was because the budget was supposed to have been an open process, with input from the public, and that never happened.

Meanwhile, the rest of council and Manager Jones were all patting themselves on the back saying what a great job they'd done on the budget. Councilwoman Christian was quoted as saying "Everything that could possibly be done to not have an increase was done, and I want to say ‘hats off' to our department heads and our administration as a whole, because I think they did an excellent job in this budgeting process." Maybe she was right, but since it wasn't an open process and the budget workshop that was cancelled was never rescheduled, we'll never know.

The thing is, if I thought Council and Jones could be trusted to use the extra money wisely, I'd say go for it. But in the last year, I've seen them give our tax money to people like Sarah Peck, who's building a development the taxpayers don't want, and almost give funds to Pennrose for their horrendous proposal for the corner of Airy and Dekalb. I've seen them court companies like Gaudenzia, who'll bring nothing to Norristown but reasons to avoid the downtown. I've seen them ignore Arts Hill and small business on Main Street and elsewhere. I've seen them make one bad decision after another about our economy.

But hey, we still have Councilman Millner on our side, keeping us informed every minute. Here are his tweets from the meeting:

I feel so much better, don't you?

1 comment:

  1. From Doug Seiler, via Facebook:

    It sure is hard to keep a positive attitude about Norristown's future: You touched on some of the recent flubs, where a common link seems to be a stubborn insistance by Council to avoid public input. Pennrose may have been stopped, but who knows? Developers tend to try several times before giving up and Council hasn't dropped their pending zoning application. So what does that tell you? Gaudenzia: should have been in a zoning district that permitted it - not Main Street. Next up will be the proposed demolition of the 1930s, Art Deco landmark Montgomery Hospital. I recently had a meeting with Einstein and the developer and they told me they are NOT planning to keep it. Their proposed new use is subsidized senior housing. Funding for susidized housing is an annual process and just like Pennrose last year, these folks surely must be getting their ducks in a row to apply for PHFA financing. They'll probably ask for County Housing funds and why wouldn't they go for a little Municipal money while they're at it? Unlike Pennrose they're making an effort to have a public dialogue. (All developers like to make an effort to appear like good neighbors, as long as the politicians deliver the approvals in the end.) It will be pretty sad to see that structure go. The question is, does anyone outside a a few preservationists care? They should, but who knows? Speaking of should... Council should follow the Comprehensive Plan which specifically states the Hospital is a historic asset and should be reused. The Comprehensive Plan also says that about the old that next on the demolition list? Does anyone think the County cares about solving Norristown's ills? Does Council understand the vaule of it's historic buildings? Kind of sad... Watch them fall folks...third in line will probably be the Post Office, though, maybe it has Federal protection. Stay tuned...and don't get your hopes up.