Monday, November 3, 2014

Council's Nearly Useless Agenda

1029 W. Main St. 
The agenda is available for the Council Meeting, which will be on Wednesday night at 7:30 pm. You can view it at this link. I've read it through and I still have very little idea what's going to happen Wednesday night. Here's the gist:

Okay to be fair, the first item is fairly straight forward -- "Motion to award the contract for the Main & Marshall Street Lighting Improvement Project to AJM Electric of Chester, PA for a not to exceed price of $98,804." And the HARB certificates near the end are pretty standard.

But the rest is anyone's guess. Take the next 3 motions on the agenda, all listed under the vague sub-header "Council." The first is "Motion to approve the Waiver of Conflict regarding 1029 West Main Street." Like most reisdents of Norristown, I'm no lawyer. I'm not sure what a waiver of conflict is, let alone how it can apply to a place. 1029 West Main is owned by L & M Partners, a Philadelphia development firm. It's the only property they own in Norristown. The house is listed as about 3333 square feet of dwelling, 787 s.f. office, and the rest unfinished basement. Would it have been that difficult to put an extra sentence on the agenda explaining what residents need to know about this item? For instance, what is the conflict that's being waived? What if anything is L & M proposing to do with the property?

Next item: "Motion to approve the Waiver of Conflict regarding Laborers' Local 135." I DO know this union local is headquartered on Sandy Street in Norristown and they seem to be involved with the building trades. Otherwise, I have no idea what this item means.

Next: "Motion to approve Resolution 14-139--participate in the Borough Elected Officials Program (BEOP)." I tried googling "Norristown Resolution 14-139" and "Norristown Borough Elected Officials Program" and "Norristown BEOP" and came up blank each time.

Next, under the sub-heading "Public Safety," the item "Motion to advertise a proposed Ordinance regarding House Bill 80/Lost and Stolen Firearms." Now, you can read PA House Bill 80 at this link, but the language isn't particularly easy to understand. Like I said, only a very small percentage of residents are lawyers. Unlike Council, we can't turn to the borough solicitor sitting next to us and ask for a summary of what it means. Even if we did understand the bill, there's nothing in this agenda item that explains what Norristown's ordinance regarding the bill would be.

And lastly, my favorite item on the whole agenda--under the sub-heading "Code"--which merely reads "Contractor's License." That's it. No other explanation.

And yet, the Public Comment for Council Meetings is still BEFORE any of these items come up on the agenda. How is anyone supposed to make an informed comment when information is impossible to obtain before the meeting? As I said above, would it be so difficult to add ONE sentence to each agenda item, to explain the context and meaning as it applies to the average taxpayer?

I really appreciate that this Council seems to have fixed the problem of agendas that were being published too late, but if these new early agendas don't communicate anything, why have them at all? Council reps keep saying they want us to participate in our government, yet won't tell us what that government intends to do in time for us to participate. Some people in this town would say that's intentional--that our elected officials are trying to keep us in the dark. I hope not. Though, even if it's just indicative of our town-wide communication crisis, it's got to stop.

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