Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Dropping Of The Ball

Tonight in New York City, they'll drop a ball to bring in 2016. I bet a lot of you will watch it on TV and use it as your cue that midnight's arrived and you can drink champagne and smooch your loved ones and whatever else you traditionally do to begin a new year. I don't. I'd prefer to take my cue from Norristown instead of NYC. Some of my neighbors will set off fireworks. Some local friends will post their greetings on Facebook. I don't need some far away city to make it official.

I've said on the Diary in years past that Norristown ought to do something similar to Times Square's ball drop to start the New Year, only with something rising instead of falling. Doesn't have to be expensive. Maybe ACPPA would take the challenge of making a paper mache or cloth eagle that could be raised on the flagpole outside Municipal Hall. Or a bee, since that's Norristown's symbol. Or a dragon for our connection with dragon boats. Doesn't even have to be raised at midnight New Year's Eve. The first business day or Saturday of the New Year would suffice. A pep rally of sorts. Something that says we N-towners recognize that this is a new beginning and we're all ready--together--to rise to whatever's ahead.

I usually do an end-of-the-year blog to remind everyone about our town's accomplishments over the last year. This year, however, our few town-wide accomplishments were in the first half of the year--Fourth Fridays, for instance. Last summer,  my end-of-the-week event blogs were packed with things to do. Lately, not so much.

Did we build on our successes this year? No. Most of the time, someone dropped the ball. But unlike NYC, not in a good way.

Norristown Business Association evaporated. This happened because the "president" of NBA simply stopped having meetings. He didn't officially announce an end to the organization. Had he merely told the membership at a meeting that he couldn't be president anymore, we could have elected new officers and gone on from there. But no, he dropped the ball without telling anyone. I'm willing to help reorganize the NBA, but I can't do it alone. Anyone in N-town who are interested in getting together to discuss it can contact me at this email.

The NBA was responsible for getting Fourth Fridays started, but some downtown businesses also jumped on board, seemingly enthusiastic. I talked to Oscar Vance a few weeks ago and Jazz on Cherry Street will be continuing as well as other events at 216 Cherry. Yet all the other venues involved in Fourth Fridays gave up when the NBA folded. They dropped the ball, too, just when people were starting to notice and compare us to Phoenixville and say Norristown was rising again.

Our government spent some of our tax money hiring a consultant from Better Block to guide us while we planned an event designed to show residents and budding entrepreneurs what could be done to bring visitors back to our downtown. At the first meetings, we had representatives not only from our government and the downtown neighborhood, but other concerned citizens from around town anxious to help get N-town back on track. We planned the event for Small Business Saturday to kick off the holiday season. Then 2 months went by and we heard nothing from the Planning Department (they were supposed to be in charge). Not until several of the other committee members (including myself) started sending them emails asking what was going on did we get an email in return saying they'd decided to put off the Better Block event until "the beginning of 2016." Municipal Hall totally dropped the ball, and frankly, I'll be surprised if they pick it up again. Meanwhile, I can't count how many people have told me how dead our downtown looks this holiday season. I was down there last Monday night. It was like a ghost town. And the snowflakes on the light poles are in serious need of replacement bulbs. It's pitiful.

This year up in the North End, because people who don't live in the 3rd District saw it as their sworn duty to make sure Linda Christian left office, some of the projects she was spearheading were left dangling. I won't say she dropped the ball--it wasn't her fault, and I know she's done her best to make sure Council had the info they needed to continue. One such project was a neighborhood committee that was meeting with Francis Vargas, the developer of the Montgomery Hospital property, to discuss the design of the new senior apartments to be build there. The intent was to make sure the buildings blend into the neighborhood and do N-town proud. Our last meeting with Mr. Vargas was to be in late September. Mr Vargas has sent emails saying he's committed to meeting with us, but 3 months later, we're still waiting. Now, with Council reorganizing next week, I'm not sure who, if anyone, will pick up that particular ball.

I don't mean to be as pessimistic as I sound. A lot of other groups and individuals in Norristown have shown their integrity and made some great contributions this year--Buck Jones, CADCOM, the Dragon Boat Club, the Norristown Preservation Society, to name a few. Yet I can't help but be disappointed in our goverment and our business community. Real gains could have been made in our downtown economic situation. Now I hear, "Things will turn around when the distillery opens." Once again, we're putting all our eggs in one basket. That's never, ever worked in the past. No one person or company is going to swoop in and save us.

So, one last depressing look back. I'll start looking ahead again next week, but I hope you'll all give this some thought over the weekend. Let's all make a resolution to not give up so easily in 2016.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Events To Begin The New Year

Nothing's happening this week in N-town (outside of the regular library programs which you should definitely check out, especially if you have kids--click on the calendar link to the right). So I waited until today to posted upcoming events.

Sunday, Jan 3, 10 am-1 pm, Open Mic at Coffee Talk, 507 W Marshall. $5 admission.

Also on Sunday, after the Open Mic, from 1:30-5 pm, Coffee Talk will also host "Pork and Kraut," an afternoon of music, conversation, and the Polish foods traditional to the New Year. Sponsored by people in recovery and friends. Donation $5. for info, call 610-272-4811.



Monday from 5:30-6:30 pm, Chat with the Chief on Facebook. Chief Mark Talbot will be answering questions and addressing concerns the first Monday of 2016. Everyone is invited. Go to this link and follow instructions. You must be signed onto Facebook to ask questions, but anyone should be able to read along. 

Tuesday at 7 pm at Municipal Hall, Council reorganization meeting, followed by the regular monthly meeting at 7:30 pm. The new council reps will be sworn in. I'll post next week regarding the agenda.

Wednesday from 1-2:30 pm at First Presbyterian (E Airy and Dekalb), free orientation session for anyone interested in becoming a volunteer literacy tutor for adults. Hosted by the Literacy Council of Norristown. For info and to register, contact 610-292-8515 or visit their website at www.LcnLit.org.

Theatre Horizon's Theater School starts its new classes for kids 5-15 on January 9th. View the offerings and register at this link.
Next Saturday, January 9 from 8:30-11:30 pm  is Comedy Night at Centre Theater (208 DeKalb). Starving Artist Prevention presenting Jon Koppel in "Wait, Who?" Doors open at 7:30pm, show begins at 8:30pm. Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. For tickets, call 484-809-4216 or 215-906-0919 or go to koppel.brownpapertickets.com.

The Historical Society is closed now through January 10. They'll reopen on January 11.

Have a safe New Year's Eve, whatever you've got planned.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

At Last, Probably Too Late

FINALLY there's an agenda posted for tonight Zoning Board Hearing. You can read the whole thing at this link. I suspect very few people will get a chance to read this because of how late it was posted. But if you plan to go, it's at 7 pm at Municipal Hall, 235 E Airy.

Not only is the project at 1529 Dekalb on the agenda, but so are 4 other properties, none of them owned by people who actually live in Norristown.

711 Swede -- The owner wants to create a duplex with 2 off-street parking spaces.

232 Minor -- Owner wants to build a roof deck and "pilot house." That's usually a nautical term, but in architecture, I think it's a top floor that projects out over the floor below. The house is one of a row of houses.

50 W Brown -- This is the old Cancer Center at Brown and Powell. They want to build 2 outdoor play areas.

923 W Marshall -- This property is on a residential block but already has a barber shop on the first floor front. They want to make the rest of the space 2 apartments.

I won't be able to go to the meeting, but at least I was able to speak at last month's hearing regarding storm water runoff from the 1529 Dekalb project. I hope that some neighbors are able to go tonight, but this close to Christmas, I wouldn't blame people if they couldn't. Yet this is basically how our town is being run currently. Everything done at the last minute. Decisions being made almost by default instead of allowing the taxpayers ample time to participate in the process. And the taxpayers, so used to this system, don't show up because they're intimidated, with good reason. So out-of-town landlords and developers end up determining what Norristown becomes, block by block, instead of residents and businesses shaping their community.

Can we change this in 2016? You tell me.

Monday, December 21, 2015

Still No Zoning Agenda

As of  8 am today, with less than 48 hours to go until the Zoning Board Hearing tomorrow night, there is STILL no agenda posted on the Municipal website. With a decision about a major development at 1529 Dekalb pending, this is absolutely not acceptable.

The development calls for 34 housing units on only 1.26 acres of land. This development could effect not only the dozens of residents who live in the immediate neighborhood, but hundreds of others downhill who would potentially be effected by any changes in the storm water runoff that's now absorbed on the site. (How much? One half inch of rain on 55,000 square feet equals over 16,000 gallons--and that's only an average rainstorm).

The development involves yet another historic building being slated for demolition, which concerns quite a few residents of Norristown. And since the developer will be seeking public funding, tax dollars from ALL of us are on the table.

And, I'll add a little history here--The Borough of Norristown bought this property in the year 2001 for $900,000. They sold it only 2 years later for $227,000. So, we've already lost over $600,000 in tax dollars on this place.

The thing is, there's no one to complain to. It's late December, 4 days before Christmas. This is the current Zoning Board's last meeting. The 2015 Council is already adjourned, as is the Planning Commission.

But the law says if Zoning fails to come to a decision within 45 days of the developer's application (which was last month), the application is automatically approved. And 45 days are up, I believe, on December 31.

Those of us who want to know whether or not to show up at the meeting tomorrow, or if another hearing will be scheduled before year end, come out sounding like the Scrooges in this deal. But remember, we aren't the ones who'll be profiting from this venture if the Zoning Board fails to make a decision. Even if they do vote, one way or the other, every resident or business owner in town ought to have the opportunity to express their concerns and opinions if we're going to call ourselves a democracy.


Friday, December 18, 2015

Theater, Dance, Music and More This Week

Even with the holidays, there's still a long list of things to do in Norristown this week.

Today Friday, Dec 18th, 8-11 am in the Main Floor Lobby of Human Service Center (1430 Dekalb St) is the Nurse Family Partnership Bake Sale. All proceeds benefit our volunteer photographer so she can continue to take pictures of the NFP babies for free of charge.

Tonight, ACPPA's "Norristown Nutcracker" opens at 7 pm at East Norriton Middle School. Second performance on Saturday at 2 pm.  Tickets at this link.

Also tonight at 7:30 pm, "The Santaland Diaries" opens at Theatre Horizon. It runs 3 days only--Friday, Saturday at 8 pm and Sunday at 2 pm. Tickets $25-32.

Saturday from 10 am-2 pm at the Norristown Library (1001 Powell St); New Beginnings Evangelistic Outreach Ministries presents Christmas Fellowship. Food, fun, door prizes, games.

Saturday from 11:45-2 pm at the First Presbyterian Church Gym (Airy and Dekalb), FREE Open Gym. Pick up dodgeball games, pillo polo, indoor soccer, ping pong, foosball, air hockey or just running around. Just show up for fun. Sponsored by Norristown Recreation and First Pres Sports Club. You can also register for winter Recreation programs there.

Saturday at 7 pm at Coffee Talk, 507 W Marshall. Blues and Jazz Concert featuring Vince Roggio, Allen Reynolds, Hurk McGruder, Jackie Person and others. Tickets, $10. For reservations, call 610-272-4811.

Sunday from 11 am -3 pm at Hair Illusions, 1221 W Main St - Handbag & Jewelry Expo with door prizes, wine & cheese. Holiday sale 40% off everything. More info call Hair Illusions at 610-277-6808.

Monday at 1 pm at Casa Bonita (Oak and Dekalb), the Norristown Rivertown Action Team will be meeting to discuss signage along Norristown's stretch of the Schuylkill River Trail and for Riverfront Park. This is a great way for Norristown businesses to attract the thousands of potential customers who use the trail. Come be a part of the team. The more residents/businesses who get involved, the better for Norristown. RSVP to lhessek@pecpa.org

Tuesday at 7 pm at Municipal Hall. Zoning Board Hearing. No agenda is posted yet, but I believe they might be voting on the proposed high density development at 1529 Dekalb. Not posting the agenda in a timely manner if it contains a major development like that is a HUGE disservice to the community. I get the feeling Scrooge is behind this.

Next week's list of events (if any) will probably be posted on Saturday the 26th. Have a safe and very Happy Christmas.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Watch What You Call Us

This is what blight looks like, but it's not in N-town. 
In the last month, I've heard the word "blight" applied to Norristown twice. Both times the word was used incorrectly. And when you use that word incorrectly, you insult the residents of the block you're talking about. So let's begin with the dictionary definition.

The Urban Dictionary defines "urban blight" as "consisting of the deterioration of part of a town or city due to ageing, neglect, and lack of financial support for maintenance."

Collins English Dictionary defines it as "the decay and deterioration of an urban area due to neglect or age."

The first coinage of the term was used to mean a whole section of a city. It came from the type of plant blight that not only kills one plant, but spreads. But more recently, urban blight can also be used in terms of "a blighted property"--say, a single house that's been abandoned or neglected by the owner until it falls into obvious disrepair and ruin. It's used to describe man-made structures, not empty lots, or at least, a combination of both if the lots look, for instance, like Montgomery Hospital's does at the moment. That's why we have a law that says if you demolish a building, the lot must be planted in grass, so it becomes green space.

We have a few blighted properties in town, mostly rental properties neglected by their landlords. There are a few areas of town where you have more of these properties than others, and our riverfront has abandoned industrial buildings, but in Norristown where people are actually living, we don't have whole sections of our town that could be called blighted.

Last month, when Sarah Peck was pitching her newest development before Zoning, she said the 1500 block of Willow was blighted. The photo to the right shows that block. It's a nice, even pretty, residential street, not deteriorated in any way. She said that because there was a foreclosure on that block, it's blighted. I feel sorry for the owners who lost their mortgage, but they obviously took good care of the house, as do the residents on the rest of the block. The word "foreclosure" has nothing to do with the definition of "blight." Ms. Peck owes the residents on that block an apology.

The other day, I saw the word "blighted" used to describe the empty field that had been at 1202 Dekalb before Arbor Mews was built. Here's a photo of it. Mown grass and mature trees. Green space. If you're going to call that blight, you might as well call Valley Forge Park blighted.


Here's an example of a blighted property. This photo shows the fence over Saw Mill Run beside August Moon's parking lot on Main St. It's obviously deteriorated from rust and has been for decades. I haven't been able to find out who exactly owns it. Does it belong to the factory building or because it's a bridge over a creek, is it Municipal property? I suspect it might be the latter (the Municipality actually owns August Moon's parking lot). Wouldn't take much for Public Works to slap some rust remover and paint on that fence and powerwash that wall, on Main and at least as far back as August Moon's sign. Or, I'm guessing if the Municipality bought the supplies, The Norristown Project might do the work for free. Or make it a Day of Service event. We shouldn't have something that ugly on Main Street when it's easily fixable.

So, to summarize, if you see something in Norristown that looks like the photo at the top of this article, fine, call it blight. (Those properties, by the way, are in Philadelphia.) But where Norristown has real urban blight, let's fix it before it spreads. Remember, "blight" is a strong, negative word--a word that, for the most part, Norristown doesn't deserve. The vast majority of residents don't neglect their properties and they should be applauded, not insulted.

Monday, December 14, 2015

This Week's Council Agenda

The meeting is tomorrow (Tuesday) night at 6:30 pm at Municipal Hall. Not much to the agenda this week. In short, they'll be

1. Voting on the dates for the 2016 Council and Council Workshop meetings.

2. Voting on 2016 Municipal budget.

3. Voting on whether to enter into an agreement with Municipal Solutions in the amount of $19,800
to provide recruitment services for the Public Works Director position.



Friday, December 11, 2015

Events Galore (and Santa's Still Here!)

Lots to do this coming week in Norristown. Remember, today is the last day to drop off gifts for the Santa Express at Municipal Hall before 4 pm. Info at Norristownfire.org 

Today, Friday, Dec 11, from 2-7 pm at Hancock Fire Hall (820 W Airy), American Red Cross Blood Drive. Appointments are preferred. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or sign up online at redcrossblood.org. Enter code: hancock.

Also today, 4-7:30 pm, Montgomery County OIC (1101 Arch St, 2nd Floor) will hold their winter Open House. Learn more about OIC and their programs. For more information, call 610-279-9700 or visit http://www.montcooic.org/programs.html

Tonight at 7:30 pm, "Black Nativity" continues at Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb). This is the LAST WEEKEND. The show features the writings of Langston Hughes and West African and modern dance. Shows this weekend on Saturday (3 and 8 pm), Sunday (3 pm). Go to this link to see the schedule. For the box office call 610-283-2230 ext 1 or email ticket@theatrehorizon.org.

Tonight at 8 pm at Coffee Talk Artists Co-op, 507 W Marshall, Show in the Holidays Spirit, concert featuring Annabelle Wood. Donations welcome.

Saturday 8 pm at August Moon, Second Saturday Jazz with the George Weldon Quintet. Swing music and standards from Cole Porter, Richard Rodgers, Duke Ellington, the Gershwins and more. Entertainment fee $10. 2 drink minimum. Doors open at 7:30 pm.

Sunday from 12-6 pm at Almaz Cafe (24 W Main), Single Parent Foundation Annual Fundraiser. Tickets are $25 and can be purchased at the door.

Sunday at 4 pm at Coffee Talk (507 W Marshall). A Pollyanna "gift exchange with surprises." Donation $10. Open stage for musicians, pictures with Santa, concert at 7 pm with Cordilia Arcay and Matt Asti - jazz. For info, go to this link.

Monday the 14th is the deadline for donations to the Montgomery County Commerce Department Holiday Drive. They're currently collecting donations of toys, clothing, and books for children ages 1-13. Donations can be made at Career Development Center, 1st Floor, Human Service Building, 1430 Dekalb St. Contact Josette Walton at 610-278-5947

Monday through Wednesday, 6-7:30 pm in Eisenhower Middle School's gym, registration of winter baseball camp for kids ages 6-8 and 9-12. Learn or improve the skills of bunting, fielding, hitting and stealing. You will need a glove and sneakers, all participants will receive a T-Shirt. Limit 25 participants in each age group. Camp will take place on Mondays beginning January 4th. Ages 6-8: 6:10-6:50 pm, and ages 9-12: 7-7:45 pm. $25 per player  Make checks payable to "NLL". For further info, call 610-270-0467

Every Tuesday this month from 10 am-2 pm at CADCOM (113 E Main) Certified Application Counselor in CADCOM office for walk-in visits to apply for health insurance. Please bring proof of income and ID. For info, contact Heather Lewis, 610-277-6363, hlewis@cadcom.org or smythk@dvch.org
Tuesday at 6:30 pm at Municipal Hall, Council Workshop. No agenda yet.

Next Friday, Dec 18th, 8-11 am in the Main Floor Lobby of Human Service Center (1430 Dekalb St) is the Nurse Family Partnership Bake Sale. All proceeds benefit our volunteer photographer so she can continue to take pictures of the NFP babies for free of charge.

Next weekend, ACPPA's "Norristown Nutcracker" will take place Friday at 7 pm and Saturday at 2 pm, oddly enough not in Norristown, but at East Norriton Middle School. Tickets at this link

Next weekend, Theatre Horizon presents "The Santaland Diaries"--3 days only--Friday, the 18th at 8 pm, Saturday the 19th at 8 pm and Sunday the 20th at 2 pm. Tickets $25-32.

Pajama Drive for the Holidays, sponsored by Vance Community Partners and Strategic Wear. Bring your donations of new cozy pajamas for infants, toddlers, teens and adults to Vance Center, 212 Cherry St. For info, contact Jill Adelman 610-277-9125 ext 307 or jadelman@vance.us.com

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Santa Express Time Again

Surprise your child with an early visit by Santa. Drop off one small, wrapped gift per child at Norristown Municipal Hall (235 East Airy) by 4pm on December 11th and have Santa deliver it to your child on Saturday, December 12th.

·     Drop off one small, shoebox-sized wrapped gift per child at Norristown Municipal Hall, 235 E. Airy Street,  1st floor lobby.
·    Complete the form found at the link below, please PRINT clearly, and attach to each gift.
·    Gifts must be dropped off between December 7–11 from 9 am – 4 pm.
·    Due to time and planning constraints, NO gifts may be dropped off after December 11.
·    Santa will deliver the gift on Saturday, December 12 between 10:30 am and 1:30 pm. (Delivery time cannot be predetermined).
·    Please have your child/children ready to come outside and meet Santa when you hear the sirens. A parent or guardian must accompany all children. Santa cannot wait.
·    Delivery addresses MUST be within the Municipality of Norristown
·    Any questions, please contact the Fire Chief at 610-292-8281.

To download the form, go to this link.

Note from the Diary: This was only posted to Facebook yesterday and the deadline is this Friday (Dec 11). Not sure where else they advertised it, but really Norristown, we have to get better at more timely and more widespread notifications. It's our biggest problem in people not knowing about the good things that happen in town.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Meet Our New Councilwoman

Just a reminder to 3rd District residents and any other N-towner who's interested: Third District Town Hall  Meeting tonight at 6:30 pm at the Norristown Library (Powell and Swede). It's a Meet and Greet for Councilwoman Valerie Scott Cooper, who was appointed to council to fill the vacancy left by Linda Christian.

There's still no agenda posted for the Planning Meeting which was supposed to be at 7 pm. I'm taking this to mean they have no agenda items for this month.


Friday, December 4, 2015

Santa Comes To N-Town, More Than Once

Tonight, Friday, Dec 4, from 5-7 pm is the annual tree lighting at Elmwood Park Zoo. This is a FREE event. Santa Claus will make an appearance to bring his reindeer-in-training to the zoo for the winter. Photos with the reindeer, $5 each. For info, contact Guest Services at 610-277-3825 x222.

Also tonight at 5:30 pm at the Centre Theater, the Centre Theater Music School will present their Winter Concert. Information at this link. Admission is free. Donations accepted. Please reserve tickets at this link.

Also tonight at 7:30 pm, "Black Nativity" continues at Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb), featuring the writings of Langston Hughes and West African and modern dance. Shows this week also on Saturday (3 and 8 pm), Sunday (3 pm), Thursday at 7:30 pm. The show has been extended through December 13 (only 2 more weeks). FREE TICKETS AVAILABLE for Norristown residents. Go to this link to see the schedule. For free tickets, call 610-283-2230 ext 1. For info, email ticket@theatrehorizon.org.



Saturday starting at 6 pm at Riverfront Park (1 Haws Ave): Winter Wonderland 2015. While you wait for Santa to arrive by Dragon Boat, drink hot cocoa and coffee, sing carols, munch cookies. FREE event. The park will be decked out with lights for the holiday.

Sunday from 10 am-1 pm, Open Mic at Coffee Talk (507 W Marshall). $5 admission.

Sunday after 2 pm, Elmwood Park Zoo, FREE admission to Norristown Borough residents. Adults must show photo ID as proof of residency. Children must be accompanied by a Borough resident. Non-residents will be charged normal admission rates. For more information, contact Guest Services at 800-652-4143 x222.

Every Tuesday this month from 10 am-2 pm at CADCOM (113 E Main) Certified Application Counselor in CADCOM office for walk-in visits to apply for health insurance. Please bring proof of income and ID. For info, contact Heather Lewis, 610-277-6363, hlewis@cadcom.org or smythk@dvch.org

Tuesday, 6:30 pm, Third District Town Hall Meeting at Norristown Library to meet the new 3rd District councilwoman, Valerie Scott Cooper.

Also Tuesday at 7 pm at Municipal Hall, Planning Commission Meeting. No agenda posted yet.

The Wednesday Matinee (1-3 pm) at the Norristown Library (Powell and Swede) this week will be White Christmas.

Next Friday, Dec 11, from 2-7 pm at Hancock Fire Hall (820 W Airy), American Red Cross Blood Drive, Appointments are preferred. Call 1-800-RED-CROSS or sign up online at redcrossblood.org. Enter code: hancock.

Also next Friday, 4-7:30 pm, Montgomery County OIC (1101 Arch St, 2nd Floor) will hold their winter Open House. Learn more about OIC and their programs. For more information, call 610-279-9700 or visit http://www.montcooic.org/programs.html

Also next Friday, 6:30-8 pm, Greater Norristown PAL (Harding Blvd). Family Holiday Carnival co-sponsored by GNPAL and Norristown Recreation. For ages 4-12. All children must be accompanied by a parent or guardian. Games, crafts, music, give-aways, prizes, food, photos with Santa. Number of participants is limited, so registration is REQUIRED by today, Friday Dec 4. To register - educationcommittee@greaternorristownpal.org or call 610-278-8040. 

Friday, November 27, 2015

Shop Small, Norristown

It's a holiday weekend, so there's not too much scheduled around town. Take advantage of the lull to catch a performance at Theatre Horizon or shop at Norristown's small businesses.

Tonight, Friday November 27, at 7:30 pm, "Black Nativity" continues at Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb), featuring the writings of Langston Hughes and West African and modern dance. Shows this week also on Saturday (3 and 8 pm), Sunday (3 pm), Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 pm. The show has been extended through December 13. FREE TICKETS AVAILABLE for Norristown residents. Check out the schedule at this link. For free tickets, call 610-283-2230 ext 1. For info, email ticket@theatrehorizon.org.

November 28th is Small Business Saturday. Please patronize Norristown's small businesses and restaurants on that day and throughout the holiday season. Places like Plymouth Produce and Genuardi's Greenhouse have trees and evergreen decorations. Lots of our markets and bakeries will be selling holiday food items. We have a thriving business district on West Marshall. You can get gift cards and certificates from many of our restaurants. Or how about Theatre Horizon tickets for someone on your gift list? Spend your holiday shopping dollars in N-town and give our economy a boost.

Tuesday, December 1st is Giving Tuesday. Support your favorite non-profit organization in Norristown by making a contribution on Tuesday.

Tuesday night at 7:30 pm at Municipal Hall, Council Meeting. The agenda is at this link. (Thanks to Council or whoever for posting it promptly this week.) They'll be voting on the 2016 Community Development Block Grant budget, the 2016 Municipal Budget, and establishing the 2016 tax rate.

Next Friday, Dec 4, at 5:30 pm at the Centre Theater, the Centre Theater Music School will present their Winter Concert. Information at this link. Admission is free. Donations accepted. Please reserve tickets at this link


Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Results of Zoning Hearing

Just a short entry with some notes and the result of the Zoning Hearing last night regarding the proposed development of 1529 Dekalb.

The board's vote was split, 2 to 2, so no approval was given. Progressive Housing Ventures will go back next month with a modified plan, possibly with less units. The next meeting, I believe, will be on Dec 15th.

The audience wasn't allowed to view the plan during the hearing. That's never happened before. In past hearings I've been to, even if all the developer had was a poster on an easel (and even if the developer was Ms. Peck), they always voluntarily turned it at the beginning to give the audience a look. Last night Ms. Peck told the audience we could look at the plans at the end of the hearing. I wish the board had instructed her to let the audience see the plan even temporarily, but they didn't.

Here's what I got from her presentation without seeing it. She plans to build 34 units with 1-car garages underneath them. Some of the units will have 3 bedrooms for families or condo-owners who want to have a roommate to defray costs, but she's not providing extra parking for those units. The frontages on Dekalb and Willow would be 25 feet. On either side of each unit, 10 foot distance, though balconies and porches will bump out from that (the houses next door on the Freedley side will have no more than maybe 12 feet from their walls to the development walls, less where there are balconies and porches) . The total height of the units will be no more than 35 feet.

One main problem I saw was that Ms. Peck is asking for an increase in allowed impervious surfaces (surfaces that don't absorb water) from the 65% allowed by zoning to 75%, which means 75% of all the stormwater runoff that now soaks into that grass filled basin will be drained away from the site. This is one of the highest points in town, so all that extra water (we're talking thousands of gallons in a NORMAL rainstorm) will head downhill to the creeks. Those of us who live at the bottom of that hill, like me, already have enough problems with flooding during a heavy rain.

One thing that really angered me last night was that Ms. Peck's lawyer asked that negative comments be stricken from the record if the commenter didn't live in the neighborhood adjacent to the proposed development. This after Ms. Peck stated in her testimony that she intended to use public funding (ie, our tax dollars). The person who was commenting at the time was from East Norriton, but he rightly pointed out that he was a taxpayer in the NASD district and had every right to speak on the matter. The Zoning chair agreed and I thank her for that.

I'll cover some other points about this development in the coming weeks.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Ask The Questions That Council Won't


I attended the roundtable "discussion" at the Centre Theater last week. I put discussion in quotes because it wasn't that at all. It was a Q&A session where it seemed mostly that the people with the most interesting insights barely got the chance to express themselves while the more practiced political orators kept feeding us the same old promises/excuses.

Maybe in another Diary entry I'll cover it further--I haven't decided if it's worth my time yet--but today I just want to tell you about an answer to the question I asked that night. I wanted to hear any ideas the panel had for how our downtown could be brought back to life, or how could we learn from what was working on West Marshall and apply it to the Main Street.

Bill Caldwell said we can't learn from the West End district. He said the difference was that people lived close enough to West Marshall Street to patronize those businesses, but no one lives downtown. He said until we increase the number of residents living downtown, it can't thrive again.

First of all, the teacher in me balks when someone says we can't learn from something. You can learn from ANY situation. All you have to do is open your mind and think creatively.

Second of all, someone explain to me who owns all the cars that are parked on the streets downtown overnight and on weekends? Try going to a Sunday matinee at our theaters. Finding a parking space on the street is next to impossible. If no one lives downtown, where do all these cars come from?

But just for the sake of argument, let's say Mr. Caldwell is right. If we need residents downtown, then last week when Sarah Peck of Progressive Ventures proposed yet another ultra dense development--34 stacked condos on 1.2 acres in another residential area--why didn't Mr. Caldwell or any other Council rep ask Sarah why she can't build these big behemoths of hers downtown where we supposedly need more residents?

The proposed development will be at 1529 Dekalb between Freedley and Brown. Never mind that this marks another historical building slated for demolition, and that the lot is some of the only green space left at a high point in town where it right now efficiently collects stormwater and lets it drain slowly. Let's ask instead what Norristown businesses will the residents of this new development support? How likely is it that they'll buy groceries and gas in Norristown? Where will they go for a fast meal? It's about 3/4 mile from 1529 Dekalb to Eve's Lunch or Sessano's or Zachary's, and all routes involve some pretty steep hills. Even Jules is a half mile walk.

Meanwhile we've got loads of vacant space downtown, and lots of restaurants and a few other businesses who would love to have condos within a block or three of their doors. Why isn't Council trying to get developers interested in Main Street, instead of letting people like Sarah Peck build where it will only cause annoyance to the existing neighbors, worse floods for those downhill (like me) and no boost whatsoever to our businesses? (Did Arbor Heights or Arbor Mews help our any of our businesses? No.) AND here's the destruction of yet another architectural landmark, coming so soon on the heels of Montgomery Hospital.

Tonight is the Zoning Board Hearing at 7 pm at Municipal Hall. The 1529 Dekalb condos will be voted on. As I said in my Diary last week, this development will use public funding--our tax dollars--so we need to have a say in it. One would assume we DO have a say, through our elected officials, but besides Olivia Brady, none of them so much as asked questions last week before approving the project. I suspect it might be no coincidence that this zoning issue was scheduled for a holiday week when people will have trouble attending, but PLEASE, go to the hearing if you can. Get up and voice an opinion for the record.

And next election, we need to start asking our candidates upfront if they intend to sit on Council like silent bumps on a log while outsiders walk all over them and our community.

Friday, November 20, 2015

March Tonight, then Theater, Zoning and Shopping

Tonight, Friday (Nov 20) starting at 7 pm at George and Marshall Sts, Norristown Rebels would like to invite everyone, family and friends, to the Norristown Stop The Violence March. They'll end at Willow and Spruce for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of the ones we have lost in our community. Join in and support peace in our town. If you can't walk, come for the vigil at the end.
Also tonight at 7:30 pm, "Black Nativity" continues at Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb), featuring the writings of Langston Hughes and West African and modern dance. Shows this week also on Saturday (8 pm) and Sunday (3 pm). The show has been extended through December 13. FREE TICKETS AVAILABLE for Norristown residents. Go to this link to see the schedule. For free tickets, call 610-283-2230 ext 1. For info, email ticket@theatrehorizon.org.

Saturday, 2-4 pm -- Norristown Public Library (Powell and Swede) has a new Third Saturday Book Club that meets monthly. If you are an avid reader and would like to discuss a book a month with other adults, contact Asha Verma, 610-278-5100, averma@mclinc.org. (Remember that the library also has regular events for kids and adults nearly every day. Click on their calendar link to the right of this article.)

Saturday at 8 pm. ACPPA Community Arts Center (506 Haws Ave) presents "Naughty Nutcracker." A satirical burlesque show exploring what really happens in Drosselmeyer's magic box once everybody falls asleep. More silly than sexy, Naughty Nutcracker is a variety show of dance, music, trivia, and fairytales like you've never seen or heard before. For the 18 and up crowd. Food, drink mixers (BYOB), and swag will be available for purchase before, during, and after the performance. Doors open at 8 pm, show starts at 8:30. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Purchase tickets at this link. Proceeds support the arts in Norristown.

Tuesday at 7 pm at Municipal Hall, Zoning Board Hearing. The agenda is available at this link. 2 properties are involved. 637 Markley is the Mexican market near W. Marshall. The agenda doesn't say what the owner wants to do with it, only that he wants a variance. The other is 1529 Dekalb, the Tennis Club property. Sarah Peck's Progressive Ventures wants to build 34 housing units on 1.2 acres.

On Thursday, have a good and safe Thanksgiving.

November 28th is Small Business Saturday. I'd hoped that Norristown's Better Block Project would happen that day to encourage everyone to go downtown, but as usual, our government paid out good money, then let the ball drop. The Norristown Business Association's leadership also let us down this year by dissolving the organization without even consulting with its members. For Small Business Saturday, we're on our own. So I'm going to challenge you. Go to your favorite small businesses in N-town--restaurants, shops, whatever--and post a photo to Facebook or other social media site. Let's spread the word about West Marshall, and about our great food places. And remember, spending your shopping dollars in N-town this holiday season will give our economy a boost.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Community Walk Against Violence

I wanted to give a few days notice of a special event happening in Norristown this Friday evening--a Community Walk Against Violence, starting at 7 pm at George and West Marshall. It will end with a Candlelight Vigil at Spruce and Willow. The map showing the route is below.

Actually, on average, crime in Norristown is WAY down this past year. Still, this past month, we've had 33 assaults and two murders. The murders were by the same person the same night and it was a crime of passion, but I don't know what's sparked the recent assaults. I just know that many of our residents aren't about to let the thugs take over N-town again. Hence this walk.

Anyone who shows up for the walk will be welcomed, all ages, races, backgrounds, religions.

The route is about 1.1 miles, and remember, you'll have to walk back unless someone can pick you up. If you can't walk the whole distance, walk part of it or just come to the candlelight vigil at Spruce and Willow. I'm guessing they'll walk slow, so figure the vigil will begin 40 minutes to an hour after the walk starts. Or you can wait anywhere along the route to show your support.

Let's come together as a community, Norristown. Show the world we believe in peace.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Council's Agenda--Leveling The Tennis Club


Tonight starting at 6:30 pm will be a Council Workshop Meeting at Municipal Hall. The full agenda is at this link, but I wanted to touch on one item in particular.

Sarah Peck, the infamous developer of Arbor Heights and Arbor Mews, will do a presentation on her latest project--the demolition of a Norristown architectural landmark, the Ersine Tennis Club building and grounds at 1529 Dekalb, to put up "housing."

Ms. Peck's definition of housing is stacked condos so dense, that if she were allowed to develop every block of town and managed to sell all of her condos, our population would increase twelve fold. Her projects put a powerful strain on the infrastructures of their surrounding neighborhoods--electrical grid, water pressure, roads, etc. They never include the requisite 2 parking spots per unit. When snow comes to the Arbor Mews parking lot this winter, rest assured Mews residents will put their cars on the streets before the storm to avoid being plowed in.

Her proposals totally violate our zoning code, which says that proposed houses must match the existing housing in the neighborhood. If a block has only single houses on it, you can only build single houses there. If it only has twins, you can only build twins, etc. Yet, somehow, she always manages to get zoning approval.

I've sat in on Sarah Peck's past conversations with Council. She asks for money continually. She expects Norristown and the county to find the money to fund her projects, instead of investing some of her profits like a normal businessperson would. She usually refuses to compromise on design to settle conflicts with the surrounding neighborhood unless she's given even more money. And once when she was speaking to me, not knowing who I was, she actually said Norristown was a soft touch.

At last night's roundtable discussion at the Centre Theater, Buck Jones stood up and asked how developments like Arbor Heights have changed Norristown for the better. No one answered his question. Our economy hasn't improved since Arbor Heights opened. That neighborhood hasn't changed in any fundamental way, other than being more crowded. Her designs certainly don't improve the look of the street much (though the final Arbor Mews design was MUCH better than the proposed warehouse look, but it still doesn't match the rest of the neighborhood).

Now Ms. Peck's proposing to level a landmark. The structure was originally built to be a mansion in 1892, then the Ersine Tennis Club bought it in 1895. Weddings, music concerts and other social events were held there for decades. Tennis was played on lawn courts, the grassy expanse to the left of the building. It was a vital part of Norristown's North End community.

Sure, the building's been empty for a while, but it's still a loss to the architectural character of the borough. The last group to level a landmark--Einstein--at least donated funds toward architectural preservation in Norristown to somewhat compensate for the loss of Montgomery Hospital. I'm guessing Ms. Peck would bawk at such a suggestion. Her M.O. is asking for money, not giving it or anything else to our community.


Last night Bill Caldwell tried once more to convince us that Norristown ought to be considered a city. Thing is, Council doesn't seem to have any intention of updating our sagging infrastructure and solving our parking problems to accommodate the population increase. But they don't even talk about that. How can they approve one overly dense development after another--how can they put our tax money toward it?--when the town as it stands can't handle the extra residents?

Friday, November 13, 2015

Bazaar, Theater, Health, Arts, Roundtable Talk and More

Tonight (Nov 13) from 5-8:30 pm and Saturday from 10 am to 8 pm, St. Patrick's Church (Dekalb and Chestnut), will have their Christmas Festival of Lights Bazaar in the basement of the church. Kids can visit with Santa and play children's games. Baked goods, tombola, silent auction, basket raffles, jewelry, baby booth, gifts, etc., plus delicious hot food that will include the Davis family's famous soul food (chicken, mac and cheese, green beans, etc.), roast beef and other sandwiches, soups, authentic Mexican tostadas, posole, tacos and more.

Also tonight at 7:30 pm, Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb) continues their run of "Black Nativity," featuring the writings of Langstan Hughes and West African and modern dance. Shows this week also on Saturday, Sunday and Thursday. The show has been extended through December 13. FREE TICKETS AVAILABLE for Norristown residents. Go to this link to see the schedule. For free tickets, call 610-283-2230 ext 1. For info, email ticket@theatrehorizon.org.

Saturday from 9 am to noon at Municipal Hall, 1st floor Conference Room, Norristown 2016 Budget Workshop. Open to the public.

Saturday (Nov 14) from 10 am to 1 pm at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (2 West Lafayette), Montgomery County Integrated Health and Wellness Fair. Health screenings, massage therapy, snacks, giveaways, crafts, face painting, and more. For info, contact Lauren Cruttenden (215) 504-3900, ext 63860 or LCruttenden@MagellanHealth.com

Also Saturday, 11 am-1 pm, at Norristown New Life (3 E Marshall--corner of Swede St.), A November to Remember--Norristown CTC in collaboration with the Phi Beta Omega Chapter of Alpha Kappa Alpha will be giving away warm hats, gloves and socks, as well as hot chocolate. Families will receive a healthy lunch and tips for making healthy meals and seasonal wraps.

Saturday night, 8-11 pm at August Moon (300 E Main), Second Saturday Jazz presents The Rhenda Fearrington Experience. Sets starting on each hour. 2 drink minimum.

Monday, 5:30-7:30 pm at Centre Theater (208 Dekalb), a roundtable discussion about Norristown's revitalization, hosted by Stan Husky of the Times Herald. The invited officials include Norristown Police Chief Mark Talbot Sr.; NASD Superintendent Janet Samuels; Montco Commissioner Josh Shapiro; Montco Sheriff Russell Bono; Nelly Jimenez-Arevalo from ACLAMO Family Centers; Norristown Municipal Administrator Crandall Jones; the Rev. Gus Puleo; Norristown Council President Sonya Sanders; Norristown Councilman William Caldwell; state Rep. Matt Bradford, D-70th Dist.; Kirklyn Berry, of Norristown Men of Excellence; and Shae Ashe, the founder of the Norristown Project.

Tuesday, 6:30 pm. Council Workshop meeting. The Council meetings aren't listed on the town calendar anymore--not sure why (I suspect that Linda Christian was doing that part and maybe our new president hasn't figured it out yet)--but I did find the meetings in another place on Norristown.org. Here's the link for a list of all the November meetings. Agendas will also, supposedly, be posted there, but there's no agenda for the upcoming meeting yet.

Thursday, 6-8 pm at Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (2 W Lafayette), Valley Forge Room C, 1st Floor. Law Enforcement Explorers Program Open House. Open to teens aged 14-20 who are interested in a career in law enforcement and who maintain acceptable grades. For info, contact Captain Rich Clowser, Norristown Police Department, 610-270-0496, rclowser@norristown.org

Next Saturday (Nov 21) at 8 pm at ACPPA Community Arts Center (506 Haws Ave), come see "Naughty Nutcracker," a satirical burlesque show exploring what really happens in Drosselmeyer's magic box once everybody falls asleep. More silly than sexy, Naughty Nutcracker is a variety show of dance, music, trivia, and fairytales like you've never seen or heard before. For the 18 and up crowd. Doors open at 8:00pm, show starts at 8:30pm. Admission is $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Purchase tickets at naughtynutcracker.eventbrite.com  Food, drink mixers (byob), and swag will be available for purchase before, during, and after the performance. All proceeds support the arts in Norristown!


From now to January 31st, you can get help with Health Insurance Open Enrollment at Norristown Regional Health Center, 1401 Dekalb. If signing up or making changes to Health Insurance, please bring the following: your username and password (if you already have a Marketplace account), proof of household income, ID and SS cards, legal immigrant docs, employers coverage info.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Our Theatres Reawaken and Other Events

There have been less and less events listed on the Town Calendar and the Montco OIC calendar. Even council meetings aren't listed. These are easy ways to publicize your events. You can enter the info yourself online. And I check both sites every week before posting my Friday Diary, so if you want to make sure I know about your event, put it on both these calendars and I'll definitely see it. I don't always see events listed on Facebook because of FB's annoying way of filtering information.

Saturday, November 7, 8-10 am, Applebee's (2700 Dekalb, East Norriton), Flapjack Fundraiser Breakfast to support Roosevelt Campus of NAHS, $7 per person, Kids $4.50. For more info call main office 610-275-9720. Hosted by the Roosevelt Campus of the NAHS "Parent Faculty Club."

Saturday night, 8:30 pm at Centre Theater (208 Dekalb), The Starving Artist Prevention Comedy Show, featuring comedians Matt Durkin and others. Doors open at 7:45 pm. Tickets are $20. For more information, call 484-809-4216.

Tuesday, 7-9 pm, Planning Commission Meeting at Municipal Hall. No agenda available yet.

The Annual Veterans Day Memorial Ceremony downtown is listed for Tuesday, the 10th, 7 pm, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial at Main and Swede. Usually this ceremony takes place on Veterans Day, the 11th, so I'm not sure if it was changed this year or if the listing on the town calendar is wrong. It's hosted by the Valley Forge Chapter of Vietnam Veterans of America #349. VietnamVeterans349@comcast.net is the email listed on their facebook page.

Wednesday at 1 pm, the Norristown Library (Swede and Powell) is showing their Wednesday Matinee Movie: High Society. Contact Asha Verma at 610-278-5100 or averma@mclinc.org for info. See the Library Calendar link at the right for other library events.

Thursday at 5:30 pm in the 4th floor Schuylkill Room of the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (2 West Lafayette), The Norristown Police Department will hold a public COMSTAT meeting.

Thursday at 7 pm at Norristown Area High School Auditorium, Annual Induction Ceremony into the Hall of Champions and the Hall of Fame. This year's honorees will be Thomas Patterson, Derrick Perry, Jeffery Fiss, James Wolfe, Kristina Moore, Marvin Bachrad, Walter Wieland, James Clayton, and Rev. Augustus Puleo. All are welcome to attend.

Thursday, at 7:30 pm, Theatre Horizon (401 Dekalb) opens their fall season with "Black Nativity," featuring the writings of Langstan Hughes and West African and modern dance. The show will run through Dec 6. FREE TICKETS AVAILABLE for Norristown residents. Go to this link to see the schedule. For free tickets, call 610-283-2230 ext 1. For info, email ticket@theatrehorizon.org.

Next Friday (Nov 13) from 5-8:30 pm and Saturday (Nov 14) from 10 am to 8 pm, St. Patrick's Church (Dekalb and Chestnut), will have their Christmas Festival of Lights Bazaar in the basement of the church. Kids can visit with Santa, children's games, baked goods, tombola, silent auction, basket raffles, jewelry, baby booth, gifts, etc., plus really delicious hot food (I can vouch for this personally).

Next Saturday (Nov 14) from 10 am to 1 pm at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (2 West Lafayette), Montgomery County Integrated Health and Wellness Fair. Health screenings, snacks, giveaways, and more. For info, contact Lauren Cruttenden, 215-504-3900, ext 63860 or LCruttenden@MagellanHealth.com

From November 1st to January 31st, you can get help with Health Insurance Open Enrollment at Norristown Regional Health Center, 1401 Dekalb. If signing up or making changes to Health Insurance, please bring the following: your username and password (if you already have a Marketplace account), proof of household income, ID and SS cards, legal immigrant docs, employers coverage info.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Council's Agenda Tonight

Sorry for the short notice, but there's a Council Meeting tonight at Municipal Hall at 7:30 pm. You can read the whole agenda at this link. A note to Council: please put the remainder of your meetings for the year on the town calendar at Norristown.org and publish your agendas promptly so we don't miss others.

The big item is the naming and swearing in of Linda Christian's replacement as District 3 Council Rep. Let me take this opportunity to say that Linda has been the BEST Council Rep we ever had in the 3rd District-- possibly the best in any council post in Norristown--in my lifetime. Never before has anyone made such a priority of communicating with her constituents. I've had residents across Norristown ask me to forward Linda's newsletters to them so they could be as well informed as we here in the 3rd. We also had a few district town hall meetings each year. Linda went out of her way to let us know what was happening and listened fairly to all our opinions. I hope her replacement and the rest of Council will take a lesson from her and we don't go back to the old days of silence from Borough Hall.

Also scheduled is a presentation from "PFM" which I think is a finance management company.

The rest of the agenda seems pretty routine. Read it for yourself.




Monday, November 2, 2015

County Courthouse Candidates

Here are some of the rest of the candidates for races in tomorrow's election. In my opinion, some of these shouldn't be elected offices, they should be hired instead--the clerical ones, for instance. They shouldn't have anything to do with party politics. If we have individuals in those posts doing them well, their jobs shouldn't be endangered every few years simply because, as behind-the-scenes workers, voters don't know their names. But our state has an archaic system. So I've at least tried to explain the offices and indicate if one of the candidates is an incumbent and what qualifications, if any, the opponent has.


Clerk of Courts -- This person is the chief clerk of criminal cases. Her office maintains the records of all cases and collects court costs, restitution, bail money, etc.

Ann Thornburg Weiss is the incumbent Clerk of Courts, serving 2 terms so far. She's streamlined the system and collected more than a million dollars in old fees from as far back as 1986.

Jason Showmaker is currently Rockledge Borough Council President and a banking analyst


Controller is the office that oversees all fiscal affairs of the county, including payroll, accounts payable, retirement, and audits. Neither candidate is the incumbent, and neither seems to have any hands-on accounting experience. I think I'm probably more qualified for this office than either of these two.

Karen Geld Sanchez is a business lawyer with an MBA.

Tom Zipfel is an attorney and current President of the Board of Commissioners of Hatfield Township.


Coroner -- This is the office in charge of determining cause of death in cases where the death is unexpected, especially if it's violent, or suspected suicide or homicide, certain hospital deaths, anytime the cause is a mystery, or if the next of kin requests an autopsy. In Pennsylvania, the only requirements for the office of coroner is that you have to be a voter and breathing. It's a shame, really, because forensic science has come so far in the last 50 years, that you'd think the richest county in America would have state-of-the-art requirements for the office. I had the pleasure of meeting our current coroner, Walter Hoffman, last month. Most residents never knew it, but Dr.Hoffman did us proud. He's a board-certified Forensic Pathologist, the only one serving as coroner in the state. He's also consulted as a forensic pathologist for the states of New Jersey and Florida. He's performed over 10,000 autopsies and examined twice as many bodies. He's an amazing man. But he's retiring. Fortunately, both candidates running for Coroner are, at least, doctors, though neither seem to have any pathology experience at all, let alone forensics. I'd hope that, whichever one wins, he'll seek training in the area. Also fortunately, the Coroner's current staff includes, I think, 2 certified forensic pathologists and other experienced personnel.

Michael Millbourne is a Cardiovascular Disease specialist at Chestnut Hill Hospital. Bio at this link.

Phil Mandato is a board-certified anesthesiologist at Grandview hospital. His resume is at this link. Insists on being called "Dr. Phil."


District Attorney
-- This is the office that investigates and prosecutes all criminal activity in the county. Neither is the incumbent but both are qualified.

Kevin Steele is the current First Assistant District Attorney for the county (2nd in command to the DA). He's been with the Montco DA's Office since 1995.

Bruce Castor served as District Attorney in the county from 2000-08. He's currently a Montgomery County Commissioner.


Prothonotary -- Chances are, unless you've had to change your name or gotten a divorce or gone to the courthouse for a passport, you have no idea what a prothonotary does. He's essentially the clerk in charge of civil courts and procedures. He needs to have a love of paperwork.

Mark Levy is the current county Prothonotary and had served since 2007. He's been instrumental in the shift from paper to electronic court records.

Bill Whiteside is currently serving on Horsham Township Council. He's a former special administrator in the Prothonotary's office.


Recorder of Deeds maintains all the county's land ownership records and the monthly accounting of real estate transfers taxes and county/state fees. They currently operate at a profit and so are self-sustaining and don't use other taxpayer dollars.

Jeanne Sorg - Currently the Mayor of Ambler. Couldn't find out much more.

Nancy Becker is the incumbent. She's served as Recorder of Deeds for 3 terms. I personally had dealings with her while settling my dad's estate and I thought she was gracious, professional and efficient.


Sheriff -- This department is the law enforcement arm of the county court system. Basically, the Sheriff is responsible to see that judges' orders are carried out. His office serves supeonas and bench warrants, they go after people who don't show up for hearings or fail to pay family support or other court-administered debts. They escort prisoners to and from the Courthouse. They run Sheriff's Auctions for failure to pay property taxes.

Russell Bono is our current Sheriff. He has served as Norristown Chief of Police and Director of Public Safety. He has a long resume in law enforcement that you can read at his website. He lives in East Norriton.

Sean Kilkenny is a lawyer who served as Norristown borough solicitor (meaning he advised Council and the department heads of the legality of proposed actions). He's currently President of Jenkintown's borough council. He's the son of a police officer and a veteran of the US Army Judge Advocate General's Corps. His website is at this link.


County Treasurer -- The custodian of county funds. Different from the Controller in that he handles investments, etc.

Jason Salus is the current Treasurer for the county and has served in that post since 2011. He has a degree in finance and an MBA. See http://www.jasonsalus.com/ for his accomplishments while in office.

Chuck Wilson is a CPA with 20 years experience doing corporate accounting and finances. He's currently chairman of the Towamencin Board of Supervisors.


So that's it. Get out and vote so the good people can keep their jobs and the unqualified ones don't get in. If you vote at Eisenhower School, I'll be working at the 3-3 table. Stop by and say hello.


Friday, October 30, 2015

Halloween Events, Time Change, Election and More

Tonight, Friday, October 30, 5-7 pm at Gotwals School, and every Friday from now on, Habitat for Humanity will host a FREE Kids' Club for kids of all ages. Activities include sports, arts & crafts, movies and more. Snacks provided. Contact 610-278-7710 x107 or msampson@habitatmontco.org for info

Saturday, Halloween, at 1 pm at the Elmwood Park Bandshell, Annual Spooktacular Costume Contest. For ages 13 and under. Meet at the bandshell in costume. Judging at 1:10 pm. Each participant will receive a free hotdog, drink, and goody bag. Hosted by Norristown Recreation.

Saturday, 4-7 pm, Trunk or Treat at the Roosevelt School parking lot (Stergiere St, near Markley), coordinated by CADCOM. Bring your kids Trick or Treating in a safe place. They can make their way through a maze of cars. Local groups will be giving out candy and treats. For info, contact Heather Lewis at 610-277-6363 x166 or hlewis @cadcom.org.

Also Saturday from 4-7 pm, another Trunk or Treat in the West End at Calvary Baptist's parking lot on West Marshall and Haws Avenue. Again, trick or treating in a safe environment.

Saturday night -- Daylight Savings Time ends. SET YOUR CLOCKS BACK 1 HOUR.

Sunday starting at 10 am, Open Mic at Coffee Talk, 507 W Marshall St. Musicians, writers, poets, artisans and anyone else welcome. $5 donation.

Sunday after 2 pm at Elmwood Park Zoo, Norristown Municipality residents receive FREE Zoo admission. Valid ID is required. Children must be accompanied by an adult to receive free admission.

Monday from 5-10 pm, you can help the Norristown Youth Football and Cheerleading Teams raise funds by eating at Chaps Sports Bar, 2509 W Main, Jeffersonville. They'll receive a percentage of all food purchases, dine in or carryout. Door prizes, raffle baskets. Tell your server you're with Norristown Eagles.

Tuesday is Election Day. Polls are open from 7 am to 8 pm. GET OUT AND VOTE. Check out your sample ballot at this link.

Thursday from 6:30-7:30 pm in the Children's Dept of the Norristown Library, families are invited to learn healthy snack ideas and nutrition tips for kids, create healthy snacks, and eat what you make. Presented by PA Nutrition Education Tracks. Children must be accompanied by an adult. All ages. Registration required. Call 610-278-5100 x 205 or visit the Children’s Department to sign up. For info, contact ysprmcnpl@yahoo.com.

Remember to check out the library's full calendar. They have daily programs for readers of all ages. Click on the link in the right column.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

ELECTION: School Board, Judges, Commissioners

So, maybe you read my Diary yesterday and decided you should go vote next Tuesday. Then you pulled up your sample ballot and the sheer number of decisions you'll have to make in the voting booth gave you second thoughts. Yes, it's a long ballot this time. And most of us don't know much about the candidates other than as names on pieces of junk mail or political signs or, in the cases of some judges, names in mud-slinging ads on TV.  If you're going to vote for someone simply because you recognize their name, or vote for or against them because of TV ads, you might as well stay home.

Here are some of the offices and the candidates running for them. I've listed background and experience info from their websites or that I heard directly from them if I met them in person. I included links to their websites if they have one. Just click on their names.

NASD SCHOOL BOARD (vote for 5). Some of these candidates are running under both parties.

George Kennedy - Lives in East Norriton. Only listed on the Democratic ballot. Retired teacher who has years of experience in elementary up through college level teaching. Worked for Conrail before teaching and feels that gives him experience keeping within a budget.

Louis W. Mason - From Conshohocken, now living in West Norriton. Retired teacher--36 years in education. Taught all levels and also was a principal in Chester Schools.

Michael Melnyck - Currently on School Board. Lives in East Norriton. Parent of NASD student. Works as Service Manager.

Janice Pearce - Currently on School Board. Has been on board for 12 years. Lives in Norristown. Retired school librarian. Worked in NASD schools for 34 years, 27 of which was at high school. Specialty in Special Ed. She's also a grant writer.

Sandra White - Lives in West Norriton. Has worked 35 years in the Insurance industry. Did not mention education experience at the candidates' forum last spring.

Tiffani Hendley - Lives in Norristown. Parent of NASD student. Currently enrolled as education major at Harkum College.


MONTGOMERY COUNTY COMMISSIONERS (vote for 2)

Josh Shapiro - Currently a County Commissioner. Also serves as chairman of the PA Commission on Crime & Delinquency. Previous was a State Representative. Lives in Abington Township.

Steve Tolbert, Jr. - Teaches Economics and Finance at St. Joe's University. Serves in the US Army Reserve--is a veteran of the Iraq War (2007-08). Resides in West Norriton Township.

Val Arkoosh - Currently serving as Commissioner, though appointed, not elected, filling the seat Leslie Richards vacated to serve on the PA cabinet. No information on her website other than that she's a doctor. Lives in Springfield Township.

Joseph Gale - Works as a loan specialist in the housing industry. Has worked in the County Recorder of Deeds office. Youngest candidate at 25. Lives in Lansdale.


COURT OF COMMON PLEAS JUDGE (vote for 3). These are the judges at our Courthouse who hear most criminal and civil cases.

Rise Vetri Ferman - Montgomery County District Attorney since 2008. Born in Philadelphia. Grew up in Abington and still lives there. Worked as a prosecutor the last 22 years.

Dan Clifford - Trial lawyer. Family law litigator for more than 30 years. Appeared before Common Pleas judges in 13 counties (including each of the 20 judges on the Montgomery County bench) and on appeals before the Superior Court of Pennsylvania. Lives in Springfield Township. 

Stephen Heckman - Chief Public Defender of Montgomery County for 4 years until 2012, Assistant Public Defender for 13 years before that. Currently a litigator in his own law firm. Lives in Upper Dublin.

Natasha Taylor-Smith - Trial attorney for almost 20 years. Currently representing the county in contract and real estate issues. Philadelphia native. Resident of Cheltenham.

Todd Eisenberg - Lives in Lower Moreland. Instructor of trial advocacy for Temple and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy. Works in a voluntary capacity for the Montgomery County Child Advocacy Project, representing children in PFA hearings, dependency matters and as a witness in criminal cases.

Gregory Cirillo - From Lower Merion. A lot of sentences on his Facebook bio, but "litigator of complex legal cases" and "court of Common Pleas arbitrator" were as specific as I could find. He seems to have no website so the link is for his Facebook page.

JUDGE OF SUPREME COURT OF PA (vote for 3). These judges mainly do appeals. The positions are usually filled by judges who have served on lower courts.

Anne Covey - Currently a judge on the Commonwealth Court. Office is in Doylestown.

Mike George - Currently the President Judge of the Adams County Court of Common Pleas. Lives near  Gettysburg.

Judy Olson - Superior Court Judge since 2009. From Pittsburgh area.

David Wecht - Superior Court Judge since 2012. Court of Common Pleas before that since 2003. From Pittsburgh.

Christine Donahue - Superior Court Judge since 2007. From Pittsburgh. 

Kevin Dougherty - Currently Administrative Judge in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas.



Hope that helps. I'll try to list some more of the candidates here before Tuesday's election.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Every Election Counts

Why should you vote on November 3rd? Usually off-year elections are poorly attended because no one cares who ends up as, say, Register of Wills.

The two candidates running for this office are D. Bruce Hanes and Sharon Valentine-Thomas.

Hanes is the incumbent. He made national news when he issued marriage licenses to same-sex couples in 2013, arguing that "his oath to uphold the state’s constitution required him to issue the licenses given that the constitution guarantees equal treatment under the law."

Valentine-Thomas has stated that she "will not personally issue any same sex marriage licenses" if she wins the race. She stated that "she will seek court permission to allow the licenses to be issued by a subordinate." She apparently doesn't think the state constitution applies to her.

I have to wonder if she'd only limit her refusal to perform her duties to marriage licenses. If one partner in a same-sex marriage dies and the other comes in to register the estate, will Thomas refuse to sign those papers, too? And each time that estate executor/administrator comes back in for more forms (I had to go in 3 times for my dad's estate), will he or she be subject to discrimination over and over? Will Thomas refuse to sign documents for people of other religions different from hers since she seems to think her religion gives her a right not to perform her duties. What if Jews want to get married, or Muslims, or atheists?

My feeling is that if you want to be hired for ANY position, you ought to willing to perform ALL the duties of that position. If not, go look for another job. We taxpayers have enough problems with elected officials who refuse to work. For instance, the US House of Representatives.

So I'm endorsing Mr. Hanes. If Ms. Thomas DOES get elected, I'll be starting a petition to dock her pay for the work she refuses to do.

It may seem like a boring local election, but you never know who might get into office simply because voters didn't care and didn't show up. A little county job like Register of Wills might seem unimportant compared to voting for President, but when you walk into one of those County offices, you may be the one discriminated against next.

Please get out and vote next Tuesday. To find out where to vote and see your sample ballot, go to this link.