John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Yardley Borough Votes to Advertise Local Anti-Discrimination Ordinance

At the February 6, 2018, Yardley Borough Council meeting, members unanimously (7-0) agreed to advertise a new Anti-Discrimination Ordinance. A final vote to adopt the ordinance will me made sometime in early March, 2018, at which time residents and businesses can submit comments prior to the vote. New Councilman David Bria introduced the ordinance.

The primary purpose of the ordinance is “to foster the employment of all individuals in accordance with their fullest capacities regardless of actual or perceived race, color, sex, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, familial status, marital status, age, veteran status, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to safeguard their right to obtain and hold employment without such discrimination, to assure equal opportunities to all individuals and to safeguard their rights to public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property.”

“The idea out there is that if the discrimination is related at all to the way someone identifies their sexual identity or gender identity, they would be protected,” he said. “It doesn’t matter how they identify but if it’s related to how ... we want to cast a broad net so there aren’t loopholes with this label or that label.”

Unlawful Acts under the ordinance includes:

  • Discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations or access to educational institutions is prohibited under this subpart.
  • Retaliation against any individual because such individual has opposed any practice forbidden by this [ordinance], or because such individual has made a charge, testified or assisted in any manner in any investigation, proceeding or hearing under this [ordinance].

It is not unlawful, however, for a religious corporation or association, “not supported in whole or in part by governmental appropriations, to refuse to hire or employ an individual on the basis of religion.”

Bria noted that there are no state or federal laws that already protect LGBTQ – “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer” - citizens. Pennsylvania’s Human Relations Act currently prohibits discrimination in housing and employment, but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity as protected categories. People who self-identify in these categories are not protected under federal laws like the Civil Rights Act either.

The proposed ordinance also prohibits “conversion therapy” of minors. Such therapy seeks to change an individual’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity or expression, and includes efforts to change behaviors and eliminate sexual or romantic attractions or feelings toward individuals of the same gender. The worst cases, according to Bria, are where young people are forced to stay in inpatient facilities and undergo shock therapy.

The proposed ordinance establishes a Human Relations Commission, which is charged with handling complaints and convening a “fact-finding” non-public conference concerning the dispute. If there is no resolution to the conflict, the Commission will convene a public hearing and may take additional action and remedies permitted under the Pennsylvania Human Rights Act.

Dave Bria Talks About Anti-discrimination Ordinances

In this podcast interview Bria discusses some of the reasons why he feels it is important for local Bucks County municipalities like Yardley Borough to enact anti discrimination laws.

Posted on 07 Feb 2018, 14:38 - Category: Ordinances



If You Believe Gerry Couch, I Have a Bridge to Sell You!

Former Newtown Township Supervisor Gerry Couch engaged in a despicable misrepresentation of the facts in order to undermine the trust in and respect for the new Board of Supervisors!

In a letter to the editor published in the February 5, 2018, issue of the Bucks Courier Times (BCCT), former Newtown Township Supervisor Gerry Couch accused Democrats on the current Board of Supervisors – yours truly included – of raising taxes by $1 million and claimed that “taxes are going up $168 for [the] average household” (see letter shown below).

First of all, Newtown is NOT “poised for a $1 million dollar tax increase” as Mr. Couch claims. Oh, yes, I forgot. According to the BCCT editors, the mistake was theirs. “Basically, all of our articles get looked over by an out-of-office copy desk,” a source inside the paper told me, “and in this case, someone unfamiliar with municipal government mistook "1-mill" for ‘$1 million’ and changed Mr. Couch's original letter before it went online.”

Really?! I find that hard to believe. Whatever!

The letter goes on to mention that taxes are “going up $168” for the average household. Only the owner of a house valued at $1.68 Million will see Newtown taxes “go up” $168 in 2018. As for the average Joe like me, whose house is valued at $340,000, the tax will “go up” $34! I could save two to six times that by switching to a different trash pickup company!

This is a particularly telling “mistake” because Mr. Couch is a financial planner and was the Assistant Treasurer while on the Board of Supervisors. So you would think he knows how to transform a 1-mill tax increase into a dollar amount for the average household.

The editors of BCCT should be ashamed of themselves to allow such an obviously fake number to be published. This "fake fact" should have been known to be incorrect based on a previously published article that included the correct data. This sloppy journalism has had consequences. It undermines the trust in and support of our local government, which has already received many phone calls from residents.

But the main culprite here is Mr. Couch, who I believe has engaged in a despicable misrepresentation of the facts. Maybe, however, Mr. Couch is not a purveyor of “fake facts” but simply does not know how to do grade school math. I don’t know which is worse.

The Courier Times Prints Two Corrections

In what must be a first, the Courier Times printed two corrections regarding this letter on two consecutive days! Talk about closing the barn door after the cows have left!

 

Posted on 07 Feb 2018, 07:35 - Category: Taxes



Supervisors Weigh in on Tax Increase

"It's never popular to raise taxes."

That’s how Newtown Township Supervisor Jen Dix prefaced her comments regarding the passage of the 2018 Budget at the January 24, 2018, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting.

The budget includes two new taxes: 0.55 mills for fire hydrant maintenance and 0.45 mills for the Newtown Ambulance Rescue Squad (read “Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding”). That brings the total millage to 4.5 for 2018.

The chart above compares the 2018 property tax millage of Newtown Township to several other local municipalities each of which - like Newtown - has a 1% Earned Income Tax (EIT).

“I think our goal going forward is to keep our property taxes as low as possible,” said Ms. Dix, “but also use common sense about how we are spending our money and investing in the community.”

Kyle Davis, who cast the single nay vote, commented that “we need to keep vigilant and fight extra hard to keep it were it is and not catch up with our neighbors.”

Speaking of catching up, Supervisor John Mack stated that he was “very appreciative of the fact that we are giving more money to the Newtown Ambulance Squad [NAS], which is something we really do need to do in order to catch up with our neighbors.” Evan Resnikoff, NAS Chief of Operations, said the Squad’s paramedics on average earn $3.75 per hour below market rate for Bucks County and EMTs average $4.00 per hour below market rate. Mack pointed out that NAS “must be competitive to survive. For me that’s a no-brainer.”

Putting a Bandaid on a Bullet Hole

Chairman Phil Calabro gave the audience a bit of a history lesson. “A budget does not go bad over night,” said Calabro. He pointed out that for the past eleven years the budget has been dwindling and at one point the reserve fund was almost empty. He spoke of assets that had to be sold to balance the budget even though the assets generated income every year. He spoke of occasions when the Township could not make payroll!

“For the past 10 or 12 years they [the previous Board majority members] have been putting a bandaid on a bullet hole!,” Calabro said. 

Calabro noted that by having dedicated taxes for the ambulance squad and fire hydrant fund, the Township will be getting back about $300,000 into the General Fund to be used for much needed projects and maintenance, such as the purchase of a new dump truck for snow plowing, repair of the Police station roof, upgrading Veterans Park, and other improvements.

“If we don’t stop the bleeding,” said Calabro, some day will be forced to “catch up” with other local municipalities with much higher Millage rates.

You can listen to all the comments made by Supervisors by viewing the video below:

Posted on 01 Feb 2018, 01:57 - Category: Budget



Alcohol Related Crimes Increased Dramatically In Newtown in 2017 vs 2016

District Judge Mick Petrucci calls underage drinking "the biggest issue that I believe we are facing within our Council Rock community."

As reported recently in Newtown Patch (here), District Judge Mick Petrucci said there are some “alarming trends within the community.” According to data provided by Petrucci, underage drinking cases that went through Newtown District Court “spiked by roughly 400 percent from 2016 to 2017.” DUI cases rose 20 percent over the same time period, he noted.

The District Court covers Newtown Township, Newtown Borough, Wrightstown Township and Upper Makefield. What about Newtown Township specifically? Do we see the same trends?

According to the Patch article, “Of the three police departments under his court's purview, Newtown Township had the biggest increase in criminal cases from 2016 to 2017.”

It should be noted that the Newtown Police Department serves both Newtown Township and Wrightstown (according to the 2018 budget, the township expects to receive nearly $700,000 from Wrightstown for providing police services).

Newtown Police Chief Henry Pasqualini reports COMBINED call data for both townships to the Newtown Board of Supervisors every month. His report on January 10, 2018, included data for 2017 and 2016 (see here). The following chart was prepared using that data, which includes calls for BOTH Newtown Township AND Wrightstown..

Upon my request, in the future Chief Pasqualini will include separate stats for Wrightstown in his reports to the Board of Supervisors. It will then be possible to calculate crime statistics specific for Newtown Township.

"We had a very busy year in 2017," Petrucci said. And one thing is for sure: in every case, lives are affected. "I take this very seriously," Petrucci said.

Posted on 31 Jan 2018, 11:49 - Category: Crime



Newtown Ambulance Squad Will Comply Fully with Health Disaster Emergency

Will Distribute Narcan as Needed to “At-Risk” Patients

On January 10, 2018, Governor Tom Wolf declared a 90-day health disaster emergency to deal with the opioid crisis (see here). The declaration allows EMS personnel to leave behind naloxone (tradename: Narcan) for “at-risk” patients who refuse to be hospitalized and EMS agencies that elect to do so must also provide the person with specific instructions to follow, as well as the package insert for directions on how to administer naloxone.

According to Evan Resnikoff, Chief of Operations for the Newtown Ambulance Squad (NAS), the type of naloxone NAS carries is in a form that is for healthcare provider use only and funding for naxolone packages suitable for consumer use was not available from the Commonwealth when the declaration first went into effect. Consequently, NAS stated that it would not participate in this program unless funding is available to purchase the proper dosage form of naloxone, which costs about $50 per dose retail.

Therefore, as a Newtown Supervisor, I was prepared to make a motion that the Township set aside a special fund for use by the Newtown Ambulance Squad to (1) purchase dosage forms of Narcan appropriate for use by laypeople when those doses are not available for free from other sources and (2) pay, as needed, for educational programs such as, but not limited to, training residents in the use of Narcan.

This would not have been unprecedented. Recall that at the January 10, 2018, Board of Supervisors meeting, Township Manager Kurt Ferguson stated that he could “administratively approve expenditure in the several thousand dollar range” to cover the cost of Narcan for the Police Department should Bucks County no longer supplied free Narcan to Department (see here).

Fortunately, funding became available and on January 24, 2018, Mr. Resnikoff informed the Newtown Board of Supervisors that his Squad will participate fully in PA's Health Emergency Declaration program and leave behind Narcan for at-risk patients who refuse to be hospitalized (see video below).


Posted on 30 Jan 2018, 14:17 - Category: First Responders



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