John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Steve Bacher Supports Teachers, Not Guns

[The following is an email message I received from Steve Bacher, candidate for U.S. Congress in District 1 (Bucks County). I thought is worth publishing here.]

I take a slefie with Steve Bacher

On Sunday, the Bucks County Courier Times published two opinion pieces on gun safety: one from its Editorial Board and one from Bucks County resident Jaclyn E. Miller. Ms. Miller called for Congress to pass gun safety legislation, including “stricter laws for the sale of fire-arms, background checks for mental health, longer wait periods, and the banning of assault weapons.” The Courier Times called for reducing the number of teachers or administrators at each school to pay for armed security guards (see below).

Before I get into gun safety, a brief word about student-teacher ratios: Everyone with a child in public school today knows that classes are too large. We need more teachers, with fewer children in each class, to enable more personal attention to the individual needs of each student. Cutting teachers to pay for security is not an option.

We need to make it more difficult for people to obtain military-style weapons, such as the AR-15, which was used in so many school killings. I don’t want our schools to be treated like war zones, with soldiers holding military weapons guarding them. I want safe neighborhoods, where guns are kept locked in safes in their licensed, trained, owners’ homes.

Some schools do need to improve their security systems, and these should be paid for with a special tax on gun and ammunition sales, not by stealing from existing school budgets.

Adding armed security officers is a non-solution. Parkland had a security officer. How many teachers and administrators does the Courier Times propose we eliminate so we can have multiple guards at every entrance? Their policy will lead to schools that feel like prisons and have even larger class sizes.

Even if we could fund high quality perimeter security without stealing from school education budgets, that would do nothing for the safety at nightclubs, concerts, movies, workplaces, or churches. All have been targeted by gun violence.

Most of the time, no “good guy with a gun” is able to protect us from a bad guy with a gun. That’s just a marketing slogan by the NRA to help their masters, the gun industry, sell more guns. Ronald Reagan was surrounded with armed Secret Service and police officers when he was shot. He, James Brady, Tim McCarthy, and Thomas Delahanty were all shot while surrounded by "good guys with guns."

We must stop sacrificing our children and other fellow citizens on the altar of the Second Amendment. Sensible gun reform could protect us. The United States is the only country not at war where thousands of people die every year due to gun violence. It needs to stop. Turning our schools, night clubs, churches, and public spaces into armed camps is not a solution. Only sensible gun reform is.

[Please chip in with five dollars here to help Steve get the message out that the people of Pennsylvania’s 1st Congressional District want sensible gun safety legislation now. Feel free to forward this message to five friends.]

Posted on 05 Apr 2018, 01:31 - Category: Voting

Summary of March 14, 2018 BOS Meeting

You May not have the time to download and read the entire minutes from the biweekly meetings of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), or the approved minutes may not yet be available on the Township website (here), so I created this summary from the March 14, 2018, meeting. I also included some links to related information including video clips from meetings. I'll do the same for future meetings. This is not a complete list of items discussed.

Topic Excerpts from BOS Mar 14 2018 Minutes
Crime Crime Statistics: Chief Pasqualini reviewed the police report for February 2018: There were 1,187 calls - 204 of which were handled in Wrightstown. Included in the report there were 72 traffic citations, 1 sex offense, 9 DUIs, 3 domestic relations, 6 narcotics - 1 using Narcan, 104 medical emergencies, 25 property damage and 32 accidents. Chief asked the community to call 215-598-7121 with nonemergency situations and added that the anonymous tip line is 215-504-2201. Mr. Mack questioned the February use of Narcan and mentioned that he has read that Narcan is being blamed for overdosing and deaths. Chief stated that Narcan is a tool that saves lives and that he isn’t aware of any incidents where users feel confident that if they overdose Narcan will quickly be available, but it could happen. View this video: "Newtown Police Chief Pasqualini Supports Narcan Use".
Environment Underground Storage Tanks: Mr. Ferguson added that authorization to advertise for bids for the removal of two underground storage tanks, the pump island, all piping, and contamination testing per the Pa-DEP. The cost is included in the 2018 budget. Mrs. Dix made a motion to approve the underground storage tanks removal project. Ms. Bobrin seconded.
Motion Discussion: Mrs. Dix noted that this was one of the items cut from the budget that Mr. Couch noted earlier. Having this project completed under the request of the DEP and will save the Township from attaining penalties and fines from deferring the project any longer. Mr. Davis stated that it was believed that the project could have waited until the Township had the money rather than raise taxes, but it was overruled this year and was included in the 2018 budget. The motion passed 5-0.
Good Government National Sunshine Week: Mr. Mack stated that it was National Sunshine Week regarding the Sunshine Act and the right to know about public document access. He held an online quiz regarding this topic and with 55 people responding, the average score was 50% (see more results here). An example question asked if you could record a public meeting with your cell phone. The answer was that you have the right to record the meeting with your cell. Some public meetings that are not televised can also be recorded (i.e. a zoning board hearing). The Right-To-Know Law allows a person to receive a transcript or recording of a meeting within five days of the request. Requests can be made using a form available on the Township website and submitted to Mr. Lewis, Open Records Officer.
Public Health Oil & Gas Drilling/Fracking: Mrs. Dix commented that the Jointure [Newtown, Wrightstown, Upper Makefield] had a meeting on March 1 regarding the gas and drilling ordinance options which was attended by Mr. Mack, Ms. Bobrin and herself. Special counsel Jordan Yeager, Esq., reviewed options and Mrs. Davis asked that the topic be included on the next Board of Supervisor’s Work Session on March 19, 2018 (listen to this podcast: "Newtown Supervisors Discuss Possible Ant-Fracking Ordinance")
Public Works Roadway Improvement: The bids for the road program were received and analyzed by the Township Engineer. Due to deficiencies with the bids, and it was recommended to reject all bids and re-bid the 2018 Road Program. Mrs. Dix made the motion to advertise the ordinance. Ms. Bobrin seconded.
Motion Discussion: Mr. Mack asked about delays in paving. Mr. Ferguson stated that it would move paving from the spring to the fall. (See this blog post and video: "Faulty Bids Cause Delay in 2018 Road Improvement Program"). The motion passed 5-0.
Traffic Frost Lane: Mr. Ferguson stated there have been residents reporting cut-through traffic and speeding. The “Stealth Stat” will be used to counts cars, and determine average and highest speed, etc. It concludes that traffic speed needs to be enforced. For example: Linton Hill Road the Stealth Stat was done and the speed averaged 10 MPH higher than the posted speed. A blinking speed estimator sign was put out and about 6-8 months after the blinking speed sign was removed, the Stealth Stat stated that the average speed was a couple MPH under the posted speed limit. This exercise will be completed on Frost Lane in the future (read "Frost Lane Traffic Study")

Posted on 29 Mar 2018, 13:43 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes

Newtown Township Supports a Complete & Permanent Ban on Fracking and Related Activities

At a March 28, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors approved Resolution 2018-R-11, which calls upon the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to “enact a complete and permanent ban on natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing and all related activities (including drilling, fracking, wastewater processing and discharges from and water withdrawals for drilling and fracking operations) throughout the basin.”

The DRBC is a federal/interstate government agency responsible for managing the water resources within the Delaware River Basin without regard to political boundaries. Although the Commission proposes to extend its ban on high volume hydraulic fracturing in hydrocarbon bearing rock formations within the Delaware River Basin, it also proposes rules to address the inter-basin transfer of water and wastewater related to hydraulic fracturing; i.e., it would allow such fracking-related activities.

The resolution includes 10 scientific citations as support of the “significant evidence that shale gas development, and its related operations which include all the phases of the fracking process … has adverse effects on public health, property interests, agriculture and on our air, water, and land.”

Board member Kyle Davis opposed the Resolution saying he doesn’t believe the Board “has done enough vetting of these citations to put our signatures on it. If we could take these citations out, I’m a definite ‘yes’ on this resolution,” Davis said.

Sharon Furlong, spokesperson for the Bucks Environmental Action Group and for Bucks County Sierra Club, in comments before the Board, spoke in support of the resolution and urged that it be passed with all the citations remaining. “They are there in order to allow people to go to the source material themselves and make up their own minds,” said Furlong. She also said, however, that “many of them are not readily accessible for people to understand.” She suggested that many have been properly vetted by the Wall Street Journal and other media (see a video clip of her comments below).

In an online survey that I hosted, 67% of respondents favored the resolution, whereas 10% said do nothing. 15% thought that Newtown should pass an ordinance (law) banning fracking. NOTE: A resolution just states a position or policy - it is not a law. See the chart below for a summary of responses.

Survey Results. N=39. This is not a Newtown township approved survey.

“Lawful and properly regulated Fracking has provided a huge boost to Pennsylvania’s economy and US’s energy independence!,” said one anonymous respondent. “Do it right and we all benefit!”

“People are generally against fracking but it's hard to determine what the ramifications of a change would be,” said Jan Filios, a resident of Newtown and a representative of Bucks Environmental Action.

The Newtown anti-fracking resolution will be submitted as a comment posted online at the DRBC website, here. Citizens are also encouraged to submit their comments: simply state your objections to hydraulic fracking and all related activities. The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. March 30.

Posted on 29 Mar 2018, 10:23 - Category: Environment

Faulty Bids Cause Delay in 2018 Road Improvement Program

At the March 14, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting, Township Solicitor David Sander advised the Board to reject all bids due to "deficiencies" and to re-bid the 2018 road improvement project.

Township Manager Kurt Ferguson confirmed that this would result in a delay and repaving of approximately 2.8 miles of roads will not be complete until the fall.

The following is the list of roads that was presented at the October 16, 2017, BOS meeting (for details, read "Budget Calls for 2.8 Miles of Roads to Be Repaved").

According to the public "Notice to Bidders" published in the Bucks County Courier Times today (March 20, 2018) and shown on the left, bids from contractors can be submitted not later than April 19, 2018, at 10:00 AM, at which time they will be opened and read aloud at the Newtown Township Administrative Building at 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940.

There will be a non-mandatory pre-bid meeting on April 10, 2018 at 10:00 AM. This would be a good opportunity for bidders to make sure they include all the necessary information when submitting bids.

Needless to say, this may be a big disappointment to residents in the neighborhoods where repaving was scheduled.

I am certainly disappointed. I have pushed for the re-pavement of Everett Drive in Country Bend long before I was elected Supervisor!

It also is problematic considering that many contractors may have commitments that prevent them from bidding on this project or the new bids may be substantially higher than the the rejected ones. 

Posted on 20 Mar 2018, 01:10 - Category: Roads

Summary of February 28, 2018 BOS Meeting

You May not have the time to download and read the entire minutes from the biweekly meetings of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), or the approved minutes may not yet be available on the Township website (here), so I created this summary from the February 28, 2018, meeting. I also included some links to related information including video clips from meetings. I'll do the same for future meetings.

Topic Excerpts from BOS Feb 28 2018 Minutes
Development At the previous Board of Supervisor meeting, the Board approved the conditional use application of Nina’s Waffles and Ice Cream, 2905 S. Eagle Road, with conditions. The Board is requested to approve the conditions. Mrs. Dix moved to approve the conditions. Ms. Bobrin seconded and the motion was passed 5-0.
Development Pickering Manor: Proposed is an 18,000+ sq. ft. addition to the main property, expanding parking area, and underground water seepage bed. The applicant will comply with the Township engineer review letter issues, however, waivers were reviewed at the Planning Commission meeting. Concerns of the residents were storm water runoff, truck deliveries, and overall operating noise and traffic. It was recommended that the times for food supply deliveries be made in a smaller truck and be moved to a more appropriate time. The executive director of Pickering Manor urged neighbors to contact her to discuss any issues they may have.
Development Villas of Newtown: Authorization is sought to sign the Release of Claims regarding the unauthorized removal of a birch tree by the developer of The Villas at Newtown. Mrs. Dix made a motion to approve. Ms. Bobrin seconded, and the motion passed 5-0. Read "McGrath, Developer of Villa at Newtown, To Pay Newtown Twp $25K For Surreptitiously and Illegally Cutting Down Valuable Beech Tree".
Public Safety Police Dept Reorganization: Authorization is sought to advertise an Ordinance amending the Newtown Administrative Code of 2000, as amended, to provide for two Lieutenants within the Newtown Police Department. No new personnel are proposed. Mrs. Dix made a motion to approve. Ms. Bobrin seconded, and the motion passed 5-0.
Public Safety Active Shooter Plan: Mr. Ferguson reported on the Township’s emergency operation plan for facilities. The first training of staff was directed by Sgt. Lupinetti and a second training session is being planned. Mr. Ferguson stated that plans are being developed for off-hours when training classes and Township meetings are being held.
Public Safety Parks and Recreation: Mr. Calabro requested the Solicitor to review the ordinance regarding people to carry weapons in the Township parks; it was mandated by the State legislature. He believes the Townships can reverse this. Mr. Calabro went on to state that the Township has seven schools and a few colleges. It is the intent of the Township to keep everyone safe, and not intending to impinge of the Second Amendment, but to ban anyone carrying a concealed weapon in the parks. Ms. Geiser will research if it can be done.
Permits Irish Festival: Cherie Peters of Newtown Borough asked if the Board had made a decision regarding the length of the Irish Festival. Mr. Calabro stated that a 2-day permit would be issued for the outdoor festivities with the setup of tents on Thursday and take down on Sunday. There will be a 5K run on Saturday morning; participants will park at Veterans Park and a shuttle will provide transportation to the event. View video: "Green Parrot Irish Festival 2018 Pro and Con Debate"
Parks and Recreation Trails: Mr. Lewis reported on the DCNR application. Two more grants became available and it will be decided what is the best way for the Township to go. These grants will be for the Lower Dolington Trail. The two new grants are from the Department of Economic Development.


Posted on 19 Mar 2018, 01:47 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes

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