John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Open Records/Transparency Category

My Supervisor Activities: March Came in Like a Lion and COVID-19 Made It Go Out Like a Lamb!

In March 2020, I spent only 36 hours on official Supervisor business as COVID-19 forced the Township to cancel all meetings. Little did I know how prescient were my remarks a few weeks ago when I noted that March was coming in like a lion for us Supervisors and hoped it would go out like a lamb! [Read "February 2020: Another Busy Month! Marathon Toll Bros Hearing, LQBTQ+ Youth Get No Love, more...".] Compare that to an average of 63.5 hours per month for January and February - a 43% decline!

Log of Hours Spent on Official Business

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings
The height of each bar represents total hours spent on official business that day. This includes time spent at meetings. Blue indicates a required meeting was held that day, orange indicates it was a more-or-less optional meeting.
JZC = Joint Zoning Council, EAC = Environmental Advisory Council
After Newtown Township declared a public health emergency on March 13, all meetings were cancelled and there was not much for me to do as a Supervisor.

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.
Meetings

In March 2020, I spent 4.6 hours attending required BOS meetings and 5.9 hours attending "optional" meetings for a total of 10.5 hours.

Obviously, BOS meetings are the most important meetings - I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular twice-per-month public meetings (except in July and August and sometimes in December), and non-public executive sessions. Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. In March, 2020, I attended meetings of the Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition) and Environmental Advisory Council.

In March, I spent 10.8 hours preparing for required Board meetings. This includes downloading and reviewing documents, including the Bills List (invoices paid by the Township), minutes of previous meetings, and police report.

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In March 2020, I spent 4.8 hours (13% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 04 Apr 2020, 01:16 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

February 2020: Another Busy Month! Marathon Toll Bros Hearing, LQBTQ+ Youth Get No Love, more...

February 2020 was another busy month for me as Supervisor. It didn't help that it was leap year with one extra day thrown in!

In February, I spent nearly 59 hours on official Supervisor business that included attending a 4.5 hour marathon BOS session. Most of that session was devoted to a Toll Bros plan to build 45 homes on 152 acres off of Route 413 and Twinning Bridge Road.

Just before that hearing, Supervisors were handed a thick stack of "Exhibits" that included site plans, results of s flood plain study, stormwater management report, transportation impact assessment, review letters from our Township Engineer, etc. (see photo). It should be no surprise, therefore, that I did not read every document from end to end in that pile of exhibits! It just is not humanly possible.

The Toll Bros Exhibit Book!

I have to question how Supervisors can ask intelligent questions and make the right decision under such circumstances. In fact, in the end, NO decision was made! Now we have 45 days to deliberate (in closed session, BTW) and make a decision.

This came after a disappointing vote on my "Love is Love Day" resolution, which was shot down 3-2 (read "The Day That Newtown Township Failed to Show Love for LGBTQ+ Youth"). As a consequence, Bucks Equality Coalition, NAMI Bucks County PA, Dave Bria (Yardley Borough Council Chairperson, The Rainbow Room, and Rise Up Doylestown have posted a "Speak Out for Lgbtq+ Youth in Newtown PA!" meeting notice on Facebook. They are urging the public to show up at the March 11, 2020, BOS meeting and "speak OUT, to let these elected officials [Phil Calabro, Kyle Davis, and David Oxley] and the community know that they cannot quietly vote against LOVE and support for our LGBTQ+ youth, and then expect to get away with it. Their vote against this simple resolution of support sends a dangerous message to our LGBTQ+ youth AND to all youth."

March is coming in like a lion for us Supervisors! Hopefully it will go out like a lamb with less contentious topics to discuss!

Log of Hours Spent on Official Business

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.
Meetings

In February 2020, I spent 7.1 hours attending required meetings and 12.5 hours attending optional meetings for a total of 19.6 hours.

Obviously, BOS meetings are the most important meetings - I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular twice-per-month public meetings (except in July and August and sometimes in December), and non-public executive sessions. Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. In February, 2020, I attended meetings of the Joint Zoning Council (JZC Definition), Environmental Advisory Council, Planning Commission, Human Relations Commission (HRC), Newtown Fire Association (NFA) & the Annual Convention of the Bucks County Association of Township Officials (BACTO Definition).

 

In February, I spent 11.3 hours preparing for required Board meetings. This includes downloading and reviewing documents, including the Bills List (invoices paid by the Township), minutes of previous meetings, and police report.

The height of each bar represents total hours spent on official business that day. This includes time spent at meetings.
Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In February 2020, I spent 5.9 hours (10% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary
I find discussions with residents very helpful. Therefore, I'd like to make it a regular thing to meet with residents to discuss issues that are on the agenda of upcoming Board of Supervisors meetings. For more information about the next meeting, go here. Meanwhile, tell me what issues are most important to you by taking my short SURVEY.

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 05 Mar 2020, 13:14 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

A Very Busy January 2020: Tiny Houses, Old Navy, more...

January 2020 was my busiest month as a Newtown Supervisor since I began keeping a log of my activities in September, 2018. In January, I spent 68 hours on official Supervisor business despite missing one Board meeting due to the flu or whatever it was that knocked me out for several days.

Log of Hours Spent on Official Business

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.
Meetings

In Jan 2020, I spent 10.5 hours "attending" required meetings (this includes the 0.8 hours watching the recording of the January 8 meeting, which I missed due to sickness) and 15.1 hours in optional meetings.

Obviously, BOS meetings are the most important meetings - I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular twice-per-month public meetings (except in July and August and sometimes in December), and non-public executive sessions. Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. In January, 2020, I attended meetings of the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB Definition), Environmental Advisory Council, Sewer Authority, Finance Committee, Planning Commission, Technology & Communications, and the Human Relations Commission (HRC).

 

 

In January, I spent 7.9 hours preparing for required Board meetings. This includes downloading and reviewing documents, including the Bills List (invoices paid by the Township), minutes of previous meetings, and police report.

The height of each bar represents total hours spent on official business that day. This includes time spent at meetings.
Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In January 2020, I spent 10.0 hours (15% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary
I find discussions with residents very helpful. Therefore, I'd like to make it a regular thing to meet with residents to discuss issues that are on the agenda of upcoming Board of Supervisors meetings. For more information about the next meeting, go here. Meanwhile, tell me what issues are most important to you by taking my short SURVEY.

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Posted on 04 Feb 2020, 10:18 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

Open Records Requests Processed by Newtown Township in 2019

The Pennsylvania Right to Know (RTK) Law Definition, also known as the Pennsylvania Sunshine Law, is a series of laws designed to guarantee that the public has access to public records of governmental bodies in Pennsylvania.

Thanks to Open Records Officer Micah Lewis, aka, Township Manager, I was able to analyze the open records requests processed by Newtown Township in 2019.

NOTE: These data do NOT include open record requests submitted to the Newtown Police Department. More on that here.

In 2019, Newtown Township processed 83 Open Records Requests in compliance with the State’s Sunshine Law. That compares to 92 requests in 2018 (see here).

A total of 32 requests (39%) were from businesses/unions/Nonprofits.

The nonprofit organization Open The Books, which describes itself as a transparency group devoted to posting online all the disclosed spending of every level of government across the United States, made two requests for employee salary records, which were provided by the Township.

There were 44 requests from individuals (53% of the total). There was 1 request for records from the media (i.e., Bucks County Courier Times) for "Review files for Provco Wawa (ZHB/Sketch Plan)" and 6 requests from law firms (7% of the total). 

Requests That Were Denied

Only 11 requests (13% of the total) were "denied"; 7 because no records exist that comply with the request. There was no reason in the records for why the other 4 requests were denied, but one was for "All building permits since 1980," which is seems excessive. Two involved Wawa; one for the proposed "Amendment to the OR Ordinance sent to the BCPC" (Bucks County Planning Commission) and the other for a "Copy of Zoning Variance Application for Wawa," both of which are "drafts of a bill, resolution, regulation, statement of policy, management directive, ordinance or amendment thereto prepared by or for an agency" and therefore NOT public documents.

The fourth request that was "denied" for unspecified reasons was for "Information re:Agt w jointure participants." This was a request for the agreement between Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield that governs the JMZO. The requester notified me that although this request was initially denied becuase the information could not be found, but was subsequently found and sent to the requester.

Citizen's Guide to PA's Right-to-Know Law

Posted on 06 Jan 2020, 14:08 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

My Year (2019) as Newtown Supervisor

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for the entire year of 2019. In 2019 I spent, on average, 39.4 hours per month on official Supervisor business.

Log of Hours Spent on Official Business

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-related activities does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.
Meetings

In 2019, I spent a total of 56 hours attending required meetings and 63 hours in optional meetings for a total of 119 hours for the year or 10 hours per month.

Obviously, BOS meetings are the most important meetings - I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor*. These include regular twice-per-month public meetings (except in July and August and sometimes December), and non-public executive sessions. In 2019, I had a perfect attendance record for regular Board of Supervisors meetings and voted on every motion (refer to "The (UNOFFICIAL) 2019 Voting Record of Newtown Supervisors" for details of how I and other Supervisors voted). Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

How Much Are Supervisors Paid?

*Township supervisors are paid a yearly stipend set by ordinance and state law. The exact amount depends on the size of the township. Newtown Township supervisors receive $4,125 per year. If I had attended ONLY required meetings, that works out to nearly $90 per hour! But based on the actual number of hours I have worked on official business in 2019, I earned $9.32 per hour. That's more than the official $7.25 per hour minimum wage in PA!

This stipend hasn’t risen in nearly a quarter of a century, but could go up by as much as 68% under legislation moving in Pennsylvania’s Capitol. For Newtown the proposed stipend would rise to $6,915. However, municipalities would have to adopt an ordinance for any salary change to take effect. The higher salaries would only be raised after an incumbent stands for re-election or when their successor starts their term of office. One wrinkle: the board of supervisors may provide that a supervisor shall receive compensation on a per-meeting basis based on attendance of supervisors.

Considering that Supervisors already make considerably more than the PA minimum hourly wage, I would not support an increase in the Stipend unless the PA minimum wage was raised to at least $9.50 per hour!

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. These include meetings of the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB Definition), Planning Commission, Human Relations Commission (HRC), Human Relations Commission, Environmental Advisory Council, Parks and Recreation Board, Finance Committee and the Newtown Fire Association (NFA).

In 2019, I spent a considerable amount of time (131 total hours/11 hours per month) preparing for required Board meetings. This includes downloading and reviewing documents, including the Bills List (invoices paid by the Township), minutes of previous meetings, and police reports.

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In 2019, I spent more than 80 hours (17% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents.

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary
I find discussions with residents very helpful. Therefore, I'd like to make it a regular thing to meet with residents to discuss issues that are on the agenda of upcoming Board of Supervisors meetings. Meetings are usually the second Monday of the month at the Corner Bakery Cafe in Newtown from 2-3 PM. But check the  event calendar  as meeting dates and locations may vary.  Meanwhile, Tell me what issues are most important to you by taking my short SURVEY.

Posted on 06 Jan 2020, 10:07 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

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This site is paid for and approved by John Mack: john@johnmacknewtown.info
The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
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