John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
Open Records/Transparency Category

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

My Supervisor Activity Log for December 2019: Toll Bros, Savvy Citizen, more...

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for December, 2019. I spent 34.8 hours in December 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 December 2019, I spent 2.2 hours attending required meetings (there was only one BOS meeting) and 5.4 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 December, 2019, I attended meetings of the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB Definition) and the Human Relations Commission (HRC).

In December, I spent 9.8 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.

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 December 2019, I spent 9.3 hours (27% 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. 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, 01:38 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

(UNOFFICIAL) 2019 Voting Record of Newtown Supervisors

I've been keeping track of how Newtown Township supervisors voted on motions before the Board. The following is the voting record for 2019 based on the approved minutes of meetings.

NOTE: This is NOT an official record of votes. Some very minor motions, such as to approve minutes, bills lists, etc., are not included. Please refer to the BOS meeting minutes for the official voting record of each meeting.

Download a PDF version here.

Posted on 14 Dec 2019, 12:57 - Category: Open Records/Transparency

My Supervisor Activity Log for November 2019: 2020 Budget, Durham Road Development, more...

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for November, 2019. I spent 40.2 hours in November on official Supervisor business. That's just about the average per month for 2019 to date.

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 November 2019, I spent 7.3 hours attending required meetings and 4.8 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 non-public executive sessions. Optional meetings include public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. In November, 2019, I attended meetings of the Zoning Hearing Board (ZHB Definition), Planning Commission, Human Relations Commission (HRC) and the Newtown Fire Association (NFA).

In November, I spent a considerable amount of time (17.3 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. I spent about 5 hours reviewing the preliminary 2020 budget and 2 hours preparing a summary of my Newtown Creek Bridge Proposal Survey (download a copy here).

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 November 2019, I spent 3.0 hours (8% 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. 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 02 Dec 2019, 12:46 - 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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