John Mack - Newtown Supervisor
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Karen Downer, President of the Bucks County NAACP, Will Speak at NTHRC Meeting

At the February 17, 2021, Newtown Human Relations Commission (NTHRC) Zoom meeting, Karen Downer, President of the Bucks County NAACP, will speak to about her organization's approach to working with local police departments in Bucks County. As reported in the Bucks County Courier Times in September, 2020, Bensalem Police & NAACP Bucks County Teamed Up To Increase Training, Recruit Residents of Color, & Increase Transparency. Register to Attend.


In a unanimous vote Thursday, February 4,2021, the school board voted to approve a preliminary spending plan for the 2021-2022 school year.
 
Bill Stone, director of business administration, said the district is anticipating revenues of around $249.2 million and expenditures of $259.5 million, leaving a $10.3 million dollar budget deficit for next year.
 
Superintendent Robert Fraser emphasized that the preliminary budget is more of a rough draft than a final spending plan, as the school board can make revisions as needed before approval of the final budget in June.
 
"This is very, very early in the process, based on nothing more than broad strokes and assumptions at this point," Fraser said.
 
The preliminary budget assumes a 3 percent increase in the real estate tax, which makes up about 80 percent of the district's total local revenue.
 
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John Mack's Insights:
 
The current Council Rock RE tax millage is 126.301. A 3% increase amounts to an additional 3.79 mills. For a home with a market value of $400,000 and an assessed value of $43,600 (the approximate average home market/assessed value in Newtown Township in 2018) 3.79 mills equals a $165 increase per year.  
 
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At the February 3, 2021, Bucks County Commissioners meeting, Evan J. Stone, Executive Director of the Bucks County Planning Commission (BCPC), presented a summary of an Alternative Energy Ordinance that BCPC put forward as a model for Bucks County municipalities to use when adopting their own ordinances. Currently, only about 55% of Bucks County municipalities have some kind of alternative energy ordinances on the books.
 
More details including a 7.5 minute audio recording of Mr. Stones's presentation.
 
Download the Ordinance
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The Model Alternative Energy Ordinance was introduced as part of BCPC's January issue of our newsletter, Planning InSight and was electronically distributed to all 54 municipalities on  January 26, 2021.  
 
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Tiffany Thomas-Smith is hoping to make history as the first Black female judge to serve on the Bucks County Court of Common Pleas.
 
The Newtown attorney received her law degree from Howard Law School in 1996 and has been practicing family and criminal law in the Philadelphia region for more than two decades, first in the Philadelphia Public Defender's Office, then as a clerk for Judge Thomas Smith (no relation) in Mount Hawley, New Jersey and finally as the owner and managing partner of her own outfit, the Thomas Smith Firm, P.C. law firm in Newtown.
 
As for the court system, Thomas-Smith said she sees room for improvement. For one, there is the issue of diversity.
 
"The reality of it is there's been no African-American woman that has run for this position," Thomas-Smith said. "I think it's time for that, not because of the issue of race but for the recognition of diversity as an educational tool. The more we know about one another the better off we are as a community."
 
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Speaking of diversity, have you taken my SURVEY?:      
This survey was inspired by Mr. Frank McCarron, a Newtown Resident, at the January 13, 2021,  BOS meeting. Mr. McCarron made a case for increased diversity among Newtown Township's police officers. Currently, all 29 or so officers are white. Mr. McCarron suggested that all 3 officers that are planned to be hired in 2021 be officers of color. Listen to this 5-minute audio clip, which includes his comments and Police Chief John Hearn's response when asked by Supervisor David Oxley to respond.

The commissioner of the Pennsylvania State Police said Tuesday that his department began collecting data during traffic stops at the beginning of the year as part of a program to identify any racial or ethnic disparities and recommend remedies if they do exist.

“Regular and ongoing analysis by a neutral third party is a critical part of this program that emphasizes our department’s commitment to transparency and continuous improvement,” Col. Robert Evanchick said in a statement.
 
Evanchick said State Police will collect data for 30 fields, including driver and passenger ages, gender, race and ethnicity, as well the length of the stop, any searches and search results.
 
Data will be analyzed by University of Cincinnati researchers to determine patterns of racial or ethnic disparity any recommendations for changes to State Police policies or training.
 
A final statistical analysis report will be released in April 2022, police said.

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Danny Thomas, the executive director of the Bucks County Peace Center, will provide via Zoom an “Update on The Peace Center and Its Activities” on Sunday, February 14 at 9:45 a.m. during a meeting of the adult class of Newtown Quaker Meeting.
 
The Peace Center describes its mission as: “To educate, empower and support individuals and organizations in efforts to prevent violence, promote peaceful resolution of conflict and foster inclusive, equitable and safe communities locally, nationally and worldwide.
 
The Peace Center, located in Langhorne, Pennsylvania, has been working for community peace and social justice since 1982. Their programs are designed to help reduce violence and conflict in schools, homes and communities through a multicultural, community-based approach.
 
The Peace Center offers a wide variety of programs throughout Bucks County and environs and collaborates with over fifty Bucks County schools, faith communities, and organizations.
 
Programs include a variety of topics, including sessions on bullying, communication skills such as active listening as a means of de-escalating conflict, creative problem-solving, how to deal with disruptive behavior, and programs on respecting our differences and anger management.
 
For more information, visit http://www.newtownfriendsmeeting.org

With the mayoral seat in Newtown Borough up for grabs, a second resident has announced her candidacy in the November election.
 
Rebecca Bancroft, a 27-year resident of resident of Newtown, would become the borough's first female mayor if elected. She is running on the Democratic ticket with a focus on public safety, local businesses and rebuilding community ties.
 
She brings ten years of experience as a small business owner and as a business manager for several companies in Philadelphia, coupled with her volunteer work with Council Rock schools and Borough projects.
 
The current mayor, Charles F. Swartz III, a Republican, was elected in 2013 and re-elected in 2017. He announced last week that he would not seek re-election and endorsed Newtown Borough Constable John Burke, who is running on the Republican ticket.
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A former Newtown Borough councilman has announced he is running for Mayor of Newtown Borough in the upcoming 2021 election.
 
John Burke, 52, who currently serves as a constable for Newtown Borough, announced his candidacy Thursday.
 
Burke was elected to Newtown Borough Council in 2009 and served on the borough's Environmental Advisory Committee. He was elected constable in 2015.
 
As a manager of Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Burke said he will bring his experience in the private sector to find solutions to real-world challenges.
 
"My goal as Mayor is simple: bring common sense to our local government and achieve positive results on everyday issues ranging from improving our roads to providing for our police, firefighters and emergency responders, to ensuring our small businesses are able to survive and thrive," he said. "I know we can achieve great successes in our community if we all work as one for our community, and that is the effort I will lead as Mayor."

Several offensive emails were sent from a student's email account to high school students and staff members in the district.
 
In an email to Council Rock families, Superintendent Robert Fraser said the district has turned the matter over to local police.
 
"We are operating on extremely limited information at this time, and I ask everyone to reserve forming any conclusions until this matter can be fully investigated," Fraser said. "Regardless of the results of this investigation, I am sorry that many of you have received such an offensive email. The Council Rock School District takes this matter seriously, and we will keep you informed as we learn more."
 
The email, which was received by numerous students from both Council Rock high schools and by Council Rock staff members, was turned over to authorities out of concern that one or more student's email accounts was hacked and because the content of the email "possibly included anti-Semitic messaging," Fraser said.
 
"We treat anti-Semitic language and hate speech of any kind with the greatest seriousness, as it directly goes against our belief system as an inclusive school district," he said.

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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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