inside sources print logo
Get up to date Delaware Valley news in your inbox

Delco GOP Candidates Hold Town Hall on Crime in Upper Darby

A new Franklin & Marshall poll shows that the third most important issue for Pennsylvanians is crime.

Republican candidates running for Delaware County and Upper Darby offices held a town hall meeting at American Legion Post 214 about crime Wednesday evening. About 65 residents attended, although several complained about landlord/tenant issues, saying the township is not enforcing its codes against absentee “slum lords.”

Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski, who is running for district attorney against incumbent DA Jack Stollsteimer, spoke first.

“I’m pretty passionate about championing the rights of individuals who need support, who are underprivileged, under-served. I’m incredibly passionate about that. That’s what I’ve done my entire career,” said Stefanide-Miscichowski.

“Crime is up in Delaware County for (2022) the last full year 25.5 percent,” she said. For 2023, crime is “on a trajectory to be even higher.”

And “Upper Darby is seeing a rise in crime. They’re specifically seeing a rise in murder and nonnegligent manslaughter cases,” Stefanide-Miscichowski said.  “Your five-year average for murder and nonnegligent manslaughter is four. You’re on track for 2023 to double that rate…But you’ve had a 75 percent uptick in murders in the last five years. If that isn’t bad enough, you’re actually on track to have a higher per capita murder rate than the city of Philadelphia.”

Council President Brian Burke talks to Derrick Neal.

Council President Brian Burke, who is running for mayor, said all 11 council members voted on ordinances to put $13.5 million of federal ARPA funds to work. But Mayor Barbarann Keffer refuses to release the checks for much-needed projects, such as firehouse repairs, hiring new police officers and “we need police officers on the street.  We need police officers around our schools.”

“It’s very dangerous,” said Burke. “Two months ago, I was in the Secane area speaking to a young student who was shot. He blew us all away. He talked to us for 10 minutes. He was shot in the head. His friends were scared of the school.”

“Two weeks ago, at the bottom of the hill at 69th Street, a young man grabbed me and started talking to me. He wants metal detectors. He wants infrared. He wants K-9 dogs in our schools. It’s dangerous for these children to go to school in the middle school.”

“What happens today, if a 13-year-old shoots a 13-year-old for a pair of sneakers, where do they go? Nine hours in the police department, and then they’re released (because the county no longer has a juvenile detention center).”

“Our police officers do not have the tools to do their jobs,” said Burke. “My main concern is public safety. My second is recreation. We need places for our kids to go (and) for students to go after school. The school district and the township need to work together.”

Tina Hamilton, who runs Recovery Without Barriers, is campaigning for a council-at-large seat.  She said the police need to send addicts to her organization to get help.  And if there is a code blue for cold weather, they have beds for them.

“We can get help for the people who need it,” she said. “We can change lives, and we can change everybody’s by doing it.”

Jeff Jones, an Upper Darby resident running for county Council, said he’s helped Hamilton in her work over the years.

County Council candidate Jeff Jones speaks to a resident.

“County Council is ultimately the infrastructure that supports our communities,” said Jones. “Remember, we’ve moved to Delaware County, to Upper Darby, because we wanted to build a legacy. The schools at the time were good…Today, that legacy, that quality of life we saw, is diminished by reckless behavior.”

“The county government decided it would take over the prison. In that process, the DA’s office implemented its system of offering people not to go to jail by not prosecuting certain crimes…What I do believe in is a prison system that first and foremost protects its employees, the folks charged with keeping us safe, keeping those incarcerated safe and healthy.”

Corrections officers have said, “‘We don’t feel safe,’” he said. Jones said there should be a penalty and rehabilitation while someone is behind bars.

“What matters is service to the community and the people who live here,” he said.

After the candidates’ remarks, residents spoke up.

“I’m speaking with a passion now at the town hall,” said Rich Blye, commander of the Sons of the American Legion. “These problems started happening with our youth because you took away PAL (Police Athletic League).  The kids have no place to go. They started being book-bagged with the drugs. They started filling them with drugs, OK?”

“We have a turnstile type of justice,” Blye said. “Because I’m a father with a murdered son, so I know what I’m talking about…We need the PAL back…We need the district attorney’s office to help…We need all functions of the government to help.”

Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski at the Upper Darby town hall.

“Looking at the crime map, it’s coming this way,” said Andrea Mathis. “Businesses are not keeping up…look at the amount of trash and overflowing dumpsters. That draws the crime. That’s beyond blight. We have an ‘F’ rating for crime. That’s deplorable…We don’t have police officers patrolling on foot. We’re short-staffed…We don’t have the tools to address the dysfunction that is happening…We have a lot of renters (who) don’t keep up their property. They may bring in 10 others to help them (pay the) rent. It’s just out of hand. And nobody’s paying attention.”

Burke said that he’d called the code enforcement officers on her behalf. And Upper Darby Council directed ARPA money for streetscaping, but the mayor did not release it.”

He agreed that landlords need to be held accountable.

Hamilton said more oversight is needed to clean up the problems with negligent landlords.

“You should be able to reach out to a council member, and I promise you can reach out to me,” Hamilton said.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Upper Darby Mayoral Candidate Bows Out of Debate

A League of Women Voters forum for Upper Darby mayoral candidates Ed Brown and Brian Burke scheduled for Tuesday was canceled after Brown backed out.

Brown, the Democrat now serving as president of the Upper Darby School Board, posted a message on his Facebook account saying he would not participate.

Oddly, while saying he had pledged “to run a purely positive campaign,” he called Burke a liar in his post.

“After much deliberation, I’ve decided not to participate in a debate with my opponent,” Brown wrote. “My opponent has launched his campaign with lies and conspiracies about my record, accomplishments, and vision for Upper Darby.

Edward Brown

“A debate is supposed to be a discussion and sharing of plans and ideas, but I will not legitimize my opponent or inadvertently dignify nastiness and pettiness by wasting time responding to it. Instead, I’m going to keep doing what I’ve been doing, which is sharing my positive message for our community directly with voters,” Brown said.

Burke said he has been campaigning hard, knocking on doors to talk to voters.

Burke said the two main issues on voters’ minds are crime and problems with the education system.

Burke, now serving as council president and councilman at large, is a lifelong Upper Darby resident and has worked in the township since 1997. Burke followed in his father’s footsteps into politics and is focused on enacting positive change as a councilman.

Burke is a State Local 420 Steamfitter and previously served on the St. Dorothy’s Athletic Association board. He serves as the vice president of the Aronimink Swim Club. Burke lives in Upper Darby with his wife and three kids.

Burke made news when he changed his registration from Democrat to Republican due to problems and mismanagement of the township’s funds by Democratic officials.

The current mayor, Democrat Barbarann Keffer, is not running again after a DUI arrest. Another scandal that hit the Upper Darby government is the arrest of the former parking director, Sekela Coles, for allegedly stealing money from parking kiosks.

Brian Burke

The council had fired former township manager Vincent Rongione amid questions about how ARPA funds had been handled. The sweetheart deal Rongione secured was the last straw for Burke.

Brown was elected to the Upper Darby School Board in 2017. He has lived in the township for 24 years, holds an MBA from Drexel University, a master’s in network security from Capitol Technology University, and a project management certificate. He works for Lockheed Martin as a cybersecurity engineering manager. He is married with three children.

Brown has been active in the schools and the nonprofit Men of Action Brothers of Faith and served as its president.

Councilwoman Meaghan Wagner, executive director of the Delaware County Republican Party, said, “What Ed Brown calls deliberation, I call panic. After both campaigns agreed to debate, I was scheduled to attend the meeting to finalize the debate rules. What is clear about this whole debacle is that Ed Brown does not know how to defend his record at the school district at a public forum, nor can he legitimately excuse the mismanagement and corruption in the township administration. The fact is that school taxes continue to rise, academic performance continues to deteriorate, the district recently proposed doubling its debt obligations, and the superintendent himself issued a public cry for help to control the violence in our schools.

“If Brian Burke is wrong about Brown’s record, then you would think Brown would want to challenge him in public. In reality, he cannot refute the facts, so he has chosen to go into hiding. Let me be clear: Brian Burke will debate Ed Brown any time and any place, and, frankly, that is what the residents of a township spiraling out of control deserve,” said Wagner.

Upper Darby GOP Taps Brian Burke for Mayor Bid

The Upper Darby Republicans held a press conference on the township building steps Monday to announce Brian Burke as their candidate for mayor. Burke, now president of the Upper Darby Council, changed parties in March to run as a Republican.

Frank Agovino, Delaware County GOP chair, said Burke would work with other GOP team members for “commonsense principals” to bring fiscal stability and safe streets.

“Under dysfunctional Democratic rule, we’re on the verge of losing everything that is dear to us,” Agovino added. “Brian has stepped forward and will fight for a brighter future for us.”

Burke announced his party switch and candidacy following Mayor Barbarann Keffer, a Democrat, saying she would not run again after being charged with a DUI and going into rehab.

Burke said he loves Upper Darby and enjoys serving it.

“After four years of mismanagement and dysfunction by the mayor and her administration, a change is urgently needed,” Burke said. “As president of council, I’ve had a front-row seat of the administration’s mismanagement of basic operations and finance. I’ve been disappointed and frustrated by the administration’s hyper-partisan, overly political bunker mentality.”

For example, “Our police department has worked years without the contract they deserved, making daily sacrifices while politicians in the building made backroom deals for their own benefit,” said Burke. “After four years, we are less safe, less prosperous, and more unstable than at any time in our history. Politics is toxic. This administration has failed. Their constant drama is played out daily in the local press. Why else would a mayor decide not to seek re-election? Successful mayors are re-elected.

“And by the way, if you think the proposed alternative would be any better, just look at the current state of the Upper Darby School District. Again, less safe, less prosperous, and more unstable than at any time in its history.”

Burke referred to the endorsed Democratic candidate for mayor, Edward Brown, now serving as the Upper Darby School Board president.

Former councilman Tom Wagner also spoke.

“We now have a situation in this township; according to widespread news reports, some 18,000 parking tickets have been languishing in this building,” said Wagner. “Not being processed and sent to the courts where they belong, in danger of expiring. The town council has called for an audit of that situation.” But heard nothing for “weeks and weeks.”

“We need a change in the mayor’s office,” Wagner continued. “And we’ve got that change ready to go.” Burke is not interested in politics but interested in working “to get things done for Upper Darby,” Wagner claimed.

Burke has served on Upper Darby Council since 2019 when he was elected as a Democrat to an at-large seat. He has served as president of the township council since January 2022. Burke is a State Local 420 Steamfitter and previously served on the St. Dorothy’s Athletic Association board. He currently serves as vice president of the Aronimink Swim Club. He lives in Upper Darby with his wife and three kids.

Council Vice President Laura Wentz is also running for mayor as an unendorsed Democrat. She is running with a slate of two other unendorsed Democrats called “Democratic Candidates for Change in Upper Darby.”

Those candidates are Alfred E Means II for the 4th District Council seat and Jennifer Howell for Upper Darby School Board.

The primary is May 16. The last day to register to vote is May 1.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Upper Darby Council President Changes Party to Run for Mayor

Upper Darby Council President Brian Burke is running for mayor—as a Republican.

The former Democrat said that he is disappointed with the direction of the township administration, township finances, and the overall management of Upper Darby.

Burke told DVJournal that he is mainly concerned with the sweetheart deal former township manager Vince Rongione received when he left, believing it to be illegal. And Burke is also dismayed by the parking ticket scandal, where some 18,000 tickets remain unpaid, among other issues.

“This administration has mismanaged the operations and finances of Upper Darby government, including putting many people in leadership positions who do not possess the necessary qualifications and experience to lead the state’s 6th largest municipality,” said Burke. “The mismanagement has led Upper Darby to a critical crossroads. On one road, we continue down the path that this failed administration has led us, which will likely bring Upper Darby to financial ruin and continued dysfunction.

Council President Brian Burke

“Down the other road, we (can) create a thriving Upper Darby, where neighborhood businesses thrive, our schools bring out the best in our kids, and we feel safe no matter the time of day. That is the road I choose, and I am asking the citizens of Upper Darby to join me and support me down that road,” he said.

Burke added, “I decided to switch my registration from Democrat to Republican after watching in disbelief how the leaders of the Upper Darby Democratic Party have repeatedly endorsed the mismanagement and dysfunction of Mayor Keffer and her administration,” said Burke. “They have put blind allegiance to a political party’s interests, such as patronage and doling out lucrative township contracts at great expense to the taxpayer, ahead of our best interests.

“As president of council, I have a proven record of working with elected officials on both sides of the aisle who want to work for the common good of our township and residents, not for the interests of political party leaders. If elected Mayor, I pledge to put in place a bipartisan administration, a coalition government, that is staffed by highly qualified individuals who have one goal, to get our hometown back on the right track. Because it is going to take all of us to Save Upper Darby,” he said.

Keffer, the current mayor who has been away at rehab after being arrested for driving under the influence, announced via Zoom Wednesday that she is not running again. Democrat School Board President Edward Brown is running and is expected to be endorsed by the Upper Darby Democrats. However, neither Brown nor the township Democrat chair could be reached for comment.

Council Vice President Laura Wentz has also thrown her hat into the ring in the mayoral race, and remains a Democrat.

Wentz said she’s running “to bring a union activist’s determination to fight for everyone in Upper Darby Township. Now more than ever, we need elected officials who will stand up for all the people. We need a mayor who will work to revitalize our local economy, bring living wage jobs to our community, and improve our natural environment.

Laura Wentz

“Being truly transparent would require that the administration be communicative, open, and respectful to residents, business owners, and our council,” Wentz said.  “Whether it is about new ordinances, economic matters, or projects, my administration will be transparent.   I will insist that my administration demonstrate an attitude of fairness and equality for all in the township, no matter if they live here, work here, or have business here.  You can count on me remaining true to these principles to which I have been passionately committed for many years.”

Burke has served on Upper Darby Council since 2019, when he was elected as a Democrat to an at-large seat and has served as president of the township council since January 2022.

“I love Upper Darby. Our town is filled with many great people and unique neighborhoods, but over the past three years, I have grown increasingly concerned about the direction of our township government,” said Burke.

The Upper Darby Democrats blackballed Burke, Wentz, and Councilman Matt Silva after they voted with Republicans for Burke to be council president, Burke said.  The party officials promised never to endorse them.

Wentz said, “Improving the quality of life in Upper Darby is not a task for one person. It will take a village to improve the quality of life in this township.  It will take all of our hands to help,  all of our voices and all of our ideas to help create the best for our township.  This is not about accepting one person’s vision, but this is about realizing our shared vision. I pledge to work hard to accomplish these priorities and more if elected mayor of Upper Darby.”

Burke said he would be delighted to run against Wentz if the primary voters nominate her. The two remain friends, as well as colleagues.

“Upper Darby wins if it’s Laura or me,” said Burke.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or