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Bucks County Mom Beat Shapiro in Court. Now She’s Fighting to Elect Mastriano.

Jamie Cohen Walker is the Bucks County mom who beat Attorney General Josh Shapiro in the state Supreme Court.

The Chalfont resident, a former certified reading specialist, is now a stay-at-home mom to her 16, 14, and 11-year-old children. During the COVID-19 classroom lockdowns, she was active in the Reopen Bucks movement to get kids back in school.

She says she is a politically moderate former Democrat, but she may be a model of the “mama bear” voter Republicans need to win in this year’s midterms.

“I’m Jewish. I was a Democrat. I would not be a Democrat now. I don’t think I could do it after seeing what they’ve done to our kids,” said Walker, a guest speaker at a recent rally for GOP gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano.

Political consultant Albert Eisenberg of RedStateBlue, said, “Suburban, college-educated women have been up for grabs since the GOP transitioned from the party of Romney to the party of Trump. But now the Republican Party is in its post-Trump era and many of these moms are returning to the fold.

“They are seeing de facto Democratic policies of absolute radicalism — people who genuinely believe parents should have no say in their child’s education, people who are still forcing toddlers to wear masks, which is completely inhumane,” said Eisenberg. “Adding to this sharp left turn of the Democrats is the skyrocketing cost of living and eroding value of a dollar due to the Democrats’ insane economic policies — and the suburbs are certainly coming back, in places, to the GOP this cycle.”

Since the 2021 school board elections brought a conservative majority to the Central Bucks School Board, Walker said she is not concerned that the board would agree to shut down the schools again in case another epidemic happens.

But if Shapiro is elected governor, that’s another story.

“If Josh Shapiro wins, could he shut down schools? Absolutely. The only thing that would shut down schools is a governor’s emergency. Our (school) board is really good now, so they would not shut down schools. And our health director would not shut down schools.

“But Josh Shapiro could shut down schools. Absolutely. He fought to keep them closed,” said Walker.

Walker is one of the right-to-know warriors battling the school district for information about how it made decisions about COVID-related closings and mask mandates and finding out through a trove of emails that the district had kowtowed to teachers’ union demands.

“I won my first right-to-know appeal in January 2021. The district said it would give me all the records except three emails and took me to court,” Walker said. “That was when (attorney) Chad Schmee reached out to me and said, ‘I can win these records for you.’”

After Walker won, Supt. Dr. John Kopicki “just up and disappeared,” said Walker.  “The superintendent of the largest district in Pennsylvania decided to leave in March 2021. As soon as he left, I received my emails.”

“We have a local health department,” said Walker. “Dr. David Damsker is our health director.  When you have a local health department, they determine the mitigation for something. Also, a mask is actually a modified quarantine.

She points to an “email that Dr. Damsker wrote to all (Bucks) superintendents telling them you don’t have to be hybrid,” said Walker. “Every child can be in school. You don’t have the authority to do this. They broke the law. They did not have the authority.

“And Dr. Damsker said if you’re wearing a mask (when exposed to someone with COVID), you don’t have to stay home and quarantine,” said Walker. “But our school district wasn’t doing that. Our school district was sending healthy kids home. That was against the law, too.

“No one ever wrote about it. No one ever questioned it. They kept 1,100 kids home that were considered contacts, and no one was getting sick. They weren’t consulting the health department. They were just doing it on their own,” she said. “I don’t think people understand what they did to children. They missed so much school,” she said.

“In June 2021, Dr. Damsker came to our school district and said the kids don’t have to wear masks anymore, and we’re going to treat COVID like the flu and move on from COVID. Well, a lot went down in August.”

On Aug. 31, 2021, former state Health Director Alison Beam required school students and staff to wear masks again.

“So Central Bucks already started, and everybody was normal, all the kids were back to school normal,” said Walker. “So they said on Sept. 7, all the kids had to start wearing masks again.”

Beam put the “illegal mask mandate in, and I joined a few other parents to sue Allison Beam. It was Josh Shapiro who defended it, his office. We won in Commonwealth Court,” she said, but then Shapiro appealed to the state Supreme Court. “And we won. We beat him in the Supreme Court.”

Then in December, Beam resigned.

“Our health director (Damsker) put out health guidance on Aug. 15, then Alison Beam and the teachers’ union pressured our county commissioners to change the health guidance, then nobody ever heard from our health director again.”

“It’s really bad what went on here,” she said. “Some of the Democratic people hated Dr. Damsker. There were Facebook groups about him, ‘Ditch Dr. Damsker.’ They did such horrible things to him.”

At the Mastriano rally, Walker said, “Here in Bucks County, we saw first-hand how Democrats were willing to use COVID-19 as a political tool to strip away our personal freedom and exert their will over us. We watched our health director was silenced by Democrat bosses when the Wolf administration did not agree with his health guidance. They interfered with our health director’s legal authority to set health guidance during a pandemic. We lived with the effect of that illegal interference for two painful years. A group of us parents stood in their way. We acted as the opposition to the Wolf administration’s mandates.

“We knew that keeping kids out of school would harm them, so we fought, and we fought extremely hard because the Democratic politicians and their allies, the teachers union, made us their enemy,” she said. The parents were called “domestic terrorists” and “jerks.”

“They weaponized the government against us,” Walker said.

Walker and another parent, Megan Brock, are in a legal battle with Bucks County over their right-to-know request about how the county issued its health directives, bypassing Damsker. The county sued the two moms to keep some of the commissioners’ emails private after Walker and Brock won an appeal to the state Office of Open Records.

“After decades of Republican control of Bucks County, these Democrat commissioners are the first Bucks County administration ever to sue a private citizen to hide their emails, their own words,” said Walker. “Those emails they’re trying to hide from us are about how Democrat politicians interfered with our children’s education.”

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Mastriano to Bucks County: Crime Surge on Shapiro’s Watch ‘Disqualifying’

Republican state Sen. Doug Mastriano unloaded both barrels on his Democratic opponent, Attorney General Josh Shapiro, over soaring crime in the Keystone State.

“On his watch as the senior law enforcement official in the state, crime has gone up 40 percent, that alone is disqualifying,” he told some 700 people at the Fuge in Warminster on Saturday afternoon. “He doesn’t want to talk about 1,000 or more carjackings in Philadelphia, a record number of homicides…and he is a complete, utter, and ridiculous failure.”

They can’t keep up  (with digging) the graves with the young people killed in the crossfire, mostly 15, 18-year-old kids,” Mastriano said.

Participants chanted “Doug for Guv.” Mastriano spoke without notes for about 45 minutes, making his case for why voters should elect him governor.

A 30-year Army veteran, he repeated the classic quote, “Old soldiers never die. They just fade away.”

“There’s no time for us to fade away,” he said. “Our country needs every one of us.”

Mastriano said he has offered to debate Shapiro and would allow him to “bring Donna Brazile,” but “he’s chicken.”

Shapiro has turned his back on “mostly women” who are being sex trafficked in the state, Mastriano charged. Instead, Shapiro sued the Little Sisters of the Poor, spending millions in taxpayers’ money to lose in the U.S. Supreme Court, and sued to keep kids in masks and businesses shut down. On his watch, nearly 10,000 criminals were released from jail.

Mastriano promised, “On day one, woke is broke.”

“Parents will have their powers back,” he continued. “There will be full school transparency…all the pornographic books will be pulled out. On day one and done, Critical Race Theory will be thrown out the window. And maybe bring back civics, the constitution, and Pennsylvania history.”

Mastriano said he was being attacked as not supporting women’s rights and called on his wife, Rebbie, to speak.

Sen. Doug Mastriano and his wife, Rebbie. (Courtesy Tom Sofield, editor/publisher Levittown/Now.com)

She said Republicans support a woman’s right to be born, to have baby formula, to have a say in her child’s education, raise a child in “a safe community where the government enforces the law, prosecutes crime, and doesn’t let criminals out early.”

“And we believe, as Pennsylvanians, that it’s a woman’s right to the Second Amendment,” she added, drawing loud cheers and applause.

“And we believe it’s a woman’s right to compete in sports that are not dominated by men,” said Rebbie, who also serves as Mastriano’s campaign manager. “They’re trying to cancel us. I know each and every one of you can define a woman and tell some of those in your neighborhood what a woman is. Ladies, we’re going to get out that vote like you’ve never seen before.”

Mastriano said boys in girls’ bathrooms threaten public safety. He backed a bill to ensure only girls and women play women’s sports. Gov. Tom Wolf (D) vetoed that bill, and Shapiro filed an amicus brief opposing Virginia’s efforts to keep boys out of girls’ restrooms and locker rooms.

While the Republican nominee trails in the polls, he told the crowd he is waging a grassroots campaign. Since the primary, he has been to all 67 counties, with Bucks, one of the original counties founded by William Penn, as the last.

Mastriano recalled Washington’s “daring raid” crossing the Delaware River from Bucks County to New Jersey, changing the course of the Revolutionary War. He told his supporters they would do the same and “beat back the Democrats and that far, extreme radial, dangerous policy vision they have for our state and nation. We just say no to Shapiro.”

“The Democrats haven’t changed much,” he said. “They don’t have an argument to stand on, so they call names.”

The Democrats are lying and “fearmongering,” he said. “It’s time to take the state back.”

The Democrats have a “laundry list” of things they do not want to talk about, like shutting down small businesses during COVID and the state deciding which could stay open.

“All the cabinet makers across Pennsylvania were shut down, except one. Wolf Industries,” he said. “You could go to strip clubs but not churches. Life under (Health Secretary Rachel) Levine and life under Shapiro.”

“I was in Germany behind the Iron Curtain in 1989 during the Cold War defending us from what the radical left is planning here,” he said. “The godlessness, the evil empire…The fight for freedom is still ongoing for our country, so our job is not done.”

“For our kids and grandkids, we have to win on the 8th of November,” he said. “Our motto is freedom.”

Conservative writer and commentator Jack Posobiec also spoke, saying he grew up in Norristown. He said when drugs flooded that small city, Shapiro was a Montgomery County commissioner and did nothing to help. Norristown has gotten so bad that Posobiec said he has never taken his two sons to see the street he grew up on.

“This (Democratic) cabal took from us, they took from our families, they want to destroy our families,” he said. “The only thing they care about is power.”

Mastriano’s message resonated with Eileen Storch of Newtown. She opposes boys in girls’ restrooms and biological boys competing in girls’ sports.

“That’s wrong,” she said.

David Fiori, Jr. of Yardley said Mastriano “makes a lot of good sense. He’s applying common sense to politics. He has great leadership skills. He relates to everybody. He understands what the stakes are, and he’s not afraid to face the issues of the day.”

A Montgomery Township woman who did not want to give her name said she supports Mastriano because of “schools, taxes, and the economy.”

Mastriano said he had spoken to 500 people in Chester County earlier in the day and had a second event with Gun Owners of America in Bucks County following the Fuge rally. Reports of the “early demise” of his campaign were utterly wrong, he said.

“You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

 

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Bucks Co. Commissioners ‘Break Ground’ on $1.8M Expansion of EOC, 911 Facility

From a press release

The Bucks County Commissioners today joined county emergency management officials to break ground on a $1.8 million modernization project at the county’s Emergency Services building in Ivyland.

Slated for completion next year, the enhancements will expand and update the existing Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to create a more efficient work environment optimized for modern disaster response.

“It became clear to all three commissioners early in the pandemic, when this building was ground zero for not just the disaster response, but also for a lot of our public messaging, that this facility badly needed some upgrades,” said county Commissioner Chair Bob Harvie. “Last summer’s flooding, tornadoes and hurricane only underscored that need.”

When activated, the EOC serves as the county’s emergency response nerve center during response and recovery from disasters – both natural and manmade – that require the mobilization and coordination of multiple emergency services, government and nonprofit agencies.

Changes to the facility will triple available meeting spaces and update technology, allowing multiple teams working on different aspects of a disaster response to meet and coordinate simultaneously – including with county 911, as well as outside agencies – without disruption to other efforts.

Planned improvements also include a press briefing room and a designated space for fielding and responding to public inquiry.

“In retrospect it seems obvious that we might need a dedicated space to brief the media and the public, or that more than one team might need a meeting space at one time,” Harvie added. “But unfortunately, that capacity was lacking under this facility’s existing design.”

Construction costs for the project are budgeted at $1.38 million. Technology and security upgrades are estimated to cost another $385,000. The county is paying for the improvements with federal COVID relief and Homeland Security funds.

The Board of Commissioners unanimously approved funding for construction during its May 18 public meeting.

“Each and every service our staff provides from this building is critical to keeping Bucks County safe,” said Emergency Services Director Audrey Kenny. “The Commissioners’ continued investment in us, and shared commitment to our cause empowers our Emergency Services and Emergency Management teams to be the best in the business.”

Construction is expected to last eight to 10 months, during which time the Emergency Operations Center will be housed within the Bucks County Health Department. To minimize disruption to 911 operations, the county’s emergency dispatchers will work out of an alternate facility in Doylestown.

The county has contracted with the following firms on this project: Holstein White, Inc. (Engineer); Matthew V. Piotrowski Architect, LLC (Architect); Magnum, Inc. (General Contractor); Palman Electric, Inc. (Electrical Contractor); Hirschberg Mechanical (Mechanical and Plumbing Contractor); Guy M. Cooper, Inc. (Fire Protection Contractor).

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GOP Voter Registration Guru Scott Presler Brings His Magic to Bucks County

Conservative activist Scott Presler is hoping to create an army of “professional voter registrars” in his likeness to bring thousands of new Republicans to the polls in the midterm elections in battleground states like Pennsylvania.

The son of a retired Navy captain said he has gotten so good at the gig that he has even done it from the comfort of a hot tub.

Presler was in Bucks County earlier this week hoping to help elect Republicans like Pennsylvania gubernatorial hopeful Doug Mastriano and U.S. Senate candidate Dr. Mehmet Oz.

Presler called Bucks County an “all-important bellwether” district that predicted presidential winners in past elections

“I’ve got the information, but I’m one human being,” Presler told the Delaware Valley Journal in an interview. “I want to create more Scott Preslers across the country. So my goal is, when I go out and knock with these members of the community, I want to teach them and train them for when I’m not here, so they can do the work without me.”

Presler’s first stop was the Doylestown Borough and Township Republican Club, followed by a speaking engagement before the Pennridge Area Republican Club in Perkasie.

Presler–dressed in a pink shirt, tight blue jeans, and cowboy boots–was quick to open up the voter-registration playbook with a few trade secrets for dozens of the area’s staunchest Republicans.

Part of his strategy centered on trolling prominent Democrats online.

Whenever President Joe Biden posts on his official White House Facebook page, Presler is quick to comment about how the Democrat’s failed “regressive policies” have hurt Americans.

“If you’re unhappy with Joe Biden, then please register to vote at your current address. I’m happy to assist any and all of you in registering to vote,” said Presler, showing volunteers an example of one of his boilerplate “anti-Biden” attacks that got him 480 “likes and hearts.”

It is a telltale sign to Presler that Americans are dissatisfied with Biden – and Democrats in general.

“That shouldn’t be happening. It should be angry faces,” he said. “I used Joe Biden’s White House Facebook page to register a new Republican voter. It’s so fun.”

Before deciding to enter into the realm of political activism, Presler was a dog walker. He remembers when, at age 24, he watched Barack Obama win re-election in 2012 and felt powerless. Then, in 2019, he was inspired to get involved by then-President Donald Trump’s criticism of Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat-and-rodent-infested mess” where no one wanted to live.

Those remarks propelled Presler to organize a cleanup of the city’s “most dangerous streets.” The event was a smashing success, with hundreds of volunteers helping pick up 12 tons of trash in a single day, Presler said.

He’s replicated the event in virtually every big city in America, from Atlanta to Philadelphia. And now he’s doing the same circuit again, this time focused on voter registration.

For his efforts, the Virginia-born political operative has been both praised and vilified as an “American Patriot” and a “nutty MAGA conspiracy theorist.”

He spoke at CPAC in 2021, and in the same stroke, found himself in the crosshairs of the Anti-Defamation League and Southern Poverty Law Center. Presler was slammed for serving as a top strategist for ACT for America, which the ADL and SPLC called one of the largest anti-Muslim hate groups in the U.S.

Presler’s speaking engagements in other cities have attracted counter-protestors and some have events been canceled. But not much of the criticism seems to phase Presler, who pushed back against the idea that he’s anti-Muslim by touting his support for Dr. Oz as he seeks to become the first Muslim to serve in the U.S. Senate.

And the political activist’s supporters don’t scare easily, either.

“We’re used to the name-calling, and we know it never amounts to anything,” said Kim Bedillion, president of the Pennridge Area Republican Club. “The Southern Poverty Law Center goes after many conservative, mainstream Republicans and Christian organizations and paints them as difficult. We’re used to that and we’re used to being called names like ‘deplorable’ and ‘Bible-thumper.’ We take that as a point of pride. If the Southern Poverty Law Center is going after Scott Presler, God bless him. We don’t get defensive; we just do the work.”

That work includes mounting voter-registration drives at gas stations, with “Pain at the Pump” signs in tow, ubiquitous Wawa convenience stores, Home Depots, and gun shops–all hubs for Republican voters, as Presler tells it.

He pointed to a “50-50 split” during a recent gas-station drive in a reliably blue part of New York as a potential harbinger for what’s to come.

He told volunteers to think as Democrats do in terms of their target audiences, noting they are likely to be at high schools, nursing homes, and “graveyards,” a riff on the old joke about dead people voting Democrat.

“You’re gonna have a lot of these angry mama bear events. Those people that show up are going to be the doers. Politics needs to be inescapable for the next five months,” he said.

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DelVal Counties Gear Up for 2022 Primary on May 17

Voters head back to the polls for the May 17 primary in what is shaping up to possibly be a historic election season in Pennsylvania.

Only registered Democrats and Republicans can vote in the upcoming election as the Keystone State remains one of nine states with closed primaries.

Election officials in Delaware, Chester, Bucks, and Montgomery Counties expect between 25 to 30 percent voter turnout.

Pennsylvania’s redistricting process caused some delays in mailing out ballots, election officials said. Local counties sent tens of thousands of mail-in ballots, but requests in some areas were down from previous elections.

The mail-in option, popular during the COVID-19 pandemic, is still available to voters in the primary, as the state Supreme Court mulls over whether to keep intact Act 77 following a lower-court decision overturning the controversial law.

This time, election officials are bracing for an influx of in-person voting as the public health crisis wanes.

“In 2020, you had the perfect storm of new voting equipment, new options for voters, and the pandemic. And people wanting to vote at a distance,” said James Allen, director of election operations for Delaware County. “It was pre-vaccine. It was at a time when nationwide we were experiencing horrific levels of deaths and hospitalizations. Now we’re past that.”

The gubernatorial race has been bruising for the GOP, with nine contenders in a crowded field vying for the party’s nomination ahead of a fall race that is expected to shatter state campaign spending records.

The field includes  Republicans state Sen. Jake Corman, former Congressman Lou Barletta, Montgomery County Commissioner Joe Gale, GOP consultant Charlie Gerow, former Congresswoman Melissa Hart, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, former U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain, business owner and former Delaware County Councilman Dave White, and Nche Zama, a cardiothoracic surgeon. Attorney General Josh Shapiro does not face a primary challenger as the lone Democrat in the race.

With nearly $18 million in his campaign war chest Shapiro, in his second term as attorney general, outraised all of his GOP opponents combined. Shapiro is no stranger to politics. He is a former state representative and served as chair of the Montgomery County commissioners.

He will have a leg up in the general election as Democrats look to keep control of the executive branch, currently led by the term-limited Gov. Tom Wolf, in a state where the General Assembly has been controlled by Republicans for nearly seven years.

White has infused millions of his own cash into his campaign and is banking on blue-collar appeal to put him over the top.

“We’re expecting a big voter turnout,” said Tom McGarrigle, chairman of the Delaware County Republican Committee. “We have one of our own. He’s our focus of the election.”

With the U.S. Senate evenly split between Democrats and Republicans, both parties are all in to replace outgoing Republican Sen. Pat Toomey, who opted not to seek reelection.

Much attention has been given to Dr. Mehmet Oz, better known by his TV personality Dr. Oz, and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, one of four Democrats running for the seat.

The Democratic field includes U.S. Rep. Connor Lamb and Alex Khalil, a Jenkintown Borough councilwoman known for activism in Montgomery County but considered a longshot in the race.

Meanwhile, frontrunner Fetterman has been hammered by opponents over an incident in 2013, when he was mayor of majority-Black Braddock Borough, where he detained a Black jogger at shotgun-point after hearing what he thought was gunfire in the area.

Opponent state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta accused the popular lieutenant governor of acting like “f–ing Batman” and called on him to apologize to the jogger, Christopher Miyares.

Democrats worry Fetterman’s refusal to own up to the mistake could depress the Black vote in urban areas and leave him vulnerable to attacks from Oz, who hopes to capitalize on an endorsement from former President Donald Trump.

“Democrats understand that control of the federal Congress is paramount,” said Joe Foster, chairman of the Montgomery County Democratic Committee. “These are races you can’t take lightly.”

A cardiothoracic surgeon who amassed great personal wealth, Oz has positioned himself as an outsider since announcing his candidacy.

He is widely considered the man to beat in a field of seven Republicans that includes attorney Sean Gale, a Montgomery County lawyer, whose brother, Joe, is also running for governor; commentator Kathy Barnette; Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos, George Bochetto, a Philadelphia lawyer; Hedge fund CEO David McCormick and Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark in the Trump administration.

In the lieutenant governor race, state Rep. Austin Davis was handpicked by Shapiro as a running mate.

Delaware County Democratic Committee Chairwoman Colleen Guiney called Davis a “man of tremendous integrity and honor” among the slate of Dems running in the primary.

“I will stand by any one of our candidates,” she said. “There will always be questions about one little thing here or there. I see what the Republicans have done, I see what Toomey has done, and I  can’t imagine that any Democrat would vote in a way Toomey has voted.”

Chester County

Chester County expects between six to eight poll workers per precinct. As of April 26, 36,514 people requested mail-in ballots, compared with nearly 87,000 in the 2020 primary and a little more than 38,000 in last year’s primary, election officials said. The county had at least 155,797 registered Democrats compared with 150,933 registered Republicans.

Montgomery County

The county has roughly 1,800 poll workers for all of its 426 precincts, said Dori Sawyer director of Montgomery County Office of Voter Services. It is seeking more poll workers in Abington, Cheltenham, Green Lane, Lower Merion, Perkiomen, Plymouth, Skippack, Upper Moreland, and Upper Salford. Those interested in helping must be registered to vote in the county. They can reach out by email at [email protected] or by phone at 610-278-3280. The county processed about 70,000 mail-in ballots applications.

The county has 298,266 registered Democrats and 204,195 registered Republicans. Those not registered with a party have until May 2 to change affiliations so they can vote in the primary.

Bucks County

The county has staffed about 1,600 poll workers but is looking for additional help in Bristol Township, Falls Township, Middletown Township, and Warminster Township. More than 52,000 voters requested mail-in ballots, compared with more than 67,000 last November. The county is split 202,056 Democrats to 194,002 Republicans, with nearly another 80,000 unaffiliated voters who cannot vote in the primary.

Delaware County

Delaware County processed more than 31,000 mail-in ballots for the upcoming primary. It will have 40 secure drop boxes kept under surveillance throughout the day. The county had 202,337 registered Democrats compared with 150,539 Republicans. Republican state Rep. candidate Robert Jordan, running in the 165th Legislative District, was removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court, but election officials said his name may still appear on some of the early mail-in ballots. Any votes for him will not be counted.

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Groundbreaking Held for $1.5 Billion Keystone Trade Center in Bucks County

Like a Phoenix, the U.S. Steel Fairless Works site that closed its doors and left thousands of workers in the lurch in 2001 will have a new use.

On Thursday, chilly wind and blowing dust did not deter the groundbreaking for a $1.5 billion project for the new Keystone Trade Center to be built in Falls Township by NorthPoint.

Among those wielding ceremonial shovels were state Sen. Steve Santarsiero; Jeff Dence, chairman, Falls Township Board of Supervisors; Robert Harvie Jr., Bucks County Commissioners chairman; and Jeremy Michael, vice president of Development for NorthPoint Development.

At the 1,800-acre property, NorthPoint plans to build 15 million square feet of warehouse and light industrial use buildings, said Eric Yovanovick, project manager. He expects the first building to be completed by the end of the year, with 19 more structures to follow.

NorthPoint received a Keystone Opportunity Improvement Zone waiver allowing it to benefit from a 15-year tax abatement, Santarsiero said.

Sen. Steve Santarsiero

“The economic return on this is going to be tremendous for the town, the county, and the school district, as well,” said Santarsiero (D-Bucks). “Ultimately, when this is up and running, and it’s employing about 10,000 people, that’s an economic boom for the entire region.”

“In fact, they’re giving the school district through an agreement, (they’re) making the school district whole,” Santarsiero said.

“We all had to come together to approve this extension of the Opportunity Zone so they could get the tax abatement,” said TR Kennan, president of the Pennsbury School Board. “But the community benefits.”

And even though NorthPoint’s new Keystone Trade Center will not be paying taxes, it will pay $500,000 to the school district each year for 15 years, plus an additional $110,000 in payments in lieu of taxes each year, said Kennan.

“It’s a win-win for everybody,” he said. “They’ll bring jobs,” and those employees will pay taxes.

Michael said he met so many people during his time in the area who either worked at the steel plant or had relatives who did.

“It’s amazing how much the site is part of the community,“ Michael said. “A brownfield development like this is certainly a heavy lift.” But, he added, “many people have applied their expertise to put the site back into productive use. We’re working to bring back the site’s rich history.”

He thanked the government officials and the consultants who have worked to make the deal happen. NorthPoint purchased the property in 2020 and it was “a major transaction for all parties involved.”

When it is completed, it will be “the largest Class A industrial development on the East Coast,” he said. When they first approached the community, “we were met with a certain level of skepticism.” But they won over their critics.

“Capital goes where capital is welcome,” he said.

“Location, location, location really does mean something,” said Harvie. He noted that 80 years ago, the land was alfalfa fields, then the largest steel mill in the nation was built there that offered “good jobs” and helped to build Lower Bucks County.

But the area is a prime location, located between Philadelphia and New York with easy access to I-95 and other highways, he said. The new development will offer thousands of construction jobs and then thousands of permanent jobs.

“We’ve got one of the largest e-commerce- sites in the states,” said Harvie, adding he had once been a Falls Township supervisor.

“Having a willing partner owning this site makes a tremendous amount of difference,” Harvie said.

(from left) Rich Goodman, NorthPoint development manager; Tim Holliday, regional vice president at NorthPoint; state Rep. Frank Farry, land use attorney at Begley Carlin; Troy McMahan, senior director at Northwestern Mutual; TR Kannan, Pennsbury School Board president; state Sen. Steve Santarsiero; Rep. John Galloway; Falls Supervisors Chairman Jeff Dence; Bucks County Commissioners Chairman Robert Harvie; Jeremy Michael, NorthPoint vice president of development; Eric Yovanovich, NorthPoint project manager.

State Rep. John Galloway (D-Levittown) said the development “has been a collaborative effort between many people,” both Democrats and Republicans.

“I was born in Levittown 62 years ago,” he said. “My brothers worked in the steel mill. This was the center of our whole world. This was the economic driver of the lower end (of Bucks County).”

But when it closed, things became very difficult for people because jobs disappeared.

“I want to thank NorthPoint for more than just creating 10,000 jobs,” said Galloway. “The ceremonial digging of this dirt represents the rebirth of the lower end (and) the hope of the people who, for a long time, had no hope at all,” he said.

Northpoint, a St. Louis, Missouri-based corporation, has raised more than $9.5 billion since 2002, developed and managed more than 126 million square feet of industrial space, and created more than 65,000 jobs with 423 industrial partners around the country, officials said.

NorthPoint Development started out as a privately held commercial real estate developer specializing in industrial and multi-family development. Since then, NorthPoint has grown to 10 companies, emphasizing a factory-to-front-door model, officials said.

The corporation also touts its “Beyond the Contract,” philosophy which embodies the concept that no contract can be written to reflect everything that will occur in a complex real estate transaction.

“Our approach in all business relationships is to be fair and operate by the ‘Golden Rule,’” officials said.

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Bucks County Races Shaping Up

Joe Hogan is in his last year at Temple University’s James E. Beasley School of Law, and he says there is no better time to run for the Pennsylvania House. He is a Republican candidate for the 142nd Legislative District seat being vacated by GOP state Rep. Frank Farry, who is running for state Senate.

“These opportunities don’t come all that often,” said Hogan, who turned 34 last month.

Farry, first elected to the district in 2008, is running to replace retiring state Sen. Tommy Tomlinson (R-Bensalem).

And so, after years of working for the late Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-Bucks) and as a program director at Bucks County’s redevelopment authority, Hogan hopes to enter public service, representing the Langhorne-area district of about 65,000 constituents.

“Frank Farry has done an excellent job being present. He’s out in the community. Everyone knows who he is,” Hogan said. “You gotta show up, and you gotta be responsive to your constituents. If I can make their lives a little bit easier dealing with state government, then I’ll be a happy camper.”

Hogan grew up in Levittown and attended Conwell-Egan Catholic High School. He lives with wife Janita in Langhorne. He expects to be challenged for the seat by Penndel Borough Councilman Mark Maffa, a Democrat who lost both mayoral and council races last year.

Hogan has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Penn State University and spent most of his career in community and economic development. In 2010, he lost a primary race for a seat in the 141st House District to Kevin Glasson.

At the Redevelopment Authority of Bucks County, he learned how to navigate the “legal gray area” of a blight-reduction project in Bristol Township that led to the restoration of “hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxes” to the municipal rolls from former nuisance properties. And the authority helped pump millions to municipalities in Parx Casino impact grants through a program Tomlinson helped create that pays for brick-and-mortar projects, like upgrades to aging municipal infrastructure and the purchase of fire trucks and police tasers.

Joe Hogan

Hogan spent time helping Ukrainian refugees who escaped to Poland amid President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, a global crisis that helped gas prices soar to record highs.

Americans are feeling the pinch, as fuel and food are more expensive because of the “supply-chain crisis,” Hogan said.

“I’m seeing firsthand what absent American leadership can do to the world’s stage, how it can impact human lives,” he said.

A lifelong Republican with an independent streak, Hogan does not “agree with towing the party line on every issue,” but strives for steady, consistent leadership.

“People out there are more interested in getting more Twitter followers or getting on the talk shows than they are governing,” Hogan said. “They’re not paying us to be showmen that are just going to get more impressions on social media.”

Sixth District Senate Race

Running for office was not on Ann Marie Mitchell’s “to-do list,” but she is doing it anyway.

The married mother of two and onetime state representative candidate comes from a working-class family and was the first person in her family to graduate from college.

The longtime Northampton Township resident is running against Farry for the Sixth District seat because a divided Harrisburg needs healing and compromise, a skill she’s crafted over decades as a business attorney.

“I see a need in the community that isn’t answered. You have to be prepared to do the work yourself,” the Democrat said. “I think that it’s easy for people to run when the wind is at their back and everything is in their favor. The measure of a person is to do the work when the work’s needed and not when it’s easy.”

Nothing has come easy for Mitchell, who endured a turbulent upbringing to make the most of her opportunities.

Her father, a World War II survivor, came to America as a teenager, became an electrician, and ran his own business. Her mother was a teacher who also worked as a bookkeeper to help the family make it financially.

Growing up, Mitchell experienced domestic violence in her household and “knows firsthand the impact” of generational trauma.

“It informs who you are, and overcoming it depends on how you’re hardwired,” she said. “Some people can become very empathic, and some people can come out very hardened. You see people who are very resilient come out of horrible situations.”

Mitchell’s mother instilled in her the desire for community service, as she started out as a Girl Scout and Candy Striper. Education was also paramount in her family.

She earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business. Her mother went back and graduated from college at 50, around the same time Mitchell received her juris doctorate degree from the University of Pennsylvania.

“It opens up a whole different world,” Mitchell said of her experiences, which inform her platform revolving around creating clean energy, advocating for increased mental health awareness and support, and increasing access to affordable healthcare.

The latter was her focus when running against state Rep. Wendi Thomas (R-Richboro).

“I am nothing but real,” Mitchell said. “I am more about collaboration, cooperation, and finding the commonalities for jumping off. People can reach consensus, and you sometimes have to lean into difficult conversations.”

 

Bucks Commissioners, District Attorney Target PFAS Manufacturers in Lawsuit

Timing is everything. And Bucks County officials said the time is now to sue a long list of companies that manufactured firefighting foam that contained PFAS.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub, Commissioners Chairman Bob Harvie, and county Solicitor Joe Khan recently announced the county filed a lawsuit against various companies that manufactured the firefighting chemicals. The suit, filed in  Bucks County Common Pleas Court, seeks civil fines, penalties, and restoration under the state’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.

Those chemicals have polluted water and soil in Bucks County, the officials said.

“We’re bringing this action on a unified, bipartisan basis because as your elected officials, we have a duty to protect the people of Bucks County and to conserve and maintain the county’s natural resources,” said Harvie.

“Regardless of our differences, we all inhabit one planet, and that one planet has one environment and that environment is what sustains all of us,” said Harvie. “The desire to protect our environment is what unites us as Bucks County public servants.”

“These companies knew or should have known their products were toxic,” said Khan.

The suit alleges that PFAS were released into soil and water when firefighting foam products and chemicals contained therein, manufactured and sold by the suit’s defendants, were used in Bucks County. Because those substances do not biodegrade, PFAS are sometimes called “forever chemicals.”

Although the companies named as defendants largely stopped producing the PFAS-containing aqueous film-forming foam (AFFF) products, recent testing at the county’s Public Safety Training Center in Doylestown Township confirmed the presence of PFAS in water and soil samples. It has been at least 10 years since those chemicals were used at the training center.

PFAS, an abbreviation for perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, are known as forever chemicals because they do not break down in the environment. They appeared commonly in many nonstick, stain-resistant, and waterproof products, including the AFFF products used to fight fuel fires. PFAS are highly water-soluble, which causes the chemicals to spread easily and contaminate soil, groundwater, and surface water.

Testing of fish tissue samples last year also showed the continued presence of PFAS in Neshaminy Creek, causing the state Departments of Health, Agriculture, and Environmental Protection to issue a “Do Not Eat” advisory for all species of fish caught in the Neshaminy Creek basin.

“You literally cannot eat the fish you catch,” said Weintraub.

Certain PFAS can cause adverse health effects including, but not limited to, decreased fertility and increased high blood pressure in pregnant women, developmental effects or delays in children, increased risk of certain cancers, and increased risk of high cholesterol and obesity, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Health advisory levels of PFAS in water have long remained at 70 parts per trillion, but the state Department of Environmental Protection seeks to significantly reduce those levels. The public has until April 27 to comment on the state’s most recent proposal.

“While we will continue to investigate and study the health effects of these harmful chemicals, the time to hold these companies accountable is now. They knew that their firefighting foam products contained these toxic substances when they peddled them and that they were dangerous even when used properly,” Harvie said.

“These companies interfered with our rights to public health, safety and peace, and the right to pure water and to the preservation of the natural environment,” said Weintraub. “As district attorney, I am dedicated to protecting the county and its residents from the deceptive and unfair acts and practices of the manufacturers of PFAS in connection with their marketing and sale of products containing these undisclosed ‘forever chemicals’ to entities throughout the county.”

“The health and safety of the citizens of Bucks County is our top concern,” he said.

Asked about why the suit was being filed now, Weintraub said officials had been investigating the matter and reviewing the law for the last two years.

“There is an old Israeli proverb. The best time to plant a tree was 30 years ago, but the second-best time to plant a tree is today,” said Weintraub.

Khan said, “This lawsuit is about more than the county’s substantial rights as a property owner. This is about enforcing the people’s constitutional right to pure water. These corporations need to pay for their outrageous misconduct and this lawsuit will help make sure that they do.”

“Pennsylvania is the only state in the country that guarantees a right to pure water,” said Khan.

Bucks County and the Bucks County District Attorney’s office are represented by attorneys from Baron & Budd, P.C., Cossich Sumich Parsiola & Taylor, LLC, and Dilworth Paxson LLP.

Grant Thompson, a spokesman for 3M, one of the defendant companies, said, “3M acted responsibly in connection with products containing PFAS, including AFFF (aqueous film-forming foam), and will vigorously defend its record of environmental stewardship.”

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Carjackings Soar in Philly, Not in the Suburbs — Yet

Carjackings have become an epidemic in Philadelphia.

The numbers tell the story. In the past three-plus years, carjackings within the city have risen from 224 in 2019 to 840 last year. As of February 7, there had been 154 carjackings so far this year, an average of better than four per day. If that trend continues, the city will be on pace to record nearly 1,500 carjackings in 2022.

Concerns have arisen about the carjackings and associated violent crimes spilling over into adjacent communities.

Bucks County District Attorney Matt Weintraub says he is not seeing that happening, at least not yet. Part of the reason is the fear of tougher enforcement and the likelihood of jail time.

“I hate to put this out into the universe for fear of a jinx,” he said, “but we have not seen an increase so far. I’m hoping that remains the case.”

The Delaware Valley Journal asked Weintraub what he believes is causing the spike in carjackings beyond Bucks County’s borders.

“I think there’s just an air of permissiveness or laxity in certain jurisdictions that do not exist here in Bucks County,” he said. And hopefully, without trying to take too much credit that’s not due, the message has been conveyed pretty loudly and clearly, that if you’re going to commit a crime of violence in Bucks County we will investigate you, we will arrest you, and prosecute you and send you to jail for a long time.”

Weintraub says he believes criminals understand the ramifications of being charged with a violent crime in Bucks County.

“There certainly is an underground communication network among the criminals,” he said. “They know where the borders are, and there are some by chance that comes across borders. We have some of our own criminals to deal with in Bucks County, but we have not been negatively impacted by spillover from counties with lesser enforcement.”

Former Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan shares Weintraub’s view that the carjacking issues plaguing Philadelphia have not spilled over into surrounding communities, at least for now.

“We don’t have anywhere the volume of carjackings that they are having in Philadelphia,” he said. “However, it is starting to become a problem. It is a problem mostly in the areas that immediately border Philadelphia.

“The reason it is not a problem in the collar counties so far is the criminals don’t pay that much attention when they’re very close to a border, (but) they definitely know the difference between when they’re in the heart of Montgomery County and when they’re in Philadelphia. And they know if they get caught carjacking in Philly, there is going to be very little penalty. If they get caught carjacking in any of the collar counties, they’re going to state prison for a really long time.”

Hogan says he believes carjackings are spiraling in Philadelphia for two reasons.

“The carjackings are being used for drive-by shootings,” he said. “You jack the car when you’re about to do a drive-by because you certainly don’t want to do it in your own car; surveillance will pick it up. And the other reason they are carjacking cars is that they are always running from the police.

“And Philly has a pretty strong no-pursuit policy. So, what they’re going to do is, they’re going to run from the police in these carjacked cars, and then they’re going to ditch the car.”

Patrick Molloy has spent his entire career in law enforcement in Abington Township. He has been the township’s chief of police since February 2018.

“We’ve had three carjackings (recently),” he said. “They range from back in mid-November until just this past Sunday afternoon. One was in North Hills, one was at the Willow Grove Mall and the last one was in Jenkintown by the Acme.

“I’ve been here 28 years, and I don’t remember any carjackings in my career,” he said.

Molloy says closing classrooms in response to COVID-19 contributed to the problem.

“I think a number of issues may be converging,” he said. “Not the least of which would be the fact that we have a bunch of juveniles who should have been in school and had informal guardians in the high schools and middle schools keeping tabs on them or helping them out. We have a bunch of idle kids who are supposed to be in front of a computer, going to school.

“I think the second thing is this new bail reform which has sent a message that despite having a violent crime committed, or committing a crime with a gun (suspects), oftentimes receive low cash bail to no cash bail,” Molloy said.

“You see a backlog in the courts because of COVID. And the backlog is having people who should have been in court and receiving their sentences or some kind of probation or monitoring from the criminal justice system, that’s not happening,” said Malloy.

In contrast to Philadelphia’s no-pursuit policy, Molloy says his officers will pursue a carjacking suspect, but not at the risk of public safety.

“We have a risk matrix where it comes to pursuits,” he said, “and certainly nothing is worth a third-party innocent victim getting T-boned because we’re chasing somebody for a property crime, or it just doesn’t fit within our policy. There are a number of variables that take place when we’re making a decision.

“We will pursue, that’s partially correct, but we also don’t advertise the fact that we’re going to terminate that pursuit because the risk of injury to the public outweighs the benefit of apprehension,” he said.

 

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RNC Honcho Fires Up Volunteers at Bucks Co. Republican Headquarters

About 50 volunteers came to the Bucks County Republican Headquarters in Doylestown last week to learn the ins and outs of door-knocking and phone calling for the upcoming midterm elections.

Before the training began they heard remarks from Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick and from Tommy Hicks, Jr., National Republican Committee co-chair from Texas.

“We’ve got a generational opportunity to grow the Republican Party,” Hicks told the Delaware Valley Journal. “And frankly it’s because we stand for faith, freedom, and opportunity, and it’s clear to the American people that the Democrats now stand for what is effectively socialism and government control.”

Tommy Hicks Jr.

Hicks says he believes the Republican message “resonates with the American people. We need to take this momentum and try to make it permanent across the country and especially here in Pennsylvania, which is ground zero for the midterms in 2022.”

Hicks said other Philadelphia collar counties, which have been in the Democratic recently, can return to the GOP, following the example of Bucks County in 2021, where Republican candidates swept the county row officer races.

“We’ve made some good progress in November with some municipal races and some school boards,” said Hicks. “I think the momentum is on our side. We can push on that momentum. We have a generational opportunity to give power back to the people and take it away from unelected bureaucrats.”

Asked about Chester County, where voter registration has given the Democrats an advantage, he said, “Everything’s in play. Right now the Republican Party and the RNC (believe) everything that Joe Biden won by 10 or 12 points, we think is in play right now.

“So we’re going to be investing resources,” he said. “We’re going to be recruiting volunteers, and I think there’s an opportunity to make massive pick-ups in Pennsylvania and across the country.”

Hicks said he’s spent a lot of time in the state before the 2016 and 2020 elections, as well as for business. He’s a private equity investor.

“I’m from Texas, and I think Pennsylvania can be the next Texas with all the energy jobs you can create,” said Hicks. “There’s a huge opportunity here, throughout Pennsylvania. And we just need the right kind of political and policy leadership to make that take place. And I’m hugely optimistic about the future of this commonwealth.”

“I love the people in Pennsylvania,” said Hicks. “They remind me a lot of Texans—in a good way. People respect entrepreneurs and risk-takers, and I like that. That’s the American way.”

Asked why he is involved with politics, Hicks, who has been RNC co-chair for three years, said, “Because I love our country and when you’re given an opportunity to be involved in leadership politically you’ve got to make the most of it.”

Hicks mentioned he wants to preserve the America he loves for his three daughters.

“With this movement, we have right now to give America back to the American people and take it away from Washington, who feels entitled to control the American people, it’s an opportunity you can’t refuse. And you’ve got to work day and night to make sure you help get the American people out of this situation where Washington controls every aspect of your life,” he said.

Later, Hicks told the volunteers he got involved after Democrat Barack Obama became president and he was unhappy with his policies.

“Little did I know that a friend of mine’s father was going to run for president (referring to Donald Trump). I said, ‘Can I carry your bags?’” said Hicks. “We all get started as volunteers in different ways. This is the lifeblood of our movement.”

In introducing Hicks, Fitzpatrick described Bucks County as being partly rural, partly suburban with middle-class and blue-collar areas.

“Bucks County is a crossroads, it’s a slice of America,” said Fitzpatrick.

“It’s a swing district–”

“Not this year,” Hicks cut in, prompting laughs.

“It’s incredibly important this year,” said Fitzpatrick, who noted that not just federal offices but state and local seats are in play. “It’s all-important,” he said.

Hicks told the group, “This is ground zero for us to take back this republic from the radical Democrats So we are focused on growing the party. Congratulations to Pennsylvania. We’ve shrunk the lead by 200,000 registered voters. We’re going to continue working on that. We’re going to continue messaging. We’re going to continue to recruit people for state and local offices.

“People understand what’s at stake,” he said. “I have three little girls and we’ve fought for generations for what we have. We cannot let it go. And it goes away if we do not win this November.”

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