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After Two Months, Delco Natural Gas Facility Still On Hold

An appeals court ruling has left the construction of a new Delaware County natural gas facility in limbo for months, with no clear sign as to when the project is expected to resume.

PECO Energy Company originally set out to build a natural gas “reliability station” in Marple Township several years ago. The company describes the facility as one that will “enable PECO to distribute more natural gas into Delaware County through 11.5 miles of new natural gas main.”

Company officials argued the station will play a key role in ensuring ample gas supply to Delaware County as demand grows for the key fossil fuel energy source.

Township officials in November 2020 rejected PECO’s application to build the plant, after which PECO filed a petition with the state Public Utility Commission asking for the PUC to exempt the company from township zoning rules.

The PUC subsequently ruled in PECO’s favor. Town officials then appealed to the Commonwealth Court, which halted station construction in March, claiming the commission overlooked several key regulatory considerations when ruling for the energy company.

The court said the commission must “incorporate the results of a constitutionally sound environmental impact review” into a new project analysis.

PECO spokesman Greg Smore confirmed to DVJournal that the case is still waiting to be resolved, having been sent back to the PUC for re-evaluation.

“We are disappointed with the decision,” Smore said. “However, we are evaluating our next steps to complete this project, which is critical to meeting the growing need and demand for safe, reliable, and affordable natural gas for our customers in Marple Township and across Delaware County.”

David Hixson, a spokesman for the PUC, said the case “has been reopened and assigned to the PUC’s Office of Administrative Law Judge for further consideration.”

“If further hearings are scheduled by OALJ, notices will be posted to the public docket,” he added, “but to date, no hearings have been scheduled.”

Officials with Marple Township did not respond to queries asking about the case and the township’s opposition to it. In March, after the appeals court decision, the town said in a statement that it was “pleased and encouraged” by the ruling.

“The township continues to believe that the subject property is not an appropriate site for these facilities,” the town said, “and that this will be borne out by a constitutionally sound environmental impact review by the Commission as required by the Commonwealth Court’s decision.”

For years, a citizen-created initiative, the Marple Safety Coalition, has worked against the plant’s construction. The initiative’s website was last updated shortly after the court decision in early March.

“Probably, [the ruling] means that PECO will not begin building anything soon,” one message reads. “However, they can continue to work at the site; over the winter, there was a lot of activity due to their testing of the pipeline, and that testing will probably continue.” The Marple Safety Coalition did not respond to a query from DVJournal.

Only Texas produces more natural gas than Pennsylvania, which is sitting on billions upon billions of cubic feet of the critical energy source. The U.S. Energy Information Administration says Pennsylvania has 48 underground gas storage sites, “the most for any state.”

PECO says Delaware County’s natural gas consumption is projected to surge in the coming years, necessitating more infrastructure like the reliability plant to ensure demand is met.

“PECO anticipates a 20 percent increase in natural gas usage in Delaware County and a 10 percent increase in Marple Township over the next decade,” the company says on its website.

“Without this project,” the company says, “the natural gas system in this area will be constrained, resulting in inadequate natural gas supply and pressure to help customers run their appliances, like heaters, during the coldest days of the year.”

Delaware County Celebrates 57 Centenarians

From a press release

Fifty-seven centenarians from Delaware County were honored at Delaware County’s 21st annual Centenarian Birthday Celebration hosted by the Delaware County Office of Services for the Aging (COSA) on May 22 at the Drexelbrook Event Center in Drexel Hill.

Many of the centenarians were born or were babies in 1923- the same year that the original Yankee Stadium opened its doors in the Bronx, brothers Roy and Walt Disney founded “The Walt Disney Company,” the first issue of TIME magazine was published, a new home cost an average of $6,300, and a gallon of gas cost just 22 cents.

Barbara Nicolardi, director of the County Office of Services  for the Aging, was joined by Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor Ph.D., Council Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, Councilman Kevin Madden, Councilwoman Christine Reuther, Councilman Richard Womack, District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer, and Sheriff Jerry Sanders in congratulating the attendees and presenting each of the residents with a ceremonial proclamation of exemplary citizenship. Cake, a fresh flower corsage, and souvenir photos were provided, with live music adding to the festive atmosphere.

“Older adults play vital, positive roles in Delaware County — as family members, friends, mentors, volunteers, civic leaders, members of the workforce, and more,” said Nicolardi “Ensuring that older adults remain involved and included in our communities for as long as possible benefits us all.”

The luncheon, held annually each May, is part of COSA’s Older Americans Month. The theme for this year’s Older Americans Month and Centenarian Luncheon is “Aging Unbound.” Delaware County is home to over 200 residents who are 100 years of age or turning 100 in 2023.

The eldest celebrant, Herman Whilby, born on April 22, 1918 in Jamaica, is 105 years old. Mr. Whilby came to America with his mother in the early 1920s, worked many jobs over his lifetime and retired from the machine shop of James Peters and Son. His secret to longevity, he says, is that he doesn’t drink alcohol or smoke and lives a “normal life.” He also offered some words of wisdom: “Treat everybody good and, as you go along in life, do the best you can.”

The eldest female celebrant, Sarah Narvell,born in Chester on February 9, 1920, is 103 years old. As a teen, Ms. Narvell attended school in West Chester where she learned to ride horses. An avid reader, she enjoyed travel and camping, and enjoys her summer house in Maryland. She attributes her longevity to good living and takes a lot of vitamins and supplements to keep her healthy.

Six U.S. Veterans were in attendance as well. Donald Harrison, 100, of Springfield; Aaron Lipson, 100, of Drexel Hill; Henry Marini, 101, of Glen Mills; Newton Meade, 99, of Thornton; Ralph Perkner, 102, of Broomall; and Elizabeth Zwijsen, 101, of Glen Mills.

Centenarians who were unable to attend will be visited by COSA staff and presented with a proclamation.

Delaware County Council congratulates the county’s centenarians on their milestone birthday and wishes them continued good health and prosperity.

Delco Dumps $10M on New Health Dept. While EMS Is on ‘Life Support’

Delaware County’s gleaming new health department last month marked its first year in operation after what the county said was “a year of accomplishments.”

Emergency first responders in the county may agree to disagree.

That was the topic of discussion at last month’s “EMS on Life Support” meeting in Brookhaven, where county council members, state legislators, and emergency first responders gathered to discuss the crises facing local ambulance and rescue workers, including bare-bones insurance reimbursements, low rates of pay, and chronic staffing issues.

The major financial squeeze comes as the year-old Delaware County Health Department is drawing millions of dollars to fund its operating expenses. The county health department’s 2023 budget will cost $18,294,538 for 2022-2023, with its “primary funding sources” being “grants and reimbursements.”

Brookhaven EMS Administrator Dave Montella said at the April meeting, “If something doesn’t change in the next year, year and a half,” then Delaware County “will not be in the EMS service, period.”

Montella told DVJournal that “the issues that we’re facing, primarily, are staffing and gross underpayments from insurance companies.”

“It’s basically providing a chokehold,” he said.

Montella said there were “multiple reasons for the staffing issues,” which he noted go back as far as 2017. He said at that time, “We saw a gradual decrease in people entering into the profession,” while emergency responders began to struggle with retention rates as well.

“Definitely post-COVID, and during, we lost tremendous numbers of people,” he explained, estimating “probably, nationwide, a greater-than-30 percent loss of EMS providers” in the wake of the pandemic.

Insurance companies are paying out low reimbursements, Montella said, and consequently, rescue squads and local governments have had to keep pay rates low for emergency workers.

The end result is EMS workers leaving “to work at restaurants, Home Depot, Lowes. They’re getting more money there when they’re doing a job when there’s no danger of bringing something to home to their family,” he said.

Asked about the new county health department, Montella said it is “completely separate” from county EMS operations and “has no bearing” on any emergency services.

“It’s just something the county thought it needed to do to provide for the residents to get strong advice, particularly during the pandemic,” he said.

Delaware County state Rep. Lisa Borowski told DVJournal the health department’s outreach functions will help “support our fire/EMS [by] providing people increased access to preventive healthcare and keeping people healthy, so there are less emergent situations.”

Regarding more funding for EMS workers, Borowski (D-Newtown Square) pointed to her introduction of House Bill 479, which she said would “allow for EMS to be reimbursed for transport of Medicaid patients.”

That bill was unanimously voted out of committee Monday and will go to the full house.

Rep. Jennifer O’Mara(D-Springfield) thanked Borowski for authoring it.

“We have hospital closures impacting our communities all across the commonwealth,” said O’Mara. “And one of the things I’ve heard from EMS providers is they’re now forced to drive longer distances. Now they may not be out of the 20 mile range, but they’re still taking on more and in the ambulance for longer periods of time. So anything that’s been done to address this issue, I think that’s been a really important part of the bill. Anything we can do to help them is huge in so many different ways. So I just wanted to thank the maker of the bill for working on this. Thank you.”

“Currently, they do not get reimbursed until they transport 20 miles, this bill will eliminate the mileage requirement, so EMS get paid for services,” Borowski said.

“But we also need to lobby to increase Medicaid reimbursement,” she added, “and I hope to work with our federal representatives to address this issue.”

In addition to low reimbursements, Borowski said insurance billing practices present another hurdle for EMS administrators to overcome.

“Direct billing by some insurance companies sees the reimbursements being sent to the patient with the expectation they then pay the EMS for care,” she said. “This does not always happen, and in many cases, the [return on investment] on trying to recoup these funds presents a challenge for volunteers whose time is stretched with many responsibilities.”

Montella agreed reimbursement problems are the major hurdle to driving up pay rates for responders.

“We would love to pay them more,” he said, “but our only way of paying them is through medical reimbursement. We don’t have the ability to pass it on to the consumer.”

In addition to its high price tag amid local EMS financial struggles, the new county health department has been mired in administrative controversy since its inception.

And an analysis of the functions that county officials claimed credited to the new health department showed they were actually performed by the state, such as COVID-19 vaccines, and showed many were given before the health department began, meaning the tally was 2,364 rather than 172,000.

Also, a Johns Hopkins student who examined health services in the county found the county could do better by creating better organization around the services already provided by the state instead of creating its own health department.

Townships in Delaware County previously balked at the proposal that the health department take over health inspections overseen by local inspectors. In some cases, the fee hike on those inspections was projected to top 500 percent.

Multiple Delco towns asked the county Court of Common Pleas to block the plan’s implementation. The court maintained an injunction against the inspections for much of 2022.

In October, Common Pleas Judge Spiros Angelos formally barred the county from conducting inspections in first-class townships, though lower-level municipalities will still be subject to county health department oversight.

The health department, county council and the Delaware County Black Caucus will hold an open house at the  remodeled DCHD Wellness Center in Chester on Saturday from 11 a.m. t0 2 p.m. with a rain date set for Sunday.  The Wellness Center is 151 W. 5th Street in Chester.

“The revitalization of our Wellness Center at Chester is a symbol of our commitment to the people of Chester and its surrounding communities,” said Director Melissa Lyon. “The first step in helping people feel better is making them feel welcomed and invited into our Wellness Centers.”

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Share Food Warehouse Opening in Delaware County

From a press release

Delaware County Council Chair Dr. Monica Taylor was honored to join members of the Share Food team, elected officials, and community partners to announce the construction of the Share Food Warehouse in Ridley Township on April 20.

The 9,000-square-foot warehouse, currently undergoing renovations, will serve as the county’s central hub for food commodities and distribution for the growing network of food pantries in the region.

“Share Food Program has been a valuable County partner for several years, and we are excited to be here today to pave the way to the next step in our shared goal of combating hunger and food insecurity across the county,” said Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D.

In 2021, Delaware County Council approved a five-year contract with Share Food Program to manage the charitable food system within the county. Share Food Program’s physical expansion into the region has enabled them to assist the county in providing vulnerable families with nutritious food, education, and other resources.

George Matysik, executive director of Share. Elizabeth Cowell, Falynn Milligan and Pastor Chris from Loaves and Fishes food Pantry, Frances Sheehan, president of the Foundation for Delaware County, Sen. Tim Kearney, Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D.

As Delaware County’s lead agency for state and federal food distribution, Share Food Program has distributed over a million pounds of food to its residents in need in 2022, and they work to eradicate food insecurity through food distribution, education, and advocacy. Share Food has partnerships with nearly 800 schools and 400 community-based organizations and partner pantries, Share Food Program feeds hundreds of thousands of neighbors in need each month.

An investment to combat hunger and food insecurity was made by County leadership andcommunity partners. Council allocated $1.2M in funding to assist in the creation of the new warehouse, state Sen. Tim Kearney secured $500,000 in state funding, and the Foundation for Delaware County provided Share Food with a $100,000 grant to be used for the renovation of the new warehouse.

Recent reports show that the number of Americans without enough food has doubled in Pennsylvania since October 2021. That includes many families in Delaware County. During the COVID-19 pandemic, additional SNAP allotments and other crucial safety nets kept residents afloat, but many of those have ended recently.

Delaware County is now also experiencing record high rates of inflation, which makes it even harder for families who are working to make ends meet. Having enough to eat and having healthy foods to eat is fundamental, not just to survival but also to long-term health and to every aspect of human and social development. Nutrition is a critical part of health and development. Better nutrition is related to improved infant, child and maternal health, stronger immune systems, safer pregnancy and childbirth, lower risk of non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, improved mental health, and longevity.

As the need for hunger relief continues to rise, so does the need to support community action and hunger-relief organizations like Share Food Program. Share Food Program works with 17 partner pantries in the Delaware County region and shares the County’s commitment to ensuring that all residents have nutritious, healthy, and life-sustaining food.

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Delco Inks Dam Agreement With Media and Broomall’s Lake Country Club

From a press release 

During Delaware County Council’s March 1 public meeting, County Solicitor William Martin announced the successful conclusion of the County’s negotiations with Broomall’s Lake Country Club and Media Borough.

The successful outcome comes after a decades-long issue related to a dispute between the County, the Borough of Media, and the Broomall’s Lake County Club over the appropriate usage of property adjacent to the sensitive Glen Providence Park and the possible rebuilding of a long-condemned dam that had once served as a bridge for vehicular traffic on 3rd Street between Media and Upper Providence.

“This is an issue that has been near and dear to many Media residents for decades,” said Delaware County Councilman Kevin Madden, who has worked on this project during his five years on Council. “As a Media native, it’s tremendously gratifying to finally be ending a 40-year quagmire that protects Glen Providence Park and reconnects these two communities.”

Under approvals that County Council granted in 2022, the County, the Borough of Media, and the Country Club have entered into a series of agreements that will result in the County’s purchase of a Conservation Easement over a portion of the Club’s property, resolution of long-standing litigation related to the breaching of a dam which had previously been on the edge of the Club’s property, and extension of an agreement for the County’s utilization of a parking lot owned by the Club.

The negotiated agreement will facilitate the dissolution of the 2011 legal stipulation that required dam reconstruction. The reconstruction of the dam would have permanently destroyed approximately one acre of the woods and wetlands of Glen Providence Park. The agreement includes a conservation easement on the four acres of Broomall’s Lake Country Club’s property that abuts the Park and requires that Broomall’s Run (stream) continue to flow freely into the Park, as environmental best practice dictates. In addition to preserving the land and ending the possible construction of the dam, the agreement also extends the county’s parking arrangement with the club, which provides overflow parking for jurors and County employees.

The new agreement states that Media Borough (with consultation with PennDOT) will have control over the future of a planned bridge on Third Street that will reconnect Media Borough and Upper Providence.

“The county is thrilled that this long-standing litigation has been resolved and that the county, the Borough of Media, and the club have reached an agreement after decades,” said Council Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer. “This agreement allows for the continued stability of the Club, preservation of important green space, and for the community to plan, without the cloud of litigation, for the appropriate future of 3rd Street.”

Members of grassroots organizations Keep Media Green and the Friends of Glen Providence Park attended the meeting, expressed their enthusiasm for the long-awaited resolution, and commended the council for their efforts.

“Conservationists and park lovers in Media Borough are celebrating the agreement between Delaware County, Media Borough, and Broomall’s Lake Country Club that puts to rest a nearly 12-year-old plan to reconstruct a high-hazard dam at Third Street in Media,” said Terry Rumsey, co-Founder of Keep Media Green. “Rebuilding the dam would have damaged wetlands, woodlands, and wildlife habitat in Glen Providence Park and threatened the park’s stream valley. Delaware County Council deserves an enormous amount of credit for taking decisive action to protect our county park, as well as grassroots advocates from Friends of Glen Providence Park and Keep Media Green, who persevered for more than a decade. They are truly the green heroes of our community!”

Marc Manfre, director of Delaware County’s Department of Parks and Recreation, was also commended for his efforts leading to the agreement.

The US Army Corps of Engineers declared the dam unsafe in 1980 and closed to traffic in 1996 by the Borough of Media. It was built in 1883 to create a small lake for residents to harvest ice for produce, and later became the centerpiece for The Media Swimming and Rowing Club (created in 1919 and re-named the Broomall’s Lake Country Club in 1967).

Over the years that followed, several actions taken by Media Borough, the county, Broomall’s Lake County Club, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection, and several local civic organizations resulted in an impasse that affected the viability of the club, the sustainability of Glen Providence Park, and threatened to absorb millions of taxpayer dollars in litigation and contested actions.

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Delaware County Bureau of Elections Completes Successful Election Recount

From a press release

The Delaware County Bureau of Elections recently completed a successful recount of votes cast during the Nov. 8, 2022 General Election, verifying the official election results reported shortly after Election Day.

The recount was undertaken as part of an agreement with a small group of residents who had filed a petition in the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas, seeking recounts in multiple precincts to address their concerns that the vote tallies in Delaware County were inaccurate.

During a hearing held on Nov. 22, before Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge Barry Dozor, the petitioners agreed to withdraw their petition—in exchange for which the Board of Elections agreed to conduct a full recount of a single precinct of the petitioners’ choosing; Haverford 2-3 was their precinct of choice.

Conducted at the Bureau of Elections’ offices at the Union Power Plant building in Chester on Jan. 12, 2023, the recount involved seven observers representing the petitioners, eight County workers, and a party leader, and took a little over four hours to complete.

The recount was first conducted using certified tabulation equipment and then separately, was conducted by hand, allowing the observers to examine every Election Day ballot, absentee ballot, mail-in ballot, and provisional ballot from a distance of two feet.

The recount provided a 100% verification of the original vote totals for each candidate for the four races on the Haverford 2-3 ballot—including candidates for U.S. Senate, Governor / Lieutenant Governor, the U.S. House (the 5th District), and State House (the 166th District)—inclusive of every Election Day, mail-in and provisional ballot.

“Everything was verified 100 percent,” said Delaware County Director of Elections James Allen. “Every single vote, every single contest, every single over vote, every single under vote, every single write in.”

The successful recount was the latest vindication for the Delaware County Bureau of Elections, which like many election offices across the country in the wake of the 2020 General Election, has faced—and won—numerous lawsuits regarding election results. In all, The County of Delaware has prevailed in over a dozen lawsuits that have been filed in the Delaware County court system since 2020, with cases either dismissed or ruled in the County’s favor.

“We have now been through six recounts with the current balloting system, two of which included hand recounts,” explained Director Allen. “In all of the recounts, in each and every case, the original results have been confirmed—even a mayoral contest that was decided by three votes.”

In addition, risk-limiting audits of randomly selected precincts—using manual hand counts of mail-in and/or precinct ballots—are performed after each election in Pennsylvania. These audits have successfully verified the results of each election in Delaware County since the audit process was first implemented in 2020.

“These recounts really underscore not only the professional work being done by our Bureau of Elections under Jim Allen, but also the great work being done by our poll workers,” said county Councilwoman Christine Reuther, adding “These recounts and risk-limiting audits really illustrate the accuracy of our processes and demonstrate that that our balloting system is accurate and secure.”

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MANNES: Rising Crime Is a Referendum on Identity Politics

This piece first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

On November 20, 2022, FOX 29’s Steve Keeley reported that there were four homicides in just the last six weeks in the small Delaware County borough of Yeadon. As Keeley reported through his popular Twitter feed, that was more homicides than the entire four-plus year tenure of Yeadon Borough’s former Police Chief, Anthony “Chachi” Paparo. This is noteworthy because in February, Paparo was terminated by Yeadon’s Borough Council — an act Paparo alleges was done in order to replace him with an African American Police Chief, despite his having support from the Mayor, according to court filings in the federal discrimination and wrongful termination lawsuit filed by Paparo and Lodge 27 of the Fraternal Order of Police in March.

Meanwhile, neighboring Philadelphia is facing another year of shocking violent crime. This comes three years after Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney proclaimed that he would appoint an African American woman as police commissioner before a national search for the most qualified, experienced applicants was conducted. The result was the appointment of Danielle Outlaw, whose prior commands were as a Deputy Police Chief in Oakland and as Chief of the Portland Police Bureau. Oakland, which has 709 sworn members and Portland, with 795 sworn members, both saw an increase of crime during Outlaw’s tenure.

Philadelphia, with over 6,300 sworn members, is the nation’s fourth-largest police department, over nine times the size of Outlaw’s largest command. Since Kenney’s 2019 appointment of Outlaw, murders has shot up from 356 to 562 in 2021, with over 470 officially reported in 2022 so far, not counting over 103 “S-job” (suspicious deaths) which are likely to add to the official homicide tally at a later date. One must wonder if Kenney’s decision to restrict his search for commissioner within narrow gender and racial characteristics was prudent considering the life-and-death implications of the job.

In both Yeadon and Philadelphia, the harsh reality of murder rates raises questions as to the accountability of those charged with public safety – from both law enforcement executives and the elected politicians who oversee their appointment and the fair administration of justice. Traditionally, the appointment of police chiefs and commissioners was completely in the discretion of the Mayor or County Executive. As crime was always a major issue for which politicians were held accountable, these elected leaders historically ranked political optics behind track records when making appointments in this regard.

Outlaw’s last boss, Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler was quoted in a Philadelphia magazine piece on Outlaw saying “This position is inherently political, not in a partisan manner, but in the sense that it is under public scrutiny and maintaining public trust is done in a political environment. You have good instincts and judgment already, but learning more about political history and relationships in Portland is important to being successful in the position in the long term.” Ironically, Outlaw only served for two years as Portland’s police chief before leaving for Philadelphia. What’s more disturbing, as crime has emerged as a key issue in daily news coverage, is that there has been no public discussion of Outlaw’s effectiveness in her role, despite rising crime and scandals within her ranks.

Which brings us back to Yeadon. Last month, a federal judge denied the borough council’s motion to dismiss Paparo’s lawsuit against them. If the suit is successful, it will be one of the first to create case law on using identity politics, in this case race, to appoint and/or terminate a law enforcement executive.  The suit alleges the four individual defendants decided that Yeadon is “a black town,” and that that representation should be reflected with a black chief of police.

The suit claims Johnson called Yeadon Police Detective Ferdie Ingram on the morning of Jan. 3 to offer him the job, but he declined. Ingram allegedly told Johnson that he already had a police chief he supported. That support was also apparent in the community, the suit notes, with 1,100 people signing a petition aimed at keeping Paparo in the role. Paparo originally alleged four counts for violations of his equal employment and equal protection rights in a suit filed March 7, as well as a violation for failing to provide him with a fair and impartial due process hearing under the 14th Amendment.

He later added defamation, retaliation and false light claims following distribution of the flier titled “Ten Fast Facts Yeadon Residents Want to Know,” which he said was sent out to residents at taxpayer expense. The flier, attached as evidence to the amended complaint, notes that the same council members accused of racism in removing Paparo were actually the ones who hired him to begin with, over three other qualified Black candidates. Yeadon Mayor Rohan Hepkins appeared on the Dom Giordano radio show on November 21, 2022, as a defender of Chief Paparo, noting that he would like to see Council bring Paparo back in light of their recent spike in homicides.

The events leading up to Kenney’s appointment of Outlaw in 2019 present similar questions. Mere weeks after being heralded a hero in his handling of an hours-long hostage siege in where six police officers were shot, Richard Ross abruptly resigned as Philadelphia Police Commissioner. While the resignation came in the wake of a sexual harassment suit (Ross wasn’t the alleged harasser,) sources within the Philadelphia Police Department noted friction between Ross and Kenney, specifically over Ross’ unwillingness to fire officers for a social media scandal in where no specific department protocols were violated, and differences over the use of the bully pulpit regarding District Attorney Larry Krasner’s radical charging and bail policies.

As an interim appointee, Kenney tapped Deputy Commissioner Christine Coulter as Police Commissioner. Coulter, a career Philadelphia police officer whose start patrolling the streets of Kensington was documented in a 1991 episode of the series “Cops”, was well regarded by the rank and file of the department. However, it was shortly in Coulter’s tenure that Kenney publicly declared his decision to hire an African American woman to lead the department, which narrowed a national field to only three clear choices – Outlaw, Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best, and Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall.

Shortly thereafter, Outlaw was appointed, leaving many to wonder if the choice had anything to do with both Hall and Best’s strong reputations for speaking truth to power over their elected managers, especially in response to politically based decisions over law enforcement and termination of officers.

Hopefully, the outcome of Chief Paparo’s lawsuit or simply through public scrutiny in the upcoming election year – we can help local politicians remember that public safety appointments are too vital for our society to make using identity politics.

Personally, growing up in New York through the “crack explosion,” I recall the historic appointment of Lee Brown. He was the first African American Police Chief in Houston, then became NYPD Commissioner, and then returned to Houston as their first black Mayor. There is nothing wrong with firsts, but with something as vital as assuring the public safety of a major American city – you also have to be the best.

This is why we have laws that govern race and gender discrimination in employment, because the hiring and firing of people based on race is not only hurtful for the employees in the organization – but may result in further victimization of an already at-risk community.

A. Benjamin Mannes, MA, CPP, CESP, is a Subject Matter Expert in Security & Criminal Justice Reform based on his own experiences on both sides of the criminal justice system. He has served as a federal and municipal law enforcement officer and was the former Director, Office of Investigations with the American Board of Internal Medicine. @PublicSafetySME

Delaware County Holds Ceremony to Honor Fallen Firefighters

From a press release

Delaware County Council Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, Councilman Kevin Madden, and District Attorney Jack Stollsteimer were honored to attend an Inclusion Ceremony on November 12 at Rose Tree Park. The annual ceremony, hosted by the Delaware County Fallen Firefighter and EMS Memorial Committee, honors the lives and legacies of fallen firefighters.

This year, the ceremony honored Morton-Rutledge Fire Company Captain Michael Malinowski.  Captain Malinowski died on December 3, 2019, after responding to a call for downed wires and trees. Following the call, he reported to officers that he was feeling ill. At work the next morning, he had tightness in his chest and was taken to the hospital, where he later passed away.

Captain Malinowski was a 1997 graduate of Gloucester City Junior-Senior High School, where he played football, baseball, and ran track. He began volunteering with the Gloucester City Fire Department as a teenager and then became Captain of the Morton-Rutledge Fire Company Station 13 in 2019, where he also served on the Board of Directors. Captain Malinowski is survived by his wife, Melissa, and his five children, Bailey, Michael Jr., Matthew, Cooper, and Harper.

The ceremony paid tribute to Captain Malinowski and honored his heroism and selfless dedication to the community. His name was added to the Memorial Wall as family, friends, and members of the Firefighter and EMS gathered to celebrate his legacy.

Council extends its heartfelt sympathy and gratitude to Captain Malinowski’s family, friends, and the firefighter and EMS community.

Delco Dollars: The County’s Budget-Busting Run Means Tax Hikes Likely

Delaware County’s budget is under extraordinary upward pressure, an analysis conducted by Broad + Liberty shows. The general fund total spending spiked from $251 million in fiscal year 2019, the last year a Republican Administration managed county operations, up to $284 million in the adopted 2022 budget — an increase of thirteen percent.

Yet as large as those numbers are, they have been adjusted upwards again since the budget was adopted, and the general fund doesn’t capture large budget edits happening in other departments.

In a special budget meeting in June, the $284 million in spending for the 2022 general fund budget was adjusted upwards by another $6 million, bringing this year’s total budget to $290 million, pushing the aforementioned increase up to an eye-popping sixteen percent. Despite the many revisions to the budget at the June meeting, the county conceded that still more budget revisions were forthcoming, including a review of unanticipated costs associated with de-privatizing the prison in the fourth quarter, as well as requests from the county elections director and the Fair Acres Geriatric Center.

The fact that county Democrats are spending significantly more in 2022 than county Republicans did when they were in the majority in 2019 might be expected. Democrats are ideologically predisposed to tax their constituents to fund expanded government services. Indeed, most members of the current council campaigned on the creation of a county-run health department as far back as 2017 and had actually begun parts of the process as early as 2019, despite the fact that a previously commissioned study conducted by John Hopkins University concluded no such bureaucracy would substantially improve public health outcomes.

As a practical matter, the county received more than $200 million in federal Covid-19 stimulus between the Trump Administration’s CARES Act and the Biden Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act. So, the obvious question for Delaware County taxpayers is: What are they getting for their money? Where is all that stimulus money going?

Broad + Liberty’s analysis of the county budget and subsequent spending revisions is likely to alarm many taxpayers.

For instance, 2019 was the last year the Republicans controlled spending on core government operations funded primarily by real estate taxes. Total departmental expenses that year were $156 million.

In 2022, the Democratic majority adopted a budget that called for $189 million in spending. General Administration spending increased from $16 million to $26 million. Community Health spending, the line item that accounts for the newly created Delaware County Health Department (DHCD) in Yeadon Borough, increased from $377,000 to $8.5 million. In aggregate this represents a 26 percent increase in spending on core operations since the change in partisan control.

Additionally, at the June budget meeting, the county revealed it will adjust the health department budget for fiscal year 2023 from $11.8 million up to $18.2 million. That $6.4 million increase represents a 55 percent increase in its initial projection for next year and a 114 percent increase overall. It’s important to understand that because DCHD is its own category of spending, these increases are not captured in the previously discussed sixteen percent increase to the general budget.

For now, Covid-19 monies from the federal government have helped smooth over most of these costs. By law that money must be completely spent by 2024. So, the issue for taxpayers is whether the county’s operations and current spending trajectory can continue without substantial tax increases — or service cuts — when federal money is no longer available to subsidize a vastly expanded county government.

In the 2022 adopted budget alone, county council used $19 million in federal reimbursements and $6 million in cash reserves to balance a budget they have been unable to adhere to. The general fund and the DCHD, taken together, have seen a total of $12.2 million of edited, post facto spending that the original budget missed.

County officials attribute much of the increases to the creation of a county-run health department as well as the county assuming the management of the George W. Hill prison, which had been privately run for three decades. Budget documents also show the county aims to greatly increase salaries at the county prison, possibly revealing that officials underestimated those costs. At the June budget meeting, Howard Lazarus, the county’s executive director, said the county still intends on raising salaries for prison guards by 50 percent.

Records reviewed by Broad + Liberty show substantial increases to the county’s payroll, well beyond the mere addition of employees to the Department of Corrections or DCHD. Salaries, in general, appear to be a red flag. Using data obtained via a Right to Know request, the Delaware County Republican Party found that in 2020, the first year that the Democrats-controlled County Council, the county employed 832 people making more than $50,000 a year. Those salaries totaled 56.7 million annually.

Two years later in 2022, the county had 1,121 employees earning more than $50,000 which brought the annual total up to $77.9 million — an increase of $21.2 million. A similar analysis by Broad + Liberty largely confirms that thrust from the county Republicans.

Furthermore, every new dollar in salary comes with an additional cost of benefits. When queried by Broad + Liberty, the county said it has a 70 percent “total employee benefit cost,” meaning for every dollar paid out in salary, the county is on the hook for another 70 cents in benefits. For a county employee that earns $100,000, there is an extra $70,000 in benefits costs. That 70 percent benefits rate is far above nearby counties, like Bucks, which says it has a 41 percent total employee benefit cost.

New departments. New operations. New hires. These are not one-time pandemic-related costs, rather, they are long term obligations for which the taxpayer is on the hook in perpetuity, or at least until there is a change in the administration.

Also, these expenses are funded — almost exclusively — by property taxes and fees levied on residents and businesses in need of government services. So, what lingers as a question is: what percentage of federal monies spent to date have been used for one-time government expansion costs versus what percentage is earmarked for multi-year operational costs? How will these operational costs be covered going forward? Are Delaware County homeowners on a similar path as those in the City of Philadelphia?

From the publicly available budget documents, the answers to those questions are unclear. Perhaps intentionally so. Which is why it is worth noting that in May 2022, Philadelphia’s Office of Property Assessment created an uproar when it announced that residential property assessments for tax year 2023 are going up by an average of 31 percent citywide. In some neighborhoods, real estate taxes have doubled. According to the Mayor’s office, the increases are highest in low-income black and brown neighborhoods. These neighborhoods are already grappling with high inflation and even higher crime.

In response to multiple queries on these matters, executive director Lazarus told Broad + Liberty, “The sound financial management practices put in place have resulted in a greater degree of revenue and cost realism and alignment, transparency in the sources and uses of funds, and a decreased reliance on General Fund reserves to balance the budget.”

We hope he’s right. Our analysis, however, tells a very different story about the county’s likely fiscal position when the federal money runs out by 2024. Using Lazarus’ own methodology for the how the tax revenues were calculated for the 2022 budget as a baseline — and assuming the county still leveraged approximately $25 million in federal subsidies and cash reserves — the large incremental cost increases hitting the general fund such as the budgeted county contribution for DCHD and the $6 million mid-year budget adjustment would result in a 21 percent property tax increase. Without subsidies and reserves, the increase could exceed 25 percent.

As the old saying goes, elections have consequences. And as former Chief of Staff to President Obama Rahm Emmanuel once said, you should never let a good crisis go to waste. The strange and unanticipated confluence of those two political realities have left the county — its government, its taxpayers, its voters — in a set of circumstances unlike any in its history. The policy merits of the CARES and American Rescue Plan Acts notwithstanding, county officials are without question in a cash position to make historic investments in county infrastructure and strengthen the balance sheet for the foreseeable future. On the other hand, reckless spending, and poor financial planning in pursuit of fashionable ideologies over functional governance could have devastating socioeconomic effects for generations to come.

The county is at a crossroads. Let the data inform which road is taken.


This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

GALLUCH: Safe Streets Require Leadership Changes

Imagine for a moment that you are done shopping and walking back to your car. You get there, hands full of shopping bags. You fumble for your keys to unlock your car. As you unlock it and get in, two men jump in with you. One gets in the front seat and the other in the back. The man in the backseat puts a gun to your head.

Now stop imagining. That happened last Monday night in the parking lot of a Target in Wayne to a teenage resident of Radnor Township at approximately 5:30 p.m. Fortunately he was not harmed. But the car was stolen and found running in West Philly. The perpetrators have yet to be apprehended.

Anyone can be a victim of crime in the Philadelphia area. Earlier this month on September 8th and September 11th, armed carjackings took place in Upper Darby, both targeting women. Furthermore, just last week three robberies occurred in Haverford between Thursday and Friday evening.

This all begs the question – what is being done? The answer: Nothing.

Nothing will be done as long as we continue to elect people like U.S. Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon and Philadelphia DA Larry Krasner who support defunding the police and openly admit they do not believe that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession is a viable strategy to reduce shootings.

Those soft-on-crime policies have enabled lawbreakers and made our communities and families less safe. Public safety is the good upon which all others rest. As congressman, combating violent crime will be one of my top priorities.

It starts with protecting and supporting our police, law enforcement, and first responders. Fully funding them and equipping them with the resources they need to serve the public should not be a partisan issue. Unlike Mary Gay Scanlon, I will always oppose defunding the police, irrespective of how it polls.

I oppose DA Larry Krasner’s failure to aggressively prosecute violent offenders. I disagree with his contention that arresting people and convicting them for illegal gun possession will not reduce shootings.

Furthermore, I will never endorse policies like the elimination of cash bail, as DA Larry Krasner and Mary Gay Scanlon have, that will lead to rising crime. Second, it is imperative that we hold violent and repeat offenders accountable – the opposite of what DA Larry Krasner has done and Mary Gay Scanlon have demanded.

This year alone, Philadelphia is on pace for 3,000 illegal gun arrests. Those caught are less likely to be charged and those charged are less likely to be convicted than ever before. In 2021, there were over 2,300 incidents of gun violence, yet 61 percent of illegal firearms cases were dismissed by the district attorney’s office.

Third, I am committed to making the much-needed enhancements to our law enforcement community to be better equipped to process evidence and convict offenders.

One solution is mobile crime labs. Oftentimes, families in PA-05 are left waiting while evidence sits and while a loved one’s killer goes free. By bringing a forensics team to a crime scene, evidence is processed more quickly and there is a greater likelihood of tying an offender to the crime within an optimal 48-hour window. Speedy, accurate processing of evidence leads to more solved crimes and fewer violent offenders on the street.

In addition, the presence of mobile crime labs acts as a visible deterrent. Their physical presence in communities will make criminals think twice about committing crimes. A greater chance that someone is linked to a crime also acts as a deterrent – current backlogs give criminals the idea that they will never be convicted. Last, resources for youth intervention and mentorship programs are essential. Strengthening the relationships that law enforcement have with the community ensures that families will be safe and that the rule of law will be enforced in a just way. These relationships can be maintained without denigrating the men and women that keep our communities safe.

We can and must find ways to work together to make our streets safe again. It is time to stop emboldening criminals and start protecting innocent people. As long as violent and repeat offenders go without consequences, innocent people across PA-05 in Philadelphia, Delaware, and Montgomery counties will continue to suffer. The crime and violence we are experiencing are simply not acceptable and stopping it will be a top priority of mine in Congress.

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