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Delco GOP Candidates Hold Town Hall on Crime in Upper Darby

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

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

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

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

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

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

Council President Brian Burke talks to Derrick Neal.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

County Council candidate Jeff Jones speaks to a resident.

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

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

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

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

After the candidates’ remarks, residents spoke up.

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

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

Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski at the Upper Darby town hall.

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

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

He agreed that landlords need to be held accountable.

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

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

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Delco GOP Candidates Call Out Dem Leadership Over Issues at Prison

Two Delaware County Republican candidates held a press conference Thursday pointing out the problematic conditions at the George W. Will Correctional Facility and laying the blame at the feet of the county’s Democratic leadership.

Delaware County District Attorney candidate Beth Stefanide-Miscichowski and Jeff Jones, who is running for county council, said conditions at the facility are especially concerning given the recent escape by a convicted murderer at the Chester County Prison.

“It seems to be a recipe for disaster,” Stefanide-Miscichichowski said. “Are we going to wait until an inmate shimmies up a wall to see the train coming?

“In the 18 months since the Delaware County government took over managing the day-to-day operations (at the jail), there have been six inmate deaths, including three suicides, a prisoner murdered by his cellmate, and two other deaths categorized as ‘extraordinary occurrences,’” added Stefanide-Miscichowski. “The budget to operate the prison has increased more than 16 percent in 4 years, while the prison’s population has decreased by 28 percent, yet conditions are getting worse.”

Beth Stefanide Miscichowski

Jones said, “The Delaware County Council has created a $65 million hole in the county budget that they have already admitted will require them to seek ‘new sources of revenue.’ In government speak, that means higher taxes—a 35 percent increase in county property taxes, to be exact.

“Since Delco Dems have assumed management, six inmates have died, representing a ten-fold increase in deaths under GEO (the private company that used to run the prison). As the number of inmates has decreased, the cost of running the prison has increased by $10 million. Worse care and less safety for more money,” Jones said.

Stefanide-Miscichowski noted that in December 2022, Albert Johnson, a 12-year correctional officer at the prison, appeared before the Delaware County Council to share his grave concerns about conditions. As reported by the Delaware County Daily Times, Johnson spoke about how correctional officers feared for their safety, that there were cells that did not lock, stabbings of inmates at the prison, and how officers had feces and urine thrown on them daily. Not surprisingly, he added, morale among officers was at an all-time low.

Stefanide-Miscichowski also called for an independent, outside investigation by Pennsylvania’s attorney general into the death of inmate Mustaffa Jackson in February 2023.

Jackson died of urosepsis, a urinary tract infection that spread into his kidney. That condition is usually treatable with antibiotics, she said.

Jeff Jones, a candidate for Delaware County Council.

According to Broad + Liberty, Jackson, a paraplegic, was found unconscious and face-down in his cell surrounded by used and unused catheters. Efforts to resuscitate him did not occur until five minutes after he was found unresponsive.

“County government took over the prison operations under the guise of improving the quality of conditions, but they have only gotten worse,” said Stefanide-Miscichowski. “When the county houses individuals at the facility, there is a responsibility that the county accepts in providing medical care and ensuring inmate safety. Jackson’s death, based on feedback from medical experts, appears to have been entirely avoidable.”

Jones said Jackson’s death “represents utter callousness and disregard for consequences as the Delco Dems quest to implement their ideologically driven policies has wrought.”

“Mustafa, a disabled man unable to care for himself, was left alone, face down, wearing an adult diaper, surrounded by catheters, left to die an agonizing death,” said Jones. “The Delco Dems told us they would bring dignity and a new level of professionalism to our county prison. Dying alone of a preventable disease isn’t dignity. It’s depravity.”

Stefanide-Miscichowski is also concerned about taxpayers footing the bill for lawsuits brought by prisoners. She noted the warden the county hired, Laura Williams, was sued by an inmate when she worked at the Allegheny County jail “in a case disturbingly similar to the lack of health care attention received by Mustaffa Jackson.”

When GEO Group privately operated the facility, the company assumed liability, she said.

In a written statement, a county spokeswoman noted Stefanide-Mischichowski and Jones were running for office, and their press conference was political. In the statement, she said GEO paid correctional officers $15 an hour, while they are now paid $24 an hour, with sergeants and lieutenants paid more.

“The warden is committed to improving staff morale,” she said. She disputed that the inmate population dropped, saying it was “largely stagnant” in the 18 months since the county took over.

In 2021, she said six people died at the prison of natural causes. In 2022, five people died. There was one natural death and one suicide before the transition and one homicide and two suicides following it, she said.

In 2023, so far, three people have died. One (Jackson) was a “delayed homicide,” meaning he died from complications of a gunshot wound from a shooting before he was incarcerated. And one suicide and one accidental, she said.

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Black Conservative Federation Hosts PA Auditor General DeFoor

The first meeting of the Delaware and Chester County Black Conservative Federation Thursday hosted Pennsylvania Auditor General Timothy DeFoor as its keynote speaker. DeFoor, a Republican, is the first Black person ever elected to statewide office in the commonwealth.

“I was born toward the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement,” said DeFoor, who is running for reelection in 2024. “It started with a small group of people. They wanted to change their lives. They wanted to change younger people’s lives. And they did it by getting together, talking about what it is that we need to do to impact our community. They got together in small groups, and it grew. That is exactly what is happening here.”

The BCF movement is for making a better life, he said.

“Not only for us but clearing the way for our youth,” DeFoor said. “How? Education. Making sure that our schools are doing exactly what they are supposed to do. And if they’re not — calling them out. And our way of calling them out is by performing audits.”

Black Conservative Federation state Chair Sheila Armstrong (left) and Ruth Moton, BCF Delaware and Chester Counties’ chair.

He praised the group for talking to those who are marginalized.

“You’re here at the beginning of a movement,” DeFoor said. “Have faith in what you’re doing. You have my support.”

“The bottom line is we do what we needed to do in order to make sure your tax dollars are being spent the way they are supposed to be spent. That’s my job. Every single dollar that leaves the state treasury, it’s my job to make sure those dollars are being spent the way they’re supposed to be spent.

“This is something that I’ve done my entire career,” he said.

DeFoor recounted growing up in Ohio and then Harrisburg and hearing his dad and uncle talk about taxes.“As I grew up, I knew I wanted to see how our tax dollars were being spent. That’s the job I’ve been doing for 30 years.”

“I’ve always been a fiscal conservative. That’s who I am. I started that when I was 12,” said DeFoor.

He started in the inspector general’s office, went to the attorney general’s office, then became Dauphin County controller before he was elected auditor general.

One prominent case where he was surprised by what he learned involved his audit of the turnpike.

“The turnpike was $11.2 billion in debt,” he said. “However, it’s not the fault of the turnpike for being in that situation. Years ago, the legislature passed a law where the turnpike had to give $450 million annually to PennDOT.” Even though that amount was eventually reduced, the Turnpike had to borrow to survive.

Another one that surprised him was the school district audit. He found some districts were moving money around so they did not have to file for an emergency referendum to raise taxes. They were just raising taxes.

“We made some commonsense recommendations to the legislature to fix the problem,” he said.

All the audits are on the auditor’s website, he said.

“You deserve to know how your tax dollars are spent. It’s my job to keep government accountable,” he said.

DVJournal asked DeFoor why he was running for a second term.

Ruth Moton and her Trump 401 (k) T-shirt

“My job is not done,” he said. “We have made fantastic strides in the department. We’ve transformed the department to be more efficient, and the work is more effective and transparent.”

He asked the staff for suggestions and added community involvement, starting a Be Money Smart financial literacy campaign.

“It’s my belief financial literacy should be taught in every school,” he said. There are fewer bankruptcies and higher credit scores in states that teach it. All students will graduate and be consumers. They also started an intern-to-hire program to help replace employees who are retiring.

Philadelphia resident Sheila Armstrong, the Black Conservative Federation’s state director, said it started the county group on Juneteenth. Ruth Moton, who ran for state representative in Chester and chairs the Delaware and Chester Counties chapter, said the organization is reaching out to everyone.

“It’s time to flip the script (in the Black community) and not be afraid to flip the switch. Being fiscally responsible. What’s wrong with that?”  Moton asked. A video of Moton with former President Donald Trump telling him that her 401 (k) misses him went viral. She was selling T-shirts for BCF to commemorate it.

Jeff Jones, who is running for Delaware County Council, also addressed the group.

“I am going to swear to serve the people of Delaware County,” said Jones. “Not a party. Not a personal agenda.”

“We need this,” Jones said about BCF. “We need to connect. We need people at the polls. We need people watching the polls to ensure that elections are being done soundly, fairly, and balanced.”

He said anyone who wants to be a poll watcher should let the Delaware County GOP know.

“We need to take our county back. (The current all-Democrat county council) is not spending money in a sustainable way…There is a looming tax increase…That is their words. They can’t sustain the spending they’ve done because they’ve got a blank check  known as ARPA (COVID) funds.”


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Parties Endorse Delaware County Council Candidates for Primary

Delaware County Democrats and Republicans have endorsed candidates for the upcoming primary on May 16.

The council Democratic committee endorsed incumbents Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D., Vice Chair Elaine Paul Schaefer, and Councilwoman Christine Reuther. The three were first elected in 2019 in a historic Democratic sweep of council seats.

The Republican committee endorsed Joy Schwartz, Jeff Jones, and Upland Borough Mayor Bill Dennon for the county council.

Schwartz, a Drexel Hill resident, is a retired history teacher who worked for more than 20 years in the William Penn School District. She is running against the Democratic council’s policies that she believes have failed local communities.

Delaware County Council Chair Monica Taylor, Ph.D.

“If elected, I will lead the charge for common sense, fiscal sanity, safe streets, elections conducted in accordance with administrative code, and the reversal of the progressive agendas that are destroying Delco,” said Schwartz.

Jones, of Upper Darby, is an insurance industry professional and has been active in the community as a youth sports coach. He also served on the Upper Darby Economic Development Committee.

“Our current county council is not delivering on the things that are important to the health, safety, and welfare of our neighbors,” said Jones. “They lack transparency, take no administrative responsibility, and have been fiscally irresponsible with our tax dollars. If we do not rein them in now, the course they have the county heading on will lead to a devastating failure.”

Dennon, who has served as Upland’s mayor for five years, is a maintenance mechanic. He is involved in activities recognizing and honoring veterans. He also served as a site coordinator for the Chester-Ridley-Crum Watersheds Association annual stream cleanup.

Christine Reuther

“It is time for a change, and Delaware County cannot afford any more one-party Democratic rule,” said Dennon. “We need to restore accountability, fiscal responsibility, and sound leadership to Delaware County.”

“Under the Democrats’ one-party rule, Delaware County is facing unprecedented challenges: Closed hospitals and a lack of EMS services; a looming county tax increase; a deteriorating county financial position partisanship that prevents equal access to services, and changes to the county administrative code that has shutout Republicans from participating in the oversight of elections,” said Frank Agovino, chair of the Delaware County Republican Party. “We want to ensure our county government operates effectively and fairly while also ensuring a brighter future for all Delaware County residents.”

Taylor is a professor and program director in the kinesiology department at the University of Sciences in Philadelphia. In addition to her teaching, research, and administrative duties, she works on community outreach projects to educate high school students about potential future careers in the healthcare industry. She spearheaded a project in Philadelphia elementary schools to introduce young students to science, technology, engineering, arts, and math (STEAM).

Elaine Schaefer

Taylor, who formerly served on the Upper Darby School Board, lives with her husband and two daughters in Upper Darby.

Schaefer, a lawyer and former Radnor Township commissioner co-founded the Radnor Conservancy. She is the executive director of the Schuylkill River Greenways National Heritage Area. Schaefer and her husband, John, are the parents of three children.

Also a lawyer, Reuther is “of counsel” to the Devon law firm McCausland Keen and Buckman. She is vice president of the Child Guidance Resource Centers board, a community mental and behavioral health service provider. She is a former Nether Providence commissioner, serves as the Nether Providence representative on the board of directors of the Central Delaware County Authority, and is the Rutledge Borough solicitor. She lives in Wallingford with her husband. They also raised three children.

The Democrats’ campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

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