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

GIORDANO: Norristown Home of High Drama on Homelessness

Over the last 10 years, Norristown has become the Kensington lite of suburban Philadelphia. Many mental health and drug and alcohol centers have opened in the town.

Many people drop out of those programs and live on the streets in Norristown. This situation has come to a head because PECO is poised to remove homeless encampments from its properties.

The situation has become high drama because of the battle between Stephanie Sena, a Villanova University law professor and homeless advocate, and Norristown Council President Tom LePera. LePera is a Democrat and local union leader, but that did not stop him from threatening to send the homeless to Villanova, according to Sena and a witness.

LaPera allegedly said he had offered incentives to the homeless to board a bus and be dropped off at Villanova University, which he reportedly said has many empty dorm rooms in the summer that could house the homeless.

LePera also said he was modeling himself after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who has transported nearly 100,000 illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities like New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago. New York, in particular, is in crisis mode after receiving 70,000 or more immigrants.

Even though LePera has somewhat walked back the alleged comments, I understand his point. I believe Sena is the face of the elitist advocates that don’t want to address why Norristown has to bear the burden of homelessness in Montgomery County.

Villanova issued a statement that Sena has not been working on behalf of the school. I consider the university a liberal elitist institution that virtue signals about issues like homelessness but doesn’t help places like Norristown deal with it.

Speaking of elitist virtue signalers, The Philadelphia Inquirer thundered that Norristown is not the only Montgomery County town it feels has sought to criminalize homelessness and poverty. It also attacked Pottstown for penalizing churches for their homeless feeding programs. I’ve interviewed officials in Pottstown about this, and they made a good case that these programs were putting a tremendous strain on their town.

Norristown is not a large town. According to most government reports, about 21 percent of its residents live in poverty. It doesn’t have the political clout of places like Villanova, Lower Merion, or Radnor. What would those communities do about homeless encampments in their towns? LePera, in his own contorted way, put this issue out there. It’s not a matter of chance that Norristown has ended up in this position.

The Inquirer reported that Montgomery County Chief Operating Officer Lee Soltysiak said in a statement, “Homelessness is not an issue that should be addressed through theatrics. It is a serious matter affecting the lives of far too many people countywide, and we must work together to solve it.” What does Mr. Soltysiak propose to relieve Norristown? What specifically will be done to take the pressure off Norristown? What does Villanova say should be done to relieve Norristown?

The silence is very reminiscent of responses by the area elitist institutions when the issue of relieving the people of Kensington comes up. In the current race to become the next mayor of Philadelphia, candidates Cherelle Parker and David Oh have routinely been criticized when they espouse aggressive policies to break up the area’s open-air drug markets. In fact, there seems to be more support for safe injection sites rather than removing Kensington as a magnet for lawlessness.

So, thanks to Thomas Le Pera for highlighting not just the problem of homelessness but the people and institutions that make designated poor and voiceless communities have to bear the burden for everyone else.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

Radnor Planners Reject New Villanova University Garage

The Radnor Township Planning Commission rejected a proposed new four-story tall parking garage on the Villanova University campus.

The new garage would replace a two-story garage, VU lawyer Nicholas Caniglia told the Planning Commissioners on Feb. 6. The current steel and concrete structure, off Ithan Avenue,  is nearing the end of its useful life and sports signs saying “Park at your own risk.”

The university will require zoning variances for the building’s 52.7-foot height and additional setbacks from the property boundaries to build the new garage. It would add 232 parking spaces, said Mary Lou Smith, VU assistant vice president for engineering and construction.

Current Villanova parking garage

Caniglia said the school requires additional parking to comply with the township code for other possible projects in its long-term plan. VU Assistant Vice President Chris Kovolski insisted that Villanova has no plans to increase its enrollment. Instead, he said more students want to live on campus, so more dorm rooms will likely be needed.  Villanova has 6,700 undergraduates and 3,100 graduate and law students.

Planning Commission Chair M.J. Frumin noted that the university had just been before the commission in November with plans for a new library, which was approved.

“With all due respect, you’re planning to add dorms,” said Frumin. “That, to me, screams more people.”

Frumin told the VU officials he thinks they will have “a challenging time” proving a hardship needed for a zoning variance.

Resident Sara Pilling was concerned about traffic in the area, particularly the narrow SEPTA underpass on Ithan Avenue, where only one car at a time can pass.

“It’s dicey at the very best of times,” said Pilling.  “I have a deep concern. If they build 232 parking spaces, what is going to happen to that pinch-point?”

Ward 7 Commissioner Sean Farhy is concerned about the height of the proposed garage and also light pollution.

“It’s going to be too close for comfort (to residential neighborhoods),” he said. He suggested adding a parking deck underground to reduce the building’s height, but Smith told him that there were too many utilities.

Roberta Winters, another resident, said, “What happens at Villanova does not stay in Villanova. It impacts the greater Township. Among Radnor’s most pervasive problems are traffic, parking, and stormwater. Replacing the existing parking garage with one that is 53 feet high and holds 405 vehicles may reduce a parking concern, but it is bound to impact traffic, congestion, and create potential environmental issues.”

Winters said, “The garage site is problematic because of its location.  Ithan Avenue is already a busy thoroughfare between Lancaster and Montgomery avenues. The intersection with County Line Road at this spot is particularly hazardous.”  She also mentioned the narrow SEPTA bridge, saying traffic studies should be done.

Winters said neighbors were told that no more parking would be needed with the approval of dorms and an entertainment center on the south side of Lancaster Avenue a few years ago.

“If the university can collaborate to find parking for the Pope’s last visit, they should be able to find spaces at off-peak hours from other existing commercial and institutional spaces in the area. In addition to creative scheduling, shuttles, and even car services are always an option,” she said.

Winters was also concerned about environmental issues, such as stormwater runoff.

“I fear Villanova is eating those who live here, the properties that we own, and the quality of life we value, one bite at a time.  This is an opportunity for you to say, enough is enough,” she said.

Residents Tish Long and Rick Leonardi wrote to the planners expressing similar concerns. Leonardi also believes that some homeowners nearby who should have been notified of the university’s plans, were not.

“What we’re hearing is a tremendous amount of opposition from the public,” said Frumin.

The Radnor Zoning Hearing Board is scheduled to take up the VU parking garage appeal at its Feb. 16 meeting.

Please follow DVJournal on social media: Twitter@DVJournal or

As March Madness Begins, DelVal Fans Ranked 7th For College Hoops

The NCAA men’s basketball tournament has been contested since 1939 but it has become known as March Madness in the last three decades or so (complete with a trademark).

For the next three weeks, that began with the announcement of the tournament field on Sunday, March 13,  March Madness will captivate rabid basketball fans and intrigue many others who may not follow college basketball at all.

In short, the tournament has become a cultural phenomenon. The primary reasons for this are the power of television and the growth of the sports betting industry.

It wasn’t until the late 1960s that the tournament was televised nationally and then only weekend games. In 1980, ESPN televised first-round games on a Thursday and Friday and received an overwhelmingly enthusiastic response as workers took time away from their jobs to follow the action. The early-round telecasts became a television staple.

The tournament field gradually expanded from 25 teams in 1974 to eventually 64 teams in 1985 to 68 in 2011. The expanded field meant more games were available to television, and today every tournament game is televised live. Games are shown on as many as four networks (CBS, TBS, TNT, and truTV) simultaneously via a contract that pays the NCAA nearly $900 million annually in rights fees and runs through 2032.

The tournament’s expansion brought the exponential growth of the Final Four pool both online and interoffice. The participants run the gambit from basketball experts (or think they are) to those with only a passing interest in the sport and may pick a team because their son or daughter goes to school there.

Unsurprisingly, passions for college basketball burn hottest in cities and towns with successful major college programs.

Philadelphia is certainly a college basketball mecca with five Division I teams within its borders (Pennsylvania, Temple, La Salle, St. Joseph’s, and Drexel) and Villanova situated just outside the city.

Yet, a survey by WalletHub ranking the ‘Best Cities for College Hoops Fans’ ranked the city of Brotherly Love seventh (see below).

It should be noted that the six cities ranked above Philadelphia are all home to institutions with hugely successful college basketball programs. The roll call includes Durham, N.C. (Duke), Storrs, Conn (Connecticut men AND women), Lexington, Ky. (Kentucky), Lawrence, Kan. (Kansas), Los Angeles (UCLA), and East Lansing, Mich. (Michigan State).

With the exception of Los Angeles, all are cities without a major professional sports franchise, and fans of Duke and Kentucky are as passionate about their Blue Devils and their Wildcats as any Philadelphia Eagles devotee imaginable.

So, what makes a great college basketball college fan? Passion is undeniably part of a fan’s DNA. But Brian Hofman, an associate professor at Ohio Northern University, notes that passion must be accompanied by reason and good behavior.

“First off, they have to be knowledgeable,” he said. “They need to understand the game, so they can heckle the officials or players when questionable calls happen or do not happen. Being knowledgeable also means they can appreciate an opposing player’s great coaching job or effort, even if it means their team may lose. Second, they respect the game and those involved in the game. While it is okay to heckle opposing coaches, players, and even officials, good fans know there is a line that is not crossed. Swearing at the opposition or using racist or derogatory language is never acceptable.”

Hofman says the true fan will support their team, win or lose.

View of Celebration Parade for Villanova Men’s Basketball Team, 2016 NCAA Champions on April 8, 2016

“A good fan of college basketball is always loud and supportive of the team, even when the chips are down,” he said. “Their passion for the team runs deep and does not waver.”

Hofman is also of the opinion that the true fan will deck out attire that will show their support for their favorite team.

“A great college basketball fan is all in on game time gear – whether it be the team-colored game bibs, facial or body paint, a wild wig to match, crazy accessories, or signs that get you on TV or Sports Center highlights are a must.”

For college hoops enthusiasts in the Philadelphia area, whether they be true devotees or the drive-by fan who tunes in only during this time of year, we offer these informational tidbits to enhance your experience:

  • Villanova is the only Delaware Valley team that made the tournament field. It is customary for Philadelphia area fans to support ANY Philly team during the tournament, even if their true alliance lies elsewhere.
  • The first two days of the tournament, Thursday and Friday, Match 17 and 18, are the busiest, with 16 games each day. Game times will run from just after noon until late evening. We suggest office managers not schedule important meetings on those two days.
  • If you’re asked to be part of a pool, but you don’t know basketball, you can still have fun. Look at how the teams are seeded. The #1 seeds are the favorites and base your selections on them. But be sure to toss an odd selection. Upsets happen and are one of the big draws of the tournament Don’t overlook your favorite team because they’re a low seed.
  • If your bracket blows up early, remember you have lots of company.
  • Have fun.


Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or

Absent Candidates Present Prime Target At GOP US Senate Debate

David McCormick, Carla Sands, and Dr. Mehmet Oz may have been gone during the Republican U.S. Senate debate Monday evening, but they were not forgotten.

The three candidates skipped the event, and their opponents called them out for it again and again.

“We have political tourists running in this race. Mehmet Oz and Dave McCormick do not know this state, they couldn’t be bothered to show up tonight and they don’t care about you,” said Montgomery County developer Jeff Bartos.

“I didn’t parachute into Pennsylvania to run for office,” said Bartos. “I’m a lifelong resident with a deep love for our commonwealth. You cannot save Main Street if you can’t find Main Street. And as we saw tonight, my out-of-state opponents don’t even care to try to find it.”

Kathy Barnette, George Bochetto, Everett Stern, and Jeff Bartos. (photo by Maria Andraos)

Huntington Valley resident Kathy Barnette, an author, and Fox News commentator said it was the second debate Oz and McCormick spurned.

“Jeff has thrown out a lot of punches on Dave McCormick and Mehmet Oz, and it is warranted. It is such an insult that this is the second debate and they refuse to come before the American people, and specifically Pennsylvanians.”

On a different topic, Barnette said, “We need to focus on the economy and not just welfare checks or stimulus checks to keep people floating by.”

Along with cutting taxes and deregulating, “We need to begin to stabilize the U.S. dollar. That creates job growth and a rising tide lifts all boats,” she said.

“Students follow jobs,” said candidate George Bochetto, a Philadelphia lawyer. “And in order to keep students in this area, we need to provide good jobs, attract good jobs, provide the environment that businesses want to invest in. Right now the current leadership we have in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, with Democrat-run cities that are chasing away our businesses, the students will (go) away with them. So if we want these students here, we have to get them the best jobs imaginable and we have to invest in our communities and our businesses that will provide those jobs.”

And then there was relatively unknown candidate Everett Stern, who attacked his fellow Republicans — particularly Barnette — for supporting former President Donald Trump. He said Barnette should personally apologize for the January 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.

The audience booed Stern, an investigator and Chester County resident.

Jeff Bartos greets people after the debate.

“My mission is to absolutely make sure that a right-wing candidate backed by either Trump or Gen. [Michael] Flynn, does not get into office. And that means if I have to take down any of these candidates, to make sure I bring the moderates with me and a Democrat wins, so be it,” Stern said.

A hot topic for the Republicans on stage was inflation hitting gas prices and grocery store shelves.

Bochetto said inflation does not hurt rich people or those who are not paying taxes but takes a toll on the middle and working classes.

“But the handling of the COVID pandemic, the giveaways and the printing of money that has taken place, that is the terrible policy President Biden implemented on day one when he took office, which was to close down our development of natural gas in the United States of America…to force this country to start begging OPEC for oil and oil supplies, and they’re driving up the prices,” Bochetto said.  “And what’s driving up inflation? Go to the gas station. Fill your car up. See how much more it takes. That’s what’s driving inflation.”

Bartos said that during the pandemic he started a nonprofit and raised $3.5 million to help small businesses after he saw people “being crushed by a government that did not care.”

George Bochetto

“Then Biden administration comes in and put in policies that raise inflation…that have crushed, crushed the restaurants and small businesses that already operate on a razor-thin margin. We need to go back to the policies that were working just two short years ago,” said Bartos.

Asked about the state’s energy sector, Bartos said he would be a senator who “fights for Pennsylvania’s energy industry.”

“What we’re seeing today in Ukraine and Russia is the direct result of the Biden administration’s terribly flawed, failed policies from day one to enable Russia to finish the Nord Stream pipeline that will allow Putin to ship his natural gas and resources to Germany. Tomorrow, Pennsylvania gas should be on LNG tankers on its way to ship to Europe to help America’s allies. We need to shut off all pipelines and all energy transfers outside of Russian borders and we should cut Russia off. And we should put Putin right back where he belongs, which is in his a country, a gas station with an army.”

“Pennsylvania’s natural resources are a key national security asset of the United States,” Bartos added.

Barnette would write legislation to remove the Biden administration’s restrictions on drilling and to reopen the Keystone pipeline. Having a strong domestic oil and gas production “allows us to remain strong and put a check on bullies all across the world,” she said.

Kathy Barnette talks to students after the debate.

“There’s no question we’re sitting on a Saudi Arabia of natural gas, Marcellus Shale,” said Bochetto. “Developing that and fracking is key…But what really has to happen to turn it around is to invest…get it to Philadelphia, get it to New Jersey, get it to the coastline where we can then export. And the only one meaningful way to get it there and that’s through pipelines.”

Broad and Liberty, the Pennsylvania Chamber of Business and Industry, the Keystone Free Enterprise Fund and GOP SuperPAC LV Strong sponsored the debate.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or


McCormick, Oz Both Bail on Monday’s Senate Debate

The two candidates polling at the front of the pack in Pennsylvania’s Republican U.S. Senate race and blanketing the airwaves with attack ads, are passing on the opportunity to face off in person. Both businessman David McCormick and celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz are skipping a much-anticipated debate Monday evening at Villanova University.

Dr. Mehmet Oz

Oz previously told organizers he could not take part in the debate due to a prior commitment. Now McCormick, a hedge fund CEO, is also a no-show.

“Dave is looking forward to debating. Hopefully, Mehmet will confirm a day and time soon,” said Jess Szymanski, a spokeswoman for McCormick.

Meanwhile, Jeff Bartos, a Montgomery County developer, responded to the decisions of McCormick and Oz to skip the debate with a jibe about their recent residencies in the commonwealth.

“Perhaps if this debate was held in Connecticut or New Jersey, Dave McCormick and Mehmet Oz would be inclined to attend and defend their records,” Bartos tweeted. “I’m looking forward to Monday’s debate, and unlike my out-of-state opponents, I will always show up for Pennsylvanians.”

While Oz now rents a house from his in-laws in Bryn Athyn, he also has a house in northern New Jersey and is an attending physician at New York  Presbyterian-Columbia Medical Center. He practiced medicine while appearing on his TV show “Dr. Oz.” Oz spent his college years in Philadelphia at the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a joint MD and MBA from the Penn School of Medicine and the Wharton Business School.

McCormick had lived in Connecticut for about 12 years, where he was the CEO of Bridgewater Associates, until moving back to the Pittsburgh area. He grew up on a Christmas tree farm in Bloomsburg. He attended West Point and served as an Army paratrooper in the 82nd Airborne in Iraq during the First Gulf War, where he received the Bronze Star.

Jeff Bartos

He worked as a consultant in Pittsburgh, then at a software company, where he rose to president and CEO.

At a previous debate, also sans Oz and McCormick, Bartos quipped, “Being a lifelong Pennsylvanian is a distinguishing characteristic in this campaign for the United States Senate in Pennsylvania.”

Other candidates expected to attend the debate Monday are Kathy Barnette, a Fox News commentator and author, who ran unsuccessfully for Congress against Madeleine Dean in Montgomery County; Philadelphia lawyer George Bochetto; and Everett Stern, an investigator. It was unclear whether Carla Sands, the former ambassador to Denmark for President Donald Trump, would attend.

The debate is expected to be streamed and televised on PNC, which will also host a debate wrap-up afterward.


Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or





WELSH: Remembering Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 for his work that helped end apartheid in South Africa. That year I was 16 and learned to drive. His work focused on human rights abuse, while my work was about how to make our 1970’s era muscle cars run faster. South Africa and the archbishop were unknown to me as I grew up in an insulated bubble of residential Philadelphia that rarely looked past its borders.

Becoming a photographer forced me out of that kind of cultural isolation. Twenty years later, I found myself sitting a chair’s width from the archbishop and photographing him during an interview session. He would be speaking that evening to an audience at Villanova University and receiving a peace award that was unique to the university.

Mostly, my preparation for this type of photography is about choosing the best location, deciding on what type of lighting I need, and some general reading and learning about the background of who I would be photographing. By 2004, even though I was not one to be rattled by being around well-known people, I did realize the immense reputation of the man I would be photographing. Nobel Peace Prizes aren’t handed out for organizing a community car wash.

I didn’t know what to expect when I would meet the archbishop. People react differently. The pressures of being in front of cameras and doing the rounds with the media can cause some to change. They are often guarded and it takes them a while to relax. And I knew I wouldn’t have time for the ice-breaking small talk which sometimes happens in the downtime before a photo session.

The interview was quick, the archbishop was jovial, and he moved on to the next part of his day. I joined the crowd that evening and photographed him receiving the award. And like many jobs as a photographer, we need to produce quickly and often don’t get to reflect as much as we would like regarding who we meet. We move on to the next gig and after a while, details are lost. It’s a life in constant motion.

If I would create a shortlist of regrets, one entry would be that I didn’t have the opportunity to share small talk that day with Desmond Tutu. And there wasn’t enough time for me to ask my version of serious questions since I wasn’t the interviewer. But something I think we all observed was the archbishop enjoyed the exchange as much as we did. He was a storyteller, just like the writer and photographer who sat across from him.

A friend of mine, also a professional photographer from the Philadelphia area, has met and photographed the Dalai Lama often, and I always wondered if her experience was like mine when I met the archbishop. And after reading this story from Lion’s Roar , I think the bond between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu came from reflection on burdens they both carried and learned to overcome. Maybe that is oversimplifying it, but I think the essence of who they are, humble and kind people, is something that’s amplified and projected into their own lives, then passed on to others as a gift.

And now, having to sort through my extensive photo archive and recall what happened during a 30-minute session close to 18 years ago, I finally get my time to reflect. I’ll remember Desmond Tutu, who died Sunday at the age of 90, as a kind soul, humble, full of serious purpose yet fun to be around, and lastly a storyteller.

Follow us on social media: Twitter: @DV_Journal or