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In West Chester, Council Calls Foul On Adult Baseball League

Members of the West Chester Adult Baseball League found themselves temporarily homeless in June after a borough council vote ousted them from their ballfield at Hoopes Park. Both sides say they are working toward finding a solution to the situation.

The West Chester Borough Council voted unanimously to revoke the league’s access to the park after reports of rowdy behavior from league teams, including urinating in the nearby woods and leaving trash behind after games.

The WCABL also allegedly built a concrete staircase in the park without proper approval; additionally, the league allegedly used municipal water to irrigate the field without getting permission first.

The league’s 2023 schedule shows every matchup having taken place at Hoopes Park until June 22. All matches through the end of July have been moved elsewhere.

Charlie Cooper, the league president, admitted the situation is “unfortunate.”

“We’re currently working with the borough regarding a new agreement,” Cooper told DVJournal.

“For the time being, all league games have been rescheduled at local fields with the hopes that a new agreement can be reached in the very near future,” he added. The league has about 240 adult players, he said.

Asked if the council seemed amenable to working out a new agreement, Cooper said, “It seems that way.”

“It’s not necessarily the council we’re dealing with right now; it’s the borough,” he admitted, saying the league and the borough are hammering out details of a revised agreement. “Then the council has to ratify it,” he said.

Cooper conceded claims that ballplayers using the nearby woods’ bathroom are accurate.

“I would say people have peed in the woods,” he said. He explained that the Porta Potty supplied by the council was not conveniently located. “They put it really far from the field.”

“That’s being resolved with adding a second Porta Potty near the field,” he added.

Michael Stefano, president of the West Chester Borough Council, said local officials are likewise hopeful about a new agreement shortly.

“West Chester Borough management has met with the Baseball League leadership in the days following the council meeting,” Stefano told DVJournal. “They have already come up with a plan that is being looked over by both sides.”

“We are hopeful to come up with an agreement that addresses all concerns so we can move forward,” he said.

The league was founded in 1956 and currently has eight teams on its roster.

West Chester Council President Stands By ‘Hateful Emails’ Statements

West Chester Borough Council again did not respond to residents who pointed out last week that the emails showed that OutFest was canceled for lack of volunteers and sponsors—not by hate and threats.

OutFest is billed as a celebration of people telling others that they are gay and was also supposed to feature drag queens.

Beth Ann Rosica Ph.D., a resident who had run for mayor on the Libertarian ticket, told officials that emails she obtained by right-to-know requests showed that statements about their previous statements about the cancelation of the festival were misleading.

Only three of the nine emails sent prior to OutFest were negative, so reports that council was barraged by an onslaught of angry and threatening emails were wrong.

At the time, Council President Michael Stefano told CBS Philadelphia there council had received “tons of emails” about the event.

Stefano told the Delaware Valley Journal Friday that he will not retract his previous comments about the emails.

“I stand by the fact that we received hateful emails,” said Stefano.

John McDonald

“The emails had a lot of hate toward the drag queen community, likening it to “grooming” (of children) and pedophilia and I find that extremely hateful,” Stefano said.

Rosica had asked the mayor and council to take back their previous statements last month but they did not. And, the town leaders also ignored the issue at their most recent meeting on Nov. 16.

“I am here this month again to ask council to correct the record so that our community and the surrounding communities do not think we live in a hate-filled town,” Rosica told the council.

“They refuse to respond to retract and the Daily Local News refuses to print a retraction as well,” Rosica said later.

John McDonald, another resident, wrote a clever parody that he read to the board that he read: “The Boy Who Cried Hate.”

“The year was 2022 in a lovely little hamlet called West Chester, Pa.  It was recently dubbed as the ‘virtue signaling capital of the world.’ According to all of the yard signs, hate didn’t live here.”

McDonald accused the council president of making the story up and dubbed him “Jussie Stefano.”

Stefano “got up to the mic and conjured up a hate hoax story for the ages. He proclaimed that he had dozens of vitriolic and hateful emails from town residents about other members of the community. The crowd gasped in horror. The local CCP owned newspaper, The Daily Lazy News salivated and quickly ran the story without seeking evidence of such emails.

“The story spread like wild fire. Jussie smiled like the Grinch who stole Christmas (you know the one). At last, citizens were divided, and insults and rumors ran amuck on the interwebs. The town was torn apart.

“But then a heroic truth detector emerged from West Miner Street and called Jussie out on his bluff. She asked him to provide evidence of his claims. Seeing as Jussie didn’t have any evidence, she legally obtained his emails and they revealed something terrible. You see, it turns out that Jussie hadn’t received dozens of hateful and vitriolic emails. It was much worse. He hadn’t received not a one,” said McDonald.

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Inquirer Stands by Incorrect Story About ‘Hate-Filled’ Response to Canceled West Chester OUTFest Event

The Philadelphia Inquirer is standing by a story pushing a demonstrably false narrative that the West Chester Borough Council was inundated with “dozens” of “hate-filled” and “vitriolic” emails about a proposed LGBT event that was also slated to feature drag queens.

On Sept. 22, the Inquirer published its story about the cancellation of OUTFest, a gay pride event that celebrates when people come out as gay. The event also planned to feature a small number of drag queens.

“West Chester canceled an LGBTQ celebration this week after receiving dozens of emails that the borough council president said were ‘hate-filled’ and ‘vitriolic’” the story’s lead paragraph said.

However, West Chester resident Dr. Beth Ann Rosica used Pennsylvania’s Right to Know Law to request any emails sent to borough council members about the event. She was able to only identify nine emails sent prior to the council’s announcement that the event would be canceled.

One of the emails describes the planned event as “despicable.” Some dictionaries define despicable as something worthy of hate, while the Merriam Webster online dictionary says despicable is “deserving to be despised: so worthless or obnoxious as to rouse moral indignation.”

Another email worried that the event would lead to “grooming of children by further normalizing sexual content and behavior for children.”

Perhaps as many as three emails appear to be agitated or emotional of the nine requesting that the event be canceled. The remainder of the emails addressed the question as to whether the event was too sexualized to be held in public, and possibly in front of children.

“I want to commend you for your efforts to make West Chester welcoming to everyone,” one of the polite emails said. “I think it’s one of our town’s many attractions. However, I’m really disappointed to learn that West Chester is hosting the OutFest event featuring several drag performers, and marketing this as a family, community-building event.”

Another of the nine simply said, “…the Outfest on October 1st should not be approved, this type of event should be done privately, not in our public streets.”

Those two of nine emails do not appear to rise to the characterization of “vitriol,” defined by Merriam Webster’s online dictionary as “bitterly harsh or caustic language or criticism.”

The Inquirer’s story was headlined, “West Chester had to cancel an LGBTQ celebration after a ‘hate-filled’ response,” and the story’s tag line said, “officials and community members say they remain disturbed by the vitriol.”

The headline is directly contradicted by a sentence in an email from council member Bernie Flynn who told one citizen “the main sponsor pulled out and there wasn’t enough volunteers or vendors.”

The Inquirer story did quote from the cancellation announcement from the borough’s Business Improvement District (BID) which blamed it on a number of factors.

“While there were many logistical challenges that contributed to this decision, including a low number of vendors and volunteers to make it a successful event, it was also due to the vitriol and hate directed at this event and its organizers,” the social media announcement said. “We no longer felt as though it was a safe space to put our community in.”

None of the emails obtained by Rosica make any statement that could reasonably be thought to resemble a threat.

Broad + Liberty asked reporter Erin McCarthy if she personally viewed any of the emails prior to filing the story, given that the story does not quote any single example of a hateful or vitriolic email, nor does she say if she reviewed any emails.

That email to McCarthy, also sent to more than half a dozen of editors at the Inquirer, was not returned.

In an on-air report with the CBS affiliate in Philadelphia, reporter Siafa Lewis said the council members received “a ton” of emails in protest.

This article first appeared in Broad + Liberty.

Should the Delaware Valley Follow New Jersey’s Strict Plastic Bag Ban?

New Jersey has banned food service businesses, grocery stores, and retail stores from providing single-use plastic bags in a cause celebre for anti-plastic activists. But one critic says that move flies in the face of scientific fact.

Many Delaware Valley residents are preparing for their municipalities to jump on the bag ban bandwagon. And several towns are already on board.

At least eight other states have a similar plastic bag ban, and Philadelphia and other big cities such as Boston and Los Angeles have also instituted them.

Zach Taylor, director of the American Recyclable Plastic Bag Alliance, notes the downside of bag bans.

“Regardless of the policy specifics, bans force retailers and consumers to switch to products that are often made from plastic, are nonrecyclable, and have greater environmental impacts than the products they replace,” Taylor said. “It’s hard to see how policies that require bags with worse environmental profiles advance the sustainability goals that supposedly underpin these regulations.”

And for thousands of Pennsylvania workers, plastic represents something else entirely: Good-paying jobs. Approximately 37,221 plastics-related jobs are in Pennsylvania. Some 6,931 of them are in Berks, Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery, and Philadelphia Counties.

In April, an eight-to-one vote by the Haverford Township Board of Commissioners made it the first in Delaware County to ban single-use plastic bags. Beginning in January, businesses will no longer be allowed to provide customers with beverage stirrers or plastic take-out bags, and plastic straws will only be available upon request.

Commissioner Conor Quinn was the only commissioner who voted against the ban. His objection was the inclusion of plastic straws. In Quinn’s work with people living with ALS, he told WHYY that many of those people would need straws in public facilities and he does not believe they should have to go out of their way to ask for them.

Climate change and concerns about litter are the primary motives for the bans. According to the regulation, single-use plastic bags, beverage stirrers, and straws degrade more slowly than recyclable alternatives. Enacting significant restrictions on them is intended to improve the health of the environment and its people.

Joy Baxter, a resident of Havertown, told PhillyVoice she previously wrote to the Board of Commissioners about pursuing a plastic bag ban to decrease litter in Havertown’s waterways.

“We are already dealing with the impacts of single-use plastic litter,” Baxter said. “We should be the ones enacting legislation to deal with it.”

Other Delaware Valley municipalities, including Radnor and Tredyffrin Townships, are considering their single-use plastic regulations. And Narberth was the first to enact a ban but took the state to court to be allowed to enforce it. Eventually, that case, which Lower Merion and Philadelphia joined, died after the legislature removed the section barring municipalities from enacting plastic bag bans from a fiscal bill.

After the July 2019 Borough Council approval, West Chester has implemented its plastic bag ban as of Jan. 1. While paper bags are permitted as an alternative, they must consist of recycled content and also be recyclable.

Businesses must charge and disclose a 10-cent fee on each bag provided to customers. That regulation does not apply to product packaging or bags without handles used to wrap raw food products such as fish and meat, which could otherwise represent a health hazard.

The New Jersey law is more strict. It requires restaurants and food trucks to stop serving takeout food in Styrofoam-like products. Grocery stores and retailers must also stop selling polystyrene foam products like plates and cups. In fact, New Jersey is the first state to take the extreme step of outlawing paper bags in stores larger than 2,500 square feet.

Those policies are based on politics and posturing, critics say, not science.

“Single-use plastic bags are the worst environmental choice at the supermarket? Wrong: they’re the best choice,” wrote environmental journalist John Tierney in the City Journal. He reports that because single-use bags are so thin and light it takes little energy to ship them — unlike paper or reusable manufactured bags. It also takes far more carbon to make the other bags, which means “the net effect of banning plastic grocery bags is more global warming. Exactly how much more depends on which researchers’ life-cycle analysis you choose, but there’s definitely more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.”

At least one resident thinks the ordinance creates a big hassle but with little net effect.

“I don’t mind doing my share to make West Chester a better place for all of us,” said Anita Edgarian. “I like the idea of getting away from plastic bags. However, there has to be a multi-prong approach. How about all the plastic water bottles that are being sold? What do we do about drinks and take-out boxes? Do we have a plan for that?

“It seems useless if we don’t have a manageable plan for the rest of plastic or Styrofoam waste and we only ban plastic bags,” she said. “Most importantly it is hypocritical when leaders fly their private jets to meet and make decisions about the environment for the average person who buys a dozen eggs and can’t have a bag to carry them out.

“Ask anyone who has unwrapped a toy,” she said. “Wouldn’t it be better for the environment if the toy manufacturers didn’t waste so much plastic and cardboard to package toys?”

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ROSICA: West Chester Reign of Error

The West Chester Borough Council continues to enact mandates that not only epitomize government overreach, but now they are denying hard-working Borough staff the opportunity for gainful employment.

On October 20, 2021, Council voted unanimously to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment for all borough employees. Most municipalities have not taken this draconian step, including our own county. The borough employs a total of 126 staff, including 43 police officers who are members of the Brotherhood of West Chester Police union and 40 staff from Public Works, Dispatch, and Parking who are members of the AFSCME union.

When council voted to approve the vaccine requirement, they were aware of objections from both staff and the unions.  The contract between the Brotherhood of West Chester Police and the borough requires arbitration for this type of change in employment conditions, and council knew that they would need to complete that process before full implementation of the mandate.

Therefore, on December 31, any non-police union staff who had not provided documentation of vaccination was placed on unpaid administrative leave for 30 days.  There are currently five borough staff on unpaid leave, and they will be terminated on January 31 if they fail to present proof of vaccination.  It is unknown how many police officers will fall into the same category after the completion of the arbitration process.

At the October Council meeting, I stated my objections to the mandate and voiced concerns about the expense of defending this requirement.  One council person responded that the mandate would actually save money because employees would not get as sick, and the medical insurance costs would drop. When I requested for the legal expenses related to the vaccine mandate, I was instructed to submit a Right to Know request.   Through that request, it was shared that the borough had spent $14,500 in legal fees from September through November 11, and the arbitration process had not even begun yet. With over $14,000 spent in two months, it seems reasonable to estimate that legal fees could easily reach $50,000 or more especially during the arbitration process.

For a borough that had to cut costs, programs, and capital projects to balance the budget, it is simply irresponsible to waste tax-payers dollars to require a vaccine.  This mandate is reminiscent of a similar one passed in the fall of 2020, when residents were told that they could not have more than 10 people in their homes at one time and they were required to wear cloth masks while outside. Both offenses carried up to a $300 fine.  While that mandate represented government overreach, those bothered by it simply ignored it because no one was actually enforcing it, and it expired after 90 days. It amounted to nothing more than political theater.

That political stunt in 2020 paved the way for a new move to take away individual rights and freedoms. With this vaccine mandate, hard-working employees are going to be denied the right to support their families and put food on their tables.  And the taxpayers of West Chester are going to foot the bill for Council’s “reign of error.”

Earlier this month, three new council members were sworn into office.  It is my sincere hope that the newly elected council members will recognize the error of this decision and work to reverse it.  The new council can vote to end the mandate, allow everyone to get back to work, and save thousands of dollars in the process. It is imperative that we end this level of government overreach. How many freedoms will be taken away from our Borough residents before it goes too far?  In my opinion, council crossed that line infFall 2020, and it is only getting worse. When will the Reign of Error end?

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ROSICA: An Election Education in West Chester

When I decided to run for Mayor of West Chester, I did not expect to win.  Most Libertarians and other smaller parties have an uphill battle in our two-party-dominated system.

My goal was to raise awareness and to give voters a viable alternative. Later, I started to think that our campaign might be competitive. My enthusiasm grew each day I went out door-knocking, talking to potential voters. Many expressed dissatisfaction with the current borough politics and responded favorably to the ideas in my platform. They were enthusiastic about supporting positive change and a localized, community approach to government. The fact that I had a solid platform with concrete plans to implement quickly also helped.

The League of Women’s Voters hosted a debate for the three mayoral candidates. This was an exciting — and rare — experience for most Borough residents made even more rare by having third-party participation. The debate exceeded my expectations. It was fun, challenging, thought-provoking, and an opportunity to share my platform.  The feedback from voters, friends, and neighbors was outstanding. They appreciated the amount of research I conducted in preparation for the debate and my candidacy. Afterward, I was pleased to find several borough council members expressing their support for my candidacy following the debate.

While our campaign team became increasingly optimistic about the possibility of a Libertarian win, other groups in the borough must have also sensed a shift in the momentum.  The negativity began.

Before the debate, I experienced mostly positive feedback both in person and through social media.  Now things started to become heated, and even some of my long-time neighbors transitioned from friendship to politics. This was disappointing because I had made a commitment to run an upbeat campaign that focused on issues and solutions.  Our campaign never criticized other candidates. Instead, we focused on our policy issues.  Unfortunately, we were not always granted the same courtesy.

In the end, my biggest disappointment was not losing the election. Instead, it was the lack of decorum and professionalism from some members of our community.  I was always happy to talk with anyone about my views on issues, even when we disagreed, but civil discourse seems to be a lost art.  It was distressing to see people impacted by peer pressure and social media blindly take sides and reject not only opposing views but the person expressing them.

This lack of civil discourse led me to ask, “when was the turning point?”  It was once acceptable and even encouraged for friends and neighbors to discuss politics in a spirited but respectful way. People were willing to share their perspectives without fear of repercussions or losing friendships.  It was ok to “agree to disagree” and remain friends.

Today, however, that does not generally seem to be the case.  This has been occurring nationally for a while, yet I was still surprised to discover this behavior in our own community. I am thankful for so many wonderful aspects of the campaign. I met incredible residents who appreciated the issues we raised. I have been overwhelmed by cards, notes, flowers, and thank-you notes for doing what I believe is right. On reflection, I will focus on the positive aspects of the experience and will continue to work hard to bring our community together and model civil discourse.  Maybe others will follow this example and grow to understand that our different perspectives actually make our community stronger.

A politician once wrote about this problem. “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend… I never deserted a friend because he had taken an opposite side… the fever is abating, and doubtless some of them will correct the momentary wanderings of their heart and return again.” This quote is from a letter written in 1800 by a politician named Thomas Jefferson. West Chester Borough residents and the entire nation could benefit from these words written over 200 years ago.


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ROSICA: I Found My Democratic Ideals in the Libertarian Party

I was a registered Democrat for 35 years, most of my voting life. Like many Democrats, I was drawn to a party that promised to help my community in areas of critical need, including education, health care, food insecurity, and voting access. I found a community of Democrats that felt the same. Yet after years of involvement, I saw little progress in these important areas. Instead, our party’s focus was increasingly aimed at maintaining bureaucratic power, and I found myself at odds with this direction.

The party started to shift control to the professional politicians and away from the people. National focus took precedence, and these top-down priorities were often in conflict with the concerns of our local community. My apprehension grew when I realized that my own expertise in areas like education and community policing carried little weight once the party decided that bureaucrats knew more than constituents.

At first, it was just party leadership. But then I witnessed the rise of adversarial politics at the individual level. I watched members of my party shun those who disagreed with party politics, labeling them simply as bad people with bad opinions. In our local community, residents with “Hate Has No Home Here” signs in their yards took to social media in a manner that directly contradicted that motto.

It boiled down to something very simple. Principles.

The principles that first drew me to the Democratic Party became less represented in the party’s objectives. Rather than serving as the party’s compass, these principles became flexible and subject to bureaucratic power.

In the local Libertarian Party, I discovered something I had been looking for during all my years as a Democrat: A group of principled individuals who lead the party from the bottom up, with an unwavering focus on non-aggression towards others and respect for the individual and their rights. I found meetings that were open to all, where visitors from other parties are welcomed and discussion is encouraged. I found support for transparency and voter choice in politics. I found an attitude of volunteerism and of working for positive change in the community, without waiting for someone else to do it. I found a place where my own principles fit, those very principles that first drew me to the Democratic party.

So I joined this growing body of people who keep their sights on positive change and who respect the views of others. I am still the same person I was when I joined the Democratic Party. My guiding principles remain my compass: Standing up for people who need help, improving community relations, listening to others, and respecting others’ rights and property. But now I’ve found my place in a party that has remained loyal to these same principles, the principles that make our community and our country the wonderful places that they are.