Monday, March 19, 2007

Phoenixville's Issues - Your questions, my responses

I received the following post from Jeff and rather than post it to the Mission Statement thread I've decided the public would be better served to see questions and responses in an appropriately named area.

Here is Jeff's post:

I have so many question to ask of ANY canidate, and if you are willing to share those answers with us on here I would be greatly appreciated. More than likely if other council people would do this same thing I woulds post the same questions. I hope you don't mind, I will not debate the issue with you if I don't agree with your answers. I just want to ask them and get your responds, with no rebutal from me. So for the first question. If you had a chance to influence the trash siutation, which plan would you choose and why?

Thanks, Jeff


Karen said...

Thank you, Jeff, for the opportunity to commence discussion of issues in this campaign blog.

Please feel free to submit multiple questions, and I will give you my opinion. If, however, I do not know the answer or know enough about the issue, I will also state that and make every attempt to learn more about it and respond.

Jeff, you and others visiting the blog may have entirely different opinions about problems in Phoenixville, but as a concensus builder, I am ever mindful of differences in opinion and never stop working towards a commonsense, working solution.

In my next post, I will address your question.

Once again, thank you for the opportunity to start our first "conversation" on my campaign blog.

Karen said...

Jeff's question:

If you had a chance to influence the trash siutation, which plan would you choose and why?


Jeff, I did have the opportunity to influence Council during my tenure in the 1990's, and the outcome at that time resulted in the borough contracting with a commercial hauler.

Allow me to explain.

At the time Council had a rather informal discussion regarding a municipal hauling program versus commercial hauling. I volunteered to do a survey of municipalities as comparable as possible to Phoenixville.

Taking into consideration the population of Phoenixville at the time, the number of public concerns which used the borough's program, much information regarding the amount of trash generated, tipping fees, projecte costs for gasoline, cost of vehicles, maintenance, employee salaries and benefits, etc., and the same input from the municipalities I contacted, I complied enough of information to give the results of my report to Council.

I am not a paid consultant, nor was I anything but a concerned citizen who happened to hold a Council seat, wanting the best possible service for our residents at the lowest price.

What I remember from my report is that the first year was basically a wash. All the costs associated with purchasing the vehicles, fuel, hiring new employees with full benefits, and all the other cost criteria I mentioned above, when compared with the cost of a commercial hauler, basically broke even.

After the first year is where the survey revealed increasing, rising costs.

No one could predict the outrageous inflation of fuel, but one could, with some certainty, figure non-uniformed employees raise in pay and benefits, maintenance on the vehicles, tipping fees, amount of trash collected, and so on.

After some discussion, Council nixed the idea for Phoenixville to collect it's own trash.

It was a no-brainer!

Now, in retrospect, the survey and resulting report appears to have been prophetic.

We, as a municipal government, should not be in the business of hauling waste.

The business belongs in the hands of the professionals who work in the industry.

Thank you for your question, Jeff.

Anonymous said...


Do you think that an annual report should be given by CDC with the use of public money. If you believe in that what type of power or how can council force them to give a Financial report?

Can any explain to me what is the Mission Statement of CDC and how did it become in existance.

FYI - Karen please understand I am not againest you in your bid for election, for I don't know you. I am just taking advantage of a person who is willing to share their views to do it so it might help other people see what you are about and hopfully might get you votes.
Like I said I hope to ask these questions to all canidates, I might not like their answers but I repects them if they are willing to state their views, instead of hiding behind some smoke and mirrors. Thanks for answering my last in a quick responds.

( I am not sure if I would be in the ward that you would serve. I am locate on Washington. As I have only been a resident (April 4th 2006)of Phoenixville for one year. And when I went to I could not understand the breakdown of boundry lines of the Wards. I did send the web master a message and he was helpful in giving me a better understand of the site but was able to tell me who my representative. Plus he gave me a number to call which he thought I could find out the actually borderlines for all Wards. I apoligize to other people if my questions seems stupid, being a new resident I know so little about the area.


Karen said...

Jeff, the creation of the CDC took place after my two terms on Council, and because I was not directly involved at the time, I have to rely on information we all share, i.e., the newspapers, internet, and my personal contacts with those parties directly involved.

Please understand that my replies are my opinions, alone, based on the criteria mentioned above. When I return to Council I am certain more information about a variety of subjects will become available to me, to further shape my overall knowledge.

That being said, the information on your particular question was gleaned from two sources and my own "common" knowledge.

Accordingly, I am told Council receives an annual audited statement outlining expenditures on an annual basis.

I haven't seen the statement, however, as a matter of public record, borough hall employees will provide a copy of that and any other public document to anyone after a form is completed and a small fee paid.

Jeff, I believe almost all business conducted by the borough, or in the name of the borough needs to be accessible to the public.

The 15,000+ souls in Phoenixville are what make our town a community. They are the backbone, the lifeblood, the very reason WHY Phoenixville exists.

The residents also pay the taxes which keep the "administration" of the borough in the business of governing.

I urge you and any other resident with similar needs to avail themselves of any and all information available.

Knowledge is power.

The CDC's mission, as I understand it, is to enhance the Phoenixville community as well as the economic development of the same.

My understanding of the evolution of the CDC is that it orginated as the Main Street Program and expanded to work on issues relating to crime in both the north and south sides of the borough.

With regards to your ward, if you register to vote, once you receive your voter registration card returned by Voter Services, your ward and precinct designated. Registration cards are often available at the post office, Voter Services, committee people, and I have a few at home. I would need your street address in order to give you the correct ward in which you reside.

Thank you, again, Jeff, for the opportunity to answer your questions.

Anonymous said...

what do you think of the other candidates runnings, espically in the middle ward which is the other contested race this spring?

Karen said...

Poster 5:03 p.m., my response to your question may be one of those which neither satisfies you nor informs you, but I'm hoping you'll understand the comments I have in mind.

For the benefit of those who may not yet know the names of all the candidates for Phoenixville Borough Council, here is the list:

North Ward

Jeffrey Senley - Republican
John Messina - Democrat

Middle Ward

Greg Hytha - Republican
Michael Handwerk - Democrat
Timothy Daly - Democrat

West Ward

Kendrick Buckwalter - Republican
Dana Dugan - Democrat

East Ward

Latisha (Tish) Jones - Democrat
Michael Speck - Democrat
Karen Johns - Democrat

Poster, it would be unfair if I were to give my opinion on any candidate for this election.

Several of the candidates I have worked with on Council in the past, while many others are acquaintances, and a few I have never met at all.

It's not a level playing field.

Perhaps they will take the opportunity to create their own blog, with their own message, and Phoenixville's voters will have the same opportunity I am extending to the voters of the East Ward.

The only and best way to get to know a candidate and their stance on issues is through a "conversation"!

Thank you for taking the time to visit my campaign blog.

Anonymous said...

You did not answer my question. If you get on council, which I hope you do not, you must give answers unlike the one you just gave. You are giving typical answers any politician would give.

Karen said...

Poster 10:23 p.m., my reply to the last question opened with the the first paragraph reading, "Poster 5:03 p.m., my response to your question may be one of those which neither satisfies you nor informs you, but I'm hoping you'll understand the comments I have in mind."

I stand by those words and the entire answer.

Thank you for your opinions.

A Karen Supporter said...

Anonymous at 10:23 - You are so transparent in your quest to bait Ms. Johns into saying something negative about another candidate that it borders on stupidity.

Ask an intelligent question and you will get an answer.

Anonymous said...

Dear Karen,

I don't have a question, but I do want to express my support for your campaign. You've been gone for far too long, and as someone who has urged you to run for office ever since you left, I applaud you for having to courage to walk willingly into the lions' den.

You are a good person with a passion for Phoenixville and its residents. You will do right by them, and that will hopefully begin to dilute the poor treatment of the residents by select council representatives.

Thank you for running. Phoenixville needs you.

A loyal supporter

Anonymous said...

If you get elected what would be your first goal to accomplish?

Karen said...

Hello, Jeff!

Much of Council's work is not accomplished on Council floor. Much research, "homework", and collection of background information on issues is done away from Council chambers, and it's critical for an incoming member to have as much information as possible before the first meeting and the first vote. My very first goal will be to become as aware and fluent as possible on the issues before Council convenes in January, 2008.

My second goal is to lead by example. I have always firmly believed that the residents of our community are the reason Phoenixville exists. It's not the brick and mortar which make a home, the home is made by the people who live in it. I plan to assist Council by keeping the good and welfare of our citizens foremost in any decision making process.

I believe in open discussions and sharing of information to assure the public is apprised and understands how and why members of Council reach a conclusion to a vote.

In order to have a more effective government, trust and respect must be the strongest part of the foundation of the relationship between the Council members and their constituency. I am offering my candidacy as my committment to that statement.

I will work on an examination of the expenditures of the borough, with an eye toward treating YOUR borough budget in the same manner as we do at home or our businesses.

I was astounded to learn the surplus in the year I left office had been depleted. Our intention was that the surplus was to be left untouched for a "rainy day" fund. I would like to know how we spent the surplus and ended up a few years later with a double digit tax increase and another large one projected for next year so it does not happen again. I want to hold the line on taxes for our residents while offering the services our community deserves.

I have many ideas, Jeff, most which I will discuss in the coming weeks.

Thank you for your question.

Ed Jones said...

I thought your answer to 'anonymous' was fair.

It's us taxpayers that have nothing to gain politically who should bemaking comments about those in power.

We have one on Council who can hardly stay awake (and sometimes DOES doze off) during Council meetings. Yes, that one should be replaced.

And what about the other lambs that follow their leader? Nothing against Anthony, who was hired by the lambs and their leader - except that he did not fit the qualifications for the job - and we, the taxpayers, are paying to educate him so he can possibly fit the qualifications for his next job.

Election is coming. Good luck to you, Karen.

Bitter Ed said...


I am really interested in helping out your campaign. Can you post how the people of Phoenixville can help get you back on Council.


Karen said...

Thank you, Ed Jones, for your comments and your good wishes on the upcoming election.

Adding to your comment on the leader and the lambs, I can only imagine the difficulty new-to-politics council members have when elected to their seats.

Although I don't know it to be fact, I would surmise that new Council members would look to the tenured members and after applying their own information to an issue, judge whether to follow another or forge their own path.

It must be very bewildering at first, and it may take some new Council members longer than others to consciously relinquish dependency and become an independent representative of the people.

As Council is seated currently, only a few members have lived in Phoenixville 20 years or more and only a few have ever been involved in local government before holding office. Longevity in the community and experience in public service, while not a requirement for office, certainly gives a council member valuable background knowledge in making critical decisions which affect all of us.

On the other hand, is my belief that someone may come to candidacy equipped with life experiences that may be commensurate with long term public service and become a shining example of a true public servant. All they would need is a sincere desire to learn and serve.

Phoenixville will always need dependable, sincerely motivated, and dedicated Council members, Ed.

I am committed to bringing those and other attributes as well as my experience to Council.

Thank you, again, for your comments.

Karen said...

Bitter Ed, thank you for your question!

I've decided to start another topic based on your question.

Thanks, again!

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, I am not a resident of the East Ward, but I am impressed with your ability to "get things done" and wish that I had the opportunity to vote for you on May 15th. Thank you for running and best of luck, I am eagerly awaiting the results.

However, I respectfully disagree with a comment you made in a previous post: Longevity in the community and experience in public service...certainly gives a council member valuable background knowledge in making critical decisions which affect all of us.

I agree that background knowledge in any position is certainly valuable & often required, but I think that someone can learn from history, not necessarily by living through it. Simply put, "History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon."

In the last 5-7 years, this borough has been infused with new life, new residents, and new businesses to our once depressed downtown. I believe "longevity in the community" and associated mindset was one of the contributing factors to our borough's decline. Without the recent influx of new residents, this borough may still be in the same shape it was five years ago.

Comments like this sound dismissive and condescending of recent residents' commitment to serving this fine borough we all call home. There are many newcomers that jumped in head-first to serve their community simply because they are passionate about serving. I ask, when does one stop being a "newcomer" to this borough? After 5 years, 10 years, never?

A loyal supporter, dedicated volunteer and (unfortunately) not yet a lifetime resident.

Karen said...

Thank you, anonymous, for your kind acknowledgements and your comments.

I understood the potential for disagreement on the statement you referenced even as I was writing it.

Please pardon me, I should have extrapolated on my thoughts just a paragraph or two longer.

Please note that I did say the following:

"On the other hand, is my belief that someone may come to candidacy equipped with life experiences that may be commensurate with long term public service and become a shining example of a true public servant. All they would need is a sincere desire to learn and serve."

However, what was not addressed in my remarks was addressed in yours, here: " I think that someone can learn from history, not necessarily by living through it."

Unfortunately, many Council members are not aware that certain issues have been addressed in the past, i.e., the recent debacle regarding our trash removal.

Had any member of Council remembered my report on the same subject made during my previous tenure on council, I truly believe we would not be in a situation where an "experiment" between a municipal trash removal program and a commercial business has turned into a costly lesson.

In this particular case, the taxpayers of Phoenixville are bearing the financial burden of Council learning that they must do research on prior Council actions on certain issues before making decisions that have been presented to Council in the past. Often, due to the fact that one-half of Council is up for re-election every two years, and borough managers in Phoenixville have a short shelf life, historical continuity rarely exists.

While I agree with your statement that the borough has been infused with new life, etc., I cannot agree that the state of our community in previous years was due to a closed mentality.

We literally had to fight for those first few steps towards revitalization with the saving of the Foundry Building back in the early 1990's. Pitifully few of us fought for years to lay a viable foundation to our vision of what Phoenixville could become. Today we are finally realizing the fruits of the efforts from many, many hours of ground work, many meetings, not to mention many fluxuating emotions during this long journey.

The above recognition of the work of those who have lived here and sacrificed much all their lives for our borough is only part of the story of the new success of Phoenixville. The new residents, new businesses, and new visitors have given even more motivation to those of us who have been passionately active for a very long time.

My feelings about the new residents and new businesses in our town can be summed up in three words. I LOVE them!!

Those of us who are multi-generational Phoenixville residents have deep roots in our community. Yes, each of us had the choice to stay or leave, some did, some didn't. BUT, those who CHOSE Phoenixville as their home, are special to us.

They looked around the town, at our schools, our places of worship, our ammenities, and at us. They liked what they saw because they bought into our hometown. And, as gracious neighbors, we welcome them and their ideas with open arms.

In Phoenixville, Anonymous, we like to think that our new residents are just a branch of family tree we haven't yet met.

In response to your question as to "when does one stop being a "newcomer" to this borough?", my reply is, the very first time he or she says, "Phoenixville is MY hometown!"

Anonymous said...

As a life long resident of 48 years.I know thw olders players in this game.I have yet to decide who ill be voting for this year. I like to ask you some questions about the grant that was for Revsse Park.Was it right to use it for Thorton park,after it was granted for Revsse park.How can someone wave a magic wand for this to happen.And would you allow it to happen?

Karen said...

Anonymous 2:53 p.m., my response to your questions will appear under the new MORE Phoenixville's Issues.

Thank you!