Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Phoenix newspaper candidate questions and my responses

From the Phoenix newspaper - CANDIDATE QUESTIONS

1. As a member of council, what will you do to improve the spirit of open government and ensure council is acting in the best interests of the residents of Phoenixville?

1a. As a representative of the East Ward residents, as well as all the citizens of Phoenixville, if elected, I plan to limit as well as reduce issue related discussions between members off Council floor. As an example, I believe the lack of discussion on the long delayed 2008 budget was either a lack of interest in the issue by Council members or an indication that an even more detailed excuse for the postponement may have occurred off floor. That is not acceptable. The residents deserve to see and hear Council's comments when it involves the taxpayer monies. I will hold accountable every Council member to conduct the public’s business in public where it belongs. I have a long history as an advocate and clear voice for our residents before, after, and during my previous tenure on Council. I will stand as Council’s conscience.

2. Do you think we need to hire more police, cut back or keep the level we have now? With 4 establishments serving alcohol on one block, how does that affect police deployment?

2a. I plan, if elected, to meet with Mayor Leo Scoda, and Police Chief William Mossman to learn, first hand, of their specific needs and requirements. As a former Council member, there were many times when I relied on the professional opinions of department heads and others, in addition to my own research, in order to reach a decision. That being said, my unofficial understanding of the current situation is that more officers as well as updated equipment are needed. With the influx of many more people to Phoenixville with the revitalization underway, the presence of more police officers in the downtown area will help to insure the safety and comfort level of our residents and visitors.

3. Why should residents bear any cost associated with a parking garage or creation of another borough job? If new restaurants or other businesses open, shouldn't they bear the cost if they feel their customers want to park closer and/or for free?

3a. As a taxpayer, I ask myself the very same questions. After all, we already contribute to the health and welfare of the downtown area with our taxes as well as by shopping or dining in the area. We have also seen our tax dollars come back to us via successful grant applications and applied to various improvement projects in the downtown area. Having an active and progressive downtown community is important as another resource for those in the job market, for additional taxes, shopping, dining, and as a focus center for community pride. As a Council member, I would support a developer, with the right plans for Phoenixville, who would include in his redevelopment of the former Phoenix Steel property, a parking garage to be gifted to the borough. Along the same line, I would also support the establishment of a Parking Authority, which I have discussed in Council several times in the past. This commission would then have the ability to oversee downtown parking garages, and give much needed attention and relief to some of our neighborhoods desperately in need of additional parking.

4. In the center of town, both north side and south side, there are a lot of houses that were converted into apartments. What are the candidates' views regarding residential conversions, landlords, and property?

4a. I don’t like the trend. Although I realize some of our grander homes are large, and perhaps unaffordable as single family dwellings for many, allowing them to be converted into apartments may create additional parking problems for some of the neighborhoods, and may put a further strain on our public services and schools. With Phoenixville Hospital’s expansion, perhaps a better trend of conversion would be to medical office space and other offices which would have less of an impact. Granted, this idea is not applicable to every area of our town, but it’s an approach which can be analyzed in conjunction with the Planning Commission and the Zoning Hearing Board requirements.

Absentee landlords and unlawful tenants may become problematic in some situations, and Council cannot mandate an apartment owner to live on site to insure upkeep and the peace. Council can however, by ordinance, fine and/or cite offending apartment owners. Council should prioritize situations in which the neighbors have been denied the quality of life conditions we all expect, and enforce the laws on the books promptly.

5. What, if any, do you feel are the weaker practices of the current council and administration, and how can they be improved?

5a. I believe the current Council’s weakest praxis is their apparent lack of interest in the opinions and concerns of the public. From one Council member’s removal of his contact information from the Borough’s website, to the departure-from-the-norm of a public presentation of the budget prior to the November elections, I have developed the impression of a Council which is, at times, arrogant, secretive, and fiscally reckless (i.e., trash hauling program). Add to that list, impudence. The hiring of a former Democratic Council member and friend as Borough Manager who, by their own language in a advertisement for the position, was unqualified, was a serious judgemental error. I find the lack of credibility and confidence in Council to have genesis in that decision. Improvement in the overall performance of Council may require redirection of priorities by some Council members coupled with drastic change. Partially to that end, elections will be held on November 06, 2007. If elected to the East Ward Council seat, I plan to lead by example, encouraging my colleagues to join me in becoming Council representatives who are true public servants.

In addition, each candidate is invited to make one open-ended statement on any topic.*

*I have always loved my hometown and the people in it who choose to call Phoenixville home. I've taken much pride in the fact that my children along with our grandchildren have chosen to live here, too. I have worked for the common good in many different and various ways for many years in our community, and I do hope you vote for me, but if God has a different path for me for the next four years other than one with a Borough Council seat, I will set on it with joy in my heart. I know, first hand, the formidable responsiblity of representing the residents in our Borough. It is challenging and a sacrifice to one's personal life, but rewarding, as well. This I have shouldered in the past, and one I am willing to accept, again.

Prior to the May primary, I asked God to take my campaign and do with it what He will. I left the future of my campaign to Him and the good work of my volunteers. I can now say with utter delight that God certainly must have a sense of humor. At the end of election day, after amassing a large amount of Democratic support, I was a simple 5 votes short to the nomination.

On the other ballot an unprecedented number of Republican write-in votes declared me a Council candidate! As far as we can determine, I am Phoenixville's first truly bipartisan candidate for the November elections! Quite appropriate in my case, because I've always believed we should closely examine and vote for the best qualified person.

To the East Ward voters who may not have made their decision for which candidate they will vote, I extend an invitation to you to visit my website located at:

Please read those areas of interest to you, and if you have any questions please contact me through the website, which is totally anonymous, or you may call me.

Please consider a vote for me, Karen Johns, and thank you!

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