Friday, March 31, 2006

Say It Ain't So

by Shoeless Joe

Less than two weeks into her role as editor of the Local, Lea Stanley has been overheard by more than one source to be threatening to leave because of the spartan conditions of our little weekly paper. Not only does the staff need a lot of direction, but the paper is having a hard time paying her what its so-called custodians on the CHCA had agreed.

For the CHCA this is par for the course… a search committee of un-experts is assembled to hire the leader of a vital community institution and they go about it without even a surface study of what that institution needs. Ask the employees of the Local if they’ve ever seen members of the search committee on fact-finding missions to 8434. Fat chance. And agreeing to pay people more than the paper can afford is a tradition that started with the Notebook’s own John Lombardi. Gross incompetence at the CHCA? Say it ain’t so…

Shoeless Joe is surprised by Lea’s reaction, though… I can understand not getting paid, but Lea, did you ever read the Local? Did you miss the near weekly stories about financial uncertainty written by unsteady and untrained writers? It wouldn’t take a whole lot of journalism skill to uncover that one.

Bar None
And quickly: How about the Local’s failure to print the details of Sanjiv Jain’s scheme to get variances that would allow him to turn the former Yankee Candle shop into a late-night club. Doesn’t he know no one stays up on the Hill past 11:00 p.m.?

Jain doesn’t know that. And apparently he doesn’t know it’s pretty appalling to get store clerks to sign a letter in lieu of the owners of the businesses for which they work. And he also didn’t realize it’s not right to get a letter of approval from the business association without telling the members of the business association… or Anne McNally, the president. Imagine the surprise of the biz leaders when they learned that one.

But in all seriousness, Jain was picked by the current power brokers on the board to be the head of the community’s Physical Division, the division responsible for review of all projects big and small in Chestnut Hill (from garden fences to new retail construction, anything that needs a variance from the city must go through the Physical Division). What the hell were they thinking? The community association is supposed to represent the community’s interest; not aid and abet a would-be real estate tycoon in his quest to increase the value of his portfolio. The board members who support his continued leadership of the Physical Division are either morons or content with corruption.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

If This Is Speaking Softly...

The sounds of silence, or at least speaking softly, have taken on a new twist with the Maxinistas (er, Actionist) first campaign ad in the 2006 CHCA board election.

It begins:
"Please read it to yourself very very quietly. There, isn’t that better? We figure you’ve heard enough shouting for a while. We think that maybe you’d like to hear some ideas for the future instead."

Oh, so true. The screed Terrorists & Parasites... which they offered in late fall was enough shouting to last us all a lifetime. And as a futurist piece, it ranks alongside "1984" and "Fahrenheit 451."

"The problem with shouting is that nobody really hears anything anybody says, and it takes way too much energy. We want to use that energy to solve the problems that face us as a community."

Solving problems is a good idea, but the Actionites have a strange way of proceeding (See Hole in the Wall Gang) when it comes to following the rules. See, no need to shout. Close the doors to the public and clap slowly, repeating the phrase, "There's no one like us, there's no one like us."

They do have Action Steps, a good idea, especially if your group has been in power for several years and every fundraising effort, from the Holiday House Tour to Community Fund donations, has been dismal in achieving results. When things look bleak, repackage yourselves as the "reformers" and promise your own X-Step Program.

So, here they go with Action Step #1, which suggests that someone
"conduct a membership-wide survey on the Local. Ask our members what they believe the newspaper should be—the scope of its coverage, the tone of its commentary. Ask them what should be added, subtracted, and/or expanded. Ask them just what kind of role they want the Association to play in our community life. We hope the results of such a survey will act as resource and reference for both the editor and the board in their decision-making processes."

People?!? Actionites?!? You tried newspaper management on for size in the fall and winter, causing the Local editor to resign, the associate editor to follow suit, a lead writer to walk and the staff given orders not to talk with certain people on pain of dismissal. And now you want a survey so you can come up with a plan to run the newspaper? What happened to the cries that the Local should be run as a business? Polling and surveys? Oh, that's right. It's the silence thing. Let others make decisions, keep silent on your real plans and then issue edicts with a "they're speaking loudly" when the community questions what the board is doing. New Local editor Lea Stanley must be very pleased to hear that surveys will be used in lieu of newspaper experience in determining editorial direction.

As for the role the CHCA might play in the community's life, elections are held to select decision makers, to find people with ideas, to place in office people who will work to implement a platform and policy. Being silent means no policy. Using a survey means no ideas. Of course, it's easier to blame survey results than take responsibility when things don't go as planned.

But the telling point is Action Step # 10. You know you're in Philadelphia when a "Pay to Play" plank appears in the Actionist platform.
"Require every board member to contribute to the Fund. The amount isn’t important -- five dollars is enough. Five hundred would be nice too. We can’t expect support from our membership if we aren’t willing to give ourselves. All members of our slate have contributed to the current Fund Drive."

Contributions to the fund are needed, but do you suppose people are voting with their wallets?

It's the mindset of this group that is truly frightening: Require people to contribute. Require people to be nice. Require people to stay silent and follow orders.

In a recent comment under "Maxinista: Bodysnatchers," the writer makes mention that "Sanjiv Jain's missive to all loyal Maxinistas, urging them to boycott the town meeting held Monday at the Library, is the perfect example of the ruling clique's contempt for open dialogue and real communal participation. If it can't set the rules, it won't play."

"The clique is also ridden with fear at this point, advocating 'action over words,' a notion expressed by Mussolini's blackshirts, and by the Milice in Paris, French proto-fascists, in the run-up to World War II. Of course, most of these people weren't alive then, never read history, and so know nothing except real estate and stock market quotes. Donald Trump uber alles."

The author of the post is correct to a point. To add to that, rewriting history and saying it's all in the past and we must move forward is moral cowardice. We cannot build a strong community when those who want to lead do not have a plan. And we cannot have leaders who believe surveys and mandated donations are effective policy tools.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

An Observer's Comment on the Town Meeting

An attendee to the Town Meeting held on Monday, March 20, mailed these observations. A complete story about the meeting will follow in the near future.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men (and women) do nothing."
Edmund Burke, Statesman

As the clock struck seven o'clock, George L. Spaeth, M.D., former CHCA president and statesman in his own right, opened the March 20 Town Meeting at the Chestnut Hill branch of the Public Library

An audience of approximately 70 people, representing a wide swathe of the community's interests was ready with questions, suggestions, demands, and answers. These were fielded by CHCA members Ron Recko, Jim Foster, and Ed Feldman, key organizers of this meeting.

Yes, the names just mentioned may seem familiar: Letters to the Editor, opinion pieces, voices of dissent at CHCA meetings. But these are als people who are a part of that bunch calling itself The Second Opinion Caucus. And there were community members participating who may be recognized from their contributions to the welfare of Chestnut Hill -- CHCA Board Directors Ann Spaeth, Janine Dwyer, Virginia Mallery, Lou Aiello, Jonathan Sternberg and John O'Connell.

But was this one-sided conversation by design? Can you identify who was missing on March 20?

For starters, the Philadelphia police and Library security personnel were absent (See Maxinista). Likewise chaos, loud voices, unruly behavior, scatological language, and weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And except for the presence of Board Director Tom Hemphill, NO OTHER MEMBER OF THE BOARD, the "majority party," the thirty or so Directors who have, in the current term, voted down every motion, denied every proposal, refused items submitted for Board meeting agenda, sidestepped every legitimate question coming from the seven or eight duly-elected minority, showed up for the Town Meeting.

Four or five members of the Executive Committee who dominate the Board were personally contacted by Recko and declined or were unable to attend and complete the panel. Stewart Graham, Tia Burke, Dina Hitchcock, and Jeremy Heep, among others, were invited to participate, to answer questions from the audience, propose solutions for the future, or to even give the appearance of accountability.

A reliable source reports that emails sent by Vice President of the Physical Division Sanjiv Jain urged Board members to absent themselves. You just can't say enough about "following orders," can you?

But the Second Opinion Caucus and its supporters got the first in a series of REALLY EARLY Christmas gifts in Director Walter Sullivan's wife who introduced herself as his proxy. In a series of outrageous comments from her, heads literally snapped at her observation that "democracy was working perfectly on the fifty-member Board until there was the second opinion."

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Reply to "Mr. Anonymous"

To anonymous:

First, if you have the courage of your convictions, make your case with facts, not two-word sound bytes with no backup. I have done my research in the public record before writing and stand by my comments. Secondly, sign those comments and don't hide in the shadows if you feel the issue is that important. Stand up and be counted.

Personally I would not support any organization that is anti-business, as business is the lifeblood of any community. What I would not endorse, however, is a narrow group of power brokers who own and operate a significant number of businesses in a given area and work toward giving themselves an express lane through the regulatory system.

There must be arms-length distance between those who request permits, licenses, variances and accommodations and those who are charged with reviewing those requests for the community. That is not the case presently, and the same would be true for any number of developers and income property owners in this community, not simply Mr. Jain.

Jim Foster

Thursday, March 16, 2006

It's About the Leadership...

Our most frequent poster, Anonymous, sent a comment on Jim Foster's piece, Damage Control, in which the entire story is discarded with a two-word response.

Anonymous writes:
Twisted nonsense. Chestnut Hill should be grateful to Mr. Jain and Ms. Dornemann for encouraging healthy businesses to replace empty storefronts on Germantown Avenue.

Why is the blog so anti-business?

Dear Anonymous:

All we can say is, "'splain that one to me, Lucy."

The issue is transparency and honesty within the management of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. It has nothing to do with the who and/or what of business. Your anti-business talking point? It's merely a diversion from the real issue - poor leadership.

This is a road we've been on too long. The group in power uses code phrases like "terrorist," left-winger," and "anti-business" to disguise the rather obvious ineptitude and incompetency of the current crop of directors. It hurts them - deeply, one imagines - that people aren't buying their excuses. From the failure of the Black & White Gala through the Holiday House Tour debacle and now the non-response to the annual Community Fund appeal, a common thread is found. That thread tells us the leadership and board of directors has failed. How? They fail to follow the by-laws, have interfered with the operation of the Local and and cannot be trusted to keep the interests of the community uppermost in their behavior, which only further underscores their lack of competence.

The only answer is to "fire" the people responsible for this mess in the next election. It is time to elect people who understand what a community association should be. The dissidents are placing a slate of candidates up this spring. They are the people deserving of support. They are the people who can turn the CHCA around. Otherwise, we are in for another year of broken rules and threats, of mismanaged programs and excuses that "those people" are preventing the management from getting the work done. And that kind of management is something this community can no longer afford.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Damage Control...

Sanjiv Jain & the Ballad of Commerce Bank

by Jim Foster

The page 2 story in the March 9th Chestnut Hill Local about Commerce Bank is more fiction than fact. Sanjiv Jain, VP of the Physical Division of the CHCA, crafts an explanation of the CB situation at 8600 Germantown Ave., the old GAP store site, to cover his tracks and those of the CHCA leadership. He defines chutzpah -- there hasn't been so much manure on the Avenue since the 23 trolley was a horsecar.

Jain now claims he was "shocked" to learn the extent of the demolition at the old GAP site beyond what was agreed upon with CHCA committees, but for months has defended the bank's right to work a remedy in secret, with no feedback from the community. He repeated this regularly at Executive Committee and Board meetings from October through January. As I read the Local story, I flashed on Mr. Jain as the Prefect of Police in "Casablanca" , claiming he was "shocked, shocked", to find gambling at Rick's American cafe . . .

Then suddenly, Jain and the CHCA were "concerned" about the unprotected work site, the reduction of setbacks, (to quietly give the bank more square footage than they'd agreed to), etc. But no attempt has been made to pressure Commerce to secure the danger caused by over-deconstruction during all the time that's passed, or to call them on their sneakiness. Where are the reports he now cites of complaints from community members? Did they only begin recently? When I reported the Department of Licenses and Inspection/ Commerce stalemate (L & I ordered a work stoppage in October, when Hillers first began complaining), to the Board? This despite Maxine Dornemman's attempts to silence me, and her claim that the CHCA leadership "already knew the facts." If they knew, why didn't they make the problems public through the Local, or regular CHCA channels? The truth is, the CHCA learned the full story only after I submitted a copy of L & I's rejection of Commerce's appeal of the work stoppage order in my Local column in February.

Currently, Jain is claiming Commerce "has not been the most vocal," when all along he's kept repeating they were "informative" about the process, "although they were not required to do so." We were reminded of this ad nauseam until very recently, when Physical Division reports were abruptly curtailed!

And now Jain suggests that the financially strapped CHCA subsidize Commerce Bank by erecting a wooden fence with a mural to cover up the dangerous, unsightly mess they've created, with the hope that the bank will someday reimburse the community "later." Newsflash, Sanjiv: Commerce should be required to pay for its own mistakes and finagling now.

And all of this from a VP of the Physical Division who may have a conflict of interest in this affair, since he represents the arm of our quasi-government most involved with all things related to buildings, permits and zoning. Who is one of the most aggressive developers and real estate entrepreneurs in the area, owning more than 50 properties city-wide, many in Chestnut Hill, under the Legacy Real Estate title. In fact, Jain owns six properties within 85 yards of the Commerce Bank location. Two right across the street. A more judicious man might recuse himself from carrying the ball on a deal that will obviously tend to benefit him.

There's also the arrival of Vito F. Canuso Jr. on the scene. Canuso happens to be the Chairman of the Philadelphia Republican Party, and now he's working as a hired gun for Commerce Bank in its zoning appeal on the work stoppage. His first filing sought to partially justify illegal work already done, and further reduce required setbacks. His presence raises the hard question of political influence, never far away from zoning matters in this city.

I say that the Local's "news story" was a self-serving 11th-hour attempt at face-saving. The Local's new editor should read the summary below, and make her own decisions about future coverage:
(Ed. Note: Jain/Dornemann in paragraph 3 corrected on March 16).

Commerce Bank -- a Tragicomedy in Six Acts

Act I
Beginning in June, 2005, a new neighbor, Commerce Bank, begins making moves to first lease, then buy, the former GAP property at 8600 Germantown Avenue. It immediately sponsors half of the annual premier CHCA community event, the Black and White Gala, in the amount of $6500. The Gala takes place in September.

Act 2
Intending to modify the former retail space, detailed plans are filed with the City's Department of Licenses and Inspections, on Oct. 7. The modifications are limited to what is permitted under the Code, and include no codicil for major demolition of the roof or walls. It's agreed that interaction with the community and very specific limited designs should keep the project within Chestnut Hill guidelines, to preclude Commerce's signature big white box design, with red C and over-sized glass windows, from being built. The application is filed on behalf of Commerce by Builders Inc. of Havertown, Pa. The architect's drawings are consistent with requirements. A permit is issued. Work commences.

Act 3
Contractors immediately dismantle all four exterior walls, interior partitions, and major portions of the roof; only supporting pillars and a small portion of the roof remain. Local residents call the infractions to the attention of city inspectors, and a work stoppage order is issued. This takes place in late October, 2005, and the property is then fenced in with blue plastic sheeting. The community awaits an outcome -- a decision from city officials.

Act 4
With no notice, developers file application to legalize what they've just done illegally. The idea is to expand the project beyond the original guidelines -- a common practice in the City of Brotherly Love, which often allows such practices if violations are relatively minor. These violations, however, are massive. And this portion of the Zoning Code was not intended to create a route around variances. But it's no secret that the Code gets manipulated by savvy developers, especially if the community is silent or passive. Often the legalization process may not require notification and posting to the community. Developers try not to involve the community too much.At 8600, legalization was not approved, however, and the matter languishes in legal limbo. Months pass with no word forthcoming.

Act 5
On January 17th of this year, politically-connected zoning attorney Vito F. Canuso, Jr. arrives and files an additional application for legalization as an agent for Commerce Bank. The application goes even further, allowing for re-erection of existing roof and building walls, but with a further expansion of the perimeter of the walls to reduce rear yard depth from the required nine feet ten inches to one foot! This gives the bank more interior room than it agreed to. No action is taken on this application and the community is not notified, nor is the Board, nor members of the CHCA. The Physical Division is silent until a front page propaganda bulletin in the Local of January 26th puts a rosy face on this important development.

Act 6
On February 10th, a request is made to L & I for a review of the status of the Commerce Bank project that has become an open sore on the community for so many months. The blue plastic sheeting is now damaged or blown away. Three days later, L & I issues its findings. Canuso's application is refused. At this point the owners and developers can only appeal to the Zoning Board of Adjustment for a variance to continue their work. This requires clear posting of the property and the opportunity for all parties to appear, learn exactly what is planned, and participate in the process. Something developers tend to dislike.

Audience Participation
As members of the CHCA, community at large, or other interested parties, you may now want to actively participate in the remedial action needed to rebalance the scales of justice and fair play, and remove this major eyesore on Chestnut Hill's most densely-traveled block. Can anyone reading the above believe that what we've seen are simple bureaucratic missteps, or accidental over-demolition by uninformed workers? You kidding? This is Philadelphia, often referred to as Corruption's Working Museum.

The sad part is that Chestnut Hill has one of the most structured community organizations in the city. It has divisions and committees designed specifically to prevent this type of flim-flam.

When you vote for your representatives in the coming CHCA Board election in the Spring, consider those who prioritize overall community information and input over selective favored interests, and condemn those who oppose them as radicals and crazies, working to hurt the Hill's best interests.

You can now take two decisive steps: Participate in the process to make the bank inform the community on what it proposes to do before it does it; and vote into office a CHCA Board that puts your interests first.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Of Accountability, Of Responsibility

How can it be that the elected board members of the CHCA ever approved the motion calling for Sanjiv Jain, owner of Legacy Real Estate and major commercial and rental property developer, to be the Vice President of the Physical Division of the CHCA? Physical Division Committees include Zoning, L&I and Aesthetics. Hmmm, seems to me that the wolf is guarding the hen house.

Since as a member of the Lasalle Nonprofit Center and the Greater Philadelphia Chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, I network with major and local funders, and Nonprofit Presidents and Executive Directors, I have discussed this scenario with many in the profession. All have responded that this is unethical and dangerous. Also immoral, repugnant, foul, or simply wrong.

Issues of ethics and accountability have hung like a low, dark, ominous cloud over this board for two years, especially the Executive Committee yet too many seem not to sense the storm to come when the right people gain the access to books and audits that they, by law, are entitled to. No amount of rain gear will protect any board member.

(Incidentally, the Executive Committee ought to be abolished. It really is superfluous and seems to be the cause of all questionable behavior. The Executive board members could work on other productive committees.)

What is wrong with this Board? Don’t they know that accountability and responsibility are their primary role as board members? Don’t they know that neither ignorance nor indifference nor absence serves as an excuse for this blatant abuse of trust? Is it any surprise that the Fund is the lowest it’s been since the 80’s? You have let this community down big time.

Marie Lachat

Town Meeting Called for March 20

Town Meeting for the Chestnut Hill Community

Monday, March 20, 2006, at 7:00 PM
Philadelphia Free Library
Chestnut Hill Branch
8711 Germantown Avenue

Moderator: George L. Spaeth, MD. Past President, Chestnut Hill Community Association

We Can Change Things! This is an Open Meeting. Come and Be Heard.

Are You Concerned About:
• A Newspaper That Has Lost Its Independence?
• The Disaster That Is the Commerce Bank Property?
• A Community Association Which Routinely Ignores Its Own By-laws?

Friday, March 10, 2006

For Unto Us an Editor is Given

Lea Sitton Stanley will be at her desk Friday morning, bright and early, having been appointed by the Chestnut Hill Community Association to the position of Editor at a meeting held March 9.

As soon as the Specially Called Board Meeting was called to order a little past 7:30, there was a motion (carried) stating that the bylaws were not observed relative to due notice, but that they would be suspended FOR THIS ONE TIME ONLY due to the emergency nature of making this appointment. As soon as that was done, the board went into Executive Session and everyone else was sent out.

Notebook has been told "Maxine's last words at the closing of the Executive Committee meeting tonight were that 'the new editor has already received threats.'"

Uh, people. A threat is a criminal act. Is Dear Leader alleging the same? If so, then appropriate action must be taken. This is a serious charge. If not, then what's that all about?

A more complete report on the meeting will be posted soon.

Good luck, Lea. You are now living in interesting times.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Maxinista: Bodysnatchers

Sometimes, Writing Should Hurt

by Sniper

Friends! Less-than-friends! Enemies! . . . Low bow before the bell rings for our third round:

The Editor Search Committee's choice of the Inky's Lea Sitton Stanley as new Local editor was skewed recently by Maxinista fears that the blog's sorry, probably Marxist executive editor, had somehow snatched candidate Pete Mazzaccaro's soul. It was widely-known to the tiny circle of Hillheads who concern themselves with what the great Marjorie Hirshorn has called "Yokal Culture," that Mazz once worked for John Lombardi as a Local reporter in the fumey, gassy years of 2000-1.

Alas, too true. But since then, Pete's been Business Manager of the paper and articles editor of Philly Style magazine. He's acquired a wife, baby, house and a house-guest. Even a few gray hairs. Doesn't have time to hang downtown at Dirty Frank's or Warsaw, swilling beer, arguing The Motorcycle Diaries or Das Kapital, and scheming trouble for CHCA stars like Tom "Good Loaf" Ivory, Stewart "The Fixer" Graham or Walter "Foghorn" Sullivan. Hasn't even seen Lombo much!

Yet shortly after Mazz announced his candidacy for Local Editor, and after initial enthusiasm by liberal Search Committee members Virginia Mallery and Mary Jane Shelly, and immense relief by members of the battered Local staff, who saw Mazzaccaro as a healing voice, a fusion candidate who could unite segments of the Maxinista right -- Leigh Filippini, Tia Burke, Nancy Berger (pre-exit), Kari Ghezarian -- who were perhaps a teensy bit tired of Max's dissembling, dysfunctional style, with milder elements in the Hole in the Walsh Gang -- Jim Foster, Marie Lachat -- a cry went up from Doug Doman, Joe Pie, Anne McNally and Maxine herself . . . All of whom felt mauled by Sniper 1 & 2( !) Witness blog comments on the column: "Hazy, crazy, lazy, disapated [sic]"; "Courts libel by letter"; "Psuedo intellectual moron"; "Cowardly Marxist viper"; "Old, unkempt, used-up, tawdry"; "Couldn't have carried Otis Chandler's coat" etc. (Thoughtful stuff, though it should be pointed out that Chandler lived in L.A., and mostly didn't wear a coat . . .)

Anyway, according to an excellent source, Mary Jane Shelly of Long Beach Island, lives next door to the old saloonkeeper McNallys, parents of the frightening Anne, wife of Joe Pie, and when they read Sniper calling their son-in-law "the Creature From the Black Saloon" etc., and suggesting he was "apparently bad for business", and had to be furloughed from the bar to the Local as point man to keep all relevance out of its pages (a less dangerous job than diminishing beer sales, which he did just by looming around McNally's), they really got mad. Complained bitterly to Shelly. And she got on the horn to Mallery, a gentlewoman with a sense of decorum largely gone from the earth. And so word began to spread via Phone Mafia lines that Mazz -- who six years ago was purportedly tainted by Lombardi -- must still be infected. This is as logical as blaming Saddam Hussein for the Osama bin Laden World Trade Center plane crashes in New York, on the grounds that both men are Muslims and once passed each other on the street in Baghdad. Particularly since Pete had nothing to do with the blog.

The truth is, Lou "Ratso" Aiello, a Search Committee member who always wants to be on the side that's winning, at first pointed his snout into the wind and smelt the name "Mazzaccaro" -- a sure thing! Everybody loved Pete but carney-barker Doug Doman, Stewart the Fixer, and of course, Maxinista, who doesn't make a move without Graham's approval (because Stewie is the conduit from some silent powerbrokers among the Trustees, who've really been calling the shots since Maurice McCarthy's day.)

Ratso at first got out front on the Mazz candidacy, then, whiskers twitching, heedful of Max's and Doman's doleful howls of alarm (Doman fears an investigation of his Institutes racket, and Max is chary of hard looks at her strange past), skittered to the front of the line on Ms. Stanley's investiture as Local editor. Meanwhile, Tom Ivory, a baker drafted as chief of the Editor Search Committee by Maxine on the strength of his reactionary positions on press freedom -- and whom the blog's EE was silly enough to apologize to last week for physically not being present at Lawrence Walsh's psychological ambush in January -- appointed Foghorn Sullivan to head a smear campaign against Pete. Somebody -- Doman? Maxine? Fixer Graham? -- sent Walter copies of two Mazzaccaro e-mails in which he'd dared criticize the Executive Committee's handling of Marie Lachat's ouster a year ago, and complain about how tough it sometimes was to get hardhitting stories into the Local during Katie Worrall's regime . . . opinions a man might conceivably hold without fear of being condemned as an anti-Chestnut Hiller . . .

Anyway, Foghorn made a big fuss over Mazz after his interview, telling him how impressive his presentation was, then went to work to bury him. Ratso moved Stanley's name to the Board for a vote on March 3 at 1:37 p.m., cutting off all further discussion of rival candidates. The vote was reportedly tied on the Selection Committee at 3 -- 3 for a bit, but then M.J. Shelly, for reasons only she can know, allegedly slipped over to the Maxinistas' POV, and Ivory, according to a source, reported to the Board that the vote for Stanley was "unanimous" (!?) A more fair procedure would have been to send both the leading candidates' names and CV's over, to allow the wisdom of the assembled CHCA elders to judge for themselves. But smarminess has been the Maxinista (and Aiello) way for years now . . . not even Lou's old patron Lloyd Wells trusts him any more . . .

To cap things off, Stanley, on the strength of her Inky background, reportedly got $55,000 salary and a six month contract -- more than any editor in the history of the Local. No fool, she allegedly wanted a three month contract, so that potential bruising couldn't be too intense, but Maxine, a great closer, talked her up . . . Meanwhile Carole Boynton, the Interim Editor, recovering from a heart attack in the hospital, hasn't yet been told that she's out.

Miracles on G'Town Avenue...

It don't pay to be male
by Josey Wales

Now Josey Wales ain't a religious man, but observing things as they happen at the Chestnut Hill Local sure has me mystified. If I didn't know any better, I might start believin' in miracles...

Word got out last week that the editor search committee picked Lea Stanley, a former Inky editor whose greatest attribute appears to be that she picked her parents well (father was a well-known editor who crusaded for civil rights), to take the reigns of the venerable paper. This expert panel decided to pass over the young but experienced Pete Mazzaccaro because he wrote a few mean things. Hanged with his own rope it seems.

People on the Hill have every reason to be confident in this choice. The last two editors they brought in from outside the organization (ha ha), John Lombardi and Jim Sturdivant, were chased out in 9 and 13 months respectively. Perhaps they and Mazzaccaro are gender-challenged for the job? Stanley shouldn't have that problem. In fact she should be just crackerjack. How can an editor search committee chaired by a guy who runs a bakery go wrong?

If that weren't enough to send your hand north for a head scratcher, Josey Wales also learned that the Local is bringing back former ad manager Ellen Manning to take the pseudo-job of "operations manager" (That's the one that was cooked up for Nancy Berger who resigned under pressure last week). This is a real pisser to anyone who's been around long enough to remember Manning's earlier tenure with the paper about six years ago. On the verge of getting fired by the Local's controller Jeff W. (don't ask me to spell that one) and community manager Ned Mittinger for lack-luster performance, she packed her stuff on a weekend and took off without warning or notice.

So this is the person the Local is happy to bring back after they canned Karl Strandberg, again for saying some mean things. Didn't matter that he was making money, he didn't play nice with others. I reckon it doesn't pay to have balls, literally and otherwise, at the Chestnut Hill Local.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

And They're Off...

This post was updated on April 4.
The Chestnut Hill Community Association has released the candidates for 24 open board seats. Twelve (12) of these will be three-year positions; the other 12 will be one-year terms.

There are 55 candidates runing in the CHCA election this spring.

The candidates listed here in bold are those we believe deserve election.

Elaine Aiello • Scott Alloway • Edward Budnick Jr.

Joanne Dhody • Ed Feldman • Thomas Fleming

James Foster • James Gleason • Nancy H. Hutter

Kathleen M. Jones • Marie Lachat • Howard Lesnick

Virginia Mallery • Sara Maneely • John Michaels

J.E. (Ned) Mitinger • Christopher Padova • Joseph A. Pizzano, M.D.

Susan Ann Pizzano, Ph.D. • Ron Recko • Gina A. Stellabotte

Jonathan Sternberg

Friday, March 03, 2006

Humbled by the Spirit

Dear CH Notebook.

I'd be much obliged if you'd consider this post for your blog.
--Josey Wales

That Chestnut Hill Spirit
One can't help but be humbled by the Almighty Chestnut Hill Community Spirit.

Take the members of the Editor Search Committee. Clearly they were chosen because of their commitment to the Hill. Hell, only one of 'em has any background in newspapering, so if it ain't the fact that they're all as honest as preachers on Sunday morning, I can't figure what they're there for. It's got to be the Spirit.

And the Spirit does move in mysterious ways. Like search committee member Walter J. Sullivan, a longtime Democratic committeeman often talked up as the local expert on parliamentary matters. He was so filled with the community spirit that he sued the Venetian Club -- where the Democrats often hang their hats -- after he took a good spill. He was kind enough to let the owners of the Venetian Club settle out of court... The City of Philadelphia has been kind enough to keep track of the basic court proceedings on their Web site: Venetian Club suit

Another individual on the committee with whom the spirit runs deep is Lou Aiello. Good ol' Lou's been 'round the Greene Country Towne since horses drew wagons down The Ave. He was so filled with the community spirit that his so-called handyman business did a lot of fixin' over at 8434 Germantown Avenue and at the CHCA's other property across the street. He couldn't resist the urge to charge the cash strapped organization of which he was a board member for all his hard work. How many guys does it take to change a light bulb? Ask Lou...

The Community should really consider paying these individuals back for all their hard work. On the other hand, I reckon it already has.

-- Josey Wales

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Screening Test?

Eighth Grade math quiz. We may use it as a screening test for posting on this blog. We'll have you know we were 10 for 10.

A Correction

Editor's note
Mr. Tom Ivory, who heads the Editor Search Committee, reports that he did not attend the Executive Session which ended with the illegal ouster of Lawrence Walsh from the Board, as erroneously reported by Sniper in our Maxinista column, Feb. 27th. CH Notebook sincerely apologizes.

We Want to Know...

We received this letter on the morning of Feb. 24 and have waited to confirm some details in it before publishing. Part of one paragraph has been withheld until we gain further information. The author is a resident of Chestnut Hill.

This is a thank you note to CHnotebook for offering an alternative to the Local. It is also a plea to the Local to be such a fine paper that such a blog becomes unnecessary. And to please not cut my letter.

So -- dear Blog, thank you for providing another information source on the Hill. Even as a resident who has never been involved in the politics here, I have felt that one of the many benefits of living here has been the give and take of the letters section of the Local, the news stories of the Local and the all around excellence of the Local. To change the Lentz policy, to not publish all the coherent letters submitted, is inexcusable. The pabulum currently offered up as news stories has often been a waste of time. (Freezing bananas? Tips on the dangers of cold weather and snow? Editorials on cats. Stories naming each merchant on the hill and assuring us that they are very nice. Pleeez.)

The Hill is mostly made up of college educated professionals pressed for time. We want a newspaper worth reading, not a tale told by an babbling homemaker. We want to know about local events and what others think about local events. We want to know what is going on. We want to know why Richard Snowden seems to dislike renting out space. We want to know how the Rev. Maxine Dornemann conducted herself (...) while she was living in the St. Paul's Rectory, -- and how that hurt the community of St Paul's. Why do we want to know? Because it's relevant to a half-rented Hill and perhaps the CHCA's current head's leadership style.

This is the 21st century. Dinner party gossip, which, might I add, is far more cruel and even more truthful than what I have said here, -- has 2 places to go for facts: A hard-hitting, news-reporting Local or a Blog like that at If you don't like the freedom of blogs -- make them unnecessary. News can no longer be restricted; there are too many venues for it. Wealthy individuals nor cheerleaders can control information. Only a newspaper that abides by real journalistic ethics can make sure that gossip doesn't stick. And only if it does its job. Meaning no hands-off policy on the Association or landowners.

I love the Hill. Up till recently I loved the Local. Whether it makes money or not, it is part of what makes the Hill worthwhile. Its one of the reasons to live here, to shop here, to play here. It is one of the things that ups the quality of life here.

So Local, please get back in the saddle and do what you're supposed to do. And thank you Blog for making it obvious what needs to be done. Good night and good luck to both of you, and especially, all of us.

Kay (All I ever needed to know I learned from "Bonanza") Wisniewski
Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, Pa


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