Thursday, April 27, 2006

Maxinista: Arrogance

Half a Town Meeting
by Sniper

About 75 concerned Chestnut Hillers showed up for the SOC-slate's final town meeting of the 2006 election campaign on April 24th. Beautiful spring evening. Wine and cheese being served up by Dr. and Mrs. Joe Pizzano in the foyer of the regular Library space. Witty remarks by Ed Feldman, Ron Recko and John O'Connell, the 9th Ward Democrat leader and prominent realtor: "In Chestnut Hill, you gotta dress British and talk Yiddish" Feldman quipped, from the depths of his District-check sportcoat. "We invited the other side, but despite their concern for community participation and democratic values, not one of 'em could make it," Recko laughed, indicating the bare wooden speakers' table on the right-hand side of the stage area, where he said he'd especially hoped to see Maxine Dornemann and Stewart Graham, the soon-to-be-ex-Queen and Princeling-for-Life respectively of the Action Alliance. "The new Commerce Bank design plan looks like a McDonald's!" barked O'Connell, putting as much Irish on it as old Mike Quill would have . . .

The SOC folks had more-or-less healed their differences of last week, and wanted to focus on real issues -- not the spin AA prefers to deflect its many failures: the near-collapse of the Community Fund drive this year (it brought in a mere $26,000 under the Maxinistas, where in the past $65,000 to $100,000 were not unheard of figures); the continued chiseling by Max's pals (Sanjiv Jain was pledged a $3,200 fee by recalcitrant CHCA leaders for finding a tenant for 8431 Germantown Avenue, after he'd resigned his "community property manager" role for allegedly accepting small fees for services he was supposed to provide free as a volunteer; the failures of the Black and White Gala and House Tour fiasco; the dreadful personnel bloodletting of the fall, when Jim Sturdivant, Mike Mishak, Karl Strandberg, Ellen Weiser, Shawn Hart etc., etc. left the Local in a kind of revolving door of managerial dyspepsia that attracted critical stories in the downtown media -- something the relative youngsters of the post-Maxinista AA are supposed to be concerned about avoiding.(They used to blame the Local staff for "bad publicity," until they gelded the editorial department under Carole Boynton) . . . To say nothing of the nutty designs on Hiram Lodge, and the goofy notion of hiring Alison Grove (Leigh Filippini's bad), the PR hottie responsible for the boffo Dali exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art a year ago, for $90,000.

Extravagance. Arrogance. It was as if Maxine, with little real success of her own, chased winning images like so many ambulances . . . look at the overreaching of Lea Sitton Stanley's financial deal. Fifty-five thousand bucks and $1200 a month in health insurance benefits for the Local editor and her family once her old Inquirer package runs out sometime in midsummer. While the staff gets .25 cent raises. Why would Maxine and her "business-minded" backers and successors go into such an arrangement when the CHCA is hurting financially so badly the Local's Community and Business Managers have both had their days and salaries slashed dramatically? With rumors of further reductions by Ellen Manning, the new Business "Development" (!) Manager, of front office stalwarts Ellen Maher, Mary Flannery and Cheryl Massaro? Especially when election time regime change was at hand?

Ed Feldman's theory is that Stanley's hiring was a ploy from the jump; that the old Maxinista group -- Dornemann, Doug Doman, W (!) Stewart Graham, Carolyn "Big Dog" Hausermann, Sanjiv "Nightclub" Jain -- suffering from poor PR fallout following their successful silent coup against Sturdivant last October -- went into their editorial search with Macchiavellian cunning. They'd bring in a thorough pro like Stanley, which the Lawrence Walsh/ Martha Haley/ Ron Recko left could find no fault with, at whatever figure she wanted, because they had no intention of paying her the amount agreed upon . . . As a serious journalist, she'd get them through the "anti-press" election crunch criticism they were enduring, and then they could "Grover Norquist" her, let her twist in the wind until she got disgusted enough to walk off on her own, thus breaking the contract she and her lawyer had so painfully hammered out. Then they can bring in another ringer from Lansdowne who would do what she's told, a pal of well-known free press booster Doman.

When I objected that the CHCA might simply be as financially inept as their record indicates, others present argued that Maxine and her backers' past patterns of mendacity proved them capable of such outlandish hypocrisy: Maxinistas (if not Actionistas) still deny that Sturdivant was the victim of a coup; that the presence of Joe Pie, Nancy Berger, Vijay Kothare and now Jane Piotrowski in the Local office has anything to do with spying on staff or controlling editorial decision-making; that CHCA "enemies" like Martha Haley and Lawrence Walsh were essentially forced off the Board; that cronyism among Dornemann friends such as Graham, Doman, Sanjiv Jain and SuperBrat Snowden affects CHCA decision-making; and that outright fabrications like the ethnic slur that Ed Feldman threatened "to spit in the new editor's face" (Feldman and Stanley denied that one) were standard Maxinista neg spin tactics . . .

"One of Max's tricks is to blame others for mistakes she made as president," said one attendee, long close to the action. "Nancy Berger took the fall for the unpopularity of the Sturdivant massacre; Marie Lachat was the victim of the CHCA's endless committee red tape, and wasn't part of the hottie younger Actionista crew (Tia Burke, Filippini, Boom-Boom Waters) , so when Community Managing projects under her tenure weren't as successful as they might have been, she was blamed and kicked out." There seems to be an unhealthy tendency too, to create new firestorms to distract from old ones -- the Watertower business overshadowing Commerce Bank and 8431, one mess superceding another until the mind blurs.

The younger Action Alliance people began to have enough of Maxine sometime last fall. Dina Hitchcock, none other than campaign chair for the AA, said several months ago that "We're not taking the Kool Aid anymore," and though Maxine pushed neighbor Carol Cope to replace her on the ticket after she and Jain had been persuaded not to run this year, Jeremy Heep, a 25 year-old lawyer had backers like Hitchcock, Filippini, Burke and Waters (he's a hot guy for a WASP) behind his run for CHCA president.

The old ways persist, though. Maxine still gets to sit on the Board for another year as Past President, which automatically puts her on the Executive Committee and makes her chair of the Nominating Committee, where she can do a lot of damage. She's already tried to pack the Publisher's Committee, censor of the Local, with folks like Joe Pie and Carol Cope, as one of her last acts in the short interval before the Board will have to approve. Savvy Cope apparently declined the appointment, knowing when to act responsibly.

Despite these tiny signs of hopefulness, no AAs felt showing up Monday for the Town Meeting was necessary. Dr. George Spaeth, a model of real Chestnut Hill dignity, presided as moderator over a polite, informed group which included his wife, the saintly Anne, keeper of the Chestnut Hill records; Tom Hemphill, a forthright-seeming man; Mark Keintz, the CHCA treasurer, who bravely endured some grilling on fiscal improprieties; and Shoshana Bricklin, who made a pitch to be included on the SOC slate, though she's running as an independent. There was an absence of the kind of hostile bristling that pervaded the last fully-attended Town Meeting on November 7th, called to confront the then-Maxinista majority on the Sturdivant affair.

A rumor was circulating at the Library that the AA had stayed away because Maxine, Graham, Hausermann and Doman had been giving out free CHCA memberships with filled-in ballots in massive lots, and were thus assured of winning the election. So, little reason to debate. Better to stay home with the kids and check out CSI Miami, where you can always tell the good guys from the bad ones really easily. At least AA wasn't formally instructed to boycott this time, as they were in March, in an e-mail from Mr. Jain.

"But honestly, Ron," Stewart Graham told Recko ingenuously, via phonemail the next day, "I don't know why you'd want [us] there anyway."


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Sniper" should be sniped. Just enough to drive him away. Another load of vicious lies and innuendos.
What good do you think you're doing Chestnut Hill?

Thu Apr 27, 12:07:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like "Snipper" does not like the truth. Come on, everyone,by now, knows what is going on. Oh, by the way, what does Maxine do for a living?

Thu Apr 27, 01:52:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She used to be a preacher, but she got defrocked or something. Now she's a politician and makes deals.

Thu Apr 27, 03:05:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, she is an Episcopalian priest who -- by many accounts -- was let go by St. Paul's after some sort of unpleasantness. The circumstances surrounding her departure appear to be a closely held secret. Some parishioners say she is not even allowed on St. Paul's property.

Thu Apr 27, 05:03:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's a clear answer to Feldman and Lombardi's crazed "Macchiavellian" theory on what Maxine and her organization did re Ms. Stanley's hiring. If they were clever enough to be four jumps ahead of everyone else's thinking in the cynical manner you suggest, how could they have made so many simple blunders in other matters?
Why humiliate Sturdivant so baldly and risk the bad PR they reaped? Why cut down the pay and hours of their most loyal reps in the Local office -- Kari Ghezarian, Betty Brady, Nancy Berger, unless they were fiscally incompetent?
Why risk another PR disaster in hiring and terminating Carole Boynton, who was clearly not up to the job, and may have had a heart attack from the consequent stress?
Why screw up fundraising so disastrously?
Why declare you're for "press freedom", then call for a referendum from readers on how they want their paper to read, after you've hired an Inquirer professional?
All these things are too inconsistent and half thought-out to come from such a slick mental set as F and L are trying to sell us.
Maxine and her whole group simply aren't that smart or efficient. They and their AA heirs should lose the election, but not for the reasons you say.

Fri Apr 28, 03:11:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

$55k plus health benefits is NOT a high salary.

I'm trying to understand the politix soap opera at the Local and the Community Association but I remain confused. I almost voted in the election after an interesting conversation with someone from the 2nd Opinion Caucus but I opted out because it's almost impossible to understand the reality of what is happening over there. Running editors out of town seems to be the specialty of the "concerned citizens" of Chestnut Hill. It's sad. This blog is interesting but it is perpetuating the same bad-blood sniping that it seems to rail against.

Every community in this country needs to strengthen its bonds and its forums for democracy--more now than ever before. Our country faces serious issues about employment, housing, healthcare, the environment--and now, after Katrina, we know that disaster-preparedness is urgent but there is no federal or state leadership on this issue. Local communities need to do whatever we can, whatever is in our immediate control, to put our "houses" in order so we can take care of ourselves and our neighbors--in the event of crisis but also to foster a liveable community with good quality of life. Chestnut Hill is ahead of this game, or could be, but the community seems plagued by greed, snobbery, unprofessionalism, and mean-spiritedness. It's ashame.

I have no connection with the Local other than to read it each week. But I do have editorial experience so I have great compassion for the editorial staff at the Local. It is not easy to publish a paper each week and it is impressive that the Local's schedule has not been interrupted with all of this chaos. My sympathies and support are with the staff--I want them to be paid well and to be supplied with appropriate resources to do their jobs better. The blog is a good idea but it is unbalanced--even more reason to strengthen the factual news gathering side of the Local.

Sun Apr 30, 01:26:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the news flash that $55,000 is not a lot of money by Chestnut Hill standards. (Journalists may have a passion for what they do; otherwise they would have headed for Wall Street.) Thanks for the compassion and thanks for "opting out" of voting, especially after your impassioned speech advocating that communites "do what ever we can" to put "our houses" in order. In other words, thanks for the hot air.

Mon May 01, 12:26:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just wanted to say some of us think you've done a service by exposing all the backstage wirepulling and megalomania of the Maxine Dornemann cabal. The extremely heavy voter turnout is evidence in itself that a lot of Hillers feel something has been very wrong for a long time up here, and no matter how the vote stacks up, the nonsense of the last year will be a thing of the past.
Meanwhile, readers should be aware that the new Action Alliance, though better than the old Maxinistas, is still heavily influenced by Stewart Graham, Douglas Doman and their friends, because the newcomers look to the oldtimers for political guidance, and have the same old poison dripped into their ears.

Tue May 02, 10:53:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Who Am I?
"I was once the editor until I ran out and all I ever got was this silly t-shirt. Oh! and also, unlimited time and access to this blog between soap operas"

Tue May 02, 01:43:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So you're either Worral,Sturdivant,or Boynton, right?

Wed May 03, 12:16:00 PM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please be clear that I chose not to "vote" because the information about the truth of the issues was not clear and was not presented in an "un-biased" manner. My conversation with one 2nd Opinion Caucus promotor was very interesting but may have been one-sided and possibly not entirely accurate. I turned to the blog links for that "party" but I did not feel comfortable with some of the comments posted by candidates as their "platforms". When I tried to mark up the ridiculous ballot--choose half of a list against the other half of the list? Guided by instructions from one person who I liked but who was promoting other candidates who sounded as unprofessional as what that "party" was trying to stand for? So if I voted for the platforms that sounded functional and mature, how was I to fill the rest of the ballot? Look for endorsements by other local papers? Further, it was clear that "campaign financing", even if it came from the candidates personal pockets, played a role in elevating the status of this election. Money talks. Yes, increased participation in theory good for democracy. But in the end I could not shake my suspicion that the pettiness that spills out on the pages of the Local as well as the vitriol of this blog was not going to be drastically improved by my participation in this election. But I am glad that I participated by at least trying to become informed about the issues. I wanted to vote but the information was not clear.

The photograph attached to this main post is an example of negative advertising. It's an example of using the "media" to tear down a person personally--it's hostile and mean spirited. I have never met this woman. Maybe she is all that your blog says she is, but the truth of the reasons to vote for someone else is obscured by the hostility of this negative campaign. The only thing I know for sure about this woman is that she bothered to become involved in her community and look what happened to her--as a result of volunteering in her community, she was smeared, defamed in public. That is a message that discourages participation from other members of this community. I have no doubt that regular people are not always that qualified as "leaders" but this is not a government office. It's a "community" association.

I look forward to better, more clear, more accurate, perhaps more truthful information about Chestnut Hill and its concerns in the forthcoming issues of the Local now that the 2nd Opinion Caucus "party" has succeeded in its efforts to gain power in the CHCA.

And $55K is not a high salary. Do you expect the Local editors to earn minimum wage? What salary do you believe the editor-in-chief of a successful newspaper is supposed to earn? Should the editor pick up waitressing shifts in a local restaurant to supplement her income from the CHCA?

(Anonymous blogging is maddening, isn't it? You have no idea who I am...)

Tue May 09, 01:06:00 AM EDT  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Anonymous" above is clearly the sort of person who buys into the marketing categories of "positive" and "negative" as a national faith. It's dumbing down the country, sir or Ms.
No one said $55K, especially not in Chestnut Hill, but when you throw in $1200 per month benefits and consider the pittances everyone else on the Local staff is getting, it seems distorted & foolish.
What's the point of hiring a professional editor without a budget to pay for real reporters and freelancers and checkers? She can't do much. It just proves that the old regime, which you seem to feel was beaten up unfairly in the blog, didn't have the slightest notion of what a newspaper is, or should do.

Tue May 16, 10:21:00 AM EDT  

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