Friday, May 26, 2006

The Defining Issue...

We have a link to "Media Matters" by Jamison Foser, whose piece is a look at the media. Read it. Think about it. The Defining Issue.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Daze of Our Lives

A New Daze Dawns
by Dazee

Update: May 26: As expected, the nominees of officers and executive board members presented to the Chestnut Hill Community Association on Thursday evening were confirmed.

The new management team is as follows:
The Organizational Meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association saw the election of the Second Opinion Caucus slate to officers positions.

President: Ron Recko
Vice President - Operations: Lou Aiello
Vice President - Physical Division: Susan Pizzano
Vice President - Social Division: Jane Piotrowski
Treasurer - Ned Mitinger
Secretary - Ann Spaeth

At-large Members - Executive Committee
Janine Dwyer
Nancy Hutter
Ed Budnick
Jim Foster
Tom Fleming

Aside from murmured snarks from several unhappy election losers (and associates) sitting together in a row, the challenging of a certain former executive committee member's veracity and job performance and the usual opening night jitters, the meeting confirmed that a change is in the works. The is especially true the Publisher's Committee as the board heard of its several failures and of the wrong turn CHCA made when it redefined the committee through a bylaws change several years ago.

Back to our prvious broadcast:

In which we note the new board officers, see a board member-elect decline a seat, witness a former parliamentarian try a spin with numbers and learn that the editorship of the Local may see its seventh title holder in a little over two years.

So it begins. The Organizational Meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association will be held Thursday evening, but at the Chestnut Hill Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia instead of the Hiram Lodge. CHCA Community Manager Betty Brady says its because outgoing president Maxine Dornemann was allowed use of the place "as a favor." Okaaaaay. That's news to everyone around here. Not that the 10 PM witching hour curfew at the library isn't convenient or anything.

In preparation for the transition, the Second Opinion Caucus held a caucus or two in the past 10 days, events which produced nominees for the top officers and executive committee of the Chestnut Hill Community Association. Eleven in all, 10 of them SOC-hoppers. All this to Walter Sullivan's dismay and much harrumphing (see below for his observations and any board meeting for his "harrumphetical" emissions). We are told that editor Lea Stanley of the Local was in attendance at both sessions. At the latter meeting she let it be known her tenure may not be what was anticipated (see below for more).

Actually, reports from the meetings say it was pretty much business as expected, with no surprises popping up in the way of nominees. Ed Feldman, however, promised he would continue as a watchdog, no matter who is in charge. Ed was shut out of a seat on the Executive Committee. Had to be the haircut.

There was talk that two AA candidates might emerge from floor nominations prior to the Thursday organizational meeting. But the deadline for other nominations was Monday evening and none appeared. A review of the bylaws, as currently posted, do not show procedures for nominations from the floor.

But will AA concede its massive defeat, given Sullivan's angst and the group's taste of power these past three years? Word comes to us that on Wednesday evening that it was observed there was a confluence of AA forces at a Millman Street house on the Hill. Among the personages seen were Graham, Keintz, the Beckers and Sullivan himself.

The question was posed: "What could this be about? Something mischievous, certainly. The Local may feel confident in reporting on the front page today that the candidates' filing deadline had passed, but have any of us looked carefully at the bylaws in the last 24 hours to find text supporting the Local's 'it's-all-over' assertion?"

One could conclude that Sully's letter to the paper provides a basis for AA's assertion it deserves an inordinate number of seats on the Executive Committee. Sully, after all, cannot look defeat in the eye without tearing and blinking.

But sometime Thursday evening reality will rear its fearsome head for AA. That might happen when the Nominating Committee will present these nominees to the full board for a vote:
Ron Recko, President
Lou Aiello, Vice President-Operations
Susan Pizzano, Vice President-Physical Division
Jane Piotrowski, Vice President-Social Division
Ned Mitinger, Treasurer
Ann Spaeth, Secretary

At-large Members - Executive Committee
Janine Dwyer
Nancy Hutter
Ed Budnick
Jim Foster
Tom Fleming

One SOC Hopper turned down his seat on the board of directors. Rather than mis-state the case, we produce a copy of Scott Alloway's letter to the new board:
May 24, 2006

Dear Members-elect of the CHCA Board:

This is my notification to you that I will formally decline my seat on the board for the ensuing term, effective May 22 with letters to you, the current Community Manager and the sitting Vice President of Operations. It is my reading of the bylaws that the latter two officials, as the named CHCA officials of the election process, are the persons who need to be so informed.

It is out of the need to continue working at the Chestnut Hill Local that I do this. Had other opportunities arisen, I would have taken them and taken my seat on the board. The bylaws strictly state that board members may not work for CHCA. Given my status and the minimal chance that I will have a new job elsewhere by May 25, I choose not to be seated on the 2006-07 board.

My election was one for the working staff of the Local; to wit, those people who signed the editorial in November when the current board and Local management caused the many problems our newspaper has endured. Each vote for me was actually a vote for all of us, not just Scott Alloway. On behalf of my coworkers, the gratitude of us all is extended to the community.

It is my hope that the new board will be able to provide the Local with the support, encouragement and financial backing it sorely needs. It has been a very trying seven months for us all.

I remain,

Sincerely yours,

Scott Alloway

Meanwhile, Walter Sullivan of AA is looking for love (see his letter below). With the whomping his crew took, especialy after his dropping a reported $2,000 on his wife's losing campaign, his missive in this week's Local doesn't do anything to improve what's left of his appeal.

Sully wrote, "Our community must now come together in a genuine coalition for the service of the community. This includes a genuine coalition fairly balanced among the officers and Executive Committee members. I therefore dissented and dissent from the recommendations of the Nominating Committee, which merely took the slate passed on to it from the Nominating Committee member associated with the Second Opinion Caucus, which slate would give 10 of the 11 leadership seats to the SOC. This is contrary to the voice of the people expressed in the April 28 election and to the interests of our community, which called upon all of us to come together to serve it."

Dazee responds: "That's why people vote. To elect representatives. Seems to me 19 of 24 seats is a mandate."

Sully again. "Yes, the people have spoken. But what have they told us? No faction won a majority of the popular vote. The 22 candidates of the SOC got 47.7 percent (14,990 votes) while the 24 candidates of the opposition Alliance got 45.96 percent (14,532 votes). Those who ran unaligned (including some excellent and deserving people, caught between the two juggernauts) got 6.63 percent (2,097 votes). To make the comparison fairer, delete the last two Alliance candidates so that we compare 22 SOC with 22 Alliance candidates. The numbers then are SOC, 48.95 percent (14,990 votes), and Alliance, 44.20 percent (13,533 votes), a paper-thin plurality of 4.75 percent."

Dazee: "That's why votes are counted one at a time. But a statistician came up with a reasoned analysis of the whole deal."

Statistical analysis of the CHCA election
Version 1
If you simply want to know the how much greater the number of votes cast for SOC candidates is compared to the AA candidates, the percent that expresses this difference is 3.2%. (As a group, SOC candidates received 3.2% more votes than AA candidates, in spite of having two fewer candidates on the slate).
Version 2
If you want to weight the information about votes by the different numbers of candidates in the two groups, you can do this by comparing the average number of votes per candidate. In this case, the weighted difference is 12.5%. (The average SOC candidate received 12.5% more votes than the average AA candidate.
OR Taking into account the difference in the number of candidates in these slates, SOC candidates received 12.5% more votes than AA candidates.)
To find the percentage in version 1, subtract 14,532 from 14,990 for a difference of 458. Express this difference as a percent of 14532 by dividing 458 by 14532 to get .0315 or 3.2%.
To find the percentage in version 2, first find the number of votes per candidate by dividing 14532/24 = 605.5 and 14990/22 = 681.36.
Subtract 681.36 - 605.5 = 75.86. Then divide 75.86 by 605.5 to get .125 or 12.5%.
Total Voting Numbers
24 AA candidates received 14,032 votes or 44.5% of the candidates received 45% of the votes
22 SOC candidates received 14,990 votes or 40.7% of the candidates received 48% of the votes
8 independent candidates received 2,097 votes or 14.8% of the candidates received 7% of the votes
54 total candidates received 31,119 votes"

It's Sully's faux lament that rings to off key. "Those not associated with them (SOC) in every aspect of their onslaught and critique had no choice but to form the faction for electoral purposes that was the Alliance. Had they not done that, they would have met the same fate as the excellent people who ran unaligned."

Dazee: "Onslaught and critique? This election has been the taking back of the association from those who saw it as a private fiefdom. It wasn't the SOC Hoppers who suspended the bylaws. Nor did they violate the bylaws on a number of occasions to put their wishes into policy."

Sully ends his prosaic wanderings with a lament that AA won't get a proportional share of the management seats. With the track record Sully and his allies have, it would be insane to put them in positions of responsibility. They aren't the only people who love Chestnut Hill. And they surely must recognize there are people who are willing to contribute their time and energy, if they believe those contributions are well used. It has been shown, in the past three years, that the outgoing team did not understand this.

Dazee: "We have heard talk that Sully (and the Friends of Henry D) may use the organizational meeting to lament the gross violations of civility this recent campaign has wrought. It's always a treat to see how a 'discussion' changes when it depends on whose ox is being gored."

Meanwhile, back at the aforementioned Local, several SOC members let it be known that current Local editor Lea Stanley is opting out of the position of editor. This came out at the Sunday, May 22, meeting of SOC Hoppers.

If it's a new season, it must be time for change at the top of the paper. Or so it seems with the beleaguered Local. Just another reason the Publisher's Committee of the past few years has exceeded itself as the perfect storm of failure.

Maybe SOC can get this ship righted. Another reprise of "The Poseidon Adventure" could sink the boat.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Enemies of Reading 2

Trapped in A Bookshop
by Hugh Gilmore

In which the author, the owner and proprietor of an Old & Rare bookshop in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, confronts all those smiling, envious people who have said to him, “It must be so great to run a bookshop. Sit around and read all those wonderful books every day.” Sigh. Yes, the community of book lovers. Sigh.

I’ll ignore the fact that those who say such things don’t usually sully their love with money. They just poke their heads in the doorway, sigh their envy, and then return to gleaning the FREE books on the doorstep.

Those are books I’ve put out to honor The Diggers and to propitiate the gods who might otherwise send stick-up artists in their place.

My bookshop is open predictably only on Fridays and Saturdays, 11-4. On those days, I go in early and stay late in order to do my daily quota of writing. I put up the “Closed” sign and turn out all the lights except the one in the back room where I’m working. From outside, the shop looks uninhabited.

On a Friday night a few weeks ago, after I closed the shop, I finished my first piece for The Chestnut Hill Notebook (the first “Enemies of Reading: Waiting Room TV’s”). I hadn’t paid attention to the time and didn’t notice night had fallen until I turned off the lights in the back room. I paused to let my eyes adjust before walking through the dark shop. The eternal piles of books on the floor shift as sneakily as sand dunes and could easily trip me so I’d fall and hit my head on the corner of a piece of furniture and get knocked out and bleed to death like William Holden.

In that second’s pause, I saw that someone was on the doorstep, going through the FREE books outside. Looked like a man. What to do, what to do?

I hate this scenario. Some poor guy or gal is going through the books in the dark, looking for something to read, or hoping to find the Rosebud book of their youth, and suddenly, and without warning, I’ve soundlessly crept up to the door and: Thrown The Lights On!

Aha, caught you!

Not the feeling I’m trying to promote. In fact I am promoting nothing. I simply cannot throw away a book and I’m lucky enough to have a doorstep and a handmade sign that says FREE.

If I do snap on the lights, the night browsers look up like wildlife at a midnight salt lick. That’s when my drab life gets interesting, because I don’t know what kind of eyes are going to be blinking back at me from the book pile.

If I’ve disturbed a mouse, then I feel as sorry as Robert Burns when he turned up a mouse nest with his plough:
I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union
An’ justifies that ill opinion
Which makes thee startle
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
And fellow-mortal.

But if it’s a wolf, I’ve just thrown the lights on myself. It is I who will feel like running away, “a panic in my breastie.”

No brainer, right? Turn the lights on, I’ve either embarrassed some book lover, or I’ve exposed myself to one of the things that could bump me in the night.
I decide to wait it out in the darkness of the shop. That sounds stupid, doesn’t it? Gutless. I don’t mind. What’s another few minutes if it’s linked to life extension?

But, I was also tired, hungry, and anxious to get home and see my family. I kept coming through the shop and was nearing the door, where the light switch is, when I heard him talking. Something in the tone of his voice stopped me. He sounded angry.
There’s no other exit from the shop than the front door. I’d wait a minute for him to leave. I walked around to my desk near the window, figuring to key in a VISA number from an internet sale on my credit card machine, a task I could do using the light that came in the window from the street.

Whoever was outside had propped a racing bike against the doorway and was wearing a bicycle helmet. He also had a long, unkempt beard. The frame of the doorway kept me from seeing more. Blocked him from seeing me. He kept up a steady stream of conversation, not angry anymore. Silly me, I thought, he’s on his cell phone. Oh well. He’ll be done browsing and talking and ride off in a minute.

Sort of hiding in the dark, no longer in fear, but feeling I’d look strange prowling around in my own shop in the dark, I hunched over the desk and entered the card numbers in the machine. Click, click, click, “Enter.” The printer kicked in, making what sounded under the circumstances like an enormous racket.

“Who’s there?” the voice from the doorstep demanded.

I froze.

“Mumble, mumble, mumble, angry mumble,” I heard. I saw he didn’t have a cell phone. He’d been talking to himself.

Oh my, I’ve angered the gods. Oh how I wish I had a back door. The streets were deserted. I could see the man pressing his face against the glass of the door, trying to see in.

“There’s a time to live and a time to die,” he roared.

Oh shit.

I eased to the back of the shop, taking advantage of the angled shadows, and stood in the backroom’s doorway, partly shielded by a chin-high bookcase. I could see him, but he couldn’t see me.

He began walking back and forth across the front of the store, like a zoo animal, never taking his eyes off the interior of the shop. He was angry. Something that threatened him was lurking inside this place. Something was watching him. Only, unlike myself, he was hunting for whatever he felt had been stalking him.

I never felt so much in my life like a small animal, down in a hole, listening to the heavy sniffing up above, waiting for the sounds of the earth being pawed away.
He put his face against the glass (glass! - an eighth of an inch), cupping his hands like blinders around his eyes so he could see inside better.

“There’s a time to live and a time to die,” he said again, laughing at the wonderful, hideous truth of his declaration.

Whose time though? His, because he was wiling to risk attacking his enemy? Or mine, because I’d put out milk and cookies for the kittens and managed to attract a golem?

I felt my cell phone in my pocket. Two questions: How much time do I give this drama before I seek help? Who do I call?

The time element? Well, if he doesn’t try to break in, I’ll wait him out. He hasn’t seen me, I’m guessing, because he hasn’t said anything like, “I see you.”

Or,“Come out of there, you varmint.”

He merely suspects I’m here. I’m counting on him being the kind of guy who suspects lots of things that aren’t there. And even though he is, technically, right this time, I’m hoping he says, “Silly me,” and gives up. I’ll give it fifteen minutes, maybe a half hour.

But if I’m wrong. If the siege goes on “too long,” or he tries to break in, I’ll call for help. At one point, police officer Joe Bird gave me his patrol bike cell phone number, but that’s on a piece of paper right near where my free-book patron is mumbling with his face against the window. So I guess it’s 911. But what do I say? I start working on the wording of my cry for help. These 911 tapes get played on the news. As a bookman, I have a certain obligation to provide a coherent, perhaps even eloquent, sound bite for TV.

And then … I’m not sure, but I think I haven’t heard him for a …second? minute? And I lean out beyond the bookcase, looking at the front door. I don’t see him. He may be laying a trap. I wait a little longer and then walk stealthily forward. I don’t see the bike in the doorway.

In a little while, still in the dark, I open the door, bracing my foot against the bottom in case I have to push it shut against resistance. Nothing. I step partly out and look up the block. Deserted. Far up the street, passing OMC Church, a man is walking a bicycle. Away from me.

I lock the door and walk across the street to my car. I get in, lock the doors and start the car. As I pull away, I am feeling like Wally Shawn at the end of My Dinner With Andre: I’m grateful to be going home to a warm, well-lit house, a loving wife and son. I’ll eat my dinner and probably drink some straight gin over a single cube. Maybe we’ll watch the DVD I rented, a documentary about the photographer W. Eugene Smith. Then we’ll read for a while. I like the book I’m reading now. Tomorrow I’ll get up early and go in to write and I’ll open the shop again at 11 a.m. and hope to sell some books. And after work I’ll write again, but I’ll be careful about the time and try to leave before it gets dark.

Only, Wally Shawn, riding a cab home, looking out at the streets of New York at night, was really looking forward to telling his girlfriend, Debbie, all about the time he spent with Andre. I don’t think I can tell my story tonight in an amused way and I don’t want to upset Janet, or myself, so I’ll hold off for a while.

In the meanwhile, I feel in my heart a version of The Merchant’s Prayer: “Thank You Dear Lord for not sending anyone to rob, shoot, or stab me because I run a public business in the city.” Amen.

But Wait - THE SEQUEL …

Seldom is a man so blessed: The next day, Saturday, near closing time, I opened the door and stepped outside for some air. In the same instant a tall, rangy, bearded guy dressed as “a street person” walked up and said, “Hi, any new ones today?”

Same beard shape and body build. No bike or helmet.

“Yeah, I put out some good ones today,” I said.

“Man, I couldn’t believe my good luck last night,” he said, “to actually find a Wallace Stevens poetry book. With the complete poems. Amazing, man.”

He was missing a few display teeth and his eyelids had drawn way back to enable the obvious fervor he brought to life.

“Good for you, “ I said, “I was hoping someone who appreciated him would find the book.”

I’d put it out for free because the lettering on the spine was faded and browsers would be unlikely to even examine such a book. “Can’t read the spine - can’t sell the book,” we say.

“Appreciate him?” he said, starting to wind up for a speech. He had the look in his eye of a man who could and would talk at length. I felt like asking for a forensic voice sample on the line “There’s a time to live and a time to die,” but I didn’t really need one.

“Appreciate Wallace Stevens?” He continued, “Why he grew up on Fifth Street, North Fifth Street, in Reading. I used to deliver the paper to that house. He wasn’t there any more, he lived in Connecticut by then, but still it was an honor. His house is still there. That was the first famous person I ever crossed paths with, so to speak, but not the last. Then there was …”

“He was from Reading?” I said. That sounded dubious.

“Yeah, Reading. Went to Reading Public High School. Oh yeah, he was from Reading.”

Well, live and learn, huh? I listened for a while. I had to come off the doorstep because he was upwind of me and the reek of stale urine from his greasy pants made me feel I was trapped in a subway tunnel. He went on and on. I was thinking, Where’d you come from, buddy?

Everybody is some mother’s child. What path led this former baby boy who gathers books from my doorstep by day to being the unkempt, smelly, wild-haired, loony “street person” who looks through my shop window for his demons at night? He seemed like a lost child right now. He seemed hungry to be listened to. I felt sorry for him.

“I’ve got to get back to work,” I said, “take it easy.”

“Okay, thanks for the books. And, uh, I’m Marty* by the way,” offering his hand, which turned out to be bony and wet. We shook. He walked back up Bethlehem Pike, carrying his FREE book for today – Will Durant’s The Story of Philosophy. Volume four, I think.

Now, if I refer to the scare he gave me and the conversation we had about Wallace Stevens, I refer to it with Janet as My Dinner With Marty.

Sequel to the sequel: Yes, I googled Wallace Stevens: 323 North Fifth Street, Reading Pennsylvania, 1879. Reading Public High School.

* = Obviously not his real name.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A New Mystery on the Hill

A reader sends in:

Hello. This is a copy of a letter I have sent to the editor of the Local, the CHCA and the CHBA. I hope you will print it on your site, with the information of where it has been sent.

And major, grateful, and heartfelt congrats on having helped to restore democracy to the Hill.

Thank you
Kay Wisniewski


It seems there is a restaurant moving into the old Deb Shop, that is, into the small building, with an even smaller parking area, that lies between Cin-Cin and McDonalds. I say seems because it feels as if the whole thing is a mystery, and a deliberate one at that. At the time of my writing this there is only a hand-lettered sign on the building that says "Restaurant Coming." So it appears that this is a no-name restaurant, owned by a no one who therefore has no contact information. When I politely asked the workman at the site for the name of the owner, or at least the name of the person who had hired them, they politely refused to tell me. Oh dear.

I say "Oh dear," because I live right behind this site on Roanoke St. Like most of the houses in this area, we have no off-steet parking -- and as things are now, what with Cin-Cin's lack of adequate parking-spaces, we can never park anywhere near our house on weekends. This area is mobbed. Now Cin-Cin is a great restaurant. We are pleased by their well-deserved success. We are pleased that they installed a proper ventilation system so that the neighbors are not plagued by cooking smells. But we are not pleased that Cin-Cin was allowed to develop that site without any provision for proper parking.

And now here comes mystery restaurant-- mystery restaurant that has made no attempt to contact the neighbors and let us know the answer to two crucial questions:
1) what will be done to guarantee adequate parking spaces for the restaurant's patrons?
2) What sort of filtered ventilation system is going in to cut down on smells here? (Both McDonald's and Cin-Cin can give advice on this, since they both have such systems.)

I for one would much rather patronize than picket this new mystery restaurant. So what can be done, by the neighbors, by the CHCA, by the CHBA, and by the owner, to solve this mystery and give it a happy ending?

Kay Wisniewski
Chestnut Hill

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Maxinista: Shock, Awe and Generational Cronyism

by Sniper

How about this for a laugh? Dougie Doman is out! He didn't get enough votes to validate his creepy tenure as arbiter of bad taste for Maxinista and Stewie! His shell game caught up with him! Too protective of his Institute for Human Development in Wyndmoor. Afraid somebody at the Local might actually launch an investigative piece about his business . . . now he'll have to hightail it to Italy, beyond the reach of the paper, where he has another Institute, retailing pricey hope to the physically bereft, too . . . Or turn the whole shooting gallery over to his sister, whom his father placed above him in the Doman hierarchy . . . Because here's the catch: now that the Maxinista/Actionista-dominated Executive Committee has lost its stranglehold on the Local's windpipe, the paper can resume its natural role as free interpreter of CH happenings . . . no more nonsense! Name names! Write editorials! Chase the Publisher's Committee back into the caverns of Maxine's imagination , from which it sprang (with help from the strange Stewie, the unreadable Parry) . . . Maxinistas and their proteges, the Actionistas, forgot that a truly free press can't hurt you. Because it literally is the community.

The vote was devastating. Twenty-four board seats up, 19 for SOC, five for the AA. And this despite the Graham/Doman/Dornemann/Hausermann rollout drive, where free CHCA memberships were allegedly offered to mitered oldsters from venues like Cathedral Village, in exchange for filled-in ballots. The counterpunch was, reportedly, SOC's Ron Recko and 9th ward Democrat leader John O'Connell, who went out and brought new CHCA members into the fray, who weren't easily influenced by the generational cronyism of the old Chestnut Hill power-ocracy -- the one that reaches across all "party" and "slate" lines, and includes former members of the Lloyd Wells Originals; proto-classists like Carolyn "Puffy" Hausermann and her lawnboy, Superbrat Snowden; "reformers" once unafraid to name names and fight earlier Orwellian outbreaks, like Maurice McCarthy & Tolis Vardakis's "Civil Code," the forerunner in 2000 of the whole mess that coalesced under Maxine's regime . . . but who are now withering on the vine with premature gravitas."

Poor Betty Brady. Straining her face to keep it from cracking Monday at 5:45 p.m. when the vote tallies burst suddenly over the Local like rough ocean waves from Wildwood (not Cape May!), proclaiming the end of a three-year downturn. People were stunned:
"You mean Joe Pie and Jane Piotrowski won't be sneaking around here, spying anymore?" one formerly tight-lipped employee gasped. "Do you think Kari and Betty are done, too? How about Ellen [Manning]? Do ya think she'll give up now on her plans to get rid of Cheryl [Massaro], Ellen [Maher] and Mary [Flannery]?" "Give up?" a visitor laughed happily. "She may be gone herself! If they had a real Community Manager, they wouldn't need a 'Community Development Manager' would they?"

Already the calls are rolling in: Walter "Foghorn" Sullivan, formerly chary of getting too close to SOC-hoppers (Maxinista/Actionistas used to watch their backs like East German Stasi undercovers), rang up a SOC ringleader to say he wanted to "open the door" for negotiations in the "wake of all the unpleasantness"; Jeremy Heep, the youthful (okay, Tia?) lawyer and AA presidential hopeful, just weeks ago stand-offish with those he was about to conquer, began initiating calls for meetings to decide what would likely happen on the many nominating questions now thrown into disarray -- the rulers of the next 12 months were supposedly already listed for combat duty, according to one highly placed source. Because Max, as prior president, sits on the Executive Committee and heads the Nominating Committee!

Overheard at Sanjiv Jain's Chestnut Hill Coffeehouse, an unofficial meeting place for Maxinistas prior to the Great Fall, were disloyal speculations on the boss's contributions to the AA defeat: "That goddamned $3200 [fee for renting the first floor of 8431 Germantown Avenue, promised to Sanji by Max's pals in the CHCA -- though it's illegal because Jain was supposed to be "volunteering" as "community property manager" at the time], probably hurt [the AA] when the frigging blog printed it," groused a sore loser. "Yeah, and the fact that he let the AA use his old store on the top of the Hill for a headquarters, with all their wholesome photos of them and their dogs in the windows, probably didn't play too well, either . . . When you cut yourself loose from someone [Jain's and Maxine's persuasions by Stewie Graham and Richie Maloumian to not seek election this year], you've got to cut yourself off!"

The major turnout of 1700 voters made the difference -- in the last apathetic years, elections were won with tiny pluralities, 450 votes total, as if Chestnut Hill Community Association officers were being inducted into a tennis association, or a tea sodality. This year, winners polled in the 800s, and losers in the low 600s, with SOC getting the majority of crossover votes -- those who "crossed" slates. Ned Mitinger, a former Community Manager, led the vote-getting with 825 votes, with smoothie Stewie Graham right behind him at 806, and Marie Lachat next with 775. But the mold has been cast. Big voter anger out there.

For Chestnut Hill to really renew itself though, both in its government and newspaper, it's got to broaden participation. Get rid not only of the Maxine Dornemanns, Doug Domans, Sanjiv Jains, Stewie Grahams, Pam Waters's and Brian Tilleys, but attack the generational cronyism that has allowed the Lloyd Wells Originals to fuse with their purported enemies -- Doman and Graham.

An example: As I write this, I've just learned that Mary Anna Ross, a kind of drum major emeritus, has been conducting semi-secret meetings to arrange Janine Dwyer's nomination for CHCA president. Janine didn't run this year, but as a board member, former president and Honorary Sister in the Hair Salon Granny Caucus, she's temperamentally disposed to please all parties at all times, as Mark Keintz was -- to his great loss in this election. What's bad is the behind-the-scenes angling of Ross and her cohorts, who simply seem to want to retain control by age fiat . . . Why shouldn't Recko, Jim Foster and others who worked so hard to win the election have a say in who gets to pick the SOC prez? It's the Aiello way, the Wells way . . . Don't forget. Ross was a major opponent of the SOC campaign ad that "dared" to name Doug Doman , Stewart Graham and Richard Becker as major players in AA double-dealing a couple of weeks ago, a silly fear "issue" which could have split the party at the polls and hurt SOC far more than the mild ad copy did.

Meanwhile, the blog creep who calls himself/herself "Henry D" is threatening to make a public issue of the sensational charges made in CH Notebook against Marie Lachat's financial agreement with the CHCA to terminate her job as Community Manager a little over a year ago . . . talk about sore losers.

Where is the Granny Caucus on this crucial matter?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

To Reiterate and Remind

In recalling the course of events that have transpired and the resulting enlightenment, below are parting words on the past several months that shine a light on the situation.

Good night and talley-ho.

Robyn John

From the Forum in the Chestnut Hill Local. Editorial [Local, 11/10/05]

Local Perseverance

You may have noticed that your Local arrived late this week, not because of Veterans' Day, but due to a community meeting held at the Chestnut Hill Library on Monday, Nov. 7 at 7 pm that we wanted to give front page coverage. The staff attended Monday's meeting in support of the Local and to listen to what the community and the CHCA has to say in light of current events that have been creating division and concern within this community.

Recently, we, the staff, have voiced our concerns to the public and to the Chestnut Hill Community Association. We've made our statements and shown our truths. I believe throughout all the drama that has been associated with the CHCA and the Local that something good can and will come out of this. All concerned must have patience and understanding before finding any solutions.

This paper is the community voice, no matter who sits in the editor's chair. The Local has become of the most respected sources of information for a variety of people across Northwest Philadelphia and the country. It was created and established and it will continue. Yet, in contradiction, that can't happen if we can't agree on how to manage this paper. What we need here is respect, attention and clear lines of communication. It is up to you, the community, whether or not we, as a staff, can continue to work for you. Please continue your support.

In reflection, we've lost a few good people, we've stated our cases and we've picked our battles. It's now time to pick up the pieces that are left over and start something new with what remains. As for the staff of the Chestnut Hill Local, this has been a character building experience that, I hope, will stay in the many minds for years to come.

Thank you, Chestnut Hill, for all of your help, concerns, involvement, and most of all, your letters.

Robyn John
Production Manager
Chestnut Hill Local

The CHCA Winners Are...

Updated: The Second Opinion Caucus saw 19 of its slate elected when the results of the Chestnut Hill Community Association election were announced the evening of May 7. This update shows the vote totals.

The new directors are:
Directors Elected to a Three Year Term
Candidates – Total Votes
Ned Mitinger – 823
W. Stuart Graham – 806
Marie Lachat – 775
Carol Cope – 771
Kathleen M. Jones – 749
Joanne Dhody – 747
Virginia Mallery – 738
Stan Moat – 725
Ron Recko – 720
Thomas Fleming – 716
Susan Ann Pizzano – 712
Howard Lesnick – 684

Directors Elected to a One Year Term
James Foster – 678
Christopher Padova – 676
Nancy Hutter – 671
Joseph Pizzano – 666
Ed Feldman – 664
Scott Alloway – 663
Jane Piotrowski – 657
Richard Becker – 655
Edward Budnick – 636
Elaine Aiello – 635
Jonathan Sternberg – 632
James Gleason – 626

Candidates Not Elected
Sarah Maneely – 619
Kristina Sullivan – 608
Lisa Sullivan-Mancuso – 607
Ed Berg – 606
John Michaels – 602
Thomas Kessler – 601
Pamela Waters – 600
Robert Rossman – 598
Jesse Walters – 598
Kerry Bird – 594
George Spaeth – 592
Patrick Mooney – 591
James Bruno – 588
Adam Meadows – 585
Doug Knauer – 581
C. Van Den Muyzenberg – 575
Brian DeCesare – 566
Gina Stellabotte – 558
Robert Remus – 554
Douglas Doman – 537
Tapan J. Patel – 530
Curnel Bridges – 509
Patrick Mountney – 490
Meredith Sonderskov – 325
Shoshana Bricklin – 244
Brien Tilley – 243
H. Mark Keintz – 231
Gina Maletta-Sannicandro – 201
Cecile Mihalich – 152
Mitchell Melton – 109

Some Reasons Why...

This piece was entered as a comment on a post published below on this website. It is also here because it offers thoughts on important issues that still need to be discussed.

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 [the Maxinista poster] attached to (the Maxinista) 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...)

Saturday, May 06, 2006

CHCA Voting: Part 4

Monday's on for vote counting, 9 to noon. Tuesdays's a newbie with a 9 to 5 vote counting session at St. Pauls's, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Avenue. You know the drill. Same time, same station. You're invited to play a part. 1500 total ballots, we hear. And some incumbents are staring at the wrong end of the rainbow.

Cynical? Naw. Just the same old same old with our current administration.

And if we hear another word about hard-working volunteers, by gawd, we'll throttle you and start naming names. They're doing the best they can with the situation as it is.

Have a nice day, y'all.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Enemies of Reading

Chewing Gum For the Captive Eye: Television In Waiting Rooms.

by Hugh Gilmore

In which the author, the owner and proprietor of an Old & Rare bookshop in Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia, is forced by a horrible emergency to fight back against certain social forces, but then must confront the damage he’s done on the human front.

I did an American bad thing, but I was provoked. This is my side of the story of what happened that day, April 20, 2006.

My general rule about 5:30 a.m. phone calls is to not answer. It can never be good news. But since my son is away at school and my mother-in-law is infirm and might need us, I answered.

My nineteen year-old son, who is blind in one eye as a result of "retinopathy of the premature," was calling to say he thought the retina in his "good" eye was detaching. He could see a shadow, like a window shade drawing, in the corner of his eye. We all knew what that meant from seven years ago when two retina surgeries failed to save his left eye. Up we sprang to gather him from Arcadia University in nearby Glenside and dash to Wills Eye Hospital.

From my wife, Janet’s journal that night:

“I packed a few clothes, some audio tapes and iPod for Andrew to take to the hospital. Looked around his room and saw the wealth of books and videos he’s collected so carefully over the years to enhance his knowledge of comedy, and started to well up at the thought that he might never be able to read or watch movies again.”

Myself, I try not to think at such times. At the hospital, the usual interminable insurance hassles and red tape kept us in the waiting room much longer than my nerves wanted to handle. I said, at different intervals, to three different receptionists who’d seemed in charge, “Look, I brought cash. I’ll pay cash for someone to look at my son’s eye. Time is the enemy. He needs to be seen.” This plea brought sympathetic nods, but no obvious actions. Things move so slowly in emergency situations.

Except when it’s THEIR emergency.

As in: “Sir, Don’t touch that!”

“Sir, what are doing, sir?”

“Leave that alone, sir”

They’d all cupped their phones, or dropped their clipboards to stare at me, while Ms. Cerberus cried out to stop me from turning down the TV.

The whole time we’d been waiting, the reception room television spewed audio pollution at us. Some asinine program like Good Morning America. People going through the charade of pretend news while actually shilling for the guests’ new money-making ventures. God, it was loud, and it’s such an awful noise that in way resembles human voices. No one was looking at it, the hour being early yet, so I’d walked across the room and reached up to touch the damned monster. I upset the staff so much you’d think I’d tried to kick their barking shiitizu.

“Sir, Other People are watching it, sir.”

“No, they’re not. They’re trying to read.”

“Sir, she’ll take care of it, Sir.”

They were just this side of macing me when a young woman stepped from behind the barrier desk and aimed a giant remote at the television. The sound bar showed and dropped two notches. Still too loud, but I suspected the remote had a button for calling security, so I went back to inwardly-fuming docility.

When the doctor examined Andrew a bit later, we learned that our son’s guess was right. “There’s some elevation of the retina in the corner,” he said. Surgery was scheduled for the next morning.

* * * * * * * * * *

Okay. Next day. Though Andrew is nineteen, they allowed us to keep him company through admission and prep. We met the surgeon for the first time, asked our feeble questions, got some sense of the stages that would follow, and then it was time for our son to be wheeled away to pre-op.

Again, from Janet’s journal:

Only one parent was allowed to accompany Andrew into the waiting area as he was prepped for surgery. It was me. Hugh had to phone the school, etc. The doctor started an IV, not too delicately, from Andrew’s reaction. A doctor wrote “BH” over Andrew’s right eye. I asked, “What does that mean? ‘Begin here’”? but the doctor said, “No, Bernard Hurley, that’s my name. We initial the eye after we determine which one is to be operated on.” Good procedure, I know from experience.

Then they put a blue shower cap on Andrew and got ready to wheel him away. I looked into his eyes and thought that might be the last time he saw his mother’s face, and I started to cry. He said, “Don’t cry, Mom.”

I hugged him tight, so he wouldn’t see more tears, and told him how much I love him. They took him away from me, and I broke down completely, hot tears of self-pity and godspeed-wishing and such a sense of sorrow for my little boy, who’s been through so much pain. He is a Wednesday’s child, indeed. He once said that everything bad that ever happened to him happened on a Wednesday.

After that, we were told to go up to the family waiting room on the 7th floor. We did. Three other people sat in there. I couldn’t tell if they were together or not. Two were men who were sleeping in that deeply-settled posture that said they’d been there quite a while and still had a long ways to go. The other was a woman who knelt on the seat of her chair, facing the window, gazing moodily out and across the rooftops.
I felt bad for them. I hoped whomever they were waiting for would be all right.

Jan and I were nervous. I hoped reading a good book might get me through this next hour. I took out my book, Time Was Soft There, a memoir by a man named Jeremy Mercer, who lived for a while at the famous Shakespeare & Co. bookshop in Paris.

Three pages later, just three pages, trying to fight the cold panic in my guts, I saw a young woman and a man wearing a T-shirt and a looping chain with lots of keys on it come in the waiting room. They seemed to be family to the window woman, who used a remote to turn the high overhead TV on.

The TV on! Crap, and double crap. And why so loud always?

The lady asked the man, “How this thang work”? He stood on a chair and started turning channels. Their voices were respectfully quiet and said they, for sure, came north to get here, but why, if they knew to keep their own voices down, did they not see the offense in letting the TV voices scream so loud?

I’m thinking, “Christ, can’t you folks live without entertainment from the outside world for a little while?” The occasion of grave medical danger calls for peace and contemplativeness. Thousands of dollars go into consulting psychologists who tell the hospital what color to paint the room and what kind of art to put on the walls in order to calm people. Then they allow these stupid, monstrous boxes to scream at us.

The two sleeping men started to stir a little at the noise. I was just this side of saying, “Excuse me folks, can we vote on this TV thing? Majority rules?” counting on the sleepers’ votes, but then I saw they both had long pre-Elvis sideburns out from under their truckers caps. I’d ‘probly’ be outvoted. Or popped upside the head. Such an un-American suggestion in these touchy times, when everyone’s lining up side-to-side, head-to-tail, to sniff out the other guy’s patriotic pheromones.

Sho nuff, the sleepers awoke, and then, as though there’d been a secret snap-count, they broke from the huddle and all five went outside for a family conference in the hall. Leaving the TV on as a kind of bookmark. I gritted my teeth and tried to steer my capsizing patience towards a calm place in my heart. The TV woman stepped back in and used the remote to turn the TV off. They all left. Peace at last.
But for how long?

The agitation the scene caused me rode over my greater worry about Andrew. I did not want to sit there and have to put up with any more TV.

I put my book down, still only three pages done, and looked in the corridor. No one there. I walked up to the nurses’ station and turned around and walked back toward the lounge, trying to determine the sight lines into the lounge. I couldn’t see the TV in the corner till I got six feet from the entrance. Good. Great.

Janet watched me come back in and walk to the end of the room and stand under the television, like I’d been sent to stand in the corner. She knows my proclivities after twenty years of marriage, so she went back to her magazine. I looked up behind the TV, to see the hook-up. Two cables, a black and a white. I hoped they weren’t screw-ons. They take more time than pull-offs.

The window lady suddenly appeared in the hall. I dropped an arm and massaged my neck. She stepped in and looked at me. Puzzlement crossed her face. Why would a grown man would be standing in the far corner, under the TV set, in a hospital waiting room, while his relative was getting his eye operated on?

I pointed at a landscape print on the opposite wall and said to Janet, tilting my head this way and that, getting perspective, “Yeah, you can really see how it works from here, the way the mountains blend with the sea.”
Window woman walked out and began pacing the corridor.

This situation was ridiculous, I knew, and inappropriate for a father waiting for his son’s eye operation to finish. But I had felt assaulted, and my rights to worry in peace been disrespected. Yesterday, waiting for the diagnosis, there’d been that terrible TV in the waiting area. Now, waiting for the operation, here was its nasty kid brother. And they were just two of the evil spawn of whatever coven had loosed them on the land. In my cardiologist’s office two weeks ago, at 7:15 in the morning: The Morning Show. At the Social Security office on Midvale Avenue, while I sat captive, an intensely loud and violent video with Harrison Ford –The Fugitive?- split my skull. In nearly every restaurant that has a bar. In some supermarkets. Even at Conicelli Nissan, up on Ridge Avenue, the small waiting-for-your-car-to-get-well room is dominated by a shouting 32-inch bully practiced in the martial arts intended produce vestibular ear pain.

It was in Conicelli’s waiting room that I first struck back, in fact. My fellow inmates had dwindled to one other than myself. When he finished his time served and left, I looked the TV in the eye and thought, “You’ve had it, Bluto.” I took the remote from its forehead and pushed the Off button. Then I removed one battery. Then I hid the remote behind the TV.

The quiet was instantly serene. I could occasionally hear a phone ring in the background, or the pleasant whirr of the power lug-nut remover, the sounds of progress toward my deliverance. I returned to my book, The Disinherited, by Jack Conroy, one of the hundred books I hope to read this year if I can overcome such obstacles.

About six pages later, a woman came in and sat down. A minute later, a man. Then another woman. The first woman said, “Anyone mind if I turn on the TV? I hate to miss my soap.” No one quite said yes. No one said no. I kept reading and didn’t look up. Just smiled inside, a pleasant current flowing through me like warm cocoa.

“How ya turn this thing on?” she said.

“Push the power button.

“I did, it don’t work.”

“Maybe it only works with the remote.”

“Where’s the remote”?

“Maybe they keep it at the service counter.”

“Now, why would they do that”?

“Maybe people steal them.”

I stirred, shifting cheeks at the mention of such criminal actions. Taking the remote - that would be stealing, wouldn’t it? If someone wanted to give you a hard time about it, you might have to face police action. But, what about taking a battery? Technically, it’s not mine. I got up and went to the lavatory. I took the battery from my pocket and put it on the edge of the sink so I couldn’t be convicted of stealing it. I ran the water for effect. I came back and sat down.

One of the counter guys had retrieved the remote from where I’d hidden it and was aiming it at the screen, making those energetic little pretend recoils with each button push. He apologized when he couldn’t get it to work.

“Maybe it needs batteries.”

Just one, if anyone wants to get technical, but two good things happened at once just before the thunder clap of the battery’s discovery. One, I’d just finished the third chapter of The Disinherited. Two, my car was ready. I love Conicelli. I really do. I’ve bought two cars there. As their slogan says, “It’s A Nice Place to Do Business.” But they put a TV in the reading lounge!

As did Wills Eye Hospital, which I also love. A great place for saving eyes to watch the TV’s installed in every room.

I was still standing under the TV with window woman walking away from me. I reached up and pulled the white cable out of the back of the TV. I left it propped against the back, looking like it was still on duty, but knew I’d undone the tie that binds.

Back to my seat at once. Andrew’s operation should have taken forty-five minutes. It lasted close to three hours. Plenty of time for our worries and apprehensions to grow. I was barely able to read, but grateful that the family waiting room was quiet.

Twice during the time we waited, the five out-of-town addicts came back in for a TV fix but, “It’s not working right,” the woman said. When I was younger I’d enjoy a scene like this: a great little prank But she sounded so frustrated I felt a bit guilty. I wanted to tell them I’d pulled the plug and offer to fix the problem, but I kept my mouth shut. The hours dragged by, but at least they were quiet ones.

Then we were called to talk with the surgeon. The operation was over. We listened nervously as he explained. More extensive surgery was required than he’d thought. Everything looked good though. Retina was flat. Andrew came through fine. He’d awakened from the general anesthesia. He’d be able to come up to his room soon. As for his studies, he’d not be able to read for about a month, so finishing the semester at school would probably not be possible. We’d worry about that later. More important was the fact that his vision was probably saved.

Jan and I went up to his room to wait for him. In a while he was wheeled in. One of life’s more horrible inducers of the feeling of helplessness is the sight of your child on a gurney. Just as my heart sank, it rose again when the nurses asked Andrew to lift himself onto the bed. He did. And moved to the middle when they asked him to adjust himself. When the nurses left, Jan and I stroked his brow, talked gently to him. Heard his kindly, polite voice respond. Oh happy day.

Jan would stay over. I would go home. We three sat together in the quiet room, watching the shadows lengthen slowly across the city and the wall of Andrew’s room. A loving, still-a-bit-worried, family gathering. Absorbing the peace from one another.

Just at dusk, I said goodbye and left. We’d talk later. I’d go down and across the street and stand near the Wills Eye entrance, next to the bicycle rack, and wave up to the 7th floor. Bye Janet. Bye Andrew.

I left the room, feeling sad, but somewhat relieved. One critical stage of the ordeal had been endured. As I rounded the corner I could see people sitting in the family-waiting lounge across from the elevator I’d take. Some other poor souls still waiting to learn the fate of their loved one’s vision. I pushed the button and stood with my back to the room. When the elevator bell dinged I stepped in and turned around and pushed 1 and waited to be taken down. I looked across the corridor.

Oh no. The same people. The window woman, the guy with the key chain, the two sideburned guys, the younger woman, all still waiting for fate to make the call. And, to my chagrin, riding quite plainly at the surface of their worried faces was the easily-read disgust of people who are bored out of their damned minds because the damned TV ain’t working!

Damn. I felt sorry for ruining their evening. I didn’t need the lounge to be quiet any longer. Some people need television to get through their grief. I could cure that family’s problem in a jif. Just go in there and reach up and slip that white cable back over the female end. Instant fix. I worked on the wording of my apology in my head. Didn’t mean nothing. Wasn’t thinking. Not in my right mind, worried with worry.

The doors closed. I felt myself being delivered away.

Two days later, just so you know, while he showered, the goo stuck in Andrew’s eyelids washed away enough for him to declare that he could see. Just light and shapes, but after two days of total darkness, it felt like a miracle to us all. He continues to recover. We’ve been guiding him to his final classes. Exams are next week. Arrangements and accommodations have been made.

Do You Feel It?

Does Chestnut Hill feel loved? It doesn’t.
It feels like a child strapped to the car seat in a Mercedes Benz.
Please, get off your high horses and stop crucifying John Lombardi and this webmag. He is but the cartoonist.
I think there’s a bit of real estate that is being tampered with.
I think there’s a bit of money being gambled with.
I think that a community is being screwed.
If those owners think that they can rip off businesses for space, then let them. Let’s see if the board approves their ideas towards commercialization. More chains, the people who will pay more for more to say less. It won’t happen. Keep those vacancies. Keep those storefronts empty of anything that will create interest in this changing economy. Do it. Coffee won’t buy you respect. Neither will an Ikea decorated patio. You have to understand the market. Douchebags.
They may have resigned but they stood to reveal much more than an inappropriate board.
They got out what they’ve been trying to reveal for years. The unethical business practices that many newcomers (and veterans) to the Hill see but can’t do anything about.
Way to go. Good way to promote growth.

Contributed by a Reader

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The CHCA Election: Part 3

The long story about the Chestnut Hill Community Association election moves into new territory.

It has been reported that the CHCA vote counting for the recent election has been adjourned until Monday, May 8.

And now, a letter is being sent to the board regarding the counting process.

It reads:

Hello, Chris [Kemezis],

It has come to our attention that there is a serious flaw in the way the votes for CHCA Board membership are being counted.

At the Second Opinion Caucus last Tuesday, we discussed this and it was agreed that I would bring it to your attention so that you can make some changes necessary in order to have an election that is above reproach.

We concluded that no one who is an active member of the Alliance or the Caucus or a strong supporter of either party should read off the names on the ballots to the counters.

The reason is, of course, that they could be called off incorrectly favoring whichever party the person is attached to.

Now, I want to emphasis that we do not think that there has been any impropriety to date. But, in any election, especially one as hard fought as this one has been, there should be no loop hole like this where the possibility of impropriety could have occurred.

You have not set up the Judges of election to cover this. There are only three members and you. The two ministers have been wonderful, but the two times I was there the accountant was not present, nor were you. If you had seen to it that all of you were there this problem would not have occurred. Since you didn’t you should have added members to the Judges such as, possibly, Armond Delaporta or Dorothy Corn both of whom have served before and know the system.

When I was there on Monday, Ron Recko came in. People seem to agree that candidates may observe, although the Board or your Judges never decided this and his presence was accepted as were other candidates.

He brought the above-mentioned matter to the attention of the people who were working. And the Judges decided that there was nothing that could be done about this at this time.

I had to agree with them because these men expected to spend two days on this and now it is turning into weeks. That is not fair to them when they so readily agree to serve us.

After Ron’s statement it was felt by a number of people that he was being difficult. This has happened many times with the more aggressive members of the Caucus and it is not fair to him in this instance because he was absolutely right and his demeanor was calm and respectful of the process we were all engaged in.

If someone does not point out failures in our procedures they cannot be changed

I am hereby requesting that you appoint enough new Judges, or see to it that you and the accountant attend, so that the counting can now be done in a fully proper way and that it can be restarted long before next Monday. We certainly do not want the counting to be challenged and all the furor that that could cause, but, if you will correct this system as we are suggesting, or in another way if you feel there is one and we can agree upon it, all should go smoothly.

Please respond as soon as possible so that there will need be no further discussion or questioning.

It should also be noted that the verification of the separated ballots in question that have to be verified by Sheryl must be prioritized. The election process has already been extended and this verification will extend it further unless it is prioritized now. We suggest that two observers - one from each party - be present at that verification.

I am sure all of us are respectful of the voting process, so,


Mary Anna (Ross Cowper)

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

CHCA Vote Counting... Deja Vu All Over Again

And so it continues into that long dark teatime of the soul.

The Chestnut Hill Community Association will sponsor a vote counting party Wednesday morning from 9 to 11:30. Interested observers and participants are invited to be a part of the process at St. Paul's Church, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Avenue, Chestnut Hill.

Still counting, after the close of the election on Thursday evening. A million-dollar plus operation and they're still counting. The "best" neighborhood in the city and they're still counting. The "trust us - we'll heal the breach" crowd and they're still counting.

These are the same people who've been running things these past few years, aren't they?

Please don't whimper about volunteers. See the million-dollar plus reference above and recall the promises of running this association like a business.

Things are not right. Any questions?

A Commercial Rental Story, Part 2

This is the second letter from Mary A. Harris, Previous Owner, Rugmaven.

Last week’s Local contained two items that resonated deeply for me. One was a letter from a local attorney who commented on factors that may be discouraging business owners from setting up shop here, and the other was an article reporting on Bill Sullivan’s keynote address at the annual meeting of the CHBA two weeks ago suggesting that business owners share information in the interest of moving this business district forward as a whole. As a recent retail shop owner with locations in both Chestnut Hill and Manayunk, I feel I am somewhat uniquely qualified to comment on some aspects of doing business in Chestnut Hill, as I have something else to compare it to.

A handful of highly-visible storefront vacancies over the past few years have prompted many to wonder whether the high cost of renting in Chestnut Hill discourages unique retail stores from opening and maintaining a business here. While Manayunk is weathering its own transitions and property issues, the longterm empty spaces owned by Richard Snowden, the former Gap building, and the former Fleet Bank building, at one of Chestnut Hill’s most prominent intersections and owned by an out-of-state landlord, have been a focus here. It is no secret that Chestnut Hill has been preyed upon repeatedly over the years by several well-funded landowners whose primary focus has been to exploit the great opportunity for profits this affluent village provides. Deep pockets and a large real estate portfolio make one or two long-term vacancies relatively easy to absorb if one would benefit more from the tax writeoff rather than rent at a more reasonable “market value”. Sadly, the current stock of buildings in Chestnut Hill is owned, in part, by several folks who espouse this type of “big picture”, or corporate, cost-benefit mentality.

I have personally had encounters with four of the more prominent landlords here, having rented for the past three and a half years from Mr. Sanjiv Jain, a former executive for both the tobacco and fuel industries who has quietly acquired numerous commercial and residential properties over the past several years and, in search of a larger space for my business, attempted to rent three other prominent spaces: First, the small side of the former Gap building, which sat vacant for over two years and was perfect, but was unexpectedly sold to Commerce Bank while I was negotiating terms with its broker, Ms. Lisa Rosenfeldt. Unfortunate, as they were willing to subdivide and had lowered the base rent to an appropriate and affordable $25 per foot, significantly less than the $40 I was paying Mr. Jain for a small space with broken fixtures and a non-working air conditioner directly across the street. Ms. Rosenfeldt was incredibly reasonable and helpful at every turn, but, alas, Commerce appeared and the rest, as you know, is still history in the making.

Next, I pursued Mr. Snowden’s property down the street that previously housed Simply Cottage. Formerly two stores that had been made one, I was pleased to learn that Mr. Snowden was willing to re-subdivide. The cost for the whole approx. 2100 square foot space? Almost $8,000 after including the additional “fees”. Even more shocking was the cost for the sub-divided half space, a whopping $7,000! His agent, Jackie, was gracious and helpful, but during such a tough time for retail, that cost was simply prohibitive to anything other than what it became, a high-volume nail salon/day spa.

My third attempt was, in some ways, the most entertaining. The former Fleet Bank at Highland, was shown by a local architect who didn’t recognize me the second time I came to measure and look at the space (didn’t he wonder how I knew his dog’s name?). It was listed at 2,500 square feet and priced also at approx. $8,000, including triple net fees. I was not surprised when it turned out to be just about 2,000 feet after twice measuring carefully, as almost all the landlords I dealt with inflated their stated square footages significantly. (My recent space at 8611 was originally quoted at approx. 1,000 feet but in actuality measured in at a mere 600 feet. The for-rent sign above the door now says 750 sf.) Dealing with the irascible octogenarian, Mr. Crossett, was an eye-opener. I couldn’t get a word in edgewise while he railed for almost fifteen minutes about how Chestnut Hill has been hostile to chain stores for decades and, as a result, deserves the longterm vacancies it is experiencing (“Chestnut Hill has made its bed, now they can lay in it”. This is an actual quote.), before informing me he wouldn’t be renting to any local business. I deal with all types of older adults daily in my work as a geriatric psychotherapist, but I was no match for this man’s invective or his fixed resentment of “the powers that be” in Chestnut Hill and accepted his polite refusal to rent to me. Wisely, he has since enlisted the professional services of Ms. Lisa Rosenfeldt to represent his space and she has, I am told, been negotiating with a well-established national company that is quite interested in Mr. Crossett’s building.

Discouraged, I put the word out to the Business Association and fellow business owners and found that there are, in fact, several reputable property owners here in Chestnut Hill. You can tell who they are by the lack of turnover in the retail shops that occupy their spaces and the pleasant ways their tenants talk about their “landlords”. Some of your favorite small businesses at the top of the Hill and in the rear parking areas rent from these quality men and women who genuinely love and care about Chestnut Hill. They rent at favorable terms in fair and balanced leases and value the long-term businesses that write them checks month after month, year after year. They keep their properties in good repair and respond quickly and positively to maintenace issues that arise. They don’t seek every opportunity to wiggle out of their responsibilities as landlord and they consider their tenants friends and, therefore, nurture those relationships, taking a symbiotic, rather than parasitic, approach to capitalism. You might not know about these property owners, as their names are conspicuously absent from the current controversies and ethical infractions now plaguing the Hill’s incestuous political groups and lining the pages of the Local this past year. They contribute by actively participating or serving on committees, but their intention to “serve” the community is clearly evident, in that they’re careful not to overstep their bounds by insinuating themselves into a monopolized power structure which might legitimately be construed as a conflict of interest.

After seriously pursuing every reasonable option for a larger space, and unwilling to sign again with a landlord I have come to deeply mistrust after many contentious run-ins over the interpretation of my egregiously tenant-hostile 20 page corporate-style lease, complete with a gag clause forbidding me to say anything negative about Mr. Jain or discuss the terms of my lease for its duration, I decided to close up shop and wait for a space with a less onerous landlord to open up, for I know they do exist here in Chestnut Hill, even if few and far between.

As the only Hill tenant to date, that I am aware of, who has signed a commercial lease and actually stayed the full term with Mr. Jain, I suppose I am in the unique position of commenting on both my experiences during the term of the lease and the smoothness of getting my security deposit back in a timely fashion. Nothing I say here is news to Mr. Jain, as I have taken numerous opportunities to try to awaken him to a less bullying, “profit at any cost” mentality and a more honorable business philosophy in such a small town where we all live and work and where gag clauses eventually expire. His “gift” of letting me use his Yankee Candle space for my liquidation sale and auction notwithstanding, which I am eternally grateful for, materialized only after a very public dressing-down when Mr. Jain reneged on the terms we had agreed upon, literally two days before I was scheduled to take possession, after an irresponsible neighboring business owner used my name while criticizing Mr. Jain’s business practices at a meeting the night before my lease was to be presented to me.

In the end, after paying my rent, and the additional fees outlined in my lease, on time, every month, for three and a half years, I did not receive a penny of the $4000 security deposit refund I was expecting. Rather, I was presented with a carefully justified bill for $9,700. It seems that Mr. Jain had grossly underestimated the additional “CAM” charges and the Use and Occupancy Tax by more than 50% on my lease, citing huge increases in property values and taxes he was unaware of when he drew up the lease. As always, he was quick to point out that I was still legally responsible for the additional fees, despite his failure to provide the annual CAM expense reports and following year estimates that were clearly required by the terms of my lease. Mr. Jain claimed the reports were not provided because his multi-million dollar real estate business lacked a bookkeeper during those few years, but has since hired a very competent woman who was able to gather enough insurance, tax and utility bills to justify the $9,700 balance due. At the openly hostile meeting where this was sprung on me, I was immediately able to find $2500 of accounting errors, in Mr. Jain’s favor of course. Since then I have reviewed the figures a bit more closely and see that I was also overcharged for an additional year of real estate taxes, which would trim another $3300 off the $9,700--a moot point now, since Mr. Jain has generously agreed to waive the ultimate balance due and call it “even” in an attempt to have things end on a more positive note. I’m still working on calling unexpectedly losing a $4000 security deposit due to a landlord’s bad accounting practices “ending on a positive note.”

Dovetailing Mr. Sullivan’s suggestion that we stop keeping secrets, open up the books and get to know “who controls our destiny” in this unique and special business district, I suggest that either the Local or the Business Association do a thorough assessment of the current rental situation on the Hill. Ask landlords and tenants what the real rents are and how ethically and responsibly each are upholding their ends of the contracts. In theory, I suppose the forces of capitalism would eventually weed out onerous landlords as fewer people would be willing to sell properties to them and fewer renters would sign leases with them, but, like evolution, these trends seem to take a long time to actualize and may benefit from a helping hand by well-meaning individuals who wish to make things better for the community as a whole, not just those who seek to exploit it, in the more immediate future. While I can’t, in good conscience, recommend doing business with Mr. Jain, as a commercial landlord at least, I CAN and DO recommend to any business considering setting up shop in Chestnut Hill that you do your homework, research the business practices and reputation of the property owner you’d be dealing with and come enjoy the many kind and interesting consumers this area has been lucky to serve for generations. They’re a terrific bunch and well worth the hassle of persevering to get in the door here. In spite of numerous bad experiences as a retail renter in Chestnut Hill, I absolutely don’t regret doing business here and remain enormously grateful for the all the fun and the valuable lessons learned.

Monday, May 01, 2006

A Commercial Rental Story

This letter was sent to us for inclusion as a news story in the Notebook. It is, in fact, an introductory letter followed by the original piece. We give it to our readership for enlightenment and a look at retail life for a renter on the Hill. There are two letters. This is the warm up.

Hi, Mary Harris here.

I was hoping [to] give you an unedited copy of my full letter to the editor [of the Local which describes, in great detail, the many problems I encountered renting from Sanjiv Jain this past few years. While I was hoping my letter would shed some light on Mr. Jain's unfair and bordering on illegal business practices, Ms. Stanley had to edit it severely due to the highly-biased nature of my disclosures.

Since all of Mr. Jain's 20-plus page leases include a severe gag clause forbidding the renter to say anything negative about Mr. Jain during the term of the lease, it is all but impossible to hear any of the numerous reports of his dishonorable business practices that are whispered in private rather than risk serious legal ramifications that are restated over and over in the lease.

It is unfortunate, as I am the only person I know, to date, who has finished out a commercial lease and can comment without fear of legal repercussions. It should be made public that paying one's rent on time, every month, plus the bogus triple net fees stated in one's lease, does not ensure a refund of security deposit. In my case, rather than get the entire $4,000 deposit I made upon signing, I was presented with a bill for almost $10,000 and told I wasn't given the required yearly estimates and updates because Mr. Jain lacked a bookkeeper for those three years, but miraculously found one in time to gather enough receipts to justify charging me the additional $9,700 at the end.

The list of grievances is long, I hope you decide to print it, since no one else can disclose this kind of info for fear of legal consequences. I am also happy to provide a copy of the lease that Mr. Jain presented me with for the Yankee Candle space, in which he vindictively reneged on our verbally-agreed upon terms (there were witnesses) after the owner of the Antique Shop used my name while verbally attacking Mr. Jain's business practices at a meeting the night before I was to receive my lease. This lease is wiildly amusing and shocking, as the gag clause, which was only a few sentences long in my first lease, grew to a huge paragraph detailing every possible medium in which I was forbidden to communicate anything negative about Mr. Jain (written, verbal, non-verbal, gestural, etc.) and the consequences were a one day eviction, forfeiture of all rents paid, and a $10,000 fine if I didn't leave within 24 hours, ALL AT THE WHIM AND DISCRETION OF MR. JAIN AT ANY TIME (It's actually in caps and repeated at least 6 times in the lease). It makes for a good read, so ask if you want a copy.

I have many horror stories, it gets boring, but the major point is that the reason you don't hear anything negative about Mr. Jain from anyone that's actually done business with him is the gag clause.

Mary Harris

Her original letter will be posted tomorrow.

CHCA Vote Counting Continues on May 1

Update 2. 2 PM May 1: The vote counting for the CHCA election is being done at St. Paul's Parish House, 22 E. Chestnut Hill Avenue, Chestnut Hill, from 1 to 5 PM on Monday. Observers are welcome, it is said.

Update 1. Noon May 1: The vote counting for the CHCA election is now expected to be completed by Thursday, May 4, it was reported by several sources on May 1.

People involved in the 2006 Chestnut Hill Community Association directors' election report the vote count continuing Monday, May 1, as election judges grapple with a large turnout and an extensive candidate list.

"Nothing is out of order during the count," an observer reported. "Rev. Cutler appears to be paying reasonably good attention to what is going on."

On Saturday morning it was estimated that 400 ballots had been counted, with "probably half going to one slate and half of them going to the other slate. You might say 200 each or there abouts. They still have lots of ballots to be counted," our source passed on to Notebook. "The election count will go on for three days easy," the source said on Sunday. "Questionable names and addresses will be verified by Cheryl Masarro at the Local.. As long as the counted votes are safely stored at night, all will be pretty fair counting in this election. Rev. Cutler is doing a great job."

The source reported on Sunday that "the Action Alliance had the edge on Second Opinion (maybe 5 to 10%) but there is continued heavy voting for SOC."

"I think we have done about 400 to 500 ballots so far and it's going to be a reasonably close election with big numbers and probably more historically than ever before," the source added on Sunday evening. "This shall be a significant election for Chestnut Hill, one to talk about; a record turnout and with lots of community energy. I understand we (CHCA) picked up about 80 to 100 new members during this election -- about $2,600 dollars for the coffers for CHCA."

The source concluded wih this observation -- "I think counting will continue past Monday."


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