Thursday, April 26, 2007

A Crying Shame ... or Not

Today is April 26 and CHCA President Ron Recko was just informed of this epistle by Richard Snowden, addressed to the members of the Apologia Chestnut Hill Local Committee. Given the claims it contains, one wonders why this was withheld from public inspection so long. I do like the part where the author refers to himself in third person.

The letter follows. A newly edited version has been uploaded; my thanks to the commenter who provided a clean version. Never trust OCR, but ya go with what ya got. The old one was a scan. Commentary is welcome.

TO: Dick Doyle, Chairman, Dottie Sheffield, Kathy Jones, Tom Fleming, Jim Albrecht
FROM: Rich Snowden
SUBJECT: “Final” Ad Hoc Committee Report
DATE: 02/9/07

The Bowman Partners as well as certain of its employees have reviewed the above-referenced Ad Hoc Committee Report and Summary and while sympathetic to some of the Summary, we believe that the supporting Report material (pages 3-27) is often at odds and sometimes completely disconnected from the Summary in fact, tone and conclusions. Inappropriately released without the full review of Messrs. Snowden and Recko, the Committee now faces the uncomfortable choice of correction or irrelevance. Despite moments of inspiring clarity, insight and sometimes magnificent writing, Bowman is absolutely unable to accept and certainly does not embrace either the Summary or the Report in its current form as a platform upon which the partnership and the CHCA can move forward in sync to the benefit of the entire community.

In addition to identifying numerous troubling individual points in the attached marked-up copy of the Summary and Report, an overarching question – only partially answered in the Summary – is a disturbing drumbeat throughout its many pages: What is the appropriate balance of the rule of law, property rights and the level of stewardship owed to a community – particularly a hostile community – by a given property owner?. The statement in the report that “civilization demands more…than… (the rule of) law…” (Page 9) is breathtaking in its defacto dismissal of 6,000 years of civilization based upon that rule. “Trade ethics”, inexplicably cited as an apparently superior standard (page 9) is our supposed saving grace. Really? To be developed in our community by whom? The CHCA? The Local? A large majority in our community join Bowman in saying no to that notion. Bowman’s supposed “ethical” breach? Advertising its buildings according to its right under law. The Local’s breach? Lying, egregious journalistic malpractice and the public insult and disdain of a long time neighbor family in mourning. As long as the report attempts to reconcile the parties by blaming the victim, avoiding an apology and equalizing the harm between the Local and Bowman through eloquent faux counter-claims there will be absolutely no resolution of these differences. Period.

The sociological turmoil, endless enmity and rapid change in Chestnut Hill since the recent turn of the century are simply costumes and stage sets in the drama of Chestnut Hill’s grossly over-blown sense of community entitlement versus the right of property owners to use, manage and enjoy their property as they see fit under the law. Blessed with many civic-minded land owners – including Bowman – that believe in giving the community far more than the law requires, Chestnut Hill as represented in its civic institutions, repeatedly eschews the appropriately respectful response to such gestures – a simple thank you – instead repeating an endless, numbing diatribe of entitled to this and entitled to that. The Report Summary (though deeply flawed in its inflammatory use of the term ‘collective punishment’ and recommendation of expressions of regret over an outright apology) raises the slim opportunity to reconcile these opposing forces. The supporting Report quixotically dashes that opportunity by gratuitously exacerbating previous damage in its hectoring patronization not only of the Bowman Partnership but, with Bowman as its villainous example, other current or potential investors in the Chestnut Hill market.

Only in Chestnut Hill could a landlord with a 25 year record of matchless restoration projects overwhelmingly well-maintained buildings, and philanthropy totaling millions of dollars face vilification beyond that of a host of other property owners far worse not only in this neighborhood but city and region wide. Out of 40 plus buildings with only one (7908 Germantown Avenue) that could arguably be considered below a ‘C’ grade in its overall condition, no outstanding building code violations (Other than signage, I cannot remember when we had one) no fully vacant buildings – they have all been continuously occupied in one form or other – not to mention millions of dollars in rent subsidies for small businesses, for Bowman to be considered a “collective punisher” – like some sort of Serbian dictator – for legally advertising property for lease – is absurdly melodramatic. To describe such action as “dissolute and indefensible” (page 8) insensitively minimizes the truly heinous things in real life that that sort of invective assumes. Finally, in a spectacular shift of blame to the victim, the report concludes that the Blue Moon – despite a one million dollar restoration, reduction in apartment density, removal of Section VIII designation and an honest (and expensive) effort to find a commercial tenant – is the genesis of this dispute. In effect: if only Bowman had not closed the building prior to restoration, the Local would never have lied, breeched its journalistic ethics or – if the Report is to be believed – acted with a level of stupidity so complete that one wonders how the paper ever mustered the construction of a literate English sentence during the past six years.

In short, our view sees a community organization and its newspaper that – whether by malice or such stupidity on a truly grand scale – has systematically deceived, vilified and silenced not only the neighborhood’s largest commercial landlord but one of its largest benefactors. Splitting the difference between malice and gross incompetence hides the harm that occurred. Did anyone at the Local ever stop and say wait, these might be good people – look at their record of accomplishment and how this community benefited? No. Did anyone at the CHCA and the Local ever reach out to Bowman, Snowden or the Snowden family? No. Did Peter Mazzaccaro ever reach out? No. In fact he lied yet again in his September 28, 2006 editorial in which he states “…in the last two weeks the Local has tried to engage Richard…I offered him column space to air his grievances. I promised not to edit a word and to even allow one of representatives to view a final proof before we sent it to our printer. He has refused that as well…” Other than requests for comment on specific stories by a Local staffer, none of those statements are true. Apparently, the young Ben Bradlee is too important to call Rich Snowden on the phone or get on his shank’s mare and walk the two blocks to the Bowman office. Some journalist. In fact, until seeing Peter at Cathedral Village ten days ago, no one at Bowman had contact with him since the 2001 articles. Our phone and e-mail records confirm this. This is transparency, Local style.

A community organization and its newspaper – holding themselves out as representatives of a community of 10,000 people must embrace a much higher standard than a private individual or business. These organizations had an affirmative obligation to reach out to Bowman as friend and neighbor and in this they failed and – we believe – failed maliciously. In fact, both the CHCA and Local repeatedly rejected our entreaties in manners ranging from bemused patronization to outright censorship. We should not need – nor will we engage – a public relations firm to speak to our neighbors. Did any of these critics ever consider just walking into our office or picking up the phone? That seems a very, very small standard for people who collect tax-deductible contributions to promote good will in a neighborhood. Some neighbors.

To have shattered the Bowman relationship places Chestnut Hill and its bloated, corrupt and self-righteous institutions in the pantheon of municipal mismanagement. Someday, at the International Downtown Association annual meeting, slack-jawed town managers and neighborhood executive directors will marvel at the Chestnut Hill case history as the story of a community that gave up so much for want of the graciousness of apology. But, of course, they’ll learn that this was the same ship of fools that couldn’t wait to sell a historic building to a big box power center developer for $300,000 less than the next competing bid from a buyer who counted dozens of historic restorations in its portfolio.

Bowman’s decision to invest or disinvest is an economic one directly related to the community’s behavior and the investment climate that behavior helps to create. Should we be surprised or only amused that The Hill as proverbial patricidal orphan cries “collective punishment” at the first whiff of disinvestment by a benefactor tiring of funding its own abuse? The Valhalla of community cooperation envisioned in the committee’s report epilogue is only possible born of analysis that fairly squares the harms that have occurred. The path begins with an honest rewriting of the Ad Hoc Committee’s Summary and Report as the attached comments suggest.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Waylaid Pilgrim:
Perhaps you should learn how to use your scan funtion rather than retyping another's work and filling it with errors.

Fri Apr 27, 11:42:00 AM EDT  
Blogger Waylaid Pilgrim said...

The new version is compliments of Anonymous. The old version was a scanned edition that obviously did not take well.

Thanks for the upgrade.

Fri Apr 27, 12:48:00 PM EDT  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home


Northwest Notebook,
Chestnut Hill Notebook,
Pointed Observations,
and NADAWeb.

The Crew

Look for the signature at the end of the post.

We accept donations in support of our work.
E-mail us at Northwest Notebook.

Readership since
January 28, 2006

Powered by Blogger

Rules on Posting

To make comments on a post, hit comments. Don't be a wanker, though. No name, no play. Ain't life a bitch when you can't hide behind something?

Save the Internet

Keep an eye on legislation affecting the Internet.
Go to Save the Internet

Visit the West Mt. Airy Neighbors.
Check Out Adult Education Classes Philadelphia.

Northwest Notebook (formerly Chestnut Hill Notebook)
This site is part of the
Philly Future community.
Don't forget Germantown Radio.
Check out other Philadelphia weblogs in our region.

Blogtalk Radio br Site Feed

Earlier posts are in the Archives by Month.

Powered by Blogger