Monday, July 16, 2007

Paradise Lost or Gained?

This is a redraft of my OP-ED Paracise Lost or Regained dated 7/12/07. I believe this draftto be clearer than the original. L.P.W.

Received July 18 at 10:39 A.M.

The necessity for an independent audit of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s and the Chestnut Hill Fund’s recent financial records is required if the quality of life in the Chestnut Hill area is to be maintained.

The future planning needed to maintain and improve the physical, social and administrative circumstances in the community (as a whole) requires a clear and factual understanding of what happened in the past few years.

At the outset it is of prime importance for everyone to recognize that it would be counter productive to the community’s best interests were such an audit undertaken to indict or criticize any individual’s actions, beliefs, style or character.

Broadly speaking, its apparent that every human, past or present, acts or acted in what she/he considered, at the time of their decisions, to be in their best personal self-interests. Since individual circumstances vary in the extreme, judgments by one individual concerning others must necessarily be subjective, since the judge is unaware of the objectives of the judged. Such judgments can never be objective. This is a common circumstance between and among all of us and the basis of most social and physical violence.

Based on such insights, the original 1948 by-laws of the Association were redrafted in their entirety and approved at a public meeting of several hundred Chestnut Hillers by an essentially unanimous vote. This meeting was convened at the Water Tower Recreation Center in December, 1959. The history of today’s organization evolved from this action at that meeting. Unfortunately, the language of the revised by-laws was unclear as to the intended structure and role of the new organization. Accordingly there immediately developed two fundamentally divergent opinions as to the objectives intended by this By-Laws Committee.

One view, representing basically business interests, held that a hierarchical corporate structure would achieve efficiently and cheaply the best self-interests of that group.

The opposing view, that of the overwhelming majority of those who supported the By- Laws Committee, focused on improving the quality of life in the Chestnut Hill area. This group recognized that Philadelphia City Hall’s policies were, in many cases, contrary to the best interests of Chestnut Hill, as viewed from the community’s perspective.

This group believed the community’s best interests would be served by local democratically determined and implemented public policies. For example Article III of those newly amended by-laws, allowed people living in nearby Mt. Airy, Roxborough and Springfield Township to participate as equals in the affairs of Philadelphia’s postal zone 19118. These amendments came to be known as a quasi-governmental experiment; organized under the I.R.S. defined 501 c3 corporation intended to operate independently of, but whenever possible, in cooperation with City Hall: a “do-it-yourself”, or fundamentally conservative organization, if you will - conservative, in that its purpose was to conserve and improve the quality of life enjoyed by all living in or near postal zone 19118.

Had the language in these amendments utilized “public vocabulary” as contrasted to the “corporate vocabulary”, most of the conflict involving both the LOCAL and the Association that has occurred over the years would have been avoided.

The current by-laws have been so distorted that a detailed discussion of this subject is inappropriate to this op-ed.

As examples, had the original amendments used “public vocabulary” in describing the role and function of the principal elected officer of the Association, his/her title would have been “Community Mayor” as contrasted to the “corporate vocabulary” title i.e., “President”. The “corporate vocabulary” described the elected administrative body as a “Board of Directors” had “public vocabulary been used it would have been known as the “Community Council”, Were these simple changes made today, the role and function of the Association would be clearly understood by everyone and future conflict would be minimized.

Accordingly, based on Chestnut Hill’s sixty year history, together with our national experience over the past several years, it is important for everyone living within the areas indicated, to decide if they wish to support an experimental quasi-governmental organization designed to determine and implement local public policy in cooperation with the city or, conversely, whether the majority of those living in these areas will support a corporate structure concerned solely with its own private, internal self-interests. The future of Chestnut Hill is in your hands.

Lloyd P. Wells



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