Crisis in Pottstown calls for STRONG, CAPABLE, DETERMINED council people

IMG_0225
In January, when betterlandlords.us presented their data analysis, borough council and residents learned about the numbers of rental units and the disproportionate costs of poorly managed rental properties in Pottstown.  You can access that data here:

https://www.documentcloud.org/documents/1393140-pottstown-disproportionate-impact-study-final.html

It was the first time that the public or borough officials had an actual figure of just how many units there are. In the past, (hopefully), it’s most likely that a lot of those units were constructed by owners who did not pull building permits, as a consequence, they were never inspected by the codes department.

**Phonexville and surrounding townships discovered that was the case in their communities and they require illegal units to be removed. Pottstown can do it too, we need to stop hearing excuses.

It’s a high probability that among the 2500 + units that are not registered with the borough, many of those have never had a rental inspections or codes violations have not been followed up by codes inspectors. Even rentals that are inspected, many times, fall short of being safe or healthy environments.  Two, three, four inspections later and there may be only minimal improvement.

It’s also a high probablity that among the 2500+ units there are gangs and other criminals who’ve found refuge from the law. They operate, as the owners of the properties have been allowed to operate, in obscurity.

The potential for fires caused by DIY electrical wiring and CO2 leaking from old furnaces should be of GREAT concern to the borough who, at one time said, they don’t inspect them because they haven’t hired inspectors with the training and certification to do so.  That needs to change.

Roughly 60% of the housing stock is rentals. That’s 1,160 rental properties per mile in 4.8 sq. land miles in Pottstown – rudimentary calculations, of course, the majority of rentals are concentrated in Ward 1 that prominently boarders the downtown business/retail area.

** The “hot spot” theory of crime suggests that only 3% of locations in a neighborhood or a town are responsible for 50 percent of police calls and crime. In the East Liberties neighborhood, in Pittsburgh, they identified and eliminated the worst of the worst –  neglected rental properties and in 4 years crime dropped by a whopping 49%.   Pottstown can do that too, no excuses.

The map above was posted to Facebook yesterday and it is believed to have been generated by the borough, sometime back. It’s nothing more than a visual aid to accompany the information regarding the numbers of rental properties in Pottstown. Every red dot is rental housing, its unknown if they represent individual “units” but you can clearly see the concentration.

Evan Brandt tweeted from the committee of the whole this month:

“Keith Place says they have targeted non-compliant properties. Latest calculations, 5,411 (total rental units) 2500+ are uninspected and there are ” 457 short-term units. Identified every possible rental.”

The knowledge that was imparted to the borough through the Better Landlord Program is this: Setting Standards is key.

The program is built on a mountain of research. It has been implemented with empirical data that backs up the fact that it serves to elevate quality of life and diminish crime.

It is designed to “set standards” for landlords who voluntarily comply because the program will not only increase their profitability it also serves to address the quality of life issues that have diminished in Pottstown proportionate to the rising numbers of parastic income property owners.

Council sat quietly, making no public comments or observations about the data or the potential positive impact the Better Landlord Program could have on Pottstown. The borough manager, however, stated that the program presents legal questions and he believes most landlords would not participate. What now then?

Enforcement has not been this local governments strong suit for many many years.  We pay to have ordinances written that delineate standards but are never enforced.  If the borough is going to “go it alone” without the benefit and assistance of proven programs then we must have strong, independent council leaders that can do the work to hold the borough manager and the departments accountable to do what’s needed.

That is, by definition, one of their responsiblities to you.

We need council people who will work to involve the community of homeowners and landlords and renters in setting standards and working together with the borough to enforce them.

Landlords who, for years, have avoided the logical consequences of their unethical decisions to break the laws of the state and ignore local ordinances are going to resist every effort, that’s to be expected.  But, we know the borough can enforce codes violations on homeowners and there’s no excuse for disparity of treament between homeowner/occupied homes and the properties of negative investors.

We need council people who will hold Montgomery County responsible to help de-concentrate poverty in Pottstown and for misrepresenting their efforts to end housing discrimination by other municipalites, (motivated by their desire to retain contributions of DCED grant money from the Feds).

We are in the midst of a leadership crisis and a housing crisis…

That crisis has created opportunities for gangs to gain solid footing in Pottstown – – ILLEGAL RENTALS MUST BE A PRIORITY NOW – –  If the borough and the county will not take measures to eliminate those opportunities we can anticipate lulls in the violence but no lasting results.

New Montgomery County Violent Crime Unit

Again, laws and codes have not been sytematically enforced in Pottstown and it is council’s duty to understand why and what can be done to change that.   The housing has been compromised by cronysim among council and staff. Advocating for the community, at the county and state levels, has been sorely lacking, there’s been no impetus for change.

We need strong, independent council leaders that will study the issues and work to involve the state, the county and the community to set standards and enforce them.

We cannot have staff, departments or councilors that continue to operate in defiance of Open Meetings Law as we’ve seen, recently.  The voters are crying out for TRANSPARENCY and COMMUNICATION.  Vote wisely, vote with your conscience.

Lawyer: Pottstown Borough Authority violated open meetings law

We are the eyes and ears on the streets, we are the homeowners, businesses, good landlords and good renters.  We are the taxpaying, law abiding backbone of this community and we are as vital to the recovery of this borough as the people who we’ve elected and the people we provide with good jobs.

It cannot be about politics any longer. Pottstown cannot be used as a pawn for anyone’s personal political aspirations as we see happening, once again, by councilman Dan Weand (clik here for my previous post about Dan’s latest antics).

On that note:

I asked Ross Belovich, running for council in the 4th ward, if he would give me a statement about where he stands on the housing issues and the impact on our safety, property values and quality of life in Pottstown. Here’s what Ross has to say:

I want to preface this with the fact that I do not buy into the whole renters vs homeowners thing. It’s a red herring. It’s really about people, community, jobs and income. Both good and bad people rent and own homes throughout the country.  << I agree however, IMHO, the urgent problems of gangs and other criminals in Pottstown,  right now,  ARE a direct result of neglected rental housing, (not homeowners). Waste no time gaining the upper hand.   A success in this area will be such a major win for the community.  The standards for everyone will improve,  and it will serve to lay a solid foundation for revitalization>>

11267423_10207134340863632_594295889_n

However, many bad eggs by definition, have a hard time getting credit or having an interest in community, therefore they are much more likely to be renters and live in a community where they have an easier time finding housing. Thats where the definition and solution to the problem is:

Quality of life issues plain and simple.

If we have community standards and more people that are willing to be part of their community, then many of them will likely transition to homeowners at some point. Utilizing the registering and inspection process, as well as enforcement of all local ordinances helps to weed out the bad eggs and helps them to conform to this societies standards, whether they are renters, landlords or even homeowners makes no difference.

Community and standards, i.e. “quality of life” concerns are at the core of the solutions to our borough. When people feel safe and comfortable, more and better people will move in. THEN the job creators will come to capitalize on the demographics. This is how the trend upward will start. This is what we need to accomplish to change direction.

VOTE FOR HONEST REPRESENTATION ON COUNCIL – A REPRESENTATIVE THAT CAN’T BE BOUGHT – VOTE ROSS BELOVICH FOR POTTSTOWN’S FOURTH WARD. ROSS IS RIGHT FOR POTTSTOWN.

The 2015 Primaries – Pottstown Style…

In Pottstown there are three wards that will vote for council representatives on Tuesday and voters have important work ahead of them…

Ward 2:   Incumbent councilwoman, Carol Kulp, is asking for your vote to remain on council for another 4 years.

Ward 6:   Incumbent councilman, R Travis Gery, would like your support for another 4 years on council. His challeger is D Rita Paez.

**No other candidates have declared in those wards.   If there are “write-ins” you will be greeted at you’re polling places by these candidates who will ask for your support.   Some things to carefully consider:

– Has your council rep been responsive to your concerns?

– Have they returned your emails or phone calls in a timely manner?

– Are the encumbents receptive to your ideas and thoughts on particular issues and, do you feel that their votes represent your best interests?

– Have they introduced new ideas and topics for discussion at council meetings, do they take initiative?

Those are vitally important elements of democracy.  Their job is to represent you, your ideas, your thoughts, your desires for the community.  This fact has been forgotten in local government as council takes suggestions, ideas and desires of paid staff without asking what you think and then they vote.

They vote without your input or your concerns at the heart of their decisions.  In general, they all vote alike.  (Sheryl Miller is proving to be an exception to this rule and we need more council people like Sheryl).

But now, I want to focus on the Ward 4 council race. 

Ward 4:  Steve Toroney is stepping down at the end of this term and there are two solid contenders for his seat on council:

Democrat, Dennis Arms and Democrat Ross Belovich.   This race is interesting from several stand points.

Ross Belovich.  You’ll remember Ross ran for mayor two years ago.   A lot of residents felt that Ross could best serve Pottstown as a councilman where his knowledge and his commitment to Pottstown would make a big difference.
20150419_201842

Unknown-1     Signs bought and paid for by Ross Belovich.

 Belovich announces bid for 4th Ward << clik to read the full Mercury article

Ross is a member of the board of directors for the Pottstown Downtown Improvement District Authority and “Currently I am working with borough officials on a project to utilize camera technology to enhance borough-wide security,” Belovich wrote.

As for his additional qualifications, Belovich wrote “I bring experience in business ownership and management to the position as well as marketing skills. I also have an extensive knowledge of computer technology and classic cars.

Ross has been endorsed by the Democrats of Montgomery County but in my mind this isn’t a Democrat or Republican thing – it’s a People thing.  It’s doing what’s right because it’s right for Pottstown.   I’ve known Ross for several years, I see Ross at monthly council meetings, he rarely misses one.

Ross sees the big picture.  As a businessman and former business owner he comprehends how the slum rental properties and blighted buildings impact the qulity of life in Pottstown.  They are the cracked foundations that will not uphold a plan for revitalization unless they addressed with smart determination – politics aside –   No back peddling.  No favoritism.

WE NEED STRONG LEADERSHIP AND COUNCIL THAT WILL WORK TOGETHER TO STOP THE DEGRADATION AND CRIME IN NEGLECTED HOUSING IN THIS COMMUNITY.

I ENDORSE ROSS BELOVICH FOR COUNCIL REPRESENTATIVE IN THE 4TH WARD.

Second candidate seeks Pottstown’s 4th Ward seat<<clik

Dennis Arms clearly has credentials that stand on their own.  He’s an accomplished PSD High School teacher and engaged with many other worthwhile community efforts.   He is well liked among parents and students.

Dennis could have run a race for the primary on his own good name and capabilities.  Instead…

I’ve recently learned that councilman, Dan Weand, in the 5th ward has financed, (at minimum), the signage for Dennis’s campaign and is actively campaigning for Dennis Arms.

Why?  What does Dan want from Dennis?

Paid for by Weand 4 Pottstown

Paid for by Weand 4 Pottstown

Bought and paid for by Dan Weand.

Bought and paid for by Dan Weand.

People in town have said that Dan wants to become the next Borough Council President. So, that implies Dan has ulterior motives in that regard, at least.  Is Dan attempting to stack the council votes in his favor with undue influence?

You’ll have to decide at the polls on Tuesday but, you deserve to have all the information you need to make the best decision you can.

What is the price that will be extracted from Dennis if he is elected?  

Dan’s no stranger to using his position on council to influence decisions, decisions that impact you and your money.  Pottstown voters, Dan Weand is not doing any favors for Dennis Arms but what favors will Dan expect from Dennis if he wins the council seat?

Please recall a series of blog posts I wrote regarding the vetting of prospective Engineering firms for Pottstown in 2012/13, a process that started when Jason Bobst was still borough manager.

Dan had a personal interest in the firm the borough ultimately hired:  Remington, Vernick & Beech.  Dan’s son-in-law, Attny Sean Kilkenny, represented RVB at that time.

Dan arranged private meetings between RVB reps and individual members of the ad hoc committee that was established to select the next engineers. Dan took careful notes at the back of the room during the ad hoc meetings even though he was not chosen to be on the committee – he never missed a beat.  There were meetings with Dan, respresentatives of RVB and individual ad hoc members, you know… lunches and the like, on RVB’s tab.

Dan exercised undue influence on members of the committee.

Dan voted for RVB on council and he voted to give them an additional $33,000 of your tax dollars for an unnecessary study of the codes department  < I think Dan should have recused himself from both votes but he didn’t>

All of this, despite the fact that RVB representatives, including Sean Kilkenney, Norristown codes dept. and other officials were at the heart of a controversial, failed development and they remain embroiled in a Federal lawsuit centered on their actions in the 770 Sandy St. Condo debaucle.

Dan Weand 5th Ward Pottstown Councilman.  Dan is 4  Dan.  Don't be fooled he not for  4 Pottstown.

Dan Weand 5th Ward Pottstown Councilman. Dan is 4 Dan. Don’t be fooled he not for 4 Pottstown. I get a kick outta Dan but I don’t trust Dan.

Council President, Steve Toroney, was apprised of the undue influence Dan and RVB exerted on committee members, the committee that he established.

But, Steve did nothing to stop it or even acknowledge it, why?  I have evidence of this fact and have never understood what Steve sought to gain by keeping “mum” about Dan’s activites.

As Steve Toroney serves out his last term and prepares to leave council why would we want to perpeutate cronyism in local government?  Why would you WANT to perpetuate the political machine with your vote?

We have an excellent chance at putting a STOP to it this election year.  It’s up to you voters.  Vote for Ross Belovich in the 4th Ward and if you have write-ins at your poll – strongly consider writing them in and eleminating the incumbents for a fresh, new start for Pottstown

Remington, Vernick and Beach << clik for one of my articles on RVB and Dan

“Cronyism occurs within a network of insiders-the “good ol’ boys,” who confer favors on one another.” – See more at:

http://www.scu.edu/ethics/practicing/focusareas/government_ethics
/introduction/cronyism.html#sthash.zgo8fLzg.dpuf

A.G. Kathleen Kane Files Suit Against Pittsburgh Income Property Owner

The inertia and omissions of local government and politicians who are aware of the dangerously declining conditions in Pottstown’s rental housing equates to egregious, deliberate indifference to the loss of proeprty values, safety and every measure of the loss of quality-of-life for good citizens and conscientious property owners that abide by the laws.

The photo’s on the golden cockroach blog depict ongoing violations of codes that exist in thousands of rental properties in Pottstown.  Little to nothing has improved over the past five years that I have documented the violations and the stories of renters and homeowners.

The decline, in fact, has become blatantly palpable to even the most causal observers.  But, for those of us that are subjected to the demise of our neigbhorhoods every day, the decline has evoked a much less quiet desperation that’s evolving into a very vocal cry for help.

https://goldencockroach.wordpress.com/pottstownpovertypimps/

The children living in these conditions have suffered significant damage to their health.  Children are exposed to high levels of mold, rodent and vermin infestations exacerbate asthma, bed bugs that cause allergic reactions for some kids, raw sewage, dangerous electrical wiring, improperly set hot water heaters and lack of heat, (see Kenneth Kaufman in the link above).

Multiple violations exist in every unit that I have witnessed, often unaddressed even after a codes inspection has taken place.  There’s no follow up by L & I in many, many situations. Landlords who systematically break the laws do so because they know there is no consequence for their decisions.

Strong arm illegal evictions and disregard for safety codes and Landlord/Tenant law is rampant among negative investors in Pottstown.

The owners of these properties have caused…continue to cause…health and economic loss to renters.  They are costing homeowner/occupants the loss of property values, loss of quiet enjoyment, loss of tax money and services.  We are increasingly exposed to greater potential for life and property threatening catastrophe’s, such as fire, flood damage, exposure to raw sewage and crimes.

The actions of the defendant property owner, in the lawsuit filed by the States Attorney General, is a crime that parallels the crimes of hundreds if not thousands of income property owners in our own Pennsylvania community.

I am encouraged by the proactive stance from Attorney General, Kathleen Kane, with regards to the actions of the slumlord defendant.  We will take our plight as far up the ladder as necessary to protect our sanity and our investments.

NOTE:  A local law firm has offered to hold a workshop for renters, at no cost.  It’s in the conceptual phase.  When we’ve worked out the details I’ll update with the time, date and location.

I ask renters, all residents, to continue to contact the local L & I department, contact me if you need guidance and start filing complaints with the Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555, or submitting an online complaint at www.attorneygeneral.gov

HARRISBURG — Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane today announced her office has filed a lawsuit against a Pittsburgh landlord and his businesses amid allegations that he rented uninhabitable rental properties to tenants, many of whom were Bhutanese refugees.

The lawsuit against Davin N. Gartley, Davin Investments, Inc. and R.A.E.D. Investments, Inc. alleges violations of the Consumer Protection Law and the Landlord Tenant Act.

Specifically, Gartley is accused of failing to provide required utility services, failure to abate lead exposure and failure to maintain properties in accordance with requirements of the Allegheny County Health Department and the City of Pittsburgh Bureau of Building Inspectors. The lawsuit also alleges Gartley failed to return tenant security deposits.

The lawsuit seeks refunds of security deposits and refunds for rental payments made by tenants during time periods when their rental units were uninhabitable. The lawsuit further seeks to permanently ban Gartley and his businesses from leasing residential rental properties and owning or operating any business that lease residential rental properties.

The lawsuit was filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas by Senior Deputy Attorney General Amy L. Schulman, of the Office of Attorney General’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

Consumers who feel they were victimized by Gartley or his businesses are encouraged to file a complaint with the Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555, or submitting an online complaint at www.attorneygeneral.gov

https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/Media_and_Resources/Press_Releases/Press_Release/?pid=1782

**KENNETH KAUFMAN** OINK – SNORT

So the people that moved out of 438 King St. left bags o’ trash sitting out front for a week.

They came back on Saturday to finish “cleaning” out the house and they dumped all their trash and gar-baaage on the street in front of the rental.

Naturally, over the course of a couple warmish nights the vermin and other animals scattered this feast of putrid vile-ness all over the frickin’ block.

410005156365-0.jpg.html

By contrast, the MontCo property records list this mailing address as the home of Kenneth Kaufman. This tidy and trim faux suburban english tutor at 3780 Levi Lane in Lower Moreland is where this slumass hangs his apron.

Looks like the life O’Reilly where Ken hangs his chef hat at the end of a teaching day at the Western Montgomery Career and Tech Center in Limerick.  You aren’t gonna find gooey slime piled up in front of his little faux english tutor in the ‘burbs.

10592788_109274596070340_7608277312589669105_n

Slum Soufflé Anyone?

Ken buys a couple income properties in Pottstown, back in the early 2000’s, and turns them into rat traps.   Get a load of this!!!

After the vermin scattered the rancid garbage (sitting out in the hot 80 + degree days) KEN SHOWS UP, this afternoon in his pickup, just minutes before Mascaro shows up to haul the trash away and, he’s got a FOR RENT sign burnin’ a hole in his pocket.

Ken’s carefully pickin’ his way around the SLOP that his tenants left behind when  ….

@@@ ZAP @@@@ KA-POW @@@ KENNETH MEETS Larry…

That would be my good neighbor, Larry Hespeth, who lives a couple doors down from this hot mess of a rental house.

Anybody that knows Larry knows Larry cuts straight to the heart of the matter – Larry sees the FOR RENT sign in Ken’s hand and thinks to himself:   ‘ surely there’s no way he’s puttin’ a FOR RENT sign on that hunk-o-stink house.  But, sure ‘nuf…

IMG_0182

Ken let’s himself in, for about as long as he can manager to hold his breath, to put the sign in the front window and narrowly escape the human filth fumes only to find Larry…

With his broom, leaf blower and a giant trash bag.  Larry had started to clean up Ken’s frickin’ mess just before Ken arrived.

Larry says:

“You gonna put a sign up before you even clean up the place, get an inspection and do some work to the place?  You been around back to see the mess?  That house stinks so bad you can smell it outside, all up and down the street.”

“You ever check up on your property when people are living in it?”

Ken:  “yeah I’m here once a month.”  (Ken collects the rent –  he didn’t fool Larry who knows the dude does no maintenance).

Larry:  Dude, this block is an extension of my home and I don’t like living like a pig.”

Ken says:  “What’s your name?”  

Larry:  “My name’s Larry, Larry Hespeth”   

Larry: “What’s your name?”

Ken:  “Ken”

Larry:  “Ken what?

Ken:  “My last name is none of your business.” 

Sharp-as-a-mashed-potato,  Ken stomps off – jumps in his truck – puts the pedal to the metal leaving his pig pen and the good neighbors in the dust, he didn’t lift a finger to pick up any trash, to take resonsiblity for the toxic waste site in front of HIS property.

But, the good neighbors lifted a finger… the middle finger…  in salute to sluminator, Ken Kaufman, on his way down the street.  Larry went back to work cleaning up the street and sidewalk in front of Ken’s property.

**Neighbors pulled up while Larry was talking to Ken and they were like “Larry!!!! hey go get him tiger – teach the scumbucket that scruples aren’t something you sprinkle on your corn flakes in the morning.”

Larry laid it on Ken’s raggedy old slumass but good – Ken’s behavior is so low – like he’d steal the nickels off a dead man’s eyes.

I missed the action by mere minutes.   Got outside to ask Larry what’s going on and Mascaro pulled up – took everything except the blowing around, scatter trash which Larry was fixin’ to clean up.

IMG_0189

That’s Larry cleaning up after Kenneth “aintgonnatellyoumylastname” Kaufman at 438 King St. 4/4/2015

YEAH – HE CLEANED UP AFTER KENNETH KAUFMAN.  SEND HIM A BILL LARRY!!!

Because my neighbor, Larry Hespeth, has more humanity, dignity, honesty and gumption than Kenneth Kaufman has in his pinky fingernail or, all the parasites in Pottstown lumped together in the back of a big red Mascaro truck, he picked up after the slumlords tenants.

That’s some kind of rancid tomatoes mixed with a white-ish ectoplasmic goo in that photo below.  It looks an awful lot like raw chicken laying in the tall weeds in the back yard where the former tenants undecoriously threw some of their food stuff.  Bugs are swarming all over it while the odor of rot wafts throughtout the block.

And you know???  The nice, clean, quiet little old lady that lives next door HAS TO SMELL THIS SHIT everyday.

IMG_0196

If there were ever a slumlord that I’d like to have as a neighbor it would be Kenneth Kaufman.  If some smart and righteous judge were to order him to live in his own filth for a month or two, me, Larry and all the other good neighbors on our block would find a smidge of vidication.

Why we’d have to throw Ken Kaufman a block partay, Pottstown style, with pig on a spit over an open fire.  Oink Snort.  Ken can provide the pig rub, something he’s probably skilled at seein’ as how he is a culinary arts instructor.

KENNETH KAUFMAN IS PRACTICALLY FAMOUS ON THIS BLOG FOR HIS DEEP, ABIDING DISREGARD AND DISDAIN FOR THE PEOPLE OF POTTSTOWN.   Sit on it and spin…

https://goldencockroach.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/an-open-housethe-story-of-a-slum-owned-by-kenneth-kaufman/

https://goldencockroach.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/slumlord-kenneth-kaufman-culinary-arts-instructor/

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Smoke and Mirrors

Eric Weiss said his 30 years of code enforcement in Allentown found most code enforcement problems were with RENTAL AND ABANDONED BUILDINGS, such as this one in the 400 block of Chestnut Street in Pottstown.

AR-150429662.jpg&maxh=400&maxw=667

photo by Evan Brandt

There are politicians and aides to politicians, the county and the big monied real estate industry contributing to this blight in Pottstown, there are unsavory connections.

In some areas of the country savvy attorneys and community law centers find success prosecuting heinous, parasitic income property owners.

What does Pottstown borough do?  They send their attorney to court, (at taxpayer expense), to stand up to a homeowner who cut down the trees on their property without a permit.

I can guarantee you, with all certainty, that situation did not threaten me or impact my quality of life in Pottstown like officials who continue to neglect to protect good investors and prosecute – or do anything they have to do – to reign in the negative investors.

clik to read the article >>City attorneys step up to file a lawsuit…

“Accusing a landlord of defrauding the Department of Water and Power out of millions of dollars and escaping responsibility for substandard conditions in his building through a complex web of sham corporations, “self-foreclosures” and retaliatory evictions.”

ALL OF THESE THINGS HAPPEN IN POTTSTOWN with regularity = year after year after year and local officials can’t or won’t figure it out?   So what do officials do?  They hold a meeting, (that most residents can’t attend because it was held during work hours, last Wednesday).  The meeting, (see Evan’s articles below), was ostensibly hosted by council but they didn’t mention this at any public meeting, did they?

Only one council person was there.

Presumably, officials in attendance listened as, once again, people with experience told officials what they’ve heard before:

That THEY, borough government, has to get the housing under control.

THEY HAVE TO DO IT.  How many times do they have to be told what they already know or, pay for another study to tell them what they should already know?

The borough was lauded for their ordinances at the meeting:

3 x’s and “your out” for nasty tenants who suck up police services and, oh yeah, the charge back to slumlords for not regulating their renters.  Oridnances that might suggest that officials are on the ball, except = those ordinances are never enforced.  Some citizens believe they won’t enforce them because they are afraid of lawsuits from slumlords.  Afraid??

mqdefault

This was part of the “Loto’s” compound on the corner of King and Washington Sts. This is 450 King St. owned by Alyssa Levin aka Chagall Living, LLC. This is what a strong arm eviction looks like.

So, we continue to see local government play tiddly winks with slumlords.  They appear to be fearful to make a move because year after year the parasitic investors rear their ugly heads to threaten the borough with lawsuits.

REALLY.  Is that the reason?  I have to tell you, the following comment chaps my hide… but good.

Keith Place, director of L & I in Pottstown:   “Place told the summit last week that the Better Landlord program is still under review by borough staff, that there is concern about legal challenges.”

LEGAL CHALLENGES???

Are we to believe that officials are so intimidated by the Pottstown leaches that they are paralyzed in their efforts or… is this just more obfuscation?

Is the lack of transparency, the excuses… are they just another attempt to cover up embarrassing or scandalous truth?

Tools to re-build Pottstown:  Code enforcement is key << clik for today’s Mercury article by Evan Brandt

The PPD and a slew of other law enforcement agencies play “whack a mole” with drug dealers, shooters, gangs and other criminals who, for all we know, (for all the borough knows), continue to move into and occupy any one, or all, of the 2500 – or so – unregulated rental properties in Pottstown.  While the crooks are paying cash to other crooks, under the table, for a hideout …

THE BOROUGH CLAIMS TO BE INTIMIDATED BY A POTENTIAL LAWSUIT?

What a sham.

That’s an affront to every resident that is truly intimidated and frightened by the never ending crime and debauchery in this town.

Every day that the borough neglects to get a grip on the negative investors is another day they hang themselves out to dry – adding to the crime – the potential for serious harm to innocent victims and, the very real potential for seriously massive lawsuits that accompany the risk they take.

But, we are asked to believe that borough management and elected officials are shaking in their boots under threat from the omnipotent Pottstown slumlords?  I don’t buy it.

We have a local official (s) (maybe more than one), that intervened in a situation where a slumlord should have been given violations and wasn’t.  The slumord is…. a friend of the official and he is also a man who is a purveyor of filth and crime, for over a decade, in his dangerous rental properties in Pottstown.

Could these friendships and affiliations be the REAL reason the borough drags their feet?  That deserves an answer, not platitudes.

“But you know, the mayor was a landlord and one of the other council members owned a few properties and they were, well, let’s just say they were not particularly enthusiastic,” said Eric Weiss, at last Wednesday’s meeting.

In September it will be FIVE FULL YEARS that the cockroach has been sounding the ALARM, telling the stories of residents who are too afraid to do it themselves.

From renters to homeowners and even good landlords who are stuck in this filthy web of negligence, they are all prey to the out-of-control renters, criminals, slumlords and borough governments excuses.

Their truths, their struggles have fallen on deaf ears.

Not a new borough manager, not a $33,000 codes study, not a new director of License and Inspections, not firing the lien and clean guys, not featuring these atrocities on my blog, not even the possibly of implementing a proven, successful program such as the Better Landlords, (that was researched and vetted by citizens of Pottstown), who are among the stakeholders in this community…

…NOTHING has rocked the faulty foundation of this borough government, not common sense and certainly not wisdom.

What we potentially have here, at minimum, is the complicity of those who are easily fooled, who should know better, who are PAID and ELECTED to know better and do better.

But, let the borough officials hold meeting after meeting and pay for another study – at least it looks to the outside world – as if they give a bats left foot about our struggles.

Another intersting fact:  Citizens were not given the same opportunity to do a full council presentation about the Better Landlord Program, despite the hours and hours of work and research they put into the project.

Instead, they were relegated to a committee meeting.

Yet, this month, the full council was privy to a presentation by a company, that makes the claim they can “harass” banks into registering foreclosed properties. Their proposition was recieved by council as though it were as good as caviar on a golden platter, (as staff wiped the sweat off their over worked brows, thanking their lucky stars that THEY don’t have to figure out how to harass blighted property owners).

Here’s Evan’s article about the blight busters who presented to council:  Pottstown eyes new method to deal with blight 

THAT has totally left the impression that the borough doesn’t have the backbone to take control of the slum property owners or the blighted property owners themselves.  If this company is sucessful, more power to the people.

Why are officials looking for the silver bullet and contracting with outside companies?  Do they understand the complexities well enough to know if the contractor is doing the work they signed on to do, or not?  There has to be some education curve for officials in that process.   Hell, at the outside, the contractor can look like the bad guys, right?

So why does council authorize the expenditure of tax dollars, in ginormous sums,  thrown at a management team that demonstrates they know how to hold a meeting, pay for a study but they can’t and won’t take control of these situations?

Apparently, they can’t manage their way out of a paper bag.

Taxpayers could, theoretically, sub-out everything, at less cost, and let private businesses do the heavy lifting, right?  Isn’t that the philosophy here?

Why does the borough manager turn around and chide a resident of this town, a businessman who’s knowledgable and capable and willing to help the borough get on a better track?  Why try to diminish residents by calling them “negative”?  Switch and Bait – (once again).

We want to talk about what ails this town and the viable solutions but, they only want to turn the tables and call us negative, haters or apathetic.

Officials hand off maudlin excuses that distort the facts that we, the residents of Pottstown, intrinsically know to be truth because we live the truth every single day.

At one time there was serious potential for the codes dept. and citizens to work together on these issues.

Not any more.

For the past 3 years, communication and information sharing from local government has been locked down tight – trying to find out where they stand on ANYTHING is like trying to pry an oyster open with your bare hands.

The problems with slum housing owners and diminishing transparency in local government are #’s one and two of the most atrocious health and safety threats to this community.

From fire hazards, crime, raw sewage (freely running on sidewalks and in storm drains) to the infestations of bed bugs and vermin in rental properties.  Our loss of property values and quality of life, the loss of tax revenue and homeowners, borough government doesn’t want to discuss it with you and that leaves only speculation about what, if anything, is being done.

The streets and alleys are filthier than ever, there is more illegal dumping than I ever recall and the borough’s own properties, (see the lot across from Pottsgrove Manor),  reflect borough governments own discombobulation and chaos.  In fact, a resident retrieved an old beat up t.v. from that property just to give the area a better appearance when it was clear that the borough had no concern.

SHOW ME A PLAN AND A PROCESS.

THIS COMMUNITY DESERVES  ANSWERS.   WE DESERVE ANSWERS NOW.  WE ARE NOT GOING AWAY.

Pottstown Residents: Voices & Video’s April, 2015

Allegations by residents that local government is engaged in retaliation against it’s own citizens is as difficult to contemplate as it has been to write about.

I’ve done a lot of soul-searching over the past couple of weeks about how I would present this, if at all. In the back of my mind, the thing that was holding me back is the sense that the information will, again, be chalked up to a “few negative individuals” and it will be dismissed on that basis.

Nevertheless, I’ve chosen to go forward, to lead this horse to water…

I want to start off with a word about “perception.”  Perception has become a kind of mantra, a catch-all phrase for borough officials who would like to give the outside world the perception that they are tackling our challenges intelligently, with a carefully considered plan and sound processes.

At the very least, perhaps, officials hope that chanting the virtues of Pottstown, (and convincing others to do likewise), will drown out the voices of “negativity.”  However, with the exception of High St., which finally seems to be getting the attention it’s lacked for decades and, the recent efforts of local, area and MontCo law enforcement working to gain the upper hand on crime…

There is little evidence, where it matters most – on the streets and in the neighborhoods of Pottstown – that people’s perceptions are skewed.  Many conditions are in steady, if not accelerated, decline in the borough.

Transparency and Open Meetings are one, exceedingly important factor of democracy that was found woefully lacking here in journalist Evan Brandts’ research for multiple articles that were published, last month, in The Mercury News and on his own Digital Notebook blog.

“That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It.”  << click to read Evans’ post

The incident, that was brought to light, about the violation of the Open Meeting Law has further eroded trust and confidence in local government.  Evan wrote in the above blog post:

“That’s because we keep trying to pursue a fractured future the same way we always have — with an automatic preference for secrecy, turf wars and “policy by personality.”

Disappointingly, not surprisingly, no council person or authority member has, to date, mustered the gumption to even speak to the recent violations of the Open Meetings Law by Borough Manager, Mark Flanders.

But, I just want to talk about the long standing, continuing incidents, in our community that give rise to the perception that there are officials and public employees that engage in retaliation toward residents and business owners.

I’d hoped to talk to a local business person for this post regarding an experience, (as told to me by a 3rd party), that was perceived as retaliation from the borough.   Understandably, my request was declined …

“With personal agenda Flanders at the helm, and we’re all sure he reads your stuff, I’m not comfortable at this time. It really sucks that as a business owner I don’t feel I can express what has happened or voice my opinions without repercussions.”

Summing up one of the most profound reasons people in Pottstown give for not speaking up in any venue, including council meetings, is intimidation and fear of retaliation.

That is a fact that has virtually locked the lid and thrown away the key to democracy in Pottstown while keeping harmful secrets safely locked inside.

I can’t say what the truth is.  I don’t know what the truth is.  But, I believe the people who have had these experiences really do believe that they have been victims of retaliation.  They express feelings of fear and intimidation …

They are afraid of speaking up about local government.  I also believe that not every elected official knows what the truth is either.  In part, council is extraordinarily hands-off and unaware of the day to day functions of the borough, (contrary to the defined roles for borough council people in a weak mayor form of government, such as Pottstowns’).

I firmly believe, for as long as council members are content to enable secrecy / lack of transparency and, for as long as council members refuse to look the beast in the eye, they are merely giving lip service to their objective of sending a better perception of Pottstown out to the world.  In that regard, they are their own worst enemies.

The following comments and videos were posted to Facebook.

Apr 14th:   Dawn Cupycake Smits (courageously using her name, published here with her permission)  “I have a clip for you. 2 Weeks after we put up the sign all cars in the back parking lot tied to our address were tagged last night by the cops. This is King St. and the entrance to our parking lot is on York St.”  (they were actually tagged by the L & I Dept.)

11158075_10206462106013644_233710766_n

 

Exterior renovations to this building, across the street from borough hall, near where the cars were tagged appear to be of no concern to the borough although, the paint scrapings are going down the storm drain in the next video.  Disparity.

4/23/15  Dawn updates with the final video:

Comment beneath the video posts on Facebook:

J.P.   “Inside scoop:  Flanders made a call to Drumheller about the signs. Bc drumheller only knows to kiss butt, he instructed his officers to “strong arm” the anti Flanders propaganda. Illegal? Yes. Unfair? Yes. But what if the WHOLE town had those signs? Would that mean the police would go out and monitor the mundane, that they hate doing? Just a thought.”

Posted sometime back to Facebook:

The only thing that is consistent in Pottstown is the inexplicable disparity of treatment between one situation and the next.  You can live beside one of the worst blighted properties in town yet YOU will singled out and cited for peeling paint on a shutter.  No rhyme no reason no explanation.

FB – Larry Hespeth:  YES. WITH CODES. WHEN YOU START COMPLAINING ABOUT BLIGHTED PROPERTIES, THEY COME AROUND AND USUALLY FIND SOMETHING VERY SMALL TO HASSLE YOU ABOUT.

–  There was an arrest, last year, of an outspoken citizen who was handed trumped up felony charges. The resident was thrown in jail, sent to MontCo and denied a phone call for 4 days to let family know their whereabouts. Charges were dismissed but mistrust persists as this incident is widely known in the community.

–   Two women, (one of them a community activist), in a domestic violence setting, last summer, were given citations for trying to keep the children safe when the abuser violated the PFA.   On another occasion the same abuser was actually returned, by police, to the occupant of the house he was ordered to stay away from.

–  A blogger received two comments from the borough IP address, a couple years ago, in response to a post about the PPD.  The comments were perceived as threatening.  Indeed, they were foul and a very ugly representation of the borough government.

Elected officials refuse to hear the people of Pottstown, to open their minds to residents perceptions of their real experiences and people have begun to courageously share their stories on social media.

Increasingly,  “the way things have always been done,” is spawning an outcry among residents and former borough employees for outside intervention.

With nowhere else to turn, residents want to have their experiences validated or, invalidated, whatever the case might be…there is a reason for secrecy and it’s time to unlock the box because….

It’s no longer acceptable to be kept in the dark by the established culture of silence in Pottstown local government or, to fear retaliation for taking responsibility to be a functional part of a democratic society.  Fear and intimidation are the legacy of Mark Flanders, as Police Chief.  Now, this seems to be at the crux of a grassroots movement to remove Mark Flanders, as borough manager.

Whatever the reasons, one thing is clear, the government will not right the the good ship Pottstown without the help of it’s passengers.  As long as their are sunshine law violations and widespread mistrust, no matter what the reasons, we are doomed to keep bailing water.  We will never reach our desired destination.

At minimum, I believe everyone deserves answers to one, very important question, “what’s behind the lack of transparency in Pottstown”?  What’s in the box?

images-1

The Chronology of a “Zombie Property” in Pottstown, Pa

11014811_1035249456502557_3309851259110661485_n

433 High St. (Buttonwood Alley) Summer, 2014 Owners: Ragesh & Amita Patel of Pottstown. Purchase price: $23,000, 1998 (nearly 2 decades of neglect)

Facebook Feb. 26, 2015 Larry Hespeth:  “THE REAR OF THIS BUILDING IS ROTTING AND FALLING TO THE GROUND.
< THE BACK IS PRIMARILY COVERED WITH OLD PLYWOOD>. THE ELECTRICAL SERVICE IS ALSO COMING TO THE GROUND. I WILL POST PICS WEEKLY. CAN’T GET ANY HELP FROM THE BOROUGH. THERE SHOULD BE SOME TYPE OF EMERGENCY THIS BUILDING FALLS UNDER!”

10981608_1529768803914546_7059815983212804483_n

Pennsylvania Act 90, 2010 Neighborhood Blight and Revitalization – Private Assessment Attachment:

What does it do?

Allows municipalities to collect costs related to code violations by filing judgments against property owners, not just liens against the properties.

Type of property/property characteristics?

Property for which its owner has been found guilty of code violations and violations have not been corrected after six months. (Also see statutes noted below with no waiting period.)

Where does it apply? What jurisdictions?

Everywhere in Pennsylvania.

Who initiates? Who can make this happen?

Municipal code officials and solicitors.

How do you do it?

Codes officer cites a property for substantial violations; no remediation is done within six months; municipality files a court action against the owner.

February 26, 2015:

March 24, 2015  Larry Hespeth:   CAUGHT THE GUY DUMPING BEHIND MY HOUSE TODAY. THIRTY MINUTES AFTER TALKING WITH BILL SHARON IN THE ALLEY. WALT IS HIS NAME AND HE’S THE SUPER OF THE PITIFUL APTS ON THE 400 BLK OF HIGH. I WENT AROUND AND PRETENDED I NEEDED AN APT. AND SOMEONE GAVE ME HIS NAME AND CELL NUMBER. I CALLED THE COPS. THEY SHOWED UP, AND TWO MINUTES LATER THE DUMPER ALSO SHOWED UP. GLAD TO SAY THE OFFICER TOLD HIM TO REMOVE IT OR ELSE! IT’S GONE BUT THE BUILDING REMAINS. MR PATEL HAD HIS HEARING MOVED AGAIN TO MAY 4TH. SEE YOU SOON!

Illegal Dumping @ 433 High St. Investor Alisa Levin/Handyman “Walt:

APRIL 4, 2015 Larry Hespeth: WELL I’VE BEEN COMPLAINING ABOUT THIS BUILDING FOR WELL OVER A YEAR. TODAY PART OF IT FELL TO THE GROUND. THE PART WITH THE ELECTRICAL CONNECTED TO IT! AND GUESS WHO SHOWS UP? SOMEONE THAT I’VE COMPLAINED TO. WHAT TOOK SO LONG?

11133734_1035270416500461_1044020237133925854_n

Does Ragesh Patel have “connections” with people in official, taxpayer supported positions in Pottstown, Montgomery County & the State of PA?  

Showing favoritism would be unthinkable – right?

Ragesh Patel has seven active civil cases brought against him by a codes officer for the borough of Pottstown for violations issued in February, 2015.

Scheduled Summary Trial is May 4, 2015 in the courtroom of Judge Kropp.

The violation, linked below, pertains to the electrical (dangerous) wire that fell to the ground with a portion of the building on Saturday. The costs to taxpayers include a visit from the Fire Marshall, in additon to the codes officers time violating Patel, repeatedly, and her time in court, among administrative and court costs, etc…very wasteful of taxpayer money.

This is a case that council should turn over to the Borough Solicitor for prosecution so that the violations will STICK this time.

“Repair/Replace Electric Wire And Conduit(Exterior) 02/09/2015″

https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/MDJReport.ashx?docketNumber=MJ-38112-NT-0000189-2015 <clik for docket sheet

https://ujsportal.pacourts.us/DocketSheets/MDJ.aspx#

See all docket sheets for Ragesh Patel by cliking here ^

“search”  choose:   Participant Name  then   Montgomery County

Placing the burden of the costs of Mr. Patel’s, nearly TWO DECADES of negligence on the taxpayers of Pottstown is unconscionable.  Loss of property values and crime brought about by the blight are already being born by the neighbors of the Patels’ Zombie Property.

The borough has known of the conditions for many many years, they’ve known about Act 90 for the past 5 years.  Why isn’t council authorizing the solicitor and working with the D.A. to protect Pottstown’s taxpayers and residents by using the Act 90 laws to bring owners of Zombie properties into compliance and assess or sue the owners for the cost of securing or tearing them down?

There are no viable excuses any more.  The abuse of the system by investors and officials is a crime against taxpayers, this alone requires immediate reformation.

Local, County and the D.A.’s offices all have the power to stop this now. 

PA ACT 90 “QUICK GUIDE” <<clik

Category: BLIGHT PREVENTION – Property Code Enforcement

Law: Crime of Municipal Housing Code Avoidance…….

Who initiates? Who can make this happen?

Code enforcement official and the Office of the District Attorney

“Housing code avoidance” is a new tool that makes repeated code violations a misdemeanor offense punishable by incarceration without having to first impose fines, or imprisonment may be in addition to fines.

Under this law, a 2nd degree misdemeanor may be charged where a code violation remains after four (4) summary convictions for the same violation at the same property. A 1st degree misdemeanor may be charged for five (5) or more summary convictions.

PATEL RAGESH R & AMITA R 433 HIGH ST

TaxMapID 16006 061
Parid 16-00-14948-00-3
Land Use Code 4100
Land Use Description C – RETAIL, OFFICE, APTS. – MULTI-USE
Property Location 433 HIGH ST
Lot Size 4200 SF
Zoning D
Front Feet 30
Municipality POTTSTOWN
School District POTTSTOWN
Utilities ALL PUBLIC//

Owner
Name(s) PATEL RAGESH R & AMITA R
Name(s)
Mailing Address 32 ROSEDALE DR
Care Of
Mailing Address
Mailing Address POTTSTOWN PA 19464

Current Assessment
Appraised Value Assessed Value Restrict Code
78,000 78,000

Estimated Taxes
County 246
Municipality 804
School District 3,062
Total 4,112
Tax Lien Yes

Last Sale
Sale Date 16-NOV-98
Sale Price $23,000
Tax Stamps 230
Deed Book and Page 5249-02254
Grantor
Grantee PATEL RAGESH R & AMITA R
Date Recorded 24-NOV-98

160014948003-0.jpg.html

433 High St. in better days. The entire block is frightening.