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.

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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??

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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.)

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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?

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

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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!”

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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?

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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

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

There are no excuses left for MontCo commissioners…

With much gratitude I thank Pottstown Councilwoman, Sheryl Miller, for succinctly speaking to the housing crisis which is not only her biggest concern but that of every homeowner who clings to the hope that we’ll be heard and the county will step up to do what they should have been doing all along.  And, many thanks to resident Barry Beasley for backing her up with a question of his own that, unfortunatley, isn’t published in the news.

We have a strong, committed advocate on council.  All representatives on council need to find the time to lend their support, there can be no excuses. 

THE HOUSING CRISIS IN POTTSTOWN IS THE FAULTY FOUNDATION OF ALL OTHER ISSUES THAT KEEP PROGRESS AT BAY. 

Clik below for the Mercury coverage by Eric Devlin vv

Montgomery county commissioners hold town hall for residents last night in Pottstown 

“Pottstown Borough Council member Sheryl Miller said her biggest concern was the borough’s housing crisis, which she attributed to the county “centralizing low and voucher housing into our borough,” an increased number of social service agencies coming into the borough to help the needs of the poor, and “unscrupulous investors and criminals seeking to take advantage of the desperate situation.” Property values then drop, she said and school taxes rise as a result.

“People being sent here are essentially set up for failure,” she said. “There are no living wage job opportunities here for people to rise above their circumstances.”  This, county commissioners, contributes to the high rates of drug crimes that are the direct cause of declining home values/conditions/quality of life for us in Pottstown.  

“HUD and subsequent court rulings have said the county <Westchester County, N.Y.> has failed to conduct an adequate review of impediments to fair housing in its zoning and housing ordinances.”  N.Y. Times Desegregation article   Montgomery County commissioners have the same obligation. Where is the wisdom in awaiting a costly, time consuming lawsuit to force the issue?  

There haven’t been significant strides made to fix this issue since the Neighborhood Blight Reclamation and Revitalization Act was passed and amended in 2010.  AMEN Sheryl.  Citizens Action Committee for Pottstown representatives asked the same question of Senator Mensch in a meeting with him, late last year.  We’ve received no response from his office. 

“To date, the county hasn’t even tried to help the borough utilize the tools of the reclamation and revitalization act,” she said. “So I ask you, have you just forgotten about the homeowners here that are struggling day-to-day just to keep their heads above water?”  Your continued blind eye to the “dumping” of the poor and disabled indicates that we, taxpayers, voters and Pottstown homeowners remain pawns to the political agenda of commissioners and Montgomery County.  

Shapiro went on the defensive a bit by saying the Montgomery County Housing Authority is funded by federal money, primarily, and that money directs how those housing programs function, such as the housing choice vouchers.   Commissioners on the defensive – why?  Is it that we are finally speaking out, acknowledging that commissioners are not adhering to Federal requirements for CDBG and other funding but still, shamelessly putting their hand out for funding, even distorting the facts?  How do you defend that?

“The housing authority does not give vouchers and tell (people) where to locate,” he said. “We give them a voucher and they can take that voucher anywhere they want to go and live anywhere they want with that voucher.” The voucher, he said is only worth so much but the county is able to increase the value of the voucher up to 10 percent.  ANYWHERE THEY WANT TO GO?   Where does Shaprio believe people are going to take their increased vouchers in Montgomery County when other towns have written zoning law to exclude them?   Yes, Mr. Shaprio, they are told where to locate, Norristown and Pottstown. 

The Anti-Discrimination Center <<clik points out:  “Like more than a thousand other jurisdictions, Westchester County in New York has been a recipient of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and other federal housing funds.  A condition to be eligible for federal housing grants is the promise to affirmatively further fair housing (AFFH); that is, to identify, analyze, and take the steps necessary to overcome the barriers to fair housing choice. When a jurisdiction seeks payment under its grant, it is making an implied representation that it has affirmatively furthered fair housing.

The office of Housing and Community Development, <Shapiro> said has invested time and resources into Pottstown, and officials would look at the blight in properties to see what can be done.  See what can be done?  Have you seen with your own eyes HOW some of that money has been “invested” here Mr. Shapiro?  Stick with me and you’ll see, below….Act 90 Neighborhood Blight and Reclamation Law spells it out Mr. Shapiro, since 2010, take a good look…

Here, here it is….easy to access Quick Guide prepared by the PA Housing Alliance <<it’s a simple clik away.  Dare I say, Housing Alliance is a good organization to become familiar with, Mr. Shapiro, for the sake of Pottstown and Norristown because our communities really do matter. 

CDBG money and tax credits that have been invested by the Montgomery office of Housing and Community Development in Pottstown – to what benefit?  Shoddy, unusable curb cuts for the disabled, housing that was county owned, abandoned, with multiple codes violations adding blight and disgusting conditions to our neighborhood.

Below are only two examples of some of  the county investments in Pottstown.  

519 & 523 King St. renovated with Federal tax credits and CDBG funds.  The county left them to blight (in violation of the tax credit requirements) they were sold last year, in a private sale (prior to the 30 yr. ownership stipulation for tax credits).

Curb cut for the disabled Mr. Shapiro?  Come to Pottstown and watch an individual in a wheel chair navigate the light pole in the middle of the cut Mr. Shapiro.   CDBG funds hard at work in Pottstown or wasted tax dollars?   Your refusal to do what’s right is written in every aspect of the way we are forced to live with your decisions for Pottstown. 

Montgomery County is running out of excuses. 

The Tail of the “Dragon” Mattress.

Shared by residents in the 1st. Block of Beech St.

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THE DRAGON MATTRESS OF POTTSTOWN, PA

 Rob Garcia > ‎Crime in Pottstown

“On Monday 3/30/2015  a car drove down the street with a mattress dragon behind it they realized they had a mattress dragon behind their car they pulled over unhooked it off their bumper and threw it on the sidewalk we called the police about it they said they would have somebody come out and clean it up well it is now three days later the mattress is still laying on the sidewalk and when we call the township to clean it up they say it is not their responsibility it is the homeowners responsibility, there is something seriously wrong with this town what the hell do we pay our taxes for.”

Pottstown Homeowner At Large  “That’s right on the edge of the proposed tourism district. Way to go #Borough of Pottstown!”

11106342_1083476341679071_2058188545_nNOTHING REALLY MATTRESS TO PEOPLE WHO DON’T HAVE TO LIVE WITH THIS KIND OF FILTH. 

Patty Pollick Schade “This mattress dragon is not a new species to Pottstown. From what I’ve read in can reproduce itself into dresser dragon and even a refrigerator dragon. Notice is to exterminate promptly….But please, handle with care. (gloves are advised)”

Rob Valine One time I saw a guy on a bicycle, pulling a mattress, that was folded in half, and tied down to a shopping cart, in the pouring rain. He rode across the intersection at King and Franklin right in front of me. There was a rope tied from the bicycle to the shopping cart. I wish I had a video camera with me. Only in Pottstown !

Rob Valine   This is a very special place on the planet. I’m a cab driver here, trust me when I say this.

 Tomorrow Night, Sunnybrook 7PM MEET THE MONTCO COMMISH

“Castor said that in the nearly 30 years he has been in county government, “I think Pottstown has improved dramatically. In Norristown, I have not seen the same level of improvement that I have seen in Pottstown.” <clik

<< WE DON’T WANT BLIND LEADERSHIP, WE’RE FINITO with THE B.S. and the “way we’ve always done it” ….well….it’s not good enough for Pottstown.   While the commish will probably beeline for the Sunnybrook we’d like to invite them to have a good look around the neighborhoods in Pottstown so they know what the hell we’re dealing with here, what they’ve contributed to Pottstown.

Lou Augustine Yep thats kinda what I thought happened ….. so THIS ROAD HAZARD is NOT the boroughs responsibility and now the homeowner is responsible for it eh …. anyone else tired of crap like this … its in the road dammit ! .. that IS the responsibility of the streets department ! .. so basically the powers to be just made a dumping ground of this town by officially taking the stand that dumping on our road ways IS NOT THEIR PROBLEM … PROGRESS MADE AND MORE TO COME

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Why So Many Section 8 Vouchers<<CLIK Michael Tolle Blog (read his series on Section 8/Voucher Housing)

Municipality    % of County Population    # of Vouchers     % of Vouchers

Lower Merion                  7.2      95      3.6
Abington                           6.9       78      3.0
Cheltenham                     4.6       54      2.1
Norristown                      4.3    1,115    42.5
Upper Merion                 3.5        19       .7
Horsham                          3.3          7       .3
Upper Dublin                  3.2          2       .1
Lower Providence         3.2          5       .2
Upper Moreland:          3.0        59     2.2
Montgomery                   3.1          4        .2
Pottstown                        2.8       452   17.2

Do any of the numbers above jump out at you? Those for Norristown and Pottstown sure should.  That’s what discrimination and segregation look like when politicians side step Fair Housing.

Pottstown demands REAL LEADERSHIP from the state, county and local officials.  NOW.  WE ARE DROWNING IN FAILURE and we won’t let you hide the mess you’ve made of this entire town under your mattresses any longer. 

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Do you believe Pottstown has improved dramatically in 30 years?

Conversation with the MontCo Commish will take place in Pottstown:

Thursday April 2
7:00 PM
Sunny Brook Ballroom
50 N. Sunnybrook Rd.
Pottstown, PA

Flashback to the previous meeting with the County Commissioners:

Feb. 11, 2013 Covo’s with the Commish <<clik for Mercury News coverage

 Castor said:

“In the nearly 30 years he has been in county government, I think Pottstown has improved dramatically. In Norristown, I have not seen the same level of improvement that I have seen in Pottstown.  Praising the quality of law enforcement here and local government, I think Pottstown is headed in the right direction, I think Pottstown will come back.”

QUESTION:  What “facts” predicated his opinion?   Residents are more closed off from local government than ever, before the tenure of Borough Manager, Mark Flanders. We do not see the same level of improvement that Castor does and we live here.

David Kraybill, the director of the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation, said that prediction will more likely come true if the borough gets help developing and attracting jobs with a living wage.

“Job opportunities would solve some of the issues being raised here,” he said

QUESTION:  What has the county done since 2013 to assist Pottstown in job development with a living wage? 

Judy Memberg, executive director of Genesis Housing Inc., who also sits on Pottstown’s Blighted Property Review Committee, asked if the county could help in supporting laws that make it easier to take blighted properties whose owners cannot be found or identified.

 

ZOMBIE PROPERTY 433 HIGH ST ./ BUTTONWOOD ALLEY OWNER LIVES IN POTTSTOWN.

ZOMBIE PROPERTY 433 HIGH ST ./ BUTTONWOOD ALLEY OWNER LIVES IN POTTSTOWN.

 

QUESTION:  Has the county stepped up, in any capacity, to address the abandoned blighted properties in Pottstown?

Andrew Monastra suggested the commissioners use some of their political connections to help “leverage private investment,” as Shapiro described it. Monastra described as “putting us in touch with some of your pals.”

QUESTION:  Other than an accelerated influx of extractive investors clamoring for cheap properties to rent for voucher money and  SSD boarding houses, has the county leveraged any investments in Pottstown?  Minimum wage working families are, increasingly, priced out of rental housing as Sue Repko explained:

She has a theory that the increased amounts of money the housing vouchers can now apply toward rents have had the unintended effect of artificially raising rents landlords could have previously demanded in Pottstown, thus making it more attractive for them to buy some of Pottstown grand old homes, put in apartments and “bleed the property dry and then walk away.”

FACT:  We haven’t seen an upward trend since this meeting with the Commissioners in February, 2013.  In fact, we have seen massive deterioration in the downtown neighborhoods.  We see more people walking away from their homes and I am contacted regularly by working class renters who cannot abide the filthy, unsafe housing for which they pay a premium while, often, rents are demand in cash payments by income property owners.

And then King Street resident and activist Katy Jackson kicked off a long and wide-ranging discussion about public and low-income housing programs.

“We’re over-burdened by people who need social services,” she said, explaining that part of that is due to a high level of low-income housing. “We can’t continue to be a dumping ground for Montgomery County’s disenfranchised.”

Shapiro said any discussion of low-income housing issues should be based on a set of common facts, so he rolled out some numbers to provide a statistical basis for the discussion. Here are a few of those he mentioned:

• 90 percent of Montgomery County’s 62 municipalities have housing choice vouchers in them;   (55 other communities besides Pottstown is 90% of 62).   

• Less than 15 percent of those vouchers are used in Pottstown; (Assuming we have 15% then 85% of all vouchers in MontCo =  an average of 1.5% of vouchers in each of the other, 55 MontCo communities >with the exception of Norristown that we can assume has at least as many vouchers as Pottstown @15%).

All other communities that Shaprio claims have housing choice vouchers equals only 1/10 OF THE VOUCHERS THAT POTTSTOWN HAS, (Save for Norristown).  

• Of that, less than 15 percent, 70 percent were living in Pottstown already and only about one-quarter come to Pottstown from other communities;

• Less than 8 percent of housing in Pottstown is housing choice.

IN OTHER WORDS, POTTSTOWN HAS 10 TIMES AS MANY VOUCHERS AS ANY OTHER COMMUNITY IN MONTGOMERY COUNTY.   As always, it’s how the commish’ spins their “facts”.

Question:  How does staying on this trajectory benefit MontCo? Do the benefits of segregation outweigh the increasing potential that the county could face an Anti-Discrimination Lawsuit as did wealthy Westchester County N.Y. in 2009?

Westchester Adds Housing to Desegregation Pact  <<clik for NY Times article

“The lawsuit, filed under the federal False Claims Act, argued that when Westchester applied for federal Community Development Block Grants for affordable housing and other projects, county officials treated part of the application as boilerplate — lying when they claimed to have complied with mandates to encourage fair housing.”

We have recently learned that Montgomery County’s 5 year plan is no different than the past 5 year plan  <<clik 3/16 in the Mercury News in that the county has applied for and, once again, received CDBG grant $$ although we can anticipate continued “dumping” of the disenfrancised in our community.

Steve Kambic is a Pottstown resident and the executive director of Petra Community Housing, which is among the non-profit agencies which partner with developers to create more affordable housing.

He said despite years of effort, Petra has been unable to create any of this housing along the SEPTA bus lines and near shopping, both because property owners in those locations don’t want those kinds of projects, and because local zoning often forbids it.

AND THAT, FRIENDS, IS DISCRIMINATION THAT IS FOSTERED BY THE POLICIES OF MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PA.

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ARE THE CONDITIONS DEPICTED IN THE PHOTO’S ABOVE BRUCE CASTOR’S IDEA OF “IMPROVEMENT”?  

ARE THE SICKENING, UNSAFE RENTAL CONDITIONS THAT MANY ARE FORCED TO LIVE WITH IN POTTSTOWN (AT A PREMIUM PRICE) AN “IMPROVEMENT”?  

ARE THE INCREASING NUMBERS OF BLIGHTED, DANGEROUS BUILDINGS IN OUR COMMUNITY AN “IMPROVEMENT”?  

THE ANSWER TO EACH OF THOSE QUESTIONS IS:   NO THEY ARE NOT.

ABUSE OF CDBG GRANT MONIES IN OUR COMMUNITY ARE EVIDENCED IN SHODDY CURB CUTS AND REMODELED PROPERTIES, ONCE OWNED BY THE COUNTY, THAT WERE LEFT TO BLIGHT.

FINALLY, THE ELECTED OFFICIALS OF POTTSTOWN HAVE A DUTY TO ADVOCATE FOR THIS COMMUNITY WHICH MEANS SITTING DOWN WITH COMMISSIONERS AND WORKING OUT A PLAN THAT SPELLS  I M P R O V E M E N T FOR POTTSTOWN.

 

The Voices of Pottstown Residents…

Periodically, comments from various timelines and pages on Facebook will be shared to this blog, with consent of the writers.  At times, they will be posted without the author’s name to protect them from retaliation.

These are the experiences of residents struggling to make a life for themselves and their families in Pottstown.

The first story is a maddening commentary that greets new residents.  As these incidents continue, how do officials expect that law abiding, contributing people will consider Pottstown a place they can call home?   We are a small town of 22,000.  These first-hand stories define what the borough has been allowed to become for the lack of competent, honest leadership.

March 27,2015  “I thought you might want to post my story just to let other in pottstown know. My boyfriend and I just moved into the townhomes in hanover square the beginning of March. On march 13 a black man in his 20s rang our door bell asking for money, saying he lived on south street and his mom was in the hospital and he needed money to get to her. I’m from lionville so I wasn’t completely sure how to react so I gave him 5 dollars thinking it would get him to leave and then he asked me if I had any weed or anything else. I told him no and that I needed to go back inside. He left and we thought it was done and over. We were having a house warming that night and when our last guests left around 12 30am we headed up to bed. At about 1245 our dog started growling and barking, we weren’t sure what was up so we went down into the living room and heard noises down by our front door. We turned on lights and then the door bell started ringing nonstop and banging at the door. It was the man that had been there asking for money earlier and a women that the man claimed was his sister telling us they needed to come inside and get warm. We called 911 and the police were there super quick and the man and woman ran. The man got away but the woman was arrested and was found to be drunk and with drugs on her. Needless to say it was pretty scary and maybe this story will help people be aware of this kind of situation.”

DO NOT RENT THIS PLACE!!<<clik

2BR apartment  POSTED TO CRAIGSLIST/READING

“Don’t rent from a landlord Stephen Strickland!! He is a total slum lord!! He takes your money and doesn’t fix anything. If he does he sends his half fast workers and covers the job up!! Black fuzzy mold he just paints over to hide it!! He is a landlord who will put you and your family endanger!! He sounds good at first but is the worst mistake of your life!! He has properties on High st and at 305 N Evans st Pottstown PA 19464!! None of his properties are not inspected by the Borough of Pottstown!!”

Stephen Strickland Oct., 2011 on Golden Cockroach Slumlord list<<clik

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Stephen has been on the Slumlord list since 2011 this is now 2015.  I have led the horse to the water for over 4.5 years and yet, the Borough cannot make the connection to bring people like Stephen into compliance with codes and local ordinances or, they don’t want to do it.

This is a failure of leadership.  No explanation, no plan, no vision for bringing the 2600+ unregistered rental units into compliance.   The lack of communication and secrecy among staff and elected officals only serves to substantiate the ineptitude and malfeasance that is coming to light, in every aspect of local government.

If not a top priority, unregulated rental housing will continue to be a revenue stream for careless investors who directly enable criminal activities in the community.  Law enforcement will be relegated to endless, ineffective efforts to gain the upper hand on crime and violence in Pottstown.

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Today, while preparing this post, Evan Brandt published an article on his Digital Notebook blog.  It hits at the very heart of why we struggle but doesn’t offer an explanation for the secrecy among governing bodies in Pottstown that has all but destroyed trust and confidence in staff and elected officials in the School District and the Borough.

It’s time, as has recently been said often on my blog, for Mark Flanders to go.   He’s harmed and continues to harm this community, a fact hasn’t changed from his position as Police Chief to his position as Borough Manager –  Mark Flanders is wrong for Pottstown.

FIRE FLANDERS

Digital Notebook:  ‘That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It’  <<clik