Blogs > Daily Local Dan

A blog that takes a look at West Chester area government, politics, and community events.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Chelsea Visits the Chesco Campaign Headquarters

An organizer at the door told me there was a special section set aside for press. I walked to the back room, where chairs were set up, and looked around.

Couldn't find it.

Then I saw two chairs in the corner. A blue string was wrapped around them and taped to the wall behind. Hanging from the string was a piece of paper that said "press."

Two people were sitting in the chairs. They insisted they weren't in press seats.

"Then where's the press supposed to go?" I asked.

They pointed to the space behind the string.

"Seriously?" I said.

I know Cheslea never talks to press, but this was ridiculous. Danny DeVito wouldn't have fit in that tiny, tiny corral.

I asked a few organizers if I was really supposed to stand behind that string. They halfheartedly nodded. When I decided to ignore them and mingle with the crowd, no one stopped me.

Fifteen minutes later, someone with a blackberry announced that Chelsea was soon to arrive.

The crowd hushed. I picked out a nice spot in the middle of the room and pulled out my notebook.

Through the front window we saw a limo drive up. Chelsea stepped out, and the crowd oohed and aahed.

"Oh, she is so pretty!" several older women said.

Chelsea came in the door, walked across the front room, and stepped into the brick archway that set it off from the room where the crowd was. (Clinton's headquarters is in a historic rowhome).

More oohs and aahs.

I felt like I was at one of those picture taking sessions that precede the more important high school dances.

After briefly addressing the crowd, Chelsea made her rounds through the room.

I put my notebook into my jacket and assumed a non-reporter persona.

When Chelsea got to where I was standing, the guy next to me asked, with an excited quiver in his voice, if I would take a picture of him and the former first daughter. I complied.

Then Chelsea walked up to me.

I had a brief moment of panic.

All the other people had told her things like, "Your mother will make such a great president! I'm so glad she's running! I'm such a big supporter!"

But I'm not supporting any candidate, and I had no intention of lying to Chelsea Clinton. What could I possibly say?

I shook her hand, looked her in the eye, and said, "You're such a good daughter for doing this."

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Conversations Outside Voter Services

I spent yesterday afternoon standing outside the Chester County Voter Services Office, talking to people who had just changed their registration to Democrat. (Yesterday was the deadline to change party affiliation in order to participate in the Hillary/Obama primary)

Only a small bit of what people said was included in my article. Here are some interesting comments that didn't make the cut.

"I'm supporting Obama because I think it's time to have a president that looks like our enemy," said Judy Giblin, a former Republican from East Caln. "Does that sound bad? I think our enemies will trust us more if we're not so white-white."

"I can't say that Bill isn't part of the reason I'm supporting Hillary," said Sandy Lansidel, a former Independent from West Goshen. "I wasn't sure whether to vote for her or Obama until lately, but that church thing put me over the top."

"Don't tell my husband, but I'm supporting Hillary," said Diane, a former Republican from West Whiteland. (She asked me not to use her last name.)

Diane said she'd "wait and see" whether it was worth re-registering as a Republican after the primary.

"I've got to keep peace in the family," she said.

A warning to Diane: voter services WILL send you a new voter registration card. And it won't come in an unmarked envelope.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

How the lowest qualified bidder will swell the Democrats' numbers

I'm thinking of doing a story on the guy who designed Pennsylvania's voter registration form. It's clearly the work of a "lowest qualified bidder," and it has all the attendant charms. For example, the "Municipality where you live" box is about an inch long. Even if you abbreviated, you'd have trouble fitting your municipality's name. W. Fallowfield Twshp? E. Brandywine Twshp? S. Coatesville Borough? Impossible.

Why do I bring this up?

Because a whole bunch of Chesco Republicans and Independents have just switched to Democrat to vote in the upcoming Barack/Hillary primary. I think those poorly-designed forms are going to keep some Rs and Is from switching back.

Sure, the die-hard, vote-in-every-primary-even-though-they're-never-contested Republicans will return to their party. But the people who only vote in presidential elections? I doubt they're thinking, "Ah! As soon as this primary's over, I better make sure to fill out another one of those dreadful forms."

The Barack/Hillary battle could hurt the national Democratic Party, but it could also permanently increase the local party's numbers. Next to Dinniman's state senate victory, Super Indecisive Tuesday might turn out to be the best thing that's happened to the Chesco Democrats.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Where oh where is the Clinton Campaign?

Just got over a case of bloggers flu. I'm feeling much better now. Expect daily posts.

Two hours ago, I left the grand opening party at Barack Obama's Chester County Headquarters.

Former U.S. Sen. Harris Wofford delivered the rev-em-up speech, and afterwards, he took a few minutes to talk to me.

I asked him why, even though he's been involved in Democratic Politics for so long, he's supporting the party outsider.

"[Obama's] the one people are ready to be moved by," he said.

That struck me. Earlier, Jennifer Dean, who works for a publishing company in Phoenixville, said nearly the same thing.

"When I hear Obama speak, I want to live in his America," she told me.

Everyone else I spoke with had their own version of how the Illinois Senator changed their outlook. There was so much enthusiasm from so many people, a surprising number of whom said they'd never been involved in -- or thought much about -- politics before. I started to wonder if Clinton could keep her Pennsylvania lead.

Speaking of which, where is the Clinton Campaign?

Hillary hasn't opened a Chester County office. And, unlike the Obama Campaign, which has been sending people door-to-door since the beginning of the month, her campaign has just started it's door-to-door efforts. Phone banking has been her campaign's main form of outreach in Pennsylvania so far, according to campaign director Mark Nevins.

It'll be interesting to see what kind of reaction the Clinton Campaign generates once it gets here.

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Monday, March 10, 2008

The thrill isn't gone in Tredyffrin.

"That looks like a lot of fun," I thought, as I watched a video of cars travelling through a single-lane roundabout.

Tredyffrin Township Engineer Steve Burgo was showing this video to the supervisors, and the public, so they could get a better idea of what a roundabout is.

This was at the supervisors' July 16, 2007 meeting, just after township staff told us they thought it would be a good idea to put a roundabout at the doglegged intersection of North Valley and Swedesford roads. After Burgo's presentation, and a heated dialogue with residents, the supervisors voted 4-3 to encourage staff to continue to spend money on designing the roundabout.

Some, but not all, of the Great Valley's residents were angry. Township staff had been planning to alter this intersection for years, and they didn't like it. Any change to the intersection, they argued, would ruin the character of their bucolic neighborhood. How? By eating up green space and by encouraging more motorists to drive on North Valley and Swedesford roads. Residents also complained that the project would cost taxpayers too much money -- the state and the township were to share the bill, which township staff estimated would be around $2 million.

In the November election, Paul Drucker, one of the roundabout's supporters, lost. At year's end, another supporter, E. Brooks Keffer, retired. And on February 25, the supervisors voted 5-2 to kill the roundabout plan. In doing so, they also relinquished the money PennDOT was offering to help pay for alterations to the intersection. You can read about this vote in Chris Williams' article.

If you haven't traveled through this intersection, here's what it can be like: You're driving south on North Valley Road, a narrow, wooded route that runs from Phoenixville to Paoli. You go over a historic bridge, come to a stop sign, and suddenly the road ends. But it's not supposed to... so where did it go? Oh, there it is, 150 feet to the right. You angle your car so you can see the traffic speeding by on Swedesford Road. Since that traffic doesn't have a stop sign, you have to wait for a break before you slam on the gas and navigate your car to the other part of North Valley Road.

This can be kind of exhilarating. Especially since, due to a hill, you can't see the vehicles coming east on Swedesford until they're within seconds of hitting you.

On my way to Tredyffrin Township meetings, I used to navigate this intersection for fun, just to see if I'd make it. I called this "research" -- at the time I was writing articles about the township's plan to alter the intersection.

Although I'd developed an awed respect for the intersection, I found the idea of a roundabout intriguing. Cars travelling in a circle, yielding to each other, exiting at the correct road -- it'd be almost like an automotive dance. I would've travelled through that thing every day, whether or not I had business in Tredyffrin Township.

You know what? Opponents of the roundabout had a point -- it would've brought more traffic to the Great Valley, and not just because I'd be playing in it all the time.

I guess I'll have to settle for the occasional thrill of watching the tachometer in my Toyota Matrix shoot up to 5,000 RPMs as I try to jet from one side of Great Valley Road to the other.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The silent aviator

It's always frustrating when someone refuses to talk to me. But if I just crashed my plane, I wouldn't want to talk to a reporter either.

Late Thursday afternoon, my editors, who were listening to the police scanner we keep in the middle of the newsroom, heard that a plane crashed on Five Points Road near the Brandywine Airport.

They sent me and a few photographers to the scene. I didn't know what to expect -- having spent most of my career covering local government, I'm more comfortable at planning commission meetings than at accident scenes.

I drove down Five Points Road thinking I'd eventually run into a crumpled mass of metal.

Instead, I saw a police SUV with it's lights flashing. Since the road next to the SUV was clear, I figured the officer had just pulled someone over. Then I saw a small, bent up red airplane nestled in the grass.

I asked a bystander what happened.

He told me that the pilot's engine stalled just as he reached the end of the runway. He said the pilot was faced with two options: allow the plane to take flight and then try to land it gently, or slam on the breaks. The pilot went for the latter option, and ended up running his plane off the hill just beyond the runway.

Both the bystander and the police sergeant I spoke with agreed that the pilot had made the right choice -- if he'd allowed the plane to take off, it could've landed in the middle of rush-hour traffic on Route 202.

As I chatted with the bystander, the pilot was pacing beside his plane, talking on his cell phone. The bystander said the pilot was probably being "chewed out" by the FAA. From the fearfully respectful, one-word answers he was giving, I figured that was probably the case.

When the pilot got off the phone, I approached him.

"I'm from the newspaper," I said. "Could you tell me what happened here?"

His lips shut tight, he shook his head.

"Could I have your name?"

Same reaction.

I was disappointed. But even in the dusky light, I could see he was upset, shaken. He'd just made a decision that had saved a few lives. And his plane, worth tens of thousands of dollars, was in bad shape. I decided it was best to leave him alone.

So I headed back to the newsroom and, with two stories left to file, spent a few minutes typing up this report.

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Thursday, March 6, 2008

The candidates are coming, and no one's endorsing!

I called Senator Andy Dinniman (D-19th) yesterday and asked him, "Now that the Democratic presidential contenders are coming to Pennsylvania, are you ready to make an endorsement?"

He laughed and said, "You're giving me this wonderful opportunity to announce my endorsement?"

"Well... yes," I said.

He told me he's not endorsing.

"Someone has to stand up and make sure everyone keeps their eyes on the bigger prize in November," he said. "Someone has to be around to keep everybody cool so that we'll be together after the primary."

He's not the only big name Democrat around here who's not endorsing. You can read more about local endorsements in the article I wrote yesterday about the campaign preparations the Democratic presidential contenders are making in Chester County.

So, should our local politicians be making endorsements, or should they stand back?

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Wednesday, March 5, 2008

First Post

Hi, I'm Dan Kristie, a reporter for the Daily Local. On this blog you'll find two things:

1) Observations that didn't make it into my articles.

2) Questions - In an attempt to get some interesting discussions going, I'll periodically ask readers to comment on issues that face the county. You can comment by clicking on the comment link you see below each post. Because I don't want anyone to be needlessly embarrassed or hurt by the comments, I'll be moderating them. I promise, though, that I won't be a censor. I want all views reflected.

I also want to point out that a lively local news-oriented blogosphere is forming in Chester County. In addition to the blogs on the Daily Local website, there are:

* Mr. Tredyffrin and Friends - An anonymous group of bloggers who comment on issues facing Tredyffrin Township

* West Chester Jim - By Jim Jones, the Borough Councilman who represents West Chester's 6th Ward

* Tredyffrin Township Political Notebook - By John Petersen, a former Tredyffrin Township supervisor who has been involved in Tredyffrin politics for a few years

* Watching Phoenixville - The name explains it.

* Life in Phoenixville - Karen Johns comments on municipal matters and more.

There are other blogs I'm forgetting or don't yet know about. Please tell me of them.

And check back every day for posts.