Blogs > Daily Local Dan

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Four Days Till Elections!

In the last week, the West Chester Area School Board race, already contentious, has heated up. The rest of the races in my beat (West Chester and environs) are quiet. There are, however, murmurs in the borough's fifth ward. Independent Dave LaLeike is running a vigorous write-in campaign for borough council against endorsed Democrat Tom Paxson. And in Westtown, political unknown John Haws, a Democrat, is trying to unseat Republican Board of Supervisors Chair Carol DeWolf.

All week, my inbox filled with political e-mails. Most were from WCASD Democrats. A whole bunch included a link to a YouTube video that features Republican Candidate Sean Carpenter participating in Chester County Victory Movement rallies. Some included links to this column and this column, by Henry Briggs, a former Malvern Borough Council President and Republican Committeeman. The Democrats are also making a huge deal out of the fact that the Dem WCASD candidates brought ad time on cable television.

The Republicans have been really quiet. Few e-mails. No recent rumors of attack ads. No time on second-tier cable TV stations. This is about the only stir they've caused.

Back to the YouTube video. First, it's cheezy. Second, Democrats (and a few Republicans) asked me, "Isn't it shocking? Aren't you shocked by it?"

No, I'm not. I've covered plenty of Victory Movement rallies. The video appears to have been compiled from footage taken by Chester County Peace Movement regular John Beitzel. It is intended to place Carpenter among the more raucous Victory Movement demonstrators. All it does, however, is weave together images of Carpenter participating in Victory Movement rallies and images of other VM demonstrators yelling, screaming, and holding questionable signs. (OK - Carpenter is holding questionable signs too.)

The video tries to make it seem like Carpenter was demonstrating with the Victory Movement on the day when something like 200 motorcyclists came one of its rallies. I covered the rally, and though I looked for Carpenter, I didn't see him. (He rides a motorcycle with A Hero's Welcome and Warrior's Watch.)

(I regret now that my coverage of motorcycle day was so tame. I didn't mention the guy with the jacket that read "Sons of the Confederacy, Mechanized Cavalry Division." Nor did I mention the Confederate flags, perhaps because I found them so disgusting. One biker tried to fight me. I would've lost.)

Anyway, I hear that school district residents are at this moment being bombarded with campaign mailers. Some of them, apparently, feature quotations from my articles. Please, scan and send me whatever nonsense you get in the mail. You can reach me at I'll put them on the blog.

(BTW - The most ridiculous Chester County attack ad I've seen so far is this one. It goes after Democratic Tredyffrin Supervisors Candidate Eamon Brazunas for having been married less than two years. He's in his mid-20s.)

Sigh. It's 12:22 a.m. on Saturday morning. I'm still at work. I've filed 2,734 words today. I should be out at Halloween parties.

For your entertainment, here's my 2007 Halloween costume. Only the tattoo is fake.

Here's what I normally look like (late at night on a cell phone camera):

Going home!

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Jim Smith's response to our headline

West Chester Area School Board President Jim Smith took issue with the headline attached to my Oct. 23 article on the school district's potential 2009-2010 Act 1 exemptions.

The headline:


"Millage increase could be as high as 5.24, officials say.

Here is a link to the letter in which Smith lays out his objections to the headline. He also outlines the school district's financial situation and refutes some of the claims the Republican school board candidates are making. (Note: In the scanned PDF of Smith's letter, the underline at the beginning of the fourth paragraph is mine, not Smith's.)

At the Daily Local, copy editors write headlines. Reporters do not. This is because copy editors, when putting articles onto pages, can see exactly how much space is available for a headline. And it's their job, not ours, to make the paper look exciting.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Amateur Hour at the Spellman

Imagine you're sitting in the Spellman Administration Building, watching a West Chester Area School Board Property and Finance Committee meeting. You're listening to District Finance Director Suzanne Moore give a detailed explanation of how the administration arrived at its enrollment projections for the 2011-2012 to 2014-2015 school years. At the end of her explanation, a skinny guy in a baseball cap gets up and, in a tone of forced outrage - a tone that wouldn't seem out of place at an amateur-level theater improv class - demands of the finance committee an answer to this question:

"Is it true that there aren't enough textbooks for the students in the school district?"

"What? Where did that come from?" you wonder. "That has nothing to do with the topic at hand, and it's not even the time for public comment."

A helpful local reporter turns to you and explains: "The Republican candidates for school board sent out a mailer in which they claimed that there are textbook shortages in the school district. The administration has already said publicly that there are not. The guy asking the question is a Democratic committeeman, and he hopes to get the administrators to say again that the Republicans candidates are making false claims. This is somehow supposed to help the Democrats win the school board election."

"Oh," you say. "Why would the Republicans claim there were textbook shortages?"

"Well, the Republican candidates think that, by portraying the current, majority-Republican school board as the party responsible for an imaginary textbook shortage, they can beat the Democrats. For an analysis of why, read the Daily Local Dan blog sometime next week."

Yes, the Oct. 19 property and finance committee meeting (which you, of course, are too interesting to attend) was packed with political operatives. One row - the row I'm interested in - was filled with Democratic committeepeople who were doing a pretty amateurish job of trying to get the administrators to publicly debunk the claims the Republican candidates made in their mailer.

Every once in a while, one of them would interrupt the meeting and ask a question like, "Is it true that the district is in a financial crisis?"

The meeting took on the tone of a late-night infomercial. It was embarrassing.

The Democrats' shoddy acting does not excuse the Republicans for resorting to scare tactics. Their campaign mailer made the following claims:

- The recent school tax increase, combined with the economic downturn, has forced parents to take their kids out of private school and send them to public school. (Enrollment rose by about 200 more students than administrators had expected. District officials have speculated that this is because some parents can no longer afford private school.)

- The enrollment spike has led to overcrowding in classrooms and buses. (The district says this is not true.)

- The resultant overcrowding has led to textbook shortages. (The district says this is not true)

- The teachers salary hike has prevented the district from being able to afford to hire new teachers to relieve the overcrowding. (The district says this is not true, and points to the fact that it has hired more teachers to handle the unexpected influx of students.)

I believe the district. Here's why:

If there were textbook shortages, classroom overcrowding, or bus overcrowding, the Daily Local would have gotten at least a few calls and emails from outraged parents. And we would have gotten these calls in September. Yet, we've heard nothing. Until, that is, we got a look at the Republican mailer.

I shared this argument with Republican school board candiate Sean Carpenter.

"Maybe you aren't talking to the same people we're talking to," he said.

"It's possible, but we're a local paper," I said. "We don't usually have to wait to hear about things like this. People call us all the time about problems at schools, and so far, we've heard nothing."

"Maybe people are afraid to call the paper because they believe they won't be treated fairly," Carpenter said.

I told Carpenter that, based on past experience, I know that not much will stop an angry parent from calling us.


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

School Board News!

Here's a link to the controversial mailer sent out by the Republican West Chester Area School Board candidates. It has created a stir at the school board's last two committee meetings.


In case you don't want to download it, here are the two paragraphs that got School Board President Jim Smith riled up.

"You are probably painfully aware of the 5.9% property tax increase that the current school board voted upon [sic] in May. Combined with last year's increase, the taxpayers have had to absorb almost 13% in tax increases over the last two years. Delaware County residents were hit even harder, with a 9.4% tax increase this year and a 9.0% tax increase last year, a whopping total of over 18% in two years.

"Adding insult to injury, the current board also voted to raise teachers' salaries almost 9% over the next two years. That just didn't make sense in these perilous economic times, with unemployment rising, employees being laid off, and businesses downsizing or closing. It also proved to be extremely short sited [sic]: May parents can no longer afford the tuition for private/parochial school and have enrolled their children in our public schools, resulting in overcrowded classes and buses, with shortages of textbooks. Because of the teachers' salary hike, there is now no money to hire more teachers to relieve the overcrowding in the classroom."


Monday, October 19, 2009

Selene Raynor's death

The two articles I wrote on the murder of West Chester University student Selene Raynor (Oct. 16, Oct. 17) attracted a variety of reader comments. Some were sympathetic, some were misinformed, and some were alarmingly ugly. We've done our best to delete the ugly ones, and I won't dwell on them.

What I'm interested in is this: When, on Thursday, Oct. 15, at 10 p.m., I filed the first of the two stories on Raynor's death, neither the police nor the university had released her address. We would later find out that she lived in Philadelphia, on North 28th Street, a few blocks from where she was shot. My first story lacked this information. This led a few commentators to either question or try to find some justification for Raynor's presence in Philly. Judging from their comments, it was inconceivable to them that a West Chester University student might actually live in Philadelphia.


SQUABBIT wrote: "The article doesn't say why she was in the Strawberry Mansion section of the city, NOT one of the better sections of Philly to be sure!"

my 2 cents wrote: "What a beautiful young lady. I am so sick to death of what I think is racism. If she were white, this would be NATIONAL news. I never even heard this WCU student was missing! A West Chester student KILLED, this is terrible. Also, who cares where she found. Philadelphia is one big college campus, she could have been meeting one of her friends at one of the colleges there. I am glad Daily Local reported the story and showed her picture. My thoughts and prayers go to her family. I'll tell you, It seems like a lot of bad things happen to kids that go to West Chester U. That college has bad luck or something."

There are plenty of West Chester students who come from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods. But suburbanites tend towards provincialism: they think of Philadelphia as a foreign land, dangerous and incomprehensible. This provincialism, of course, is caused by economic segregation. The paths of people from affluent suburbs and people from Philadelphia's poorer neighborhoods rarely cross. When an event like Raynor's murder occurs, some suburbanites, who instinctively want to sympathize, must first try to make Raynor more familiar: she must be one of us. She must live in a nice suburban neighborhood. She can't be from a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia, because... then we couldn't sympathize as much?

my 2 cents is correct: the murder of Annie Le will get far more national coverage than the murder of Selene Raynor. This is deeply unjust. The national media is protecting it's predominantly white audience from having to admit the humanity of people who live in poor urban neighborhoods. If you can label a neighborhood "the ghetto," you can ignore it.


Friday, October 16, 2009

The normal-shaped pyramid

Newspaper journalists write (or claim to write) their articles in a format called the "inverted pyramid."

I once told a Jung scholar this. He got excited. He thought the inverted pyramid was some sort of mystical concept.

He was disappointed when I told him that, when you write in the inverted pyramid, you simply put what you believe to be the most pertinent facts first, and then work your way down in order of decreasing importance and/or urgency.

I and a few of my colleagues were in a Friday mood today. We wondered what would happen if we composed an article in the inverted pyramid format and then rearranged it so that the last paragraph would come first, the second to last paragraph would come second, and so on. I tried the experiment with my recent article on the Exton Barnes and Noble Glenn Beck book signing. Here, for your weekend reading enjoyment, is the result: an article in the "normal shaped pyramid" format. It's kind of funny, and surprisingly readable.

“This was a once in a lifetime chance to meet Glenn Beck,” Goodman said. “I don’t watch his show all the time, but I’m a fan. He puts politics in a way that I can understand, and then I can agree with him. Or I can disagree with him.”

The line went fast, he said.

After getting his book signed, Ben Goodman, a Sophomore Pastoral Ministries major at Valley Forge Christian College, sat at a table on the second floor, telling his friend about the experience.

The book store had a holiday feel, as if it were Christmas Eve and the fans were excited, last-minute shoppers. But among them were customers who, either unaware of or unconcerned with Beck, shopped as if it were any other day.

At 7:30 p.m., hundreds of fans lined the perimeter of the Barnes and Noble while Beck stood at a table, greeting them and signing their books.

“I feel his fans are ill-informed, or uninformed, about what Glenn Beck is really advocating,” Kivlin said. “He is using the media to advance his own career through divisive political tactics such as hate speech. And that’s what sells.”

Mary Kivlin, of West Whiteland, said she believes Beck is willfully misleading his fans in order to advance his own career.

“I’m here because I want Beck and others to know that his message of misinformation and hatred is not acceptable and is un-American,” said Fran Pierce, of West Pikeland.

Fifteen minutes before the signing was to start, only 8 protesters were present.

The signing attracted a small group of liberal protestors. They stood on a small concrete island at the exit to Main Street and held signs that read “Glenn Beck has no respect,” “Hate Speech is bad news,” and “Hatred is anti-American.”

Beck was promoting his book “Arguing with Idiots: How to Stop Small Minds and Big Government.” The book, which is illustrated and printed on colored paper, is intended to provide readers with arguments they can use to counter supporters of liberal policies.

She said she has been following on the radio and on television for two years. She came to see him, she said, because he is “quite a patriot.”

“I’ve never done anything like this in my life,” Weber said. “I’ve never seen a politician. I’ve never waited to see anyone.”

Helen Weber, of East Goshen, stood near the front of the line. She had been at the store since 2 p.m., though the signing wasn’t to start until 7 p.m. Near her was a folded up lawn chair.

Many of the Beck fans said they are concerned about the way their opponents have labeled them. A few even mockingly referred to themselves as “the angry mob.”

“I challenge you to find one person in this line who is ignorant and uneducated,” Reber said. “Glenn Beck speaks for us. We’re not mad boobs. We know what we’re talking about, and we care.”

Reber said he believes Beck offers intelligent and devastating criticism of liberals and the Obama Administration. He added that he takes issue with critics who try to brand Beck fans as irresponsible and sub-par thinkers.

“I’m tired of big government, high taxes, politicians stabbing me in the back, a media that lies, Nancy Pelosi calling us maniacs; I’m tired of being told evolution is the only way to think, because there are other ways; I’m tired of government-run education, of homeschoolers being mocked,” said Jonathan C. Reber, Sr., of East Lampeter Township, Lancaster County. “You want me to keep going?”

As they waited, they praised Beck, echoed his criticisms of liberals and President Obama, and added some of their own.

An hour before the signing started, nearly 500 stood in a line that wrapped around the book store and continued all the way down one of the blocks of Main Street at Exton.

The book signing that conservative television and radio host Glenn Beck held at the Barnes and Noble on Wednesday evening attracted throngs of outspoken fans.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The Crown Victoria Police Interceptor is not an undercover vehicle

This month, West Chester Borough Council is reviewing departmental budget requests. Todd Schaeffer, the guy who manages the borough's "fleet" of vehicles, told borough council on Monday that the police department wants money to buy a few new undercover vehicles.

Schaeffer said the detectives told him that the unmarked Crown Victoria is not really the ideal car for undercover work.

Schaeffer was referring to the Crown Victoria Police Interceptor, a car that Ford only sells to police departments and cab companies. While you or I could buy one used, it would be fairly difficult to get a new one.

That's why, if I saw a black Police Interceptor parked across the street from my house, I'd do a quick examination of my conscience.

Perhaps police should use rental cars for undercover work. The VW Bug, the Toyota Matrix, the Dodge Stratus, the occasional Jeep. They should get creative. I wouldn't be worried at all if I saw a Minicooper parked out front.

The state police might also want to consider getting creative with their unmarked highway patrol vehicles. Imagine getting pulled over by a supercharged 1996 Dodge Caravan.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The mood of the County Democratic Committee

This post comes a week late.

On the 4th, I attended the Chester County Democratic Committee's annual fundraising banquet and listened to three hours of speeches given by everyone from former West Chester Borough Councilman Bill Scott to U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. Here are my impressions of the current mood of the Chester County Democrats:

2009 municipal and school board races: hopeful and on-message

The only smaller race Party Chair Michele Vaughn mentioned was the one for the four available West Chester Area School Board seats. The Democrats have done some opposition research on the Republican candidates and have come up with interesting nuggets about candidates John Wingerter and Sean Carpenter (if you are unfamiliar with these nuggets, read the footnote at the end of this blog post). Vaughn, without mentioning Carpenter or Wingerter by name, rehashed these nuggets. Extrapolating, she portrayed all municipal, school board and row office races not as battles between Democrats and Republicans but as battles between between socially moderate, fiscally conservative candidates, and members of Chester County ACTION (Americans for Christian Traditions in our Nation). This branding is inaccurate, but clever. We'll see if it sticks.

2010 statewide races: apprehensive

We have no idea yet whether President Obama's policies will be successful. He just hasn't been in office long enough. But Republicans have pretty successfully branded him a failure. Democrats here and everywhere are nervous about 2010. During the cocktail hour before the banquet, Sen. Specter told me, "At the beginning of the year, it looked like the [Pennsylvania] Democratic Senate seat would be a slam dunk. Now, nationally, we could lose six Democratic seats in the Senate and 20 in the House." Specter is, of course, trying to brand himself as the only Democratic Senate candidate with enough campaign experience and crossover appeal to win Pennsylvania. Sestak, during his banquet speech, criticized the Democrats for rolling over and playing dead when the Republicans launched their August attack on healthcare reform. At least half of the other speakers included in their speeches the following sentiment, which I will pariphrase: "2010 could be tough. Really tough. Toughest year since 1994. But you know what? I think we just might be able, maybe, to do it."

2009 row office races: cheerful, but resigned

Though the gap is closing, there are still more registered Republicans than registered Democrats in the county. Again and again the speakers said: "And this will finally be the year we take row office seats." But you could hear the resignation in (some of) their voices: It's unlikely that enough registered Independents will vote for the Democratic candidates. Row office races just aren't that exciting. Also, Democratic County Controller Candidate Jim Reilly began his speech: Who has ever seen The Sound of Music? Raise your hand if you've seen The Sound of Music. Because I'll tell you what. There's trouble in River City. (Note, this is a paraphrase. The original was more lengthy, and, in my notes, I didn't capture Reilly's exact phrasing).

(The nuggets: Pictures of Sean Carpenter holding an "I love Gitmo" sign and a sign that reads "Compared to be-headings, waterboarding is just good, clean, fun!!!" A John Wingerter quote - during a WCASB candidates' forum earlier this year, Wingerter was recorded saying he believes students should know that research is being done into Intelligent Design.)


Monday, October 5, 2009

On the Glenn Beck numbers

From the comments on my article on the Oct. 1 Glenn Beck book signing:

"For the record: I went to the glorious Glenn Beck book signing at Main Street in Exton. The thousands of people were wrapped all around the streets of Main Street. All were true Democrats, Republicans, Independents and more importantly Americans who believe in the Constitution. The writer of the article, Dan Kristie, is a known liberal, and said there were 500 people in the store and dwon the block. If he had walked around the blocks he would have seen the thousands waiting in line to get their booked signed by a truely patriotic American, Glenn Beck. We Americans have seen that the main stream media and Dan Kristie have a real problem when counting true Americans."


"Known liberal?" Sounds kind of like "known communist." Nostalgic for McCarthyism?

Anyway, a few people have questioned my crowd count. I stand by it. Here's why.

I wrote:

"An hour before the signing started, nearly 500 [Glenn Beck fans] stood in a line that wrapped around the bookstore and continued all the way down one of the blocks of Main Street at Exton."

This is true. At 6 p.m., I walked from the front of the line to the back and counted 441 people. I added 50 to my count, because right before I started counting Barnes and Noble let the first 50 fans into the store.

From 6 p.m. until around 8, when the book signing ended, a lot more people showed up. There may have been a thousand. There may have been more. I didn't do another count. Because the line was continually moving, I wouldn't have trusted a second count.

When I filed the story, I used the figure I had, and I made sure to note the time at which got it. Five hundred in line an hour before a book signing starts isn't bad, especially for a weekday.

Americaneagle is probably still angry about my article on the April 4 West Chester Tea Party. I admit that my crowd count for that event was on the low side. Which is why I was so scrupulous this time. Liberal protestors have also taken issue with my crowd counts.


Friday, October 2, 2009

Chester County Rants: Misattributions and irresponsible blogging

A few people have recently called my attention to Chester County Rants, a blog that, they say, is beating the Daily Local when it comes to covering the West Chester Area School Board race.

A clarification: Chester County Rants is not actually covering the school board race. Rather, it is engaging in highly partisan attacks against the Republican candidates. Many of these attacks use my articles and blog posts as sources.

My work was intended to expose an interesting rift in the Chester County Republican Party. The Rants blogger or bloggers apparently wish I had taken a different approach. One post even attributes to me two paragraphs that I did not write.

My February 24, 2009 entry , which treats the American Sheepdogs' opposition to the West Chester East High School Gay-Straight Alliance Day of Silence, ends:

"Other criticisms aside, I don't think it's only the radical left that believes "being gay is acceptable behavior.""

On Chester County Rants, my Feb. 24 entry is quoted in full. But, in the Rants version, my post ends:

"Other criticisms aside, I don’t think it’s only the radical left that believes “being gay is acceptable behavior.”

"Ask yourself this question, do you want your child to be attacked for being who they are?

"Adsett, Carpenter, Pimley, and Wingerter are so Right Wing, So Wrong for our schools!"

This addition is highly irresponsible and suggests that those who run Chester County Rants are short on integrity.

In fact, Rants engages in borderline plagiarism. The post that this misquotation is from makes my writing appear, at first, as if it is the work of one of the Rants bloggers.

The Rants post does not begin with: "Here's an interesting blog post written by Dan Kristie." Rather, it launches, without quotation marks, directly into my post.

The only indication that the text of the post was not written by the Rants contributor is this "citation," which appears at its end:

(, Daily Local News blog: Tuesday, February 24, 2009)

This is barely a citation. It does not contain my name or the name of my blog. And, though it is not required to do so, it does not contain a link to my blog.

Yet, it quotes my post in full and sneakily adds two paragraphs.

I invite Chester County Rants to respond.


Bold Statement of the Week

This week, the Bold Statement of the Week Award goes to West Chester Planning Commission Member Matthew Adams.

His statement?

"These meetings really need to be a little more efficient."

He said this at Tuesday evening's planning commission meeting.

OK - this statement might not seem bold to those of you who have never felt the ache of spirit that comes from sitting through a meandering, three hour municipal meeting. I have. And I agree. West Chester's planning commission meetings could be a bit shorter and more focused.

At the same time, I wouldn't want West Chester planning commission meetings, or any of the municipal meetings I cover, to be too short and focused. If they were, it would mean the board or commission that is holding the meeting has done most of its negotiating in the dark, out of the public's eye.