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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

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Friday, March 19, 2010

The West Chester "alcohol plan"

Right now, the so-called West Chester "alcohol plan" (alcohol mitigation plan? alcohol enforcement and mitigation plan? get the drunks off my street plan? tax the bars plan? quixotic quest to teach WCU kids to enjoy the alcohol-free life plan? I don't know what the hell to call it) is in that amorphous, still-being-drafted phase.

The plan I'm talking about is the same, and different, than the "pour tax" plan I wrote about in February. But the "pour tax" may be losing viability, leaving the plan pour-tax-less.

The plan is supposed to involve police enforcement, codes enforcement, alternative sentencing for alcohol offenders, litter cleanup, weekend night bus transit, alcohol abuse education, and more! And it's got to be paid for somehow - either by a tax on the drinks local restaurants and bars serve (the "pour tax"), or by a combination of a "special assessment district" tax on liquor licensees, new Saturday night parking fees, funding from the university, and funding from the state.

"Multifaceted" would be a kind way to describe the plan. That multifacetedness was on display during the alcohol plan meeting State Sen. Andy Dinniman held in the borough on Tuesday night. The meeting wasn't open to the general public, but I was one of the invitees. Also at the meeting were borough council members, borough administrators, WCU representatives, and local restaurant owners. What I observed was an overflow of ideas, some of which sounded good, and some of which sounded silly.

For example:

- Local Realtor Stan Zukin (landlord of many a borough drinking establishment) suggested that the borough regulate the price of alcohol. Specifically, Zukin suggested that borough set the minimum price of a beer at $3. Borough Manager Ernie McNeely responded, "We can't do that, Stan." Zukin also suggested that bar owners get together to agree on a minimum beer price. "I'm not talking about collusion," Zukin added.

- District Justice Gwenn Knapp talked about Young Adult Community Conferencing, a restorative justice program she started three years ago. This program is available to 18 to 24 year olds busted for alcohol-related crimes. Instead of paying some of the standard fines, those who opt to participate in this program are put in contact with their victims. Working with a mediatior, the "perps" and victims figure out a way for the perps to make amends. Knapp said that young people who go through this program are far less likely than those who go through normal sentencing to be arrested for a second alcohol-related crime. Family services, the agency that runs the program, is seeking more funding YACC, so that it can be made available to more people.

- Several borough restaurant owners said they would like the alcohol program to be funded, in part, by new Saturday night parking garage fees. At the moment, it costs nothing to park in borough garages on Saturday nights. The restaurant owners said that while a pour tax might chase customers away, parking fees will not. To which I humbly respond: people don't know when they're being charged a pour tax. But they sure as hell know when they are being charged to park.

It goes on and on.

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Why I wrote the sex shop article

A few readers wondered why I wrote last week about West Chester entrepreneur Jill McDevitt's unsuccessful attempt to expand her store, Feminique Boutique, into the King of Prussia Mall.

No, I didn't write the story just so I could throw around a few "naughty" words. I wrote the story because McDevitt is a controversial figure in West Chester. She has been making headlines since 2008, when she opened Feminique Boutique, a "female owned and operated upscale, shame-free, sex-positive sex shop," on North Church Street. (The quoted text is from the FB website.)

In 2008, shortly after the West Chester codes department gave McDevitt permission to open her store, the borough Planning Commission began to discuss whether the borough's zoning code should be amended to prevent another Feminique Boutique type store from opening in the downtown WC. It didn't take long for West Chester area residents to bring their opinions of the store before West Chester's planning commission. Then, the St. Agnes Catholic Church, located around the corner from Feminique Boutique, tried briefly to shut the store down. West Chester ended up changing its zoning ordinance so that another Feminique Boutique style store could not open in downtown WC. The pre-Feminique Boutique zoning ordinance only kept out porn shops, strip clubs and "massage parlors." (These types of businesses, however, were and are allowed in certain commercial districts in the borough's eastern and western sections.)

So, yes. What McDevitt does has been and, I would think, continues to be of interest.

Some readers may have noticed that the Daily Local has given McDevitt a "Blogtown" blog. Readers may also have noticed that my story recapitulates the story she told in her March 11 post.

Well, a lead is a lead.

For those interested, here's a rundown of the coverage we've given the Fem Boutique controversy:

- April 2008: Just after McDevitt got permission to open her store, the West Chester Planning Commission began to debate whether to create a zoning provision that would prevent similar stores from opening up in downtown West Chester.

- May 2008: Residents, along with the pastor of St. Agnes's, came to a planning commission meeting to protest the borough's decision to allow Feminique Boutique to open.

- June 2008: St Agnes's appealed the borough's decision to grant McDevitt permission to open her store.

- June 2008: The church dropped its appeal and decided instead to lobby borough council to change the zoning ordinance so that no other Feminique Boutique-style shops could open in West Chester.

- June 2008: The planning commission discussed whether to amend the zoning ordinance to clarify what counts as a "sexually-oriented business" and to specify where such businesses should be allowed to open.

- November 2008: The planning commission completed a draft zoning amendment that would prevent another Feminique Boutique-style shop from opening in downtown West Chester. Such businesses would be limited to the borough's industrially-zoned areas.

- February 2009: Borough council tweaked the zoning amendment the planning commission developed.

- March 2009: Borough council passed the zoning amendment, effectively giving McDevitt a monopoly. No other businesses like hers may open in downtown West Chester.

- March 2010: The King of Prussia Mall denied McDevitt a lease to open a second FB.

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Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The hazards of man on the street interviews

Sometimes, there's footage that doesn't make it into the official cut.

For example:

Monday, March 1, 2010


Reading the online comments people leave under our articles makes me sad about life.

Give people anonymity, a keyboard, and a place to post comments, and they turn into middle school students. And/or, they become really paranoid.

Take, for example, the 94 comments that, as of Monday at 3:30 p.m., had been left under my Feb. 25 article on local tea party activists.

The commenters start off discussing the article, sort of. Soon, they're attacking each other, with no regard for the article. Then, they start attacking one commentor for comments [she?] left under a Feb. 9 article on the Downingtown West janitor who allegedly sexually assaulted a 15-year-old student.

Now, I wrote that 94 comments had been left under the tea party article. That doesn't mean 94 people commented: The comments were left by only 27 commenters. "Dobbydo" left a whopping 26 comments.

In six of these comments, Dobbydo claims that several of the other commenters are really one person, and that that person's motive is to spread filth about the Tea Party Movement:

"Ummm, okay but if you are going to keep changing your name, in a vain attempt to disguise your tinfoil hat and anti CIA Antenna, wouldn't it be more effective if you learned to spell your favorite word correctly?"

"Shear insanity from people from one person with several different names. Get some sleep dude."

"I love all the names and how you mirror each other Doyle, Aristotle....Also nice how you choose to be filthy in your comments about the Tea Party folks. Keep talking amongst yourself."

"No, we really are not on the same side. You are just one of several screen names used by one obviously troubled person. I have expressed no opinion, I would rather see the uncivil filth being posted stops. It is too bad the DLN allows their site to be used this way."

"LOL, see I knew you could not resist, good thing you have all those different names to rely on. No one gets it is really you...Shhhhhh, I won't tell."