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

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Whoa Buddy!

John Petersen, Chester County's most prolific political blogger, has written an open letter calling for Tredyffrin Supervisor Bill DeHaven not to seek the Republican endorsement in 2009.

DeHaven's offenses:
- He thought it'd be nice to put an ice rink in Wilson Farm Park
- He thinks kids should walk to school
- He does not think the Covered Bridge of Valley Forge should be Tredyffrin's logo
- He said at Monday night's Board of Supervisors meeting that he would not tolerate the dissent of those who oppose Tredyffrin's plan to build more sidewalks.

What's wrong with these positions? Well, for one, they promote exercise. 

But what they really promote is community. During the two years I've covered Tredyffrin, I've watched DeHaven fight for two things: emergency services and community (to DeHaven, a community is not "a nice-looking place place where property values are high and low income people won't bother us").

DeHaven, a lifelong Tredyffrin/Easttown resident, is nostalgic for the Berwyn of his childhood and parenting years. He describes it as a community where people still ran into each other on walks to the store, still knew each other well enough to help each other in times of need, still allowed their kids to play together on the street, and, of course, still supported the local fire company by going to its fundraising fairs. These things still happen, but not as much (I'm told) as they used to.  

Now, regarding DeHaven's strong words at Monday's meeting: yes, he shouldn't have said he won't tolerate those who oppose the township's sidewalk plan. But it's important to understand the context of his statement.

During a discussion about Tredyffrin's long-term vision for sidewalks, Supervisor Paul Olson argued that residents who do not want sidewalks along their properties should have the option to reject them. He argued against "sidewalks to nowhere" (the ones the township is about to build are near schools) and said that sidewalks could disrupt the integrity of private property, add to homeowners' expenses, and lead to the taking down of trees.

At this, DeHaven, who has put a lot of energy into the sidewalk planning process, became visibly irritated. If I had to guess, I'd say that his "no tolerance" statement was directed more at Olson than at the straw man in the audience (no one had shown up to complain about sidewalks, although the TV cameras were running).

So, that's my defense. Be advised that DeHaven is a bit of a media darling. He's outspoken, gives good quotes, and puts personal conviction way above the party line. We reporters like that.

Why doesn't Petersen like him? Who knows. 

Ever since Petersen left the Republican Party and became an independent blogger, he has been attacking notables from both parties. Perhaps he thinks that's the only way to prove his independence?

P.S. DeHaven's dislike of the covered bridge logo ties into his feeling about community. He told me a few months ago that he doesn't like the logo because it calls to mind the Tredyffrin of 300 years ago, not the Tredyffrin he knows and, despite his complaints, apparently loves.

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