Blogs > Daily Local Dan

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

Monday, November 16, 2009

West Goshen residents will demand library funding

A group of West Goshen residents will go to the Wednesday, Nov. 18 Board of Supervisors meeting to ask the township to start making annual contributions to the West Chester Public Library.

I'm not sure how much luck they will have. Last month, Supervisor Robert White said that West Goshen would rather support "active recreation." And, he made no promises to a resident who asked that the township reconsider its position.

Here is a link to a library funding petition that, I'm told, is currently circulating in West Goshen.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Bold statement of the week

This week's award goes to Laura Hunter, a West Goshen resident who lives within earshot of the Major Louis H. Close Pistol Range.

In my Nov. 11 article on the unknown vandals who bulldozed much of the range, I quoted Hunter as saying:

"It's not uncommon for neighbors to hear things and not report them."

Hunter continued (I cut this part of the quote from the final version of my article):

"We live in the armpit of the nation. We pay the same taxes as everyone else in West Goshen, but you would not want to live here."

Hunter was explaining that although she and other neighbors heard noises on the night the pistol range was bulldozed, they did not report these noises to police. She told me that, in her neighborhood, it's not unusual to hear odd noises.

This is because several days a week, local police fire guns at the pistol range. And the sewer plant next to the range generates additional racket. (It was at the sewer plant that the unknown vandals found the bulldozer.)

Anyway, after I talked on the phone to Hunter and several of her neighbors, I drove out to their neighborhood. I was expecting to find the "armpit of the nation." Instead, I found cul-de-sacs lined with relatively large homes. "Aah," I though. "Irresponsible real estate developers are to blame."

That's the same conclusion reached by some of the readers who left comments under my article. Other commentors blamed the residents for not properly researching the neighborhood in which they were about to buy houses. Still others, noting that the range is used solely to train police officers, blamed the neighbors for complaining at all. Their arguement was as follows: The West Goshen police keep you safe. If you lived in Philadelphia, you would be less safe, and you would hear more gunshots.


SAM wrote on Nov 12, 2009, at 9:18 AM: " . . . Perhaps these neighbors close to the gun range should move to Philly... Oooo wait, they may complain about the gun noise there also. :-)"

berry8353 wrote on Nov 12, 2009, at 10:01 AM: "Its not a war zone, its a shooting range. It very well could save my life someday. If you want to live in a war zone go to the city. Thats a real war zone. I guess you can say I'm fortunate enough to have a well staffed police department. Thank god . . . "

I have a big problem with comments such as these. I lived in Philadelphia for five years and never heard a gunshot. The one time I had to call the police (my bike got stolen), an officer was at my door in three minutes.

I lived in Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood, one of the many safe neighborhoods in the city. My point is this: suburbanites often congratulate themselves for not living in Philadelphia, as if the whole place were a hellhole from which they'd heroically escaped. Due perhaps to the Philly press's habit of sensationalizing gun violence and the prejudice of the white middle class against rowhomes, many lifelong suburbanites consider Philly real estate off-limits. They never discover the advantages of urban living (there are dozens - a topic for another post). Instead, these suburbanites engage in a generations-long search for houses that have fresh coats of vinyl siding. This search has recently led them to the injudiciously placed subdivisions that are destroying Chester County's landscape. The result: Philadelphia, which has many nice, already-built houses, suffers a lack of upper-income residents. And Chester County suffers a glut of tasteless subdivisions (with the attendant traffic clogs and local tax increases).

Many Philadelphia residents have it far better than the unfortunate residents of the homes that surround the Louis H. Close Pistol Range. Pistol reports, endured day after day, creep into the subconscious and begin to fry the mind. If you are subjected constantly to this traumatic noise, it's easy to believe you live in the armpit of the nation.

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Dr. White was right

It's true. West Chester Borough spends more on its library than on its roads.

At least, in 2010 it might.

Robert White, a dentist, West Goshen Supervisor, and frequent utterer of controversial statements, told me last month that his township has no intention of giving an annual contribution to the West Chester Public Library. Then, he delivered this zinger:

"West Goshen decided to spend its money on active recreation and fixing roads. The borough must just spend its money on the library, because its roads are atrocious."

Afterwards, he said something like, "And you can quote me on that."

Well, Dr. White was right about the borough's spending priorities. In its 2010 proposed budget, the borough has set aside $105,000 for the library. However, citing Great Recession-related financial difficulties, borough officials tentatively canceled $99,000 worth of road milling and resurfacing projects. This brings the total money the borough will spend on milling and resurfacing to $0.

I'm not saying the borough is wrong to support the library or to cancel the road repairs. West Chester's roads don't bother me. And, if I had to enumerate the things that give my life meaning, books would make my list. Smooth roads wouldn't. (Rough roads might ... but I'm not sure I can succinctly explain why.)

The borough's 2010 budget contains $156,000 to purchase two dump trucks. These will be used to replace the worn out ones that now collect garbage, plow roads, and, if I'm not mistaken, spread road salt. So it's not as if the borough is spending nothing to make its roads easier to drive on. And if Borough Council President Sue Bayne gets her way, the borough might forgo purchase of one of the trucks and use the money to instead complete a few paving projects.

Re: the library funding, Dr. White said that West Goshen provides to the greater West Chester Area ample parkland and $300,000 a year worth of recreation programs. And, he said, residents already pay to support the county library system. Therefore, he said, no contribution to the West Chester Library is necessary.

The West Chester Public Library asks the municipalities in its service area to contribute a dollar annually for each of their residents. West Chester Borough, which has 18,000 permanent residents, contributes more than $100,000. West Goshen Township, which has 20,000 permanent residents, contributes nothing. The county also assesses a library tax, but revenues from this tax go primarily to the big library in Exton, not to the smaller libraries throughout the county.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

Best Places to Live

West Goshen Township made Money Magazine's 2009 list of best places to live. Since I became sentient, "best" lists have puzzled me.

Why? Because though they are usually compiled by uninformed and overworked hacks, the general public treats them like scripture.


According to Money, West Goshen has a population of 8,800. According to the 2000 census, its population is around 20,000. (The 2010 number will be higher.)

According to Money, West Goshen's virtues are: quiet suburban feel, nearby shopping centers, an hour's proximity to Philadelphia, four parks (one with an ampitheater), a fitness boot camp for women, field trips for teens, and a summer bicycle parade.

Which means, it sounds like all upper middle class suburban towns. It also sounds like almost every town on Money's list.

The giveaway that Money's list should be taken with a grain of salt is not the population count error; rather, it is that Money overlooked West Goshen's proximity to West Chester Borough - West Goshen surrounds the borough on three sides! The borough is unique enough, I think, to merit mention. It has a university, it is the county seat, it has a ton of historic buildings, and it has one of the best downtowns in the Philadelphia suburbs ... certainly its downtown is more attractive than the nearby shopping centers? And, hey, isn't a pretty big chunk of the university in West Goshen?

West Goshen Township is a nice enough place. I have no qualms. The problem is "best" lists - fortune cookies are more informative.

I write this post because, during yesterday's meeting of the West Goshen supervisors, a woman who was unhappy about the township's plan to take a park and make it into a public works garage used the Money ranking as ammunition. I got to the meeting just as she was launching into:

"Money said we are one of the top ten best places to live in the country. They said it was because of our parks. If we lose one of our parks ..."

And so began a heated discussion between the resident (whose name I did not get) and the township officials.

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