The Phoenix Files

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Thursday, July 31, 2008

A PSA from The CDC of Phoenixville

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Almost a new CDC contract

Borough Council’s Community Development Committee Monday evening approved the proposed five-year, $125,000 per year extension of its professional services agreement with the Main Street-Community Development Corporation.
They did so by a 4-3 vote. They did it after one of the most fractious debates on Council floor I’ve seen in a year. And they may replay it: the Committee’s vote goes to a full Council vote again in August.
Sample exchanges and contributions:
Richard Mark Kirkner (D-North) : “We’re committing to expenses when we don’t know where the money’s going to come from.”
Jeff Senley (R-North) : “We know where the money is. It’s in the pockets of people who live here.”
Kirkner again: “This is a vague, open-ended agreement. It is not a good contract. This is premature. I’d hate to lay off a patrolman or a member of the streets department to foster this relationship. No way. No way. No way.
Carlos Ciruelos (D-East) : “I don’t want to talk about letting a patrolman go. That’s the politics of fear.”
For more, please see Wednesday’s print edition of The Phoenix.
Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Recommendations From Wolfgang's Books 7.29.08


Barry Cassidy says in his video that “LERTA is messed up beyond recognition.” I really don’t know what LERTA looks like, so I sure don’t know what it looks like MUBAR. What’s LERTA?
Cassidy’s comment was made in his last report to Borough Council, as presented in a videocast here on July 21.
LERTA is an acronym for the Local Economic Revitalization Tax Assistance Act, a Commonwealth attempt, as far back as 1974, to give local governing bodies an extra arrow in their quivers to attract new businesses.
Under the terms of the Act, municipal authorities can set a schedule of property tax exemption for improved properties in an identified “deteriorating area.” The exemption is for portions of increased taxes attributable to selected improvements to a property, and can be applied over a limited term of years.
The justification is pretty clear: property improvements lead to higher property assessments, which lead to higher property taxes, which can discourage interest in investment.
The Borough’s LERTA program, the terms of which were established in 2003, exempts such property tax increases on businesses in full for one year, then requires 20% of increases to be paid in the second year, 40% in the third, and so on. After five years, then, the businesses would be paying full freight.
The puzzle has been that new commercial property owners in town have been getting billed full freight right away. And it’s been a lingering puzzle: Cassidy reported to Council back in November, 2007, that it was unclear “where the LERTA applications are in the process and if they have been submitted to the school district and county [additional local property taxing authorities]. People qualified for the incentive, and should not have received tax bills as many did.”
We thought then that the paperwork was just stuck on somebody’s desk.
Turns out, Cassidy has discovered and told Ask Skip Friday, that the root problem may lie further back in the mists of, perhaps, the ‘80s, in action or inaction not even of Borough origin. But he was quick to add that he was still researching the matter, and could not yet come to final conclusions about it.
So, watch this space.
Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Friday, July 25, 2008

Recommendations From Creep Industries 07.25.08

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Barry Cassidy's Report from Council July 21, 2008

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Inside Hipster Home's New Location

Friday, July 18, 2008

An Afernoon with Kevin Smith... at The Colonial

Clerks @ The Colonial Theatre
Sunday, July 20 at 2Pm

Despite it's release more than a decade ago, Clerks is just one of those movies I never get tired of watching. I was surprised to find out that I'm in good company on this one, as the Colonial Theatre will be showing it on the big screen this Sunday at 2pm. In case you somehow missed it's debut back in 1994 (which I'll admit to, having been 7 years old at the time), here's your chance to see it in the theatre just as you could have in the late, great nineties. Clerks chronicles one day in the life of two New Jersey convenience store clerks, providing the rest of us a "fly on the wall" type view of the kinds of ridiculous characters and situations overlooked guys like Dante and Randall deal with on a daily basis. One of the best parts is that the movie is broken up into "chapters" named with large vocabulary words that serve as a summary of the upcoming situation. Though it's a classic example of the "if it can go wrong, it definitely will" type movie, you can always rely on Kevin Smith to turn something hackneyed into something genius. This is exactly what brought Clerks (and the rest of Smith's film series) a bit more mainstream success than most independant films. If you wind up liking Clerks, you'll have much more Kevin Smith to enjoy, with movies like Mallrats and Dogma following. Much like 1991's "Waiting", Clerks is yet another day-in-the-life movie that will remind you to keep your cool next time you're displeased in a store, restaurant or any other service establishment.
For ticket prices and show time please go to or call 610-917-0223

Posted by
Christine Gibboni
Christine is a Communications student at Penn State University and a contributor for both and The Phoenix.

Context Is Critical

A lot of people have been talking about the notorious New Yorker cover caricature of Barack Obama dressed as a Muslim and Michelle Obama dressed as a violent Black Panther-style revolutionary, exchanging so-called "terrorist fist bumps" in an Oval Office with a portrait of Osama Bin Ladin on the wall and the U.S. flag burning in the fireplace.

Anyone who knows anything about The New Yorker knows that it is a magazine with a long history of intellectual irony and sophisticated satire. Inside, the label "The Politics of Fear" shows that rather than implying some hidden agenda of the Democratic presidential candidate, this illustration depicts conservative distrust, rumors and even deliberate fearmongering about Obama.

The New Yorker editor's defense of the cover seems to be that critics just don't get it.

I get it. Really. A lot of people get it.

But that doesn't make it less irresponsible.

If this was just a question of offending people, of going too far to make a humorous point, it would be far less of a big deal. Taste and satire often clash.

But what makes it a problem is that, however ironically it was meant, it is too easy to take seriously. People who walk by a magazine rack may not look at individual titles of publications, but images can flash off the pages and grab their attention, maybe not enough to make them stop and buy it, but enough to stick in their mind.

A lot of people are never going to see the caption inside the magazine. A lot of people are never going to realize the irony of the image. A lot of people are going to misinterpret it, and some will probably even misuse it in further cases.

If the title "The Politics of Fear" had been printed on the cover, maybe in a little scroll below the drawing, the caricature would clearly be just that, a humorous exaggeration making a point.

But lacking any obvious context, it deserves the criticism it is getting.

The New Yorker seems to be saying "Our readers will get it -- the RIGHT people will get it -- and to heck with anyone else."
If so, if the magazine is about arrogance and inside jokes: insularity, not enlightenment.

Does it have the right to take this attitude and publish this cover? Certainly.
Does it deserve any respect for doing so? NOT!

Posted by
Patricia Matson
Editor of The Phoenix

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

I assure you, we're open!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Biblio file, again

“The public” has proved again that, presented with some clear statements of fact, its susceptibility to managed rhetoric is diminished accordingly.

The words “eminent domain” have not appeared, at least in any conversation, letter, e-mail or blog post that I’ve seen about the Library proposal since last Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting. The attempts to lay that issue to rest Thursday seem, happily, to have succeeded.

The fact is that the words are phantoms in this case. No one on the Library Foundation wanted to entertain the use of eminent domain. Not for any possible widening of Park Alley, and certainly not for any possible alternative expansion north.

If Park Alley will require widening, the project could do so within an existing right-of-way that is wider than the alley’s “cartway,” the area that’s used now. Not even close to an eminent domain issue.

And architect Tom Carnevale was also clear Thursday that if there was any way the Park Alley width could be handled without impinging on that section of the right-of-way that’s looked and functioned as a piece of a resident’s property, he’d take the alternative.

Council member Carlos Ciruelos (D-East) may be getting his wish: that reason is prevailing over emotion on this issue, thanks to a discerning public.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

A Good Way to Waste Time

For this installment of “Waste of Time”, I have a recommendation for all you inspiring filmmakers and visual artists out there (I’m sure you all send a great deal of time at One of the most obvious ways to take your visual masterpiece from the level of, say, your dad’s VHS home movies to a stunning work of art is the addition of music. Yet the problem is always the same… where can you find music that you can use without ripping off the artist like an ENRON employee with a week to retirement?
There are two answers to this problem. First you can make friends with as many bands and records labels as you can and hope they are just as desperate for exposure as you are. Your second option is
There are several websites like Freeplay, the most popular probably being But I feel that Freeplay has the best variety of music that is sorted into easy-to-browse categories. Despite the myriad of junk sites that clutter the Internet, I’ve found this website to be refreshingly tried, true, and trustworthy.

Posted by
Matthew Byrd

The Blobfest Run Out Reenactment 2008

The Neanderthals Performing at Blobfest 2008

Friday, July 11, 2008

Biblio file

The Borough Planning Commission Thursday evening gave the Phoenixville Public Library Foundation some more homework to do on its proposed expansion project.
Library engineers will be talking to Borough engineers about the scope of a traffic impact study; Library lawyers will be talking to Borough lawyers to clarify the status of the applicant, and to clarify the legal consequences of vacating Second Avenue.
All of those tasks will end with findings of fact necessary to judge the case. However, none of those answers will ultimately determine the conclusion which some seek: to stop the proposal in its tracks.
Nor should they. The Library must expand; that it should expand where it is has been a first assumption of the proposal. The assumption is correct, and the proposal is a fitting solution – in the most important of respects, an elegant solution.
Expanding onto Second Avenue preserves and puts to best continued use the last Carnegie Library in Chester County.
Expanding onto Second Avenue preserves, literally and figuratively, the centrality of the Library in the Borough.
Expanding onto Second Avenue retains the Library’s relationship to Reeves Park – even makes that relationship a more intimate one, appropriate for two highly compatible uses.
To argue that closing Second Avenue interrupts the traditional urban street grid pattern is accurate. But that pattern is no sacred template. As a matter of traffic planning, the proposal is less about closing a portion of a street than it is about redirecting traffic flow.
To recommend keeping the Carnegie Library and looking for supplemental space in “satellite” libraries elsewhere is to accept by definition increased operational costs inherent in, and a consequence of, duplication of facilities, services and staff.
(That last one is an argument for a sort of bibliographical sprawl. But we know what we all think of sprawl.)
Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Inside Kimberton Coffee Roaster

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Sub Hoodz performing @ Creep Industries

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Tinfoil Hat Competition

228 Sells Out

An Afternoon of Late '60's

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Crossword of The Day

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Kenny Gamble’s America

"I Am an American," a new hymn to the nation’s purposes and meaning, had its first major public performance Friday evening at Philadelphia's "Welcome America" celebration. Home-grown: a Father Divine-inspired Kenny Gamble composition, produced and released by Gamble's International Records, recorded with the Temple University Orchestra and Choirs, and with Patti LaBelle.

The production was intended, of course, to complement celebrations of the Declaration of Independence, approved 232 Fourths ago.

I listened to the piece Friday morning before its presentation. It was indeed the Declaration about which I thought as I listened. But one idea nagged, and it was not about what the Declaration said. It was about what the Declaration did not say. It was about what had been excluded.

Among the “repeated injuries and usurpations” of a tyrannous king, this, from Jefferson's first draft:

“He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating it’s most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivating & carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere or to incur miserable death in their transportation hither….”

The section was cut during the two days of Congressional debate on the draft.

We can suspect the sincerity of Jefferson's argument, made as it was by a slave-holding Virginian. We can parse the moral claims and political realities that got the argument in there, as well as those that got it scissored.

But, think of this: had it remained, what difference could it have made? What thorn to the political conscience of a developing nation might it have been, to hasten the time when America, “ always destined to be a country standing for freedom, justice and equality” as Gamble himself had it last week, could be that as a matter of fact?

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Den Around Town Presents: The Phoenix Diner

Beatnik Brown Performing at Phoeixville's Friday Festivities

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Recommendations From Creep Industries 070508

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Domino Theory performing @ The Creep Store

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

What's New at 7.2.08

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Slo Mo performing "Everybody Knows"


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