The Phoenix Files

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Friday, August 29, 2008

A letter from Barry Cassidy to The Community of Phoenixville

Editor’s Note: The following is a statement by Barry Cassidy in reaction to the story, “Coppedge blasts Cassidy,” in the Wednesday, August 27, edition of The Phoenix.

I believe that a community is judged by the way they treat their poor, infirm and underprivileged population. The discourse on our difference of opinion is the difference in what is perceived to be the community standard for housing between the Borough Codes Department and the Chester County Housing Authority... Rules apply to public agencies just as they do to private landlords... everyone should be treated the same. I feel passionately about housing and I acted according to my passion.

I personally believe that people are innocent until proven guilty and that they are entitled to clean, safe and well functioning housing. People on welfare or down on your luck deserve to be treated in a respectable manner, regardless of their circumstances.

My experiences working on low income housing in East Baltimore’s Patterson Park section and Philadelphia’s Kensington section has given me a unique perspective concerning interactions with large agencies which provide voucher and project based Section 8 housing. Some agencies are more responsive than others, you have to take it on a case by case basis because each one responds differently.

Barry Cassidy

Executive Director,

Community Development Corp.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

A Good Way to Waste Time

Join me for a trip down memory lane...
Hey guys, remember when MTV (and VH1 for you Sting fans) used to play these three to five minute movies that were set to the music of a band, and then the band was in the movie?
Yes, we all miss the days of Headbangers Ball and 120 Minutes, but those days are gone and by the look of
things they are not coming around again any time soon.
But, cheer up. While Viacom is busy destroying all forms of entertainment over the airwaves, the Internet comes to the rescue again with Web sites like The site’s manifesto states “We hope to give you a real alternative to the corporate propaganda that pervades our society."
The site collects difficult-to-find music videos from artists lucky enough to be labeled as “independent” or “underground."
I particularly had fun going through their collection of Bad Religion videos while doing research in the office for this blog post. Enjoy.

Inside Look: The Fire Department's Fire Safety Training

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Mr. Coppedge's Letter of Complaint to Mr. Wagner

Skip talks with Mr. Guy Ciarrocchi

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Preston and Steve's Granny Grand Prix 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Recommendations From Wolfgang's 082408

Saturday, August 23, 2008


The following is the statement of the Phoenixville Area Board of School Directors regarding the abandoned Kimberton Elementary School project. It was read into the record by Board president Mark Casaday at the Board’s Thursday, August 21, 2008, meeting.

The text, excerpted in today’s print coverage, is reprinted here in full.


At the June 19, 2008 meeting of the Board, we voted to abandon the Kimberton Elementary School project. At that time, we committed ourselves to examining the School District’s involvement in the purchase of the East Pikeland land and what occurred after the purchase. We assured the public then and re-assure the public now that we are committed to (1) recovering lost taxpayer money; (2) holding accountable those responsible for this loss; and (3) avoiding future mistakes.

Since this meeting, consistent with our commitment, we have investigated, reviewed, and examined the circumstances surrounding the acquisition of the East Pikeland land and what happened after the land acquisition. Additionally, we asked the School District’s legal counsel to provide us with legal advice concerning the facts uncovered by this investigation.

On August 14, 2008, we held an Executive Session with counsel, at which time we discussed at length the results of the investigation. We met again tonight to further discuss the information we have gathered since that date. Without revealing matters that must remain confidential or any matters protected by the attorney-client privilege, we have authorized our counsel to move forward against certain parties who we have determined acted improperly and caused the School District and the taxpayers financial loss.

We want to assure you that we have treated, and will continue to treat, this matter seriously, and we have instructed our counsel to take any and all actions necessary to protect our interests, to ensure that the persons responsible are held accountable, and to recover all taxpayer dollars lost. Additionally, we want to assure the public that the investigation will continue and, upon its conclusion, we will review each of its findings and will institute appropriate measures at all levels of the School District to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur in the future.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

The Steel and Slag column last Monday

The Steel and Slag column last Monday called for public audits of the Community Development Corp. I must admit, when that was written, I was thinking of a period from several years ago when there was a long, long delay before an audit was finally released. Reports are now handed over publicly at council meetings, and as a registered nonprofit, federal tax returns are made available online. The fiscal year just ended (June 30) will be audited as usual and that report will be made available later this year.

However, a fair number of negative comments about the CDC contract extension were not really complaining so much about the transparency of the finances as they were complaining that any significant finances at all were being committed by the council.

Skip Lawrence has explained that “for a total of $333,333 over three years, the Borough netted $6 million in county, state and Federal dollars for economic revitalization projects.”

Investing in the CDC definitely seems like a good deal for someone who has the money to make investments. However, prettier streets and increased activity downtown are small consolation for someone with a fixed income whose bills keep rising, or anyone whose raises (if any) aren’t keeping up with the combination of inflation and local tax increases.

Overall, in the long run, it seems likely that the investment in the CDC will help the borough as a whole. But can anything be done in the meantime to make it easier on people who are already staggering under their burdens?

Maybe they can bear it, but don’t ask them to grin.

-- Patricia Matson,
Editor, The Phoenix

Jesse Crater's Storyboards for his winning entry in "The Make a Video for The Domino Theory" contest

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Simple statements on CDC realities (as opposed to fantasies)

The Borough's five-year, $125,000 per year extension of its professional services agreement with the Main Street-Community Development Corporation should be understood in light of the following facts:
1. The agreement is between organizations. It is not an agreement between the Borough and Barry Cassidy.
2. Barry Cassidy is an employee of the CDC. Barry Cassidy is not an employee of the Borough. If Borough Council has something it wishes done by the CDC, the CDC must assign it to its staff.
3. Mary Foote's remarks before Council were exactly correct: Mr. Cassidy serves the CDC "at will." If there's a problem with Mr. Cassidy, that problem should be brought to the CDC, not the Borough.
4. Mr. Cassidy does not make $125,000 per year. The money to the CDC from the Borough is not designated for his salary, but does obviously include it. It also includes the salary of a second employee in the office, and some program funds.
5. The $125,000 is the first contribution in a larger fundraising campaign the CDC is pursuing – with emphasis on corporate funders. It is likely that the 2009 CDC budget will be multiple times larger than the $125,000. Salaries and other expenses will come out of the entirety of CDC operating funds.
6. The Borough's $125,000 for each of the next five years is an answer to questions posed by private money to public: Is the Borough itself committed to revitalization? How? How deeply? Over what period of time?
Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Inside Look: The Latinofest of Phoenixville

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Skip talks with Dr. Maryjane RIchmond, the new assistant superintendent of Phoenixville Area School District

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Three Legged Fox Performing at Chaplin's The Music Cafe

An interview with Three Legged Fox

Blissfully Bad Bulwer-Lytton Blog

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest 2008 results have been announced. Those who are so excited they can't wait to finish my post here can visit

FYI, this is the bad-writing contest named after Victorian novelist Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton (1803-1873), famous for the opening sentence of a novel that began with "It was a dark and stormy night..." or in full,
“It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents — except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.”
He's also the author of the quote, "The pen is mightier than the sword."

The 2008 contest winner has its charms, but it appeared in the AP story in Lifestyles in our print edition already, so I'll quote a couple of other entries instead.

(Miscellaneous) Like almost every other post-Hegelian neo-hipster angst monkey at Evergreen State College in Olympia, Rene flatly rejected the labels society placed upon him. -- Bob Salsbury, Spokane Valley, WA

(Runner-Up) "Hmm . . ." thought Abigail as she gazed languidly from the veranda past the bright white patio to the cerulean sea beyond, where dolphins played and seagulls sang, where splashing surf sounded like the tintinnabulation of a thousand tiny bells, where great gray whales bellowed and the sunlight sparkled off the myriad of sequins on the flyfish's bow ties, "time to get my meds checked." -- Andrew Bowers

And now, just in case anyone gets inspired and wants to comment here with their own blissfully bad Bulwer-Lytton lyrics (the rules specify 50 words or less), I'll get things rolling with my own:

By blogging about Bulwer-Lytton, the editor knew she was inviting invidious comparisons coined by foes of The Phoenix; yet -- like her colleagues who often bowed to journalistic tradition (although lacking the cliched flask of whiskey in a desk drawer) and addiction by slipping out for a smoke -- she couldn't resist.
-- Patricia Matson, Editor

Jean Krack and the Council-Commission Conundrum

Borough manager Jean Krack appeared before the Planning Commission last night. He came with recommendations to improve the efficiency of the work of the Commission, and to improve – perhaps repair – fiery relations between the Commission and Council.
There are three things you should note about last night.
Thing One: Krack was there . (“He wants to come to all our meetings,” said chair Deb Johnston with an air of relief. “He could be a neutral party. He could supplement [what we tell Council] in action memos.”)
Thing Two: Krack had the conversation with the Commission in public session. Not by e-mail to members. Not by phone call to the chair. In public, so the discussion could be public.
Thing Three: Krack’s recommendations were, uh, recommendations. “There are some ideas I want to put on the table… But those are just my opinions, my recommendations. You won’t break my heart either way. It’s input, simply that.”
The temperature of the fire between Commission and Council got lowered perceptibly last evening, by a guy with a very public, very irenic style.
OK, OK, there are four things you should know. Thing Four : As of last night, the Borough is finally on the road to a new comprehensive plan, and to zoning ordinances that have a chance of being useful as they stand, rather than as spindled, folded, bent, or patched by monthly amendment.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Disassociated Press Report

Russia invades Georgia
By Beauford T. Justice and JM “Matt” Byrd
Extra Special to

BULLET COUNTY, Ga. – Georgia Governor Mikheil Saakashvili expressed his dismay Wednesday at the continued Russian assault on the border town of Augusta, complaining to the United Nations Security Council that raging cossacks were, as he spoke to the panel, using their tanks to destroy the fairways at famed Augusta National, decimating the state’s largest source of income and forcing the PGA to ban Russian players from upcoming tour events. Saakashvili told the council that he fears the fall of Augusta will open the whole state to invasion, and irregular troops have been dispatched to the front to halt the Russian advance. The soldiers, each armed with a 30-06 shotgun, two World War II surplus grenades, a Bowie knife, a case of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and their Sons of Confederate Veterans membership cards, have been stationed at the borders of Augusta and have thus far proven to be more than a match for the Russian Forces. Nearly a sixth of the Russian tank division lay ruined along Interstate 20, victim to an onslaught of moonshine Molotov cocktails. Inside the besieged city, Russian tanks attempted to pull down the bronze statue of James Brown that stands in the city’s central square, but were driven away by an impromptu insurgency of Brown’s 138 illegitimate children living in Augusta. In response to the invasion, Georgia has recalled its ambassador, Ted Turner, and has tasked its best drivers with traveling to Texarkana to retrieve enough beer to wait out the invasion and return within 48 hours. Russia announced late Wednesday that in retaliation for the diplomatic affront of Georgia recalling their ambassador, they dispatched special forces troops to kidnap REM. At the announcement that the state’s most well-known rock band had been kidnapped and were being held in a gulag in Siberia, Georgia residents cheered and offered to throw in the B-52s. The Russians declined the offer. The sun fell with the Russians plotting their next advance, with more and more troops and provisions moving in through South Carolina, which has opened their ports to Russia in exchange for the “Peach State” trademark motto if Russia were to win. Upon hearing that the Russians had halted their advance for the day, Gov. Saakashvili, in a rare unguarded moment, blurted to the assembled members of the UN Security Council: “The South shall rise again!”

CDC gets five years

Borough Council Tuesday night approved the proposed five-year, $125,000 per year professional services agreement with the Main Street-Community Development Corporation. But not without objection, and only by a 4-3 vote.

As recounted elsewhere here, the agreement faced stiff opposition from Richard Mark Kirkner (D-North), who argued once again that for the Borough to take on a substantial obligation prior to 2009 budget discussions – not due to begin in earnest until October – and in a difficult economy – “people are struggling” – was, in short, “fiscally irresponsible.” Kendrick Buckwalter joined Kirkner in objection.

Public comment was radically divided as well. Buchanan Street’s Bill Martin did the math: ($125,000 X 5) + ($111,111 X 3) – the first the total of future payments, the latter money already spent – and repeated the total: “One million dollars. One million dollars. For this?” and accused the CDC’s director of “a total lack of professionalism.”

The CDC’s Mary Foote said “None of you can deny the fun, excitement and significance” of economic revitalization. “This [contract] is about organizations collaborating. Barry Cassidy is our [the CDC’s] employee, and he serves at will. If you have concerns about our employee, come see us.”

Mike Handwerk (D-Middle), who voted to approve the contract when it came to vote in the Community Development Committee he chairs, reversed course; Handwerk’s was the third “no” in the 4-3 tally.

Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Barry Cassidy Told You So

Friday, August 8, 2008

Skip talks with Mr. Paul Drucker

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Strunk and White, Spunk and Bite: Part Uno

The introduction of any new technology changes not only the process but the process’s product. Change the means to an end, and you reshape the character of the end as well.
It happened after poor Gutenberg, to take a weighty historical example. But it happened, too, even with the introduction of the lowly pencil.
So, predictably, the addition of the modifier “online” to “journalism” described not just a new means to deliver an old product but opened new questions about the nature of the product, even as that product is willy-nilly being reshaped in daily practice.
Of the many issues with which we contend, the matter of the style and even content of news reporting has taken center stage.
A blogger aspiring to journalism, to me, recently: “What’s the biggest issue you address as you write?” Me: “Voice, tone, perspective – all questions of style.”
So in that regard, a proposition: that it’s time to put away the venerable old style manual known fondly for decades by its ten million (yes, that’s 10,000,000) copy owners simply as “Strunk and White” (The Elements of Style , by Will Strunk and E.B. White, with editions spanning 1918-2000) and open the fresh, engaging pages of Alexander Plotkin’s Spunk and Bite (2005 and 2007).
Strunk and White: “Place yourself in the background. Do not affect a breezy manner. Do not inject opinion. Use figures of speech sparingly. Avoid foreign languages. Prefer the standard to the offbeat.”
Spunk and Bite : “What have we here? A gulag for deviant writers? I have often been on the lam from Composition 101 and its constables, Strunk and White. After all, I want my opinion heard. I want to be offbeat. I want to be so offbeat that crazed readers chase me down alleys.”
More on this to follow, in a Thursday post.
Posted by
G.E. “Skip” Lawrence

Saturday, August 2, 2008

In re: CDC

Two petitions are available online for members of the public to voice their opinions, and record comments, on the proposed five-year renewal of the Borough’s professional services agreement with the Main Street-Community Development Corporation.

The petition opposing the renewal of the CDC contract is here:

The petition supporting the renewal of the CDC contract is here:

Friday, August 1, 2008

Myers Escape

A couple of readers have called to complain about how The Phoenix on July 30 "raked up" the story of how Chad Daher Myers escaped from the custody of two constables in 2005, in a front-page sidebar to a two-part Associated Press series on the need for reforming and standardizing the constable system throughout Pennsylvania. The callers said that retelling that event caused unnecessary pain for his family, at least one of whom still works in Phoenixville.

The reason that The Phoenix added that recounting into the Associated Press article on prisoner escapes is that the original article did not supply details on the other cases. It seemed that including the story of Chad Myers’ escape would serve as a useful illustration for our readers, making it more relevant for everyone.
As to the timeliness of the Myers escape, the story was analyzing an ongoing trend, not a recent flurry of escapes, so the incident did seem an appropriate example, not outdated, even though it happened in 2005.

The Myers family is in a difficult situation, and deserves sympathy. However, The Phoenix has to serve the interests of the entire community. Creating statewide regulations standardizing constables' training and conduct, as well as prisoner transport, would make everyone safer. If publicizing the Chad Myers escape again helps to make that happen, then The Phoenix is doing its job as a newspaper.

Patricia Matson
Editor, The Phoenix
Phoenixville Newspapers, Inc.
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Name: The Phoenix Files
Location: United States

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