The Cheltenham Township Commissioners serve as representatives for the people of the community. The business of managing the township involves many complex decisions and choices. It is key that our elected Commissioners clearly communicate about issues coming before them, seeking community input, and then once they make a decision about a vote, share their rationale for doing so. Transparency is key.
In recent years I’ve been frustrated by the lack of transparency in decision making by our Commissioner around significant issues facing Cheltenham. Here are a few examples.
In September 2021, the township abruptly announced the closing of two libraries – the Rowland Community Center and the historic LaMott Community Center, a community that is largely African-American. The majority of the Commissioners, including the Commissioner representing Ward 5 voted to close those libraries.
I believe our library system is part of what makes Cheltenham so special.
Our Ward 5 Commissioner chose to close two libraries. The cause was listed as failed heating systems. Our commissioner has been in office for 12 years. Why weren't the heating systems taken care of during his tenure?
Our current Commissioner voted to close LaMott and Rowland libraries, yet in 2013 voted to keep the Glenside library open because of "the services the library provides to the community." Doesn’t LaMott and Rowland provide important services to our community?
In 2019, Cheltenham Township sold its sewer system to a private company, Aqua Pennsylvania Wastewater, Inc., for $50 million.
Those in favor of the sale argued that it would provide the township with a significant amount of money that could be used for various projects and improvements. They argued that the private company would be better equipped to handle the maintenance and operation of the system, potentially leading to better service and lower costs for residents.
Once the sale was compete and with a glaring lack of transparency, at the suggestion of the Ward 5 Commissioner, our Commissioners decided to use the funds left after paying off the sewer debt to pay off low-interest, long term bonds. Nothing was invested in the community. (Springfield Township, for example, used the funds from the sale of their sewer system to build a state-of-the art municipal complex).
And as to the promise of lower costs, the sewerage rate for Cheltenham taxpayers has increased by 65%.
The Commissioners have a plan to close and sell off most properties owned by the Township.
Hired by the Commissioners, a consultant presented a plan in June of 2020 that would divest of community assets including the libraries and community centers, the Glenside Memorial Hall, the Cheltenham Arts Center, “City Hall” the Administration building, and others. Though a facilities committee was quickly assembled, little has happened besides exposing the condition of our buildings.
This presentation highlights how neglected our buildings have been. There has been no meaningful investment in stabilizing any of these properties in the 12 years the current Commissioner of Ward 5 has served, including the past three years in which he has served as the President of the Commissioners.
Selling off these buildings is shortsighted and leaves no room for us to preserve and grow our vibrant community.
We fought the good fight but ultimately, we were not successful in the Township Commissioner race. While the outcome may not have aligned with my hopes and aspirations, I want to express my congratulations to Dan Norris on his victory.
I want to also extend my heartfelt gratitude to the residents of Cheltenham Township who placed their trust in me and supported my campaign. Your belief in my vision for our community has been humbling and inspiring. My dedication to Cheltenham Township remains steadfast, and I will continue working towards the betterment of our community.