January 29, 2009


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The Chestnut Hill Local
8434 Germantown Ave.
Phila. PA 19118
Ph: 215-248-8800
Fx: 215-248-8814
2009© Chestnut Hill Local
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Editor’s Note: The following four letters refer to an executive session of last week’s board meeting of the Chestnut Hill Community Association, which owns the Local. At that session (executive sessions are closed to the public and are reserved for sensitive and personnel matters), the board debated and then defeated a motion to fire the editor. No Local staff members were part of that session, though the basic details, many referred to in the following letters, were verified by several members who did attend.


Fire Local editor at your peril

A letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer last week said: “Newspaper reporting is not perfect, but shining light on the darkest parts of humanity is critical and needs to continue.” Thank you, Mr. Brooks. Mr. Brooks was referring to the ongoing Fumo scandal but I trust it could be applied to any journalistic investigation and subsequent expose.

If it were not for the Local, it is likely there would have been no outing of the irregularities of last year’s elections, no subsequent resignations and no rule changes. Is it coincidental that soon after the recounting of that debacle in print that the editor was almost sacked?

It is ironic that board members who resign often empower replacements with the opposite agenda. If not for the votes of two faithful Local supporters at the midnight hour, the Local as we know it would be history. As we go forward, every vote is critical, as it appears that someone is always counting the available yeas and nays. Leave at your own and our own peril.

I reject the argument that they (the CHCA members who voted to fire the editor) are trying to insure the viability of the paper by intervening and marvel that they can get a coalition of the old guard and the newly elected to impose their way. I am reminded of the warning, “beware the stupidity of large groups.”

We can live without the Local; we can live without the Inquirer and, presumably, without the Washington Post and the NY Times, but not without burden. Each day, each week, the newspapers bring the facts to accompany our morning coffee or train ride. The media bring credit or criticism to government in each edition. Without a free press, government cannot validate its actions to the public.

As the Local goes, so does the CHCA. Take it down at your own risk. Remember and reflect: Of the roughly 6,500 people who buy the paper every week, only 2,200 or so are members.

Ed Budnick
Chestnut Hill


A principled stand

Before another blatant attempt is made by certain members of the CHCA board to fire the present editor of the Chestnut Hill Local as occurred at the Jan. 22 board meeting in violation of the association’s bylaws, the general membership of the community association should be made aware of what is happening. If the membership wants to continue to have an organization that operates with integrity and by the rule of law, then it cannot support such actions as took place last Thursday, which were nothing short of a “kangaroo court.”

As I stated in my Oct. 5 letter to the Forum, what has been going on recently with this administration’s actions against the editor is highly reminiscent of what happened when a previous board tried to wrest control of the Local, resulting in that editor’s resignation in protest. The bylaws definitively state that “… the editor has sole authority to decide what is ultimately published” in the Local and that “Any form of prior censorship expressed or implied is prohibited.” (C3c., Pg. 8, agreed to by the board of directors in February-March 2007, and by the general membership by ballot April-May 2007). Here we are in 2009, despite the enactment of these specific provisions, facing a similar situation. Have we learned nothing!?

I applaud the members of the CHCA board who voted successfully to defeat the motion to fire the present editor of the Local. Only by standing on our principles, upholding our bylaws and observing due process will the Chestnut Hill Community Association survive as a viable and credible organization.

Nancy H. Hutter
Chestnut Hill

Left in disgust

During the past 60 years I have had the pleasure and responsibility of serving on a number of boards and committees on two continents. As a member of the board of directors of the Chestnut Hill Community Association since 2006 I am familiar with the usual procedures at meetings and events.

The meeting I attended this past week on Jan. 22 was troublesome in that some present disregarded the bylaws of the association and important facts appeared to be ignored by some members of the board. Before the conclusion, I left in disgust with the impression that comments made by several in attendance had been prepared and planned to accomplish a preordained goal.

Jonathan Sternberg
Chestnut Hill


Local should not be blamed for economy

Periodically, members of the business community blame the Local for their shrinking sales due to the paper’s negative tone, which alledgedly causes potential customers to shop elsewhere. It is a “blame game” that is unfair. The business community would prefer a paper that serves as a newsletter for its interests. If this were the case, it is my guess the Local’s circulation would drop significantly, as it would not be of sufficient interest to the community at large.

A young, dedicated, hardworking team puts out the Local each week during a countrywide period of economic crises with many newspapers on the ropes.

The Local staff has been increasingly demoralized by the micro-management of CHCA officers and committee chairs along with the recent firing of an 11-year employee, a hefty salary reduction for another employee and the third performance review of the editor in six months.

It is interesting to note that a large percentage of the 54-member CHCA board have business affiliations and tend to see the community association as a corporate structure with power at the top as opposed to a quasi-governmental entity that embraces democratic processes as intended by the CHCA founders.

It is my belief that the real cause of empty stores and declining sales is the result of excessive rents, increased shopping at big box stores, malls, by catalogue and on-line. High rents make it difficult for small, boutique stores to survive. An added problem is that the commercial district has expanded beyond viability. Perhaps some buildings should be returned to their original use as housing.

Virginia Mallery
Chestnut Hill

Soul is a great addition

After so many closings of old familiar businesses in Chestnut Hill in 2008, it’s nice to see a new opening.

The restaurant “Soul” is located at 8136 Germantown Avenue (where Citrus used to be).

My friend Janis and I went there on Saturday night and had a great experience. The staff were all very friendly and helpful and the food from the baked oysters to the apple pie was excellent. Nice simple atmosphere as well. It’s BYOB which helps with the price.

Andrew Ducsik
Chestnut Hill


A good deed rewarded

The other day a friend praised me for “good deeds” I had been able to do, i.e. 60 years as a devoted caregiver/volunteer for victims of cancer at hospices, nursing homes and hospitals. Also, giving shoes to homeless people who were lucky enough to wear the same size shoe as I did. And the man who was shivering in the street one day, when I took off my nice overcoat and gave it to him. And I was glad to see him wearing it three years later.

My friend also suggested that at age 91, I had done all the good deeds possible. But I told him that I looked forward each day to doing whatever I could to be of help to my fellow men.

Good deeds could also have a humorous ending. At Hill House where I live, the oldest resident was 98 years of age. One day she came knocking at my door. She told me she had “ruined her TV set.” Could I find a TV repairman for her? As a retired electronic engineer, I believed I could be of help here.

It turned out that she had ”messed up the controls.” It only took a few minutes for me to correct this, and soon she could watch her soap operas.

“How much do I owe you?” she asked.

“Nothing,” I replied. “I was glad to be of help.”

But good deeds do not go unrewarded. When I returned that day from my chores at the hospice, there was a bag hanging on my door. It contained five nice, ripe bananas — my favorite food.

We have many good people living here in the area. If each of us could do even a small good deed often, the world would be a lot brighter place.

Gerald Samkofsky
Chestnut Hill


Time to act on blighted properties

In February, Pennsylvania’s new “Abandoned and Blighted Property Conservation Act” takes effect. The law allows neighboring individuals and non-profits to take over, then rehabilitate, rent or sell long-vacant buildings that are nuisances and economic detriments to the community.

With our community and business leaders in Germantown, Mount Airy, and Chestnut Hill,  let’s explore opportunities for taking action under this law. Might the city administration assist in deployment of this new tool to help us eradicate the plague of blighted properties in our business districts along Germantown Avenue?

Or will we continue to hold individual property rights so inviolable as to forfeit the health of our communities to tax delinquents, speculators and fiefs?

Brian Rudnick
CHCA Board Member


Councilperson Is no help

I often walk my dog in Winston Park, as do many other dog walkers. I noticed a few days ago that the two sturdy trashcans that were usually there were no longer there.

After a few days, they still weren’t there. Some dog walkers will put their pets’ droppings in those trashcans. Without them, I suspect that some, especially those who drive to the park, will just leave those droppings in place. This eventually would make for both a messy park and a public health hazard.

I rang the local councilperson’s office to lodge a complaint about this and see if she could find out what happened and rectify it. I talked to one staff member whom I obviously confused and I was passed over to another staff member who told me I should use the new 311 call line.  

I guess that number will obviate the need for constituent services from those we elect to help us.  Maybe it could also obviate the need for so many council persons as well.

Anyway, I rang that number and talked to an obviously eager person who tried to help me using a keyword checklist. She couldn’t find anything to help but gave me a ticket number anyway, in case she found out what to do.

This would be funny if it weren’t so sad. Next election, let’s just have one opponent for our councilperson. Had that been the case in the last election, she’d be doing something else and probably just as inefficiently.

E. J. Willard
Chestnut Hill

All apologies

I would like to apologize on behalf of my 69-year-old widowed mother for having the audacity to park her car in the McDonald’s parking lot — without coming in to purchase any of your high quality, freshly prepared food. She was way out of line using your lot so she could walk across the street to the house she’s lived in for 40 odd years.

I have told her time and time again to park at least 6 blocks away so as not to disturb any of the diners in your fine establishment, as well as the diners in the other two restaurants on the block. I am ashamed that she would do such a thing. What if someone needed to park there? How could she make one of your patrons have to walk several more feet to your door?

It’s bad enough that at least once or twice a month she steals one of the spots right in front of her house and takes a spot from one of the staff at Cin Cin.

(By the way, I’d like to take this time to thank Cin Cin for accepting my reservation on Christmas night. I apologize for not being able to wait two hours for you to acknowledge my reservation. My family was quite hungry and unaware of how the whole reservation process works. We wrongly assumed that making one guaranteed a table. I guess next time we’ll have to remember to tell your staff not only to take the reservation, but to HOLD it as well.)

But I digress.

To the person at McDonald’s who was thoughtful enough to call and have my mother’s car towed, I truly thank you. She was way out of line, and richly deserved the $150 fee to get her car back. I can only hope she didn’t prevent one of your diners from further clogging their arteries with one of your Big Macs or fries. At least now you can rest assured that she will never again darken your parking lot.

Ellen O’Neill
Chestnut Hill