With so much going on around town, catch up on what you may have missed.
It’s Friday, February 5. The debate is on over when Mayor Herrin should resign. I break down the pros and cons. Plus, a first look at the new Greystone elementary and is West Goshen planning for a new apartment complex at the site of the Quality Inn? And, downtown West Chester opens yet another restaurant. Grab yourself an “adult” hot chocolate and let’s cozy up over some controversy.
Earlier this year, West Chester Mayor Dianne Herrin decided to try her hand at Harrisburg and ran for PA State Representative of the 156 District. It is the same political path taken not long ago by former West Chester Mayor – turned PA State Rep – turned PA State Senator, Carolyn Comitta. In January Dianne was sworn into her new state office, however, she did not resign as mayor of West Chester.
“I had unfinished business,” Mayor Herrin wrote in Mayor Herrin’s Borough Briefs. “I made a promise to the West Chester Borough residents when I took my oath as Mayor, and I felt a deep and personal obligation to fulfill this promise.”
This includes her role in helping restaff the West Chester Police Department. With candidate interviews well underway she didn’t feel it was the right time to step away from the department, but that’s not the only reason she plans to hold the position until February 18.
What’s so special about February 18?
If the mayor retires before February 18, it would trigger a special election to select an interim mayor in May. If the mayor retires after February 18, there is not time for a special election. Borough Council would select an interim mayor to serve from February until the new mayor is sworn in January 2022 rather than from February until May. While Mayor Herrin argues this is the most democratic and least disruptive path (see her rational below), not everyone agrees.
Two sides to the story
The West Chester Libertarian party recently submitted a letter to the editor of the Daily Local arguing their case against. “Appointing a mayor by going around the voter stacks the deck in favor of the appointed. This helps ensure that the public will not hear from Independent candidates, or third parties,” Stephen Wahrhaftig chairman of the Libertarian Party of Chester County stated in his letter.
There is also a similarly worded Change.org petition started by a group of West Chester citizens concerned Mayor Herrin is not able to adequately execute her duties in Harrisburg and her duties here as mayor of West Chester. They are asking not only that she resign but that the Borough bylaws are revised so, “that no elected or appointed official will hold two Borough, State, or Federal positions at the same time.” So far 162 people have signed the petition.
Your pros and cons list
Pros of Mayor Herrin staying in the office until 2/18:
- She can complete the job she was elected to do (i.e. help re-staff the WCPD)
- The office of mayor will go through a full election cycle with a primary in May and the general election in November. This will allow all eligible candidates to participate in the process.
- It will provide continuity for the WCPD (one leadership change this year rather than two.)
Cons of Mayor Herrin staying in the office until 2/18:
- Mayor Herrin is holding two jobs at disparate locations. One as the Mayor of West Chester and one as PA State Rep in Harrisburg.
- A non-elected official will serve as mayor for nearly 10 months. If Mayor Herrin resigns before February 18, an interim mayor appointed by Borough Council will only serve for 3 months with a special election then held in May.
- If the mayoral race goes to a special election, the local political parties will select the candidates on the ballot. This will limit voter participation in the process.
- The council nominee will have a significant advantage over other candidates should that person decide to pursue the position of mayor full time. History note: To avoid this last time, Borough Council asked that candidates for the interim position not seek the four-year term.
There is nothing illegal about the decision to hold both offices. Carolyn Comitta followed a similar path after being elected to state office. She did not resign her position as mayor until March of the first year of her term as State Representative. She also received similar scrutiny for her decision.
As to what’s next, six individuals already expressed interest in running. If you’d like to put your name in the hat, Borough Council is seeking applicants now for interim mayor.
2050 or bust
In 2019 West Chester, along with six other area municipalities in a group calling themselves the West Chester Area Council of Governments (WCACOG), pledged to move to 100 percent clean energy by 2050. They then pooled their cash and funded a feasibility study. The result was the Cadmus report (thus named after the consulting firm that created it) which included a list of recommended actions needed in order to have any shot at reaching that 2050 goal.
Last month the WCACOG got started on those recommendations with the introduction of the West Chester Area Clean Energy Future (WCA CEF) Campaign. The January presentation also served as an invitation to collaborate with the volunteer team by helping to review upcoming modules or act as an ambassador to your neighborhood, workplace, school or carpool. If you are interested in joining this worthy initiative either on the outreach or review teams, contact the CEF team to learn more.
Learn more about the 2050 initiative here.
Welcome to Greystone
Some good news coming out of the West Chester Area School District this week. First we get an inside look at Greystone Elementary. The newest district school will be marked by large windows, lots of natural light and a fully enclosed indoor courtyard. Greystone will be located off of Greenhill Road, behind the Wawa on Pottstown Pike and helmed by East Principal Kevin Fagan. Greystone will open in time for back to school 2021.
Curious if you’re in the Greystone boundaries? Here’s a breakdown of the redistricting plan.
Also, thanks to COVID-19 the West Chester Area School District is now ahead of the game when it comes to technology accessibility for students. WCASD Technology Director Michael Wagman recently told members of the School Board all district students have been outfitted with technology devices. Putting the district ahead of its original one-to-one rollout plan.
“Our new normal post COVID-19 will definitely be different then old normal going into COVID which was not our normal initially,” he told Board members. I think we can all take that to mean – next year’s kindergarteners are getting iPads.
However devices are only one piece of the accessibility puzzle, broadband connectivity is another. The district is currently providing 170 mobile hotspots to homes in the district and have entered into an agreement with T-Mobile to secure 100 more mobile hotspots at a discounted rate. If you know of any families struggling with internet access, encourage them to reach out to the district’s technology department. While the district is currently assisting 150 families, Michael says he suspects that number without adequate access is higher.
Now was that nice? Last month at approximately 1:00 a.m. an unknown subject just broke a wiper arm off a vehicle parked in the 400 block of East Rosedale Ave. The suspect is described as a white male wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt and kind of a jerk. If you have any information, contact the West Chester Borough Police Department at 610-696-2700.
Watch where you’re going with that. The criminal investigations team of the West Chester Police Department is feeling energized with new staff on the payroll. Last week the team picked up Allieu Sheriff after a search warrant turned up numerous bags of cocaine and paraphernalia at the 202 Price Street location he was occupying. Mr. Sheriff was charged with possession with intent to deliver and remains at the Chester County Prison after he failed to post $25,000 cash bail.
High fives to West Chester Golden Rams softball team who enter the spring season ranked #24 in the nation according to the National Fastpitch Coaching Association poll. WCU is the only school in PA to make the list. You can see the girls in action for the first time on February 28 at home.
Also a hearty handshake to Mike LaRosa who was named West Chester University’s new head baseball coach. Prior to taking the position Mike led the Widener Lions for the past nine seasons. Longtime Golden Rams fans might find the name familiar, Mike was starting second baseman for WCU from 2002-2005. Mike replaces Jad Prachniak who stepped down in the fall.
Staying with the Rams for one more minute, WCU also deserves props for a solid showing in the latest version of the U.S. News college rankings. West Chester University’s online master of Business Administration was ranked 51 nationally. This is among a field of more than 320 eligible institutions. Not too shabby.
Finally, congrats to Color Theory Cosmetic Tattoo on surviving and thriving in their first very eventful year in the borough. In honor of the big day Color Theory is giving away a microblading session to one lucky individual. Follow them on Instagram for the details.
To a micro-charter school in West Chester. The proposal to add a “Skills for Life” charter school at 355 West Market Street was recently shot down (two times) by the West Chester Area School Board. The application was denied, according to Superintendent Jim Scanlon, for failing to “meet any of the four standards” of charter school law.
To the “West Chester Gateway.” Aka, 290 luxury apartments proposed at the site of the Quality Inn at Staunton Road and 202. The idea to redevelop the property was presented to West Goshen supervisors in January. However, after initial interest the idea was shot down this week over concerns of increased traffic in area. While not enough, the project did have the support of Township Manager Casey LaLonde. He told the Daily Local: “Any redevelopment at that property would be favorable.”
Fun fact: the Quality Inn has been the site of over 600 police calls in the past two years according to West Goshen Supervisor Amy Gagne.
Also say goodbye and goodluck to Detective Corporal Scott Whiteside. Detective Whiteside officially started his retirement last week after 25 years on the force. Thank you for all you do!
To a higher sewer bill this month. The Borough’s 15.8 percent sewer rate increase went into effect on February 1. Remember the new rate is $30.11 for the first 2,000 gallons of water used and $7.99 per 1,000 gallons or any part thereof which exceeds 2,000 gallons.
And don’t forget they raised taxes, too. You can get that new rate here.
Also say hello to “adult” hot chocolate. Jitters has a selection of cocoa creations warmed with your choice of Jameson, Kahlua, Baileys – really anything behind the bar that suits your fancy. I’m sure others are offering as well – why not grab a cup-to-go before indulging in a wintery walk downtown?
Finally say hello to Pho Life [insert pho pun here]. The new Vietnamese restaurant is now open at 237 E. Gay Street. Could be a good weekend for some noodle soup.
Pay it forward.
Want to give back to the greater West Chester community and have excellent business sense? The Greater West Chester Chamber of Commerce continues its search for its next president. Former president Mark Yoder stepped down this summer after 11 years at the helm.
Have use for a 30 year-old mural? Well, then I may have just the lead for you. Developer Adam Loew of J. Loew Associates is looking to relocate a work of art by Janet Weight Reed he found inside Wiley’s Garage at 120 N. Church Street. The builder is in the process of renovating the space to make room for new offices and the painting no longer fits the desired aesthetic – but that doesn’t mean someone can’t find use for it. Have ideas? You can contact J. Loew Associates here.
Finally know a kid in need of a good meal? The West Chester Area School District is here to help. Beginning this week, the District will be offering free breakfast and lunch every Wednesday until June at Henderson and Fugett Middle Schools. The program is open to all district residents under the age of 18. Full details available here.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? Assuming this snow lasts until Saturday, we are going to seek out a new sledding hill. I have heard rumors there’s a good place on West Chester University’s South Campus. We will also be ordering wings for an immediate-family-only Super Bowl viewing party. We have been trying to cut back on meat, so I am particularly excited about these wings. If anyone has any recommendations on where to go, shoot me a message.
Also, if Valentine’s Day shopping is on your to do list, follow #wclovelocal on Instagram for some unique local ideas. Like Gemelli’s strawberry and dark chocolate mini gelato cakes, Mercato’s delicious dinner for two or Carlino’s Valentine’s Day Grazing box. (Yes, I’ve selected all food related options. I think we can see where my head is at.)
Mark your calendars:
If you are a fan of the anonymous street artist Cassius King, you can now get your own sticker swag from the master with the Stickeraffiti vending machine. Eight classic designs will be dispensed at random for the low, low price of $1.25. Art for the masses. The vending machine was last seen at Gryphon Cafe but will be making its way around the Borough. It will be heading next to the Beer Mill on February 11.
There’s also still time to enjoy a free virtual concert from the faculty of West Chester University. Next up: Mélomanie featuring Kimberly Reighley on flute, February 8.
Also, Chester County Hospital is offering a variety of free virtual wellness classes throughout the month of February on topics from heart health to cooking with color to hands-only CPR training. See if something interests you here.
Finally set a reminder for February 25. That’s the day West Chester’s Smart Growth Committee will be holding a special meeting to discuss revisions to the Zoning Code. Fun times.
Heading downtown this weekend? Why not book some time at the Painted Plate and make something special for that special someone? They are observing COVID-19 hours. Reservations are needed to stay and paint, but tables are distanced, paints are provided in disposable cups and tables, materials are sanitized after each use.
Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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One thought on “West Chester Weekly News Roundup”
Thank you for a fair viewpoint on the controversy of West Chester’s mayor. We have never doubted the legality of the situation, and we think that Representative Herrin will try to do an effective job in her new role. We believe that she could have pushed for more democratic actions in the Borough, and that the charter should be changed to reflect the spirit of the Pa. Constitution which forbids two state offices being held at one time.