West Chester Weekly News Roundup

Sunflowers on N. Franklin Street.

The easiest way to be in the know.

It’s Friday, August 13.  I think we are at that time of the summer when everyone just loses their heads. A respectable long-standing West Chester business is shut out by Instagram. The West Chester Area School District moves its meetings to virtual under the threat of violence and the streets remain un-swept after seven weeks of no street sweeper. And to top it off, the West Chester Halloween parade was cancelled – again. It’s just been one of those weeks. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.

Help a small business: #ReinstateMsMalena

Malena’s Vintage Boutique sells second hand clothes, could sharing others works have gotten her off Instagram? No one knows.

“I wanted to share this story about Malena’s Vintage Boutique,” John O’Brien Executive Director of the West Chester Business Improvement District, wrote in an email. A week ago Malena’s Instagram account @MsMalena was deleted from the platform and all her posts, followers, and contacts were lost. The boutique received an email at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of August 4 and two hours later the account was deleted.

“I’ve lost my portfolio of work, customer contacts, events for my business and life. Not to mention a sales outlet that helps us move our inventory and engage people on a consistent basis.  I can’t even access my messages to reach out to people,” owner Malena Martinez said in an email.

Social access is critical to small businesses. Not only does it help them market their business by building brand awareness, share new merchandise and connect directly with customers it can be a direct source of revenue. Instagram brings between 15-20% of the revenue for the boutique. That’s a huge hit.

After over a week and multiple attempts to reach the company directly, she is still waiting to hear from a real person.

“From what she’s read online and heard from others that this has happened to, it can take up to 8 weeks for the account to be reinstated,” John said. “As a small business, especially during a pandemic with a looming second wave or lockdown, she cannot afford to be shut out of her Instagram account that long. Eight weeks is a lifetime.”

Malena Martinez is a minority female small business owner who has run a sustainable business for 18 years. She has since started a new Instant account called @msmalenasvintage. While the new account is already up to 1,100 followers, it is not yet close to the 9,000 followers of her original account.

Perhaps the worst part of this is she has not been informed on what term she violated, nor does she know if it was an actual violation or some automated bot that flagged her account and it is now waiting in a queue for a human to review.

“As the days pass I am hearing of more and more resellers who are being shut down for ‘copyright infringement’ some selling authentic Louis Vuitton and other high end designer items and others selling rock band tee shirts circa the 1970s. None were at fault of violating and laws and all had thousands of dollars lost due to this,” Malena said.

If you would like to help, follow her new account and share it with your friends. Many of whom probably don’t even realize all the fabulous fashion they have been missing out on for the last month.

West Chester’s Plastic Ban is (finally, almost, nearly – just about) here!

If Borough Council accepts the recommendation from the Sustainability Advisory Committee, the Administration, Communication and Technology Committee and the Business Improvement District (BID), enforcement of the West Chester Ordinance banning the use of single-use plastic bags and straws will begin on January 1, 2022. Fortunately, this is a surprise to no one. 

Since this saga began a little over two years now, let’s recap, shall we? 

The single-use plastic ban was originally passed in the summer of 2019 after a moving presentation on the ills of plastic waste from the students of the Friends School. However, shortly before the vote, the state of Pennsylvania instituted a ban on banning plastic bags so they could study the effects of such bans on the economy. The ban passed Borough Council 4 to 3 but enforcement was paused until the moratorium was lifted. The ban was once again set to take effect a year later but implementation of such bans was delayed again by the state until July 2021 or the end of COVID-19. That ban on the plastic ban ended when state restrictions were lifted this spring, so in July West Chester’s Single Use Plastic ban finally went into effect. So it is now technically the law of this land. However, the ban is not currently being enforced by the Borough. 

West Chester Sustainability Advisory Committee and the BID have been working on a plan and a timeline to enforcement and they have come to an agreement on a six-month education period.

“Our local stores need this time to switch over their current supplies to a more sustainable product and to properly integrate their point-of-sales systems,” BID executive director John O’Brien wrote in his weekly newsletter this week. 

The Basics of the West Chester Single-Use Plastic Ban:

What is banned? 

  • single-use, carry-out plastic bags (think those thin plastic bags with handles) 
  • single-use, plastic straws 

Where are they banned?

The Borough of West Chester. This means your trips to Giant or Acme will not be affected. 7-11 runs would. However, TBD if they are participating. 

What does this mean for residents, visitors to the Borough? 

In theory it means you should bring your recycled bags when you shop downtown and drink those refreshing iced-drinks without a straw. In reality, paper versions of both will still be provided. There will be a mandatory fee of 10 cents for each bag but I’m guessing you are good for it. And if not, you’ve got four and half months to prepare yourself. 

That is leaf build up you see there 

With both street sweepers down, leaves are starting to build on some streets.

If you’ve noticed a build up of dirt and debris on the street that is because the borough of West Chester has been without a functioning street sweeper for seven weeks now. “Seven weeks we haven’t been able to sweep the streets,” said Public Works Director Alberto Vennettilli in this week’s Public Work committee meeting.

So next week Public Works will ask Borough Council for $271,000 to purchase a new street sweeper and repair the other. Where, in our already tight budget, is the Borough going to find $271,000, you might wonder? 

Well, the answer is the federal government. If the measure is approved at next week’s Borough Council meeting, the borough will use a portion of its American Rescue Plan funds to purchase and repair the street vehicles.

So, how exactly, does the purchase of a street sweeper help America recover from the pandemic?    

Well, there is a bit of linear logic here but let’s see if I can explain it. 

Cleaning the streets helps eliminate runoff to the streams and therefore is covered by the Clean Water Act. Anything to do with keeping our streams clean is an allowable use for the federal money under the provision to “make investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure” ergo the sweeper is covered by the recovery funds. 

Not sure you’re buying that? 

“We did the research to make sure this fits within the parameters of the act,” Council Member Bernie Flynn assured the other council members and the public Tuesday night.

Some details about the relief funds:

  • In July the borough received its first payment of $1 million under the act. Another $1 million payment is expected next year.
  • This is money is not included nor does it affect the 2021 budget.
  • There are clear parameters on how the money can be spent including responding to the COVID-19 emergency and/or its economic effects; providing premium pay to essential employees; providing government services cut due to revenue loss from COVID-19; and making investments in water, sewer and broadband infrastructure.
  • All provided money must be spent by 2024.

To date the borough has not any of this money. If approved, the street sweeper will be the first purchase made with the Rescue Plan funds. In the meantime, public works has been picking up sticks and other large debris by hand. And yes, alternate side of the street parking is still being enforced.

Pausing here, so you can let that all sink in and I can remind you to take a second and sign up to receive these updates every week right to your inbox. Easy, peasy. Ok, back at it.

***

“If we elect not to mask during elevated transmission levels, we will undoubtedly jeopardize in-person instruction.” 

Assistant Superintendent Bob Sokolowski

The warnings

Brace yourselves, what you find in this next section might be troubling to some. I know it was for me. 

Come on people, this is not Texas, put the guns away. West Chester Police Department is investigating another incident involving a gun this week. This one took place on Sunday morning at about 2 a.m. on the 100 block of S. High Street. There was the report of an assault in the area where a gun was shown. If you have any information about this incident, please contact the West Chester Police Department at 610-696-2700 and ask for Officer Massey. 

Let’s get ready to rumble. West Chester Area School District shared with parents, students and staff this week that it is planning to recommend a change to its Health and Safety Policy at the next school board meeting. In case you are not following that lead, let me clarify. A change to the Health and Safety Policy means a change to mask requirements.  

Under the current policy, masks are not required by staff or students, indoors or out. 

Under the new guidance, mask wearing will be tied to transmission numbers. If numbers stay low, masks won’t be required. However, that changes as the numbers go up – and if our current status of hovering between the CDC moderate to substantial threat levels remains, masks will be required when schools starts on August 30. This includes on the buses.

“I certainly recognize there are concerns about students wearing masks,” Assistant Superintendent Bob Sokolowski wrote in his letter, “but if we elect not to mask during elevated transmission levels, we will undoubtedly jeopardize in-person instruction.”  

Of course, nothing is decided yet. This is just a recommendation by the administration. The policy change won’t take effect until after the school board has a chance to debate and vote on the measure at their next meeting (August 23, 7 p.m. Note: this meeting is now virtual, see below).  

Keep your distance. In indication I should probably not kid about this and to underscore just how nasty this debate has gotten, all August school board meetings will now be virtual. According to a statement put out by the district, the move was made over concerns for public safety. According to the memo, the district office has received several threats from out-of-state phone numbers and email addresses. These incidents are currently under investigation. This decision, as I am sure you can imagine, has not been well received by all. With some seeing it as an opportunity to put distance between the board and a contentious decision. 

If you would like to make a comment at the August meeting, you will need to register ahead of time. Participants will then be called upon to read their comments in the order they were received. Details on the commenting process can be found here.  

If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Perhaps not coincidentally, also this week the WCASD sent out a reminder of its social media policy. In the post shared on all its social channels the district reminded students (and parents) to “engage in open and respectful dialogue” including no personal attacks, no lewd, vulgar and obscene posts, no harassing comments and no promoting violence.

Perhaps fittingly the post, at least on Instagram, has already attracted the trolls wracking up 63 no comment, comments from users such as @non_helthy_memes and @clipirl.

Accolades.

High fives to Henderson grad Aiden McFadden who is making a name for himself in the USL Championship soccer league (aka professional soccer’s minor league.) As the story goes, Aiden started his professional career after being drafted – despite not registering for the draft. “Usually you have to put your name in the draft so you can get picked,” Aiden told Brotherly Game, Philadelphia’s professional soccer publication. “I didn’t. I was planning on coming back for a fifth year [at Notre Dame].” But because COVID changed rules, Aiden is now tearing it up with the Atlanta United 2. 

Also, back slaps to West Chester University Football which was picked second in a Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) East preseason poll. WCU Football will kick off its season September 3 at Bentley University in Walthan, MA. Their first home game will be on September 18 against Edinboro University. This is also family weekend. As of now, all West Chester University athletic events will be open to the public and allow spectators to be in attendance.

Finally, our sincerest thanks and congratulations to borough resident Al Miller. Mr. Miller, 104, was recently honored as the oldest surviving soldier of World War II’s China-Burma-India Theater, in the South Pacific. Thank you sir for your service.

Hello. 

Who’s ready for lift off? That’s right, say hello again, to flights from the American Helicopter Museum. The museum has been unable to offer rides since 2019 due to COVID, but that all ends this weekend when the first flights will go up as part of the Museum’s annual World Helicopter Day festivities. In addition to rides the museum has a newly restored McCulloch J-2 Gyroplane it would like to show off. 

Tickets to Sunday’s event are available at the American Helicopter Museum website, ride tickets are sold separately and are available on a first come, first serve basis. 

Hey teens (I am sure they are reading), say hello to a new secondary educational option in the borough. If public school’s not your thing and virtual learning is not your thing, you now have the option of a faith-focused education experience. The Riverstone United Christian Academy is opening this fall at 430 Hannum Avenue. According to the flyer that arrived at our door, they are “passionate about empowering young men and women to excel in their God-given gifts and passions.” 

That is a lot of passion there. If you or your student would like to learn more, there is an open house being held on Monday (Aug. 16) at 6:30 p.m. 

Finally, it’s that time of year again. That’s right, say hello to budget season. All you budget hawks mark your calendars for Tuesday, 9 a.m. West Chester Borough Finance & Revenue Committee will be holding a Special Meeting to discuss the 2022 Preliminary Budget.  

Goodbye.

This week we officially say goodbye to Dr. James Scanlon. The West Chester Area School District Superintendent serves his last day with the district today. Dr. Scanlon announced in May he would be stepping down after 12 years as superintendent. During his time with West Chester he has ushered in some real wins while also leading through some tough times. I don’t think anyone needs a recap of the past year so, let’s highlight some of the victories?

Under his leadership, the district has: 

  • seen increases in test scores, as well as more students applying to and being accepted to colleges. 
  • maintained one of the lowest tax rates in Chester County. Dr. Scanlon worked to market West Chester as an educational best buy. 
  • ushered in full-day kindergarten with a play-based curriculum.
  • instituted a 1:1 technology program for middle school, high school students and, thanks to COVID, elementary students.
  • introduced a partnership with West Chester University to offer college credit for students. 
  • launched a 501(c)3 non-profit to help fund innovative projects that connect classroom curriculum to real-world experiences. The West Chester Area Education Foundation now raises more than $100,000 in donations from businesses annually. 
  • launched a Preschool Parents Group to help the District connect with its future students.

Thank you, Dr. Scanlon for your time, effort and dedication to our students. 

We also say goodbye to Tee It Up Golf on Hagerty Boulevard. The 18-hole miniature golf course with driving range shutdown unexpectedly earlier this month Which may be for the best judging by recent reviews – poor customer service, questionable hours, and unmaintained grounds, may not have been a huge surprise. 

Finally, say goodbye (again) to the West Chester Halloween parade. After cancelling, then bringing it back, the borough is once again cancelling the popular event. Staffing issues were cited as the reason for the about face. Instead the borough will be hosting a Trunk-n-Treat event similar to last year. 

Pay it forward. 

Really, is there a better way to pay it forward, while enjoying the splendor of West Chester than the West Chester’s Up on the Roof event? Well, it’s back for 2021. The event will take place on Saturday September 25 on the top of the Chestnut Street garage. What are you waiting for? Get your tickets now.

The freakin’ weekend. 

So how’s your garden doing?

What are you up to this weekend? I will be making tomato sauce – after my little backyard garden exploded with about 10,000 tomatoes but after all that seeding, boiling, peeling, chopping and stirring. I think we are going to go check out Everhart Park’s Movie in the park on Saturday. They are showing the 100 Foot Journey. It should be fun.

I know it’s about 108 degrees out but doesn’t this French onion soup from Barnaby’s look delicious? Always one of my faves. Speaking of cool presentations, who’s ordered the smoked whiskey at Sedona Taphouse? I’m not usually a whiskey drinker but I’m tempted to give it a try just to see how it’s done. And what about the new West Chester Co-op? That is a pretty supermarket. They are now open Tuesday’s 3 – 7 p.m. and are hosting a pop up shop at Levante Sunday from 12-3 p.m.  

Finally, if you were looking for something a little more active how about some ax throwing? According to Main Line Today, West Chester is home to some of the best ax throwing in the area. Also, Uptown is hosting a hip hop pop up event tonight at 5 p.m. at Jack’s Corner (44 West). Wow, pop events – aren’t we hip? And don’t forget it’s CommUnity Day at the Melton Center on Sunday. There will be music, dance performances and the summer basketball league championships. Events start at 11 a.m.  

Mark your calendars:

Aug. 14 – Movie in the Park, Everhart Park, 7:30-10:30 p.m.. Admission is free. Bring a chair or a blanket.

Aug. 15 – CommUnity Day, Melton Center, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Aug. 15 – World Helicopter Day, American Helicopter Museum, 12 – 4 p.m. admission required. 

Aug. 22 – Aug. 29 – WCU Campus Move-in, West Chester Campus, Keep an eye out for parking and traffic restrictions. 

Aug. 26- Dueling Pianos, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $20 in advance; $23 at the door

Sept. 10 – Uptown’s Grand Reopening with the Urban Guerilla Orchestra, Uptown! Knauer Performing Arts Center, 7:30 p.m. Tickets $42-$49 (plus $3 service fee)

Stay safe. Stay healthy and I’ll see you next week. 

New to the blog? Follow along for the latest from West Chester.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s