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It’s Friday, May 5: Hello, West Chester, it’s been a week. The last seven days have brought to light a series of disturbing events, including a stabbing by a high school student and multiple stolen vehicles crashed on Gay Street, that led many to lament the fall of West Chester. So just how bad has crime gotten? I went to Police Chief James Morehead for the facts. Plus, candidate profiles and restaurant inspection reports. Chinese tonight? Nah, maybe not. Who’s ready? Let’s catch up.
2023 Candidate Guide
This year’s Pennsylvania primary election will be held on May 16. While there are no high-profile national races this time around there are a number of important local elections you should be paying attention to. If you haven’t received a sample ballot in the mail – which I have not – you can find the information online at Chester County Voter Services. It’s a 462-page pdf document. (Convenient, I know, if like me you thought hey, I’ll just search the document for “West Chester” until I get to the correct batch of ballots. Well, sorry. Sarah B. Black of West Chester Borough is running for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and her name appears on roughly 250 of the ballots. Same if you live in West or East Goshen.)
So, first, a look at what’s on the ballot (try searching “West Chester 1” to at least get close to the correct version). There are a couple of PA Supreme Court appointments, a Commonwealth Court judge, and five positions open on the Court of Common Pleas. While the PA Supreme and Commonwealth Courts hear cases at a state level, the Common Pleas judges hear cases from around the county.
There are also two County Commissioner positions on the ballot, District Attorney, Sheriff, Prothonotary, Register of Wills, Recorder of Deeds, School Board, and West Chester Borough Council. Due to time and my current status as a one-woman publishing machine, I have decided to focus on the open Borough Council seats and School Board Region 1 this week. However, if I can I will try to build out candidate profiles for some of the other races over the next week.
West Chester Borough Council
There are three seats open on Borough Council in Wards 2, 4, and 6. Ward 4 covers High Street east to Bolmar and Rosedale north to Magnolia. Ward 2 neighbors Ward 4 and includes Magnolia north to just below Chestnut Street and High east to Bolmar Street. The 6th Ward includes downtown West Chester (just below Miner to Chestnut) and Bradford Avenue to High Street. Not sure in which Ward you live? You can find that here along with your current representative.
Ward 2 – Running in Ward 2 and replacing current Borough Council Representative Nick Allen is Bryan Travis. Bryan and his family have been living in the borough since 2006. “It’s the place I’ve lived in the longest. I consider it home, and I’m here to stay. As such, I’ve increased my involvement in our community to help shape its future,” he said. Read more about Bryan’s thoughts for the future including his support for the trees and how to improve parking.
Ward 4 – Nicole Scimone is running in Ward 4 and replacing current Borough Council President Michael Stefano who is stepping down. As a former QVC employee, Nicole has worked and lived all around the world. “I always come back to West Chester,” she said. She praises the town for its walkability, restaurants, and plethora of events. “It has everything I need and that makes me happy.” Doesn’t mean it can’t be improved. Click here to learn more about where she’d like to start.
Ward 6 – Current Council Member Bernie Flynn is running for re-election in the sixth ward – or as he puts it, “the sweetest ward in the borough.” Bernie believes his institutional knowledge will be an asset to the newer members of council. “The enthusiasm is still there to work on issues and my health is in a good place. Plus the residents in the 6 ward have asked me to continue, which is most important,” he said. That and there is so much to do. After shepherding through changes to the pension investment and the borough vehicle purchasing programs, learn where Bernie thinks we should go next.
A note on the borough races: All of the candidates are running unopposed and they are all running as Democrats, so if you are a registered Republican or Independent you’ll have to wait until November to see these names on the ballot.
West Chester Area School Board
There are three school board regions with open seats and all of them impact West Chester residents in some way. Region 2 covers East Goshen and has two open seats, Region 3 covers East Bradford, West Goshen, and Westown and has one open seat. Finally, Region 1 covers West Chester and West Goshen and has four candidates vying for two open positions.
Region 1 candidates, you will need to pick 2.
(You can find a little more on the Region 2 and 3 candidates here.)
Appointed by the board member in March to replace outgoing member Kate Shaw, Alex Christy is technically already on the School Board, but he’s likely new to you. Alex grew up in the district and worked for a while as a substitute teacher here as well as with the Special Olympics. He now works for State Senator Tim Kearney. He praised the district for exceptional individual student achievement but believes more can be done to improve the big picture. “In all those victories,” he said. “I hope the district continues to focus on closing the achievement gap, increasing teacher support, and growing community collaboration.” Read more about his views and why he sees his work with the state legislature as an asset.
Katy Frey lives in the Borough with her husband and toddler daughter. She has a background in social work and believes the District could do a better job providing access to mental health – a sentiment echoed by parents in a recent district survey. She also promises to bring a new viewpoint to the board. “If elected, I would be the only school board member from Gen-Z. I think it is very important for the school board to be made up of folks from a diverse set of backgrounds,” she said. Read more about Katy’s priorities for the district.
Robert Rafetto, former owner of the Dilworthtown Inn, doesn’t have children of his own but he has employed many of the district’s kids and has seen firsthand how they are being prepared for the workforce. He also believes his skillset as a restaurant owner puts him in a unique position to bridge conversations over broken divides. “Throughout this whole conversation, we have not talked about politics. We need to focus on the kids, parents, teachers, administrators – and the taxpayers,” he said. He’d also like to see the district return to the basics. “We have a lot of good people but we have to academic performance back up.” Learn more about Robert’s priorities for the district and why metrics matter.
Now retired, former Learning and Development analyst Nick Spangler has seen three generations of his family go through the West Chester school district. He continues to be impressed by individual achievements but worries about academic performance overall and what more the district can do to create a safe learning environment for students. “If [students] are in an environment where kids are being bullied, they don’t want to come to school,” he said in an interview. Read more about Nick’s priorities for the district including when to review curriculum.
Restaurant Inspection Reports: April
After a slow month in March, it appears the Chester County Health Inspectors are back at it. Although, perhaps not with the enthusiasm of earlier this year. Included this month on the list of establishments offending the health department are East Goshen Elementary School, Highland Orchards, and King’s Garden Chinese on High Street. Not on the list? Baranbys. But still, I’d watch what I ordered when there.
Pepper Mill, out, 8 violations, including sandwich fixings not stored at adequate temperatures, improperly mixed sanitizing solutions, and heavy grease build-up and excess food debris behind the grill and deep fryers.
King’s Garden, out, 18 violations, including employees not washing their hands between tasks, food stored in grocery bags, raw meat left uncovered in the refrigerator, milk held beyond its expiration date, and an employee’s toothbrush and toothpaste found in the kitchen area.
Highland’s Orchard, out, 10 violations, including custard pies not being kept cool enough, mechanical dishwashers and handwashing sinks not getting hot enough, and a list of cleaning to-dos for the washing and baking rooms.
East Goshen Elementary, out, 5 violations, including “non-food contact surfaces not cleaned at a frequency to preclude accumulation of dirt and soil.” Perhaps that is what led to “ants in the dry storage room and hallway from dry storage room to the exit door.” I know summer is near, but we are not there yet. Let’s finish strong, folks.
DK Diner, out, 3 violations mainly for having no designated mop sink and using regular-old, non-shatterproof light bulbs in a dining room light fixture. Don’t think that’s a problem? And it’s not until there’s glass in your food.
Primo Hoagies, West Chester Pike, out, 6 violations, including damaged cutting boards, heavily soiled baking sheets, and a dirty oven.
Qdoba Mexican Eats, West Chester Pike, out, 7 violations including lots of things in need of cleaning – fountain soda dispenser, coffee pot, oven, grill, steamer, floors, and walk-in refrigerator.
Barnaby’s, in, 11 violations. Despite all the violations, Barnaby’s was technically not out of compliance this month so I won’t go into the full report. However, I did think it worth noting the outdoor bar was chilling bottles of juice in the same ice it was using for drinks. Just keep that in mind when ordering.
Finally, Aldi’s on Paoli Pike is coming soon, but perhaps not as soon as they’d like. The discount grocer failed its opening inspection last week, presumably for jumping the gun a bit. Among the violations were refrigerators that were not turned on and floors “actively being prepped and sealed at time of inspection.”
You can find all reports here. Search by location for more detail.
Bad nights, promising big picture. You’ve probably heard by now about the dual accidents involving two separate stolen vehicles that occurred on Gay Street on Tuesday morning. If you haven’t, you can get caught up here, here, or here. Days before that, news broke of an evening in early April, when a 21-year-old female was reportedly stabbed multiple times by an East High School student. No reason was given for the attack which occurred behind the Panera on Five Points Road at about 9 p.m. on April 4.
The shocking occurrences have led many people on social media to lament skyrocketing West Chester crime and praise their fortuitous exits years prior – which got me wondering, exactly how bad has the crime in West Chester gotten? I reached out to Chief James Morehead for answers and he pointed me to this page of the borough website – turns out West Chester crime data is shared each year via the Police Department’s annual report.
It also turns out, if you thought ten years ago was the borough’s sweet spot when it came to crime, you’d be pleasantly surprised today. According to the data, West Chester crime has been on a downward trend since 2005 (the earliest data provided) until 2020. As businesses began reopening and students returned to campus it has rebounded some. Last year did see another 5 percent bump in Part 1, or serious crimes, of which, vehicle theft is included.
“Serious crime has been reduced by 54% since the year 2000, but I must point out that Part I crime remains on the decline compared to pre-pandemic numbers. This crime reduction should be significant to our varied citizenry,” the report states. “This is an important statistic for individuals considering moving their families and/or businesses into our community(s) as it is a statistic that can be compared nationwide against other municipalities of comparable size and demographics.”
According to the figures, motor vehicle thefts were down 31 percent in 2022. The full report can be viewed here.
Don’t shoot. While it has yet to be spotted here, Pennsylvania police are putting out the warning of an “assassination” game being played by high school kids across the county. The game is essentially a large-scale water gun fight, but teenagers dressed in dark clothing sneaking through neighborhoods at night carrying sometimes realistic-looking plastic weaponry has police worried. So, if you see a dark figure streak across your backyard or what appears to be a gunfight breaks out in the alleyway, take a breath and remember it could all be in good fun. Despite what the fear-mongers would have you believe, we still live in a relatively safe community.
Justice is served. A sentence was handed down in the case of a West Goshen woman who conspired with her lover to kill her husband.
It’s all fun and games until the EMTs have to come to the rescue. I have no idea what happened but apparently, the fire, police, and EMS teams were called to Everhart Park last weekend for a rescue. Judging by the pictures, it was entrapment on the swings. Hopefully, everyone’s all right.
A round of applause this week to Champions Founder Miguel Nieves. The serial hair-care entrepreneur learned he was a finalist for a Barber Grammy (who knew?) in the Entrepreneur of the Year category. His original nomination came on March 26. He has since advanced to the finalist round of six. Now a new round of voting has opened. If you would like to vote for Miguel you can do that here. Winners will be announced on May 20 at the CT Barber Expo in Uncasville, CT.
Also, high fives to filmmaker Kris Theorin on winning Best Pennsylvania Filmmaker at the 17th annual West Chester Film Festival last weekend. Kris is the lead animator for one of our great Community Sponsors – Something’s Awry Productions. You can see the winning film here. (P.S. I told you.)
It was recently noted by a school board candidate that he thought the district might be putting too much emphasis on extracurricular activities, and not enough on academics. Well, this week some students are excelling at both.
High fives to West Chester East senior Saanvi Bhatia who was recently named a semifinalist in the 2023 U.S. Presidential Scholar Program. Saanvi was one of only 16 students in the state and 628 nationally, to receive the distinction. The all-around program recognizes students who are strong academically and artistically, are accomplished in career and technical fields, and exhibit leadership, character, and involvement in their school community. It’s a high bar.
“Saanvi Bhatia has undoubtedly left her mark on East High School and our community,” East High School Principal Stephen Brown said of the National Merit Finalist, House of Hope Concert coordinator, Melton Arts coach and leadership coordinator, WCASD comprehensive planning committee member, and 2023 class secretary. Does the girl sleep? Maybe she can relax in college. Saanvi will be attending Stanford in the fall.
Presidential scholar finalists will be announced later this month.
Also, kudos to Brooklyn Callaghan and Joseph Iozzi whose website presentation “Susan LaFlesche: Doctor. Reformer. Trailblazer” placed second at the National History Day State Competition in Scranton. The duo will head to nationals next month in Maryland.
And in purely extracurricular achievements, but I mean really extra, a round of applause this week to:
East violinist Daniel Cheng was named concertmaster of the All-State Orchestra. A distinction that means of the hundreds of violinists who auditioned for a spot on the state orchestra – Daniel was the best of them all. This is the first time a WCASD student has been given the distinction of concertmaster.
Making this distinction possible? The District’s commitment to musical growth. WCASD was once again named a Top Community for Music Education. It was one of only 830 school districts in the country to receive the distinction.
Rustin’s Laine McGurk was named First-Team All-State in Basketball by the Pennsylvania Sports Writers. According to one said writer, Laine was one of the state’s “most prolific” scorers averaging 22.5 points per game. And while we’re here, keep them up for –
Rustin’s Coach Lauren Stackhouse, the Girls’ Basketball leader was named Coach of the Year by the writers.
West Chester East High School’s Indoor Guard on their first-place finish at the Tournament Indoor Association’s Southeastern Pennsylvania Region 3 Championships. This is the fourth year in a row the Viking Guard has taken first in the competition. Is that a dynasty?
Looking ahead: Topped ranked WCU women’s lacrosse and softball teams head into conference tourney play this weekend. Heading to either Championship? WCU would like to remind you championships are cashless in 2023. You must buy your tickets online.
Finally, cheers to being in it for the long haul. According to the finance website Insider Monkey, West Chester is among the best places to live in the state – once you’re over 55. Points for our location to major arts centers, like Philadelphia, and access to top-rated health care. I suppose that’s the switch. For the first 20 years you look at schools; the next 20 it’s hospitals.
So who’s dragging this week? Good because we are getting ready to say hello, to yet another coffee shop. Lacava Coffee Company, formerly Calabash Coffee, is opening a shop on Gay Street. According to their Facebook page, they supply the “best quality retail roasted coffee” from Central and South America – and soon, it appears they will be brewing it too. The Facebook page also says something about chocolate. Wonder what that’s about? Anyway, the new opening date is June 2023.
In the meantime, you’ll just have to settle for Gryphon, Turks Head, Mayday, Cathy’s Coffee, Carlino’s, or one of the half-dozen bakeries or breakfast places.
Also, newly opened, and an itch I would have thought we scratched, Hair Collection, a modern-day barbershop from the folks behind WC Barber Supply. The new location is just down the street at 236 W. Market, the former home of the Spicy Pig.
So, we’re a well-groomed, slightly jittery bunch – there are worse things we could be.
Finally, it’s hello again to the West Chester Growers Market which resumes its summer hours this week. That means instead of every other week, producers will now be out every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. with their wares.
WCU Marketing students said goodbye this week to the promise of no final exam and As for all after Jason Kelce passed on the chance to speak to the class. Adjunct Professor of Marketing Thomas Elmer threw the challenge out to his class via social media – get the Eagles’ Center to speak to the class about his involvement in Underdog Apparel, a company that’s investing 100 percent of its proceeds in programs that improve the lives of Philadelphia youth – and grades and exams would be on him. The message made it all the way to Kelce, but the Pro Bowler demurred. Tweeting back, “Good luck on your exam everyone!!”
Now onto someone who will be saying hello, to the Eagles’ Center. Congratulations to West Chester University grad Ronell Williams on being named to the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff. The former Golden Ram All-American will assume the role of the new “nickels coach” working in the defensive backfield.
And finally, goodbye meatballs, hello, ribs. That’s right, Split Rail is making its seasonal switch of pork promotions. Announcing this week their new Monday Night special is a half rack of ribs with slaw for $14 and if things are feeling especially tight this month, you can wash it all away with a $3 High Life.
Pay it forward.
This week the Surgeon General issued a warning: the U.S. is facing a public health crisis of loneliness, isolation, and lack of connection. According to the statement, loneliness can increase the risk of premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.
“Given the significant health consequences of loneliness and isolation, we must prioritize building social connection the same way we have prioritized other critical public health issues such as tobacco, obesity, and substance use disorders,” U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy said in a statement.
Important, sure, but why am I including a national advisory when I routinely omit news items one zip code over? The solutions, my friends, are all right here. The Surgeon General’s Advisory recommends:
- Strengthen Social Infrastructure: this includes strong parks, libraries, and playgrounds. (I’ll have more on the library’s future plans next week.)
- Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies: accessible public transportation (Bryan talks about this in his interview) and paid family leave.
- Mobilize the Health Sector: The Brandywine Hospital closure in January 2022 left Chester County without a behavioral health hospital. Mobile mental health crisis units are part of a plan to close the services gap. They are expected to open in July
- Reform Digital Environments: Don’t let digital connections replace real-life ones. (I am trying to move away from the negativity of social media myself. If you haven’t signed up to receive this newsletter by email, do it now!)
- Deepen Our Knowledge: Ok, this one is on academic research and a bit out of our hands, but a research university like West Chester will be key in advancing our understanding. WCU has a recent study on the natural environment’s effect on loneliness, and another on the built environment’s impact.
- Cultivate a Culture of Connection: Now back to one that’s all hands on deck.
Finally, in a great example of creating a culture of connection (and safety) the West Chester Fire Department teamed up with the American Red Cross last weekend for what they are calling a “Sound the Alarm” event. During the day-long initiative a team of volunteers installed 88 smoke alarms in homes throughout the borough.
Another great way to build connections? Volunteer your time. The Downtown Business Improvement District along with the West Chester Green Team is looking to expand the Chestnut Street Pollinator Garden. To do so, they set up a volunteer day on May 13. Activities to include planting things. Fun starts at 9 a.m. Sign up here.
The freakin’ weekend.
What are you up to this weekend? We have a First Holy Communion on Saturday. The mini-suit is pressed and ready to go. Does anyone know what is a good gift for these things? We have a couple this year and so far we haven’t been inspired with any ideas that won’t be brushed aside upon receipt. We’re leaning toward cash in a card. Also, this is the weekend, I garden. But, first I margarita.
Yep, today in Spanish is Cinco de Mayo. If you want in on the action, Taco Mar is the place to go according to PA Eats’ list of top taquerias in the state. The Gay Street eatery was one of just six places selected in a highly competitive Southeast region. If you are willing to leave West Chester’s boundaries, Downingtown’s Estrella also made the list. And bonus, they make a solid margarita.
Not on the list, but offering a complimentary margarita if you dine in, is El Limon. We have yet to go, but they have solid reviews and if you’re tight on cash I would say a complimentary margarita trumps a $3 High Life. Finally, on-theme dessert and for you horse-racing fans, Derby hats (it can’t all be about Cinco de Mayo.)
Also, don’t forget, tonight’s the spring Gallery Walk and Gay Street is closing!
A special thank you to this week’s Community Sponsor the Look Around Music & Arts Festival. This all-day festival was started last year by West Chester musician Nikki DiGiorgio of onyx&honey as a way to raise awareness of the local arts scene while also hanging outside enjoying a lot of really great music. Follow them on Instagram for the latest concert details!
Look Around Music & Arts Festival
The Look Around Music & Arts Festival is an all-day grassroots event benefiting the West Chester music and arts community. Their primary focus is to give local creatives a platform to raise the consciousness of the community. Live music, 40+ vendors, cash prize costume contest, food trucks, culture, networking + more!
View a list of all our amazing Community Sponsors here. Want to get your business out in front of this wonderful community? I don’t blame you. Community Sponsorships are full but limited ad space remains in May and June. Send me an email if you are interested and I’ll get you details.
Enjoy getting these updates each week? Enjoy not having to click through a dozen annoying pop-up ads? Me too. I figure if regular readers contribute just $10 a year we can keep the updates coming and the ads limited. Plus, new subscriber perks coming soon.
Mark your calendars:
- May 5 – 8 – Gay Street Open Air Market Returns, Gay Street, Friday morning through Sunday night.
- May 5 – Spring Gallery Walk, Downtown West Chester, 4 – 8 p.m. Come explore the vibrant art scene in Downtown West Chester. This self-guided art tour celebrates the thriving community of artists and galleries that make greater West Chester their home. View a map of exhibits here.
- May 6 – Yoga in the Park, Everheart Park, 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Join Deanna Stissi of Triple-Threat Fitness in a special outdoor yoga event. Open to all ages and fitness levels. Classes are $10/person. Pre-registration is required! Click here to register.
- May 6 – Kennett Run, Anson Nixon Park (Kennett Square), 9 a.m. 10K race starts; 9:20 a.m. 5K race starts. Yes, this event takes place outside of West Chester but proceeds are going to support booster programs in the Chest-Mont league – just designate your school as part of registration. As event coordinators put it, “sports equipment is expensive and every little bit helps.” Cost: $45
- May 6 – STEM Fair, West Chester Public Library, 10:30 – 12 p.m., Young scientists and engineers will get their hands on West Chester Public Library’s new STEM Kits, exploring topics such as weather, magnetism, circuitry, water conservation and construction
- May 6 – H.O.P. (Helping Other People), Levante Brewing, 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Enjoy live music and a free pour with 5 canned goods or a $10 donation to the West Chester Food Cupboard.
- May 7 – Terrarium Building Workshop, Pine + Quill, 23 N. Walnut St, 1 – 2 p.m. Make your own little ecosystem for yourself or as a gift.
- May 7 – Kildare’s Karaoke Night, 18 W. Gay St, 10 – 11:30 p.m.
- May 7 – “A Musical Menagerie” – Chester County Concert Band Spring Performance, Fugett Middle School, 2:30 p.m.
- May 9 – Saloon 151 Quizzo, 151 W. Gay St., 8 – 10:30 p.m. Every Tuesday night join DJ Romeo at Saloon 151 for quizzo! The top 3 teams win prizes in each round!
- May 9 – Off the Rail Karaoke, Split Rail Tavern, 15 N. Walnut St., 9:30 – 11 p.m. Join Roxanne Rohls and Ophelia Hotass for a night of singing, drinking, and drag every Tuesday night.
- May 10 – Saloon 151 Music Bingo, 151 W. Gay St., 9 – 11:00 p.m. There are 5 rounds, which means 5 chances to win a gift card!
- May 10 – Ryan’s Pub Karaoke Night, 124 W. Gay Street, Includes: wings and drink specials.
- May 12 – Henderson Senior Prom
- May 12 – 14 – West Chester University Graduation Weekend
- May 13 – Yoga in the Park, Everheart Park, 9 a.m. – 10 a.m. Join Deanna Stissi of Triple-Threat Fitness in a special outdoor yoga event. Open to all ages and fitness levels. Classes are $10/person. Pre-registration is required! Click here to register.
- May 13 – Red/Blue Workshop, East Bradford Township building, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. The workshop helps participants understand how the experiences and beliefs of those on the other side of the political divide shape their political perspectives. Registration required.
- May 13 – Polinator Garden Planting, Chestnut Street Garage, 9 a.m. – 1 p.m. Volunteers needed to help plant plants.
Psst. Like to plan ahead? Visit the new Calendar page. I have events through August!
That’s it. Stay safe, stay healthy and I’ll see you next week.
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