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All the news that doesn't fit in print
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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    The Pottstown High School Show Choir is introduced by teacher Thomas Marsden during the Jan. 23 2017 school board meeting during with the choir performed "Love Train" for School Board Appreciation Month.

    It helps, if you're only going to have just one meeting in a month, to have five pages worth of business be lumped into one vote.

    But then, I'm not complaining as I like to get home to my bed as much as the next guy.

    There were a lot of items crammed into last night's school board meeting, but one of them, outlined at the very beginning by Acting Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez, slipped by pretty quickly, but it's important because it may indicate a shift away from secrecy.

    The school board's "workshop" meetings that have, in the past, been closed to the public under the rationale that they are not violating the open meetings law because they don't "deliberate."

    They've taken a little bit of heat in these pages and on the pages of The Mercury for that practice.

    The board held another one on Jan. 19, but this one was different because it was open to the public ... they just forgot to tell anyone.

    Hey, you don't expect them to get everything right the first time do you?

    To his credit, Rodriguez threw himself on the grenade and apologized for the district's failure to place a public notice about the meeting. He tried to make up for it by outlining what was discussed at the meeting and the board even posted the meeting minutes on the district web site.

    You can read them by clicking here.

    A quick look reveals a there was presentation by Community Relations Director John Armato on "branding" the district and "telling our story," a look at board goals such as improving academic achievement, installing stadium lights, looking at early education options and, of course, "austerity."

    On to regular business.

    As you have no doubt read by now on the front page of today's Mercury, the board also adopted a formal resolution opposing President Donald Trump's appointment of Betsy DeVos as the U.S. Secretary of Education.

    The board also approved about $216,000 of building repairs which I suspect I'll write about later in The Mercury, as well as settling a set of over-due tax bills on three properties owned by a man named William B. Fretz.

    Some of you may recall he came to council last year and made a plea for a deal to get his properties productive again. They agreed and now, months later, the school board has agreed as well.

    Three years before  pleading for a tax deal with local boards, Fretz was agreeing to a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission in which he paid $6.8 million

    And of course, there were performances by high school and middle school musicians in honor of School Board Appreciation Month. You can see videos of those in the Tweets below.


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    William Shirk
    Acting Pottsgrove Schools Superintendent William Shirk has good reason to smile this morning.

    That's because he woke up with the word "acting" removed from his title.

    At the helm since August, the Pottsgrove School Board made it official, and unanimous, Tuesday night by granting Shirk a three-year contract.

    The contract will be good through June 20, 2020 and he will be paid an initial salary of $178,000.

    His predecessor, Shellie Feola, was paid $180,000 a year, but left under a cloud of controversy and contention.

    Since he took the reins, Shirk has gone out of his way to reach out to the district's teachers and to make them partners and collaborators in efforts to improve the district's stagnant test scores.

    He listed that among his three major goals for the year, taking the long-sought step of setting specific percentages his team is now aiming to hit or surpass.

    Those include getting state scores for grades 3 through 8 at or above state average
    in moth and English.

    He has also set an increase in proficient/advanced scores from 29 percent to 40 percent as a goal for first-time takers of the Algebra 1 Keystone test in high school; an increase from 70 to 75 percent for first-time-takers of the Keystone Literature test and from 61 to 66 percent for those taking the Biology Keystone.

    School Board President Matt Alexander was joined by board members Bill Parker and Rick Rabinowitz in thanking Shirk for finally giving them goals that can be easily measured.

    His other goals include a balanced budget; improved training for teachers and improved and more timely communication with all "stakeholders."

    Whether or not his short tenure and goals have been the driver behind improved transparency at board meetings -- including detailed agendas that put votes into understandable context -- they are evident nonetheless.

    He has also formalized offering official, on -the-record responses to inquiries from board members at previous meetings; another thing for which Parker enthusiastically thanked Shirk.

    It was a busy meeting, with a review of the coming budget, and the mixed impact a property tax elimination bill might have on finances in Pottsgrove and the purchase of photo-voltaic solar panels to cap off the energy-efficient high school renovation.

    You can find out about all those things in the Tweets below.


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    Is this the traffic future of the greater Pottstown area? Perhaps not, if a proposed regional traffic study can propose fixes for the worst intersections.


    It's already a given that trying to drive down Swamp Pike in the morning means you will be sitting in traffic.

    Will it soon be a given that similar traffic loads must be borne by thoroughfares like Pruss Hill and Middle Creek roads? Some might argue that's already true.

    Officials like Ed Reitz, member of the Douglass (Mont.) Township Planning Agency, and Tom Troutman of the Lower Pottsgrove Planning Commission would be among them.

    "Traffic on the back roads, like Pruss Hill Road, is bumper to bumper now, when it used to be you were lucky if you saw a car every half hour," Troutman told the Pottstown Metropolitan Area Regional Planning Committee Wednesday night.

    "The back roads are getting slaughtered from these developments," seconded Reitz who, like Troutman, has had a hand in approving them.

    But a regional traffic study that may get started as soon as July may not address those back roads -- at least not yet.

    John Cover and Matthew Edmond from the Montgomery County Planning
    Commission informed the regional planners Wednesday night that the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission -- more often referred to as the DVRPC -- sets aside $60,000 a year to do work in the greater Pottstown and would be happy to undertake the regional traffic study the planners want so desperately.

    The questions at hand now, of course, are what should it look like? What should it look at? What questions should it answer?

    Initially some of the planners began outlining some of the larger housing projects which gave birth to this newfound concern -- Sanatoga Green in Lower Pottsgrove; Town Center in New Hanover; the Zern tract in Douglass (Mont.).

    But each of those will generate its own traffic study said Cover.

    Why not use the DVRPC study to identify the intersections and areas which will suffer the most from increased traffic and have the study focus on and prioritize them?

    After all, you may live in New Hanover, but if you want to get to Route 100, chances are you're going through Douglass, so an improvement there helps a New Hanover driver as much as one who lives in Douglass, he pointed out.

    The planners agreed, particularly after he pointed out that if DVRPC will put $60,000 a year toward the effort, the plan built on the studies can be updated and more likely to get funding either from the state or President Trump's planned increase in infrastructure spending.

    Here are the Tweets:


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    All the Pottstown High School students who competed in the recent DECA conference.



    Under the direction of marketing teacher Kevin Pascal, and Co-Advisor Anita Santangelo, 42  students who are members of DECA (an association of marketing students) at Pottstown High School participated in the 66th  Annual District 8 Career Development Conference in King of Prussia last month.
    Of those, 24 students will be competing at the DECA state conference in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  The competition involved students taking a 100 question content based test and situational role play.  
    And here are the 24 winners from Pottstown

    The top six contestants in individual categories and the top four teams in team events move on to the state competition held in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  Students’ role playing is judged on how well they adjust to the various business situations that are presented to them.  
    Award winners included:  
    Michael Baker
    Business Law and Ethics Team
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play
    Emmanuel Toussaint
    Business Law and Ethics Team
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play



    Lanea Crawford
    Apparel and Accessories Marketing
    4th Place
    Zoe Wallace
    Business Services Marketing
    4th Place
    Martin Metzger
    Accounting Applications
    3rd Place
    Danielle Slody
    Retail Merchandising
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play
    Emily Jerdon
    Accounting Applications
    5th Place
    Jenn Hainsey
    Hospitality Services Management Team
    3rd Place
    Destyn Snyder
    Hospitality Services Management Team
    3rd Place
    David Hicks
    Hotel and Lodging Management
    6th Place
    Eddie Butler
    Sports and Entertainment Marketing
    6th Place

    Courteney Parry
    Human Resources Management
    3rd Place & Highest Role Play
    Julian Weber
    Buying and Merchandising Team
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play
    Emily Weber
    Buying and Merchandising Team
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play
    Gianna Epps
    Principles of Finance
    3rd Place
    Emilie Lineman
    Principles of Finance
    2nd Place & Highest Test
    Br’anna Williams
    Principles of Hospitality and Tourism
    6th Place
    Rachel Lees
    Principles of Hospitality and Tourism
    4th Place
    Mitchell Aquino
    Principles of Hospitality and Tourism
    3rd Place
    Gi’ovannah Mitchell
    Principles of Marketing
    3rd Place
    Cody Young
    Rest and Food Service
    6th Place
    Demitri Douglass
    Sports and Entertainment Marketing
    4th Place
    Gabe Francis
    Travel and Tourism Marketing Management Team
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play
    London Aquino
    Travel and Tourism Marketing Management Team
    2nd Place & Highest Role Play
    Zoe Wallace
    Female Modeling
    2nd Place
    Michael Baker
    Male Modeling
    2nd Place
    Emmanuel Toussaint
    Male Modeling
    6th Place
    Eddie Butler
    Male Modeling
    1st Place

    DECA is the only Career and Technical Student Organization operating through the nation's schools to attract young people to careers in marketing management and entrepreneurship.  
    Itspurposes are todevelop respect for education which will contribute to occupational competency and to promote understanding and appreciation for the responsibilities of citizenship in our free enterprise system.

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    Pollock Park is located in the 800 block of Cross Street on Pottstown's south side.










    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottstown Borough.

    The Borough of Pottstown will host a public meeting to gather input for the Pollock Park Master Plan on Monday Feb. 6 at 7 p.m. 

    The meeting will take place at the Pottstown Regional Public Library on 500 E High St. 

    The presentation will include an existing conditions analysis of the park site and a brainstorming session. 

    The Borough encourages all interested persons to attend this meeting. 

    “We are open to a whole range of ideas for Pollock Park,” said Mike Lenhart, Director of Parks and Recreation. “We want to make this park a resource for the entire community.”

    Based on public input, a draft plan will be created and presented to the public on March 21, for additional comment. 

    Pollock Park is located at 847 Cross Street in the sixth ward of Pottstown. 

    The plan is being prepared by the Borough with the assistance of Simone Collins Landscape Architecture of Norristown. 

    Funding for the plan is partially provided by a grant administered by the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), Bureau of Recreation and Conservation. 

    If you plan on attending, RSVP to Kourtney High, Borough Grants Administrator at (KHigh@pottstown.org) 

    If you forget to RSVP please attend the meeting anyway!

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    Pottsgrove Middle School students consider their options as they prepare for high school.



    Pottsgrove Middle School and High School counselors met together with the district's eighth graders recently to continue preparing them for the transition to high school.

    Since the completion of the assembly, school counselors have been meeting with classes of students. 

    The course catalog and program of study was distributed to each student in digital form so they keep a copy on their iPad. 

    After the initial course selections are completed by students and parents the counselors will meet with each eighth grader to individually review their schedule for next year.

    Before the high school course assembly, interested eighth graders also traveled with Cristina Kleinfelter and Brian Haupt to visit the Western Montgomery Career and Technical Center. 

    The WMCTC program has been available for selected ninth graders for several years. 

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    This mixed tape has lasted longer than the car whose purchase it was made to celebrate


    In the back of my closet, past the shoes I don't wear any more but can't quite bring myself to throw out because they still fit, there is a blue New Jersey Nets gym bag full of time portals.

    It's old technology, these time portals, but they still work and they never fail to take me back.

    Granted, their power is limited. They can't take me back beyond the 52 years I've walked this earth, but that's still reason enough to keep them around.

    They are mixed cassette tapes I made, mostly while in my mid-20s, that inevitably evoke memories of the reason for making them; something that happened while they were being made or something that happened when they were played.

    Like Christmas ornaments whose purchase or unwrapping you remember when you put them on the tree each year, these tapes hold recorded memories as much as they hold recorded music.

    And hey, before you get any ideas, I was making mix tapes before the director of "Guardians of the Galaxy" was even born.

    Just sayin'.

    Those of you who know me personally may have a hard time picturing me as a Valentino, and that's because I wasn't a very good one, but like any bar-hopper worth my salt in those days, I had a tape meant to seduce any girl gullible enough to agree to come home and listen to my mixed tape collection.

    Many had a purpose or theme.

    One, titled "And You Thought We Should Stay in the Kitchen" featured all female artists.

    Another, titled "Just for the Record," was made up entirely of recordings I culled from my very voluminous vinyl record collection. Some were my own mix of favorite and rarely played songs by a particular artist. Some were made to be heard over the vacuum player while cleaning.

    I had a friend in college who had a mix named "Newish-Type Songs," who we teased pretty mercilessly for his poor tape-titling skills.
    Coming up with the right title for your mixed tape is as 

    important as deciding which songs to include.

    Being poor and spending too much of my meager income on aforementioned bar-hopping, I also made mixed tapes for friends as gifts.

    One such tape was the one shown above, made for my girlfriend at the time, now my wife of 23 years, on the occasion of the purchase of her first-ever brand new car.

    It was a Honda Accord, selected after much research and settled upon after I pointed out to her that perhaps the reason she saw so many of them on the road is that they were a good value.

    Unfortunately, given that we were not married yet and had no fore-thought of the difficulties presented by settling infants into children's car seats without a rear door, she settled on a white, sporty two-door coupe.

    That car was a tank and we drove it into the ground.

    It survived through two accidents, snow storms and heat waves and ultimately gave up the ghost near 200,000 miles only when the guys at Milt's Auto Repair, who had grudgingly agreed to weld steel plates to the car and spray paint them white to cover the rust, finally said nothing more they could do would make it pass inspection.

    At the car dealer, they laughed at us when we tried to trade it in.

    Amazingly for a technology known for becoming tangled or accidentally erased, the tape -- "Vive' Le Honda" -- outlived its namesake.

    I listened to it this morning while in the shower.

    As you might expect, it is jam packed with driving songs, or songs with what I considered to be driving beats.
    Thelma and Louise we were not.

    It boasts obvious ones like Little Feat's "Let it Roll," Red Barchetta" by Rush, "Drive My Car" by The Beatles and The Grateful Dead's "New Speedway Boogie."

    And what driving tape would be complete without "Born to Be Wild,""Midnight Rambler" or "Join Together?"

    Even so, whenever I listen to the mixes, I still catch myself wishing I had made a different choice here or there. But unlike a digital mix, you can't just yank one song and substitute another. With a mix tape, you can only make it once.

    The last car we owned with a cassette player, the demise of the Honda -- nicknamed "Frankencar" thanks to its bolted metal plates -- means I can no longer listen to this tape in the car to put me into hyper-driving mode.

    Some of you will recognize this as the state of mind one needs to be in while navigating high-speed, high-traffic situations. I persevered through one of those just this weekend, driving solo out to the end of Long Island for a poetry reading by my father.

    The Belt Parkway is not for fainthearted drivers.
    In my experience, there are few things that require a hightened state of driving awareness quite like Brooklyn's Belt Parkway in the early afternoon.

    Its an old road, designed for slower speeds, with dips and sharp turns and alarmingly narrow lanes, but now crammed with cabs and SUVs frantically trying to get to where they need to go before the "real" and ironically-named rush hour begins at 3 p.m.

    Luckily, my teenage son introduced me to the The Black Keys and their album, "El Toro."

    Played just a little too loud for comfort, it lasts just long enough and keeps you pumped long enough to get from the Verazzano to the Southern State Parkway so long as you don't get tangled in the traffic near JFK.

    It works, but it's not the same.

    I know younger people who accomplish the same function as a mix-tape by burning their own CD mixes or, more recently, building mixes on iTunes, or in "the Cloud."

    To me is seems both a little too easy and a little too complicated.

    There was attentiveness required when making a mix tape and the skills required were more more about dexterity and experience than about platforms and bandwidth.

    You had to:
    • Make sure the levels from different albums were consistent on the tape, so volume didn't vary
      Good timing on the "pause" button was crucial to a mixed tape.
      too much from one song to another upon playback; 
    • Wait, poised to release the "Pause" button at the last possible second before the song on the LP started in order to reduce awkward silences between songs; and be willing to go back to do it again and again to get it just right;
    • Watch the tape roll out and know what songs in your library are short enough, but still in keeping with the theme, to fit on what tape was left.
    It was an evening's entertainment and a way to re-experience and re-imagine your music collection.

    Also, I admit to being a bit of a Luddite, mostly because I always feel like someone is selling me something when the newest thing comes along.

    And all too often, I have seen the "new thing" turn out to be a flop. Remember "Beta-Max" and "mini-CDs?"

    Me neither.

    I resist the notion that something is preferable simply because it's new.

    I still have my LPs, (although the stereo receiver no longer works), my tapes and my CDs. I even have an original Sony Walkman that plays tapes that I bought at a yard sale just to be stubborn.

    "Why should I buy my favorite albums all over again when this works fine?" I always ask in my best grumpy old man voice as my son and wife roll their eyes at me and put in their ear buds.

    But my time portals may be living on borrowed time.

    Enjoying the tapes depends upon another aging technology, an old Fischer boom box which long ago stopped playing CDs, but still plays the tapes just fine -- at least for now.

    When it finally craps out, I may have to concede that time has indeed caught up with me and my music mixes.
    Yes young ones, this is what we used pencils for.

    The last mixed tape I made was in the very late 1990s; a Christmas mix I made on an old stereo unit owned by former Mercury Business Editor Michelle Karas during her first of two stints with The Mercury.

    We got pretty tipsy making it, but it was sadly short-lived by comparison. I played it so much at holiday time that the boom box ate it up and spit it out.

    I'm not sure why some of the others have lasted so long.

    They were certainly not recorded on top quality tape stock. Perhaps I am keeping them working by sheer force of will, a strategy doomed to be eroded by the passing years.

    Nothing lasts forever but a fruitcake and rainbow sprinkles.

    The closing of those portals is as inevitable as the death of silent pictures. I have resolved to enjoy them while they last and let them go when their time comes.

    But until then, Vive La Mixed Tape!

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottsgrove High School.

    Several students representing Pottsgrove High School recent won high honors in this year's WordWright Challenge, a competition for American high school students requiring close reading and analysis of many different kinds of prose and poetry.

    In the year's second meet, held in December, freshman Hailey Ellwanger, sophomores Anita Ghorpade and Peter McNamara, juniors Ashley Flint and Karli Tellis and seniors Jasmine Hughes, Nathan Smith and Nate Yuchimiuk all earned near-perfect scores, placing among the 133 highest-scoring ninth graders; the 187 highest-scoring tenth graders, the 167 highest-scoring eleventh graders and the 250 highest-scoring twelfth graders nationwide.

    More than 64,000 students from 48 states entered the meet.

    Pottsgrove's participation was overseen by Todd Kelly.

    the premise behind the WordWright Challenges is that attentive reading and sensitivity to language are among the most important skills students acquire in school.

    The texts students must analyze for the challenge can range from short fiction by Eudora Welty or John Updike, to poetry as old as Shakespeare's or as recent as Margaret Atwood's and, to essays as classic as E.B. White's, or as current as James Parker's cultural commentary in The Atlantic.

    Though the texts vary widely in voice, subject, tone and length, they all have one thing in common -- style.

    All use language skillfully to convey layers and shades of meaning, not always apparent to students on a first or casual reading. Like the questions on the verbal SAT and Advanced Placement exams, the questions posed by the WordWright Challenge ask students both to recognize the emotional and/or rational logic of a piece of writing and to notice the ways in which a writer's style shapes and shades his meaning.

    The texts for the second WordWright Challenge meet this year were a pair of poems by Richard Wilbur and Alastair Reid for 9th and 10th graders; and a short story by Michael Byers for 11th and 12th graders.

    The students will participate in two more meets over the coming months and medals and certificates will be awarded in June to those who achieve and/or improve the most in the course of the year.

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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Pottsgrove Manor.

    Historic Pottsgrove Manor will host a paper marbling workshop, giving visitors a hands-on experience learning the art of paper marbling on Sunday, Feb. 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

    In this class, taught by Ramon Townsend of the Colonial Bindery, students will learn the art of paper marbling by designing colors on a base fluid and transferring the design to paper. 

    Students will have the time to create 20-25 sheets of marbled paper.

    Ages 14 and older are welcomed. There is a materials fee of $65 per person. 

    Participants should bring a bag lunch. Class size is limited to 10 participants on a first-come first-serve basis. 

    Pre-registration and payment are required. Pre-register by calling 610-326-4014.

    Regular museum hours are Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

    Tours are given on the hour. The last tour of the day begins at 3 p.m. The site is closed Mondays and major holidays. 

    Groups of 10 or more should pre-register by calling 610-326-4014.

    Pottsgrove Manor is located at 100 West King St.r the intersection of King Street and Route 100, just off Route 422.

    For more information, please 610-326-4014, or visit the website at www.montcopa.org/pottsgrovemanor

    Like Pottsgrove Manor on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/pottsgrovemanor.

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    From left, cast members Allison Fisher, TiaChanel Allen

    and Marc Shule.
    Tonight is the opening night for Steel River Playhouse's latest show, Clybourne Park.

    And it's more than just opening night, because after the show, you enjoy open conversation and ask questions with Leena Devlin, Managing Artistic Director and Dave Paczkowski, Diversity Leader at Vertex, Inc.

    Directed by Rebecca May Flowers, with a cast of Marc, Allison, TiaChanel, Chris, Jerry, Joe, Lauren and Zach, "Clybourne Park" is a wickedly funny and fiercely provocative play about the volatile combination of race and real estate.

    "Clybourne Park" is written by Bruce Norris.  and is winner of the 2011 Pulitzer Prize, London’s Olivier Award for Best Play and the 2012 Tony Award for Best Play.

    The show, which will be staged tonight through Feb. 19, contains mature themes and adult language and not suitable for younger audiences.

    Act One opens in 1959, as a white couple sells their home to a black family (the Younger family in A Raisin In the Sun), causing uproar in their middle-class neighborhood. 

    Act Two finds the same house, in 2009, changing hands again. And, while the stakes have changed over the years, the debate remains strikingly similar as neighbors wage a hilarious and horrifying pitched battle over territory and legacy that reveals just how far our ideas about race and gentrification have evolved – or, have they? 

    Tickets range from $15 to $22.


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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the State Theatre.

    Tachyonmetry, an alternative folk group from Bucks County, will perform at the State Theatre Saturday, Feb. 25 at 7 p.m. 

    Tickets are $10.

    Tachyonmetry fluidly combines folk, classical, and rock influences and features the sultry smooth sounds of Brian Pearson's nylon string classical guitar and the percussive, ethereal qualities of Cliff Cole's hammered dulcimer. 

    These two veteran musicians will be joined by singer/songwriter Cindy Ruenes, bassist Dan Faga, and cellist Trudy Gojeski.

    Tickets on sale at: www.StateTheatrePreservation.com, Patsy’s Potpourri of Gifts, Barry Bachman Music Store, Peppermint Stick, Zimmers Pets, and The Center at Spring Street. The Box Office will open 30 minutes prior to show.

    The State Theatre is located at 61 N. Reading Avenue, Boyertown PA. Contact us by phone at 484-415-5517, or email: statetheatrepreservation@gmail.com with any questions.

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    When I think of Pennsylvania and its notably gerrymandered Congressional districts, I usually think of the 7th.

    And when I think of the 7th Congressional District, I think of Bullwinkle.

    Not because Republican Patrick Meehan, who holds the seat, reminds me of Bullwinkle.

    Rather, because, well, I think you can see for yourself.

    When the Washington Post named the nation's most gerrymandered districts back in 2014, Pennsylvania's 7th was right up there near the top.

    And it is one of the primary examples for why we have gridlock in Washington.

    As writer Christopher Ingraham explained:  "Contrary to one popular misconception about the practice, the point of gerrymandering isn't to draw yourself a collection of overwhelmingly safe seats. Rather, it's to give your opponents a small number of safe seats, while drawing yourself a larger number of seats that are not quite as safe, but that you can expect to win comfortably."

    A gerrymandered district does two things: it neutralizes a portion of the opposite party's voting population, which is its intended purpose, and it makes compromise increasingly impossible because House members need not appeal to a broad range of voters, but can win just by appealing to their base.

    Congressional districts used to be fairly evenly shaped, back when politicians were adults and they recognized they had to represent the district's population as it exists in the real world.

    Now, rather than win a race to represent a community, you change the community so you can win the race.

    Consider; this is the evolution of the seventh district over the last 60 years:




    One might accurately call it de-evolution.

    There is no good reason for the changes you see above other than electoral advantage.

    Does anyone really believe that Pennsylvanians along the Delaware/Maryland border should be represented by the same person who represents the people in rural Pike Township in Berks County?

    It's certainly not done for the benefit of the constituents. It's done for the benefit of, in this case, the Republican candidate.

    Do not be so naive as to believe that when Democrats are in the majority, they don't do the same thing.

    They do.

    But since Republicans now dominate the state house, they are the primary perpetrators of this crime against democracy and they have become devastatingly craven about it.

    And while it helps them get elected, it has helped drag Pennsylania's electoral integrity down to the level of countries like Cuba, Bulgaria or Hungary. This according to a recent analysis by The Electoral Integrity Project, which is affiliated with Harvard University and the University of Sydney in Australia.

    The project evaluated states' electoral systems based on interviews with more than 700 political scientists. Researchers scored states on the perceived integrity of 11 aspects of the electoral process, from how congressional and legislative districts are drawn to how votes are cast and counted.

    Even Alabama, Florida and West Virginia have a better electoral integrity score than Pennsylvania. We're tied with Mississippi.
    Pennsylvania overall scored 56 on the scale of 100, but particularly dismal was its score for gerrymandered districts.

    “What jumps out (with Pennsylvania's results) is gerrymandering,” Harvard political scientist Pippa Norris told The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review in December.

    She was referring to the state's score of 11 out of 100 for the way it draws legislative and congressional district boundaries. Only Wisconsin and North Carolina scored worse.

    "Congressional redistricting proposals must be approved by the full Senate and House and signed by the governor. In Pennsylvania's past two redistricting processes, Republicans controlled the Senate, House and governor's mansion — effectively giving the GOP control over the drawing of congressional districts," Tribune-Review writer Tom Fontaine wrote in December.

    Norris told him many districts are gerrymandered to favor one party or another in such a way that incumbents become virtually unbeatable, often resulting in less competition. That makes elected officials less accountable and less responsive to constituents and contributes to gridlock in Washington, she said.

    The next redistricting will occur after the 2020 Census.

    Safe races also mean incumbents are actually dis-incentivized from reaching across the aisle or taking positions out of step with their base.

    They are more likely to be ousted in a primary by a base that feels betrayed than by a candidate from the other party in the general election. This means no compromising in Washington, lest they have to face the music back home.

    This endless reelection of incumbents also dis-incentivizes voters from going to the polls because barring a sex scandal of the most repellent nature, nothing ever changes.

    President Trump says he wants to investigate election fraud. But with gerrymandering, the fraud occurs before the votes are even cast.

    Not that I hold out any hope he'll take me up on my suggestion, but if he really wants to improve the integrity of U.S. elections, he might start here.

    He should contact a non-profit coalition called "Fair Districts PA," which includes Common Cause PA and the League of Women Voters and has undertaken the uphill fight to try to convince those in power that politicians should not "choose their own voters."

    In the last legislative session, the coalition endorsed companion bills Senate Bill 484, introduced by Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh County), and House Bill 1835, introduced by Rep. David Parker (R-Monroe County). Both bills sought to amend the Pennsylvania Constitution to establish an independent citizens redistricting commission with clear standards to ensure public input and a fair, non-partisan outcome.

    Let's take back control of our government.

    Otherwise, we get this:



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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Family Services of Montgomery County

    Family Services, the Montgomery County Asset Building Coalition and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) are offering free basic income tax preparation for low-to-moderate income individuals and families (who earned less than $54,000 in 2016) through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program.

    The IRS trains and certifies all VITA volunteers to prepare and electronically file income tax forms. The mission of the program is to help working families improve their finances and increase their self-sufficiency.

    “We can help put money back in your pocket,” said Shirley Petko, Family Services’ VITA site coordinator. “By filing taxes through a VITA site, clients save money in filing fees. In addition, our VITA volunteers are trained to assist clients in claiming special credits and refunds, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).”

    Family Services is offering VITA appointments at two locations in Montgomery County:
    • Family Services’ Pottstown Office, 1976 East High Street, Pottstown. Appointment times: Mondays and Tuesdays, 5-8 p.m. and Saturdays, 9 a.m.-1 p.m. 
    • Family Services’ Eagleville Office, 3125 Ridge Pike, Eagleville. Appointment times: Thursdays, 5-8 p.m.
    Appointments are required. To schedule an appointment at the sites listed above, please call Family Services at 610-326-1610.

    Individuals must bring the following documents to their VITA appointment:
    • Photo identification (driver’s license or state-issued identification card) for self and spouse
    •  Social security cards for self, spouse and dependents
    • Birth dates for self, spouse and dependents
    • Wage and earning statement(s) (Form W-2, 1099, unemployment statements) from all employers for self and spouse
    • Health insurance statement (Forms 1095-A, 1095-B or 1095-C)
    • Interest and dividend statements from banks for self and spouse
    • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit
    • Other relevant information about income and expenses 
    • Total paid for daycare, daycare provider’s address and tax identification number
    • Total paid for college tuition, college’s address and tax identification number
    • Form 8332 or a copy of a divorce decree if you are a non-custodial parent claiming a child
    • A copy of last year’s federal and state tax returns (if available)
    • If filing jointly, both the filer and spouse must be present to sign the tax return.
    Since 1900, Family Services has been caring for children, seniors and families in Montgomery County who face everyday emotional difficulties or physical hardships. The agency’s innovative social service programs make a positive difference in the lives of 13,000 county residents each year. For more information, contact Family Services’ Pottstown Office at 610-326-1610 or visit www.fsmontco.org.

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    Photo by Evan Brandt
    With the return of John Stasik, second from right, to the Douglass (Mont.) Board of Supervisors, replacing Fred Ziegler, the board of supervisors, Chairman Anthony Kuklinski, center, and Alan Keiser, is back up to full strength. They are flanked by Township Solicitor Robert Brant, left, and Township Manager Peter Hiryak.


    There was no public swearing in ceremony for John Stasik.

    A former township supervisor who wanted to waste no time in diving back into the business of the township, he got himself sworn in after being selected from among four applicants last month to replace Fred Ziegler.

    Ziegler, as we all know, resigned as part of a plea agreement in his trial on theft and embezzlement charges.

    Brian Steffie is congratulated by his wife after she
    pinned the new badge of rank on his uniform.
    So when the meeting began last night, there was a brief-but-hearty "Welcome Back John" and the board got right to work.

    And the first thing they did was promote officer Brian Steffie to the rank of police
    sergeant.

    This of course explained the crowd.

    One the happy event was over, the vast majority adjourned to the lobby of the township building and loudly congratulated the township's new police sergeant.

    Janet Bauer, center, with her certificate of
    appreciation flanked by Tony Kuklinski and
    ESB Chairman Andrew Duncan, right.
    The board also unanimously granted preliminary plan approval and several waivers for the long-discussed Zern tract, a development with 240 townhomes off Jackson Road.

    Engineer Josh Hagadorn also reported that the bids for the new township highway maintenance building are in and he believes the method chosen to bid the project will "save the township a lot of money."

    And the board also thanked Janet Bauer for her service on the Emergency Services Board.

    And now, without any further ado, are the very Tweets and videos from the meeting.


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    Pollock Park is located between South Street and Cross Street on Pottstown's south side.


    More trees or fewer trees?

    Keep the soccer field, the tennis courts and the basket ball court? Or get rid of them?

    Lights?

    A Gazebo?

    These are the kinds of questions posed, answered and asked again Monday night during the first attempt at getting input on a concept plan for Pollock Park.

    Your faithful blogger arrived 45 minutes late, as you no doubt realized, having read yesterday's post indicating I began the evening in Gilbertsville for a very short Douglass (Mont.) Supervisors meeting.

    So forgive me if this report is less-than-complete.

    The two-acre park is wedged in between South and Cross streets and is a neighborhood staple, if a little under-used.

    In an attempt to change that, and with help from a grant from the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Simone Collins landscape architects met with a group of more than 20 people in the new community meeting room of the Pottstown Regional Public Library Monday night to get their thoughts.

    There were a lot of them.

    Many said they wanted to find ways to make the park safer, as well as more useful to the neighborhood. They worried about vandalism, but some said they didn't want lights.

    Peter Simone, who heads up the landscape architecture firm, said in some parks they have installed motion sensor lights to cut down on vandalism.

    There was also discussion of some sort of public art project and Assistant Borough Manager Justin Keller said the borough is currently working on an ordinance to make it easier to paint murals in the borough.

    By the time the meeting was over, about 8:30 p.m., the idea board was packed with post-its and Simone said they would use those ideas to put together a draft plan to bring back to the residents.

    That will occur on March 21, time and place to be announced.

    In the meantime, here are the Tweets.


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    Photo by Evan Brandt

    An image of the Welcome to Pottstown sign a group of local artists would like to paint on the concrete on the vacant lot on the southeast corner of King and Manatawny streets.


    Borough Council President Dan Weand wants to start council's Wednesday work sessions on a positive note.

    So he began with a group of students in Andrew Bachman's engineering class who have built a hovercraft.

    Unfortunately, the craft would not fit in the elevator, so audience and council members had to satisfy themselves watching it being handled in the main lobby on the way in. The four students, and Bachman, all said the efforts were teaching valuable skills and helped the students get into their first college choice, which for three of them, is Thaddeus Stevens College.

    An example of one of the decorated squares.
    Also on a positive note was a group of local artists who have four projects they would like to undertake to beautify downtown and the western gateway as well as promote art on July 4th.

    Marie Haigh spoke about all three.

    They include a Welcome to Pottstown sign you can see in the photo above.

    The second project would involve a banner made up of decorated or painted cloth squares that would be strung along the hand rails of the King Street bridge over Manatawny Creek as was done for the past two Halloweens.

    Thirdly, also as was done on Halloween, the group wants to create and mount permanent banners for the street lights downtown.

    And finally, plans are now underway for a series of art related events around the July Fourth holiday tentatively named "Go Fourth."

    Also on a positive note was the revelation that in 2016, Pottstown enjoyed a 14 percent drop in serious crimes, known as "Part 1."

    Another items of interest from the meeting include the fact that the Evans Street and Moser Road bridges over the Norfolk-Southern rail tracks may be structurally deficient and suck up any money that might have been planned for street paving this summer.

    And then of course, there were the goals.

    Last year, Weand had each member of council articulate a goal for 2016 and last night, we found out how they did. The answer is mixed, but you'll have to watch the video embedded in the Tweets below to find out.

    That same video also has council's goals for 2017. So, have at it!


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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by ArtFusion 19464

    Applications are now being accepted for three free spring programs for kids and teens at ArtFusion 1946. These programs are sponsored by The Greater Pottstown Foundation. 

    In Art Academy, students ages 8 to 12 will explore different mediums from drawing to recycled art. 

    Clay Academy gives each 8 to 12 year old student the opportunity to create pottery using hand-building and wheel-throwing techniques. 

    Older students ages 13 to 17 can participate in Teen Clay Studio. This programs gives each student the opportunity to design and create amazing self-directed projects in clay. 

    The application deadline for these programs is Feb. 17. 

    Applications can be downloaded at artfusion19464.org/classes/scholarshipsprograms/

    Interested parents can also stop by 254 E. High St. to pick up a paper copy. Spaces will be filled on a first come, first served basis. 

    While ArtFusion 19464 encourages everyone who is interested to apply, those students who qualify for free or reduced lunch and those who have not attended a free program at ArtFusion 19464 before will be given priority.

    ArtFusion 19464 is a 501(c)3 non-profit community art center located at 254 E. High St. in downtown Pottstown. The school offers day, evening and weekend classes to all ages. 

    The goal of these classes is to help students develop their creative skills through self-expression and independence. ArtFusion 19464’s gallery hosts rotating shows featuring local artists. The gallery also sells handcrafted, one-of-a-kind gift items. 

     The gallery is open Wednesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Classes do run outside of gallery hours.

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    Blogger's Note:The following is provided by the Steel River Playhouse

    A very generous anonymous donor will match donations to Steel River Playhouse, up to $25,000, from now until Feb 14, Valentine's Day.

    Steel River is urging donors to "give your loved one the gift of performing arts and education for Valentine's Day by making a donation in their name to Steel River Playhouse."

    When you support Steel River Playhouse you make it possible for them to provide a place for people of all ages to:
    • act, sing and dance,
    • promote business and restaurants in downtown Pottstown to visitors and guests,
    • provide scholarships to make sure all students have the opportunity to participate and,
    • allows them to work together with the arts and business community to plan free events, bringing arts and entertainment - of all kinds - to downtown Pottstown
    Join other members of the community who have made a donation (they're over the $10,000 mark!) to help Steel River Playhouse to continue providing free community programs like The Olivet Boys and Girls Club 10-Week Theatre Arts Program sponsored by Karen and Les Rinehart..

    Steel River is proud to work with local nonprofits to strengthen community and creativity, and its all made possible through the kindness and generosity of our supporters and our dedicated volunteers.

    The countdown is on ... Valentine's Day is a few days away! Each and every donation helps to keep Steel River Playhouse as a thriving community gathering place where local residents can explore their creativity.

    Click here to make your donation online! It's fast, easy and very much appreciated.



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    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by Montgomery County.

    Applications are now open for a $1 million grant program aimed at furthering the goals outlined in Montgomery County's comprehensive plan and there is a March 1 deadline to apply..

    The Montgomery County Commissioners approved $1 million for the second cycle of the Montco 2040 Implementation Grant Program. The program is intended to assist municipalities in making targeted physical improvements that achieve real progress toward the goals of the County’s comprehensive plan, Montco 2040: A Shared Vision.

    This year, for example, Pottstown intends to apply for funding to pay for a pedestrian crossing on King Street, linking the Carousel at Pottstown and Manatawny Green mini-golf with Memorial Park and the
    Colebrookdale Railroad, furthering several county goals including making communities more walkable and promoting tourism and recreation as an economic driver.

    “This grant program provides the opportunity for municipalities to advance and build projects, such as parks, sidewalks, public art projects, and green infrastructure, which improve our communities and raise Montgomery County’s quality of life,” said Jody L. Holton, AICP, Executive Director of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.

    The program will be administered similarly to 2016, with another $1 million available on a competitive grant basis for municipalities and their partners, but with one important change in 2017.

    Applications will no longer be reviewed and awarded on a rolling basis. A deadline of March 1, 2017 is the important date to submit applications for projects that are ready to go for round one of funding.

    There will also be a second round opportunity to apply by July 1, 2017, but that round will be dependent on funding still remaining after the first round.

    The program, initiated in 2016 with annual allocations expected over the next five years, successfully awarded 14 projects totaling $1.24 million in 2016, with the final two projects awarded at a recent Board of Commissioners meeting.

    The first was a $42,500 grant to the Upper Perkiomen Region headed by East Greenville to implement a wayfinding and identity program that will install 65 signs across the region.

    The second was a $200,000 grant to Lower Merion Township supporting Phase 2 of a multimillion dollar roadway and streetscape project that will improve pedestrian and vehicular travel across a 1.4-mile stretch of the busy corridor separating Montgomery County and Philadelphia.

    “The program focuses on supporting local projects that make Montgomery County a great place to live,
    Val Arkoosh, chairperson of Montgomery County Commissioners
    work, and raise a family,” said Val Arkoosh, Chair of the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners. “These projects specifically further the goals of Montco 2040 and its themes of Connected Communities, Sustainable Places, and Vibrant Economy.”

    While the program is open to a wide array of projects fitting within the comprehensive plan, there are specific focus categories announced each year that highlight recent County planning initiatives.

    In 2017, these focus categories will correspond to Walk Montco and Bike Montco (trails, paths, sidewalk connections, and bike facilities), Support of Downtowns and Community Destinations, and Revitalization of Office and Business Parks.

    Visit www.montcopa.org/Montco2040GrantProgram for program details, a brochure that provides information on eligible projects, complete guidelines for the 2017 cycle along with application forms and instructions, and to view the 2016 grant recipients.

    For more information on the Montco 2040 Implementation Grant Program, please contact Scott France Scott France, AICP, Section Chief of County Planning, at 610-278- 3747 or via emailsfrance@montcopa.org.

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    Borough Council saved the news for last last night.

    After leaving immediately to a closed-door executive session after the meeting began, the vote and details of a new three-year contract with the Pottstown Police Officers Association were not addressed until the end of the meeting.

    As you have no doubt already read in the print version of The Mercury, council unanimously approved a new three-year contract for police that provides raises of 3.25 percent the first year; 3.5
    percent the second and 3.5 percent in the third.

    The police contract cycle is now the same as the non-uniformed union cycle and all borough employees are in the same health plan -- there were once something like seven plans.

    In other news, council also agreed to assist with plans to put a welcome to Pottstown sign in the empty lot at King and Manatawny streets across from The Ice House, as well as art panels along the King Street bridge and light pole banners downtown.

    Borough Manager Mark Flanders said work on replacing the King Street bridge will likely not get underway until the summer of 2018 and council voted to apply for a Montco 2040 grant to install a pedestrian crossing across King Street at the entrance to Memorial Park and the Carousel at Pottstown on the other side.

    Council also agreed to sell 629 Walnut St. to Habitat for Humanity to be refurbished and sold to a first-time homebuyer.

    And Phillies Fire Company Vice President Miles Feather said about a dozen people turned out for the first Fire Academy event. The next one will be on Feb. 26 and will focus on ladder operations.

    While you're waiting, you can read the Tweets.


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    I would be misleading you to tell you that last night's Pottsgrove School Board meeting was a barn-burner.

    It was barely a camp-stove burner.

    Nevertheless, the business of the public must be chronicled.

    Several expressed an interest in the board's decision to return to the practice of starting school before Labor Day. The new calendar for the 2017-2018 school year is now posted on the district web site.

    There was also a discussion, brought to the fore by board member Bill Parker, about the shortage of substitute teachers, what substitute administrators are paid, and the idea that perhaps upping the daily rate would attract more subs.

    Superintendent Bill Shirk noted that there are regular support staff in the district who have not seen a raise in six years and if increasing pay is going to be discussed, they should be included, which the board agreed to at least consider.

    Also of interest, to me anyway, is the adoption of a new hazing policy. The previous one basically said "don't haze people."

    But the problem "is more than just in the locker room," Superintendent Bill Shirk said, noting that "no gay Thursdays" hazing issues in the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District brought the problem to painful public spotlight.

    We'll be taking a closer look at that policy in an upcoming Mercury article.

    In the meantime, here are the Tweets from last night.


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    I will say this for the West Pottsgrove Commissioners, when called upon, they certainly know how to pack a whole lot of news into a short period of time.

    In a 40-minute long meeting, they announced the township pool will not be opening for 2017; that they have no opposition to a 100,000-square foot medical marijuana growing and processing facility being built on the property of the former Stanley Flagg Brass site; that they are reducing Dek Hockey hours at the West Pottsgrove Elementary program run by the Pottstown Police Athletic League and that they were withholding payments to the West End Fire Company for reasons that were not entirely clear to me.

    That's a lot of stuff.

    The reason some thing were not clear to me, quite frankly, is due to technical problems. I always struggle to get a signal in the township meeting room and only managed to Tweet out after I hit upon the idea of using my iPhone as a "hot spot" for my iPad -- all very frustrating I assure you.
    The West Pottsgrove Pool will not even be filled this year.

    But several things were quite clear.

    First among them that the township pool will not open for the summer this year, largely because any company that has been approached about managing the pool wants a guaranteed return, something Commissioner Pete LaRosa said the township is not prepared to provide.

    He and commissioners Charles Valentine and Dominic Gentile agreed to serve on a committee to find a way to open the pool for the summer of 2018 "with no cost to the township," LaRosa said.

    The bigger story, perhaps, was the commissioners' unanimous decision to sign a letter saying, in essence, they have no objection to a medical marijuana growing facility being erected on the site of the former Stanley Flagg Brass plant.

    Keith A. Morgan, a partner in the Holistic Farms operation, said the growing and processing facility will all be under-roof; in fact in a concrete building with no windows that is so secure, it has been described as a "Fort Knox."

    Not only is the proposed 100,000 square-foot replete with cameras, the lock if so
    An indoor medical marijuana growing facility in Maryland.
    complex it costs $4,000, he said by way of example.

    Once up and running at full size, it could provide as many as 150 jobs, according to information he provided at a previous township meeting.

    But this is by no means a done deal.

    Morgan explained that Pennsylvania, the 28th state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, will issue only 12 permits statewide.

    The state has been divided up into six regions for this purpose and Morgan's company will be competing with others for one of only two permits to be issued in the 11 counties which comprise the Southeast Pennsylvania region.

    He said his company is hedging its bets by also pursuing a license for another site in New Castle, Lawrence County in the Northwest region.

    To apply, Morgan said his company must pay $10,000 application fee, as well as a $200,000 cost if the license is approved. The license is good for one year costs $30,000 to renew every year.

    The cost to build the facility is estimated at $10 million but the potential returns are significant given that this is anticipated to be a $1 billion a year business in Pennsylvania in five years.

    In the meantime, if approved, the West Pottsgrove facility would slowly amp up, starting in a temporary growing building, particularly given that there may be as few as 3,000 citizens enrolled statewide in the first year.

    By the third year however, given that 17 different ailments are certified to receive marijuana prescriptions, the number of enrollees may rise as high as 50,000, said Morgan.

    The proposed facility in West Pottsgrove -- which would still need to go through the land development process to be built -- would grow the plants, remove the THC and CBD, the chemicals of medical use.

    The chemicals would be processed at the site into pills, lotions or ointments, said Morgan.

    The state is scheduled to make a decision on which companies get the license in June, but Morgan said most believe an Aug. 15 date is more likely.

    Residents at Wednesday night's meeting offered observations that ranged from endorsement, to caution.

    Tina Himes said the facility would be good for jobs and for the tax base, while Gladys Frain wondered if the road construction project of Route 422 or the fact that the site is in the 100-year flood plain would post any problem.

    Morgan said no.

    Another resident worried about potential crime, but Morgan and Police Chief Matthew Stofflet said the facility will be extremely secure, if built.

    In other business, Stofflet said he had met with the board of Pottstown PAL about residents complaints about the Dek Hockey program run at West Pottsgrove Elementary School on Grosstown Road.

    He said PAL agreed that there will be no more Friday games, and that blocks of time will be blocked off from play. They include: April 10 to April 16 for Easter; May 26 through May 29 for Memorial Day; May 14 for Mother's Day; June 18 for Father's Day as well as no Sunday games after 6 p.m.

    Additionally, a smoking ban will be instituted and parking will only be allowed on the school grounds.

    And with that, here are the limited Tweets I was able to get out from the meeting:


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    Mercury File Photo

    Pottstown School Board member Polly Weand says an anonymous donor may help cover the $86,000 gap between what has been raised and the cost of new stadium lights at Pottstown High School's Grigg Memorial Field.


    An anonymous donor who gave $10,000 to the campaign to raise enough money to replace the lights at Pottstown High School's Grigg Memorial Field has now offered to loan the effort up to $86,000 to ensure the lights get erected this summer in time for the fall football season.

    The news was delivered Thursday night by school board member Polly Weand, who has headed up the long and difficult fundraising effort.

    She said the same anonymous donor who provided $10,000 on Thanksgiving Day, has made this new offer because "he is determined these lights are going to get put up."

    The latest estimate, also delivered Thursday night to the board's facilities committee, is $302,674, and the fundraising effort is about $86,000 short of what it needs to pay for the job.

    The Iowa-based company that offered the estimate is willing to finance the remainder for a five- or seven-year period, at an interest rate between 3.95 percent and 4.45 percent.

    But Weand said she would rather avoid interest payments and asked School Board Solicitor Stephen Kalis about the legality of a loan.

    Kalis said if the agreement is between the generous donor and the fundraising campaign, the school district need not be involved at all.

    But if the district will be expected to make up any shortfalls in payments should the fundraising effort be unable to raise the remaining $86,000, Kalis he would need more information.

    Weand reiterated that she does not want to see any tax money used for the effort, a position set by the school board three years ago when the existing poles were cut and the lights removed.

    In other athletic facility related matters, the facilities committee was informed that the bid for repairing the athletic fields along North Franklin Street, used for soccer and field hockey, came in less than expected.

    The district was expecting a bill around $325,000, but the estimated cost is $276,762. The money to pay for the project will come from the proceeds of a recent bond re-financing, said Business Manager Linda Adams, adding no cost to the budget.

    $2 Million budget shortfall

    Also of interest to taxpayer, but not on the agenda, is the fact that current figures estimate that the $59.5 million 2017-18 school budget is about $1.9 million out of balance.

    The matter was brought to the table by board member Thomas Hylton, who said the latest figures from the Pennsylvania Department of Education -- which are already several years old -- have pushed Pottstown from the 13th highest local tax effort, to the 3rd.

    "I will not vote for any tax increase," said Hylton. For the past two years, the district has not raised taxes. "We are strangling the life out of this town and we had better start planning now how we are going to cut spending."

    Adams said if the Republican-dominated Pennsylvania General Assembly were to adopt the budget proposed  by Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf, which is unlikely, Pottstown would receive an additional $850,000 from the state.

    "That's the best case scenario," observed Hylton, who also noted that still leaves the district with a budget gap of about $1 million.

    "We are going to have to get more frugal," said board member Katina Bearden.

    Middle School discipline issues

    Acting Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez also informed the board that a temporary personnel adjustment he has made seems to be reducing the persistent discipline issues experienced at Pottstown Middle School and received general assent to continue the situation on a month-to-month basis as needed.

    In the meantime, folks with time on their hands can peruse the Tweets from the multi-committee meeting night below.


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    Fighting cancer has been one of Trojan Man's major causes for some time now.


    Trojan Man, the big-headed Pottstown High School mascot who seems to be everywhere at once, will be on your TV screen Monday morning if you have it tuned to the right channel.

    At 9:30 a.m. Feb. 20, the ubiquitous Trojan Man will appear on Good Day Philadelphia on Fox 29. He has been invited to take part in the Lace Up and Twist Away Childhood Cancer national tour by Mascots 4 a Cure, according to a post on Dave Woodley's Facebook page.


    Dave Woodley with a photo of the first time Trojan Man
    became something more than a mascot.
    Many of you will remember that Woodley is the high school's Management Information Systems teacher as well as a 2003 graduate of the school.

    As The Mercury reported at the start of this school year, it was Woodley who has led the charge to transform the school mascot from a guy in a dorky costume who does push-ups at football games to a region-wide symbol for community involvement.

    Not one to waste an opportunity for doing good in the City of Brotherly Love, Trojan Man will then head over to Rosa's Fresh Pizza with $472 raised in Pottstown where he will buy 472 slices of pizza for the homeless.


    Acting Pottstown Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez
    got some help from the Color Guard for his video.
    After lunch, Woodley posted that Trojan Man will take part in a Lace Up and Twist Away Cancer Rally at the iconic Liberty Bell.

    On Feb. 27, TM will participate in his first hospital visit with Mascots 4 a Cure at duPont Hospital as part of the national tour.

    Throughout 2016 and into this year, Woodley has affiliated Trojan Man with “Mascots For a Cure,” which has teamed up with the #TwistChallenge to raise money to fight childhood cancer.

    Some of you may recall “the ice bucket challenge” of two years ago, a video craze which swept the nation and, in the process, raised more than $42 million for research into ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

    The “#TwistChallenge” works on the same principle.

    A video is taken of a person or group of people dancing to “The Twist” for 36 seconds in recognition of the 36 children who are diagnosed with cancer each day, according to the campaign’s statistics.

    (Here is the video made at all four Pottstown Elementary Schools)


    That video is posted on social media with challenges being made to another group or individual. Those participating making a donation.

    (Here is Acting Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez's video:)



    Not to be outdone by Rodriquez, or the elementary schools, or even the Pottstown School Board, which also twisted to fight cancer, all of Pottstown High School undertook the challenge at the Pep Rally in September.


    Apparently, all this twisting has not gone unnoticed and now Trojan Man will join other mascots on television tomorrow morning to help raise even more money to fight childhood cancer.

    Won't you tune in and watch and perhaps donate?

    Well done Trojans.

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    Photo Courtesy of TriCounty Active Adult Center.

    The 2016 Golden Apple Gala









    Blogger's Note:The following was provided by the TriCounty Active Adult Center.

    The fourth annual Golden Apple Gala is less than one month away. This event raises money for the TriCounty Active Adult Center as they work to support older adults in the greater Pottstown region.

    “We are planning another exciting event,” said Brian Parkes, executive director of the center. “Attendees will be treated to some great music, and we have a local award-winning couple demonstrating ballroom dancing.”

    This year the event will honor Peggy Whittaker and the memory of Dr. Richard Whittaker.

     “The Whittakers have been incredible supporters of our center, and of our community, and we are excited to be able to honor them in this way,” said Parkes. “We will be making a very special announcement at the Gala that will cement their legacy of generosity and positivity in Pottstown.”

    This year’s event will be held on Saturday, March 4 at Brookside Country Club in Pottstown. Betsy Chapman will be featured on the harp, and the West Chester Swing Kings will provide entertainment after dinner. 

    Bill and Patti Underwood have been

    dancing together for 25 years.
    A ballroom dancing demonstration will be presented by Patti and Bill Underwood, who have been dancing together for 25 years. The Underwoods are competitors in American Smooth and American Rhythm. 

    They recently won the Amateur American Smooth Championship at the Ohio Star Ball., and they have also been the National Senior lll American 9-Dance Champions in 2007-08, 2010 & 2013.

    Beer and wine, hors d’oeuvres, and a choice of entrees are included in the $130 per person ticket price. 

     Reservations and sponsorships can be purchased at www.GoldenAppleGala.org, or by calling the center at 610-323-5009 x101.

    The silent auction features original artwork, gift certificates, and many other valuable items.

    All profits from the event will support services for older adults in the tri-county area, including a free daily lunch, professional assistance from trained staff, and exercise and social programs that help keep seniors active and independent.

    Major supporters of the Golden Apple Gala include Joe & Linda Voytilla, Patient First, Thrivent Financial, BB&T, Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, Kreibel Security, David G. Garner, Esq., kultivate, Knies Insurance Group, State Representative Tim Hennessey, Lawrence J. Gribb, D.M.D., Keller Williams Realty Group, Edwards Business Systems, and O'Donnell, Weiss & Mattei, PC.

    The TriCounty Active Adult Center serves adults age 50 and better with programs and services including information and referral assistance, a daily lunch, exercise programs, social activities, and much more. The Mission of the TriCounty Active Adult Center is to enhance the well-being of older adults by providing services and activities that promote an independent and healthy life style. 

    The TriCounty Active Adult Center has nearly 2,500 members residing in the tri-county area. Anyone living in the tri-county area (Berks, Chester and Montgomery Counties) who is 50+ years of age is welcome to join the center. Learn more at www.TriCountyAAC.org.