John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Newtown Speaks Out on the Issues

As you may know, when I was running for Newtown Township Board of Supervisors, my team had a tag line: “Listening to you for a better Newtown!”

One way we listene to residents was through simple polls and surveys. I collected responses to a poll as part of my door-to-door canvassing (the Canvassing Poll). In addition, I hosted an online survey (the Online Survey), which asked slightly different questions. This article summarizes the results of this poll and survey.

Canvassing Poll Results

When knocking on doors canvassing, all the candidates  on my team asked people to select one of the following as the most important local issue for them:

  • Taxes
  • Development
  • Traffic
  • Transparency
  • Corruption
  • Drugs/Opioid crisis

Nearly 300 responses wer collected. The summary of results are shown in the following pie chart:

Results from the Newtown’s Voice Canvassing Poll

Drugs, Taxes, and Development are the most important local issues according to the poll respondents. Respectively, 26%, 21%, and 21% of respondents chose those issues as most important for them. Keep in mind that the majority of these respondents are Democrats.

Although the Canvassing Poll does not allow the collection of comments, I often got a lot of feedback and comments from people. So, although the results may not be based on a “scientifically significant” sample, it was a great way to open up a conversation with residents and I learned a thing or two.

Online Survey Results

Over 200 people have responded to my online “Issues Affecting Newtown Survey,” which allowed respondents to rate the importance of each issue and to add comments as well as issues that are not included in the survey. The following bar chart is a summary of results from the first 100 respondents:

Summary of results from the first 100 respondents to
John Mack’s “Issues Affecting Newtown Survey.”

This survey asked opinions about some of the same issues as the Canvassing Poll, but also included other issues, several of which have been discussed at Newtown Board of Supervisors meetings. The survey was open to all regardless of political party affiliation.

Water Quality Tops the List

It’s no surprise that 85% of respondents think that the “Quality of Drinking Water” is very important to them. This issue has been written about frequently in the local press. According to an article published in the July 16, 2017 issue of the Bucks County Courier Times, for example, "over the past several years, more that 16 public and 200 private wells...were found to be contaminated with high levels of PFOS and PFOA, which come from fire-fighting foams. The problem is national in scope... The contamination has reached drinking water supplies in states as diverse as New Jersey, New Hampshire, Colorado, and Washington." Also, after being petitioned by the Bristol Borough-based environmental nonprofit Delaware Riverkeeper Network, a Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection board unexpectedly voted to order a review of PFOA in drinking water.

Fracking is another source of drinking water contamination. Recently an ordinance was introduced to permit fracking in Newtown, Wrightstown and Upper Makefield.

Here are a couple of comments regarding this issue from Survey respondents:

The water quality is atrocious. It is at the maximum limits for all TDS and I have received letters periodically -after the fact- that the water failed for carcinogens.

The water report I saw is not ok. I bought my house 2 years ago from a young woman who was dying from a rare cancer. While it may not be related, it makes me uneasy. The neighbors tell me there has been a lot of cancer here.

I am not well informed about water management, but I feel that the quality (smell, taste, etc.) of the local water is poor, and is at the same time, very expensive.

Open Space and Trails

Open space - including parks and trails - improves our quality of life, reduces stress on our resources and increases our home values.

21% of respondents to the Canvassing Poll say “Development” – by which they mean “over development” or “inappropriate development” – is the most important issue for them. Compare that to nearly two-thirds (66%) of the Online Survey respondents who say that “Preservation of Open Space” is the most important issue for them.

Some comments from the Online Survey include:

Would love to see the township made more walkable, with more sidewalks and crosswalks connecting neighborhoods with shops.

We need more walking paths - including connections between those that already exist.

Newtown's Comprehensive Trail Plan (find it here) will strengthen the Newtown Township community by creating a safe network of pedestrian and bicycle facilities that connect local and regional resources and that encourages healthy lifestyles

Prescription & Illegal Drug Abuse

A majority of respondents to the Online Survey (55%) and a plurality of respondents to Canvassing Poll (26%) say the drug problem is their #1 concern. While canvassing, I’ve heard from at least a dozen people who know someone in their neighborhood who has overdosed on drugs or who has had a problem with opioids.

When the subject of drug abuse arises during canvassing, I tell people about my proposal for 24/7 drug drop-off box in Newtown (read “John Mack Proposes 24/7 Drug Drop-Off Box for Newtown Residents”). 70% of people who abuse prescription opioids get them from their friends or family. Safely disposing of unused and expired prescription medicines, therefore, is important to keeping them out of the wrong hands. Drug drop-off boxes can help achieve that. 

One resident I spoke to wondered if security would be an issue.

That gave me an opportunity to point out that at the May 10, 2017, meeting of the Board of Supervisors, the purchase of a new video surveillance system was approved for an estimated cost of $38,140.48! According to the meeting minutes, “The new system will have more cameras throughout the complex which can be live stream viewed remotely in police cars or by the Chief or Township Manager. Video can be stored for 30 days.” Obviously, such a system would provide adequate security for a 24/7 drug drop-off box. If someone tried to break into one, the new security system would be sure to catch them in the act and lead to an arrest. I also mentioned my idea to ask KVK Tech - an opioid manufacturer located right here in the center of Newtown - to pay for the 24/7 box. I am sure they have experts who would be able to advise the town of the necessary security required. After all, they store these dangerous drugs at their facility on Terry Drive one block down the road from the post office!

Some comments from respondents:

Drug abuse attention should include helping those with the addiction not just law enforcement aspect of the problem.

Heroine (sic) abuse and deaths plague not just this town but this county. Arresting a victim of this drug is senseless (sic). I would like to see more awareness and education about this poison that is on our streets.

I agree with these commentators and have called for the Board of Supervisors to establish a non-partisan “Drug Free Newtown” committee and appoint knowledgeable volunteers from the community to serve on it. The committee should be tasked with recommending other solutions to this crisis and spearheading a drive to solicit donations from local businesses, including KVK Tech.

Taxes

While taxes was a top 3 issue of importance to respondents to the Canvassing Poll, it ranked 10th among 11 issues in the Online Survey. Only 35% of respondents to the Online Survey thought that taxes was the most important issue for them. As one respondent put it, “Of course no one likes paying taxes, but so long as the services they pay for are desirable and clear to see, they are worth it. Progressive Taxes are the basis of a civilized society.”

Another comment about taxes:

I view taxes as the total package coming out of my retirement fund which goes to any/all government agencies. Reduction at the federal level which forces increases at the state or local level results in the same thing: a tax increase. This is unacceptable, and could very well force people to move out of this area.

Posted on 11 Dec 2017, 14:28 - Category: Survey Results



Save the Woods

Arcadia Green’s latest proposal to build 85 single-family homes on land near the intersection of Buck Road and Newtown Bypass, calls for egress traffic to pass through roads in the Newtown Crossing development (read more about that in the October 12, 2017, issue of Newtown News Update here).

Many residents of that community oppose the plan. The final hearing before the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) was held on Tuesday night, December 5, 2017 (read the Bucks County Courier Times report here).

Save the Woods Petition

Meanwhile, residents of Newtown Crossing have posted a petition on Facebook (here) urging the Newtown BOS to vote NO. The petition cites “several areas of safety concern,” including:

  • Traffic, access to property
  • Demolishing a house in Newtown Crossing and replacing it with a road into a cul-de-sac
  • Houses potentially being built on an existing retention basin

To date, almost 350 people have signed the petition. Some comments include:

“This proposed development will change the character of our neighborhood and negatively impact our quality of life. Enough is enough. Open space is scarce. Let's preserve the tiny bit we have left.”

“I reside on High Street and the additional traffic on my cul-de-sac is a safety concern for my family.”

A decision by the Newtown BOS on this project is expected to be made at the scheduled December, 27, 2017, public meeting.

I am opposed to this project because it will destroy precious open space and adversely impact the neighboring communities. I, like most residents speaking at the hearings, am especially concerned about the traffic problems this development will cause. The plan also lacks an easy way for residents of the proposed community to commute to work and to visit the shops and activities in Newtown.

Posted on 09 Dec 2017, 12:13 - Category: Development



BOS Approves Publication of Preliminary 2018 Budget

On November 21, 2017, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) approved the publication of the Preliminary 2018 Budget. You can find a PDF version of this budget here.

The budget does NOT include a 2 mill property tax increase for the general fund proposed in the version presented to the BOS on 16 October 2017 by Township Manager, Kurt Ferguson (read "Newtown Township Manager Proposes Tax Increase").

It does include, however, a 0.45 mill new tax specifically earmarked for the ambulance squad and a 0.55 mill new tax specifically for fire hydrant maintenance.

The estimated new income from these taxes is $147,239 and $185,000, respectively. In the previous version, these expenses were paid through the general fund. By implementing new taxes to cover these expenses the Township will save approximately $305,000 (previously, $120,000 from the general fund was allocated to the Ambulance Squad and $185,000 for fire hydrants).

Note that with the new tax, the ambulance squad will receive approximately $27,000 in additional funding to cover increasing expenses due to increased call volume. It will also help the squad maintain staff with competitive salaries. The Squad had sought a 0.5 mill tax increase to cover these expenses. For more about that, read “Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding”.

October 17, 2017, Budget Meeting Video


Also read this article:

 

Posted on 01 Dec 2017, 12:40 - Category: Budget



Newtown BOS Accepting Resumes

The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS) is accepting resumes for consideration for Township boards, committees, and commissions. Resumes will be accepted until December 20, 2017. Please submit a letter of interest and resume to Olivia Kivenko,
Newtown Township, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA 18940, by email to oliviak@newtownpa.gov, or by fax at (215) 968-5368.

The following is a list of available openings:

  • Zoning Hearing Board
  • Planning Commission
  • Parks and Recreation Board
  • Newtown Joint Historic Commission
  • Historical Architectural Review Board (HARB)
  • Traffic Impact Advisory Committee
  • Newtown Joint Municipal Sewer Authority Board
  • Environmental Advisory Council
  • Technology Committee
  • Economic Development Committee

More information, including meeting times and committee goals, about committees, boards and commissions (also see here and here):

Economic Development Committee - The Economic Development Committee meets on the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 7:00 PM. Several positions are open.

Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this committee here.

Technology Committee - To advance the Board of Supervisor’s desire to advance the use of technology in Newtown Township; it is the mission of the Technology Committee, in cooperation with the Board of Supervisors and the Township Manager, to promote employee and volunteer efficiency, maximize customer service, and reduce Township costs through the use of technology. The Committee meets the last Tuesday of each month, 7:30 PM, in the public meeting room of the township building. Its members serve a three-year term. At least 3 positions are open.

Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this committee here.

Environmental Advisory Council - The Newtown Township Environmental Advisory Council was established to protect the natural resources within the Township and create community awareness. The seven EAC members work together to build an environmentally sustainable community by championing and promoting natural resource conservation, consideration of environmental impacts in decision-making, education and awareness of environmental issues in Newtown Township. The Council meets the fourth Monday of each month, 7:30 PM, in the Public Meeting Room in the township building. Its members serve a three-year term. 

Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this council here.

Parks and Recreation Board - Assesses parks, open space, and recreational needs of Township residents and also reviews development plans and provides recommendations to the Board of Supervisors as to whether open space should be dedicated to the Township or if the developer should pay the Township a “Fee-In-Lieu” of open space. The Board meets on the first Wednesday of each month, 7:00 PM, in the Public Meeting Room in the township building. Its members serve a three-year term.

Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this committee here.

Zoning Hearing Board - A quasi-judicial body appointed by the Board of Supervisors. It hears and decides on appeals from a decision, or determination, of any administrative official in connection with the Zoning Ordinance, and grants Special Exceptions and Variances from the terms of the Zoning Ordinance.   The Board meets the first Thursday of each month, 7:00 PM, in the Public Meeting Room of  the  township building, as required. Its members serve a five-year term.

Planning Commission - Working in conjunction with the Bucks County Planning Commission, the Township Planner, and other Township boards, commissions, committees and councils, advises the Board of Supervisors on all planning, zoning and traffic matters, reviews Conditional Use Applications and Land Development Plans, and examines traffic impact issues. The Commission meets the first and third Tuesday of each month, 7:30 PM, in the Public Meeting Room in the new township building. Its members serve a four-year term.

Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this commission here.

Joint Historic Commission - Eight member board, four year term.   Meets on the fourth Monday of each month at 7:30 PM. The Joint Historic Commission’s primary responsibility is the protection and preservation of historically and/or architecturally significant structures in Newtown Borough and Newtown Township.  The Commission is comprised of four residents from each of these two municipalities.  Meetings are held in Newtown Borough Hall, 23 North State Street. As an advocate for historic preservation, the Joint Historic Commission can be a resource for property owners and Borough and Township boards and committees regarding historic and/or architecturally significant structures.

Find more details about the mission, residency requirements, term, and the powers and duties of this commission here.

Traffic Impact Advisory Committee - Derives the formula used for traffic impact fees imposed by the Township under the Municipalities Planning Code and the Subdivision and Land Use Ordinance, during the land development process. The Committee meets as required. Its members serve a one-year term.

 

Posted on 24 Nov 2017, 10:50 - Category: Newtown



Support the Newtown Ambulance Squad

I recently subscribed to the Newtown Ambulance Squad by making a household donation of $60. 

Resnikoff and Mack
John Mack (R) hands subscription check over to Evan Resnikoff (L), Chief of Operations, Newtown Ambulance Squad.

I hope I never need the services of the Squad, but if I do, it's good to know that my contribution - which is tax deductible - will cover any costs, even the insurance co-pay. Donations like this, which make up about 5% of the Squad's revenue, help cover the costs of the squad. But more is needed as costs keep rising and calls for drug overdoses balloon (read "Newtown Ambulance Squad Seeks Additional Funding").

The subscription drive is mailed annually to all households in the Squad's primary service area, which includes all of Newtown Township, Newtown Boro, Northampton Township in select sections of Holland, and very small parts of Upper Makefield and Lower Makefield Townships. Look in you mailbox and consider subscribing!

Subscription Brochure

In addition to help fund operations and equipment needs, your tax-deductible donation ensures coverage of your insurance deductible or co-pay in the event you should need service.

For more information, visit the Newtown Ambulance Squad website: http://www.newtownambulance.org/

Posted on 18 Nov 2017, 01:46 - Category: First Responders



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