John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Summary of April 16, 2018 BOS Work Session

You may not have the time to download and read the entire minutes from meetings of the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS), or the approved minutes may not yet be available on the Township website (here), so I created this summary from the April 16, 2018,  Work Session meeting. I also included some links to related information including video clips from meetings. I'll do the same for future meetings. This is not a complete list of items discussed.

Good Government

Anti-Gerrymandering Resolution: Public Comment by Jan Filios: Reviewed Congressional district maps are drawn every 10 years according to the change in census population data. Currently the maps are drawn with the 2010 census. The PA Constitution allows political party leaders to reconfigure the maps. This is a conflict in interest. The worse contortions have been in Southeastern PA and Pittsburgh.

Fair Districts PA and the League of Women Voters is supporting two bills in the General Assembly to amend the State Constitution to form an independent citizens' commission to take over the task of redistricting in time for the next census results in 2020. Some Bucks County municipalities that have passed this resolution representing 39% of the population are Lower Makefield, Buckingham, Doylestown Township, Bristol, and Middletown. Mr. Calabro recommended that State Representative Perry Warren should visit the Board of Supervisors and he thanked Ms. Filios for her information. He would like to have both Mr. Warren and a representative from Fair Districts attend a Board of Supervisor meeting.

Permits

Signs: Most of businesses ask for variances for signs due to Newtown's tight restrictions. Mr. Martin Vogt, Zoning Officer, made a collection of frequent types of variance requests including changes and problems he noticed and created a spreadsheet showing this information. Highlighted items on the report were those not discussed at an earlier meeting.

After the Board decides what they want as changes to ordinances, the solicitor may:

  1. Amend ordinance via the JMZO;
  2. Spin the sign regulations out of the JMZO for Newtown; or
  3. Create the Newtown's own standalone ordinance.

The legal question is if there is a request for sign regulations the Board created, where do they go? Is it the Zoning Hearing Board or go directly to the Board of Supervisors. Two attorneys were asked, and there were two different answers. When the review is complete, it will need to be discussed with Township counsel to amend the JMZO or spin it off from the JMZO to make it Newtown only. The Planning Commission could be given authority to continue to review and give recommendations to the Supervisors. They would have to be given some type of authority to make a decision to accept or reject.

Solicitation: Regarding the topic of solicitation in developments, i.e. window replacements, an HOA as a board cannot take a vote to restrict solicitation unless every member signs off that they don’t want solicitation. Anyone going door‐to‐door is required to go to the Township/Police Department where a background check is completed and a permit is given to them. A resident should ask for their solicitation permit. If they do not have one, they have not gone through the process, and report them to the police. Signs in the development stating “no solicitation” cannot be enforced. What doesn’t need a permit is for political campaigning or non‐profit solicitations.

Traffic

Mill Pond Road: This discussion focused around a request made at the Board of Supervisors' March 28, 2018 meeting by James Downey, President of the Board of Directors of the Newtown Crossing Community Association on behalf of Newtown Crossing and Eagle Ridge, to prohibit parking on Millpond Road. Looking at Millpond Road, for example, it would require an outright parking ban entirely - it couldn't just be a vehicle ban as it wouldn’t affect the typical complaints. Residents are basing the no parking ban on aesthetics and that a tow truck is not attractive to look at and is not necessarily a safety issue. Mr. Ferguson suggested that the Board create a set of criteria to use as a benchmark for safety measures that could be used throughout the Township. The Board decided to receive more information from the Newtown Crossing HOA requesting minutes of their meetings to reinforce the request for no parking on Millpond Road. This information can be in an electronic format provided by the HOA. Mr. Ferguson will follow‐up.

Posted on 10 May 2018, 01:56 - Category: Board of Supervisors Minutes



I Support Steve Bacher for Congress

There is a difference between the three Democratic candidates for Congress representing PA District 1. Steve Bacher is my choice for many reasons, but primarily because of his position on the environment and marijuana. Read his opinion piece published in today's Bucks County Courier Times:

Listen to my podcast interview of Steve. He discusses environmental issues of concern to Newtown residents as well as his opposition to the 287g program, in which local police are trained to act as immigration officers:

Posted on 08 May 2018, 01:05 - Category: Voting



"Pot vs Pills": Dr. Sanjay Gupta Special Report

Dr. Gupta takes an in depth look into cannabis as an alternative to prescription drugs. He tackles the role of cannabis in fighting America's opioid addiction crisis.

In the special, Gupta meets pioneers in the field of pain management as well as addiction research who believe that marijuana is the next best hope for treating both. 

He also speaks with those who have struggled with addiction including an exclusive interview with NFL running back Mike James. In 2013 James suffered a devastating leg injury during a Monday night football game. He was given opioids after surgery to treat his pain, and months later he found himself addicted. Scared and worried, his wife suggested he try marijuana, a drug that is banned by the NFL and could cost any player their careers. 

I've gotten some great feedback on my survey regarding the role of medical marijuana in avoiding opioids for pain management and for help during recovery.

Posted on 04 May 2018, 01:32 - Category: Opioid Epidemic



National Drug Take Back Day Was a Success

The recent DEA-sponsored National Drug Take Back Day - April 28, 2018 - was a great success. Newtown Township Police estimate that 104 lbs of unused, unwanted, or expired drugs were collected at the Newtown Township Administration building and 29 lbs from the Together We Can Convention for a total of 133 lbs! More than 16,705 lbs of drugs were dropped off in Bucks and Montgomery Counties:

More Drug Take Back Numbers

Meanwhile, you can still drop off your unused drugs at the Newtown Police Station any day of the week at any hour - even when the office is closed - thanks to Newtown's innovative 24/7 drug drop-off program, which I advocated for way back on August 9, 2017, before I was a Township Supervisor. Back then I called upon the Board of Supervisors to implement a 24/7 drug drop-off box at the Newtown Twp police station and to establish a "Drug-Free Newtown" committee of concerned citizens to advise the board about further initiatives to help curb the Opioid/drug abuse problem in Newtown and surrounding communities (see video below and my letter to the Bucks County Courier Times). 

I recall that during my campaign, the opposition put out a negative mailer claiming I wanted to take a police officer off the street to man a drug take-back box 24 hours a day! How cynical and unimaginative those critics were. I am happy that Henry Pasqualini - Newtown's Chief of Police - was passionate and creative enough to come up with a solution.

BTW, I spoke to the police officer "manning" the drop-off box located at the Together We Can convention and she told me that many people people are using the 24/7 option to drop off their drugs in Newtown, so that is a success as well!

Posted on 01 May 2018, 01:21 - Category: Opioid Epidemic



Report from the Together We Can Convention

On Saturday, April 28, 2018, I spent several hours manning my table at the “Together We Can™” convention addressing drug addiction in Bucks County, which took place at the Newtown Athletic Club. I participated in order to learn about solutions and get feedback about the potential of medical marijuana as an alternative to opioids for pain.

John Mack surveys attendees of the Together We Can convention.

As you can see from the video at the end of this post, there were many – perhaps 100 -  “vendors” and organizations with tables at the convention. Tables were arranged into three sections: Engage, Embrace and Encourage. I was in the "Engage" section, which also included the Bensalem Police Department two tables away. They were promoting their Recovery Assistance Program, which they hope other municipalities will copy - even Newtown perhaps.

“Under the Bensalem Police Assisting in Recovery (BPAIR) program instituted in 2016,” reported the Bucks County Courier Times (read Volunteer 'navigators' needed for Bensalem recovery assistance program), “any Bensalem resident can show up at the department day or night, even if they are under the influence, and ask for help. A volunteer or ‘navigator’ then is called to respond and accompany the resident to Gaudenzia treatment center in Bristol Township for a treatment assessment.” I was told that a local taxi company offers free transportation for the navigator and resident.

Bensalem Police manning a table at the Together We Can convention.

The convention organizers also invited political candidates – including Brian Fitzpatrict and other Republican Party candidates – to speak to the audience. Not invited – as far as I know – were any Democratic Party Candidates although PA State Representative Perry Warren was there making the rounds and manning his own table.

Regardless, I don’t think the convention should be considered a “trick” designed to get Republican candidates more exposure. Anyone could attend, including more Democrat candidates even if they were not invited to speak. You could have learned a thing or two just by attending!!!

Truth be told, it was difficult to hear most speakers and the real action was the interaction with attendees and vendors on the floor, many of whom were recovering from addiction. I learned a lot by talking to these people - no one asked my political affiliation.

I spoke to several parents who lost their sons and daughters to overdosing or who endured great hardship helping their children get treatment to overcome addiction. I also got some great feedback on my survey regarding the role of medical marijuana in avoiding opioids for pain management and for help during recovery.

 

 

Here’s my 8-minute video tour of the convention:

Posted on 30 Apr 2018, 15:27 - Category: Opioid Epidemic



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