John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

A Deeper Understanding of the "Redsk*ns" Conversation

This is a guest blog post contributed by Arla Patch who I met at a recent weeklong series of hearings held by the PA Human Rights Commission at Bucks County Community College in Newtown Township (see here). Ms. Patch was the Community Engagement Coordinator for the Maine Wabanaki State Child Welfare Truth and Reconciliation Commission when she lived in Maine. She now lives in Quakertown.

Why do some communities hang on with all their might to the term “Redsk*ns,” which is considered a racist slur by many, while other communities hear the Native American voices that ask them to release it? In particular, why do the largely Euro-American members of the Nashaminy school board, teachers and parents say they use the racial slur “R word” to HONOR Native Americans and yet attack, berate and highly disrespect the very Native People who are asking them to stop using it? Even when Native American members of the same community insist that it DOES NOT honor them?

I think loss has something to do with it.

When I lived in Maine I remember a group of Wabanaki tribal members traveled to Sanford, Maine in 2012 to ask the Sanford High School community to please stop using the term “Redsk*ns” for their sports team. The tribal members shared the impact on their lives of being reduced to a mascot and how that made them feel.  From what I understand, nearly everyone “got it” and they voted to change the name.  But the retired football coach spoke in favor of keeping the Redsk*ns name. Apparently he said with fiery passion: “I was born and REDSKIN, I’m going to die a REDSKIN!”

That level of identity struck me as significant. When I read Sebastian Junger’s book Tribe, I realized that especially for Euro-Americans there is a very deep genetic component to embracing Native American identity.  Each one of us non-natives left our ancestral territory at some point for the “New Land.”  We broke our multigenerational connection to the land of our ancestors and took up residence in someone else’s homeland. We all carry the genetic memory of tribal cohesion, where each person’s survival depends on the rest of the tribe working together, supporting each other, and living with an awareness of the group as a whole. This is the powerful cohesion that Junger also contends occurs in the military when a group of people are life-threatened regularly and depend on each other for survival. He contends we are designed for that cohesion.

For me personally, being of very mixed European ancestry, I have also craved a cultural identity. My first marriage had the very attractive aspect of being married to a full blooded Swede and getting a very ethic Swedish last name. I learned to cook Swedish food and celebrate Swedish holidays.

There can be a longing for an identifying culture when yours has been obscured by generations of mixing and diluting.  And when you can attach bravery, strength, and fierceness to an identity such as the projection on the Native American warrior stereotype, it's a powerful mix.  If you have no real education on the context, the history of what Indigenous Peoples have suffered since we first arrived on their land, you can aggressively embrace that mascot identity as your own.  Further you will be blind to the cartooning, mimicking and misuse of imagery, gestures and regalia, so great is your need for that identity.

This powerful appropriation connects IDENTITY WITH PRIDE. This PRIDE is so emotionally based, and the need and identity becomes so strong, that it outweighs what the members of the tribal communities tell you. To take that identity away, for some people, is a loss too great to bear.

Another force the drives the voracity of clinging to Native American identities I believe is an underlying and unspoken guilt. Most of us know on some level, that this land and all its resources that we possess came at the cost of nearly wiping out the Indigenous Peoples who were already here. Horrific things were done. The depth of grief to accept what our forbearers might have done can feel overwhelming.

But to me, part of the healing is to acknowledge. I heard it said: “If we own up to our past we won’t be condemned by it.  We are more than the worst things we’ve done.” It is a history that we’ve inherited. The choice now is what are we going to do with that inheritance moving forward?

Further Reading

Posted on 05 Feb 2019, 01:45 - Category: Discrimination



John Mack's Supervisor Report for January 2019

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for January, 2019, which was a busy month in terms of interaction with residents but light in terms of time spent at official required meetings. In January, I spent a total of 56.3 hours on official Supervisor business. For comparison, in the last quarter of 2018 (Sep through Dec), I spent an average of 46.7 hours as Supervisor.

What This Report Does Not Include

My log of Supervisor-realted activiies does not include the many hours I spend posting to this blog, maintaining my personal website, writing a newsletter, creating and posting video clips from meetings, hosting podcast interviews, summarizing decisions made by the Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition), etc. Also not included is the time I spend posting to my personal Facebook page, Twitter account, and Instagram account. These activities are NOT part of my official duties as Supervisor, but represent my personal views.

My log keeps track of the time spent on the following:

  • Attending “Required” Meetings
  • Preparation for BOS Meetings
  • Attending Optional Meetings/Activities
  • Interaction with Residents
  • Travel To & From Meetings

Meetings

In the month of January 2019, I spent 8 hours attending meetings. The average for the 4th quarter of 2018 was 16.1 hours per month. BOS meetings are “required” in the sense that I am expected to attend them in order to satisfy my duties as a Supervisor. These include regular bi-weekly public meetings, non-public executive sessions, public work sessions, and special meetings (see the list below).

“Other Meetings” I attended were optional. For January, 2019, the only optional meeting I attended was the Technology Committee meeting. The following chart shows the breakdown of all my Supervisor-related activities for January, 2019:

Interaction with Residents

In my opinion, personal interaction with residents regarding their concerns is an important part of my responsibilities as Supervisor. I want to be sure that I spend enough time reaching out to and responding to residents via personal contact, official email via my johnm@newtownpa.gov account and via my personal john@johnmacknewtown.info account, and via phone and/or Facebook.

In January, 2019, I spent approximately 12.8 hours (24% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to an average of 6.7 hours per month in the fourth quarter of 2018. What did I discuss with residents? Here’s a partial list (some items are not included for confidentiality reasons):

Disclaimer

When speaking with residents on issues that may come before the BOS in the future for a vote, I never express an opinion as to how I will vote because I may not have all the information. Needless to say, I also do NOT discuss any confidential information that is not in the public domain. These discussions with residents are meant solely to inform me of their opinions, not for me to give them my opinion. Or it is just to listen to complaints/concerns and to forward them on to the BOS if necessary

I decided to keep track of my activities as a Supervisor on a monthly basis partly because I want to be accountable to residents, but also to make sure I am making the best use of my time. It's really an honor to serve the community! I learn something new every day and have met many fine people and volunteers who also put in a lot of time without any compensation at all. Thanks to everyone who help keep Newtown in business and safe.

Previous Reports

Posted on 02 Feb 2019, 13:01 - Category: Governance



The Reorganization of Newtown Township's Leadership 2019

Organization of the Board of Supervisors

  • Phil Calabro elected as Chairman
  • Linda Bobrin elected as Vice-Chairman
  • John Mack elected as Secretary/Assistant Treasurer

REPORTING DIRECTLY TO THE BOARD OF SUPERVISORS TO SERVE THE TOWNSHIP WITH COMPENSATION FOR 2019

  • Micah Lewis appointed as Township Manager
  • Micah Lewis appointed as Township Treasurer [Mr. Lewis explained that as treasurer he is responsible for accounts payable and receivable and the budget process. Having the manager as treasurer is a common practice in Pennsylvania.]
  • The Law Offices of Sean Kilkenny appointed as Township Solicitor
  • Briana Stobbe appointed as Board of Supervisors Recording Secretary
  • Extend contract of Kurt M. Ferguson as Management Consultant ($18,000 for "Professional Services" is included in the 2019 budget to cover this expense)

REPORTING TO THE TOWNSHIP MANAGER TO SERVE WITH COMPENSATION FOR 2019

  • Remington & Vernick Engineers as Township Civil Engineers and Building Inspectors
  • T&M Associates as Township Traffic Engineers and for GIS  services
  • The law firm of Curtin & Heefner as Township Labor Attorneys
  • Remington & Vernick Engineers as Township Civil Engineer, General and Environmental Engineer and Lighting Consultant
  • Mockenhaupt Associates as Township Actuaries
  • Dahab Associates as Township Pension Investment Advisor
  • H.A. Thompson, The Hartford, Standard Insurance, Delaware Valley Workers Compensation Trust, Delaware Valley Insurance Trust, Delaware Valley Health Insurance Trust and ADP Services as brokers or carriers of Township Insurance and employee benefits
  • CKS Engineering as Township Planners
  • First National Bank of Newtown, T.D. Bank, Invest of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania Local Government Investment Trust (PLGIT), First Priority Bank, and Univest Bank Corporation as Township Depositories
  • Maillie LLP as the independent auditor to audit the accounts of Newtown Township for fiscal year 2018
  • Video Gold for Video Production
  • Glenn Forsyth as Emergency Management Coordinator and fire code official

BOARDS AND COMMISSIONS INDIVIDUALS SERVING WITHOUT COMPENSATION (partial list)

  • Appoint Amber Ray (2019), Angelic Ranck (2019), Joe O'Neill (2019), Aamir Nayeem (2019), Mercy Ingraham (2019) to Human Relations Board
  • Appoint Jack Brod (2019), Dick Weaver (2019), George Skladany (2019), Peg Dissinger (2019), Mark Boada (2019), Stu Caplan (2019), David Oxley (2019) to Finance Committee
  • Appoint Jack Brod (2019), Dick Weaver (2019), George Skladany (2019), Peg Dissinger to Planning Commission (4-year term)(2019), Mark Boada (2019), Stu Caplan (2019), David Oxley (2019) to Finance Committee
  • Affirm the appointment of Brandon Wind (2019), Timothy Potero (2020), Michael Iapalucci (2021), Bill Wall (2022) and to appoint Josephine Vlastaris (2023) to Zoning Hearing Board (5-year term)
  • Peg Dissinger appointed to Vacancy Board (1-year term)
  • Affirm appointment of Denis D'Arcy(2019), Joel Grosso (2019), Catherine Anne Porter (2019), Sue Sutton (2020), and Rachel Chafetz (2020), and to appoint Mark Stout (2020), Kathy Kelly (2021), Robert Wolf (2021), Andy Levine (2021) to Parks & Recreation Board (3-year term)
  • Affirm the appointment of Jeannette Rogers (2019), Lisa Ray (2020), David Wolcott (2021), and to appoint Craig Deutsch (2022) to Newtown Area Joint Historic Commission (4-year term)
  • Affirm the appointment of Joseph McKernan (2019), William Mahler (2020), Peggy Driscoll as Planning Commission Liaison (a voting member), Mary Donaldson (2021) and Remington & Vernick Engineers as (Building Inspector), and to appoint Mike Crane (2022) and Harriet Beckert (2022) to Historical Architectural Review Board (4 Year Term)
  • Affirm the appointment of Michael Gallagher (2019), Gerry Couch (2020), and Jerry Schenkman (2022) to Newtown Joint Municipal Sewer Authority Board (5-year term)
  • Amy Easterly, George Skladany,  Neil Schnitzer, and Brenna Luczyszyn  appointed to Environmental Advisory Council (3-year term)
  • Appoint John Mack as Tax Collection Committee Delegate and Micah Lewis as alternate to Tax Collection Management Committee
  • Affirm the appointment Dan Paramesh (2019), Jonathan Schnell (2019), Jack Melvin (2020), Tim Clausz (2020), Angela Poston (2020), and to appoint Premsun Rajesh (2021) and vacant (2021) to Technology Committee (3 Year Term)

LIAISON & COORDINATION ASSIGNMENTS

  • Bucks County Association of Township Officials: John Mack
  • Bucks County Community College: Phillip Calabro
  • Community Service Organizations: Kyle Davis
  • Council Rock School Board: Linda Bobrin
  • Council Rock Senior Center: Dennis Fisher
  • Homeowners Associations: John Mack/Linda Bobrin
  • Historical Architecture Review Board: Kyle Davis
  • Joint Zoning Council Board: Supervisors (all)
  • Newtown American Legion Ambulance Squad: Kyle Davis
  • Newtown Borough Council: Phillip Calabro
  • Newtown Fire Association: John Mack/Dennis Fisher
  • Newtown Joint Historical Commission: Kyle Davis
  • Joint Municipal Sewer Authority: Linda Bobrin
  • Parks and Recreation Board: Kyle Davis/Linda Bobrin
  • Planning Commission: Phillip Calabro/Linda Bobrin
  • County Tax Board: Dennis Fisher
  • Environmental Advisory Council: Dennis Fisher
  • Technology Committee: John Mack/Kyle Davis
  • Finance Committee: Dennis Fisher
  • Veterans Committee: Linda Bobrin

Posted on 27 Jan 2019, 10:21 - Category: Governance



Opioid Lawsuit Survey Comments

At the December 12, 2018, public meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor of authorizing a law firm to file a suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township (read "Newtown Township Joins Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers and Distributors").

To gauge the opinions of local residents regarding this lawsuit, I hosted an online SURVEY. as of January 24, 2019, 111 responses were collected. Here, I summarize some comments "Pro & Con". To find out percent of respondents in favor vs not in favor, you can take the survey yourself (results to date will be displayed after you take the survey, but no comments) or you can subscribe to my newsletter where the results will be published in the January 26, 2019, issue.

Some Comments in Favor

A total of 7 comments were made by respondents in favor of the lawsuit. Many comments were from Middletown Township residents. The following is just a sampling. One sentiment among respondents was that other entities should also be held accountable:

  • “Physicians that over prescribed should also be held accountable,” said a Middletown Township respondent.

  • “I support it ONLY if the suit includes KVK. I'm fairly certain that a large number of Newtown Residents are not fully aware that KVK is 'manufacturing' their opioids in Newtown Borough on Terry Drive!,” said a Newtown Borough resident.”

  • “As long as Newtown taxpayers are not liable for any fees in the event that the lawsuit is unsuccessful,” said a Newtown Township resident.
NOTE: Newtown Township will NOT incur any expenses related to this suit and it will NOT be charged any attorney fees for filing the action no matter what the outcome. The law firms will work on a 25% contingency basis, meaning that 25% of any fees awarded to Newtown will be retained by the law firms and 75% will go to Newtown.

Other comments were concerned about the young people who have been affected:

  • “Absolutely! We have an epidemic all over Bucks county , wonderful young people taking pills escalating to herion (sic) .. destroying families yes !!!!,” said a Jamison, PA resident.

  • “My son has been directly affected by the opioid epidemic,” said a Middletown resident.

Some Comments Not in Favor

A total of 29 comments were made from respondents who were NOT in favor of the lawsuit. Most of these were from Newtown Township residents. 

  • “This is a frivolous lawsuit, initiated by lawyers for the benefit of lawyers. Shame on Newtown supervisors for biting at this, and jumping on the bandwagon with other towns,” said a Newtown Township resident.

  • “Waste of resources concerns me [see NOTE above]. The manufacturers, with the exception of Purdue, had little to do with misuse by patients or doctors. The potential culprit are the wholesalers and chains to sent huge amounts of opioids into stores and doctor's offices known to be suppliers,” said a Lower Makefield Township resident.

  • “Regardless of my answer, There was nothing in your argument clearly defining the role of the manufacturer/ Marketer in the opioid abuse epidemic- to be more persuasive, please add this,” said a Newtown Township resident [listen to State Attorney General Josh Shapiro’s comments below]. “The manufacturer is a piece of a multifactorial (sic) puzzle that leads to addiction- we need our local healthcare professionals- the gatekeepers to these medications to step-up and commit, we need our manufacturers to put programs in place to ensure education to both HCPs, patients and public, we need parents, guardians, family and friends to speak up and take actions to limit access. We need to take real action as a community, not just put our names on a lawsuit. Big thanks to the Newtown police for already doing their part in supporting Drug Take-Back days!”

  • “To blame drug companies for this epidemic is like blaming them for cancer treatments. We need to look where the real problems lie. Social isolation, mental illness, physical, sexual and/ or emotional abuse etc. this is where it all begins,” said a Newtown Township resident.

  • “This should be the responsibility of State Attorney Generals office,” said another Newtown Township resident.
Speaking at a local the Opioid Community Forum on January 17, 2019, PA State Attorney Josh Shapiro said prescription drugs are providing the “jet fuel driving this crisis” and that is why PA is one of 4 states leading a 41 state investigation of pharmaceutical manufacturers and distributors that “I hold responsible for a huge part of this crisis.”

  • “Recent legislation and law suits such as these are making it increasingly difficult for patients to get proper care from their providers,” claims a Newtown Township resident. “This is a huge problem for people suffering from chronic pain. Making their care more difficult and more expensive.”
Some research that I have seen in the medical literature on the effectiveness of opioids.

Take a look at this study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA): "Effect of Opioid vs. Nonopioid Medications on Pain-Related Function in Patients With Chronic Back Pain or Hip or Knee Osteoarthritis Pain". Study conclusions: "Treatment with opioids was not superior to treatment with nonopioid medications (e.g. acetaminophen - Tylenol) for improving pain-related function over 12 months. Results do not support initiation of opioid therapy for moderate to severe chronic back pain or hip or knee osteoarthritis pain." You can access the full abstract here.

Here's another study you that was cited in the survey: Russell K. Portenoy, Opioid Therapy for Chronic Nonmalignant Pain: Current Status, 1 Progress in Pain Res. & Mgmt., 247-287 (H.L. Fields and J.e. Liebeskind eds., 1994). The researchers conclude that the effectiveness of opioids wane over time, requiring increases in doses to achieve pain relief and markedly increasing the risk of significant side effects and addiction.

In this issue of JAMA [JAMA. 2018;320(23):2448-2460. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.18472], Busse and colleagues provide important information on patient outcomes when opioids are used to treat chronic noncancer pain. The findings illustrate that most patients who are prescribed opioids for the treatment of chronic noncancer pain will not benefit from those drugs,” said the researchers. “However, when opioids fail to provide pain relief, a common response by clinicians may be dose escalation rather than reconsidering use of the drug. Given the clear risk of serious harm, opioids should not be continued without clear evidence of a clinically important benefit.

How Will This Help?

Several respondents wondered how any monies awarded Newtown Township would be used to combat the opioid epidemic. “What costs are you trying to recover?,” said a Newtown Township resident. “I support any monies going towards prevention & treatment,” said a Middletown resident who was unsure whether to support the lawsuit or not.

When this came to a vote at a public meeting, I too wondered how the money would used. At that meeting, I said “If the Township were to get some money out of this, small as it might be, I hope that the funds are used to support opioid anti-addiction programs and implement educational programs for the general public and students.” I also noted that Newtown Township’s “24/7” drop drop-off box could be improved by making it a secure, true 24/7 box that does not require a police officer to be called to open the lobby door during off hours and on weekends

Speaking of recovering costs, I will be attending the 111th Annual Convention of the Bucks County Association of Township Officials on Saturday, February 16, 2019. An agenda item of interest to me is an opioid panel of experts that will answer questions about which Township costs may be the result of the opioid epidemic.

Click here to access more information about this panel plus a long list of opioid epidemic costs that may be recoverable from a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers.

Posted on 25 Jan 2019, 01:48 - Category: Opioid Epidemic



Agenda Highlights for January 23, 2019 BOS Meeting

The following are highlights from the official agenda of the January 23, 2019, Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. BOS meetings begin at 7 PM and are held in the Newtown Township Public Meeting Room, 100 Municipal Drive, Newtown, PA. Access the full agenda here.

Presentation 

2018 Fire and Emergency Service Study - Dr. Harry Carter, Ph.D. For a summary of the recommendations proposed, read “Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study

Land Development

Bucks County Community College - Waiver of Stormwater Management Requirements

Manager's Report

Resolution establishing procurement procedures for the hiring of professionals for Pension Plans, in accordance with Act 44 Definition.

Consideration to approve a Resolution making a supplemental appropriation of funds in the 2019 Budget to allow $40,000 to be allocated for the DCED Early Intervention Program Grant. Listen to Andrew Sheaf, Local Government Policy Manager at the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED Definition) as he answers Newtown Township Board of Supervisors' questions about the Early Intervention Program (EIP) at the November 19, 2018 Work Session meeting.

Motion to purchase 3 police vehicles through Fred Beans Inc. through COSTARS in the amount of $92,269.00.

Motion to purchase lighting and equipment for 3 police vehicles through HAVIS, Inc. through COSTARS in the amount of $36,730.08

Note: The Township received a Keystone Community Grant of $94,000 from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to be used for the purchase of two (2) police Harley Davidson motorcycles and a Ford F-250 Pickup Truck (see here).

Motion to advertise for the purchase of two police motorcycles, lighting, and equipment through PennBID

PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR DefinitionGrant Discussion: Mr. Lewis has been identifying grant opportunities to implement the trail plan. The priority is to complete the Lower Dolington Trail funding as it is the number one trail on the list. The DCNR recreation and conservation grants program will be accepting applications from January 22 to April 10, 2019.

Posted on 21 Jan 2019, 12:23 - Category: Governance



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