John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

December 2018 Police Report: Progress Against Opioid Epidemic

Interim Police Chief Jason Harris presented the Calls for Service Report for December 2018 at the January 9, 2019, Board of Supervisors (BOS) meeting. In December, the Newtown Police Department responded to 1,285 total calls, 227 (18%) of which were in Wrightstown Township (Newtown Police provides services to both Newtown Township and Wrightstown). See a summary of the report below. Note: Not all calls are listed.

Opioid Crisis Progress

I note that in December there were no calls for drug overdose and no calls involving the use of Narcan by Newtown Police, which is good news. In fact, according to the Chief’s report, for 2018, Police Calls in Newtown and Wrightstown townships for drug overdoses is down by about 40% (13 in 2018 vs. 22 in 2017). Calls involving Narcan use, however, increased by 50% (3 in 2018 vs. 2 in 2017).

Thanks once again to the Newtown Police Department for saving lives with Narcan. In fact, it was recently reported in the Bucks County Courier Times that police in PA saved more than 9,000 people from dying of overdoses and in the last year EMS agencies were responsible for 12,000 rescues in the state (see story embedded at the end of this post).

Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show an 11 percent decline in Pennsylvania drug deaths between the 12-month period ending in May 2017 and the 12-month period ending in May 2018.

Meanwhile, Newtown Police continue to pursue drug pushers. There were 4 narcotics-related calls in December to bring the total to 32 for the year, a slight increase over the 31 narcotics calls in 2017.

FREE Narcan Available

Recently, I was contacted by Diane Rosati, executive director of the Drug and Alcohol Commission, who asked me to spread the word that Narcan is available FREE to all residents of Bucks County.

Ms. Rosati encourages all residents who know someone who struggles with opiates to stop by one of the Commission’s three designated sites to pick up Narcan nasal spray.

You can visit the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission, 600 Louis Drive, Suite 102A, Warminster, PA, to obtain Narcan Mondays and Tuesdays between 10 AM and 1 PM, while supplies last.

Staff will meet with individuals to:

  • Provide information on what N arc an is and how to use it
  • Offer handouts about local drug & alcohol resources; e.g. how to access treatment and recovery services
  • Make onnline instructional video about using Narcan available to view

Community Event

Traffic Citations

There were 100 total traffic citations in Newtown in December 2018, bringing the total number of citations to 1,367 for the year compared to 898 in 2017 – a 52% increase! 523 citations (38%) involve speeding.

There were 35 speeding citations in December. Only 4 (11%) of those were on Swamp Road. This compares to 38 Swamp Road speeding citations in November (see charts below).

Struck Deer

The number police calls involving struck deer in Newtown and Wrightstown totaled 191 in 2018 vs. 154 in 2017. The December numbers - at least in Newtown - remained high.

 

 

Posted on 11 Jan 2019, 01:13 - Category: Crime



Newtown Township Appoints Members of the Newly Created Human Relations Commission

At last night’s Reorganization meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) appointed 5 people to the newly created Human Relations Commission (HRC), which was established by the Anti-Discrimination Ordinance passed by the BOS on November 28, 2018 (read “Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments”).

The ordinance, a copy of which you can download here, safeguards the right of citizens to obtain and hold employment and public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions."

The Commission will handle complaints through a fact-finding conference with the parties of the dispute in order to reach a resolution without the need to hire lawyers or go to court.

First Meeting of the Newtown Township Human Relations Commission

On Weds, Mar 20, 2019, the Commissions elected a Chairperson (Amber Ray) and Secretary (Angelic Acevedo), plus two non-voting members: Samantha Gross Dorf and  John Gyllenhammer.
Standing, left to right, is Aamir Nayeem, Samantha Gross Dorf (non-voting member), Mercy Ingraham, and Amber Ray. Sitting, left to right: Joe O’Neill and Angelic Acevedo.

Voting Members of the Commission

Angelic Acevedo: A physician by training and originally from Puerto Rico, Angelic is a member of the Newtown Elementary Diversity Committee and has volunteered with her church in Plainsboro, NJ and other non-profits. She also leads the Princeton Pike chapter of the Organization for Latino Achievement, an employee resource group that her employer, BMS, sponsors. As part of this group, Angelic facilitates employee development activities for Hispanic minorities as well as liaises with other resource groups to champion events that help reinforce an environment of inclusion.

Mercy Ingraham: “Fair treatment under the law is a life-long interest of mine. I have worked with the poor and the disadvantaged all of my professional career.” Mercy's volunteer activities have included being a team leader in an inter-faith coalition to assist local refugee resettlement since 2016.

Aamir Nayeem: “Being the son of Muslim immigrant parents, I'm unfortunately aware of the discrimination that ethnic and religious groups face regularly. Although I haven't personally faced much harassment or discrimination living and going to school in Newtown, I'd like to be a part of the solution and make sure that others don't have to deal with it either.” While a student at the University of Pittsburgh, Aamir was a member of the Muslim Students Association's executive board, which hosted events and discussions helping educate others about Islam and helping students deal with the rise of Islamophobia.

Joe O'Neill: “Over the course of my career, I have served in many volunteer capacities, and perhaps pertinent to this commission, I have experience with diversity and inclusion policies within companies both for-profit and non-profit."

Amber Ray: Amber recently moved to Newtown from Bristol Borough, where she was on the human relations commission for two years. Amber thus has critical experience in the activities of such Commissions.

Non-Voting Members of the Commission

Non-voting members of the Commission are ex officio members whose background and expertise broaden the diversity that serves on the Commission.

Samantha Gross Dorf: Currently working as the Executive Assistant to the Provost of the Bucks County Community College, Samantha is co-chair of the Race, Ethnicity, Diversity, and Inclusion Advisory Group to the President and lead of the student food insecurity group. These two additional roles at the college allow Samantha to serve the coliege in the areas of equity, diversity and inclusion.

John R. Gyllenhammer: John is Deputy General Counsel and Chief Counsel for Health Sciences at Drexel University in Philadelphia. During his 25 years in legal positions at Drexel University and George Mason University, John has had extensive involvement with anti-discrimination laws and regulations applicable to employees, students, patients and members of the general public.

Thank you Mercy, Aamir, Joe, Angelic, Amber, Samantha, and John for volunteering!

Posted on 08 Jan 2019, 01:55 - Category: Discrimination



John Mack’s Supervisor Report for December 2018

The following is a summary of my Supervisor-related activities for December, 2018, which was a “light” month in terms of official meetings due to the holidays. In December, I spent a total of 24.1 hours on official Supervisor business. For comparison, in November, I spent 58.5 hours as Supervisor (read “John Mack’s Supervisor Report for November 2018”).

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 December 2018, I spent only 3 hours attending meetings, which was significantly less than the 19 hours I spent attending meetings last 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 December, 2018, the only other optional meeting I attended was the regular monthly meeting of the Newtown Fire Association. The following chart shows the breakdown of all my Supervisor-related activities for December, 2018:

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 December, 2018, I spent approximately 6.5 hours (27% of my total logged hours) interacting with residents compared to 5 hours (8%) in November. 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.

Posted on 02 Jan 2019, 11:22 - Category: Governance



Newtown Township BOS 2018 Accomplishments

The following are some notable accomplishments of the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) in 2018. I am proud to have been involved in these decisions along with my fellow BOS members. I look forward to a prosperous and safe New Year!

Took Action to Enhance the Safety of Residents
  1. Hired a New Police Chief

  2. Named a New Township Manager: Micah Lewis (previously Assistant Manager)

  3. Hosted a public meeting on September 12, 2018, at which several PennDOT officials answered questions from residents and Supervisors concerning Swamp Road Traffic. Several suggestions for improving safety, including initiating a speed study to see if the speed limit can be lowered, were considered; see video:

  4. Passed a Gun Safety Resolution (Resolution 2018-R-17, passed by 4-1 on June 13, 2018) that calls for the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the United States Congress to enact laws to reduce gun violence. Council Rock High School students commented in favor of a gun safety Resolution Definition before the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors:

  5. Passed Resolution 2018-R-20 requesting 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 to support community policing efforts and truck enforcement. We got the grant! More...

  6. Commissioned a Fire and Emergency Services Study. In February, 2018, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors approved the hiring of a consultant to undertake “an organizational, effectiveness and overall efficiency study on staffing levels, facilities, apparatus needs, equipment, administration, financials pertaining to the fire service and the services of the department serving our community.” The final Fire and Emergency Services Study was completed in December, 2018. Find a list of major recommendations here.
Took Action to Fight Opioid Crisis

Filed a Civil Action Suit Against Opioid Manufacturers

With regard to the opioid crisis, I have said (here) that we can’t educate doctors and patients on the effects of opioids and combat the overdose epidemic without addressing the source of the problem: pharmaceutical companies.

At the December 12, 2018, meeting, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors voted 4 to 1 in favor (Kyle Davis voted nay) of authorizing Marc J. Bern Partners, LLP, & Cordisco & Saile, LLC to file suit against the manufacturers, promoters, and distributors of synthetic prescription Opioid medications on behalf of Newtown Township.

The following video clip documents the discussion before the vote was taken:

Improved Tracking of Police Calls for Drug Overdoses and Narcan Use

In order to help combat the opioid overdose epidemic, we must keep track of the numbers, especially numbers that document the use of Narcan by our police force and the commend those officers who go beyond the call of duty to rescue people with Narcan.

As of November 30, in 2018, Newtown police saved 3 people from dying of opioid overdose by using Narcan. Interim Police Chief Harris informed the BOS that on October 23, 2018, Officer Frank Goodwin administered Narcan to a young woman in cardiac arrest due to a drug overdose. The Chief noted that Officer Goodwin’s actions surely saved this person’s life.

Last year, police alone in PA have saved more than 9,000 people from dying of opioid overdose by using Narcan. EMS agencies were responsible for 12,000 rescues. 

Took Action to Protect Our Environment

Passed Anti-Fracking Resolution

A the March 28, 2018, Newtown BOS meeting, the Supervisors by a 4-1 vote (Kyle Davis voting nay) passed Newtown Resolution 2018-R-10,  which calls upon the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) to “enact a complete and permanent ban on natural gas development and hydraulic fracturing and all related activities (including drilling, fracking, wastewater processing and discharges from and water withdrawals for drilling and fracking operations) throughout the basin.” [Read “Newtown Township Supports a Complete & Permanent Ban on Fracking and Related Activities”]

Unfortunately, the Resolution was submitted to DRBC after the deadline. At the June 13, 2018, public meeting of the DRBC, I summarized the major points of the Resolution and asked that the Resolution be added to the public comment docket regarding DRBC’s Proposed Draft Regulations Addressing Hydraulic Fracturing.

Practiced Fiscal Responsibility

Passed the 2019 Budget Without Raising Taxes

The proposed package, which was approved in a 5-0 vote at the Dec. 12 meeting, is a little more than three percent higher than the 2018 budget but includes no property or other tax hike.

According to the budget, Newtown will end the 2018 fiscal year on Dec. 31 with an estimated budget surplus of $2,538,208, which is about what was earlier projected. However, Supervisors Davis and Mack questioned whether this so called ‘net fund balance’ is adequate to ensure the township’s future financial stability, of if a higher amount is needed on the books to ensure a healthy fiscal picture for township auditors.

“It’s a concern, it’s getting lower and lower every year,” stated Mack.

Last year at this time, the township ended fiscal year 2017 with a $3.14 million net fund balance. Chairman Calabro also expressed his concerns of the dwindling surplus, noting, “We need to find ways of raising revenues in the future.”

Established the Newtown Township Finance Committee

Resolution 2018-R-12,  signed on March 28, 2018, states "It is the mission of the Finance Committee (NTFC), in cooperation with the Board of Supervisors and the Township Manager, to make recommendations to the Board of Supervisors related to matters associated with finance, budgeting, debt service, investments and long-range planning."

At the September 26, 2018, BOS meeting, Jack Brod, Chair of the NTFC, presented the Committee's first-ever report to the Newtown Board of Supervisors. Play the following video clip to hear the details:

Established a Human Relations Commission

On November 28, 2018, Newtown Township became the FIRST Township in Bucks County to pass an Ordinance Definition prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Specifically, the ordinance, a copy of which you can download here, safeguards the right of citizens to obtain and hold employment and public accommodation and to secure housing accommodation and commercial property "without regard to actual or perceived race, color, gender, religion, ancestry, genetic information, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, familial status, marital status, age, mental or physical disability, use of guide or support animals and/or mechanical aids, and to have equal access to postsecondary educational institutions."

The Ordinance becomes effective immediately upon the appointment of a Human Relations Commission by the Newtown Board of Supervisors. The Commission will handle complaints through a fact-finding conference with the parties of the dispute in order to resolve the dispute without the need to hire lawyers or go to court.

The BOS appointed 5 members to the commission at the January, 7, 2019, reorganization meeting. Find out who they are here
Approved Repaving of 2.3 Miles of Roads

In 2017 and 2018, 8.3 miles of roads were repaved for an average of 4.15 miles per year (read more on this here). This is an important threshold number. With 71.3 road miles and an average of a 20-year life, the Township would need to average 3.56 miles of road paving per year to keep up. For 2019, the BOS approved 2.34 miles of roads bringing the 3-year average to 3.54 miles per year. In 2020, when the Township expects to take out a new road improvement loan, the number may be closer to 5 miles of newly repaved roads. This program is accomplished without raising taxes! The following is the list of roads expected to be repaved in 2019:

Established the Newtown Township Veterans Committee

Via Resolution 2018-R-13,  signed on March 28, 2018, states "The mission of the Newtown Township Veterans Committee shall be to honor our many Veterans, aid in the planning, facilitation, and coordination of Veterans affairs in the Township and to work with existing Veterans organizations and Township residents to achieve this mission."

Rejected the Arcadia Green III PRD Application

On November 14, 2018, the Newtown Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to deny approval of a tentative Arcadia Green Planned Residential Development (PRD Definition) project! More…

“After listening to all the testimony, reading the reports of experts, and listening to residents of surrounding communities, I will vote to deny the current Arcadia PRD because I think it would be unsafe for residents of that development – should it go forward – to exit and enter the development. Also, let’s not forget the additional traffic it would bring to the intersection of Buck Road and the Bypass. Lastly, the plan for a U-turn to allow access to the Bypass is totally impractical, unsafe, and will cause major delays in my opinion, which seems to also be the opinion of PennDOT and other experts.” – John Mack’s comments made before the vote by BOS.
Introduced an Ordinance to Eliminate PRD from JMZO Zoning Ordinance

At the September 12, 2018, Newtown Board of Supervisors meeting, Solicitor David Sander introduced JMZO 2017-04, which is an ordinance amending the Newtown Joint Municipal Zoning Ordinance (JMZO Definition) to delete Planned Residential Development. The Board passed the ordinance by a 5-0 vote. See video below:

Approved Several Notable Eating/Drinking Establishments

The list includes:

  1. Nina’s Waffles (read “Nina's Waffles Coming to Newtown”),  
  2. Drive-thru Starbucks (although initially rejected; read “Drive-thru Starbucks is Back on Track!”),
  3. Newtown Brewery (read “Craft Beer Brewery, Food Trucks and Fun Coming to Newtown Commons This Summer”)
  4. Melt Shop, a grilled cheese store (read “Melt, a Grilled Cheese Store, To Open Newtown”)
  5. Cross Culture Indian Cuisine (read “New Cross Culture Indian Restaurant and Turning Point Breakfast/Lunch Restaurant Coming to Newtown Township”)
  6. Turning Point (breakfast & Lunch)

 

Posted on 31 Dec 2018, 14:46 - Category: Governance



Newtown Township Releases the 2018 Fire and Emergency Services Study

In November, 2017, Newtown Township issued an RFP seeking a fire service consultant experienced in the management and operations of volunteer/combination fire departments to undertake “an organizational, effectiveness and overall efficiency study on staffing levels, facilities, apparatus needs, equipment, administration, financials pertaining to the fire service and the services of the department serving our community.”

In February, 2018, Harry R. Carter. Ph.D., L.L.C., a municipal fire protection firm headquartered in New Jersey, was approved by the Newtown Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) to perform the analysis (see minutes of the February 14, 2018, BOS meeting). Dr. Harry Carter has more than 35 years’ experience as a municipal fire protection consultant. He has been a member of the fire and emergency services world since 1964.

The final Fire and Emergency Services Study was completed in December, 2018, and is currently available on the Township website here.

A Brief History of Newtown Fire Services

The Newtown Fire Association (NFA), which is a volunteer fire department, provides fire protection to both Newtown Township and Newtown Borough. In 1996 the fire association approached the township and requested assistance with the fire services coverage due to the lack of volunteers available during daytime hours. To meet that need, the township established the Newtown Emergency Services Department (NESD) to provide fire services coverage Monday through Friday from the hours of 8AM - 4:30PM.

In 2002 the Emergency Services Department expanded their hours from 6AM-6PM due to the limited availability of volunteers. That level of service continues today. NFA continues to provide coverage for the remaining hours, 6 P.M. - 6 A.M. during the week and 24 hours on Saturday and Sunday. NFA also provides for 24-hour coverage during twelve (12) holidays in which the township is closed.

Fire Study Recommendations

Dr. Carter’s study made several recommendations. The following is a list of some of the most important recommendations that pertain to the reorganization and effectiveness of Newtown’s fire services. Please refer to the full study here.

“Let me suggest that a major problem in Newtown Township involves the staffing level of your fire department,” noted Dr. Carter in the study. “I must recommend that you broaden your career staffing to cover a seven-day per week operation.”

According to Dr. Carter, many personnel in the volunteer staff  “do not recognize” the fact that that Glenn Forsythe is the chief in charge. “We did not see any organizational chart which accurately portrayed the manner in which the organization operates,” said Dr. Carter.

The report recommends that a “true combination fire department” should be created which combines Station 45 (the volunteer station on Liberty Street in the Borough) and Station 55 (the paid staff station located in the Municipal Complex at 100 Municipal Drive in the Township) under the control of the career fire chief (Glenn Forsyth).

“The existing and future [Newtown] population that can reasonably be expected to evolve may not be of a type and kind … willing to become active volunteer members of the fire department,” said Dr. Carter in his report. “This fact will at some point in the future lead your community in the direction of some form of combination of full-time career fire department in line with your paid-on-call workers in the future.”

Dr. Carter recommended getting out “in front of this issue” by forming a committee and to determine how new combination department should develop.

Meanwhile, according to the report, career staffing hours should be expanded to a seven days a week schedule. This recommendation is based upon a review of response data [in 2018, the average time for fire personnel to get the scene of a fire call ranged from 9 minutes, 50 seconds to 10 minutes, 20 seconds. The longest recorded response time was 19 minutes.]

The fire stations are poorly positioned, according to the report. “The station on Municipal Drive is poorly located with regard to the township and the borough,” said Dr. Carter. “The Borough station is also poorly located for its role in the protection of the township,” he added. The report recommends that consideration be given to developing plans for a new fire station in the area of Sycamore Street.

“It was my observation that many members of the organization do not believe their input is really desired and appreciated,” Dr. Carter noted. “It seemed to my associate and me that an insufficient number of ways exist within the fire company for the agency as a whole to communicate with its members and itself. The key to continued success … is to maintain an open and sincere line of communications between and among the officers and members of your fire department,” suggested Dr. Carter.

“During the interview process my associate and I found that many people spoke about the manner in which apparatus acquisitions were being conducted,” said Dr. Carter. The report recommended that a formal apparatus acquisitions committee be created which is responsible for working to develop the recommendations for new apparatus and equipment. This committee must have members of both the career and volunteer staffs and will serve in an advisory capacity to the career Fire Chief.

Finally, Dr. Carter recommended that all members be made aware of the nature of the financial arrangements that the fire association (and thus the new combination fire department) has with Newtown Township. He suggested that this be part of a facilitated meeting involving all members of the department. This meeting should be facilitated by someone outside of the department with a fire and EMS background who has experience in conducting such meetings. “All of the issues identified in this report could be addressed at that time,” said Dr. Carter.

Further Reading:

Posted on 29 Dec 2018, 11:27 - Category: First Responders



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