John Mack - Newtown Supervisor

Introducing the 2021 Human Relations Commission

In January 2021, the Newtown Township Board of Supervisors (BOS Definition) appointed new members to the 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 Members of the 2021 NT HRC

The Anti-Discrimination 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.

Voting Members of the Commission

Kevin Antoine, JD: The inaugural Chief Diversity Equity Inclusion Officer at Bucks County Community College, Kevin is the Chair of Newtown Township’s Human Relations Commission. He has more than 16 years of experience in diversity and inclusion, non-discrimination and civil rights compliance with state and federal laws and regulations.

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.

Nicole Adams: “Since I came across an article that referenced race relations in Newtown and specifically named the Commission as a change agent in this work in the community, I was immediately intrigued and interested,” said Nicole in her application. Nicole brings a diverse background to the organization. She has the unique experience of growing up in a very diverse community and comes from a multi-racial and interfaith family (Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Black and White).

Ivan Winegar: Ivan is a retired resident living in Newtown since 1990. “In my retirement, I have been active with the African American Museum of Bucks County (on the Education Committee), a member of the Interfaith Community of Lower Bucks (working on providing opportunities for racial and ethnic groups to get to know each other better), a member of the Peace Center of Langhorne (participating in many of their activities)," said Ivan in his application.

Aamir Nayeem: “Being the son of Muslim immigrant parents, I'm unfortunately aware of the discrimination that ethnic and religious groups face regularly,” said Aamir in his application. “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.

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.

Kara McCarthy: Kara is a 2005 graduate of the University of Notre Dame with a BA in Sociology. She also has a Master's in Social Services from Bryn Mawr College. She worked for a year as a social worker in two Catholic schools in West Philadelphia. “My goal is to continue to be a participating member of this community and to continue to join in the conversations that the Human Relations Commission has started on handling racism in Newtown," said Kara in his application.

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 Kevin, Angelic, Nicole, Ivan, Aamir, Kara, John, and Samantha for volunteering to serve on this important Commission!

Recent Meeting of the Newtown HRC

At the February 17, 2021, Newtown Human Relations Commission Zoom meeting, Karen Downer, President of the Bucks County NAACP, spoke about her organization's approach to working with local police departments in Bucks County. For a summary of her presentation, read "Celebrating LOVE is LOVE and Diversity in Newtown."

Posted on 29 Mar 2021, 01:41 - Category: Discrimination

(UNOFFICIAL) 2021 Voting Record of Newtown Supervisors

I've been keeping track of how Newtown Township supervisors voted on motions before the Board. The following is the supervisor voting record to date for 2021, based on the approved minutes of meetings. [Find the 2020 Voting Record here.]

NOTE: This is NOT an official record of votes. Some very minor motions, such as to approve minutes, bills lists, etc., are not included. Please refer to the BOS meeting minutes for the official voting record of each meeting.

See the embedded PDF below or download the file here. The record is updated after each BOS meeting as soon as the official minutes are published.

Posted on 25 Mar 2021, 11:29 - Category: Governance

5G Technology Near You/Me/Schools

"We Have No Reason to Believe 5G Is Safe," says Joel M. Moskowitz, PhD, director of the Center for Family and Community Health in the School of Public Health at the University of California, Berkeley. That is the title of his opinion piece published on the Scientific American blog.

"The latest cellular technology, 5G, will employ millimeter waves for the first time in addition to microwaves that have been in use for older cellular technologies, 2G through 4G," says Dr. Moskowitz. "Given limited reach [1,000 feet], 5G will require cell antennas every 100 to 200 meters, exposing many people to millimeter wave radiation."

Should We Be Concerned About Health Effects?

"Millimeter waves are mostly absorbed within a few millimeters of human skin and in the surface layers of the cornea," says Dr. Moscowitz. BUT..."Short-term exposure can have adverse physiological effects in the peripheral nervous system, the immune system and the cardiovascular system. The research suggests that long-term exposure may pose health risks to the skin (e.g., melanoma), the eyes (e.g., ocular melanoma) and the testes (e.g., sterility)."

Yesterday, a neighbor pointed out that the antennas located on top of the Newtown Artesian Water Tower, which is about 300 feet from my home and 400 feet from Goodnoe Elementary School, are now transmitting 5G radiation (see photo below).

Until recently, I wasn't aware that these antennas on top of the Artesian Water Tower now are now transmitting 5G radiation.

I did not think much about this, until coincidentally that same day, a Newtown resident emailed me and asked: "Is 5G a topic that has been or will be discussed by Newtown Zoning or other? Are 5G emitters/masts  allowed to be close to schools? Any research reviewed on possible health effects on children?"

At the August 2, 2018, Newtown, Upper Makefield, and Wrightstown Zoning Council (JZC) meeting, solicitor Vicki Kushto reviewed the current court rulings regarding small wireless cells [aka Distributed Antenna Systems or DAS]. Small cell antennas also will lead to super-fast 5G services.

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court delivered its long awaited opinion in the case of Crown Castle NG East LLC v. Public Utility Commission, 2 MAP 2019 on July 21, 2020 which involves the status of Distributed Antenna Systems. The bottom line, DAS providers meet the definition of a “public utility” and are entitled to seek Certificates of Public Convenience. Once issued a Certificate of Public Convenience, DAS providers have access to public utility poles, public rights of way, exemptions from local zoning codes and the right to exercise the power of eminent domain. Source: 

There was legislation (HB2564) introduced by Rep. Frank Farry that would severely limit local municipalities ability to regulate this use or to seek reimbursement for the use of its public ROWs. The JZC opposes this legislation, which is being driven by DAS providers to install 5G services (see article embedded below).

I haven't heard anything new about this at recent JZC meetings, but will ask to put it on the next meeting's agenda.

UPDATE: The JZC met on Thursday, December 2, 2021. Continued discussion regarding details of the “Small Wireless Facilities” – aka Distributed Antennae Systems or DAS – ordinance.  Much of the discussion had to due with the appearance/design and location of small poles within neighborhoods, especially in underground districts in which all utility installations are required to by installed underground.

The opinion was that these provisions in the ordinance would not be enforceable if challenged in court but regardless of what the final ordinance may specify, companies that wish to put up DAS poles would, for public relations reasons, not challenge the ordinance but would prefer to come before the township to approve the design and placement of poles. It was noted that in 2012 Northampton opposed a plan to put cell phone poles in neighborhoods that otherwise have no above-ground utility poles. The company agreed to relocate the poles to more heavily traveled roads closer to existing utility poles.

This topic was discussed at the March 22, 2021, Meet Mack Monday Zoom meeting. The discussion focused on the 5G antennas on top of the Newtown Artesian Water tower located less than 500 feet from Goodnoe Elementary School and many nearby homes.

In this 15-minute excerpt from the discussion below, a resident living nearby the tower claims the 5G radiation from this source has caused medical problems for her and her children. The discussion also covers what the township can do to mitigate this problem and a new FCC rule that would make it even worse!

Mack's Newtown Voice · 5G Technology Safety Discussion

Posted on 22 Mar 2021, 01:26 - Category: Public Safety

Another Proposed Project on Newtown Bypass

Keeping the rural look of the Newtown Bypass has been a tradition in Newtown. It is a common belief among long-time Newtown area residents that the Newtown Bypass is supposed to remain an "undeveloped" greenway. For the most part, the Bypass is still somewhat preserved with trees and greenery along the route as can be seen in left side of the above photo. There are a couple of exceptions, such as Summit Square (located on the Middletown side of the road) and the NAC, to name just two of the most visible eyesores.

Preserving the “greenway” nature of the Bypass was threatened back in April 2017, when Supervisor Phil Calabro proposed that the township lease or sell two acres of Silver Lake Park, which is located on the Bypass, to Wawa (see Patch article). Although that idea never saw the light of day, a Super Wawa on the Bypass is still possible (read “Wawa is Back!”).

Will The Bypass Look Like Street Road or Route 1?

Many people fear that if Wawa is allowed to build on the Bypass with 16 fueling stations and multiple huge signs – including an electronic sign on the Bypass - it would open a “Pandora's box” for development on the Bypass and turn it into a Route 1 (right side of photo above). Fully 86% (n=288) of residents I surveyed who were against the Wawa agreed, and 78% (n=262) said it was not compatible with the historic, rural nature of Newtown. [Read “Residents Present Their Case For and Against a Super Wawa on the Bypass”]

Fast Forward to 2021: The Box Opens!

At the March 15, 2021, Newtown Board of Supervisors Work Session  representatives of Lotus Park Senior Living LLC, presented a "sketch plan" for a Senior Living facility to be located adjacent to the site of the proposed Wawa. The lot size of this parcel of land is only 4.83 acres! [See the map below.]

Guess what? The owners of this property - Innovative Hospitality Management – also own the property where the Super Wawa is likely to be built. When they saw an opportunity presented by the Wawa precedent, they proceeded to find a use for a plot of land that many experts consider unfit for development.

Lotus Parke Senior Living Sketch Plan detail

Like the convenience store/gas station use before the “curative amendment” was passed (see here), this use is not permitted in the OR (Office Research) district. To proceed with this project, the developer would need to get at least 11 zoning variances from the Zoning Hearing Board. [See CKS letter]

No decision was made at the BOS Work Session, but Supervisors had many questions and concerns. One question put forward by a supervisor had to do with the anticipated income by the township from such a facility. Recall that about 60% of Newtown’s tax revenue has consistently come from Earned Income Tax (EIT). The developer could not answer that question, but will do so if and when the application is officially submitted.

It should be noted that employment centers envisioned by the OR district could generate significant EIT revenue for the Township. Retail stores, such as Wawa, that pay a wage of $10 per hour to a minimal number of employees, do not provide any significant EIT income for the Township.

The Slippery Slope to “A Route 1” Bypass

Whether or not this proposed assisted living use application moves forward and is approved, there will be further pressure to rezone the OR district to allow other uses. The Newtown Economic Development Committee (EDC) already suggested changes to the zoning of the LI (Light Industrial) and Office Light Industrial (OLI) districts to “revitalize” the Business Commons area.

The EDC memo/plan was discussed at the February 16, 2021, BOS Work Session. Although the EDC also wanted to include the OR district in its plan, “the Supervisors agreed to discuss the memo only as it would apply to the LI and OLI zoning districts, focusing on the Business Commons only, at this time.” [Download the EDC Memo to BOS Re Zoning for Businesses.]

Local Area Residents Speak Out

“I am 60 years old,” said one Newtown neighbor on Nextdoor. “I grew up in Churchville and went to school in Newtown...Council Rock then George School. What has happened to Newtown is a travesty. I avoid it because my heart breaks every time I drive through it. It used to be a beautiful town surrounded by farms and trees. Now it is one big congested, ostentatious commercial center. Even the original Goodnoe’s and dairy farm are gone. You could not pay me to live there.”

See Nextdoor discussion “Another proposed project on Newtown Bypass” for more comments from local area residents/

Posted on 19 Mar 2021, 12:07 - Category: Development

Some Ideas for Improving Township Communications with Residents

One positive outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic is the increased use of technology like Zoom to improve communications between Newtown Township and residents primarily because many more people are attending Zoom Board of Supervisors (BOS) meetings than in-person public meetings. In fact, 94 people attended one contentious BOS Zoom meeting! That's probably more than can fit into the public meeting room even if social distancing restrictions were lifted.

Despite the use of Zoom technology - which may not continue after COVID - there is a long-term need to improve communications between the township and residents. This is something that the Newtown Finance Committee (NTFC) asked for at the recent March 15, 2021, BOS Work Session. Shelly Howland, NTFC Chair, presented a plan for how the NTFC would like to work with BOS to improve the budgeting process. She mentioned the need for a public information/communication plan to support the NTFC as well as the Economic Development Committee (EDC) in reaching out to the public. Listen to her comments here (beginning at  the1 hour 13 minute timestamp).

Some Suggestions

I was asked by EDC member George Skladany to provide information about how the Newtown Twp website compares to other local municipality websites. See below for relevant links to that PLUS other communications ideas I have brought before the BOS and Township Manager in the past.

  • "How Does Newtown Township's Website Stack Up?" - my analysis of a report/study done by the Bucks County Courier Times. NT's website is competitive with the sites of other municipalities. However, aside from the Police and Parks and Rec Departments, NT does not do so well in using social media technology to communicate with residents.

Pull Versus Push

I mentioned to the EDC members the importance of "Push" technology versus the "Pull" technology of websites. Email is the major "push" technology but it is problematic in terms of open rates. My email newsletter service has nearly 600 subscribers, which is excellent. But (1) it takes a LONG time to get this many subscribers! See below for ideas how NT can get email subscribers; and (2) The average open rate is about 33% per email blast. To get a higher percentage (e.g., up to 75%) of subscribers to open email, it is necessary to send out the same email message 3 or 4 times - first to all subscribers then only to subscribers who did not open the previous email. That too is a lot of work!

Mobile is the Best Push Technology

The best push technology these days is mobile texting. Everyone carries their cell phone with them all day and they see all texts. That is why the former Technology Committee and I recommended a service like Savvy Citizen, which pushes out notifications to mobile phone users in any specified area.

The COVID/Zoom Opportunity

Not mentioned above is the fact that since Newtown has been requiring pre-registration for most official Zoom meetings, it has been collecting names and email addresses as part of the process. I've mentioned to township officials that this information should be saved because it can be used to send out email notices in the future. According to privacy laws, one unsolicited email can be sent out to people who may not have opted in to receive it. That email can request an opt-in to a notification service - either an email notification service or a mobile phone service such as Savvy Citizen.

Join the NEW Technology & Communications Committee!

I revised the mission statement of the Technology Committee to include “improve communications between the Township and its residents” (Resolution 2018-R-11, March 28, 2018). It is now the "Technology & Communications Committee."

Currently, 4 people have signed on - they need to be officially appointed by the BOS. Since the committee can have "up to" 7 members, 4 would be sufficient to carry on official business. Technology & Communications Committee can help other committees with implementing ideas for better communication with residents. The first order of business would be to interview NTC and EDC committee members on their communication needs.

If you know of anyone who would like to serve on the Technology & Communications Committee - they don't have to be techies! - please have them submit a letter of intent and/or resume/description to Olivia Kivenko,

Posted on 19 Mar 2021, 01:03 - Category: Communication

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