In 2016, our Harrisburg legislators enjoyed tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and hospitality. PA law places no limit on the size and number of gifts that can be accepted. Elected officials need only disclose gifts worth $250 or more, and transportation and hospitality worth $650 or more. Often, they provide few details, and sometimes it is impossible to discern much at all from their reports. Gift ban proposals have languished in the legislature for years, despite public calls for reforms. Former legislators say lawmakers resist changes because they enjoy the perks of the job, including being wined and dined by lobbyists and others working to influence state government.
To read more, click Permissive PA Gift Policies
Cathy Kernen, current Collegeville Borough Council member and 2018 Council candidate
One of the very first things I will do as Collegeville’s new Mayor in January of 2018 will be to officially announce the establishment of regular “Open Office Hours”. A sign, similar to this one will be visually and symbolically prominent in my media and in my weekly practice so that Collegeville residents and others have the opportunity to meet with me on a drop-in basis to discuss whatever issues, ideas or concerns that are on their minds without an appointment.
Currently, Collegeville has no official physical site for the “Office of the Mayor”. Where might the ideal place be? It could be in Borough Hall, or at a table in one of our restaurants or coffee houses. Maybe one of the churches, organizations or businesses on Main Street would be willing to provide a space in their facilities to foster this kind of civic engagement. Perhaps the “Office” will be a roving or rotating one. But wherever it is, it will be open to all of Collegeville’s residents, whether they be Democrats, Republicans, Independents or of no party at all. I plan to be the people’s mayor and open to listening to your many voices and perspectives.
Democrats in Collegeville sent a loud and clear message through yesterday’s Primary Election Results. That message is, “Collegeville Matters!” It matters to us who serves as a member of Borough Council. It matters to us who champions our community as Mayor. Our children matter and we are deeply invested in who serves as Directors of Perkiomen Valley School District. Reignited in part by catastrophic national election results of 2016, Collegeville Democrats have been on a mission, of resistance, insistence, persistence and enlistment throughout the winter and spring. A significant milestone was the Primary Election.
About 14% of registered Collegeville Democrats showed up at the polls yesterday. Only 7.2% of registered Republicans chose to vote. Democrats doubled the percentage of voter turnout of Republicans in this “Off Year” Primary Election. Few people saw this reversal in turnout rates coming. Historically fewer Democrats in Collegeville have turned out for the off year Primary. All of our candidates for Mayor and Borough Council received more than twice as many votes for their office of service than did any of their Republican counterparts. Our message of attracting new businesses, being a visible and available presence to all citizens, prioritizing partnerships and transparency in governance is resounding among our constituency.
From 7:00 A.M. yesterday morning until 8:00 PM last night, Aidsand “Ace” Wright-Riggins, Catherine Kernen, Marion McKinney, Mathew McKnight and Shannon Spencer met with Democratic and Republican voters outside of Saint Eleanor Parish, Trinity United Church of Christ and Borough Hall listening to their hopes and dreams and responding to their concerns for Collegeville. After the polls closed, the candidates joined with our Municipal Chair, Andrea Baptiste and campaign volunteers at Da Vinci’s Restaurant to toast and celebrate the evening’s victory and the hard work of the scores of Collegeville Democrats who made the success possible.
The Collegeville Borough Council can serve its citizens best by reinstating its Business Liaison Committee and by partnering with and funding the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation (CEDC). Many residents are puzzled as to why the Borough Council did not feel it was important to support their Borough businesses and terminated the funding to the CEDC almost four years ago. A strong and stable business and economic base in Collegeville helps lower property taxes for residents, ensures higher property values for homeowners, and increases the overall quality of life for our families and visitors.
Businesses such as Sears, Acme, Subway, Radio Shack, and the Wine and Spirits Shoppe have left our borough. Many smaller retail entities are also long gone. The Providence Town Center and the revitalized business and Main-Street shopping districts in Phoenixville, Skippack, and surrounding areas are steadily siphoning off our disposable residential income, and the robustness of their business districts continue to threaten potential Collegeville-based businesses. It appears that convenience stores and gas stations are becoming the most visually defining businesses in Collegeville.
Still a wonderful place to live due to well-maintained and welcoming neighborhoods, the presence of Ursinus College, and our progressive Collegeville Police, many people are beginning to question if due to the erosion of its business district that this family-friendly, historic and walkable community has totally lost its luster. Re-establishing a proactive Business Liaison Committee which works to keep businesses in Collegeville and partners with the CEDC to attract new businesses is the least the Borough Council could do to stem the tide and work toward revitalizing our business district.
For Collegeville Borough to be a viable business competitor in 2017, businesses must be recruited that define our Borough business district as a true destination. With Providence Town Center’s Big Box stores, we see our marketing niche as attracting Mom and Pop unique specialty stores, such as artisan cheese and other food shops, cookware, clothing and other boutiques, delis, and family and high end restaurants, among others.
We also are fortunate to have Ursinus College in Collegeville, and Brock Blumberg, the President of this 1,500 student campus, is moving to provide summer programs open to both the community and students year round in order to attract more student- and resident-focused businesses to Collegeville Borough.
The Borough Council could go one step further by establishing a “Business Development Commission.” I would nominate Cathy Kernen, the only Democrat on the Collegeville Council for this Commission, and I believe that in addition to other Council Members, the commission could include residents of the community and small business owners. Individuals with exemplary skills and background in business, marketing, communication and other areas could help us create a vision for the future of Collegeville Borough. Establishing such a commission would be a positive step in demonstrating that the viability of the Collegeville Business District really does matters to the Borough Council.
Many people mistakenly believe that the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation (CEDC) is a subset or function of the Collegeville Borough. Not so. While the CEDC was created by members of Ursinus College, Collegeville Borough Council and the local community in 2003, the Collegeville Borough Council itself has long since abandoned funding the Corporation and significantly partnering with it.
The CEDC has a compelling vision. That vision is to promote the Collegeville Business District as a destination, enhance and promote social and economic connections between Ursinus College and the Business District, promote the accessibility and character of Collegeville and encourage family-related and visitor activities. I am aghast that the Borough Council would sever synergistic connections and energies with members of this community and Ursinus College. It is clear to me that without a business and economic vision and the will to pursue it, the borough businesses will slowly perish.
Currently, our Borough Council and the Planning Commission must make an important decision regarding the attractiveness and business sustainability of our community:
This opinion piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer dated April 19, 2017 by John Baer highlights the growing budget deficit in PA. Although states have a mandate to balance their budgets every year, many do not. Truth in Accounting, a non-profit which provides citizens with understandable government financial information, states that PA’s actual fiscal deficit is $74.2 billion. As Democrats, we believe that it is the responsibility of those we elect to public office to be responsible stewards of our tax dollars. Yet, our state representative and senators seem more focused on their own slush fund, which now totals $118 million in reserve accounts, an increase of $18 million over the previous year at a time of state fiscal crisis. – Cathy Kernen, Collegeville Borough Council Member