7 May 2013 Bellevue Pre-Council Meeting

120625-LiB-Logo-BlackThe pre-council meeting this week lasted a bit longer and included a bit more interesting debate than we anticipated. In particular, at the beginning of the meeting, Mike Fodi, owner of Fodi Jewelers, addressed the council about the inherent problems with the proposed “pawn shop ordinance.” Though the ordinance was drafted in order to regulate and limit the business of “seedy” pawn shops (which are popping up in the borough) and protect the victims of theft and fraud, the actual effect, according to Mr. Fodi, would be the opposite; the business of legitimate jewelers would be negatively effected while seedy pawn shops would flourish.

The proposed ordinance as it currently stands requires a 45 day hold on all precious metals (jewelry) before a shop could resell them. If this ordinance were to be enacted, Mr Fodi effectively argued that it would drastically restrict his ability to maintain his jewelry business due to the daily fluctuations of the precious metal market. Additionally, if this ordinance is enacted, thieves looking to make a quick buck by pawning stolen jewelry would likely just sell their stolen goods in neighboring communities where the restrictions are not as stiff; thus the victims would be less likely to win a case against those who steal from them. Mr. Fodi recommended a compromise plan of photographing suspected stolen precious metals for the purposes of evidence in a police investigation with a far less restrictive time line for reselling precious metals in order to protect the jewelry business.

Councilwoman and mayoral candidate Jane Braunlich seemed more interested in protecting her ordinance and argued with Mr. Fodi about the profit margins of the jewelry business before she was finally forced to return the proposed ordinance to committee for further discussion. We encourage you to take time to view the footage of the pre-council meeting for yourself below and leave your thoughts on the pawn shop ordinance and the rest of matters discussed below!

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18 Responses to “7 May 2013 Bellevue Pre-Council Meeting”

  1. Braunlich’s comments about the profit margin in the jewelry business are typical of uninformed and envious people. What’s Fodi supposed to do? Engage only in commerce that people like her approve?
    The pawn shop ordinance is redundant. There are hundreds of pages of PA law regarding pawn shops and the pawn business. It’s just a stupid gimmick by Braunlich to make her appear relevant.
    Why all the fear of pawnshops and similar businesses, anyway? Are they to be painted with the same boogey man brush as taverns and tavern owners? I honestly believe there are people so incredibly stupid that they believe many people start businesses so they can alienate customers, alienate the community where they operate and then go broke and close down. Things like this are the reason why no one without a business (degree not required) or public administration(degree required) background should be allowed anywhere near control of public dollars.

  2. Why in the world would ANYONE classify a jewelry store as a pawn shop? Jewelers have been buying & selling precious metals for centuries. My goodness Bellevue Council, wake up and smell the coffee…..and have just a TAD of trust in your jewelry store owners/operators. They (the jewelry folks) know what’s “hot” and what’s not. They know how to handle these situations professionally and “legally”. As even the Bellevue Police Chief stated during the discussion, ….what Mike Fodi was doing to protect everyone was sufficient and proper. Now when you have a “pawn shop” that buys, sells & trades every type of merchandise, i.e. anything under the sun,….then and only then you MIGHT consider a regulatory ordinance for “holding items” for a specified period of time. My gosh Bellevue Council, get with the program.

  3. Pawn shops and pawn brokers have, like jewelers, been in business for millennia. Pawn brokers are generally experts on the items they buy and sell and perform a valuable lending service for people who cannot get quick cash from traditional sources or cannot otherwise sell items quickly. Pawn shops do not buy anything under the sun. They buy what they can sell at a predetermined profit. Pawnbrokers are neither idiots nor are they thieves. Pawn shops are well regulated and THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH PAWN SHOPS except for the perception of pawnshops by people that look down their noses at businesses that loan at elevated interest rates (the greater the risk of loan default the greater the interest rate charged). We have check cashing stores in Bellevue that fleece customers and tax preparation services that offer refund anticipation loans at close to usurious rates to people who can least afford the rates they are charged. These businesses are far worse and a bigger blight on the community than pawn shops. Bellevue Council does not need to create silly, useless, revenue consuming, redundant ordinances. What’s the next trick from the Braunlich magic cuckoo hat, a murder ordinance?

  4. Fodi Jewelers is not a pawn Shop! What’s next, an ordinance prohibiting Bellevue residents from selling items on eBay? or a ban all garage sales in the borough? Keep your receipts everyone! You may soon have to prove to Mayor Braunlich that you really purchased your stuff.

  5. I would love to hear Mrs. Braunlich’s credentials. What qualifies her to enact ordinances for businesses in the first place? Has she operated a business? Managed a business? Consulted on a new business? Has she ever seen a business plan, a business budget, or actually taken a look at the books of a small business?

    When she went on her tangent about Mr. Fodi’s profit margin and how he buys “for pennies on the dollar”, I think her entire ordinance and argument was debunked. She’s not “for the innocent victim”, she’s clearly anti-capitalism, anti-commerce, anti-prosperity, and anti-everything else that makes the world go ’round. Maybe she’s forgotten the country that she lives in. Her aggressive, condescending, and outrageous attitude towards the police chief and towards Mr. Fodi, and to everyone else for that matter, is unacceptable. It was as if she was up on her stage, and how dare someone question her ordinance?! You know the saying, “people hate what they don’t understand”, and clearly the case that was presented to her in opposition of her ordinance went over her head, so her only viable reaction is one of aggression and defensiveness. As a legislator, you should be ecstatic that a business in your borough is doing well, not bash them for making a profit.
    Then again, it’s easy to be a critic from your comfy seat in borough hall…

    I would love to hear from her about this, in fact i emailed her yesterday to her shiny new email address to inquire about her thoughts on this ordinance and some other issues. I have not heard back yet.
    As far as this blog goes, i give it a mater of hours until one of her “friends” scoops in to try to defend her from these critiques. The responses will sound like this: “she’s just trying to protect the innocent people”, “she’s for the families”, blah blah blah… It’s election season folks, let’s not forget that. And as always – JANE KNOWS BEST!

  6. This is another example of Jane Braunlich knows what is best for all of us.

    Jane believes she is saving Bellevue from itself.

    Imagine if she is elected mayor and she has administrative & strategic oversight of the Cheif of Police!

  7. This ordinance was introduced by our Chief of Police. The chief and Jane worked together on this. For some reason Jane is getting criticzed and not the chief. Many communities have this ordinance. It is called the pawn shop ordinance but includes second hand dealers, as well. We do have second hand dealers in Bellevue. This ordinance does not call a jewelry store a pawn shop.

    Jewelry and electronics are very popular items stolen. This ordinance is meant to assist those who have been burglarized or robbed and hope to get their prized possessions returned. For those of us who have items stolen that cannot be replaced by a check such as jewelry with sentimental value this ordinance could be very valuable. Maybe, if all second hand dealers had to comply with a ordinance similar to this, it could reduce the incentive to steal from others.

    I am happy that you have never experience a burglary or robbery but if you do you will be happy this ordinance is available.

    I had engraved jewelry stolen which was given to me by my boyfriend now husband. I was heartbroken. Our high school and college class rings – gone. Stop complaining and criticizing. Think about others. Something Jane does.

    I know with input from the public we can enact an ordinance that will be fair to our business owners and our residents.

  8. Ms. Woshner,

    Even if this ordinance is passed, it is not being properly defended. I have yet to hear or see Chief Sentner discuss this ordinance at Council. Even The Citizen reported that the legislation came from Jane.

    Is the sentiment of this ordinance from good intentions? Absolutely. It makes sense. But it doesn’t fix the problem. Making it less convenient to resell stolen goods won’t stop those who are desperate for cash. There have been hundreds of “Cash for Gold” businesses springing up throughout the region and it won’t take much for the thieves to hop in a car or bus to a neighboring community. No ordinance in Bellevue can regulate person-to-person sales or anything sold on Ebay or Craigslist.

    Once again we’re told that “many communities have this” but no citations are given. Just like the burning/grilling ordinance. Just like the defense given when I inquired why my child can legally use the skateboard park but not the dog park. ‘Everyone else’ has it and so should we. But no listing of who does.

    The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette quoted you in 2010 as saying Bellevue needs to look to other successful communities. You keep saying you are but fail to list any of those successful communities.

    As you can see, I’ve done my homework. Care to share yours?

  9. With all due respect, Linda, I worry you’re a bit blinded by your friendship with Jane. You say that Jane thinks about others. That is not my personal experience with her. Where were either of you when many of your constituents were voicing their thoughts on ordinances – the grilling portion of the burning ordinance or the outdoor BYOB for instance? She has given me dirty looks for no reason known to me during council meetings. She is rude and condescending towards constiuents she does not agree with. She has spat at and growled at Bellevue residents. Not only is that not thinking of others, it’s immature and disgusting. Jane thinks about herself and her friends. Heaven forbid you disagree with her, she will certainly not think about what you want!

  10. President Woshner,

    You are asking why the chief is not being criticized but Jane is. At least he is willing to listen and make adjustments to the draft in order not to hurt business owners. Even you stated that you are looking for a fair ordinance. Ms. Braunlisch on the other hand is stubborn and won’t listen to anyone who disagrees with her. Since you are defending her, please explain why she felt it not important to attend the meet the candidates night.

  11. President Woshner,
    Can we stop with all the defending of the people on council that are clearly out of touch? You defend Jane Braunlich constantly…where is her voice in all of this? She’s not able to log on and join the conversation herself? I just don’t get it. That would be the equivalent of having someone log on to this blog and speak for me. All of this defending of the wrong-doers on council is starting to make me wonder what kind of stake you have in them?
    You had to twist yourself and your words into a pretzel to attempt to legitimately defend James Viscusi when it came to him stalking, hounding, and secretly filming a salaried borough employee. There is no excuse for his behavior, Braunlich’s behavior, and there’s certainly no reason to defend them for their bad decisions, bad leadership abilities, and bad attitude. I consider you to be an educated woman, why continue to do things that contradict your intelligence? During the Mayors speech about Tony Barbarino, Mr. Viscusi pulled a “Jane Braunlich” and decided that it was the perfect time to shuffle his papers and pretend that there were far more important things happening at his desk. Didn’t you find it entertaining that there were a select few council members that had enough respect for a 16 year employee to give him a verbal thank you and a small applause? All the while, Mr. Viscusi continued to shuffle papers and couldn’t even look up from his busy-work. He finally gave a half-assed applause and rolled his eyes. What a shame.

    And the reason that Jane is getting the heat for the pawn shop ordinance? Her reaction was one of defensiveness, anger, and aggression. The Chief’s reaction was one of consideration and sanity. He said that what Mr. Fodi proposed could possibly be a good compromise for the ordinance. Did you notice that not a single other “pawn shop” owner was present? It’s either because they don’t pay attention to what’s happening in town, or because they’re going to continue to conduct their business exactly the same way that they’ve been doing regardless of the ordinance. The ordinance CAN’T protect anyone from themselves. You say that “this ordinance does not call a jewelry store a pawn shop.”, did you happen to tune out when Jane Braunlich was incessantly attempting to label Mr. Fodis 30+ year business as a pawn shop? Clearly Mrs. Braunlich is not qualified to make these types of ordinances, nor is she able to accept the fact that the reason to have 3 readings of an ordinance is to hear from the public. She doesn’t want to hear from the public, because most of the time, the things that they propose to her are far beyond her ability to comprehend and/or consider that perhaps she has gone a little too far with her desire to over-regulate everything.

    The Bellevue utopia that you all desire is not possible through regulation and ordinances.

  12. Nina, halfway through the first paragraph of your latest post you stated to Mrs. Woshner, “I consider you to be an educated woman, why continue to do things that contradict your intelligence”. Educated and intelligence are mutually exclusive. Viewing the two as complementary is particularly problematic but, unfortunately in the context of our community debate and elections, is highly visible and awarded credibility. We all know well educated people that are dingbats and we know people who barely survived high school that are smart as can be.

  13. Bill,
    What you say is all VERY true. However, my conversations with President Woshner outside of the council chambers have proven that she is a smart woman. Just because she is a smart woman doesn’t mean that shes not out of touch. Being smart doesn’t equal making good legislative decisions.
    All in all, my view on this entire election is that there are far too many complacent, ordinance-hungry, vision-less, power-hungry, bored people on council. And i think that part of being in a leadership position is knowing when it’s time to pass the torch to someone that can do it better than you can. Now is that time. If we don’t get some fresh blood on council, we will continue in the same direction.
    At this point, i feel that LiB and the public have come up with a lot of wonderful ideas and ways to make this town better, more prosperous, and more attractive to outsiders. However, the old guard on council despises us so much that they would rather continue on the same path of decline than do ANYTHING remotely close to what we’ve suggested. It’s all out of spite at this point, from what i see. We say the sky is blue, they will argue that it’s green. We say let’s take a look at what others are doing to make their town better, they refuse. It’s just all immature, power-hungry BS at this point. All the more reason to get rid of ’em!

  14. Wow, my first compliment from this group. I knew it could not last long. I disagree with your evaluation of this council. I question who can do it better. A $171,000 savings in 2012 for the taxpayer is not small change. Everyone comes on council thinking they can make major changes quickly. It just does not happen. Will everyone agree with the changes that have been made? Absolutely not. The majority of this council is not power hungry. I just do not see it. Just because you do not agree with everything that is accomplished does not make for corruption or power hungry motives.

    I am accused of being corrupt; however, I have not seen one example of my so called corruption. Words are thrown out freely.

    I ask. What would you do to make Bellevue more prosperous? I would like to see some positive suggestions.

    • Hi Ms. Woshner,

      I believe I personally have communicated a few of these to you and your colleagues on Council with either no response or disdain that someone who didn’t grow up here and hasn’t paid his dues has ideas and something to say:

      – More effective code enforcement such as hiring a second full-time CEO
      – Tax breaks for property improvement especially reverting “chopped” houses back to single family homes
      – Address vacant properties
      – More police presence along Lincoln Avenue without neglecting Ohio River Boulevard or the residential streets
      – Partner with a community development corporation such as Enjoy Bellevue or Bellevue Initiative for Growth and Redevelopment to attract visitors, investors, residents, and business to Bellevue
      – Communication with the citizens like most other municipalities on new ordinances, annual events, and seasonal reminders
      – Have the borough tape & broadcast Council meetings like many other municipalities
      – Collaborate with Avalon and Northgate on ways to improve property values to ease the burden on property taxes
      – Create a strategic plan to address maintenance needs at the community’s library and parks
      – Find funding for a third party to research the potential economic and social impact of alcohol sales in Bellevue (positive or negative)
      – Allow children under 12 years old to use the borough dog park under adult supervision just like every other borough property

      I can provide several dozen pages of communication I’ve documented with the mayor, Council, and BDAC on each of these issues. Let me know if you would like it.

      • Linda Woshner May 15, 2013 at 10:58 pm

        Scott.

        I cannot speak for other council members but I do not treat those who are not long term residents any different than the long term residents.

        My son and I fought to get 2 full time code enforcement officers. After a few years, I did not see a significant improvement in our housing stock. Obviously, that is not the answer.

        We are addressing vacant and blighted homes. In addition to our code enforcement officer, we have a student intern for 3 months. The intern will walk street by street to identify the vacant and blighted homes to assemble a spreadsheet. We then can easily track the progress of our goal to eliminate these problem properties.

        I would like to see a tax abatement for those who purchase a multiple family dwelling and convert it back into a one family home, however, due to the county property reassessments and the subsequent appeals we cannot afford to give a tax abatement. In fact, our property tax income will be significantly reduced. Hopefully, we can look at this in 2014.

        We now have an Intergovernmental Committee which consists of two representatives from Bellevue borough, Avalon borough and the Northgate School Board. We will begin the communication between these three entities.

        Of course, I would like to see more money invested in our parks, however, in the past few years we have purchased new swings, a carousel, a skate plaza, new fence for the tennis courts, a new storage building and a new roof for the building in Memorial park plus more. The library pediments will be replaced this summer.

        The police are supervised by the mayor not council. If you elect Jane Braunlich as Mayor, you will see more police patrols.

        The video equipment has been purchased to video our meetings, however, it is best to have our new borough manager assist in the installation.

        We are at a disadvantage without a full time borough manager, however, our new manager should be hired soon.

    • President Woshner,
      I’m really happy to see that you’re keeping up with our blog posts from LiB.
      But good grief, I must wonder if you’ve never explored this website prior to a few months ago? You said: “I ask. What would you do to make Bellevue more prosperous? I would like to see some positive suggestions.”
      Please explore the numerous blog posts from LiB, from it’s members, from community members, etc… They’re full of ideas. How many times have people, including myself approached council with ideas, or even told council that i would help them with different items on my own free time, free of charge? Now how many times have I been taken up on those offers? According to my math, it’s been ZERO times. And on top of being brushed off by the “we know better than you do” crew on council, i have been met with eye rolling and paper shuffling all while i was trying to offer up a skill set that i posses, that the current council clearly lacks. Sometimes it’s ok to admit that you don’t know it all, and that someone out there can certainly do it better. Whether it be leadership or something as simple as setting up a borough newsletter (which i volunteered to help with, and it apparently died at some point, because i’m still waiting to get that first one!)

      I think what’s happening here is this: The heat is on, the primary is only six days away, and our website is growing in popularity and hits on a daily basis. We’re posting unedited video footage of the craziness that happens in borough chambers and people are starting to see the truth. So you’re in election mode, in the hopes of keeping your friends on council. But riddle me this…what have your “endorsed” candidates done to prove that they’re here to ensure that they champion the groups that are pushing for a better borough, what have they done to prove that they’re open to talking to residents (I have emailed both Visucusi’s numerous times, Heffley once and Braunlich without a single response). So tell me, why do they deserve the vote of the public???

      If you’d like to see ideas, please click on the nifty little tab above labelled “VISION”. And feel free to explore the rest of the blogs. Sometimes in order to see progress and change, a few negative things have to happen (such as starting with some fresh blood on council) in order to see some positive changes.

  15. Hi Linda,
    I started writing a series of blogs call a vision for Bellevue and the places that i think we should start. I have written three sections now. Feel free to read them by clicking on the Vision tab above. So far I have addressed Leadership and Business visions.

    You actually commented on them asking if they were going to be positive outlets to which I replied that they were intended that way and I have kept my promise.

    I was really hoping that since you were reading the page you might have some encouraging words regarding some of those topics, not from a council point of view but just as a resident.

    Just like our conversation last night after the council meeting, I think that there are multiple things that we could agree on, LERTA, streetscape, schoolboard/council governmental cooperation board etc.

    I am not going to pretend to speak for any of the other members of LiB, but I will note that, a few times you have come on this site and indicated that you don’t have time to get involved in the conversations here, however when you do, it is always to point out the negative. Sure I know that I have been involved in some negative conversations on here but when I do it is out of personal principle and values and is no way a personal attack on anyone. You have sat on community groups with me and know that I am always willing to listen to everyone’s point of view.

    Please take a few moments and read my vision blogs. Hopefully there is some positive insight that you can add to those conversations.

    In general, I am frustrated about a lot of things right now about Bellevue. While criticism can be valid, it has become an insanely popular thing to do in the partisan environment we all live in. Turn on any news channel and it’s plain as day. I truly wish there was just as much passion for problem solving in the community. The members of LiB have a passion for their community, just as I do, just as you do and just as a lot of community members that read this site do. But it is obvious that the most popular articles are those addressing the negative and knowing that that is the environment we are in, I can accept that. The hopes for my blog were to start eliciting more positive commenting on our site. It doesn’t matter who is first to comment, its doesn’t have to be a LiB member, it doesn’t have to be you or another council member and it doesn’t have to be someone in the community…we are all in this together and the conversation has to start…Do we all want a bustling business district generating revenue? Absolutely. Do we want a residential area free from blighted properties? Absolutely. Are we always going to agree on how to achieve things like that…no…but i do think there are small steps we can start taking that we could all agree on an that’s why I started my blog series.

    My next blog is going to be my vision for the community and the impact on the residential areas.

    To be perfectly honest, I may absolutely fail miserably in this attempt, I may have some level of success before it fizzles out…

    I may annoy some of my fellow LiB members writing this and I may annoy some residents and council members with this response but at the end, at least I can say I tried.

    Thanks,
    Mark

    Hope you enjoy it.

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