Your Borough Knows Better: A Reflection of the September 2013 Regular Council Meeting, by Tom Fodi

bellevue nanny stateLast Tuesday’s Regular Bellevue Council meeting maintained an all too common theme in our borough – “Your council knows better than you!” Though I don’t often take advantage of the opportunity to speak up during the public contribution portion of the meeting, I decided to take five minutes to speak my mind on Tuesday. I’m sick and tired of being told by my council they know how to manage my property, ensure my safety, and raise my children better than I do. 

My largest concern for the meeting on Tuesday was with the Bellevue Dog Woods Dog Park Rules which the borough voted to adopt as borough ordinance, effectively enabling the police to arrest, fine and/or imprison those in violation. Did you know you could be arrested and hauled off to prison for having a dog treat or dog toy on your person while standing in the vicinity of the dog park? Did you know you could have a permanent criminal record if you cannot prove you’re older than 12 while at the dog park? Did you know you could be standing before a judge in shackles if you take the calculated risk and supervise your less than 12 year old child as he/she plays with their beloved pet in our publicly funded park?

Also of concern to me is the fact that this borough council honestly believes it can manage and maintain your commercial property better than you! Bellevue Council adopted a new ordinance forcing the owners of commercial property to comply by their rules and their standards or risk thousands of dollars in fines and potential seizure of their property. While, I’ll admit, new ordinance does not explicitly state that council will attempt to seize your private property, it does passively expand the definition of “abandoned properties” to include not maintaining the “borough’s standards for 180 days.” In six months time, if you do not comply with Madame President Woshner’s demands she now has the authority to seize your property and sell it to the highest bidder. Does she know someone in the real estate market?? 

Admittedly I wasn’t aware of this final concern, but a well spoken gentleman at the end of Tuesday’s meeting pointed out the ignorance of the “Dumpster Screening Ordinance.” Property and space is limited in our little borough. Even finding the space to put a required dumpster on one’s property for large amounts of refuse can be a challenge. Adding this screening ordinance makes it effectively impossible to even keep or maintain a dumpster in some places. The gentleman who spoke owns a property on which a dumpster has been installed for his tenants in the only place possible, and it’s a tight fit. His concern is that this new requirement to screen his dumpster is effectively impossible. A proper dumpster screen requires a foot or two of space along each side of the dumpster, allowing access for the garbage truck to pick it up. The rear section of the screen requires at least a couple feet of clearance accounting for the arch created when a dumpster is lifted. Additionally, when it snows, the snow plow usually leaves a pile of snow in front of the dumpster. If the dumpster is screened, it would require someone to remove the pile of snow in order to gain access to the gate of the screen. Clearly no one on council considered these negative ramifications of their fancy new ordinance, otherwise they would have taken the necessary steps to ensure the ordinance complied with the unique circumstances of Bellevue.

Here’s what it all boils down to – the current regime in council honestly believes it knows how to create the “perfect little borough” better than you! They know how to protect your children better than you. They know how to manage your commercial property better than you. They know how to make your ugly old dumpster more attractive than you. There’s no consideration for personal responsibility or personal property rights, you’re just a minion who must do their bidding!

I did appreciate Councilwoman Lynn Heffley’s comment during the meeting when she said, “We don’t pass ordinances necessarily to enforce them, we pass ordinances to keep people safe.” Let that one sink in for a minute. This council honestly believes that if they push through a bunch of laws and have an ever expanding stack of papers on their desk they’re keeping us all safe!!! As absurd a comment as it was, at least Ms Heffley was being honest.

I’m not against passing necessary ordinances (key word – necessary). However, what I am sick and tired of is a local government that has absolutely no idea how to lead with a vision and establish a strategic plan to pursue that vision. Instead we have a government whose modus operandi is to keep people safe from themselves and the more laws they write and pass, the more successful they believe they are. 

My challenge to those preparing to take office on January 1: get familiar with the process required to rescind laws, you’re going to need to know how it’s done!! 

There are 110 days left until January 1, 2014. 110 days left until many members of the current regime are replaced with visionary leaders who believe Bellevue can be better than it is and will work tirelessly to lead with that vision. 110 days cannot come fast enough!

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11 Responses to “Your Borough Knows Better: A Reflection of the September 2013 Regular Council Meeting, by Tom Fodi”

  1. I am really tired of this community. I am tired of the constant narrow minded and ineffective leadership here. I am a native of communities east of Pittsburgh. I have never invited old friends from that area out here because I’m embarrassed to have them drive up Orchard Avenue from Union Avenue to get to my house. Orchard is one of many laughably terrible roads in the community. The bump outs on Lincoln Avenue that are being squabbled over is like putting lipstick on a pig. It’s like putting on your new suit over the underwear you haven’t changed in weeks. Take care of infrastructure issues before wasting money on that bump out nonsense. For those of you that remember New York City in the 1980’s and early 1990’s you will recall that the city was in a shambles. Properties were run down everywhere and service on infrastructure was nonexistent. During 1993 Rudy Guiliani became mayor and instituted what was known as the broken windows policy. The premise of the broken windows policy was that as long as things remained unattended to(blighted properties, inattention to infrastructure issues and a lackadaisical attitude regarding petty crime) the downward spiral would expand and continue. Guiliani saw that these issues,with infrastructure issues of primary importance, were addressed and addressed rapidly and with extensive resources applied directly to the problems. His actions, with the help of the city administration, the state of New York and the citizens of New York turned the city from a crime ridden hell hole to the safe, clean and vibrant destination for all that it is today. The moral of this story that applies to Bellevue is forget the superficial crap and fix the streets, the sidewalks and enforce the borough property codes first. Then real progress can be made to make Bellevue a place where businesses and people want to be.

    • Bill,

      I agree. Instead of spending money on the bump outs, the money should be used for sidewalks and lights. That would make a significant difference. After the necessities are completed the bump outs can be added. The $1990 for the addition of the bump outs in the Streetscape design could have been used to replace more sidewalks, too. We only have about $140,000 which will not go very far. To complete the business district Streetscape will take millions of dollars. This will not be an overnight change. I believe you have a plan and install the necessities first. Then if there is additional money the extras can be added. Many of the sidewalks in the business district look horrible.

      Some may not like the vacant building ordinance; however, I see nothing wrong with making our business district look better. There are façade grants available to help the building owners with the cost of improving their buildings. Most of the buildings are well kept. This ordinance applies only to a few properties. I am sure once the ordinance is brought to the building owner’s attention they will make the necessary improvements. I am sure some never thought about how their window treatments make the business district look. Additionally, there is nothing in the ordinance about seizing properties. Let’s see, how many residents have been jailed because they have not maintained their properties? None that I know of. Come on. It is an ordinance to encourage building owners to change the way they do business to make the business district look better.

      For the first time in a couple of years, we will be repaving streets. Jane Braunlich fought to keep the money for road repaving in the budget. It’s a start.

      The current council hired a summer intern to identify the problem properties in the borough. The properties are now on a spread sheet which will be an excellent tool for our code enforcement department. We need to encourage home buyers to purchase homes in Bellevue. No one wants to live next to a blighted property. It is not about council knowing more than its residents. We are residents, too. Obviously, there is a need to have ordinances to encourage people to fix up their properties. Our code enforcement department is enforcing our ordinances. It does take time. Can’t we work together to make this a better place to live?

  2. Linda – you completely ignored the point of this entire post. The political philosophy of you and your friends is one of liberty ignoring regulation and restriction. You have no idea the damage you’re causing to the borough because you cannot understand the destructive power of large, overbearing government. You told me with your own words that the role of council in Bellevue is to write and pass laws. That’s what you do because it’s all you think you’re supposed to do.

    Bellevue needs leadership. Not regulators. Bellevue needs vision. Not self appointed managers of property rights and personal responsibility. Bellevue needs council members and community leaders who enable the community to prosper and thrive. Not choked to death out of a desire to “keep people safe” and “maintain the borough that once was.”

    There’s a unprecedented renaissance happening in our region. What is your administration doing to tap into ever increasing number of families moving to the region? How is Bellevue council making Bellevue marketable to entrepreneurs seeking opportunity here?

    Liberty in Bellevue has successful tapped into the variety of social networks existing in our community and surrounding communities. We have garnered the support of thousands due to the rallying cry that Bellevue deserves better, Bellevue should be better! LiB is casting a vision of Bellevue as a progressive, thriving, healthy community that doesn’t fear new things and new ideas. Instead of saying “that won’t work in Bellevue” (as we’ve heard many of you say, especially you and Jane) LiB is saying “Let’s make it happen in Bellevue” and people are celebrating this breath of fresh air!

    Step one of transforming Bellevue is just about complete. New visionary leaders will be taking office the first of the year. The next steps will follow. The sky is the limit where we can go from there!

  3. Tom,
    Yes, one of the responsibilities of council is to write and pass laws. Those who attend our committee meetings where most of the work is done should realize passing laws is not our primary duty as an elected official. I don’t agree with your interpretation of what I have said and done. It takes 9 council people to agree to accomplish anything. I am one of 9 council people. I have attended many classes and webinars to be a knowledgeable elected official. You cannot attend a couple of meetings and become an expert. You question my leadership skills. Not including being president of Bellevue council; I have been president of two organizations, as well as, being elected to many vice president positions. I, also, held 2 secretary positions. I was elected to those positions because of my leadership skills.

    Not passing ordinances is not realistic. Most of the ordinances we pass are administrative. LiB is against all ordinances. A world without laws is not realistic. It is unfortunate we have to legislature to have people take care of their properties and not infringe on others rights. When we pass an ordinance it has been reviewed by our professional employees, our DAS, our solicitor and advisors from other communities and government agencies. Local governments have the same basic ordinances. Our ordinances are not unique to local government.

    I would be interested in the visions of our new soon to be leaders. What have they done to qualify as proven leaders? How do you know they are visionaries? Have they been hand picked by LiB? What have they committed to do for LiB? What will happen when they do not vote how you want them to? It is easy to talk about visions. You can have all the visions you want but it is what you actually do to accomplish your goals that is important.

    Negativity is not constructive. Talk is cheap. It is easy to complain and drag those you do not like through the mud. What about the positive things about Bellevue? Are they not important?

  4. President Woshner, in your many classes and webinars on how to be a knowledgeable elected official, they must have not covered that it takes a majority, not unanimous (all 9 council people) votes to accomplish anything. Unless you are on a jury. I’d ask for my money back.

  5. WK, How about using your name. OK, a majority of council. You don’t have to be mean about it. That is what is wrong with this group. There is no reason to attack me.

  6. Linda,
    Nearly every blog, every post, and nearly every comment made on this site (maybe not on this particular post), includes a critique as well as an alternative way to approach situations. If we were just posting and complaining and not coming up with ideas on how to do things better, more productively, more proactively, or otherwise…then I can understand your constant need to try to say we’re just a bunch of complainers. LiB as a group has more vision, a bigger plan, and has figured out a way to actually attain the goals that we see for our borough. Council as a group, has not. LiB and the rest of the residents are eager to hear a plan for the next 5, 10, 15 years, they’re eager to hear what your vision is for our town, we have yet to hear a peep from you guys about it.
    So please tell me…who’s negative now?

  7. This is why I left Bellevue… just to get out of the grasp of the dysfunctional council and the clueless school board.

  8. Can’t say that I blame you, Sean!

  9. Suzanne MacGuineas Reply November 21, 2014 at 7:03 pm

    I not only left Bellevue, I moved to California. Its like night and day in its differences. Not to mention that the temperature is 75 today. I have never before lived in so ugly a place as Bellevue, PA. Not just physically, but in attitude.

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