Writing doesn’t seem to work

As a longtime contributor/letter writer, it seems that I must respond to your editorial about where the letters have gone. [“Where did all the letters go?” Feb. 28] You still have varied “thank you” letters, you still have anti-deer kill letters, but what you are lacking are the controversial, “I don’t think you should do that” letters.

Perhaps some of the writers have moved on – literally to California, Maine or Florida. Me and mine, we still live where we have for 23 years. And I probably wrote the last of the “classic” Local letters. I stopped due to diminishing returns.

The Chestnut Hill Community Association has moved from controversial to commonplace. I want to say “boring,” but even I don’t want to offend because it no longer works. Responses were often predictable: Offer a viewpoint, wait for the retort and then pounce on it as their point was often, well, lame. And the “their” [they] that I am referring to are also absent.

Those that have replaced them at the CHCA are indeed some of the “villains” that we, one time, hoped to vanquish. To some extent, I no longer oppose them even though I wish the CHCA would hold them responsible for their promises, both in form and schedule.

The letters I used to write were often critical. But they did good. I say this because others said so. But they were controversial, and it appears Chestnut Hill is not interested in controversy. Indeed, due to the current economic condition of the Hill, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, any investment is welcome. Such is the world we live in, and I have no alternative universe to present.

I often asked if the CHCA was a government or a charity? Due to factors beyond its control, it is clear that its evolved role is as a charity. How can one criticize a charity?

Ed Budnick

Chestnut Hill

Editor’s note: Ed Budnick is a former member of the CHCA board and a former Community Manager of the organization. He now works for FEMA.


Why I stopped writing to the Local

Thanks for asking why “we” haven’t written. I’ve been thinking about this for months and pondered writing an article or letter, but something always stopped me. Maybe that’s exactly why you asked. There has been a strange silence out there.

I can only speak for myself here. I am a pretty bold and audacious speaker-upper and I take a courageous stand for things I care about and feel are feel are right and true. I am very careful in my words and caring, regarding the well-being of others. I do this for a living, and so it really matters to me. For I wrote quite a few letters and spoke up boldly in the paper, sharing my outlook on things that I felt I needed to be spoken to.

There’s been a lot of conflict in this town. That’s putting it mildly! When I first moved back here seven years ago, every week in the paper was one soap opera drama after another, and I just felt I had to get involved. I imagine many people have felt that way over the years. I spoke up, wrote letters, went to meetings, expressed my opinions and tried to meet people. I wanted to get involved but in the end I felt hopeless, probably like everyone else before me, and I gave up.

I even got several calls and emails from some former leaders of Chestnut Hill’s past, asking me to speak up and lead the charge. I was touched by this and temporarily inspired but after awhile realized that nothing truly will change here, at least for now.

In my humble opinion it is our attitude that does us in. Controversy is one thing, but we are rude, unwelcoming and downright nasty to each other. Newcomers and anyone trying to run a business here really bears the brunt of it, for if anything “disturbs our quality of living,” we block their way.

I too appreciate our quality of living but I wonder – when will we realize that we are our quality of living? We, the people, are the most important component of all.

So that is why I have given up, Pete. I appreciate the work you do. You are there every week printing exactly what is going on, and you even offered me a chance to to write a column at one time. I was really close to doing it, but then I got one really nasty personal comment to one of my letters that felt like a totally uncalled for attack on me, and I said, “That’s it, no more.”

Sadly, I chose to stay quiet rather than continue to weather these kinds of uncalled for personal attacks.

So that is the story, Pete, and I appreciate your asking. I hope that this letter (boldly written) will hit home tenderly in the hearts of all of us who truly love Chestnut Hill. I do. I was born here and I feel very lucky to live here. I hope that one day we may become the kind of town that we are truly proud of. Proud not just for our history, or our beautiful streets, shops and neighborhoods, but a town that truly cares for and cares for people in words, deeds and actions.

That’s what I’m holding out for, silently for now. So those of you who are with me here feel free to say so or meet me for tea. For anyone who wishes to land a blow on me personally, please address that letter to “Santa Claus” at the North Pole. He will be taking all of my negative fan mail for now.

Annie Hart

Chestnut Hill


Jenks parking not a serious problem

I was surprised to read about the parking/traffic problem outside the J.S. Jenks School in the morning between 8 and 8:30 a.m. [“Residents voice concerns about vandalism and double parking in Chestnut Hill,” Feb. 28] The speaker quoted in your article made it sound like a rush-hour accident on I-95 complete with an overturned tractor–trailer in the middle lane – same thing, indeed to merit a platoon of police.

As someone who is in this area every morning at this particular time, I have not noticed any hold-up remotely akin to that described in your article and, believe me, as a “Lady-in-waiting” for the “23,” I have had ample time to observe the situation.

The remark about “kids running across Germantown Ave.” is, at best, misleading, giving the impression that they do so unsupervised, which is never the case. The crossing guard at Jenks is an exceptionally conscientious and caring person who fulfills her duties in an exemplary fashion.

Helen M. Hayes

Chestnut Hill


Abatements for the rich are outrageous

I live in what is commonly called East Germantown, a few blocks from Wayne Junction. I’ve had my house since 1990, and when I got the assessment, the “value” of my house had doubled between the assessed value for 2013 and the proposed assessment for 2014. My ex, who bought a house around the corner when we divorced 15 years ago, was assessed at three times the 2013 value. (That house was a shell when bought.)

There are two vacant homes on my block, as in boarded up; no one lives there. One has been vacant for about a decade. While I do live around the corner from the Germantown Cricket Club, I am not in the ritzy little Penn/Morton enclave or even in the beautiful historic Wister area. While my block is a lower middle class block, it has changed dramatically in 20 years. And not for the better.

Many of these tax increases are predicated on the concept of gentrification of neighborhoods. When I moved here, my block was exactly mixed: white/black, white/black house after house. Now I am one of three white families on the block. And while I have no intention of moving, there is no question based on recent house sales (six months ago, the house two doors down from me sold for half what I paid for mine 23 years ago!) this is not a gentrifying area of Germantown, despite the nearness of the new Drexel medical site.

I’ve got another decade or more before I hit that Social Security age (I say more since the government keeps raising the age), but age is a consideration. I’m a freelance writer and adjunct college professor and run a small independent publishing house. I also run a no-kill shelter. So my income is way less now than when I was a full-time reporter. Pennsylvania has the second oldest demographic in the nation after Florida. We are an old state.

I don’t get why the city is giving 10-year tax abatements to the wealthy and sucking long-time residents dry with these wild assessments that have nothing to do with actual market value. If I actually thought I could sell my nice little two-story twin with the big back yard for $160,000, I likely would. But considering that the house two doors down, sold by a resident who was there when I moved in, went for $60,000 six months ago, that seems unlikely.

These assessments are one more instance of long-time residents committed to their neighborhoods getting the shaft in favor of the gentrifiers.

Victoria Brownworth



Park funds should go to library

The Thursday, Feb. 14, article on the enhancement of Lovett Park [Mt. Airy USA finalist for Lovett Park Grant”], sounds lovely. There will also be a design logo. Indispensable!

It would help the commercial corridor revitalization if Lovett Library were open on weekends. The park is a seasonal attraction. The library is not defined by the weather. The head librarian, Ms. Ruthrauff, says that the second floor meeting room is booked months in advance for meetings. She said an addition to the library would be helpful to the community though it would extend into the park. It seems to me that it’s not the park that’s primary. It’s the library that attracts people to the park area. You’re dressing the mannequin in the window when it’s the library that should be the attraction.

Should the park be the magnet the builders hope, then there will be considerable maintenance necessary. Who pays for that? Will the second floor toilet in the library attract more visitors than the books?

I realize that ArtPlace funds have nothing to do with the city libraries. However, to me, Mt. Airy USA would serve the community better if its energies were directed in enhancing basic services.

Maggie Wolman

Mt. Airy