Pottstown, Pennsylvania

Pottstown is a compact town of 22,000 along the Schuylkill River in southeastern Pennsylvania, about 35 miles northwest of Philadelphia. It is lovely and historic, with tree-lined streets and a distinctive downtown.

Although the town is not as financially healthy as it once was, it has the potential to become one of the most livable communities in Pennsylvania. Pottstown Citizens seeks ways we can best manage our resources for the common good.

The following essays have recently appeared as paid advertisements in the Pottstown Mercury:

Giving through private foundations

When you consider the scores of Pottstown area residents who have died with substantial assets, it’s surprising there are not more foundations set up
to contribute to Pottstown’s welfare.
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Do we need a community foundation?

Many communities have umbrella foundations that raise money from multiple local donors to improve a community’s quality of life.
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The most important issue

What is the most important issue facing the nation?
Climate change.
What next? Climate change.
What next again? Climate change.
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Should the wealthy give back?

There are lots of wealthy people in the Pottstown area. Do they have any special obligation to help improve their community?
Adam Smith thought so.
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Best source of funding: philanthropy

Beyond government grants and foundations, there’s a source of funding for initiatives Pottstown could not otherwise afford: private philanthropy.
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Still giving to the community

Few people in our community have given more of themselves for the betterment of others than the
late Dr. Richard Whittaker. Now, two years after his death from cancer, his wife is continuing his legacy of giving.
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Millions of dollars for parks

Perhaps the most visible impact of the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation has been the creation and expansion of parks in Pottstown and the surrounding region.
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Lifting Pottstown's economic health

The Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation can marry economic development to healthy lifestyles and capitalize on Pottstown’s unique infrastructure.
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Where's the most need?

Next to health care providers, highest group of recipients of grants from the Pottstown Area Health and Wellness Foundation has been public schools — about $7 million, nearly 20 percent of total grant funding.
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Building sustainable non-profits

Besides health care and schools, a key mission of the
Health and Wellness Foundation is “funding learning opportunities and strategic planning to strengthen non-profits.”
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Fifteen years, $37+ million

Since its inception 15 years ago, the Health and Wellness Foundation, with an endowment
of about $80 million, has distributed more than $37 million in grants in Pottstown and an area
within a 10-mile radius of the borough.
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Health Care is top priority

The Health and Wellness Foundation provided seed money to create Community Health and Dental
Care in 2008, a federally qualified non-profit health center which provides medical services to thousands of Pottstown area residents based on
their ability to pay.
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Back-in parking and bike lanes

When Pottstown installed back-in parking on High Street in 2003, it was the first Pennsylvania municipality to do so. Now other Pennsylvania towns have added back-in parking, as well.
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Much, much safer

Change always brings complaints. Some are complaining about the new bike lanes, especially the traffic-calmed intersection where Roland and Jackson streets join Beech Street.
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Traffic calming makes streets safer

Bike lanes make streets safer for everyone no matter how many bicyclists use them.
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Hill School: style over substance

Pottstown has great needs. The Hill School’s public relations campaign has been outstanding. But
real substance is sorely lacking.
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Bike lanes build on strengths

Rather than clinging to its industrial past, which isn’t coming back, Pottstown needs to emphasize the
healthy lifestyles that traditional towns can offer. New bike lanes will attract the people Pottstown
needs for a healthy future
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Fostering healthy habits

You can’t walk or ride your bike to school in most school districts, but in Pottstown you can. The borough and school district are making the most of Pottstown’s unique infrastructure by procuring
grants for bike lanes to promote biking to school.
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Seventeen years, $22 million in grants

The borough has become more proficient in obtaining grants — about $22 million over the last 17 years.
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Sidewalk repairs paid by federal grant

Thanks to a federal grant, a contractor has replaced deficient sidewalks along High Street and Roland Street at no cost to the property owner.
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Cost-effective administration

Pottstown has a bargain with Borough Manager Justin Keller and Schools Superintendent Stephen Rodriguez. They are working with a more economical administration than their predecessors.
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Precarious financial situation

Pottstown's tax base continues to deteriorate. If spending is not reined in, Pottstown will continue its downward cycle of lowered assessments, leading to high taxes, leading to more lowered assessments.
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School funding reform (part 1)

A few states have dramatically increased their share of school funding, such as Vermont, which boosted funding as a result of a court order in 1997. That's probably the only way it will happen in Pennsylvania.
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School funding reform (part 2)

In 2016, the legislature adopted a new school funding formula. BUT it called for the new formula to be phased in very slowly (more than 25 years for full implementation) because a lot more districts would lose funding than gain funding.
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The big picture: federal taxes

Americans may not want to believe it, but we pay less in total taxes than citizens of any other industrial country.
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Taxes: state and local

State governments collect, on average, about 28 percent of all tax revenues. Local governments collect about 11 percent of all tax revenues.
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Pottstown Patriotism

George Orwell, the author of Animal Farm and 1984, defined patriotism as “devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on others.” That's Pottstown!
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Up to our necks in debt

Within ten years, the public debt will almost match the size of the total national economy, the highest point since the end of World War II. Corporate debt has skyrocketed. The state government is also in hock, and its senior citizen population is rising.
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Idealism of Wm Penn in Pottstown

Pottstown enjoys a heritage of enlightenment that few other places can match.
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Some things won't change

There are many inequities from the past, and we should concentrate on the things we have a reasonable chance to change.
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Big subsidy to buy a costly house

The biggest housing subsidy of all goes to help people buy expensive houses: the federal tax
deduction for mortgage interest payments.
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Should income tax returns be public?

Government requires money to operate, and every citizen is expected to pay his fair share. So why shouldn’t individual tax payments be made public?
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America's income inequality

There are the mind-boggling disparities in the distribution of wealth among the people of the world and in America.
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What do you do with excess wealth?

Surplus money may not make people happier, but they hang on to it all the same.
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World Population Day

Last Wednesday, July 11, was World Population Day, which was first established by the United Nations in 1989 to highlight the world’s exploding population.
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It's not going to stay this way

There are nearly 8 billion people on the planet, and they all want the same high quality lifestyles people in the developed world enjoy. We have to get over the "win-lose" mentality our president has fostered, or we'll all lose.
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Housing market improves

Pottstown continues to offer great housing bargains. Even with sky-high taxes, Pottstown gives you more house for your money than any adjacent suburb.
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Edgewood Cemetery revisited

Last week, Pottstown attorney Andrew Monastra and his wife, Sue, made a presentation to Pottstown
Council about their efforts to maintain the historic Edgewood Cemetery at High and Keim streets.
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Trees: Modest cost -- big benefits

As people gather for tomorrow's Fourth of July parade, they will find 20 newly planted trees on High Street and nearby thoroughfares.
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Annual benefit of trees: $304,000

On Tuesday, we opined that nothing has done more to enhance Pottstown's environment and quality of life than the street trees planted in recent decades.
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Pottstown pep rally

About 160 Pottstown business and civic leaders attended an economic pep rally last week at Sunny Brook Ballroom sponsored by the Tri- County Area Chamber of Commerce and its partner, Pottstown Area Industrial Development Inc. (PAID).
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It's a fact: Children are safer than ever

The rate of death from all causes for children and youth has steadily declined for decades, to about a tenth of what it was in 1935. Just since 1990, child mortality rates have fallen by nearly half.
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What, me worry?

Last week, the journal Nature reported the rate at which Antarctica is losing ice has tripled since 2007. The New York Times relegated the story to an inside page, and most news outlets didn’t cover it at all. Likewise, reports of a steep decline in Arctic ice since 1979 have been given scant attention.
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Real-world problem solving

Last year, an association of scientists published a report listing 80 specific actions people can take to
reduce global warming, ranked in order of impact.
Surprisingly, No. 3 is reducing food waste. Pottstown students won a national competition by doing something about it.
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Pottstown pride?

Today is the last day of school for Pottstown students. It is also the last day you will see our students in grades K-8 wearing uniforms — solid color tops and bottoms in white, blue or khaki.
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End of an era

The Pottstown Mercury building will be closed at the end of this month. The few employees putting out the newspaper will work out of their homes or at the newspaper’s printing plant in Exton.
Note: This column did not appear in The Pottstown Mercury.
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Hill started Pottstown Ys

Surprising but true: Both the Pottstown YMCA and the Pottstown YWCA were founded by John Meigs, second headmaster of The Hill School, and his wife.
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Hill School priorities

Work has begun on a $15.1 million renovation of The Hill School’s Dining Hall, to be finished in January 2019.
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Gulati and the Pottstown Y

Pottstown owes much to Charles Gulati. Gulati has agreed to purchase the Pottstown YMCA building
on North Adams Street and lease part of the building back to the YMCA for at least five years.
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Just what is a non-profit?

Pottstown Memorial Medical Center, which paid local taxes for years, has become part of Tower Health System, a non-profit, which immediately filed for tax-exempt status with the county.
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Fair funding could be long wait

This year, Pennsylvania provides nearly $6 billion in basic funding for Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts.
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Pottstown school budget facts

Next month, the Pottstown School Board is expected to increase real estate taxes 3.5 percent.
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New challenges for teachers (1)

A veteran teacher lists 10 things teachers did not have to deal with just a decade ago.
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New challenges for teachers (2)

A veteran teacher lists 10 things teachers did not have to deal with just a decade ago.
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A walkable YMCA for all

Like many people, my life was influenced by the YMCA. I spent my junior high school years in Reading, where my widowed mother worked for the
American Red Cross.
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The fragility of life

It’s not surprising that people tend to feel more grateful and content as they age. Life is precious, and the closer we come to the end of it, the more we appreciate what we have.
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Hospital can't pay its taxes?

As soon as the non-profit Reading Health System purchased Pottstown Memorial Medical Center last fall, it filed for tax-exempt status with the
Montgomery County Board of Assessments.
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Edgewood Meadow set to grow

Last year, the Pottstown School Board agreed to convert 3 acres of grassy swale next to the Edgewood School into a meadow, which is better for the environment and less costly to maintain.
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Time for the attorney general?

The Pennsylvania Attorney General has vast powers to oversee the YMCA and other Pennsylvania non-profits.
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New investment incentive

Late this year or early next year, downtown Pottstown will become a lot more attractive to investors.
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Gateway aesthetics

There are several entrances to Pottstown, but the most important one is South Hanover Street.
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New gateway building coming

After more than a decade, it will be great to see the gateway project completed.
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Sprawl mentality

The need for elaborate sprawling campuses is more important than the Y’s avowed mission of healthy
living and social responsibility.
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YMCA one of our top employers

The Pottstown YMCA has been one of the borough’s
top employers for years, and closing the local Y will cost Pottstown desperately needed jobs.
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YMCA Task Force Statement

The official statement of the Pottstown Branch Transition Committee (YMCA Task Force) is so superb we are publishing it here in its entirety.
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Sensible graduation rules

If we believe local school districts are best qualified to make educational decisions, that should include the flexibility to set graduation requirements.
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We're closing. No input wanted.

The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA continues to insist there is no hope of keeping the Pottstown YMCA building open beyond June 29. A community task force was instructed not to question the decision.
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Restoration planned for 1807 home

It’s been more than five years since an American Federal-style house at 548 Manatawny Street, built in 1807 by farmer Jacob Levengood, was threatened with demolition.
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Give us the facts!

Why does the Pottstown YMCA need to close? Conflicting information has been offered by Shaun Elliott, CEO of the Philadelphia- Freedom Valley YMCA.
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Middle school woes

We need to put the individual student first and subjects second. Building relationships is more important than anything else. To do that, we must limit the number of students each teacher sees.
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Historic factory to housing

Renovations will soon begin to one of Pottstown’s most historic factory buildings. The 19th century Meyerhoff Shirt Factory, Charlotte and Cherry streets, will be converted into 27 condominiums and market rate apartments.
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Slowly, a new gateway to Pottstown

The gateway to Pottstown from the Hanover
Street bridge boasts townhouses as handsome as
those in any upscale city neighborhood. Restoration of the shirt factory is another step forward.
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Adding insult to injury

Last month, the YMCA announced it would move its day care service to a Lower Pottsgrove business campus rather than stay in Pottstown and lease a vacant school building.
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Creativity, color, and joy

Many occupations — indeed, many life endeavors — require working cooperatively with others, taking
and giving direction. Putting together a musical can be far more difficult than running a business.
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Pottstown YMCA has proud history

Pottstown’s YMCA goes back to 1880, at first using rented rooms. In 1912, Dwight Meigs, Hill School headmaster and president of the YMCA, oversaw the construction of a capacious facility at King and Evans streets.
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Is YMCA selling out its mission?

The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA has prospered mightily since a 2013 merger which created a four-county, two-state giant with 140,000 members and 15 branches. YMCA officials said there would be no layoffs or closures.
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YMCA closure: A done deal?

Last fall, without any prior warning, the Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA announced it was closing the Pottstown Y as of June 29, 2018.
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Mergers undermine Pottstown

In 2007, the Pottstown YMCA board voted unanimously to merge with the Phoenixville Area YMCA. The merger was supposed to strengthen both organizations.
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Champion of the beautiful

Nobel laureate Gunter Blobel died last week in Manhattan. Blobel’s discoveries in cell biology greatly advanced medical researchers’ understanding of numerous diseases, including many forms of cancer. His efforts to restore humanity’s shared architectural heritage can inspire us in Pottstown.
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Private money can boost borough

People accumulate wealth as they age, so those 65 and older have the greatest net worth. As the elderly contemplate the end of their lives, their thoughts may turn toward sharing their wealth with their community.
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We want it. They don't.

Last month, at a joint meeting of Pottstown Council and the school board, PAID director Peggy Lee-Clark talked about efforts to bring new development to Pottstown. Meanwhile, proposed developments in formerly rural townships surrounding Pottstown bring out residents opposed to more houses and shopping centers.
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Preserving Pennsylvania farmland

The only surefire way to conserve farmland outside of Lancaster and York counties, which have a strong agricultural ethic, is by purchasing deed restrictions — easements —from property owners.
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Crime fears greatly exaggerated

The number of major crimes in Pottstown in 2017 was lower than it has been in the previous 24 years.
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We've come a long way

We all love to complain, but we lead comfortable lives that would amaze our Pottstown ancestors.
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Demographics to bring change

Already home to one of the nation’s oldest populations, Pennsylvania will see its elderly population — age 65 and older — grow almost 24 percent in the next ten years while the working age population will actually decrease slightly.
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Pottstown good for the elderly

The coming increase in elderly residents is good news for Pottstown, because our borough is a great place for seniors.
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Punting on tough decisions

Managers don’t hesitate to reduce staff to keep their companies competitive. Government is different. Our elected leaders find it immensely difficult to downsize, ever.
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2018-2019 school taxes can't top 3.5%

Last November, the school board voted it will not raise taxes more than 3.5 percent for the 2018-2019 school year.
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Too much salt in our lives

The recent ice and snow is mostly gone now, but the salt we’ve poured on our streets and sidewalks is still around. Just as too much salt in our diet can be unhealthy, too much salt on our roads and sidewalks can be bad for the health of our environment.
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Hill School funds police cars

Pottstown’s recently retired borough manager, Mark Flanders, said the borough had reached out to The Hill School to buy police cars. Flanders, who
was Pottstown’s police chief before becoming borough manager, would naturally see police cars as the borough’s most pressing need. Is it?
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Our unique public schools

Perhaps the most useful of all the arts are buildings. Buildings not only provide us with shelter – keeping us warm in the winter and cool in the summer – they can enrich our lives if they are beautiful and inspiring, just as painting and sculpture and poetry do.
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Revitalization tool almost lost

No single law has done more to revitalize older cities and towns like Pottstown as the 1984 historic preservation tax credit passed during the Reagan administration. Our congressman, Ryan Costello, recently voted to abolish it.
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Year of sustainability?

After three years of meetings, it looks like Pottstown Council and the Pottstown School Board will adopt a Sustainability Plan at their joint meeting Jan. 22.
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Too cold to walk or bike?

Although Denmark and the Netherlands are famous for walking and bicycling, few cities on earth have a higher percentage of walkers and bicyclists than Oulu, Finland.
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Season of giving

This is the time of year when people give the most to charities. We've paid the annual household bills, and now we decide how much we have to spare for others.
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Generations of merchants

Some years ago my friend George Wausnock, perhaps the area's biggest collector of Pottstown memorabilia, gave me an 1887 New Year's Day supplement to the Daily Pottstown Ledger.
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Grants vital to Pottstown

In the last 15 years, the borough has received nearly $22 million in federal, state, county, and private grant funding.
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Grants are vital to the sustainability of Pottstown, providing vital infrastructure improvements. But some grants do more harm than good, paying for superfluous projects that are costly to maintain.
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State oppresses local municipalities

The state legislature can be as irresponsible as it wants, but local school districts and municipalities still have to follow the rules it sets down.
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Testing merry-go-round

Last week, Gov. Tom Wolf announced the state will reduce the time school districts must spend next
spring administering the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment test (PSSA).
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Police ever more costly

In 2008, the borough laid off 12 employees and increased real estate taxes 10 percent. Since then, Pottstown police officers have enjoyed the borough’s fastest growing salaries and benefits.
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Sustainable police force needed

It’s a question no one wants to answer, but it must be asked. With the ever-increasing cost of salaries and benefits, coupled with a declining tax base, can Pottstown sustain a police force with 46 officers?
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More downsizing needed

Next week, Pottstown Council will have to make some difficult choices. Unless further cuts are made
to the proposed 2018 borough budget, real estate taxes will need to increase 18.6 percent. Read more


Toughest job in Pottstown

At the same time it deals with a huge budget deficit, Pottstown Council will also need to appoint an interim borough manager to replace Mark Flanders, who is retiring on Christmas Eve.
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Pottstown loves dogs

During my 21-day trek from door to door prior to the recent Pottstown School Board election, I learned many things about our town I never fully appreciated. One such aspect is dogs. Pottstonians love dogs.
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Welcome -- No, go away!

In my futile quest for glory as a three-term member of the Pottstown School Board, I recently got to experience our town up close and personal. You can learn a lot about people just by looking at their front porches and yards.
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Always easiest to raise taxes

Leo Durocher got it wrong: Nice guys don’t always finish last. More often than not, they win local school board elections. And once in office, they find it much easier to raise taxes than to cut costs.
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Pottstown looks great in the fall

I can’t say I’m delighted with the outcome of Tuesday’s Pottstown School Board election, but I thoroughly enjoyed the three weeks I spent prior to Election Day walking from home to home distributing my campaign literature.
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Pottstown: a safe place to live

One of the most stubborn myths about Pottstown is that it’s dangerous.
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Asplundh fined for illegal hires

Last month, Asplund was fined a whopping $95 million for using undocumented immigrants.
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Lots of way to define the 'good life'

Let us pause in our discussion of current Pottstown issues and consider the reflections of an eminent world scholar on "the good life."
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Reverence for Life

Last month, President Trump addressed the United Nations and threatened to “totally destroy North Korea,” a nation of 25 million people. At times like these I reflect on a teacher who preached the polar opposite.
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History gives Pottstown meaning

Pottstown is more than a collection of older buildings, most of them housing people of modest means. Our history and architecture give us our unique sense of place and identity.
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Hesburgh earns his own stamp

I’m not Catholic, but I consider the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, the former president of the University of Notre Dame, who died 2015, to be one of the most influential people in my life.
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Where do kids play?

The Pottstown Parks and Recreation Department
boasts 16 parks and tot lots, distributed throughout the borough. Yet you will often find kids playing on private fields, parking lots, or in the streets.
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Street work: tangible progress

Pottstown owns 60 miles of streets. (PennDOT owns another 10 miles of streets like High, Manatawny,
and Charlotte streets.) Ideally, streets should be repaved every 12 years — about five miles a year.
But until recently, we were only resurfacing an average of 1.5 miles per year.
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Pottstown grows greener

Two great examples of green infrastructure are a meadow planted last spring at the Pottstown wastewater treatment plant and a rain garden planted behind the Franklin Elementary School.
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Park or pavement?

Last month, Pottstown Council authorized the borough solicitor to prepare an agreement to acquire a .78-acre tract of contaminated land at 860 Cross Street, across the street from 2-acre Pollock Park. It ought to become a meadow.
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Ruthless downward spiral

Because of declining real estate assessments, the borough and school district will lose nearly $1.5 million in annual tax revenues, most likely starting Jan. 1, 2018.
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Hill School needs to step up

The Hobart’s Run initiative has been a public relations bonanza for The Hill School. But the school
has yet to make any substantive improvements to the neighborhood or to Pottstown.
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We need green infrastructure

Green infrastructure calls for removing as much impervious surface as possible and installing trees and other water-absorbing plants in its place.
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Green stormwater management

Removing excess impervious surfaces, such as Pottstown's "tree park," is the least costly and most effective way to reduce runoff.
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Who pays for stormwater?

The most common source of local government revenue is the real estate tax, based on the value of a property. But there’s no correlation between the value of real estate and the amount of runoff it causes.
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Non-profits would pay also

An additional feature of a stormwater runoff fee would be its application to tax-exempt properties. Because a stormwater runoff fee is not a tax, tax-exempt properties would have to pay it.
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More floods in our future

For those of us who were around in 1972, the catastrophic flooding in Houston last week was a reminder of Pottstown’s own monster flood caused by Hurricane Agnes.
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Stormwater a costly problem

With climate change and ever more natural areas being paved over for development, flooding will be far more common in the future than it has been in the past.
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Real science versus Sound Off

Millions of Americans — and thousands of Pottstonians — experienced real science last week as they looked skyward to view the solar eclipse.
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Proud of Pottstown's diversity

The controversy over monuments glorifying the Confederacy reminds me of one of Pottstown’s finest qualities: racial diversity.
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We need projects like this

Rockwell Development Group, which manages the Hanover Square townhouse development at Hanover Street and the Industrial Highway, proposes to convert the historic Meyerhoff shirt factory into 28 market rate condominiums.
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44,172 parking spaces

Many people think that Pottstown has a parking shortage. In fact, Pottstown has a surfeit of parking — more than two spaces for every man, woman, and child in the borough.
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PAID important to Pottstown

Our tax base has been steadily declining for 20 years, and we desperately need more revenue-generating businesses.
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Mosaic gets asphalt sidewalk

Pottstown’s first asphalt sidewalk, 95 feet long, has been installed at the Mosaic Community Garden on North Charlotte Street at Walnut Street.
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Plenty of information online

Today, thanks to the internet and enlightened public policies, we can easily access a wealth of public information about our county, school district, and borough.
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Speeding cars more dangerous than crime

Fatalities involving cars and trucks are more than twice as common in Montgomery County than those from crime, and they almost always involve strangers.
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Pottstown streets best at 25 mph

Excessive speed is by far the leading cause of serious injuries and fatalities involving all kinds of motor vehicle collisions, either with pedestrians, bicyclists or other autos.
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Traffic calming makes streets safer

In recent decades, traffic engineers have recognized
that physical changes to the streets are needed to force motorists to obey posted limits.
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Real estate and rentals

About half the residential properties in Pottstown are rental units, which many citizens think are a major source of Pottstown’s problems.
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It's all about economics

Perhaps no other building illustrates Pottstown’s real estate quandary better than 323-325 King Street.
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Up and out of Pottstown

Educating Pottstown students is very important. But how many of our graduates are going to stick around and contribute to the sustainability of our community?
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Avoiding the real problems

Figuring out how to keep our school district viable in the face of ever-increasing costs and diminishing resources is going to take a lot of research and creativity. But we're not talking about that.
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Emerald ash borer reaches Pottstown

There will soon be a substantial number of mature trees dying throughout Pottstown.
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There’s been a dramatic change at the east end of High Street. Seven huge maple trees in front of the old Memorial Hospital building have been removed.
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Schools can't do it all

We’re kidding ourselves if we think schools alone are going to transform Pottstown. They aren’t. Schools are a reflection of the demographics of their community.
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How many will settle here?

It’s great to prepare our students for life, but how many are going to stay here and contribute to the sustainability of our community?
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Getting a handle on local jobs

Six years ago, when PAID reorganized, it adopted by-laws requiring PAID’s director to submit an annual progress report that included an inventory
of all borough businesses.
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Spending and taxation

From time to time, I publish a chart showing how much local government — the borough and school
district — spends in Pottstown each year and where the money goes.
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Residency incentive okayed

As we try to encourage more professionals to live in Pottstown, the Pottstown School District has implemented a residential homeownership initiative through the Foundation for Pottstown Education.
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The big question

Pottstown Memorial Medical Center is the school district's biggest taxpayer, by far. With the sale of the for-profit hospital to the non-profit Reading Health System, will the new owners now seek a property tax exemption?
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Challenging tax exemptions

How does a non-profit like The Hill School qualify for a real estate tax exemption?
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Hill School takes early steps

Early in 2016, The Hill School announced a neighborhood revitalization initiative.
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Hill School: untapped resource

Pottstown Borough government and the school district need to become more efficient. But Pottstown has other resources it could tap.
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Tax-exempt campus expands

The most valuable real estate in Pottstown is The Hill School. Most of its property is tax exempt. Otherwise, its tax bill would top $2.3 million.
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Public schools and self-reliance

Pottstown superintendent Stephen Rodriguez will host a forum 7 tonight at Pottstown High School called “Why Are My Taxes So High and What Can I Do About It?”
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You can't build a city on pity

John Norquist, former 16-year mayor of Milwaukee and longtime advocate for cities, has published a compelling book about the natural advantages of cities (and towns like Pottstown).
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50 years: Pottstown drained by car culture

Mirroring national trends, Pottstown lost most of its middle class residents to new homes on large lots outside of town. It lost its stores to new suburban malls and with ample free parking.
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The future: Pottstown's key asset: sustainability

Despite the rise of sprawling development that undermined traditional towns like Pottstown, there are major economic, demographic, and environmental trends that now favor us.
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2010s: Historic renovations continue

A vacant furniture landmark, the former Fecera’s
Furniture warehouse on Beech Street, was purchased by a non-profit housing company and renovated into 43 apartments and an arts center.
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2010s: More renovations, expansions

Montgomery County Community College West Campus continued its expansion by creating a
University Center in the newly renovated
former Reading freight station on South Hanover Street.
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2000s: Downtown renaissance begins

A new borough hall was built downtown in 2000, and an adjacent town park, called Smith Family Plaza, was completed two years later. On the east side of the park, the 1880 Security Trust Building was renovated as offices and a restaurant in 2006.
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2000s: College, greenway expand

Just ten years after it opened its West Campus building in 1996, the Montgomery County
Community College expanded north of the railroad tracks to the newly re n o v a t ed Vaughn Knitting Mills building on High Street.
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1990s: From downtown to Route 100

After losing downtown stores for two decades, Pottstown replaced that retail space with the construction of a new shopping center on Route 100. Meanwhile, a gaping hole downtown was sold for the construction of a new borough hall.
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1990s: A college and a riverfront park

The Pottstown community pulled out all the stops to persuade the county commissioners to place a satellite campus of the Montgomery County Community College in the borough, near a newly-constructed riverfront park.
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1980s: More industry, train service lost

Pottstown manufacturing jobs continued to nosedive in the 1980s, and more historic buildings, like the 1923 Pottstown High School, above, were demolished.
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1980s: Historic ordinance, new business campuses

Spurred by the demolition of historic buildings, Pottstown adopted national and local historic districts and began restoring icons like the Pottstown Roller Mills, above.
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1970s: Pottstown loses industry, history

The 1960s might be considered Pottstown’s golden era. But even as Pottstown prospered, there were signs of decline in the 1970s.
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1970s: Decline, but seeds of renewal

In the 1970s, even as Pottstown began losing the heavy industries that had been its backbone for two centuries, the borough began planning for the future. The most significant event was the construction of the Pottstown Memorial Medical Center. Read more

Whither goest thou, Pottstown?

Is Pottstown turning around? You would certainly get that impression at the recent Progress Pottstown luncheon sponsored by PAID and the Tri-County Chamber of Commerce. Read more


Plans ... plans ... plans

We love plans in Pottstown. At least 20 of them have been adopted by borough government and nonprofits during my 45 years in the borough.
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See the whole world from home

Thanks to Google Earth and its ground-level cousin, Street View, you can tour 40 countries all over the globe from the privacy of your own home. Anyone with a computer can download it free.
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My favorite travel guide

There’s another fascinating way besides Google Earth to tour faraway places from the comfort of home, thanks to intrepid Dutch traveler Kees Colijn and YouTube.
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Rethinking school structure

We need to put the individual student first and subjects second. Building relationships is more important than anything else. To do that, we must limit the number of students each teacher sees.
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Sustainable schools

Last year, the Pottstown School Board set aside time at its meetings in February, March and April for cost-cutting suggestions. No one had any. Let me make a few.
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The test that tells us something

For all the obsession with testing, there is only one
credible test that has measured student achievement consistently since 1970 -- the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
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No tax increase necessary

Exorbitant taxation has deterred many prospective businesses and residents from moving into Pottstown. We can't afford to raise taxes any higher than they are now.
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Tracking student test scores

Next month, Pottstown students in grades three through eight will be taking the annual PSSAs, the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment tests.
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What does state testing mean?

Although PSSA tests are supposed to make schools accountable, the state doesn’t provide much guidance in interpreting scores.
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Pottstown yearbooks on website

The Pottstown School District has posted about 90 of its yearbooks on its website as pdf files. They can be viewed and downloaded free. Dating back to 1908, the yearbooks are an engaging narrative of the life of our community. Read more


Acting for the common good

Pottstown educators engage in " silo" thinking: "Whatever I’m doing is more important than everything else.” But the people who are footing the bill, the residents and property owners of Pottstown, have their own priorities.
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Pottstown crime is down, but it never was high

Major crimes were down 14 percent in 2016 over the previous year, Pottstown Police told The Mercury last week.
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Crime is down, crashes are up

After falling for decades, motor vehicle crash fatalities are increasing again, nationwide and in Pennsylvania, thanks in part to more motorists reading or sending text messages while driving.
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Learning to appreciate nature

The Natural Lands Trust is partnering with NorthBay, an outdoor education group, to immerse Pottstown elementary and middle school students in the natural world around them.
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Setting priorities in tough times

Facing a deficit of at least $1 million in the upcoming school year, and with the third highest taxes in Pennsylvania, we should pause our discretionary spending on athletic fields.
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Mountaintop remover

Back in 2015, Pottstown’s representative in Congress, Ryan Costello, was one of just 10 Republicans to sign a resolution declaring that human activity contributes to climate change and calling for action to respond to the threat. Now that Donald Trump is president, Rep. Costello is changing his tune.
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Pottstown taxation: 3rd in state

The Pottstown School District now has the third highest taxes of Pennsylvania’s 500 school districts. We want to offer the best opportunities possible for our children. But we also must live within our means. We cannot afford to raise taxes this year. We must cut spending by doing things differently.
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The big day: budget unveiled

The most important state event of the year takes place today, as Gov. Tom Wolf unveils his proposed budget for the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
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Save a farm. Live in a town.

In the long run, traditional, walkable towns are the
only way to accommodate population growth while conserving farmland.
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Trails increase our quality of life

Trails allow people to enjoy the countryside and get healthy exercise at the same time by walking or biking through it.
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Deluged with technology

It’s amazing how quickly we take technology for granted. Apple introduced the iPhone just ten years ago. Yet three-quarters of all Americans now own smart phones.
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Land bank will help Pottstown

Earlier this month, Pottstown Council authorized the creation of a borough land bank to facilitate the
reclamation and redevelopment of blighted properties.
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It can be done!

It can be done! Vacant and neglected properties in Pottstown can be handsomely restored and sold at
market rate prices for a profit. We just need to find investors with good business acumen.
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Hobart's Run

As part of a fundraising campaign, The Hill School has identified an area surrounding the school campus which it hopes to revitalize by partnering with residents and property owners.
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Investing in Pottstown

The Hill School has a significant handicap in comparison to its peers. Other schools are located in an idyllic village, or in the woods, or in the countryside.
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Hill School 990

Although Pottstown is struggling with a steadily declining tax base, the borough’s largest property owner is growing.
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Hill aims to raise $175 million

The Hill School has launched a campaign to raise $175 million over a five-year period.
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Sustainable Pottstown

Terrorist attacks in Orlando, Berlin, and Brussels. The threat of ISIS. Mideast refugees flooding into Europe. These stories dominated the headlines in 2016. But the real threat is climate change.
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Restoration fund needed

Last month, Borough Council passed a $52.6 million budget for 2017. Nearly all this money is aimed at keeping existing borough services. There's no money for improving the appearance of our town.
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Thoughts for 2017

To begin the new year, here are some thoughts from one of humanity’s greatest thinkers, Albert Einstein:
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Our perilous future

Just before Christmas, NASA scientist and former astronaut Piers Sellers died of pancreatic cancer.
Earlier, here's what he wrote about climate change:
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Season of giving?

This is the time of year when people give the most to charities. We’ve paid the annual household
bills, and now we decide how much we have to spare for others.
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Effective altruism

On Tuesday, we discussed donating to charity, focused on Pottstown. But the neediest people don’t live here.
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Cars, cars, and more cars

As long as people want to live on scattered housing lots and drive for all their daily activities, open land will be consumed and ever more traffic will be generated on our roads.
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Let us pause in the pursuit of the latest electronic gadgetry for Christmas and contemplate a calmer, simpler time in America: John Greenleaf Whittier's "Snow-Bound."
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Pottstown's best bargain

The Pottstown Regional Public Library, the borough’s most cost-effective public institution, celebrated its reopening the first day of December.
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Why I love the public library

On Tuesday I described the Pottstown Regional Public Library as the town’s most cost-effective institution. Here’s why:
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Tax base still shrinking

Pottstown’s tax base continues to fall. As of Jan. 1, 2017, the total assessed value of Pottstown’s 8,380 taxable properties will be $803,730,299, nearly $2 million below last year.
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Careful economizing needed

School district spending and taxation have increased above the rate of inflation during the last 10 years. We need to change our culture from “more spending” to “careful economizing.”
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Bombarded with information

Once a mind is made up, it’s almost impossible to change it. ‘Don’t confuse me with the facts, my
mind’s made up.’ That's a way of life for most people.
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Clearance, not appearance!

PECO is currently trimming street trees in Pottstown to clear its wires. The utility generally trims trees every five years, and the results aren’t pretty.
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Our wealth in perspective

A 2007 study by a team of economists commissioned by the United Nations concluded that assets of $517,601 or more places a household in the top 1 percent in the world in wealth.
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Thanksgiving then and now

It’s easy to think most of us are worse off than previous generations, but this ignores the enormous improvements in life we quickly take for granted.

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Simplify, simplify

Henry David Thoreau's philosophy of simplicity, reflection, and appreciation of the natural world is a refreshing break from the commotion of the internet.
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Graham Hill: Living with less

In this age of technologically savvy young people who develop ingenious internet businesses and sell them for millions, it’s interesting to find one who also values simplicity.
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Ripping out riparian buffer

Riparian buffers are used along the banks of streams and rivers to prevent water runoff and to control erosion. Riverfront Park is replacing its buffer with grass.
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A cost-effective park system

Wyomissing has three times more parkland than Pottstown, and a municipal swimming pool, and allocates $212,000 for street trees, but its overall parks budget is still less than Pottstown's. Read more

Planet loses half of its trees

Humans have removed half of the planet's trees since the beginning of civilization 5,000 years ago. As deforestation continues, we are losing an area four times the size of New Jersey every year.
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Removing nature at Riverfront Park

Pottstown has its own deforestation project going on at Riverfront Park. The woods on either side of the walking trail have been replaced with grass.
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Everything comes from nature

We have always taken our natural environment for granted. To prevent irreversible and perhaps catastrophic climate change, we must start protecting it.
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Climate change No. 1 issue

Taxes, immigration, jobs, personal character — these are the issues dominating the 2016 presidential election. But the biggest issue is rarely mentioned -- climate change.
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Restoring a Pottstown jewel

Edgewood Cemetery looks better than it has for years, if not decades.
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Cemeteries as passive parks

Fencing in cemeteries diminishes their value as open spaces and passive parks.
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Technological revolution

Everyone knows we’ve had a technological revolution in recent decades, but you’ve probably had to live through it to fully appreciate it.
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"Talking" and "Leadership"

The third PottsTOWN Talks will be held 7 p.m. next Tuesday at Connections on High to discuss education. Participants should not shy away from hard questions.
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Personalized learning

Today's public schools emphasize specialization. But for centuries, children and youth have learned all the essential skills from family tutors. James Freeman Clarke is a famous example.
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Lessons from a one-room school

Educator and teachers' union president Albert Shanker wrote more than 1,300 columns as weekly advertisements in the New York Times. Here's a sample.
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Students first, subjects second

There’s a saying in education, “Elementary school teachers teach children. Secondary school teachers teach subjects.”
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Too much specialization

There are two major trends in public schools during the last 50 years. First, rising costs, at more than twice the rate of inflation. Second, there’s been a huge increase in specialization.
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More sprawl in Lower Pottsgrove

Last month, the Lower Pottsgrove commissioners gave the last approval necessary for another car-oriented, environmentally damaging development called Sanatoga Green to move into the final land development process.
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Schools becoming ever more costly

The Pottstown School Board has approved a three-year contract with the Federation of Pottstown
Teachers that boosts pay more at the bottom of the salary schedule than at the top. The contract will cost the district $1.4 million in the third year.
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Money for parks, not for streets

We all appreciate our abundant parks, which cost borough taxpayers $1.1 million annually. Many people rarely if ever use our parks, but they all live on a street. The borough spends little on streets and nothing on street trees and sidewalks.
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Pet fair: best way to treat animals

The 6th annual Pottstown Pet Fair is scheduled to begin 9 a.m. Saturday at Memorial Park. But as we’re enjoying our pets at the Pet Fair, we might ask ourselves: Do we really want to eat animals?
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Ready made for college housing?

Now that the renovation of the long-vacant Fecera’s warehouse on Beech Street into apartments is underway, it’s time to look at another of Pottstown’s historic gems: the Pottstown Shirt Factory.
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Appearances count!

Walking or driving down the street, you really can’t tell what a building looks like on the inside.
Many property owners show they care — with flowers, trees, and well maintained exteriors.
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Schools and financial reality

Last month, the National Penn Bank office at High and Franklin streets closed as part of the bank’s $1.8 billion acquisition by BB&T Bank of North Carolina. Hundreds of jobs were lost as the bank cut costs to increase efficiency.

Public schools must also face financial reality.
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Detailed budget needed

Want to know where $59.5 million in Pottstown School District spending goes?

If we school board members are serious about doing our jobs, we need far more detailed budget information than we have now.
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Library renovations underway

After an unexpected two-month delay because of change orders, renovations have begun in earnest at the Pottstown Regional Public Library.
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Housing bargains galore

Pottstown housing sales have picked up in 2016 over the same period last year, and prices have
risen slightly, but homes are still amazingly undervalued.
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Pottstown pays for all to enjoy

Pottstown parks are heavily used by people throughout the region. But they are maintained solely with Pottstown taxpayer dollars.
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Park-like setting costs no more

Wyomissing maintains a larger parks system than Pottstown, and maintains 7,646 street trees, at less cost than Pottstown spends for parks alone.
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It's all about economics

The federal Housing Choice Voucher Program -- colloquially known as Section 8 -- is commonly blamed for the decline of Pottstown's residential neighborhoods. But more likely, it's the other way around.
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Pottstown highlights and lowlights

Recently, members of the Montgomery County Planning Commission visited Pottstown for a tour of the borough's success stories. But other prominent areas still need attention.
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Superintendent search on hold

Pottstown school directors will delay their search for a new superintendent until fall. The school district will begin advertising in October with a deadline for submissions at the end of February 2017.
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Too much testing

Last week the Pottstown School Board unanimously passed a resolution to substantially decrease high-stakes standardized testing in our schools.
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High assessments reflect falling values

Many houses in Pottstown are selling for below their assessed value. It's little wonder Pottstown has the highest rate of assessment appeals in Montgomery County-- and a sure sign Pottstown's tax base will continue to decline.
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LERTA to be adopted next month

A LERTA ordinance is expected to be adopted by Pottstown Council next month. The ordinance will give seven years of tax breaks to people who improve their properties. These tax breaks will be subsidized by existing property owners.
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Dead trees mar downtown

The 200 block of downtown Pottstown is undergoing a renaissance, with several renovation projects planned. With all the investment in flower baskets and planters for beautification, it might be a good idea to remove dead trees and stumps
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Dead trees greet postal patrons

Dead trees not only mar downtown Pottstown, they afflict neighborhoods throughout the borough. For example, dead trees flank both sides of the front door to the Pottstown Post Office, where thousdands of people see them every month.
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Mosaic's 'permaculture' garden (year later)

The Mosaic Community Land Trust is marking the first year of its "permaculture garden" at Charlotte and Walnut streets. Community gardens are a vital component of "green infrastructure."
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Walnut Street 'rain garden' (year later)

Pottstown's first sidewalk rain garden was planted in May 2015 on the Walnut Street side of the Pottstown School District administration building. A year later, it's thriving.
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Attracting families to Pottstown

Pottstown's best champions can be those who already live and work here. Pottstown Councilman Ryan Procsal and his wife, Athena, enticed Athena's brother and his family to buy a house on their block.
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Cooperation, preservation win

Bethel Community Church and Congregation Hesed Shel Emet have been sharing a landmark 50-year old synagogue building. Now Bethel has purchased the building, and Hesed Shel Emet will stay on as tenants.
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Growing -- and keeping -- leaders

The Pottstown School District has prepared many of its students over the years for leadership positions later in life. We must encourage at least some of them to stay here and contribute to the long-term welfare of our community.
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Taxes and spending

The combined budgets of the Pottstown School District and Pottstown Borough total more than $119 million -- an enormous sum for a town of just 22,000 residents. But not all that money comes from the Pottstown real estate tax. In this column, we try to hit the highlights of where all that money comes from.
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Useful dialogue continues

Pottstown Council and the Pottstown School Board have scheduled another joint meeting at the community college sustainability hub. These meetings help both entities to address problems and seek solutions -- something that rarely happened in the past.
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Taxpayers deserve fair compensation

Last week, The Hill School hosted a lacrosse tournament drawing thousands to its athletic fields. School district administrators offered three acres of free parking on its Edgewood School property. The Hill School's tax exempt status means local taxpayers are alreadysubsidizing the school.
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Philadelphia goes green (fifth year)

Last month marked the fifth anniversary of an agreement between the city of Philadelphia and environmental regulators to use green infrastructure instead of pipes and holding tanks to prevent polluted stormwater from flooding into the city's streams and rivers. Here in Pottstown, we should pay close attention, because we face the same issues.
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Too much asphalt

Pottstown is about 5 square miles, and 38 percent of our land is covered with impervious surfaces -- buildings, streets, and parking lots. Too much asphalt is not good for the environment, especially when we need rain to soak into the ground instead of running off into streams and rivers.
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Residency incentive to be offered

The Pottstown School Board plans to offer professional staff a five-year, $10,000 forgivable loan to buy a home in Pottstown.
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Lovely houses in Pottstown

Pottstown is a great place to own a home. The borough has neighborhoods that equal or excel anything in the area.
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Record keeping needed for LERTA

If you want to measure progress, you need data on what already exists. It's time the borough and school district require information and accountability from PAID.
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Annex: best building to sell

The Pottstown School District's administrative annex building ought to be leased or sold for offices. It is a lovely office building and mostly vacant.
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Wage increases unsustainable

During a four-year period of very low inflation, the wages earned by Pottstown Borough's non-uniformed employees have increased about 33 percent. This is unsustainable.
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Police compensation a challenge

During a four-year period of very low inflation, wages earned by Pottstown Police officers have increased about 33 percent. This is unsustainable.
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Superintendent search continues

Because of time constraints, the Pottstown School Board will look to appoint Stephen Rodriguez as acting superintendent while the board continues its search for a permanent superintendent.
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Salary schedule facts

In recent months, Pottstown teachers have been showing up in force at school board meetings to emphasize their solidarity. They seek salary increases. Something the teachers might want to discuss among themselves is why the current salary schedule rewards those at the top at the expense of everyone else.
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Cluster: big revenues, no taxes

At long last, nine months after buying the Wainman mansion outright, the Pottstown Cluster of Religious Communities will seek a zoning variance to actually use it.
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Pottstown schools better off alone

The Daniel Boone School District's decision to close the Birdsboro Elementary School shows why Pottstown is better off going it alone.
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Budget breakthrough

Pottstown Borough recently revised its published 2016 budget with a new version that clearly and comprehensively explains how local government functions and where the money goes.
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Planting trees ... in Lancaster

Tomorrow is Arbor Day. Usually this means planting a token tree here and there. But in Lancaster, tree planting is part of a major effort to control stormwater and improve the environment through "green infrastructure."
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Is there a better way?

Newcomers to Pottstown are likely to judge us on the appearance of our streets -- especially our main travel routes, such as King Street.When a building is boarded up, it is a glaring source of blight.

Although it's more expensive, wouldn't it be better to paint the plywood black and board up the building from the inside, so it doesn't look vacant?
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Just do it!

There's a lot of talk about renovating Pottstown's huge inventory of vacant old homes. Hannah Wolfrom, a senior at the Kimberton Waldorf School, is not just talking -- she's doing. Hannah bought an empty King Street home with an investor and is renovating the house as her senior project.
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Impediments to revitalization

There are three main impediments to the revitalization of Pottstown: taxes, perception of schools, and perception of crime.
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Curb appeal counts

People are most likely to form their opinion of Pottstown from the appearance of the downtown and our major thoroughfares like High Street.Read more


Paving over more virgin land

Another car-oriented, environmentally damaging development called Sanatoga Green is planned in Lower Pottsgrove.
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The one that got away

Pottstown has lost many of its industries and businesses over the last five decades, but none was as painful as STV, originally known as Sanders and Thomas Engineers. Although it was founded in Pottstown and stayed here for 50 years, the firm moved its headquarters to Douglassville because no one made the effort to keep them here.
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Kids can walk the distance

The surgeon general recommends that children need at least 60 minutes of daily exercise. In Pottstown, students -- even kindergartners -- can get that just walking to and from school.
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Crossing guards an asset to Pottstown

Crossing guards do far more than stop traffic at intersections. They are friendly faces and a calming influence on our student walkers.
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Holistic thinking needed

The Pottstown School District is not an island unto itself. Public schools are but one function of government, and the school board should be working together with Council as much as possible.
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Can't lead from behind

As Gen. James "Pete" Longstreet reminded Gen. Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg, "You can't lead from behind." Members of Pottstown's "leadership class" all live outside Pottstown and are trying to "lead from behind."
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Creativity set free

The Wiz demonstrates the amazing things students and teachers can accomplish when freed from the mind-numbing bureaucracy that has enmeshed public education in recent decades.
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Persistence pays off

Despite years of roadblocks, the vacant Fecera's warehouse is being renovated as apartments and an arts center thanks to the persistence of the non-profit Genesis Housing Corp.
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Superintendent search won't be easy

As the Pottstown School Board seeks a new superintendent from outside the district, Google finds that interviews are often little better than guesswork.
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Front line leaders remain

America's best businesses offer some tips for the
Pottstown School District as it hires its first outside superintendent in more than 50 years: "the family feeling, small is beautiful, simplicity rather than complexity..."
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Superintendent search begins

For the first time in more than two generations, the Pottstown School Board is seeking a superintendent from outside the district.
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Where does the money go?

Pottstown Borough and the Pottstown School District together are spending $114 million in public dollars this year. Both entities need to publish clear budgets that explain where all the money goes.
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To set goals, you need facts

Each Pottstown council member has set one goal for 2016. The most important thing about setting goals: First, you need to gather all the information necessary before making decisions.Read more



Top employers: hospital, government, non-profits

Years ago, Pottstown's top employers used to make things. No more.
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Put it in writing!

Disgraced entertainer Bill Cosby now knows the importance of putting things in writing. A deal never to prosecute him made years ago recently was thrown out by a judge because it wasn't put in writing. In all facets of life, it's critically important to put things in writing.
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...still waiting...

Nearly six months have passed since the Cluster of Religious Communities purchased the Wainman mansion on North Franklin Street. They were quick to obtain a tax exemption for the property, but still have not applied to the zoning hearing board for a variance to use it.
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Tax base reality

When the non-profit Pottstown Memorial Medical Center was sold to for-profit Community Health Systems in 2003, the hospital became the biggest property tax payer in the borough -- contributing more than $1.3 million in taxes annually. Even so, total assessments and tax revenues in Pottstown continue to fall.
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Do your LERTA homework!

Top borough officials are pushing the Pottstown School Board and Pottstown Council to adopt a sweeping LERTA ordinance -- giving property tax breaks to businesses improving their properties. But they haven't done their homework to report on the experiences of other municipalities using LERTAs across the state.
Read more


Pottstown's most valuable real estate "exempt"

Tax-exempt parcels account for about 20 percent of the total value of Pottstown's real estate. Their owners serve people from a wide area, but the costs are strictly local.
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Disparities in school spending

Of Pennsylvania's 500 school districts, Pottstown ranks 378th in wealth, 144th in spending, and 12th in taxes. If Pottstown spent the same, per pupil, as nearby Berks County districts, it could cut millions of dollars from its budget.
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Property values keep falling

Property values are continuing to fall in Pottstown. The new assessments that took effect Jan. 1 are about $5 million lower than they were last year.
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Pottstown school spending soars

Reflecting national trends, spending in the Pottstown School District has risen dramatically during the last 40 years, at almost triple the rate of inflation.
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Spending level unsustainable

Statewide, of 500 school districts, Pottstown ranks 378th in wealth, 144th in spending, and 12th in taxation. The district's level of spending is simply unsustainable. Read more


Budgets should be reader-friendly

Pottstown Borough and the Pottstown School District should publish comprehensive, reader-friendly budgets as progressive cities like Lancaster do.
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No. 1 local issue: climate change

Using land more efficiently and limiting suburban sprawl are two of the most important ways to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Living in Pottstown does both.
Read more



Sustainable Pottstown

Last year, Pottstown began work on a sustainability plan under the guidance of the Montgomery County Planning Commission. The real work -- listing specific actions -- begins this year.
Read more


Business inventory needed

Although Pottstown's economic development organization publishes a business newsletter, it would be helpful to have a compendium of all Pottstown businesses.
Read more



Helping the poor -- and Pottstown

A recent study by two Harvard economists emphasizes the enormous impact neighborhoods have on the trajectory of poor children. The best way to help Pottstown's poor is to encourage more middle class families to move into the borough.
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Getting a handle on rentals

After 20 years of talking but not doing, Pottstown Borough has finally completed a comprehensive inventory of all housing in the borough, including 5,413 rental units.
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Promoting homeownership

Both Montgomery County and the borough have employed forgivable loan programs to encourage homeownership in Pottstown. We need to continue and expand them.
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Live near your work

Residents who live near their workplaces, stores, schools, and other destinations enjoy an environmentally friendly lifestyle. Pottstown needs more productive residents, and employees of borough government and the school district are a good place to start.
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Pope leads on climate change

The political world is in denial, but Pope Francis is not. He has challenged all of us to do our part to promote fairness and protect our earth.
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Social service agency to expand

The Cluster, which operates a distribution and counseling center at King and Franklin streets, intends to expand to the adjacent Wainman house, an 1887 mansion. But is this the best use of the property?
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How much poverty can we handle?

With among the highest taxes in Pennsylvania and 70 percent of its public school students from low-income families, Pottstown cannot afford to attract more poor people to the borough.
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Pottstown schools underrated

As demonstrated by Penn students Jasheel Brown and Miranda Somich, Pottstown High School '13, Pottstown schools can prepare students for the most rigorous academic environments in America.
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Positive feeling about Pottstown schools

Pottstown students, shown here helping to plant Mosaic's new edible garden, are polite and well-natured. Our schools are a true melting pot, and our regular classroom teachers excel.
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Edgewood Cemetery draws interest.

Randal Doaty, head of security at The Hill School, has taken it upon himself to begin the restoration and maintenance of historic Edgewood Cemetery, the resting place of more than 2,800 Pottstonians since its founding in 1861. Read more



Hill School closely tied to Edgewood

Edgewood Cemetery is not only physically close to The Hill School, three Hill School headmasters and prominent faculty members are buried there. Returning Edgewood to its roots as a passive park would be a service to the community.
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Hill needs to invest in Pottstown

The Hill School's greatest recruiting problem is its location next to a high poverty district in Pottstown. By investing in Pottstown's neighborhoods, The Hill School can help the town and itself at the same time.
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Gov. Wolf an example to Hill

At a recent visit to his alma mater, The Hill School, Gov. Tom Wolf offered some advice all of us can take to heart. "Do difficult things... people want to be fair and if you're fair to them, they will reciprocate."
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Green Infrastructure wave of the future

Pottstown, like most municipalities, has a storm water problem. Green Infrastructure is the most environmentally responsible way to solve it.
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Mosaic adds to Green Infrastructure

The Mosaic Community Land Trust, which operates two community gardens on Chestnut Street, is hosting a new, more prominent garden based on sustainable agricultural principles.
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Franklin creates learning garden

One bright Saturday last month, parent and student volunteers added to Pottstown's green infrastructure with a new outdoor learning garden at Franklin Elementary School.
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Rain garden comes to Walnut Street

As a demonstration project, Trees Inc. recently installed a rain garden on Walnut Street next to the Pottstown School District administration building.
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'Tree Park' making a comeback?

Last year, the trees at the Beech and Charlotte streets "Tree Park" failed to leaf out. Now it looks like they're making a comeback, thanks to a variety of remedial measures.
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Trees: Modest cost, big benefits

During the last 30 years, Trees Inc. has planted 2,500 street trees (new and replacements), removed dead trees and ground out stumps, and remediated sidewalks. The trees have transformed the appearance of Pottstown.
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Sustainability for Pottstown

As the world begins to recognize the reality of climate change, people are beginning to rediscover the merits of walkable, bikeable towns like Pottstown. But we need a sustainability plan.
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Fiscal sustainability needed

Pottstown Council passed a 2015 budget with no tax increase. The Pottstown School District has promised to do the same in fiscal year 2015-2016. This needs to become the norm.
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School construction finally done

Pottstown has committed $76 million for renovations and additions to our schools. Our school budget has increased at more than double the rate of inflation in the last 15 years. In the future, we must economize.
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Quality of life basics need attention

Quality of life services are essential to attracting and retaining good residents and businesses. Government should do a cost-benefit analysis to ensure we get the most from our public dollars.
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Merger: Theory vs. reality

Proponents of consolidating Pottstown's four volunteer fire companies say a merger is necessary to control costs. The reality is, fire protection in Pottstown already costs far less than other urban areas in eastern Pennsylvania.
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Save this treasure!

The 1887 Wainman house is perhaps Pottstown's most magnificent mansion. It must be protected, but it's unclear who owns it.
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Needed: insightful candidates

The next three weeks are critical to Pottstown's future. Five seats on the Pottstown School Board are up for election this year, s well as three positions on Pottstown Council. Read more



Blighted building can be a showpiece

The abandoned Fecera's warehouse on Beech Street can have a new life as apartments and an arts center. The non-profit organization proposing the adapative reuse of the building needs the community's support.
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York to Pottstown: no panaceas

Despite major economic development initiatives, the city of York faces a $7 million deficit next year. The mayor has proposed laying off nearly half its police officers. York proves there are no panaceas.
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Marshaling resources

Pottstown needs to maximize all its funding resources as it contemplates the future.
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Pottstown needs Hill's help

The Hill School has the largest and most valuable property in Pottstown, which is tax exempt. With a $153 million endowment, the ability to raise tens of millions of dollars from its alumni, and a location in the midst of a struggling town, The Hill School is ideally situated to help revitalize Pottstown.
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Doing well by doing good

A visit by Pottstown and Hill School officials to Trinity College provided a model for the Hill School to invest in surrounding neighborhoods.
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The essence of education

High school trips abroad are great. Service learning trips are even better.
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Thankful for Pottstown

With historic architecture, a lovely downtown, neighborhood schools, and every destination within walking distance, there's no better place to live and work than Pottstown.
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Emerald ash borer alert

The emerald ash borer, which was accidentally imported into Michigan from Asia in 2002, has killed tens of millions of ash trees in 22 states during the last ten years. It has now arrived in Montgomery County, and thousands of Pottstown-area ash trees are threatened. The photos, above, show the impact of the ash borer on an Ohio street. Trees Inc. has published a tabloid supplement to The Mercury with information on how homeowners can protect their trees.


Since December 2008 , we have published more than 200 paid commentaries in The Mercury. A selection follows:

Ten-year grant history chart
The borough has paid for many fine projects with grant money in the last decade, but it has also passed up or mishandled many significant funding opportunities. We've compiled a chart of all grant applications in the last ten years.

History gives Pottstown meaning, substance
Here in Pottstown, our lovely historic buildings -- especially our schools -- bind us together.

ULI reports have helped Pottstown
Many of Pottstown's most successful development initiatives were first suggested by the Urban Land Institute, the nation's premier research institution for urban planning and development.

ULI sparks Pottstown's town center
Few people remember, but ULI -- the Urban Land Institute -- first conceived the concept of building a new borough hall and town park in its current downtown location. ULI also urged Pottstown to persuade the Montgomery County Commissioners to build a satellite campus of the community college in Pottstown.

Pottstown ripe for 'smart growth'
Smart growth is the name given to development that conserves land by using smaller lot sizes and placing houses, stores, and workplaces in close proximity. As Pottstown has evolved over the last 250 years, it exemplifies the principles of smart growth.

People who give
As we approach the end of the year with holiday celebrations of giving and thankfulness, we can be proud of Pottstown's "world class" givers.