On Thursday October, 27th, Pottstown Borough Manager, Jason Bobst, along with Codes Department Officers, MariaBleile, and Bill Sharon attended a Building One Pennsylvania Meeting in Lancaster, PA. Also in attendance were Pottstown residents, Teri Jensen-Sellers, Deb Penrod, and Katie Jackson.
The First Suburbs Project meeting was organized by several southeastern public leaders including government officials, clergy, and community activists concerned with economy, blight, and infrastructure problems in small towns in this part of Pennsylvania. There were several hundred people at the conference in downtown Lancaster.
Several speakers took to the stage to commiserate the reasons older towns are declining, which include lack of jobs, lack of tax bases, condensed pockets of poverty and middle class families moving on to newer suburbs. Small towns do not have the financial resources to fix, all of these quality of life issues, and the meeting was a plea for federa help!
Community speakers were Marion Milner of Norristown Borough Council, Nathaniel Goodson of Upper Darby Township Council, and Denise Prowell of Scranton-Abbington Planning Association.
Bernie McGurl of the Lackawanna River Corrider Association explained the problems associated with antiquated infrastructures. Betty Wade of Penn Hills Committee spoke about the poor conditions of bridges and roads, and other transportation difficulties. Paul Abernathy, the Director of Focus Pittsburgh discussed education reform and funding issues for schools in towns like Pottstown.
The main guest speaker was HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan who came down from Washington DC for the day. Mr. Donovan spoke of the “tyranny of the zip code” which he claims President Obama is very familiar with. This applies to our situation here in Montgomery County and how the majority of voucher housing tenants and social service clients are placed in Pottstown and Norristown. There is a political agenda to evenly redistribute lower socio-economic clients, who receive welfare monies, to more towns within Montgomery County. Mr. Donovan explained that small towns like Pottstown, cannot revitalize without working families and a middle class tax base.
To read more about the Secreatry of HUD’s speech follow this link:
Joel Johnson, who is the head of the Montgomery County Housing Authority was scheduled to attend, but did not show. Roots of Revitalization had intentions of asking why HUD funds blighted rental properties in Pottstown and what he thinks about the tyranny of the zip code.