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Sitting on the Outside, Looking in at Lansdale

Will Democrats in Lansdale pursue progress by looking past political lines?

As a registered Republican in the county, I am still reeling from the Democratic landslide that occurred in on November 8.

I knew the borough had become a Democratic majority over the past three years – do we blame G.W. Bush for that? – but I never expected anything like this.

I’d like to believe that being a Democrat or Republican doesn’t matter when it comes to local politics; if you sit on council, you should work together, avoiding party lines, and do what’s right for the constituents of the town.

Now I don’t live in Lansdale, so I didn’t have a say in who got elected to what seat.

I do, however, cover the entire borough as my job. When you sit on the sidelines and look in toward the action, you somewhat share the same view as those residents who care about what’s going on in Lansdale.

I consider Lansdale my hometown, in a way: I was born at the old hospital where stands and I was raised for a bit on West Fifth in the old Little Italy district. My grandparents have lived in the borough for more than 50 years. I’ve attended Penndale, hung out at various Lansdale businesses and even attended a few local shows in my youth at places in Lansdale.

I’ve walked the streets and driven the back roads and taken all the shortcuts.

As a writer covering the town, you become acquainted with the movers and shakers of the town, on both sides of the political aisle.

I did expect Jack Hansen and Rich DiGregorio to win re-election in their ward. I never saw Republican challengers George Fenzil or Sam Carlo at any public meeting, let alone out at events meeting people.

Could they have pulled through with a stronger campaign? That’s a tough question to answer in the political makeup of the borough as it stands right now.

Ask any Republican in Ward One, and they thought, naturally, that Nancy Frei was a shoe-in to take over Anne Scheuring’s seat. I shared the same sentiment.

Surprisingly, a 27-year-old biologist won the Democratic vote; Steve Malagari will be the youngest councilperson in the history of the borough.

Mike Riccio was lackadaisical in his campaign in Ward Three, evident by the number of votes he got in his ward. That’s surprising considering Riccio wears his heart on his sleeve for the love of the town.

Riccio faced off against his good friend, Denton Burnell, who chairs the Communications Commission. Burnell is young in his roots as a Lansdale homeowner, but he’s got a list of things he wants to tackle in the town. One thing on the list is to revamp the Lansdale Borough website – about time, I say.

What’s most shocking about the Lansdale elections is the tax collector race.

Yes, I may be partial with this one, due to the fact that my grandfather held this position for so long.

However, there are just some things that don’t make sense – and there’s one thing I’m going to keep my eye on.

It seems the Democrats in Lansdale didn’t care about 15-plus years of experience in tax collecting that Christine Calhoun has to her name.

They instead opted to throw their support behind a resident who has zero expertise in collecting money from people in town.

This is someone who will be held accountable by the county and the school district to make the receipts right. The inexperience doesn’t sit well with me.

Needless to say, it was a close race, something like 33 votes kept Calhoun from fulfilling the remaining two years of the job.

I mentioned that there’s one thing I’m going to keep my eye on – and that’s the promise Jim Hanratty made in his campaign.

Hanratty’s goal is to bring the tax collector office back to borough hall.

I think it’s a false promise.

And if the Democratic majority on council gives him what he wants, I’ll have to call bullshit.

When Calhoun was appointed to fulfill the office after my grandfather’s resignation, council told her she couldn’t keep the office in borough hall.

They did give Calhoun space in borough hall to hold office hours for people to pay bills – but it cost Calhoun $200 a day, out of her own pocket.

The former tax space is now being used as Sen. Bob Mensch’s site for his community hours each week.

It wouldn’t be fair or right for council to give Hanratty a space back in the borough. If Calhoun couldn’t have it, then why should he?

Are we playing favorites here, Democrats? That’s surely what it will look like to the Republicans.

There’s one thing that all these Democrats in Lansdale have in common – they want to do what’s right for the people in the borough. You can’t fault them for that.

Until the next election, I’ll remain there, on the sidelines, watching, listening, reporting.

You can’t stop progress – let’s just hope for Lansdale’s sake it’s the progress everyone needs.

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