In the February 27, 2020, Council on Foreign Relations PA State and Local Officials conference call on the COVID-19 outbreak and epidemic preparedness, I asked whether townships such Newtown should start implementing "social distancing" by cancelling meetings involving hundreds of people, such as major events sponsored by the Parks and Rec department in March and April.
This 2-minute excerpt from that call focuses on the estimated danger of COVID-19 in the U.S. and answers my question regarding what, if anything, local communities should be doing.

A Toll Brothers proposal to put 45 single-family homes at the corner of Durham Road (Route 413) and Twining Bridge Road is not a big hit with the Newtown Township supervisors or nearby residents.
At the end of a lengthy recent conditional use hearing during which several residents expressed concerns with the development, the matter failed to draw a motion from any of the five township supervisors.
Toll has an agreement to buy a 158-acre unused portion of the 328-acre All Saints Cemetery from the Philadelphia Archdiocese. It’s zoned conservation management.
Gregg Adelman, the local attorney representing Toll Brothers, said the proposed project is less dense than many nearby developments and much less dense than the 170 homes Toll had previously planned for the site.
He added only about 36 acres of the land would have houses and the rest would remain open space, with an 88-acre portion of open space being offered to the township if officials wanted it.
Only about 7% of the property would end up as impervious surface, much less than the 20% allowed under the applicable ordinance, Adelman said.
None of his points seemed to impress nearby residents.
“This development would take away all I bought into when I purchased my property and cause safety problems for everyone,” said Joe McAtee, who lives on Twining Bridge Road.
McAtee and other residents also objected to the proposed development having both its accesses on Twining Bridge Road and the added traffic they said it would mean for the road.
“Twining Bridge Road is already so dangerous,” one woman said. “You can’t walk on that street now without worrying whether you will be killed.”
Supervisor John Mack expressed reservations about the proposal.
“It seems like a contradiction to have a development like this in a conservation management district,” he said. “Newtown Township is very developed as it is.”
But Adelman responded the proposal “achieves the goals and purposes of the CM district as currently zoned.”
johnmacknewtown's insight:
Most of the February 26, 2020, Board of Supervisors session was devoted to the Toll Bros hearing. Just minutes before the hearing began, supervisors were handed a thick stack of "Exhibits" that included site plans, results of s flood plain study, stormwater management report, transportation impact assessment, review letters from our Township Engineer, etc. It should be no surprise, therefore, that I did not read every document from end to end in that pile of exhibits! It just is not humanly possible. I have to question how Supervisors can ask intelligent questions and make the right decision under such circumstances. In fact, in the end, NO decision was made! Now we have 45 days to deliberate (in closed session, BTW) and make a decision.
[Newtown Township Supervisors voted 3-2] AGAINST a resolution to celebrate and uplift LGBTQ+ youth on Love Is Love Day, which was proposed in solidarity with Planned Parenthood Rainbow Room's first ever Love Is Love: A Queer Prom for All, held for the first time in its 18 year history on February 15, 2020. Newtown youth were part of the sold out spectacular prom - some of over 150 youth from 57 different schools who danced the night away in celebration of their diversity, community and LGBTQ+ pride.
ALL are invited to show up and speak OUT, to let these elected officials and the community know that they cannot quietly vote against LOVE and support for our LGBTQ+ youth, and then expect to get away with it. Their vote against this simple resolution of support sends a dangerous message to our LGBTQ+ youth AND to all youth. 
[Image shows view from new section along walkway leading to McCaffery's and new parking spaces on left.]
The Newtown Township Board of Supervisors on Wednesday granted conditional use approval for a new taco restaurant to open at the Village at Newtown Shopping Center.
Bomba Tacos & Rum, an Ohio-based Latin-style restaurant and bar, will open in the new building under construction at the shopping center. The establishment has already received approval from the township for its liquor license transfer.
Parking issues at the shopping center, which have been a concern among many in the community, were discussed during the hearing. Joe Blackburn, the attorney representing the shopping center, said that the new parking spaces in the quadrant under construction are starting to become available for shopping center customers.
"Those spaces are starting to come online and I absolutely think you'll see an alleviation of both the traffic and the parking concerns," Blackburn said.
"The busy times of these restaurants are not going to be the busy times of McCaffrey's," he added.
When construction is complete, the shopping center owner has committed to undertake additional traffic studies to address outstanding concerns, Blackburn said.
johnmacknewtown's insight:
The issue of workers hired by restaurants in the newly renovated Village at Newtown Shopping Center was an issue raised at the February 26, 2020, Newtown Board of Supervisors Conditional Use Hearing for Bomba Tacos and Rum. The application called for 16 workers per shift, but Supervisor Calabro suggested they increase that number to 20 in case they needed to hire more workers.
I understand that Newtown Twp depends on Earned Income Tax from employees - up to 70% of our tax revenue comes from this source. But if all these restaurants hired the maximum allowable number of employees per shift, I am concerned that too many parking spots would be used by them and not available for shoppers or patrons even though owners encourage workers to park to park a good distance from their establishments!  
BTW, Iron Hill Brewery's Conditional Use agreement stipulates that there will be a maximum of 38 employees per shift. 17 to 24 workers are expected for the first shift and 24 to 38 for the second shift.
The document drafted by supervisor John Mack was modeled after one pushed by two area state legislators that failed to reach the floor in Harrisburg.
A resolution about love considered by many to be non-controversial was apparently just controversial enough to get voted down by the Newtown Township supervisors.
The document that would have established Feb. 15 as “love is love day” in the township failed 3-2 at a recent [February 26, 2020] meeting. Supervisors Chairman Phil Calabro joined colleagues Kyle Davis and David Oxley in voting no as all three said they felt the document was exclusionary.
John Mack, who drafted the resolution, joined Dennis Fisher in voting yes. Mack modeled the resolution after one pushed by state Sen. Steve Santarsiero, D-10, Lower Makefield and state Rep. Wendy Ullman, D-143, Plumstead, that failed to reach the floor in Harrisburg.
The document is geared to the LGBTQ+ community. It states: “Accepting the LGBTQ+ youth in our communities and in society at large helps remind those who we care about that love is love regardless of how they identify.”
While not having any criticism for the LGBTQ+ community, the three dissenting supervisors all said they preferred something which in essence said that all groups are deserving of love and should be treated with respect every day of the year.
“I support the notion,” Davis said. “I’m just not fond of the idea of a specific day for a specific group. That’s exclusionary.”
Oxley added, “There are a lot of people out there who also suffer from loneliness and depression in addition to the ones we’re talking about.
[R]esident, Joseph O’Neill, disagreed.
“This resolution simply shows the LGBTQ community we embrace them for who they are so they can grow to be happy adults,” he said.
“Just generally saying every day is love day doesn’t focus attention on this issue in the way it deserves,” Mack said. “It would dilute this and take away from its special focus.”
Families in the Philadelphia suburbs are struggling to pay for basic needs, including high child care and housing costs, according to a new study.
A family of four with young children needs to make about $90,000 just to make ends meet in the Philadelphia suburbs, a new study released this month by the nonprofit Pathways PA shows.
According to the study, more than 846,000 working-age Pennsylvania households lack enough income just to cover those basic needs.
The 2020 Overlooked and Undercounted report examines the cost of basic necessities by creating a "Self-Sufficiency Standard" for each Pennsylvania county. The newly released Self-Sufficiency Standard, which uses data from 2019, shows what you need to make just to be able to pay for housing, child care, food, healthcare, transportation, taxes, and other miscellaneous basic needs.
The most expensive suburban Philadelphia county is Chester, where families made up of two adults and two preschool-aged children need to earn more than $93,100 just to pay their bills.
The largest expense for young families in the region by far is child care, which costs more than housing if both parents work full-time and more than one child is in daycare.
"With one out of four Pennsylvania households lacking enough income to meet their basic needs, the problem of inadequate income is extensive, affecting families throughout the state, in every racial/ ethnic group, among men, women, and children, in all counties. Nevertheless, inadequate income is concentrated disproportionately in some places and among some groups," the report summary states.
Councilor Julia Woldorf updated council on the pedestrian bridge project, which she said has now caught the eye of the Bucks County Planning Commission.
Woldorf reported that the county has joined the borough, the township and the Newtown Creek Coalition in studying the feasibility of building a span over the creek between Edgeboro Drive in the borough and Durham Road and Sycamore Street in the township. The Bucks County Planning Commission is “extremely supportive of this project and they had a lot of good ideas for us,” reported Woldorf.
The first step in the process, she continued, will be to apply for a $250,000 planning grant, which would cover “a considerable amount of work that needs to be done to determine what the feasibility is, how we should go about it and what the costs are going to be.
”The grant would require a 15 percent match, which Woldorf called “a pretty good deal if you get it. That’s what we’re striving for,” she said.
“To make sure this is not a bridge to nowhere on both sides of the creek,” Councilor Robert Swajakos said it will be important to include plans for pedestrian and bicycle access to and from the span.
The major cost, Woldorf said, will be engineering considerations both in assessing and doing the actual construction of the project.
After taking no action last month, the board of supervisors has now decided to go ahead and hire Econsult Solutions, Inc. to prepare a detailed report to help the township plan its future financial goals.
In a 4-1 vote at the Feb. 12 meeting, the board approved letting the Philadelphia-based firm conduct the study.
Voting to award the contract were: Chairman Phil Calabro, along with Dennis Fisher, John Mack and newly-appointed Supervisor David Oxley. Kyle Davis was the lone dissenter.
At the Jan. 22 supervisors’ meeting, the board did not vote on awarding a contract to because the motion failed to get the required second, and therefore died. But the supervisors’ sentiments had since changed (see "insight" below).
The financial study is aimed at helping the township develop a comprehensive multi-year plan, as well as establish short-and-long term budgetary objectives and strategies over the next five-to-10 years, which are expected to have significant revenue shortfalls.
johnmacknewtown's insight:
At the last meeting, I with a couple of other Supervisors, did not second Mr. Fisher’s motion to award this proposal to E-Consult Solutions. Frankly, I was reminded of that Bob Dylan line: “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind is blowing.”   However, after interviewing Mr. Oxley for the position of Supervisor and after he was appointed, I better understand the benefit of going forward with this project because I am confident that Mr. Oxley and Mr. Fisher, who has also championed this project, will make it an open process that involves as much resident input as possible.   Why do I believe that?   First, Mr. Oxley described himself as a “man of the people” and said that accessibility is a “true value.”   Second, as I said previously, Mr. Oxley brings to the Board extensive expertise in financial management combined with business development experience and I have confidence that he will lead our effort to work with the consultants, residents and the business community to come up with a via 5-year budget plan that will put an end the township’s deficit spending.  
The opinions expressed here are solely those of John Mack and do not represent the opinions of any other person or entity.
2020 © John Mack
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