Monday, July 9, 2018

STOP: State Legislators Must Go. Here's Why

By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock

How ironic is it
that Sen Townsend and Rep Osienski go around telling everyone that blame for losing the Orphanage Property falls squarely on New Castle County. We hope that anyone listening to them sees this for what it is; a LIE. Not only does the State of Delaware have the ultimate authority and veto power, but the laws of County governance all come from the State, i.e.

§ 1166 Election of County Executive and officials of the county governing body.

(a) County Executives shall serve a term of 4 years and shall be elected in even-numbered and presidential election years.

(b) The officials elected to district 13 shall serve a term of 4 years and shall be elected in even-numbered presidential election years. (more)


See it all here, pages upon pages of strict laws for how the Counties are to operate:  http://delcode.delaware.gov/title9/c011/sc04/

Yet Osienski and Townsend
actually tell their constituents that they couldn't attend the buyout negotiations between Exec Meyer and the Felician Sisters -- even with the State half stakeholder? That from early on, the two couldn't pull Diller aside, and with the ultra-critical nature of STOP, demand that she take charge and/or be a champion? That they couldn't investigate the many serious allegations brought forward by STOP Advocates, including the breach of NCC Code with the failed traffic impact study? What about Meyer's ethics scandal with the developers and the Parks Team, that was dismissed by the so-called NCC "Ethics" Commission? That the buyout couldn't be made solely from the State side, of which there is plenty of precedent? That they couldn't pursue Eminent Domain? Shall we go on?

We sincerely hope you're not believing them, folks, because they are going to go around to meetings, canvasing, attending events, and denying everything in order to stay competitive come November. The facts are very transparent; both Legislators could have made STOP happen, and they chose not to. They chose to leave our fate up to an incompetent Councilwoman Diller, and a newly elected NCC Exec Meyer, after keeping it a secret for 2+ precious years from 2013-2015. News of the Nun's intentions (and by then the full exploratory plan) was leaked in 2015, but that was too late for past Exec Gordon; had citizens and Advocates known sooner -- while he was still in office for a time -- he surely would have committed to saving the land as a regional park.

Don't believe them, folks. Sad as it is, former STOP Advocates are putting their own 3rd party loyalty aside in this election cycle, to actively advertise and campaign for viable opposition candidates in the 2-party system. That is a major sacrifice for us/them, but it's time to clean house, regardless. Stay tuned in the weeks and months ahead for events and opportunities to attend and/or volunteer!

Se Also:  STOP holds State legislators equally accountable. Here's why

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

STOP Advocates to meet with opposing candidates

Advocates from the Save The Orphanage Property (STOP) campaign will be meeting with candidates from opposing political parties -- regardless of affiliation -- to discuss how they can assist in their campaign(s). As we approach November, they will be organizing events along Rt.4 in front of the Orphanage Property, near Shop Rite, and other strategic locations. Large signs, painted bed sheets, banners, etc are planned, and volunteers will be waving to passing motorists during weekend days (and possibly a few weekdays during rush hour traffic).

The focus of this effort will be to remind voters about this horrible travesty, and that "We The People" and Majority Rule (aka Democracy) were blatantly violated by those currently in office. Councilwoman Diller, Rep Osienski, Sen Townsend .... any one of them could have been a champion. They could have demanded action to save this land, putting their job on the line if necessary. They did not; instead, they gave free pass to special interests, giving them a generous return on their campaign contributions. This is completely unacceptable and we hope you will join us in reminding the voters of this as we approach election time.

You can message STOP any time if you are interested in joining this effort, which will combine with whatever campaign help the candidates can rally. Two candidates representing the Republican Party are working volunteer development at the present time, and a list is being compiled. We expect there to be plenty of support, even by those from opposing parties that have simply said "enough is enough" to the corruption now on full display throughout NCC and State Government.

REMINDER: There are now less than 4 WEEKS for someone to step up and challenge Lisa Diller for NCC Dist. 5. Please keep your eyes and ears open for anyone willing to run, even as an independent. Failure here and the region will find itself stuck with her for another term. For information on how you can help, email: STOP@ogletownresilience.org


Saturday, June 30, 2018

NCC Ethics Commission letter of dismissal

Our many followers have been asking us for the details of this complaint's outcome, so we are posting the letter (though listed as "confidential") by the New Castle County Ethics Commission formally dismissing STOP's complaint against Executive Matthew Meyer. An email to the representing attorney for approval, dated June 21, went unanswered -- so we take that as confirmation that there are no objections that the letter be posted here. Because this complaint was filed on behalf of the entire Community, our neighbors, and STOP followers, we feel obligated to share the letter in its entirety.

The complaint was lodged because when Meyer took office in 2016, he set up a "Parks Transition Team" whose Chair and members would  have direct involvement in the prioritization of regional parks for those without one. We alleged that a serious conflict of interest occurred when Meyer assigned Chair and other positions on the team to both the developer of the Orphanage Property, and an attorney from Tarabicos-Grosso, the law firm representing the Felician Sisters in their effort to sell the land.

We completely disagree with the outcome regardless of how it came through. No one looks at our situation and doesn't immediately call "conflict of interest!" We were approached numerous times by Community members, who questioned how this could not be a conflict of interest. We were encouraged by everyone who knew about it to lodge a formal complaint, which we did. The fact that the NCC Ethics Commission would dismiss such a blatant conflict of interest raises serious questions as to their true purpose. It makes one wonder if they are even perhaps provided instructions to ignore infractions committed by the region's legislators and others with a vested interest in development.

We have come to the absolute, undeniable conclusion that from Day 1, the STOP fix was in. The evidence is overwhelming. The region's Legislators (County & State) were already in the pockets of developer interests as far back as 2011, when it was first apparent that the Sisters wanted to sell and/or develop the land. They knew that by July 2015, when hundreds showed up at Holy Family Church in protest, it was too late for any citizen advocacy effort to stop it.

What they failed to grasp was that the community wasn't stupid, and wasn't going to roll over and just go away. Once they realized the strength of the STOP movement, and the in-depth knowledge that folks now had about their filthy land-use laundry, they moved quickly to shore up everyone and everything that could be used against them and the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". As we're seeing now, this also included the NCC Ethics Commission, members of which were appointed by Exec Meyer himself (conflict of interest #2).

As written in a previous article, we remain hopeful that no one who supported STOP will be taken in by the region's 3 elected Legislators and Meyer himself -- the 4 of whom caused this travesty. Each is highly skilled at defense of the indefensible, and turning an argument completely around until it implicates the innocent or what's justifiable. Nothing about throwing away the Orphanage Property -- forever -- is justified, nor are the years of inaction on the part of the Legislators and keeping it from the public (and then Exec Gordon for a chance to save it). The evidence is clear that these "leaders" never once had the community and their constituents in mind and at heart; It would appear that the bottom line is much more important. And the end result is a massive tragedy that will impact Ogletown, and its surrounding communities, forever.


See Also:


Conflict of Interest is not enough for Ethics Commission

Friday, June 8, 2018

Meyer's deceit on full display at Glasgow Park

By Angela Connolly

New Castle County Executive Matthew Meyer spent part of Friday, June 8th on WDEL's Susan Monday show, attending the Pets In The Park event at Glasgow Park. He was speaking on air about the virtues of county and regional parks, and how valuable they are. He said they are a source of healthy physical activity, and that NCC's focus is to now make connections between different parks so that people can walk and bike to them. He spoke very enthusiastically of parks, almost convincing one that he actually supports them.

What a colossal joke Meyer is, and what a slap in the face to the people of Ogletown.

Meyer, himself a cyclist -- or so he claims -- willingly sacrificed the Orphanage Property in Ogletown-S.Newark, which was the region's last chance to have walkable and bikeable access to such a facility. The nearest access is, and always will be a ~20 min car drive away in either Glasgow or Pike Creek. Meanwhile, Meyer continued on -- talking about the benefits of Rockwood Park, the Delaware Greenway in Wilmington, possibilities for parks in Middletown, etc. He will need the votes of N. Wilmington (and Middletown, the Parks Transition Team's #1 priority for parks) for re-election, and seemingly, has them locked up.


Meyer will not be getting votes from the humble people in Ogletown-South Newark and beyond, unless they enjoy losing open space, more noise, more light pollution, dirtier air, and sitting longer in traffic -- yet he seems accepting of that fact. Before the actual construction takes place, we in the Ogletown region are condemned to the huge dump trucks and heavy machinery, and the dead animals that line the roadway are the region's new reality. There will be no beautiful park for us to enjoy, unless we drive to one that isn't ours. And having to drive to a park is contrary to the Liveable Delaware initiative that former Governor Ruth Ann Minner wanted for us, one where everyone would have access to clean, healthy spaces, and be protected from excess development.

Meyer knowingly threw away saving the Orphanage Property. He had a STOP buyout deal in the palm of his hands, but simply wouldn't close it, which is a crime in its own right. But had Senator Townsend, Rep Osienski and NCC's Diller engaged the Community when they first learned the Sisters wanted to build (as far back as 2011), and had they engaged the then County Executive Tom Gordon, who had a stellar record of obtaining parkland (including Glasgow park!), our outcome could have been entirely different. Instead, those three local Legislators were secretive about the Sister's plans, when going public could have made all the difference in the world.

So the public didn't know that the Orphanage Property was facing destruction until it was already committed, but the Legislators sure did. They knew of the project as early as 2013, over two full years before the public gathered at Holy Family Church in July 2015 to learn about the plans, already well underway. When confronted by Advocates and trying to defend himself, Rep Ed Osienski even arrogantly stated on Facebook "Many feel more public notice and a four-year, instead of a two year, community grassroots campaign would have made the difference. I don’t believe that." Additionally, long periods of time went by where Townsend and Osienski failed to touch base with the Sisters, to check on the progress of their plans. And so this is why we hold ALL four Legislators accountable. The Chestnut Hill "Preserve" should NEVER have got to the advanced stage that it did. Steps to save it should have been taken years earlier, with Legislators putting their jobs on the line if necessary. That is the mark of true leadership; putting the greater good ahead of your own political aspirations, which we now know is a foreign concept to Townsend, Osienski, Meyer and Diller. The focus now must be replacing these Legislators with leaders who will truly look out for the citizens that they are supposed to protect.

Friday, June 1, 2018

ChangeLab: Creating an Equitable Parks System

Cross-posted from Changelabsolutions.org, on what could have been for Ogletown-S. Newark. Too bad the region's Legislators didn't think and act likewise. 

No matter where you live, there should be an appealing park nearby. A Complete Parks system ensures that all people can enjoy a great local park. As common venues for sports games, farmers markets, and festivals, parks are important places to gather, exercise, and relax, whether to socialize or to have time for ourselves. Parks enhance communities, promoting health and relationships. The Complete Parks approach is a way to make the benefits of parks available for everyone in your neighborhood, town, city, or county.

Start improving your parks system, using this suite of Complete Parks tools:
  • Complete Parks Overview introduces the Complete Parks approach, the goals of a Complete Parks system, and the 7 Complete Parks elements. Examples from Houston and Philadelphia illustrate key features of the Complete Parks approach. This document is written for people who are interested in improving parks in a comprehensive, collaborative, and strategic way.
  • Complete Parks Playbook describes in greater detail the 7 elements of a safe, connected, and healthy parks system. It suggests policies for improving each element and presents success stories from California cities. An abbreviated Spanish-language version of the Complete Parks Playbook—Los sistemas completos de parques—is also available.
  • Complete Parks Indicators recommends indicators for assessing a parks system and measuring its evolution into a Complete Parks system.
  • Complete Parks Model Resolution provides sample language that a city or county government can use to commit to creating a Complete Parks system and establish a formal process for developing a Complete Parks plan.
  • Funding Complete Parks presents ways for local agencies in California to fund a Complete Parks system or increase funding for parks.
What makes a park successful depends heavily on neighborhood context, so a Complete Parks plan calls on many sectors to improve people’s entire experience with parks -- getting to a park, spending time there, safety and maintenance, and proximity to quality schools, affordable housing, local businesses, key services, and more. This comprehensive take on parks and its multi-sectoral focus make the Complete Parks approach especially relevant for people who want to advance equity initiatives, community engagement, and multi-agency coordination within local government. See the overview HERE.

Poster's note: A neighborhood's "community" park doesn't qualify. In NCC, these are usually a small to mid-sized grassy expanse with maybe a basketball or tennis court. Yet some on NCC Council believe that, because some of these exist in the region, Ogletown-S. Newark has "more than enough parks already". What a farce these legislators really are.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

NCC Ethics Commission denies denying conflict of interest

The meme in question, updated to a generic NCCEC emblem
By Angela Connolly and Frank Warnock, former Advocates for saving the Orphanage Property

At the behest of the NCC Ethics Commission
, and in the spirit of cooperation, we changed our recent meme (see our previous post) of them to a generic logo, in place of their official badge/emblem. They have written several emails to us, upset that we used it with a "false statement", and claim that the meme is flat out misleading. Here are a few excerpts from our email conversation:

NCCEC: "[We] respectfully ask that you immediately remove the Ethics Commission’s emblem from your blog. That emblem was used without the permission of the Ethics Commission. Will you be able to remove it today?"

STOP: "We just spent the better half of our morning reading on "fair use" of copyrighted logos, and can't find anything conclusive on-line forbidding their use in a meme, especially if the meme is factual. If you can point us to something to the contrary, in written or established law, let us know and we will gladly replace the EC logo with the simple words "NCC Ethics Commission" or similar".

NCCEC: "Please remove the Commission’s emblem. You do not have permission to use it in your blog. Thank you"

STOP: "Fair Use Exemption -- U.S. copyright laws offer a "fair use" exemption for educational and research purposes as well as for satire. You may be able to use a slightly altered version of the logo if its purpose is clearly satirical. For example, putting an altered version of a presidential campaign logo on a T-shirt might be permissible. Educational uses include scholarly and research purposes, and the law provides no specifics on when an item may be used or how frequently. Instead, courts look to the effects and nature of the use and intent of the user. If you're selling T-shirts to make a profit, fair use for educational or research purposes won't typically apply".

"Again, we'll be happy to remove it and discontinue its publicizing if there's something in law to the contrary, or that we are unaware of".

NCCEC: "With all due respect, your blog is not an educational blog nor is it associated with an institute of education. The emblem is not a meme. Nor does your use of the emblem qualify as satire. Your use of the emblem is nothing more than an incorrect and misleading statement along with the Ethics Commission’s emblem. The emblem adds nothing to your untrue statement which surrounds it, and nothing about it is satirical. Satire ridicules fact, and you have not stated anything factual with you use of the emblem, without permission. The Commission never said what you have stated alongside of the Commission’s emblem. It is not satire; it is nothing more that a false statement which is misleading the public. As such, the fair use exemption is not available to you in this instance, and I am sure that a Delaware court would agree with me"

STOP: "We're not disagreeing with the job the EC did interpreting the code; we disagree with the outcome regardless of how it came through. No one looks at this situation and doesn't immediately call "conflict of interest!" when we show it to them. A 1st grade educated child would even point out there's a problem, or the serious potential for one. That is our point, it has nothing to do with your job or the interpretation of the code and the guidelines you must follow".

"First of all, context; we never said our meme was satirical; we simply stated that was but one use of memes. What the EC did in dismissing such a blatant conflict of interest is anything but funny. Second, our blog is indeed educational, in the sense that people learn from it, from fact based reporting, on an advocacy campaign. 3rd, as said previously, meme etiquette calls for the use of quotes to actually quote what someone, or an org, etc actually said or wrote. We did NOT quote the EC. Finally, the EC did indeed send that exact message, without actually "saying" it, because they dismissed a formal complaint regarding a conflict of interest that WAS a conflict of interest. Supposedly, the ethics code "prohibits conflicts of interest and *appearance* of impropriety in the conduct of New Castle County public officials and employees", according to its mission. By dismissing our complaint, the EC did NOT see putting the developer and the seller's land use attorney in Chair positions on the Parks Transition Team as inappropriate either way.

Conclusion
We have come to the absolute, undeniable conclusion that from Day 1, the fix was in. The evidence is overwhelming. The region's Legislators (County & State) were already in the pockets of developer interests as far back as 2011, when it was first apparent that the Sister's wanted to sell. They knew that by July 2015, when hundreds showed up at Holy Family Church in protest, it was too late for any citizen advocacy effort to stop it.

What they failed to grasp was that the community wasn't stupid, and wasn't going to roll over and just go away. Once they realized the strength of the STOP movement, and the in-depth knowledge that folks now had about their filthy land-use laundry, they moved quickly to shore up everyone and everything that could be used against them and the Chestnut Hill "Preserve". As we're seeing now, this also included the NCC Ethics Commission, members of which were appointed by Exec Meyer himself (conflict of interest #2).

We remain hopeful that none of you will be taken by the region's 3 elected Legislators and Meyer himself -- the 4 of whom caused this to happen. Each is highly skilled at defense of the indefensible, and turning an argument completely around until it implicates the innocent or what's justifiable. Nothing about throwing away the Orphanage Property -- forever -- is justified, nor is 8 years of inaction on the part of the Legislators and keeping it from the public (and then Exec Gordon for a chance to save it). The evidence is clear that these "leaders" never once had the community and their constituents in mind and at heart; It would appear that the bottom line is much more important. Hopefully, opposing candidates will run and the electorate will toss them out come November this year.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Townsend's "Ogletown Park" vs Meyer's County Efforts

The NCC Ethics Committee (NCCEC) already quashed STOP's complaint against Exec Meyer, based on subjective information and hearsay from interviews of those accused in STOP's complaint. This also included Rich Hall of Meyer's Land Use Dept for the failed traffic impact study (TIS) debacle. This is a gross injustice, because even to a layman, putting the developer and the seller's land use attorney in Chairmanship positions on any Parks Team -- the equivalent of putting foxes in charge of the hen house -- is criminal, disgusting, and inappropriate. Even if their intentions were pure, it doesn't remove the potential for bias and favoritism. The two had a vested interest in developing the Orphanage Property. That in itself is a Conflict of Interest (COI), and that the NCCEC denied this suggests collusion between them and Exec Meyer. After all, it was Meyer that appointed them, another COI!

Out of consideration, our representing attorney with the NCCEC suggested that organizations like STOP usually spend the money to execute Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests. By doing so, we would make every last attempt to retrieve all documents, emails, texts, etc between Exec Meyer and the Felician Sisters from the time that the supposed buyout negotiations took place. However, this can be very expensive and STOP Advocates have already spent enough of their own money on this failed campaign. Not only that, but a FOIA is not a subpoena; Meyer and his minions would have full discretion over what was divulged, much of which took place in private and likely has no documentation.

According to Executive Meyer in his "County Efforts to Preserve Felician Sisters Ogletown Property" timeline:

Over the course of negotiations, New Castle County made the property owners four written offers to acquire the land. Each offer expressed the County’s support for the owner’s desire to retain a portion of the parcel and develop 60 affordable rental apartments. To date, the four County offers stand as the only written offers to purchase and preserve this land.

Despite their rhetoric, the property owners never proposed an offer for sale they would accept.  The owners never responded to any of the offer letters with a specific counter-offer, sale conditions or a sale price they would accept to complete the sale.

Funding commitments for purchase:
County: County Executive Matt Meyer offered up to $2.5 million in New Castle County funds to acquire this land at appraised value, subject to approval by County Council and contingent on the commitment of matching funds from the State of Delaware.

STATE: In June, 2017 State Senator Bryan Townsend initially tried to secure “$2 million for the first year of a five-year, $6 million commitment,” to purchase the property according to draft bond bill language he submitted to the General Assembly.  Unfortunately, Senator Townsend’s efforts to secure that allocation were unsuccessful and the approved Fiscal Year 2018 bond bill only included a soft one-time commitment of $1.25 million in state funds.  The failure to secure adequate funds from the State complicated efforts to secure a successful purchase.

PRIVATE SOURCES: New Castle County committed to taking all possible steps to help secure funding from private, not-for-profit funding sources for the balance of the purchase price.

Meanwhile, the owners continued to advance the pending development plan through the land use process.  In July, 2017, the owner and developer sought and received final development plan approval.


In Senator Townsend's public timeline "Ogletown Park", and in person and in emails, he and Rep Osienski tell the opposite story. They describe how Exec Meyer was anything but sincere and genuine in wanting a regional park. There were not 4 buyout offers; only 2 were viable. They claim that Meyer's 2 lame attempts at a buyout agreement failed to include several key conditions that he promised the Sisters.

In July 2017, Towsend and Osienski detail the difficulties they had in encouraging Meyer to present a reasonable offer to the Sisters, and how invaluable time was squandered and deadlines expired. Additionally, on Aug 1st, 2017, they claim that Meyer refused to participate in a joint teleconference with Sen Townsend, even though that was the Sister's own request. The Sisters felt that Townsend understood their needs and had communicated them effectively. "Ogletown Park" and its timeline is a publicly released document and an official statement from Townsend/Osienski, and should have been used as admissible evidence to support STOP's complaint to the Ethics Committee, but apparently, it wasn't enough.

So, in a game of "Name that Liar", we have two attorney politicians representing the County and State, with two very conflicting stories. To make matters worse, neither will challenge each other out of party loyalty, and will jump at the chance to support each other's re-election bid!

In our next post: More on the NCC Ethics Committee, including a scanned copy of their letter dismissing the Setting/Hoffman/Parks Transition Team conflict of interest, and how useless they really are.