Saturday, November 18, 2017

STOP: County at fault, but State Legislators not blameless

It is no secret that Councilwoman Lisa Diller stated "I'm done, I'm finished!" multiple times in reference to a regional park instead of high density housing development on the Orphanage Property. Before the battle was truly lost, and the sale finalized, she circulated a letter of defeat to her 5th District Constituents, unwilling to support Save The Orphanage Property, instead firmly supporting Executive Meyer in his refusal to budge one dollar above the property's appraised value. There is no doubt that a major reason our campaign failed was lack of County support. However, the County aside, some of you have written to us, asking if our two State Legislators share responsibility for the STOP fiasco, and you ask if they could have worked harder to save the land. Here are several thoughts.
  • Representative Osienski and Senator Townsend (along with Councilwoman Diller) all knew that the Nuns were pushing for development 2 years (in 2013) before hundreds of angry residents converged on Holy Family Church for the meeting in July 2015. We have heard it said that their awareness of the possibility of development stretched as far back as 2011, but for that we lack written evidence. By 2015, residents faced no choice but were TOLD what was coming to their community, instead of an appeal for comments and public input as is typical in the beginning stages of any major project. All three Legislators failed to inform and engage the Community in enough time to work together to help the Sisters realize their goal of creating affordable housing, while finding a suitable way to preserve the rest of the land. It has been argued, didn't the Sisters have the right to sell their land? Absolutely. Did they have the right to hasten an already disastrous traffic/drainage nightmare and destroy critical habitat? Absolutely not. So, this tragedy could, and should have been avoided, through effective communication by our Legislators, with the Felician Sisters. 
  • Rep. John Kowalko announced recently that a mere 8 acres of habitat area on W. Chestnut Hill Rd was threatened in his district. He immediately moved to action, informing his Constituents of the situation, and working with them to save the land from development. That's what effective community servants do. STOP should have been high on our Senator and Representative's agendas. That they never saw this coming, or thought that their Constituents would accept it, is troubling, to say the least. We elect officials to look out for our best interests. They must do their jobs so that we can live our lives, work and raise our families without having to fight detriments to the community. 
  • It should have been intuitively obvious well before 2015 that development of the property would be highly controversial and face fierce opposition, especially with any kind of high density and/or low income housing. If for no other reason, the land is used now as a defacto regional park, with area residents walking, playing in the fields, biking, and hiking back in the woods with their kids and dogs. Constituents have been showing all along what the best use of that land is. But no one listened to them. 
  • Executive Meyer insisted that the State NOT participate in negotiations with the Felician Sisters, and, like a spoiled child, he got his way. Since over $1M Bond Bill money was allocated toward the purchase, could State Legislators have legally and/or forcefully demanded that they too attend at negotiations? They didn't apparently. We know that Senator Townsend had a good rapport with the Sisters, speaking with them almost daily towards the end. The Senator also understood what the Sisters were trying to convey to the County with regards to their contract needs. Had he insisted to be allowed to help negotiate, this might have had a different outcome.
  • It is true that Senator Townsend and Rep. Osienski worked to gain funding from the Bond Bill Committee to be used towards the parkland purchase. This did indeed turn the tide, and give a glimmer of hope. However, it turned meaningless when negotiations, by the fault of County Executive Meyer, broke down. Could they have gone back to the Legislature, and asked for additional funding to lift the offer further, to the point where the Sisters would have felt more confident in a buyout? This is not unheard of, and has plenty of precedent. But it would have required them to put aggressive pressure on Exec. Meyer to negotiate seriously. 
  • Could they now draft legislation, and sincerely petition their colleagues in the General Assembly to revoke NCC's right to absolute control of land use matters, particularly in high profile cases such as STOP? New Castle County Council is a disgrace, whose members think that horrible decorum, shouting at each other in the Chamber, and displaying a gross disrespect for proceedings and each other is acceptable. With the exception of Councilman David Tackett, who was respectful to us and wanted to help us, no one on Council was willing to support us, but then, with the District's own Councilwoman weak in her own support, that was no surprise.
Sister Mary Christopher Moore
It is obvious that every level of government has failed us, along with a very wealthy "charitable" organization (Catholic Church) that claims to uphold christian values. They are clearly in contempt of their own church leader, who supposedly teaches the greater good over greed and profits for the few. It's no wonder that STOP was doomed from the very start, because the wheels of destruction were already turning. And like a runaway train, it was impossible to stop this plan from going forward. In spite of a exemplary campaign based upon facts, and supporting data, we could not stop this madness.

The last remaining advice we have for our followers is to become politically active, and whatever your party affiliation, vote the incumbents out of office. Write letters, editorials, create blogs, start Facebook pages, become active on social media. Get to know, and talk to, your neighbors. Use everything you have learned about this travesty from our pages. If we do not, STOP will only remain a regional issue, and quite frankly, they won't need us to win primaries and keep a hold on power.  Do not forget, ever, this evil tragedy that unfolded in our community, based purely on profits and greed, and hold responsible everyone who allowed it to happen.

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