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March 16, 1998

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Volume 2  Issue 1        October 1998

Should Charlestown Township Have Five Supervisors

At the January 5th Annual Reorganization Meeting of the Charlestown Supervisor's Robin Kohn resigned stating he did not feel he had been effective in the position. This followed many months of gridlock and constant bickering between the two other Supervisors' on numerous issues regarding the governing of our township. After numerous attempts and meetings the one member Vacancy Board was required to assist in selecting Mr. Kohn's successor, as the two remaining Supervisors' couldn't agree on even this issue.
Charlestown Green, Inc. took the position that increasing the Supervisors from a three-member board to a five-member board would help eliminate gridlock and foster a more proactive board. The board of directors of Charlestown Green approved a motion to petition the Chester County Board of Elections, collected the requisite signatures and filed their petition on July 27th. The referendum question that will appear on this November's ballot is as follows:
Should two additional Supervisors be elected to serve in this Township?
Charlestown Green, while initially supporting a yes vote on this issue is encouraging residents of the township to review the pro's and con's and vote their choice in this election. In an effort to better inform all residents a survey was circulated to all townships in Chester County that have made the switch from three to five in the last twenty years. Those townships are Penn, North Coventry, Eastown, Franklin, East Goshen and Schuylkill. Surprisingly, out of eighty-three townships and municipalities in the county only nine have five member boards. Additionally, three townships will have the referendum question put to their voters in this election, Charlestown, East Fallowfield and Kennett. The survey we circulated is reprinted in this issue along with the results. In total the survey went out to thirty individuals and we received responses from 14 and all Townships surveyed are represented. While the surveys were all extremely positive towards a five-member board we received two very insightful letters from members in Schuylkill and East Goshen Townships, following are excerpts from both letters.
"Residents find it easier to contact one of five rather than one of three supervisors" Schuylkill Supervisor
"Schuylkill is fortunate now that all five Supervisors can and do work well together on Township matters. It was not always so, and a single bad actor can make things hell for the overall board. It happened in Schuylkill. A bigger Board means a bigger risk of having to deal with a bad actor as a single issue zealot" Schuylkill Supervisor
"It has been my experience that most expansions from three to five members are politically motivated and generally serve no on-going useful purpose past the initial crisis. Ironically, in our case, and I believe other townships also fall into this category, the people that caused the expansion of the Board have moved on and/or out of the Township" East Goshen Supervisor
"The political climate in Schuylkill has finally stabilized following our expansion that was driven by a "connected" subdivision applicant and a moneyed friend trying to pack the Board to obtain a favorable decision. Due to voter apathy, the political process was easily bent to serve their short-term goals to the detriment of the overall community. It took several election cycles and grass roots work for us to distill out the bad actors on the expanded Board." Schuylkill Supervisor
"Personally, I find a three-member board to be more efficient with townships having a population of less than 8,000 to 9,000 people. On the other side, since we have grown from approximately 7,000 people in 1980 to over 15,000 today, the five member board turned out to be a blessing." East Goshen Supervisor
"Productivity dropped initially during the bad actor days. Schuylkill survived by virtue of a strong and capable office staff keeping routine things going while the expanded board bickered" Schuylkill Supervisor
"For the first few years, or until about 1990, it was pure hell and there was never any real harmony on the board and there were too many 3-2 votes. From 1990 to the present, the Board has functioned quite well and, at the moment, I don't think we could have a more harmonious group. We really put the best interest of the Township in the forefront at all times" East Goshen Supervisor
"A quorum is easier to obtain with a five person Board. Also, Board members can talk one-on-one without violating the Sunshine Law." Our meetings often run past midnight due to allowing all divergent positions to be stated, and at times restated. While the Schuylkill Board tries hard to define (by consensus) areas of individual Supervisor responsibility, there have been occasions of duplicated effort and added cost" Schuylkill Supervisor
"In closing, I consider expansion from three to five members to be a temporary solution to a current problem. Think about it. In the final analysis, the problem gets fixed and, unless you have enough activity, the five-member board is there for a long time. Look at the big picture and think carefully where you want to be in five years or so." East Goshen Supervisor
"As an additional comment, I offer that the quality of local government depends most on the quality of candidates for office and the willingness of the electorate to spend a little time in evaluating the candidates. Three good people can work as well as five. It works when the independent Board member spirits are tempered by high tolerance and mutual respect, commodities not common in zealots and politically driven folks. Fortunately, our electors have voted in five diverse yet compatible individuals. It is a fragile situation requiring constant attention if it is to continue." Schuylkill Supervisor
Charlestown Green asks that you review this material carefully and cast your vote on Election Day. The one message that was repeated over and over in the correspondence we received was how important electorate involvement is in the process.

(The next section is the actual survey and the tabulated results.)  

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