Archive for November, 2011

A Wonderful Message by George Carlin:

A wonderful Message by George Carlin:

The paradox of our time in history is that we have taller buildings
but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints.

We spend more, but have less, we buy more, but enjoy less. We have
bigger houses and smaller families, more conveniences, but less time.

We have more degrees but less sense, more knowledge, but less
judgment, more experts, yet more problems, more medicine, but less wellness.

We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too
little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read
too little, watch TV too much, and pray too seldom.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk
too much, love too seldom, and hate too often.

We’ve learned how to make a living, but not a life. We’ve added years
to life not life to years. We’ve been all the way to the moon and back,
but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor.

We conquered outer space but not inner space. We’ve done larger
things, but not better things.  We’ve cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul.

We’ve conquered the atom, but not our prejudice.
We write more, but learn less. We plan more, but accomplish less.
We’ve learned to rush, but not to wait.

We build more computers to hold more information, to produce more
copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.

These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and
small character, steep profits and shallow relationships. These are the days
of two incomes but more divorce, fancier houses, but broken homes. These
are days of quick trips, disposable diapers, throwaway morality, one night
stands, overweight bodies, and pills that do everything from cheer, to
quiet, to kill.

It is a time when there is much in the showroom window and nothing in
the stockroom. A time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a
time when you can choose either to share this insight, or to just hit

Remember, spend some time with your loved ones, because they are not
going to be around forever.

Remember, say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe,
because that little person soon will grow up and leave your side.  Remember, to
give a warm hug to the one next to you, because that is the only treasure
you can give with your heart and it doesn’t cost a cent.

Remember, to say, “I love you” to your partner and your loved ones, but
most of all mean it. A kiss and an embrace will mend hurt when it comes from
deep inside of you.  Remember to hold hands and cherish the moment for
someday that person will not be there again. Give time to love, give time to
speak, and give time to share the precious thoughts in your mind.


Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the
moments that take our breath away.



America, Your Children are doing penance for your sins.

America, Your Children are doing penance for your sins.

by Fred Wilder on Thursday, October 27, 2011 at 7:11pm

By: A Concerned American

“To the Mothers and Fathers of America:

This may not be clear to you yet, but those protestors out in the streets are your bravest children. They now hold the front for all of us in the centuries-old battle against tyranny. Many are fighting the corrupting influence of money in American politics, others against a system no longer functional for a majority that will only grow. Some do not know exactly what they want–only that something has gone terribly wrong in a country in which they would like to believe. They have not articulated one focused message, or one set of demands–and they do not need to. This is not a battle of right against left, red against blue, or liberal against conservative. It is not made-for-TV politics. It is a battle of right against wrong. America has lost, in its political discourse and behavior, the ability to distinguish between the two. Many of its practitioners seem not to care.

Those who support this movement in all its myriad shapes, sizes, sexes, colors, ideologies, income levels, and nationalities–have no sound bite. They get the problem, in general, and are massing to change it. Like the old thinker, they would rather be approximately correct than precisely wrong.

They give their nights, their sleep, their weekends, and their comfort to fight an uncertain battle for you, for all your children. They face police lines and mainstream scorn. They face the indifference of the vast armies of complacency and distraction, who keep waiting for the channel to change, the web page to update, and this movement to end. They face cynics who believe nothing will change, they face the often well-intentioned defeatists who believe nothing can change. They face politicians who patronize, tell them they don’t understand–that they, the politicians, support the movement, even as they make plans with their police forces to clear them.

On Tuesday, October 25th in Oakland, California, Scott Olsen, a 24-year-old Marine and Iraq veteran, standing beside another veteran, a naval officer in dress, was critically injured by a weapon used against him by a police officer from one of 17 jurisdictions in the San Francisco Bay Area. A group of occupiers running away from the scene, amidst police flash grenades, tear gas, and rubber bullets, rushed back when they saw Scott Olsen lying still on the ground. As they rushed in to pick him up–a dozen of your bravest, America–an unidentified officer tossed, from behind police ranks, another flash grenade at their feet. A handful of these unarmed protestors persisted, carrying Scott Olsen, dazed with a fractured skull, away from the police line, shouting for medics as the explosions and smoke recalled the nightmare of American battlefields.

Like this, the guns have again been turned back on your bravest children, most fighting only for the core values they were taught as children: people in need should be helped; democracy should be uncorrupted; citizens must gather in peace; and this country belongs to all of us, not a political elite increasingly indistinguishable from a financial and industrial corporate elite. Like all of us, they see clearly and abhor this crony capitalism now ascendent. They are doing something about it.

These are not trouble-making hippies, America–you mistake them as such at your peril. These are your better angels, trying to save you from yourself. They are your child that cannot help tell the truth, the sometimes inconvenient one that thinks of safety last and justice first. They are fighting the war that rages inside you when you see the circus on TV, in print, or online and can only shake your head. You ignore them, laugh at them, demean them, or discount them at your peril. They may be our last hope of transformation for this country reeling from war, from a crisis of confidence, from scandal, division, corruption, and poverty. Let no demagogue–especially talkers at the service of money and power–convince you, a thinking American, that these are not patriots of the truest kind.

So go out and support your children, America, and with them the fundamental ideas upon which this country was founded. Take a walk by the protest in your town at night, in the morning–drive by or bike past. Stop and talk to someone for a minute. Listen and watch. Gather your friends and neighbors. Everyone has their own place and their own role.

For every Scott Olsen, now lying in a hospital bed in critical condition, there should be 100,000 witnesses, who by their presence lend this movement strength and legitimacy.

As long as they occupy the centers of our cities, big and small, we–who wish to create a more perfect union–have an opening to change something vital, such as removing money from politics once and for all. It is possible. It has been done elsewhere. These children have brought the season of democracy, the days and especially nights of renewing democracy, and they need your protection.

Even your bravest children need to feel your strong hands on their back.

Union County 2010 Comprehensive Plan Recognized by Pennsylvania Planning Association


County Comprehensive Plan Recognized by Pennsylvania Planning Association

Lewisburg, PA-October 12, 2010. At today’s regular meeting of the Union County Board of Commissioners County Commissioners Preston Boop, John Mathias, and John Showers took particular delight in praising and thanking County Planning Director Shawn McLaughlin, the county planning commission and its staff, and county citizens for an effort well done and recognized as such by the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association (PA Chapter of APA).

At its annual awards luncheon in Lancaster on October 5th, the Pennsylvania Chapter of the American Planning Association, with almost 400 in attendance, celebrated the esteemed award winners of this year’s highly competitive program. Union County was recognized with the Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan for Cultivating Community: A Plan for Union County’s Future.

“Creating a planning ethic in a region of the state that has not traditionally done extensive planning is always challenging. Through an exhaustive public participation process, partnerships with municipal governments, use of well-known experts, and creation of alternative development scenarios, Union County has accomplished this difficult task, creating an excellent county plan that can also function as multi-municipal plans for groups of municipalities in three planning areas.” noted the PA Chapter of APA.

This award is given for a comprehensive plan that advances the science and art of planning and honors America’s most famous planner, Daniel Burnham, for his contributions to the planning profession and to a greater awareness of the benefits of good planning. Nominees are evaluated based on a number of criteria including originality and innovation, transferability, quality, comprehensiveness, public participation, role of planners, implementation strategies, and effectiveness.

As in accepting the award at the Lancaster ceremony and at today’s Commissioners Board meeting, Planning Director Shawn McLaughlin, AICP, said “It is truly an honor to accept this award on behalf of our county and citizens. We offer our sincere thanks to the APA-Pennsylvania Chapter for this recognition.” Mr. McLaughlin also thanked the Union County Commissioners, Union County Planning Commission and its staff, municipal officials, Bucknell University, and county residents for all their support, commitment, and hard work that went into developing the plan.

McLaughlin told the Commissioner he could not emphasize enough how much this achievement belongs to all Union Countians. “Everyone that participated in this planning process made it happen and they should be proud of what has been accomplished by our small county”, he said. He also mentioned that the plan is only the beginning and now an equally challenging task is at hand in implementing it over the next 10-20 years, which will need just as much, if not more, dedication from the public and elected officials at all levels of government.

The PA Chapter of APA is a non-profit, non-partisan, independent organization for appointed and elected officials, and professionals interested in planning. It is dedicated to the achievement of sound planning objectives.

Below is a link to the full Union County Comprehensive Plan of 2010.  I couldn’t be prouder of a piece of work if I had done it myself.  A hearty well done to all concerned.

More on real urban planning practiced by non-planners,

D.C.’s Parks, Finally Occupied

Posted by Lydia DePillis on Oct. 26, 2011 at 6:15 pm

#OccupyDC Shows Washington How Livable Downtown Parks Can Be

There’s a very traditional way of protesting in Washington: People come with their signs, parade up and down the Mall or Pennsylvania Avenue NW, and then move on, like a cloud of locusts passing over a field. The only way of measuring impact is through crowd counts. Usually, lawmakers aren’t even around to see those numbers.

This month, protesting has evolved. Two groups of demonstrators on McPherson Square and Freedom Plaza, which arose separately and remain independent from each other, have made camp for the foreseeable future on their respective plots of federal land. Since establishing themselves in early October, both have grown exponentially, with tents filling in the rectangles and infrastructure becoming more solid and complex. Residents wave off questions about their departure date. Why even acknowledge the end of an occupation before it happens?

The explicitly political content of the occupation shows up on signs and during daily forays into surrounding areas for protests. But the occupiers don’t actually spend much time talking about what they want from government. Having specific demands would just legitimize the system, some say—not to mention alienate participants who might not agree with them, and set the standards by which they might succeed or fail.

What they do spend time talking about is how to keep everyone housed, fed, safe, healthy, and entertained. With this protest, logistics are political too: By creating a self-contained, self-governing, radically transparent and egalitarian community, they’ll model how the rest of society ought to work.

The Occupy movement is all over the United States by now. In Washington, though, it carries a special significance. Controlled by the National Park Service, the District’s downtown parks have always functioned either as manicured show spaces or staging grounds for transitory protests. But they never felt lived in—think of Franklin Square, which is still like a black hole in the middle of the central business district—until the occupiers broke the rules. And that’s a revolution D.C. residents should get behind.


Not all occupations are created equal, of course. The District’s two encampments are subtly different beasts, in large part due to the nature of the space they inhabit.

Consider McPherson Square. Its layout mimics the form of a city: There’s more earth than concrete, which allows a separation between the “residential” areas and paved spaces for transit and discussion. The mature trees serve as landmarks—“Meet by that oak,” you might say—and as shelter from both the sun and the rain. It’s surrounded by restaurants, residences, hotels, and offices that are all open to the street, creating a natural circulation of people who stop and stay a while on their way to lunch or appointments or the Metro.

That layout has helped the square develop its own internal geography. The west side is the most cosmopolitan, with communal tents for food, supplies, information, and medical help lining both sides of a wide pathway that serves as a main avenue. Other tents house media, technology, and finance along a side street. These thoroughfares are the most congested, as passersby stroll through, browse at the lending library, sit on a bench, or stop to chat at the information station without getting in anyone’s way. There are a few clever plays on the building blocks of urban life: A plastic bin with dry socks functions as a “sock exchange” and a water fountain has been converted into an “aqueduct” for filling gallon jugs using split bamboo poles, duct tape, and string.

Most of the encampment’s public business takes place on the park’s southwest lawn, which is clear of tents, creating plenty of room for the 50-odd people who crowd in a tight circle for each evening’s General Assembly. Until recently, when they started building a wooden-framed base of operations near the center of the park, the “de-escalation team”—charged with defusing any conflicts and policing the park for drugs and alcohol—had been posted on the park’s northern boundary, where they could intercept nighttime partiers coming off K Street NW.

The park’s makeshift housing is organized as well. A plan for marking tents with street addresses is in the works, and one concrete path has already been named “Gandhi Avenue.” The original inhabitants lived in the northwest corner, but rain took its toll on the grass. They moved to the park’s central panel and tried to re-seed the mud. The fringes of the park are more suburban, where people have moved to get away from noise and activity in the middle of the park at night. The southeastern corner is a planned community, having been outfitted with large Coleman tents for visitors and the homeless.

The most bohemian district is right next to the statue of McPherson, marked by a drum circle that’s continuously populated with dancers, smokers, and musicians.

“This is my neighborhood,” explains Christina McKenna, a young woman with big brown eyes and a gentle manner. Tents are arranged around a central circle where her two small children can feel at home; one is running around in a dinosaur suit. They’ve arranged a small kitchen area where they cook their own meals, since the food tent was getting “too authoritarian.” (Sometimes, the neighborhood concept goes too far—at Freedom Plaza, the general assembly had to evict a woman who had tried to enforce a woman-only district within the tent city.)

McKenna is one of the leaders of the Sleepers Committee, which is charged with preparing those who’ve really made the square their home—and don’t have a roof to return to when it rains—for the long winter. That may come with breaking even more rules, like making campfires to stay warm, or laying down flagstones to create paths through the muck.

The most impressive structure in the encampment so far belongs to Sandra Alcoorn, a weatherbeaten old woman with no apparent teeth who had been staying in an alley before joining the new village. She was given a small tent, and covered it with tarps that are tied down with strips of an old sheet that have been wrapped with duct tape and staked out with the ribs of a broken umbrella. Inside, Alcoorn has bedded down with sleeping bags and a thick furniture storage blanket for insulation. She’s even got several wooden palettes to create flooring for when it rains again.

“I’m the kind of person, I like to settle,” she says. “I like to put my roots down.”

At McPherson Square, she’s got everything she needs.


Freedom Plaza, despite nearly indistinguishable ideology and infrastructure, is a dramatically different environment.

The location was picked, months in advance, to draw a parallel with Cairo’s Tahrir Square, center of the demonstrations that brought down Hosni Mubarak. “It was symbolic,” says Udi Pladott, one of the original organizers, nodding to the Capitol dome in the distance. “I don’t think for tenting you would choose marble and concrete.”

He’s right about that. Freedom Plaza, built in 1980 to mimic the original plan of Washington, is totally inhospitable. There’s no place to sit, with only the barest excuse for a bench around the edges. Grassy spaces are microscopic, forcing tents to bleed out onto the concrete. Communal services, like food, medical supplies, and media, are clustered in a corner; the central walkway between them is narrow and divided by a staircase, which makes it difficult to navigate. There’s a somewhat awkward segregation between the occupiers and the homeless, who cluster in a walled-off circle of benches on the northeast corner, rather than integrating with the crowds the way they do on McPherson Square.

Worse, there’s nothing of value around the plaza: There’s the fortified wall of the Reagan Building, the usually dark National Theatre, a blank office building, and the monumental staircase of the Wilson Building, D.C.’s city hall. The tourist-heavy crowds have no reason to amble through Freedom Plaza unless they’re curious about something inside it, which leaves the campers isolated on their elevated plinth—not a great strategy for engaging the public.

Perhaps that’s why the Freedom Plaza encampment doesn’t have the same energy of its sister protest in McPherson Square. Besides the fact that it came pre-organized—meaning organizers lost out on the community-building function of creating infrastructure from scratch—it’s in a place with no internal magnetism. Pladott says he thought people would come intentionally, drawn by the news of the protest gathered elsewhere. But it hasn’t gained steam like he’d hoped. “There’s less support than we would have wanted,” he admits.

Of course, Freedom Plaza was designed with a specific purpose: To be a launchpad for marches and a venue for shouting at the federal government. But if the more powerful message of the Occupy movement is the act of building a new kind of society, it makes more sense to be near the beating heart of Washington. And at the same time, the occupiers are showing Washington what its parks could be even after they leave—the city’s living room, not its parlor.

Photos by Darrow Montgomery. Map of the encampment here.

Got a real-estate tip? Send suggestions to Or call (202) 650-6928.
#OccupyDC Shows Washington How Livable Downtown Parks Can Be
#OccupyDC Shows Washington How Livable Downtown Parks Can Be
#OccupyDC Shows Washington How Livable Downtown Parks Can Be
#OccupyDC Shows Washington How Livable Downtown Parks Can Be
#OccupyDC Shows Washington How Livable Downtown Parks Can Be

In McPherson Square, Occupy D.C. creates a vibrant brand of urbanism

Philip Kennicott for The Washington Post

To passersby, it is a jumble of tents and blue tarps, the iconic symbol of the displaced, the temporary, the makeshift. Set against the orderly but dull architectural backdrop of McPherson Square, the Occupy D.C. encampment is a low-slung and seemingly haphazard arrangement. But it has made this sleepy public space, used mainly by office workers and a few residents of nearby luxury condominiums, one of the busiest public squares in Washington. To use the argot of urbanism, the protesters who installed themselves at McPherson Square on Oct. 1 (and another group that has occupied Freedom Plaza a few blocks away), have done what so many planners, designers and architects strive for but fail to achieve: They have “activated” the urban core.

Whether the Occupy movement, which has taken over parks in cities across the country, fizzles or grows, whether it has resonance and can translate its message into concrete change, are political questions. But looked at solely as an aesthetic and cultural phenomenon, it has deep roots in ideas with established pedigrees in the world of art and architecture. It’s anti-consumerist ethos, its impatience with the media and its love of theatrical intervention in city life makes it a direct heir of the Situationists, a radical European avant-garde collective begun in the late 1950s with ideas that remain influential today.

It might also be considered a living exercise in Do It Yourself (or DIY) urbanism, a trendy movement that strives to engage ordinary people in a hands-on approach to shaping and claiming public space.

And it seems a perfect fit with an exhibition, “The Interventionists,” which opened at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art in 2004. The show surveyed artists and activist groups that sought to “disrupt daily life” in creative ways, challenging the control and design of urban space. It included guerrilla groups such as the Biotic Baking Brigade — famous for throwing a pie at Bill Gates — which “believes that under neoliberalism, we can all throw a pie in the face of economic fascism,” and the video work of artist Alex Villar, who films people occupying urban space in odd and unconventional ways.

An eye for symbolism

Although Occupy D.C. eschews formal leadership and has been criticized for its amorphous organization and goals, it has proved remarkably adept at symbolism, especially urban symbolism. Charlie Hailey, author of the 2009 survey “Camps: A Guide to 21st Century Space,” an extensive taxonomy and analysis of temporary forms of urbanism, sees parallels between the Occupy movement and the tradition of long-standing protest camps in Europe, especially Britain, where a pacifist group created the Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp, which stood outside an air base for 19 years until it disbanded in 2000. He’s struck by McPherson Square’s significance as a protest site.

“It is about legibility,” he says of the site’s proximity to the White House and the lobbyist corridor of K Street NW. “The adjacency is really striking.”

Hailey’s book surveys the history and the symbolism of camps, from recreational camping to refugee and displaced-persons camps. The visual power of the occupied McPherson Square recalls the childhood emotional associations of backyard camping as much as the insecurity and fear associated with the blue tarps that became ubiquitous after Hurricane Katrina. It is also a relatively rare American encounter with squatting, a phenomenon that has defined, energized and irritated some of Europe’s most creative cities, including Berlin. While to some the camp may look like a pragmatic solution to a basic problem — how to shelter a group that seeks impact by drawing out over time a small protest, rather than organizing a massive, one-day march on the Mall — it’s also a study in self-expression.

“There is a self-consciousness to camping,” says Hailey. “It is a truly applied aesthetics.”

That self-expression makes McPherson Square a dynamic study in improvisation and adaptation. Signage, made mostly with recycled cardboard and pizza boxes, is everywhere, creating a cacophony of anti-capitalist messages that resists the bullet-point thinking of commercial and organizational culture. Practical adaptations to living outdoors take on artistic resonance. To make it easier to fill water jugs, someone has created an elegant system of two bamboo sluices that channel water from a drinking fountain. No one would take credit for this small “hack” of standard urban furniture. But that refusal of authorship is also part of the Occupy value system.

The complexity of the movement’s motivations and goals is also seen in its paradoxically conservative use of space. Without creating formal rules, the occupiers have essentially “zoned” the park into residential and public spaces. In the northwest corner, tents for a kitchen, an information booth and a planned falafel shop are kept separate from the living areas. A large field in the southwest quadrant has been left open for public meetings and sport and to accommodate a brace of ducks that are also resident in the park.

“After that, it’s open to all,” said Anthony Sluder, when asked if anyone can pitch a tent anywhere. Sluder, who was manning the information tent, said newcomers were welcome to “any space your neighbors don’t care about.”

Imagining a city on the fly

The idea that people, working through consensus, can solve basic problems such as how to regulate public space, security and infrastructure is one of the most powerful spurs to current architectural thinking. Younger architects and planners are studying how people actually use space rather than adopting top-down design ideas fashioned by governments or urban theorists. A new sense of post-Utopian architecture is replacing older, modernist efforts to impose ideal order on the in­trac­table city. After analyzing how people in Rio de Janeiro’s largest favela, or shanty town, respond to their harsh urban environment, the architects at Atelier UM+D (based in southern Brazil) proposed designs for an innovative skyscraper that would blur the lines between public and private space, organize residents around basic needs such as food and medical care, and allow for far greater adaptability than most carefully programmed urban buildings.

“We don’t think there should be a massive plan that would solve all their problems,” said one of the firm’s architects, who asked not to be quoted by name because it is a collective project. “It should always be changing, always intertwined and interconnected with the needs of the people, and those needs always change. The scale of the decision should be somewhat smaller.”

That is, in effect, also the message not just of many of the Occupy protesters but also of many in the right-wing tea party movement: Give us a more direct and more responsive democracy. And both movements share a taste for nostalgia, whether it’s Norman Rockwell visions of the small-town meeting or echoes of 1960s protests in song and dress. But the choice of the urban camp as its primary symbol connects the Occupy movement to efforts to reformulate the definition of the city, going all the way back to the designs of the radical architectural collective Archigram, which envisioned temporary cities and ephemeral landscapes in the 1960s and ’70s. An afternoon walk through the occupied McPherson Square, where pup tents and computers define an urban aesthetic that is strong on connectivity and loose on formal organization, is reminiscent of one of Archigram’s more poetic fantasies. “I like to think,” wrote one Archigram visionary in language curiously reminiscent of the poetic idealism of many Occupy residents, “of a cybernetic forest filled with pines and electronica where deer stroll peacefully past computers as if they were flowers with spinning blossoms.”

In Washington, the contrast between the planned, commercialized urbanism of areas such as Seventh Street NW and the unplanned but spontaneous and temporary urbanism of McPherson Square seems ready-made to illustrate a basic argument of the Situationists: That capitalism uses spectacle to control and degrade culture.

On Seventh Street, giant video screens, enormous electronic signs and an alluring blur of brand-name restaurants and stores mask the generic commercialization of what could have been, with the Shakespeare Theatre and the old Carnegie Library, a major cultural artery. In McPherson Square, the Occupy protesters have created a spontaneous library and host musical performances, all without major corporate sponsorship.

Hints of the ‘urban uncanny’

But the Occupy movement has also brought into the heart of the nation’s capital something even more haunting, what might be called the “urban uncanny.” Some of the most cherished cities in the world, including Vienna, owe their early development in part to the encampments set up by occupying Roman soldiers. Other major metropolitan areas, such as Port-au-Prince and New Orleans, devolved more or less into camps after disasters struck. The urban encampment hints at the beginning and the end of urban life, its nascence and dissolution. It’s a powerful display, a mix of both admonition and promise, suggesting not only that we could all be homeless but that we could also live better, differently, more communally.

Pundits will debate the ultimate political impact of the Occupy movement. Its cultural impact will depend on whether mainstream arts and design organizations are flexible enough to take note of something new in their midst.

“Where are the universities, the academics, what is the A.I.A. doing?” asks Richard Koshalek, director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum. The A.I.A. is the American Institute of Architects, one of many professional groups that might learn a lot from the Occupy movement.

The possibilities for fruitful dialogue are already apparent in a project Koshalek has planned for the Hirshhorn. If everything goes right, the museum will inflate a giant “bubble” made of plastic inside its circular courtyard sometime in 2013. Designed by the cutting-edge architectural firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, which has pioneered ideas for ephemeral and temporary architecture (including a pavilion made of water vapor created for a Swiss exposition in 2002), the Hirshhorn bubble will be a kind of intellectual camp, a seasonal, flexible space designed to tap into many of the same energies that are flowing in what has become Washington’s most vibrant public square.

Letter to Editor regarding State preemption of local land use regulations.

Dear Editor,

It appears our good Governor, lawyer that he is, doesn’t understand that the Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code already contains a process for appealing local zoning decisions that does not bypass the courts to get a bureaucrats decisions. I am opposing both HB 1950 and SB 1100 for the following reasons:

-HB1950 and SB1100 would preempt strong local ordinances regulating Marcellus drilling in Pennsylvania and replace them with weak and inadequate state regulations. The procedures established in these bills to preempt local regulations appears to violate the provisions of Pennsylvania’s Constitution.

-These legislative bills were initiated to pre-empt all local zoning ordinances attempting to restrict Marcellus drilling in their municipalities and replace them with weakened state ordinances. The attempt to create statewide zoning regulations for specific industries, particularly the extractive industries, is a pernicious and continuing habit of the Pennsylvania Legislature, the worst legislature money can buy.

– Allowing the Attorney General to rule on local ordinances, the latest twist in the bills, is tantamount to preemption through the back door! In addition this sets a dangerous precedent for allowing bureaucrats to assume the Constitutional powers of the courts.

-Drilling would even be allowed in residential areas, in resource protection areas, in environmentally sensitive areas and on public lands. This is patently absurd on its face, to allow a potentially dangerous environmental use, without mandating best practices and intense regulation in residential areas will lead to further discrimination of the poor and powerless, particularly in rural areas.

-These bills are an assault on local governments’ sovereignty and the democratic process by allowing corporate gas interests to dictate what legislation will be passed. These bills bypass the established appeals process for local zoning decisions.

-It is an outrage that these bills do not provide adequate setbacks for wells, waterways, etc., do not adequately provide for proper control of air pollution, and do not provide for an adequate tax or impact fee. These bills do not provide for transparency of inspections, of reporting or of violation notices. Penalties contained in these bills are so low they are an incentive to violate the regulations.

-These bills are a sellout to the gas industry, which will eventually use up all of the gas contained in those shale deposits and leave another environmental disaster for the taxpayers to clean up in the name of the pursuit of profit. The argument that the industry needs consistency of regulations in order to thrive is nonsense, if that is the case, then abolish all zoning ordinances in Pennsylvania and establish a statewide ordinance, since all zoning ordinances regulate all businesses and industries in a community.

-These bills reflect completely the wishes of the gas industry and not the wishes and concerns of the people of Pennsylvania. These bills destroy the concept of home rule in Pennsylvania, they deny the citizens of the Commonwealth their Constitutional right to local government, and their statutory right to local land use control.


Mostly essays and documents related to planning and environmental matters. A bit of politics now and then.