Monday, December 12, 2005

It breaks no new ground, adds nothing. I enjoyed it a lot.

- Somehow, the idea of working on urban crime in colonial and post-colonial Latin American major cities does little to entice me on a day of football and relaxation. Although I have sought to decrease my procrastination this semester, I have largely discovered that while I do the research for a chosen topic well in advance, the actual writing comes a day or two before the paper is due, and then little revision is done. Surely I could continue adhere to this method and get average grades, but I seek above-average grades. Such is the way things unfold.
- I've stumbled upon a rather ridiculous blog, Antietam Watch. The blog consists of a Laureldale, PA resident rambling on about the latest happenings in the Antietam Lake controversy, and his biased take on the matter. His primary concern is the millage tax rate from Berks County. He fears that the 'wine and cheese crowd'(as he so calls any media person reporting on the matter, any businessman in Berks County not holding a Republican voting card, and any Democratic politician representing anyone in Berks County)are riling up the unknowledgable public on this matter, in order to serve their own purposes. Those purposes include raising taxes on the working and middle class and handing out contracts and such to their friends, also part of the 'wine and cheese' brigade. He calls this 'pick pocket politics' and, yes, he puts a space between pick and pocket.

The idea that politicians could be corrupt is not a new one, nor is it necessarily untrue. Every poltician is crooked, to some degree. To get anything done in government, as in life or business, working relationships must be made and concessions and cooperation must occur. A concession in the Antietam Lake case is that it will cost someone some money to buy it. Matt Heckman seems to want the free market to take care of the sale, and does not want his taxes to increase should the County of Berks get involved. He also wants all who puport to save Antietam Lake to pool money together and save it themselves, if they find it so special and in need of saving.

This is both illogical and unnecessary. As I tried to state in several comments on his blog, which were not approved for public viewing because they did not have enough petty namecalling to pass the censor, we, as citizens, already have a way to pool money together to achieve certain goals. This is called the government, consisting of a body of citizens who tax everyone to achieve goals ranging from public safety to snow removal. To suggest that environmental protection is an entirely private venue would also extend this notion to most other arenas where the public good is involved, including public safety and snow removal, to use two examples. Hardly anyone would approve of a pure private police force, or privately-funded fire companies, which would charge on a per usage basis. Those who would then be in need of the most help would be the most harshly affected, money-wise. Then why should we suggest that environmental protection, which tries to deal with problems which do not know political borders, should be a purely private endeavor? Antietam Lake's possible(and probable, should M.B. Investments become involved in the ownership)development would come at a price, and a large one at that. Soil erosion would occur with less trees on the land, creating harsher floods in an area which experienced harsh flooding merely a year ago. Learn from Birdsboro. Learn from the Delaware Valley boroughs which experienced tremendous flooding which ravaged their homes, their businesses, and their way of life. Yes, this is alarmist, and yes this is overkill. But flooding most assuredly affects more than Lower Alsace Township, and most assuredly is a realstic consequence of developing the land.
The Berks County government's proposal includes 7 million dollars(3 million from the county, 2.5 from the state, 1.5 from Lower Alsace Township), payable to the city of Reading, who currently owns the land. They would erect bathrooms and a few other park amenities, and otherwise keep the land intact and untouched for generations to come. In an area where land is being gobbled up by housing developers(such as Greth Development Corp., which started the entire controversy with its proposal of over 500 homes), the Berks County government is one of the few sane voices to realize that land protection goes a long way to maintaing and increasing the quality of life for residents all over the county. It sets a precedent that land should not be developed as though it were purely an economic commodity, but instead holds added benifits to society. It also would pay for the state-mandated environmental repairs. Also, the city would be able to use the money to fix part of its buget problems. Sounds like they're a bunch of crooks!
The M.B. Investments proposal includes only 2.5 million dollars but promises to let the city keep a 50% stake in the land, and keep water rights. On the surface, it sounds like a good deal. However, over 400 acres more in land would be sold to M.B. Investments, compared to Berks County. Also, in twenty years time, the issue would arise again. Putting off a problem does not solve it. It merely gives a problem to a newer generation. This is not a solution, it's a band-aid given by a company whose history has been one of irresponsible development and contracts with over-their-head local governments. Look at the 'borough' of New Morgan, an affront to those who favor good government FOR the people. It consists of approxomiately 23 people, and a huge chunk of land owned by Raymond Carr, owner of Morgantown Properties. It came about due to disagreement with the township about zoning and such, and now exists as a testament to how waste management firms will seek any and every imaginable way to get their way in a matter. Several proposals have come and gone, each time being shouted down by the nearby residents, and each time the law being flaunted and taunted. The only visible progress in the borough is the Conestoga Landfill. The funny thing is, I am a huge proponent of smart growth(which is the supposed idea behind New Morgan), but smart growth coming at expense of common decency is wrong. The borough was created under shady conditions, for a purely economic purpose, and this is wrong, no matter the 'good' result which might occur. Sprawl is tearing up the Morgantown area, but the solution is not to step around the government, but to work with the government to create a better plan. Morgantown Properties used a shady way to get around the government by creating its own tiny fiefdom. 13 years and counting, and the fiefdom is floundering, with no home or business yet built on the land save for the landfill. Development has been 'impending' for years now, and will likely be 'impending' for years to come. We can learn from New Morgan and not get into a partnership with someone whose record is one as shady and average as M.B. Investments. Learn from the Morgantown Properties boondoggle. M.B. Investments purports to have never developed a shred of land, save for a school. This is true, though its website fails to mention that its 'thousands of acres in Berks and Montgomery Counties' owned, that they also own several landfills and other waste management sites in Berks County and throughout the state of Pennsylvania, and other states. Apparently they don't count as developments. Though two different companies, the idea between both is the same: Making money, no matter how many people are affected.

Who do Angel Figueroa, Michael Schorn, Dennis Sterner, and Vaughn Spencer work for? The people, or M.B. Investments? I tried to find their emails online, but was unable to find anything other than a phone number to Mr. Figueroa's office. I won't post it because I don't like that sort of thing, but it is rather weird that none have a listed email address, when many other cities have this option, Mayor McMahon is quite visible online(blog, email), and everyone and their grandmother have emails available. Then again, this was a city that didn't have a workable website until Mr. McMahon entered office, either. The old Eppihimer regime must still have influence.


Blogger Matt Heckman said...


To say it is not logical to raise money to fund something you believe in is insane. You have no regard for the people this will effect. This has nothing to do with environmental protection considering the fact that you have nothing to prove that any private investor would destroy the lake.

We don't live in a communist country Chris, and if you want something so bad then pay for it.

5:35 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Wow, you completely missed the WHOLE point of this Matt. We raise money through government. The money is already there in a conservation fund. It's there. We just have to use it.

This is in contrast to the development of the land, which would cause entirely way too much strain on Antietam Schools, Lower Alsace, and would show how meaningless the Berks County and Reading City governments are. Instead, they are being proactive to prevent irresponsible development.

2:52 PM  

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