Worcester, Pennsylvania, Politics Online

Policy Statement

      This website is maintained by Worcester residents who are concerned about our community and its future. Its purpose is to inform all Worcester residents about matters of interest and concern.
      We encourage and support efforts by our Supervisors and other groups and individuals to control development in our Township in a way that protects its rural heritage. For those of us who live here, Worcester is an island of tranquility and open spaces surrounded by a sea of traffic-congested development, both residential and commercial. Some commercial and residential developers, most of whom are not Worcester residents, see our home as a place to be exploited, not as a place to be preserved. A very small but very vocal minority of residents would like Worcester to look just like the other heavily developed communities that surround it. These groups favor eliminating Township funding for the preservation of open space and expanding municipal "services" that are not needed or wanted by the vast majority of Township residents. These groups also favor changing zoning ordinances in ways that will quickly cause Worcester to lose the qualities that differentiate it from the communities surrounding us on all sides.
      We disagree with these individuals. Worcester is different from other communities and we are committed to keeping it that way. Toward this end, we favor Township efforts to limit development while at the same time encouraging appropriate commercial activity in our existing village areas. We want the Township to enforce zoning ordinances that protect the open and peaceful character of our residential areas. We encourage the Township to work proactively with groups and individuals dedicated to preserving our open spaces and we support the use of public funds toward this end whenever appropriate. We support a small and efficient local government that limits our local property taxes (only a few tens of dollars per years for Worcester households, rather than the several hundreds of dollars more typical of other communities in Montgomery County) by limiting the services we ask our government to provide.
      We believe these are widely held non-partisan positions for our community and the role of local government. We endorse or oppose candidates for elected office based not on their party, but on their actions and their demonstrated abilities to represent the interests of the vast majority of Worcester residents. We are not affiliated with or supported by any group or organization in Worcester, nor are the contents of this website controlled by any group or organization.
      Questions and comments can be sent to webmaster@worcesterpapolitics.org. Comments will be posted entirely at our discretion. Posted comments will appear in their entirety, without editing unless noted otherwise. Comments can be posted anonymously, if you wish. We will never reveal any personal or contact information unless you specifically authorize us to do so. The reason for this policy is that, unfortunately, some members of our community regularly resort to harassment and intimidation of residents with whom they disagree. We do not wish to provide targets for those individuals. We admit that one unfortunate result of this policy is that you have to take our word for it that we are accurately reflecting the views of contributors — that we are telling the truth when we state that an e-mail is "reproduced in its entirety, unedited," and that the e-mail is genuine. This is a decision for you to make about this site, as is the case for political or other information from any source.

August 30, 2016: What has Jim Mollick been up to?

It's been a while since we have reported any township news...
      Jim Mollick has once again been digging up what he considers to be "problems" from the past. Why should you care? Because his self-defined problems all too often require legal responses on the part of the Township which cost YOUR tax dollars!
      At the August 17 Board of Superisors meeting, Mollick brought up a legal action against Worcester which he initiated in 2008 (yes, this is not a typo!). Periodically, the courts attempt to clean out old cases, but Mollick has always refused to let them go. One of those cases, docket #2008-25358, involves a dispute with a neighbor (who has long since moved) and Worcester's alleged involvement in trying to resolve the dispute.
      On August 17, 2016, both Mollick (through Kaplin Stewart Meloff Reiter & Stein PC, his long-time counsel for this action) and Worcester filed a "Pre Trial Memorandum/Statement." Mollick asked for a payment from Worcester of $6,000. Worcester's memorandum stated that "No Complaint has ever been filed on this case and there are therefore no facts stated of record." and that "Counsel for the Township has had brief discussions with Plaintiff's counsel about the nature of the claim."
      One day later, on August 18, Mollick's counsel filed a motion with the court to "withdraw as counsel for Plaintiff, James Mollick." The motion states that "... Kaplin Stewart and Plaintif has disagreed about the legal theory of the case and certain of its factual underpinnings..." and that "... significant disagreements between Plaintiff and Kaplin Stewart makes effective representation of the Plaintiff impossible...," in accordance with Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct allowing an attorney or law firm to terminate representation when "rendered unreasonably difficult."
      What are we to make of such a motion?? We believe the most obvious and reasonable explanation is that Mollick's case is so lacking in legal merit that it has become a unacceptable source of embarrassment for his attorneys. Unfortunately, based on Mollick's past performance, Worcester taxpayers should not hold their collective breaths waiting for this sorry spectacle to come to an end. Currently, however, a court-mandated settlement conference is scheduled for October 11. It will, of course, cost more of YOUR tax dollars for Worcester to defend itself, as it must do. Stay tuned...

NOTE: The text of all civil case documents is available electronically from the Montgomery County Prothonotary's office at a cost of roughly $0.20 per page. See https://courtsapp.montcopa.org/psi/v/search/case?Q=&Count=20&fromAdv=1&CaseNumber=&ParcelNumber=&CaseType=&DateCommencedFrom=&DateCommencedTo=&FilingType=&FilingDateFrom=&FilingDateTo=&JudgeID=&Attorney=&AttorneyID=&Grid=true.

June 16, 2016: Board of Supervisors votes to appeal Center Square Golf Club decision

      Last year, the Cutler Group proposed building hundreds of homes on the Center Square Golf Club property for what it referred to as a "life care" community. Based on evidence presented at an extensive conditional use hearing, Worcester's supervisors concluded that the proposed plan was not, in fact, a life care or continuing care community which would be allowed under Worcester's zoning code, but rather an excuse to construct high density housing on this property. The Board of Supervisors denied the Cutler Group's plan and that decision was appealed to the Court of Common Pleas, which recently overturned the board's decision.
      At its June 15 meeting, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to appeal the Common Pleas decision to Commonwealth Court and to have the case handled by an attorney who has experience in such matters. Residents at the meeting spoke for and against this decision. The arguments against the appeal appeared to be based more on the issue of spending money for the appeal rather than on any support for the development plan in principle. The vote signals the supervisors' continuing belief that:
(a) The Cutler Group's proposal does not represent a continuing care or life care community under accepted interpretations of those terms. (Meadowood, the relevant local example, guarantees a full spectrum of care options for all its residents and owns all its residential units. In the Cutler Group's proposal, all the residential units would be sold privately to buyers and there would be no guarantee of continuing care.)
(b) The detrimental effects on our community as perceived by many residents outweigh the possible positive effects on tax revenues which could be provided if this high density residential development were allowed to proceed.
      Times Herald reporter Carl Rotenberg has posted an ARTICLE summarizing testimony at the conditional use hearing, including expert testimony which concluded, among other points, that the Pennsylovania Insurance Department would not license the facility as either a "continuum of care community or residential life-care facility" – testimony which supports the board's decision to reject the Cutler Group's application. Considering that the board action was taken immediately following an executive session to discuss legal matters, it is presumably the opinion of Township Solicitor Robert Brant that Worcester has a good chance of prevailing on appeal. Now we will just have to wait and see what happens next.

May 31, 2016: Worcester AA+ bond rating for sewer project

Worcester's summer newsletter, available online HERE, highlights the recently issued Standard & Poor's extremely favorable AA+ bond rating, which enabled the township to fund a 25-year bond for its sewer projects at a very low annual interest rate of about 2.6%. By acting when it did, the township avoided very recent interest rate increases for all kinds of borrowing. According to the newsletter, Standard & Poor's noted "Worcester's strong budgetary performance, conservative fiscal practices and ample reserve funds."
      This situation is especially noteworthy in view of ongoing accusations from some residents that Worcester's finances are mismanaged, in particular, the size of its cash reserve fund. Nothing could be farther from the truth! "Conservative" fiscal management means limiting ongoing long-term obligations, fully funding obligations such as pension plans which do exist, maintaining adequate cash reserves to handle operational needs, and borrowing money only when it is financially advantageous to do so. (As has been pointed out many times in public meetings, sewer projects are funded by users of those systems and cannot be funded from cash reserves generated from general tax revenues. Hence, a long-term bond made sense for the township and users of the public sewer systems.)
      The news is rife with stories about government entities in financial trouble through incompetent management, a willingness (too often an eagerness) to kick difficult problems down the road, and outright fraud. Worcester's staff and supervisors deserve our support and thanks for how they have managed our township's finances. Those who choose to criticize are either uninformed or willfully choosing to misrepresent and/or ignore the facts.

March 31, 2016: Jim Garrity replaced as Worcester Township Solicitor

At a special meeting on March 30, Worcester's Supervisors accepted Jim Garrity's resignation as Township Solicotor, a position he has held since 1990. He was replaced by Robert Brant, who has served as the attorney for Worcester's Zoning Hearing Board since 1989. (That position will now be given to someone else.) No reasons were given for this change, although Township Manager Tommy Ryan was quoted in the Times Herald as remarking that the "very high" legal bills for the Township were $250,000 over the last 12 months.
      As we have noted previously, a substantial percentage of Worcester's legal bills is due to Jim Mollick, who apparently continues to believe that every action taken or not taken by the Township's staff and elected officials is another opportunity to waste taxpayer dollars by initiating another lawsuit. Whether a different solicitor can handle these actions at lower cost, or can change the relationship beteween Jim Mollick and Worcester, remains to be seen. Presumably, that effort is at the top of the township's to-do list for the new solicitor and we wish Mr. Brant the best of luck in that endeavor!

January 5, 2016: Caughlan elected Chair of the Board of Supervisors

As required by state law, Worcester held its annual reorganization meeting on Monday, January 4. What is usually a routine affair this year resulted in a complete reshuffling of the roles of our three supervisors. Newly re-elected Supervisor Susan Caughlan is now Chair, Steve Quigley is Vice-Chair, and Art Bustard is a Member – thereby ending Mr. Bustard's long service as Chair.

Why the change? Nobody knows for sure. Based on her consistently thorough knowledge of the facts about issues before the Board, Ms. Caughlan has certainly earned this position. But, the turnover may be more a result of the tumultuous 2015 endured by the entire Board. There was a contested conditional use hearing regarding the development of Center Square Golf Club, which the board rejected based on what it concluded was a thinly disguised attempt to justify a very high density residential development by defining the development as a "life care" community. The protracted and contentious conditional use and legal battle over installation of lighted fields at Methacton High School ended in 2015. There was ongoing resentment about the sewer installation project in the Hickory Hills subdivision, with some residents complaining about every aspect of this project and insisting that the system should be paid for by the Township out of its taxpayer-supported general fund. Some residents refuse to accept the fact that this was not going to happen. As is commonly the case in communities around us, sewer systems in Worcester are paid for by fees from users of the systems, not by general tax revenues.

2015 also saw the ugliest election for a seat on our Board of Supervisors in Worcester's history. Republican Committeeman Jim Mollick ran a nasty and negative primary campaign against Susan Caughlan in May. When he lost, he ran an equally offensive write-in campaign for himself in the general election – an action which was totally inconsistent with his position as a Worcester Republican Committeeman. (A basic responsibility of committeepersons is to support the election of their party's candidates.)

Finally, 2015 saw the continuation of Jim Mollick's ongoing assaults on nearly every action taken or not taken by the Board of Supervisors, leading to increasingly confrontational election-year public meetings and endless legal challenges requiring the expenditure of many tens of thousands of dollars of OUR tax dollars in legal fees.

So, perhaps we need to do nothing more than look back at 2015 to understand the change in Township leadership. We are sure that 2016 will continue to bring new challenges. We wish the very best for each of our supervisors, and we ask EVERYONE to renounce in 2016 the ugly and destructive behavior that dominated 2015.

November 5, 2015: Election Results

We are using the close of this election cycle as an opportunity to "reboot" with a fresh start for this web page. We hope all Worcester residents will also consider a fresh start for working together to address the challenges facing our community.

      As everyone who gets mail or has a phone knows, this off-year election generated a huge amount of campaigning for many significant races. Countywide, Republicans suffered a near total rout from row offices on up. Their only bright spot was election of the highly qualified Risa Ferman, currently the Montco District Attorney, as judge on the Montgomery County Court of Common Pleas.
      The problems facing Montco Republicans are perhaps best exemplified by the fact that Joe Gale, going "rogue" on his party, won the single Republican County Commissioners seat over endorsed candidate Stephen Tolbert. (Election rules for this position mandate that no party can hold all three seats.) Gale was quoted by the Times Herald in its November 4 edition as saying "I think I'm a breath of fresh air, that it is healthy and refreshing for Montgomery County. I am not beholden to the party, to special interests, to law firms, to engineering firms. I am beholden to the people,... I had a different campaign strategy. I was never picked by the party and I was never treated as a nominee. The people selected me." Gale, in his 20's, has no prior service in any elected public position and no apparent qualifications or experience that would appear to be relevant to running Montgomery County. Whether he will be an effective representative for county residents remains to be seen.
      There were two races of direct interest to Worcester residents. Five seats (with three incumbents) were up for grabs on Methacton School Board. For School Board, candidates can cross-file to be on both the Democratic and Republican ballot. The spring primary campaign for a spot on the ballot featured the Montgomery County Republican Committee retracting Scott Misus' endorsement and removing his name from campaign signs that had already sprung up across the school district, because of his widely circulated racist and anti-semitic remarks on social media. It also featured formation of an entirely new group of five contenders, working together as a group, "Community Advocates for Responsible Education (CARE)." This group appears to have been started in response to the School District's clumsy handling of possible plans to close one or two elementary schools in the face of declining enrollment projections. They then mounted a high-profile and ultimately successful campaign to take over the School Board. Chris Boardman won a spot on both the Democratic and Republican ballots, so he was essentially guaranteed a spot on the Board. However, in a stunning result, all five of the CARE candidates (a majority for this nine-member board), won. Here are the School Board results from the Montco Voter Services website. The top five names will take seats on the School Board in December and the remaining four will not.

In Worcester, the School Board race played out differently. The incumbents plus Scott Dorn and Chris Boardman won the top five spots. Boardman won the top spot because he was cross-filed and there was a heavy Democratic turnout. But Worcester votes were outnumbered by Lower Providence votes.

      The Worcester Supervisor race was between incumbent Susan Caughlan, who won the spring primary election as the endorsed Republican candidate against Jim Mollick, who ran what must certainly have been the nastiest campaign in Worcester's history. Caughlan also won a spot on the Democratic ballot as a result of her successful primary election write-in campaign. (Democrats did not field a candidate for Supervisor.) It is worth noting that the Democratic party included Caughlan's name on their yellow voting sheet, although they did not HAVE to do that.
      Caughlan won with 1679 votes, about 79% of all votes cast. (See THIS LINK.)
      As a Republican Committeeperson, it was Mollick's job (and the job of all Committeepersons) to support Republican candidates in the general election. Instead he mounted a last-minute write-in campaign for himself, announced in a campaign mailer as ugly as his literature during the primary campaign, and in an October 30 email to his supporters. Obviously, not all of the recipients of this email were his supporters because two readers sent us copies.

"From: jim mollick <committeemanjimmollick@yahoo.com>
To: Jim Mollick <gyno@comcast.net>
Sent: Fri, Oct 30, 2015 8:57 am
Subject: Jim Mollick Write In Campaign for Supervisor November 3

Hi All!!
      I am announcing my Write-In Campaign for Worcester Supervisor. I have kept this a secret until now so that my opponent would be caught off guard and have very little time to react and to get organized. Hopefully I have put all of her supporters to sleep and I can rally you guys to come out to vote for me and we can pull it off.

Since I am not on the Ballot, you will have to write me in. It will take a little more time and effort but certainly better than having to hold your nose and casting your vote for Susan Caughlan..."

Clearly, the Caughlan campaign was not caught off guard and her supporters were definitely not sleeping on election day. Mollick lost even at his own polling place, where he beat Caughlan in the spring primary election.
      We appreciate the fact that our system of government allows individuals to mount write-in campaigns for elected office when they have been ignored or turned down by the political establishment. Committeepersons can seek their party's endorsement for ballot spots in primary elections, and they can run in the primary election if they do not get that endorsement. (In the Worcester Republican Committee's endorsement process for Supervisor early this year, Mollick received only his own vote.) However, party committeepersons forgo this right when they lose a primary election. At that point, supporting party candidates in the general election is the essential part of the job description and any committeeperson who doesn't want to do that job should resign. We now wonder what the Republican Party will do about a committeeman who refused to do the job he was elected to do.