Plenty of Progress in our Progressive Little Town


By Charlotte Hummel

It has been a wonderful few months here in the Borough of Lansdowne. The spring and summer seems to bring out the best in people, our landscape and our volunteer activities. The opening of the Lansdowne Landing has been a great success with people gathering for both informal and planned activities ranging from a quick coffee with a friend to full on jazz concerts and pot luck suppers. The Council that is supporting this project – especially Councilperson Susan Williams – and the number of dedicated volunteers who have done the lion’s share of construction and maintenance are real examples of why this Borough is so beloved.

The Historic Lansdowne Theater project is still moving forward. Grants from various agencies, private foundations and businesses and the all -important individual donors give hope to the project, phase by phase, that it will open in the near future to resounding applause. Thanks to the board and staff who have lovingly preserved and improved the physical plant and for keeping the spirit of the Theater alive and thriving.

The Annual Arts Festival – now a one day street fair – was also a great boost to Lansdowne’s image. Artists and crafters, music, beer garden, food truck and an expanded children’s activities area made the day a spectacular one for our town. The Lansdowne Economic Development Committee and its partners deserve the credit. Again, without volunteers, this would not have happened.

And, as always – there is so much more. The Farmers Market, 2020 House, Folk Club, Boys and Girls Club Soccer season, Lansdowne Public Library events, Inside/Out exhibit, opening of Jamey’s House of Music, Kia’s Cakes, Crystal’s Comfort Food, Penn Wood High School Football and Marching Band competitions. It makes me wonder how you can fit all of this – and MORE – in the little over one square mile that is Lansdowne.

With so much taking place in our borough these days, it can be difficult to believe that it all happens in the little over one square mile that is Lansdowne.

Now for the really BIG news! The William Penn School District which took on the role of lead plaintiff in the fair funding lawsuit has achieved what no one thought was possible. The PA Supreme Court reversed a long standing decision which allowed the legislature continue down its path of inequity in public school funding. Instead, they found that the Courts have a role to play in holding the elected legislature accountable for laws which might, in fact, be unconstitutional. In other words – checks and balances prevail. If the legislature won’t fix the problem, the people can ask the courts to force them to do it. (See related article by Jennifer Hoff ). And, if you have ever wondered what the fundamental problem is with funding, read at least the first ten pages of the decision (also linked in the article). It is shocking that it has gone on for this long.

Finally, we have things to mourn in our community as well. We have lost a staunch advocate for climate change legislation in the passing of former Lansdowne resident Jan Marie Rushforth. She was a remarkably kind and gentle person who was also fierce in her advocacy for our planet.

We have also to mourn for the folks who suffered from that climate change in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Fellow Americans – all of them – who need us to recognize that the common welfare means everyone needs to take care of everyone else in times of crisis. Our current administration, stymied by an ocean, has clearly forgotten that part of our founding principles.

As we prepare for press, we also mourn the people who were killed and injured in the recent and largest mass shooting of modern times in our country in Las Vegas. I find it rings hollow to hear of “thoughts and prayers” going out when we have taken literally no action in terms of gun regulations to do whatever is possible to stem this bloody tide. Frankly, I despair that we watched the bodies of little children being taken from their school in Sandy Hook and even as their bullet riddled bodies were laid to rest, our elected officials did nothing to address the central issue. There are far too many guns in the hands of too many people who have no rational need for them. My prayers are for those who are in positions to open their hearts and minds and finally do something.


In my column in the last edition of The Leader, I recalled the election of Democrats to the majority in Borough government in 1997 but also said “It was only in the early 1990s that the first Democrat was elected to serve as a Borough Councilperson.”

My former colleague on Borough Council, Dick Burke wrote to say – “FAKE NEWS.” And while an opinion column is not news, I did get a fact wrong, which I am more than willing to correct. Dick Burke, a long time Republican in Lansdowne was, in fact, the first Democrat elected to Borough council in 1977 – the first in a century. But despite his good intentions, it didn’t last. Dick failed to get elected to a second term and he eventually changed parties after which he was elected and joined the GOP majority on Council.

Ironically, Dick included in his letter a local press clipping from that time touting his achievement. What I found most enlightening about the article was Dick’s criticism of the lack of openness and transparency on the part of the GOP-dominated council – the main reason the Democrats succeeded in taking over the majority in 1997. So not only was he the first Democrat, he was prescient about the reason for the ultimate ousting of the GOP majority.