Community Involvement Can’t Rest on November 6th

Chair’s Column

By Charlotte Hummel

Whether you were born here or just moved here, residents know that Lansdowne is a special place to live. Yes, like any small town in America, especially one in the inner ring suburbs, we have our challenges. We are a built-up community, so development, other than in buildings and on properties already in place, is not easy. With property taxes being the largest part of education funding, we are overtaxed and under resourced which impacts property values and the quality of education we can provide in our public schools. Our infrastructure is aging (think roads, sewers, public facilities) and while the outer suburbs get subsidies for infrastructure development, the inner ring is on its own. Add to that the recent administration turning its back on urban areas, and tax and other policies that benefit the 1% over the rest of us, we in Lansdowne (and our surrounding communities) are more on our own than ever before.

That said, we are lucky to live in a town that has been and continues to be populated by creative, innovative, self-reliant and generous people. The local government, non-profits, and individual community activists are undeterred by the challenges and continue to address them as best we can. Whether it’s the economic development work of the Borough Council and the Lansdowne Economic Development Corporation (LEDC), the Lansdowne Business and Professional Association (LBPA), the Historic Lansdowne Theater Corporation (LTC) and our state and federal representatives we are determined to build a thriving downtown and beyond.

There is a major weakness in Lansdowne’s community involvement: In an average election, only 25% of the borough’s 7,000 registered voters go to the polls.

The public William Penn School District (WPSD) does more with less than any other school district around. With decades worth of state level cutbacks, and never ending (and sometime losing struggle) to keep local property taxes in check, the local school board has also stood up to the powers that be, by taking the lead and initiative in filing a lawsuit for education equity, which is slowly but surely moving to give us our day in court. We have also seen our students thrive and succeed despite the financial limitations – both personal and institutional – and it is with a certain point of pride that other, more wealthy school districts have taken to looking to the WPSD for innovative and practical ways to do more with less. Moreover, our communities get benefits over and above the education program in the use of facilities for community meetings and athletic activities.

When people lament that as hard as we try, we cannot get more outside help and support for the things that our Borough needs – education funding, economic development aid, infrastructure funds – I have come to rely on the reference from The Wizard of Oz in my response: In Lansdowne, we are wearing our own Ruby Slippers. And we do, indeed.

The level of volunteerism, camaraderie and outright generosity toward out neighbors are characteristics that define us, not only to the outside world but to ourselves. Check out the Farmers Market any Saturday from late May to late October. Run by volunteers from LEDC! Look for the improvements in the Public Library. Funding and volunteers provided by the Friends of the Lansdowne Public Library (FLPL). Our Fire Department and EMT/Ambulance and Fire Police at Engine 19? All volunteers. The list goes on and on. Animal Friends of Lansdowne (AFL). Lansdowne Symphony Orchestra (LSO). Union Athletic Association/July 4th sponsors (UAA). Lansdowne Boys and Girls Club (LBGC). And did you know that all of our Borough Council members and our Mayor are volunteers? Not to mention the dozens of citizens who service on all kind of boards and commissions – Parks and Recreation, Shade Tree Commission, the Arts Board, Civil Service Board, Library Board, Human Relations Commission, Zoning, Planning and Historic Architecture Review Board, and a newly formed environmental committee. Citizens can have input through any one or more of these organizations and can also attend the twice a year Mayor’s Forums that address specific Borough issues and proposals. Yet, with all of this, there is a major weakness in our community involvement. A very large piece is missing.

Lansdowne, like too many other places in this country, in many ways fails to do its civic duty. Of the over 7,000 registered voters, in an average election, only 25% of us VOTE. Yep, only 25%. Yes, we have hit some alltime lows in the teens and we have reached some highs in the 40’s, but overall, like many Americans, when it comes time for us to use the greatest tool in our power, we just don’t show up.

This past year a group of concerned citizens have (yes, once again) volunteered their time, talent and resources to educate Lansdowne folks about the importance of voting. Lansdowne Votes along with support from various volunteer, non-partisan and partisan groups) have make it their mission to increase voter registration and turn out for the upcoming mid-term elections on Tuesday, November 6. It has long been my personal goal that we increase average voter turn out from a high of 40 % to at least 75%. How do I know we can do this? Well, if you look at all the volunteerism, involvement and dedication that makes this Borough the great place it is over the course of years, then asking people to show up on one day, to do their most sacred civic duty certainly must be possible.

So, I urge you – in fact challenge you – to make a plan for Tuesday, November 6th between 7 am and 8pm. Either before work, during your lunch break, or after work to come out to vote. If you did not register by the October 9th deadline, you can always register and be prepared for the next election. But to make up for your absence in this one, I challenge you to make sure that at least 5 of your neighbors go out to vote. If you don’t know where to vote, there is a map and polling place locations in this edition of The Leader.

People often say, if you don’t vote, you can’t complain. That may be true, but I have another thought on the matter. If you want to complain, the most powerful way to do that is with your vote on election day. Lansdowne is counting on you. I’ll look for you on November 6th. And be sure to say hello to the volunteers from the Lansdowne Democratic Committee who will be outside your polling place to greet you!