01/21/2014 01:09PM, Published by ACL, Categories: In Print
The dividing line of the stewardship of the Kennett Township Board of Supervisors, one that had been under the direction of Michael Elling, and that which is now being driven by Scudder Stevens, was officially crossed at the township building on Jan. 15. Within 15 minutes of the meeting's start, the board, by a vote of 2-1, revised its records policy to give full access to all township records, personal and otherwise -- with social security numbers and medical information tossed in, to its supervisors and its township manager. Nearly an hour later, after a lengthy discussion, the board, again by a 2-1 vote, agreed that it would discuss the possible elimination of two ordinances related to how land trust is done in the township.
Is anyone really surprised that the move toward an even more transparent form of government would take so little time? To many, it was just a matter of circumstances presenting themselves. With Elling now gone, Stevens now assumes the role of board chairman, with new supervisor Richard Leff on point with Stevens' 2011 campaign objective to "open up" how and what the township does in its form of governance, and with supervisor Robert Hammaker now the last vestige of the "Old Boys Network," what the future holds for Kennett Township rests, for the most part, in Stevens' hands.
A little more than two years ago, Stevens was the recently-elected lone wolf on the board, and not a very popular one at that, given that he fought Elling and Hammaker in a long a drawn-out legal battle to be given access to the township records, a fight he eventually won at a great cost to the township. However, rather than let the lock-down of secrecy persist, and rather than be the silent minority just thankful for a seat at the grown-up's table, Stevens, by virtue of his new position, began to force the township's hand. He helped clean up the township's auditing records by exposing the 2008 and 2009 township audits as negligent, and quite possibly the work of a phantom auditor, and into the hands of a reputable CPA firm. He helped to steer the discussion of township's long-term financial needs from the back room to the public meeting room. He supervised a town hall meeting that heard the voice of township residents about the future of the Chandler Mill Bridge. He helped create a township communications committee. He created a township business advisory committee to provide the township with ideas on how it can best maintain its strong financial standing, as well as advice on how it can best spend its nearly $11 million in assets. Finally, on Jan. 15, he tweaked a stubborn portion of the township's security policy while discussing the possibility of rescinding two land trust ordinance that are non-functioning relics of the past administration.
He's not done. During his public remarks at the board's Jan. 6 meeting about the needs of the township in 2014, Stevens called for the need for a community dialogue of adjoining municipalities about land use and regulation of lands. He called for the establishment of open forums like open work sessions, where township residents can share their opinions about open space, sewer needs, accounting practices, capital funds, road and facility maintenance, policing, and the costs associated with all of these issues.
Whether one falls into the party of Kennett Township's past -- Elling, Hammaker, et al. -- or in the party of its future -- Stevens and Leff -- it is a universal agreement that Kennett Township is a thing that needs to be tinkered with. Yes, it remains one of the most financially stable municipalities of its kind, not only in Chester County, not only in Pennsylvania, but the entire United States, and credit is rightly due to anyone in the township's government that heped get them there. However, money in the bank does not account for what the township has lacked in vision and accountability. Sometimes, even the most successful of entities need the clear-eyed vision of a strategist, and the thwack of a bullwhip. With his recent appointment as board chairman, Scudder Stevens is providing both for Kennett Township.