I ran for Jenkintown Borough Council

Gauntlet retrieved, I ran for Jenkintown Borough Council

I took up the gauntlet.

Since starting this campaign almost two years ago, more than a few people have asked why I don’t just run for Borough Council. A few, such as our neighbor Daniel Gans, have all-but-dared me to do it. I never had any political ambitions and had no desire to run for office at any level. We all know people who we’d describe as natural politicians. I’m not one of those.

However, the call to fill two open seats on the Council in my ward with the resignations of Justin Mixon and Laurie Durkin proved too tempting to resist. Last Friday, I sat before a select group of Councilors that included Jay Conners, Deborra Sines-Pancoe, Michael Golden, Chuck Whitney, and Rick Bunker to express my reasons for consideration.

For the most part, I faced what seemed like a welcoming group, and the questions focused on my reasons for applying. The members also seemed concerned about what they saw as my contentious nature. For the record, I explained, I came before the council in 2015 expressing to them that not only did we believe the sidewalk ordinance produced awful sidewalks, even if they didn’t, it presents financial hardship for us and many of our neighbors. We came before council all-but-pleading for help. Council’s answer was to remove what we saw as our last resort — a lien against our house to pay for the work.

We would discover while at a court hearing from Borough Manager George Locke last spring that Council had in fact struck that option a few months before. So now, for those of us facing hardship, it’s pay up or go to jail and likely lose your house in the process.

I became contentious, I explained, because the Borough had backed us into a corner on that one single issue. I challenge anyone faced with the same threat not to react similarly.

On other issues, I have certainly voiced my opinions, but my personal history is one of collaboration, which my record backs up. I have a long history of involvement in small-town preservation and revival and associations with some leading figures in the field.

Rick Bunker, however, went on the offensive, asking me why I saw myself as a “threat” to Council. I don’t know, Rick. You tell me. I present what I believe is a well-researched, reasonable proposal to the Borough, and Rick Bunker won’t even discuss it. What seems like an otherwise intelligent guy goes all Trumpian on the subject of sidewalks.

Of course, we have already disproven every single assertion of Rick’s opposition to our proposals — every one — so one might think that maybe he has something to conceal, a relationship to hide, a deal to protect. Maybe not, but when you meet up with that kind of bellicosity, what else does one assume?

Most telling was this: When I ended an answer to a question with, “…should I be lucky enough to serve on this board,” Rick responded audibly, “That’s unlikely.” Ms. Sines-Pancoe then cut off further questioning.

No matter. Politics, as I understand it, is a rough-and-tumble occupation, and those with skins too thin to take a whack or two have no business in that arena. From where I stand, my little experiment exposing the subtle hostilities of Jenkintonian civics has proven a rousing success.

Aside from all that, this was also a Machiavellian blunder for Council. Isn’t it best to bring your enemies under your tent to keep an eye on them? For me, the exercise was a win-win. I tried. I got rejected. I get a good story to tell.

I sincerely wish the new Council members the best of luck, and I will welcome any opportunity to work with them on any issue confronting our community.

Rick Bunker will surely claim I am unqualified for the position. If the primary qualification of a representative is to listen to, engage with, and help the voter, then Rick Bunker has failed us every in every regard.

3 comments

  1. Sigh. What a long list if falsehoods to address. And although friends recommend that “petulant children should always be ignored” I feel compelled to respond, yet again.

    First, the headline is wrong. Randy never ran for council. He applied to be appointed to fill a vacancy. There is a substantial difference.

    The most offensive thing he wrote was, certainly, “so one might think that maybe [Rick Bunker] has something to conceal, a relationship to hide, a deal to protect.” I know that I ran for office, so should be prepared for this kind of bile. But to have someone publish in a newspaper that they think I am corrupt, makes me see red. Randy’s only “evidence” for this assertion is that I disagree with him on changing the way Jenkintown maintains sidewalks (incidentally it is the same as *every* borough in Pennsylvania), and that I don’t allow his public insults to go by without responding.

    He writes “On other issues, I have certainly voiced my opinions.” If Randy would stick to opinions on issues, he might find in me a great ally. Or at least someone who wants to debate issues in a friendly way. However he has resorted to ad hominem attacks on borough employees, and on me personally, many, many times.

    It is to these personal attacks that I respond with fervor. Not to any ideas about sidewalks. For what it is worth, I don’t see enough benefit to changing the way sidewalks and curbs are maintained in the borough, to be worth the cost and disruption and secondary effects of changing. But it isn’t the worst idea in the world. And walkability is a worthy goal, and one of Jenkintown’s strong points.

    What I have not been doing, is sitting back and allowing Randy to imply that I am corrupt, to make fat jokes about borough employees, to say that I “lie through my teeth”, call me a “pompous bloviator” (I actually kind of admire that one, and it is the only one that might be a little bit accurate), lie that I pounded my fist on the desk during a council meeting, call me a bully and much more, without responding.

    Just like I am not letting this poison pen nonsense he has written go by without response.

    Randy writes “Most telling was this: When I ended an answer to a question with, “…should I be lucky enough to serve on this board,” Rick responded audibly, “That’s unlikely.” I certainly did say this. I thought I said “extremely unlikely.” Why on earth would Randy imagine that our board would invite some crackpot who harassas us with lies, posts pictures of our houses, comes to meetings with a monster zoom camera lens to photograph the women on council, publishes innuendo and demeaning personal attacks, pesters staff with pointless and expensive RTK requests, and more, to join us? Does he imagine we want to spend our evening with him five or six times a month? Council isn’t a social club, but it is a collaborative body, where interpersonal dynamics do matter. I’d sooner vote for Kim Jong-Un to join council. OK, that is hyperbole, I’d take Randy over Kim Jong-Un. But you get the idea. Given other responsible choices, which we certainly were lucky enough to have, I would always select them over Randy Garbin.

    Randy writes that “[his] little experiment exposing the subtle hostilities of Jenkintonian civics has proven a rousing success.” I don’t think this is the case. First of all, the hostility he has encountered is all from me, and I characterize it all as self-defense. It is 100% in response to his posting insults and lies about me and my colleagues. So Randy’s experiment has proven that if someone calls me a liar, I will respond. And if you imply that I am corrupt, I will respond. I don’t think this creates great insight into any aspect of Jenkintown — subtle or not.

    As for “this was also a Machiavellian blunder for Council. Isn’t it best to bring your enemies under your tent to keep an eye on them?”, there are a couple of issues. The first is, our tiny borough’s all-volunteer council doesn’t usually refer to “The Prince” as a reference for how we should act. The second is that I really don’t care enough about Randy to want to keep an eye on him. The most important, is that I don’t like or respect him, and so don’t want to have to deal with him any more than I am absolutely obligated by law to do.

    And as for his closing “Rick Bunker will surely claim I am unqualified for the position. If the primary qualification of a representative is to listen to, engage with, and help the voter, then Rick Bunker has failed us every in every regard.” Well, a) I don’t say he is unqualified, but he’ll never get my vote; b) I would argue that I am indeed the one who listens to him the most; c) and engages with him; d) and although he’ll probably never believe it, did expend a fair amount of energy trying to help him, before he flew into the flurry of public insults that made it impossible for me to do so.

    I am proud of the work I do for Jenkintown. And I enjoy almost all of it. And I should probably ignore this stuff, but it seems I have responded yet again.

    Rick Bunker

    1. First, the headline is wrong. Randy never ran for council. He applied to be appointed to fill a vacancy. There is a substantial difference.

      Actually, if you look at the last election result, no one on the ballot in 2015 faced any opposition. In fact, once on the board — and a Democrat — you can probably serve for as long as you’d like. No one runs for Council.

      The most offensive thing he wrote was, certainly, “so one might think that maybe [Rick Bunker] has something to conceal, a relationship to hide, a deal to protect.” I know that I ran for office, so should be prepared for this kind of bile.

      And yet he isn’t. For the record, Rick Bunker ran unopposed in the last election. In effect, he did not run for anything. He got in standing still. At least I had to face scrutiny.

      But to have someone publish in a newspaper that they think I am corrupt, makes me see red.

      Correction: I wrote that when someone responds as Rick Bunker did to a simple, common sense suggestion by a voter and resident of the community, one can easily come to such a conclusion. Not only did Rick Bunker state, “This is the way we’ve always done it. This is the way that everyone else does it. I see no reason to change this now,” but when fellow member Laurie Durkin suggested that the issue warranted further discussion, Rick Bunker shook his head. “No, I don’t see any reason to discuss this.”

      When we hear our elected officials go on the defensive like that, you should wonder if something stinks in the Borough of Jenkintown.

      Randy’s only “evidence” for this assertion is that I disagree with him on changing the way Jenkintown maintains sidewalks (incidentally it is the same as *every* borough in Pennsylvania), and that I don’t allow his public insults to go by without responding.

      I don’t care about any other boroughs in Pennsylvania. I live here.

      He writes “On other issues, I have certainly voiced my opinions.” If Randy would stick to opinions on issues, he might find in me a great ally. Or at least someone who wants to debate issues in a friendly way. However he has resorted to ad hominem attacks on borough employees, and on me personally, many, many times.

      Rick Bunker keeps digging his own hole in that regard. Of all the dealings I’ve had with public and/or elected officials, I’ve never found myself in such stunned amazement at the display of ignorance and intransigence. Of the 12 members of the board, he just can’t resist responding and often like a bully and calling me a “crackpot.”

      It is to these personal attacks that I respond with fervor. Not to any ideas about sidewalks. For what it is worth, I don’t see enough benefit to changing the way sidewalks and curbs are maintained in the borough, to be worth the cost and disruption and secondary effects of changing. But it isn’t the worst idea in the world. And walkability is a worthy goal, and one of Jenkintown’s strong points.

      Strong points that Jenkintown doesn’t back up with any official support and Rick is dead-set against mere discussion. We pay for roads. We don’t pay for sidewalks. Why?

      We should emphasize that Rick Bunker serves on the Borough Council’s finance committee. You’d think he’d understand the principles of wholesale pricing and volume discounts. As a community, we could literally save hundreds of thousands of dollars for our sidewalks and curbs and get a far superior result if we’d apply those principles. The fact that he fights against this indicates at best a fundamental incompetence, and at worst, a breach of professional integrity.

      What I have not been doing, is sitting back and allowing Randy to imply that I am corrupt, to make fat jokes about borough employees, to say that I “lie through my teeth”, call me a “pompous bloviator” (I actually kind of admire that one, and it is the only one that might be a little bit accurate), lie that I pounded my fist on the desk during a council meeting, call me a bully and much more, without responding.

      Perhaps Rick didn’t pound his fist, but his rhetoric had much the same effect. One could almost see the shoe come off.

      Just like I am not letting this poison pen nonsense he has written go by without response. Randy writes “Most telling was this: When I ended an answer to a question with, “…should I be lucky enough to serve on this board,” Rick responded audibly, “That’s unlikely.” I certainly did say this. I thought I said “extremely unlikely.”

      To which Ms. Sines-Pancoe responded with a glare and cut off any further questioning. Rick just couldn’t resist, and in my mind, a public servant with so little restraint should probably find another venue to serve as a volunteer.

      Why on earth would Randy imagine that our board would invite some crackpot who harassas [sic] us with lies, posts pictures of our houses, comes to meetings with a monster zoom camera lens to photograph the women on council, publishes innuendo and demeaning personal attacks, pesters staff with pointless and expensive RTK requests, and more, to join us?

      I am sorry that the “public” aspect of public service serves as such an inconvenience for Rick Bunker. Rick seems to think that just because he’s volunteering his time, he should be above reproach? Forgive me, but anyone who has the power to tax me all but deserves public scrutiny — as intense as possible. Our democracy demands it.

      Incidentally, this is the camera I used, a Nikon D-90.

      https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/71a6d2fMyWS._SL1500_.jpg

      This “monster zoom” is the standard 18-105 mm lens that comes with the kit. I used it not only to take picture of “the women” but all the members of council sitting on the committee during a public hearing in order to compile a library of file photos for future publishing endeavors such as this one. (Rick wasn’t there at the time.) If any of the women (or men) felt uncomfortable with this, then they clearly misunderstand the concept and requirements of public service.

      The RTK (right-to-know) requests are provided by law to concerned individuals who seek information about the activities of their government. If Jenkintown had done a proper accounting of the costs of sidewalk and curb remediation during the paving program, I could simply call the Borough and ask for a number. I found no fewer than four different forms used by residents and businesses, and worse, a wide range of estimates from contractors often for the same work. This does not seem to be a concern of Rick’s. People in Ward 3 should be asking why.

      Does he imagine we want to spend our evening with him five or six times a month? Council isn’t a social club, but it is a collaborative body, where interpersonal dynamics do matter.

      Interesting that Rick uses the word “we”. Is he speaking for Council? My expectation of politics includes a participation in a healthy debate. Rick seems intent on eliminating that annoyance whenever possible.

      I’d sooner vote for Kim Jong-Un to join council. OK, that is hyperbole, I’d take Randy over Kim Jong-Un. But you get the idea. Given other responsible choices, which we certainly were lucky enough to have, I would always select them over Randy Garbin.

      And so, Rick compares someone who sincerely cares about the direction of his chosen place of residence and who participates in the democratic process to a murderous dictator. And then he accuses me of ad hominem attacks.

      Randy writes that “[his] little experiment exposing the subtle hostilities of Jenkintonian civics has proven a rousing success.” I don’t think this is the case.

      Rick needs to revisit the definition of “subtle”, although this latest attack is anything but. Curious that every member of the board is a registered Democrat. if the two new Council members also belong to the party, they may be perfectly qualified, but they might not represent any philosophical diversity.

      First of all, the hostility he has encountered is all from me, and I characterize it all as self-defense.

      Indeed, the only member of Council that has expressly vented rage against me in a public forum is Rick Bunker. What does that say about his character?

      It is 100% in response to his posting insults and lies about me and my colleagues.

      I’ve never lied about anything I’ve personally observed about Rick Bunker. I stand by every word. Further, Rick’s defense against all of our sidewalk-related proposals have been summarily discredited.

      So Randy’s experiment has proven that if someone calls me a liar, I will respond. And if you imply that I am corrupt, I will respond. I don’t think this creates great insight into any aspect of Jenkintown — subtle or not.  As for “this was also a Machiavellian blunder for Council. Isn’t it best to bring your enemies under your tent to keep an eye on them?”, there are a couple of issues. The first is, our tiny borough’s all-volunteer council doesn’t usually refer to “The Prince” as a reference for how we should act. The second is that I really don’t care enough about Randy to want to keep an eye on him.

      And yet, Rick Bunker has posted several screeds and combative commentary not only on Walkable Jenkintown, but most alarmingly on my personal Facebook page, even after I asked him to stop and instead take it to WJ or its Facebook page! Until the candidacy of Donald Trump was it unprecedented to see an elected official troll a private citizen on social media in an attempt to discredit his motivations.

      The most important, is that I don’t like or respect him, and so don’t want to have to deal with him any more than I am absolutely obligated by law to do.

      Except that he’s attempting to shame (if not obstruct) me from exercising my legal rights by submitting my right-to-know requests.

      And as for his closing “Rick Bunker will surely claim I am unqualified for the position. If the primary qualification of a representative is to listen to, engage with, and help the voter, then Rick Bunker has failed us every in every regard.” Well, a) I don’t say he is unqualified, but he’ll never get my vote; b) I would argue that I am indeed the one who listens to him the most; c) and engages with him; d) and although he’ll probably never believe it, did expend a fair amount of energy trying to help him, before he flew into the flurry of public insults that made it impossible for me to do so.

      In actuality, the full extent of Rick Bunker’s “help” was to suggest that we take advantage of a fund set up by realtor Andrew Smith which Rick mistakenly believed would help us pay for out sidewalks. In fact, Mr. Smith has dedicated this fund to fix and clean up properties adjacent to those he hopes to sell in order to shore up their asking price. Rick also suggested that we borrow money from the bank against our house — to pay for Borough property.

      I am proud of the work I do for Jenkintown. And I enjoy almost all of it. And I should probably ignore this stuff, but it seems I have responded yet again.

      As I told Rick privately, I really had no intention on becoming a Borough Council member. Politics is not my thing, but when the vacancies appeared, I saw a journalistic opportunity to experience the process. I didn’t believe I’d have much of a chance or a story to write, but I did expect and for the most part experienced, a concerned but painfully cordial and engaging selection committee.

      But then Rick Bunker had to open up his big mouth and bark in no uncertain terms his disrespect for a 14-year resident who has only had the best interests of his community in mind. When he did that, I had my story — delivered on a silver platter. Rick Bunker took the bait hook, line, and sinker.

      Rick’s approach to politics should fit in well in this post-Obama era.

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