Unlike cities, places like
Smaller and more fragmented, these older, established communities — the "first suburbs" — are wrestling with crime, struggling schools and sky-rocketing taxes all alone.
Or at least they were.
Enter an advocacy group called, appropriately enough, "First Suburbs."
According to its website: "The Southeastern Pennsylvania (SEPA) First Suburbs Project is a coalition of community organizations and institutions focused on solving common challenges facing the older, developed suburbs of Bucks, Chester, Delaware, and Montgomery Counties. These communities share conditions of diminishing economic investment, declining infrastructure, struggling school districts, and social services lagging behind the needs of their residents. Left to solve these problems on a municipal-by-municipal basis, these communities will continue to decline, reducing the quality of life for the Southeastern region of
Instead of suffering under this decline, they've joined together to pool their resources, their voices and their chances.
Headed locally by Norristown Borough Manager David Forrest (familiar to locals as
Actually, they're coming to this town — on Thursday.
From to , the group, along with county and state officials, will be at the west campus of
Similar forums have already been held in Bucks and
Thursday night, the folks from First Suburbs want to hear from people in western
The Mercury has undertaken an effort to help those voiced get heard. As part of its Ben Franklin project, The Mercury has bee soliciting the thoughts of its readers on all these issues, and will be providing them to the First Suburbs representatives on Thursday.
Asked about issues like Section 8 housing, taxes and education funding, our readers responded on our Facebook page, by phone and by a special e-mail account created specifically to collect comments for this purpose.
Reader Robin Unruh posted this suggestion for lowering taxes on The Mecury's Facebook page: "My opinion, make borough employees pay more (much more) into there own health benefits, cut the police budget and have some greater accountability!"
An e-mail from SkyhighbillG suggested: "Senior citizens over 70 years of age should not have to continue having their property taxes increase each year. Taxes should be frozen."
Julia Jackson of
On our Facebook page, reader Chris Huff wrote: "No more unfunded State mandates that cripple local taxing jurisdictions (school districts, local municipalities). Eliminate or severely reduce school property taxes, create a new formula for education funding."
One of our
"The public meetings are designed to get our voices heard and demonstrate the power of our communities and coalition," according to the flier posted on the Pottstown School District Web site.
"All organizations and community members who care about the future of our townships and boroughs should be present," the flier said.
John Armato, the district's director of community relations, urged residents to attend. "This is an opportunity to make our case firsthand with the state, county and federal officials who make the decisions that affect the problems we're wrestling with, like funding public education and the need for encouraging economic development in communities such as ours."
Members of Pottstown Borough Council have also been active in urging residents to attend, as has Pottstown Borough Manager Jason Bobst.
Montgomery County Commissioners James Matthews and Joseph Hoeffel have confirmed they will be there, as has state Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., and five state representatives and staff members of two congressmen and the Democratic candidate for governor, Dan Onorato.
Also on hand will be Joel Johnson, director of the Montgomery County Housing Authority and two members of the Montgomery County Planning Commission.