Councilman W. Wilson Goode Jr. has joined municipal leaders from 30 other cities and towns across the nation to establish a group called the Local Progress, a policy oriented organization concerned with issues of “prosperity, equal justice under law, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest effectively.”
Goode was one of seven council members from six cities chosen to serve on the group’s first board, last weekend in Washington D.C.
“We had an exciting exchange of ideas on issues such as living wage jobs and community benefit agreements,” Goode said, noting that officials from 30 cities convened in the nation’s capital for the event. “I had a tremendous weekend meeting passionate public servants from around the country. I was excited to both moderate and participate in a panel discussion on economic justice and to present my policy work.”
Much of the group’s discussion centered on job creation and the role of government in citizens’ lives.
“We kicked it off with lively presentations about how cities can foster smart economic growth,” said Nick Licata, a Seattle city council member who is chairing the Local Progress network. “Everyone agreed that we have to build an economy where workers are paid a living wage with adequate benefits, sick leave, and the security they need to support their families.”
Legislators said the results of the presidential election gave them a sense of optimism.
“A broad coalition of voters sent a powerful message on Election Day,” said Faith Winter, a council member from Westminster, Colo. “Voters want government that works in the public interest – not just the interest of multinational corporations – and that treats everyone with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
The attendees said they planned to continue sharing effective policy ideas over the coming months and years.
“We’re building a national movement for a more fair and just economy,” said Goode, “and we’re off to an amazing start.”
Other members of the inaugural board were: Licata, Winter, Brad Lander of New York City; Chuck Lesnick of Yonkers; Joe Moore of Chicago; and Julia Ross of St. Louis Park, Minn.
In addition to the support of members of various city councils, Local Progress was founded with the support of two core partner non-profit advocacy organizations: the Public Leadership Institute and the Center for Popular Democracy.
Whether they were setting new health goals with a personal trainer or stepping, hip shaking or walking off extra calories, citizens across the 8th Senatorial District enjoyed partaking in a free series of health-minded events sponsored by State Sen. Anthony H. Williams.
Williams just wrapped up his annual Health Awareness Season campaign, in which he invited the community to check out healthy activities for free from October to mid-November. The senator sponsored these free local events in partnership with Brown’s ShopRite, Bravo Health, Perssonal Health Chiropractic & Rehabilitation and the Law Office of Dennis G. Young, Jr., P.C.
“A healthy lifestyle is something we can all strive toward, whether we resolve to make better food choices, exercise more or maintain regular check-ups with our physician. We don’t have to make huge changes, but even little lifestyle improvements make a major difference,” Williams said. “As we look ahead toward the holiday season and all of the subsequent parties and meals, now is the perfect time to start or maintain good habits. The goal of my annual Health Awareness Season campaign is to show folks that being healthy is smart, attainable and even fun any time of the year.”
Williams kicked off his Health Awareness Season on Sept. 15 at the second annual Mary Mahoney Health Fair, held at the Pennsy Flea Market. Named for the nation’s first professionally trained African-American nurse, the fair focused on health awareness and early detection of health problems and included free health-related tests, advice, literature and demonstrations.
Williams sponsored a variety of free weekly events in the community, including a personal training session with Tyrone Muse on Mondays at Sayre Morris Recreation Center, line dancing with Ronnie Williams on Wednesdays at SOCCA at Turner School, Zumba with Shadina Gardner on Thursdays at Kingsessing Recreation Center, and Saturday morning walks at Cobbs Creek.
“Exercise isn’t always about running on a treadmill or lifting weights. It’s about moving your body and challenging yourself,” Williams said. “Working out can be fun, and these activities demonstrate all the many different ways to burn calories and get in shape, and in many cases, it doesn’t cost a thing.”
The senator also hosted a community blood drive with the American Red Cross on Sept. 28 at his Island Avenue district office location.
On Oct. 6, Williams and members of his staff participated in the annual Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes in Philadelphia. Williams, who lives with diabetes, said the walk raises awareness about the disease.
Diabetes is a leading cause of premature death in America. Some 1 in 10 Philadelphia residents struggle with diabetes. In Delaware County, it’s 1 in 12, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It is also a disease that can be managed with diet and exercise, along with medication.
“Maintaining insulin levels, eating healthy and exercising are crucial to managing diabetes. The walk not only raised awareness, but also benefitted research for a cure, all while getting some exercise in,” Williams said. “Thanks to some lifestyle changes, I’m able to keep my diabetes under control. I hope I can inspire other people living with this disease to do the same.”
The University of Pennsylvania School of Dental Medicine has received a $1.5 million grant for student scholarships from the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Designed to support student diversity and increase access for underrepresented minorities, the grant will allow Penn Dental Medicine to provide financial aid for four years to at least 26 new and current students at the school. The School is one of just three dental programs in the country to receive the HRSA award this year.
Penn Dental Medicine has received and distributed more than $1.9 million in HRSA scholarship grants in the past seven years. This year’s award, however, is the first time HRSA has committed to funding multiple years of scholarships at one time, giving continuity and reassurance to the students who receive them.
“We’re so fortunate to receive these scholarship funds in order to attract and retain talented students from across the country,” said Joan Gluch, Penn Dental Medicine’s associate dean for academic policies, director of community oral health and project director of the grant. “With these awards, we will be able to broaden access for students who would otherwise have been unable to attend Penn Dental Medicine.”
Beginning this semester, Penn Dental Medicine will receive $330,000, which will be divided among eligible students for scholarships of $15,000 each; the School will then receive $390,000 each of the following three years, providing eligible students with $15,000 in aid every year.
“The students who can benefit from this award appreciate the challenges faced in underserved populations when it comes to health care and are motivated to improve these circumstances,” said Beverley Crawford, Penn Dental Medicine’s director of diversity affairs and co-investigator on the grant along with Susan Schwartz, the School’s assistant dean for student affairs. “They are also more likely to choose to practice in an underserved area after graduation. The presence of these students at Penn Dental Medicine and the sharing of their experiences can only enhance the learning environment and provide their peers with a clearer understanding of our vulnerable populations.”
This award is given as part of HRSA’s Scholarships for Disadvantaged Students program, which provides funding to accredited schools offering degrees in the health professions and nursing programs. Participating schools then, in turn, can offer scholarships to full-time students from low-income and disadvantaged backgrounds over their tenure in school.
The Community Room at Montgomery County Community College’s West Campus in Pottstown overflowed with family and friends who applauded as 77 students received their General Education Diplomas (GED) during the fall GED graduation ceremony.
President Karen A. Stout. congratulated the students, praising their tenacity and determination to accomplish this goal.
“You make some of the best role models of Montgomery County Community College, because you have grit,” Stout said. “Grit is one of the most important non-cognitive skills necessary to achieve success. It means using your passion to accomplish your goal, in this case your GED. But it doesn’t end tonight with commencement. Continue your education, so you will have access to getting a job that will provide a living wage. We are proud of your grit.”
Chairman of the Montgomery County Commissioners Joshua D. Shapiro echoed her sentiments.
“You are here tonight because of your determination and commitment,” he said. “You found empowerment in yourself to accomplish this, and it is not going to stop tonight. You have a brighter future ahead for what you have done and what you will continue to do.”
GED program coordinator instructor Raymond Ricketts said 735 students have graduated since the program started in May 2006, and the graduation rate is 88 percent.
The Montgomery County Workforce Investment Board funds the program, which is free to Montgomery County students, and is held at the West Campus. The fee for out-of-county students is $100, which includes the GED test.
Graduating from the rigorous five-week program gives students the sense of accomplishment they need to want to continue their education, especially for the student speaker Yolanda Sills of Pottstown, a 32-year-old mother of four children, who tried three times before passing the final examination.
“Tomorrow, I will be a college student,” she said, since enrollment for the college’s spring semester started on Oct. 25. “I am going to pursue a liberal studies degree until I decide what I want to do.”
Many of the graduates will continue their educations. Paige Wasniewski, of Pottstown, will start classes at the college in January to pursue a career in sports medicine, and Nickia Ford-Oquendo, Pottstown, is enrolled in the Culinary Arts program.
The Culinary Arts Institute is led by Director/Chef Christopher Tanner, who also served as the keynote speaker for the ceremony.
“There are three things that will help you to succeed,” he told the graduates. “Mentorship, passion and opportunity.” Tanner explained how mentors enabled him to shape his passion and achieve goals throughout his career. Now, he is serving as a mentor for the students in the Culinary Arts program.
The evening ended with final congratulations from Workforce Investment Board Chairman Harvey Portner, who has attended every GED ceremony since the program started.
Five outstanding projects and their creators were honored at the annual Montgomery Awards ceremony sponsored by the Montgomery County Planning Commission.
This yearly program recognizes the best in planning, design and revitalization in Montgomery County and acknowledges the high-quality work and commitment of communities, organizations and professionals.
It has two major award categories. The Land Development Award focuses on excellence in land development and planning concepts.
The three projects honored in this category were Cold Point Manor in Whitemarsh Township; Germantown Academy, Phase 1 in Whitemarsh Township; and, Cynwyd Heritage Trail in Lower Merion Township.
The Revitalization Award recognizes successful revitalization projects and programs. Winners in this category were Cannon Square in Lansdale Borough and Glenside Commercial District Streetscape Enhancements in Cheltenham Township.
Cold Point Manor was honored for extensive collaborative efforts and effective site design. The project demonstrates how a public/private partnership can result in a well-designed development while accomplishing important transportation improvements. This small townhouse development places dwellings in small groupings of five units surrounding an attractively landscaped open space area. The compact design and distinctive architecture contribute to its human scale and sense of neighborhood. Extensive buffer plantings along the perimeter provide privacy for residents. Sidewalks and the construction of a portion of the county’s Cross County Trail were also installed as part of this development.
Extensive collaboration between the developer and township resulted in a site design that addressed the Township’s goal while meeting the developer’s needs.
The township’s goal was to alleviate traffic congestion at the offset intersection of Butler Pike, Flourtown Road, and Plymouth Road.
The result of thi collaboration was the realignment of Flourtown Road and the development of the site to allow townhouses.
The leadership and financing efforts of the developer were instrumental in formulating a public/private partnership, which included Whitemarsh Township, Plymouth Township, PennDOT and the Montgomery County Planning Commission, to complete the realignment. This partnership created an appealing neighborhood and accomplished much-needed road improvements, the commission said.
Germantown Academy received an award for environmentally sensitive site planning, sustainable building design, and restoration of natural features. This outstanding project successfully integrates the school’s natural environment into the campus design and incorporates environmental education into the academic curriculum.
The project, phase 1 of a master plan, involved removing outdated buildings and inappropriate uses along the Wissahickon Creek, which runs through the property, constructing a new 160,000-square-foot upper/middle school, reconfiguring the athletic complex and restoring natural habitats.
School buildings, using innovative green building practices, were reoriented to face the creek, and service areas and athletic fields were relocated from riparian and floodplain areas.
The original administration building was preserved and renovated and connects to the new school building by a glass-enclosed walkway, successfully blending the old with the new.
An appealing feature of the new building is the mixing of materials such as stone, glass, and steel. An attractive entry plaza serves as the main entrance and gathering area. Germantown Academy hopes to attain gold LEED certification for its new building.
As part of the sustainable goals of this project, a new athletic complex was created. Several athletic fields were relocated out of the floodplain adjacent to the Wissahickon Creek, allowing for the creation of a 6-acre area known as the Preserve.
The Preserve contains restored wetlands, ponds, wet meadows, woodlands, walking trails, and wildlife habitats.
The Cynwyd Heritage Trail won for an innovative planning concept, preservation of open space, and outstanding collaboration. The project transformed an abandoned rail line into an approximate 2.5-mile contemporary linear park that connects the community with its heritage and other natural and recreational amenities. Constructed along the former SEPTA Cynwyd regional rail line, the trail provides connections to neighborhoods, commercial areas, parks, and institutional properties. The trail is the first phase of a plan aimed to connect the growing regional trail system. A key design feature is that the trail is actually two in one—a paved main trail and a secondary gravel trail. Environmental sustainability was an important design component. Stormwater is captured and directed into swales and rain gardens. The abandoned Barmouth Station was redeveloped into an attractive trailhead, and the historic Cynwyd Station was preserved.
The creation and continued development of the trail has been a collaborative effort, the result of years of planning by the township and public and private stakeholders. Key to the trail completion was the creation of The Friends of the Cynwyd Trail, a volunteer group that assists the township in advocating and maintaining the trail. The township secured funding for the project from various sources and partnered with numerous organizations, businesses and community groups. Thousands of hours of volunteer labor were called essential to the trail’s success. This popular trail provides a new public open space, connects the community to its cultural heritage, and is a future link in the regional trail system.
Cannon Square a new townhouse development, received its award for the successful transformation of a former industrial property into 28 townhomes that fit seamlessly into their residential surroundings. This project has had a significant impact on the borough,provides new market-rate housing, in what could otherwise be a built-out community, and new residents to support the downtown business corridor.
These new homes fill the 1.34-acre site at the intersection of Second and Cannon streets. Garages that face alleys and common green spaces give this project a more urban feel, appropriate for its surroundings. Its location near the Lansdale train station and the heart of the borough’s downtown has made this a popular place for young families and empty nesters to purchase homes.
Although thise development was privately funded, the developers worked closely with the borough to create a final product that suited all parties. The borough made some minor zoning changes to allow this project to move forward quickly, and this has opened the door to future planned redevelopment. Cannon Square is one of several redevelopment projects that W.B. Homes, Inc. has undertaken in the county, and another Lansdale-based project is already in the works. This project, which brought new housing and residents, additional jobs, and an economic boost to the downtown, demonstrates how an underutilized property can be transformed into a community asset.
The Glenside Commercial District award was for streetscape enhancements that have revitalized the Easton Road corridor, which runs through the heart of Glenside. The improvements run the length of the Easton Road corridor between Arcadia University and the Glenside train station, with the addition of Wesley Plaza to the east.
The creation of Wesley Plaza and the Easton Road streetscape improvements, which include new paver block sidewalks, granite curbs, street furniture, street trees, and wayfinding signage, have helped attract at least ten new businesses to Glenside over the years. This corridor is now home to several special events throughout the year, bringing new patrons, an increase in commercial activity, and new jobs to the area.
These changes have also helped to leverage the operation of a seasonal farmers’ market, located at the train station’s parking lot off of Easton Road. Cheltenham’s dedication to this project, as well as its outreach to business owners and local institutions, has helped make downtown Glenside a focal point of the surrounding neighborhoods.