Living in Hanover

Living in Hanover

'Apparently a blog about living in Hanover'

Garbage Survey

One of the biggest issues that comes up when discussing borough issues is garbage service. As a council, we take this seriously and borough staff have began a number of assessments of the current system.

One of these involves a survey which was in the recent borough newsletter. I have scanned a version in case you do not have a copy. please fill this out and return it to the borough office.

You can either drop it off in the night deposit or scan it and e-mail it back to info@borough.hanover.pa.us.

The only way we can get real feedback is through the form. Please help us help you by filling out the form so that we can make some decisions for the future.

Friday Fun

I like to laugh so heading out to support the first Standup Comedy night at The Sound Room on Broadway last Friday was a no brainer. I ended up turning the excursion into an exploration of some of my favorite downtown places.

The night started with a beer at Something Wicked. My friend Macy served me a great beer and fellow First Ward Councilman Gerry Funke also stopped in for a drink – don’t worry, that didn’t violate the Sunshine Law!

I headed to The Sound Room next and found the room mostly filled with 15 minutes before the starting time, a great sight to see. My friend Jenn, her son Ben and a friend of theirs also came by. I also saw Diana and her husband, Dan. By the time the first comic took the stage, the room was filled with around 40-some people. Shannon Lanier, the owner of the venue, even had to bring in some extra chairs.

I had a great time, especially considering the $3 cover charge. A guy named Kevin took on the challenge of the Open Mic and had some really good material for his first time doing standup. My friend Beau Bowden put on a nice set and Kayla Ruth had the room laughing for most of her set. Robbie Soto, the booker for the show, closed out with some of his material.

I really look forward to watching this event grow. I especially like their goal of having Improv Night, which I will hopefully be involved with through the improv project I am leading at Hanover Little Theatre. They had a young crowd there which can only benefit downtown Hanover in the long run.

The only real option after the show was to go to Miscreation, so we did that and had a drink., Naturally, I ran into several people I knew. I finished my second drink at the bar and talked with Mark Mathias, one of the owners. They still had a good crowd around 10 p.m., but I decided to head home.

Well, that is until I remembered that I had not been to Timeline Arcade in a while. I had no problem deciding to change that fact and played a bunch of games before heading home.

Don’t miss out on fun opportunities like this. There are Open Mics and other options around town more than you think. Come support Hanover’s talent and grab a bite to eat and a drink while you’re at it.

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Brian March 14, 2016 2 Comments Permalink

Good News

Wow, I didn’t realize it had been so long since I posted. I mean, I knew I had neglected this space for a while – partially on purpose, partially because I was busy – but I didn’t realize it had been almost eight months.

So, I’m on council now. That plays a role in my lack of posting. I kept most of my comments to shorter items on Facebook once the primary election ended. I had fewer reasons to shout from the rooftops once I realized how many people in town really wanted the group I ran with to succeed. So that was part of it. Then Barb left. And so did some council members. And I had things I wanted to focus on more than bury myself in council business before I officially had to.

That’s why the blog has been barren. Well until now. And I don’t come here to mock or complain or point fingers. Well, actually, I do want to point fingers, but in a good way.

One of my biggest problems with the former leadership was their communication or lack thereof. Information didn’t always get out to residents and, when it did, there often seemed to be a negative connotation to everything. I wanted to fix that. Thanks to some help from borough manager Flo Ford, treasurer Sam Miller and secretary Dorrie Neiderer, a few changes I asked for have already taken place in the first six weeks since the board turned over.

First of all, there is now an Announcements page on the borough website. This was added to the top-level navigation on the borough’s website in January and serves as a place to keep agendas and general community information.

The second change somes on the Zoning Department page. At a recent seminar for newly elected officials sponsored by the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs, I realized that the Hanover Zoning Ordinance was not available anywhere online. The webpage on the borough site talked about how you could get a hard copy or CD version of the ordinance, but that included a fee (stipulated by ordinance).

When I talked to Flo and Sam about it, they agreed that the ordinance should be widely available. People who requested a copy via e-mail got one free of charge so I asked if we could just post it online as well. A week later, Dorrie did just that and now you can download the zoning ordinance from the borough website.

I can’t thank the staff enough for listening and helping make these things comes to life. They may seem small, but putting a lot of little things together makes for big changes. I have a lot of other ideas and really liked hearing that some of them were either already in the works or aligned with ideas staff already had. We can’t do everything in six weeks, but I think we’re off to a good start.

 

Brian February 16, 2016 Leave A Comment Permalink

So That Happened

As my wife and I cleaned up after dinner last night, I told her I changed my mind about going to the Hanover Borough Council meeting. I had many reasons.

  • I had some work to do for Hanover Little Theatre
  • I’ll be going to plenty of meetings once I’m on council next year
  • I didn’t really feel like it

And the most important of all

  • The current leadership has made it clear they don’t care what their critics think so why go sit in a basement with no cell reception to see them do things that potentially make me cranky.

So I watched some TV, walked up the street for ice cream and then sat down to post the announcement of HLT’s new season (it’s going to be awesome) on the theatre’s web site. I also opened up a tab to check Facebook and saw the Living in Hanover page had received a message that said “Barb resigned.”

Immediately, I thought someone was playing a prank on me, but then I checked a bunch of other places and saw the news was correct – manager Barb Krebs had decided to step down as of July 17. Or Oct. 2. That’s all not clear to me now, but the upshot is that she is leaving her position.

Don’t expect me to celebrate. Sure, I never had faith in Barb’s ability to lead the borough and pretty much everyone I encountered since I decided to run for office told me my first act should be to get rid of her (that would take at least six members of council so I couldn’t promise anything), but I’m not going to jump up and down because someone quit their job before the heat got turned up.

First of all, I’m not as mean as I think some people may want to paint me. Secondly, my desire to run for council goes beyond simply thinking we could do better in the borough manager’s chair. A total change of attitude in borough leadership needs to take place. Some steps have been made, but the borough still faces lots of debt, much of it racked up under Krebs’ tenure, and suffers from a staggering lack of foresight when planning projects.

The insularity has to end at some point, but I expect those who hold power over the sitting council to simply promote from within instead of using the next six months to find an outside candidate who will bring new ideas to Hanover, so last night’s news just represents one small step in the process.

Thinking Isn’t Complaining

Recently, someone commented on another post that I complain a lot. I get that once in a while because anyone who has ever met me in person knows I come off crankier on the Internet than I am in real life.

While some may feel upset or bothered when someone totally mischaracterizes their personality, I actually love it. First of all, there’s the whole judging me without really knowing me thing. I try not to do it for others (not always successfully) and am amused when others do it to me. But more importantly, it’s the notion that complaining about things you have a problem with is inherently a bad thing. Lastly there is the notion that the comment can be seen as a complaint about someone complaining meaning that you are complaining so the three fingers are pointing back at you. Or some nonsense like that. I like complaining about complaining sometimes so I let that one go.

Just because I or anyone else complains does not make them bad, especially since a look at the sum total of the things I talk about would show lots of cheerleading (maybe too much), but most importantly, pragmatism. Sometimes I do complain, but sometimes it’s much deeper than that.

Sure, I criticize the borough manager for not being able to use Power Point correctly or for having a horrific website as the face of Hanover, but those are specific complaints with easy solutions in areas where I have professional experience. When you take the things you learn and try to apply them for positive effect to benefit others, how is that bad?

I thought about this a lot this morning as I read a Chronicle of Higher Education article called “What ‘Learning How to Think’ Really Means.” The article focuses on the positive effects of a liberal arts education. One clause in one sentence sentence does a perfect job of explaining my problems with the borough’s rush to push the Fire Museum into the old Eagle Fire Company, a move which curiously hit the fast track the day after the council president was slaughtered in the primary election.

People with intellectual virtues will be persistent, ask for help when they need it, provide help when others need it, and not settle for expedient but inaccurate solutions to tough problems.

I’m not going so far as to endow myself with the lofty gift of “intellectual virtues,” but I have been thinking a lot about college since I recently had my 25-year reunion at Allegheny College, a place where I really learned to think and judge and act (and party, to be honest).

During one conversation at the reunion, the topic of a minor came up. We were walking by the building that housed the Classics department. Since I took AP Latin in high school and received credit for my test score, the head of the department tried to recruit me as a Classics major. That wasn’t happening, so he also made a pitch for minoring in the field. I pretty much dismissed it out of hand, but ended up pretty close to actually pulling it off.

I had credit for two classes from the AP exam and could use my classes in Greek and Roman Art and Green and Roman Epics to get close to the six-class requirement for a minor. I may have had one other class, but the real stumbling block was the requirement of what Allegheny called a “seminar ” class for any minor. Seminars were fairly intensive classes that prepared people in a major for their senior thesis, nicknamed a “comp” at Allegheny. You took your seminar as a junior so you got a taste of what comping would feel like.

I ended up taking three seminars in my major, English. They each required a 25ish page page at the end of the trimester. By comparison, my comp was 60-some pages long. I took multiple English comps because that was my speciality, and they came up with some really, really awesome topics during my junior and senior year. But I was in no way, shape or form putting myself through the same thing in Classics. Or History or Communication Arts, two other departments I was close to minoring in.

This long explanation is my way of saying that my time at Allegheny taught me to seek out many different ways of approaching things. I took some classics, some comm arts, a bunch of history, a psych class, computer science, economics and even theatre appreciation (which I took mainly because it was one of the few things open when I did registration freshman year).

But I also wrestled for four years, worked on the campus newspaper, played and officiated intramural sports, was an officer in my fraternity and represented us on the Interfraternity Council. None of this counts the amount of time sitting around and talking with lots of other really smart people who were taking their own eclectic mix of courses because they, like me, just found it interesting to learn new stuff.

I guess that is why I shake my head when people try to pigeon hole my curiosity and outspokenness as complaining. I grew up with parents who expected their eight children to learn as much as they could and know how to think critically about the decisions they made. I had seven siblings who held me accountable for so many things. Then I had four years of reading and talking and questioning and taking action.

All of that has led to what some people want to characterize as “complaining.” I will never accept that as the truth. I don’t just throw out negativity. I take a look at what is happening, run it through the experiences I have had and the things I have learned and offer a perspective that others may not have considered. Sometimes that means the project you think is perfect may need new and varied voices and may need to take a little longer than you want it to be done (which you probably hate because if you do it now you won’t have to listen to anyone else because they don’t have your experience so they can’t be right).

A fire museum is a wonderful thing. Preserving history is a great virtue. Reusing classic buildings is an admirable goal. But to do it right, you need the intellectual virtues to know that it needs to take time, care and careful consideration with the voices of museum professionals, fundraising experts and unemotional onlookers to make sure that we aren’t trying to save history every seven or 10 years because we never took the time to plan and discuss things beyond seven to 10 years.

So if it’s complaining to expect a major project to have clearly defined goals and an articulated path to success, call me guilty. I just think I’m using the tools I learned in life.

 

Brian June 18, 2015 1 Comment Permalink

Communication is Hard

The problem with the Internet is that everyone thinks they can do it right. Making your own website has never been easier and cheaper. Anyone can get any message they want out to the public.

That doesn’t mean everyone can do it well. I’m looking at you, Hanover Borough.

I am not saying that I am the greatest communicator in the world, but I have been doing this for a living for a couple of decades and then some. You learn a few things in that time. I hope to pass some of those lessons onto the folks at the borough in 2016 since they don’t seem to want advice from people who aren’t on council at this point.

A perfect example is the home page right now. This screenshot was taken a little after 10 this morning.

Screenshot 2015-06-11 10.04.51Now I’m not saying the borough shouldn’t communicate news about how the fire (and why they capitalized fire, I don’t know, but that’s another fight for another day) at Miller Chemical, but when you throw it on the bottom of the page and do it in a way that makes the background image look a little funky and includes random capitalization and doesn’t include any context (I know the fire was a big deal, but you can’t assume everyone knows everything), you look like communication with the public is an afterthought.

The borough did a good job with letting people know to shelter-in-place after the fire happened, but this just smacks of “It’s not our problem. Stop bothering us.” When you don’t dedicate a space on our website to current news updates and just throw them on the home page when you feel you need to share info, that’s how you come off.

 

Brian June 11, 2015 3 Comments Permalink

Brian May 20, 2015 1 Comment Permalink

A Quick Tutorial

I know everyone understands technology at different levels. Many things that come easy to me confuse other people. I try to have a lot of patience because I know getting frustrated with folks can just make it worse.

But watching Barb Krebs do the “video report” at last night’s council meeting drove me up a tree.

First of all, there was no video, just still images. Which are OK if they tell a good story (I thought these were mostly inside baseball or self-congratulatory, but whatever). But just because the agenda template which Bruce Rebert gave to Barb says “Video Report,” that doesn’t mean that you need to keep those words on there if that does not represent what you are doing. Since you were hired for your communication skills, that should be simple to understand.

Secondly, Powerpoint is not that hard. I really wanted to go up, take the mouse from her and show her how to use the program. Instead of actually running a slideshow in the program, she clicked individually on each picture in the sidebar, which is distracting when she is scrolling and clicking on the wrong picture and just moving the mouse around the screen. This also meant that the pictures were not full screen so only about 75 percent of the available real estate on the video screens was being used effectively.

Like I said, I get that not everyone picks up technology as quickly as I do. So I have put together this difficult and detailed tutorial to help Barb Krebs and anyone else struggling with Powerpoint.

Presentation2

That’s it. That’s how you properly display a slideshow in Powerpoint. You can also go to the top, select Slideshow and choose from the options there, but the handy little icon right next to the percentage bar is the best way to start a slideshow. Once launched, just click your mouse or hit the space bar to go to the next slide. There are lots of other tricks, but starting the slideshow and clicking the mouse is my free tip of the week.

All of this may sound petty to some people, but it’s just another indication that one of the problems in the borough now is the lack of attention to detail. If you are paid a lot of money for your job and that job entails doing presentations in public, you should know how to use the technology available to you. But I am sure this is someone else’s fault because that’s how borough leadership rolls these days.

Brian April 23, 2015 1 Comment Permalink

Council Agenda for April

The council agenda and staff reports for April are now at the borough website. Remember, folks, this is the first meeting since the water fiasco that was announced conveniently after the last council meeting took place. If you are upset about that issue, show up and let them know.

Other items of note:

  • The amusement tax will be repealed, effective for this year. Finally! Add this to the children’s library and nature trail as incidents when borough leadership swore they were doing the right thing, but now they have to reverse course because they realize they were completely wrong.
  • Bonds will be reissued to save close to a million dollars. I bet that money is already spoken for via unbudgeted expenses like the Tanger building, which took up 12 days of borough employee labor this month. But it won’t cost us anything!
  • The borough manager’s “report” actually has a little bit of a report instead of just her re-stating agenda items. Maybe the heat is getting to her because I don’t remember seeing this kind of extensive report before.
  • The rec commission is getting a couple of new members (full disclosure – my wife is the school board rep to this group and helped recruit one of the two).

I’m planning on being there.

Council

Reports – April

Committee Meeting Agenda

Here is the agenda for Wednesday night’s committee meeting. Last time they had this meeting, the agenda miraculously grew from 11 items that were publicly shared to 21 items that were actually discussed, potentially to keep people from coming and sharing their two cents.

As you can see, the amusement tax is on there for discussion again since Barb Krebs can’t trust us to actually share any information before the meeting. The special events permits are also on there. Curious to see their plans with that. I might be at the meeting.

This is your first chance to come to a public meeting and let council know what you think of the the problems with the water system and the rate hike which they passed conveniently right before they announced their had been problems at the plant.

Finance Committee