One of the great lines in Rebels With a Cause (from our recent movie night) came from the founder of The Trust for Public Land, Huey Johnson, who went to a county supervisor in Marin County, California (at the time the "rebels" were fighting to create Point Reyes National Seashore) with an idea to help his image which had been tarnished by his relentless support for development. Johnson told him that helping to create a large park would get him great media exposure and make him look really good. The county supervisor took Johnson's advice and as a result, San Franciso residents now enjoy the largest suburban park in the country. It's in the interest of our elected officials to take this chance to seize a great public relations opportunity.
It's Their Constitutionally Mandated Duty
Marple's Commissioners kill Cardinal Crossing
October 5, 2016
Greenwashing the opposition: December 3rd
Delco Needs an Open Space Bond
Our PA Supreme Court has held that Article 1, Section 27 also applies to municipal government and cautions them from acting in ways that that diminish public trust resources or unduly infringe on protected individual environmental rights. To comply with such constitutional restrictions on their authority, municipalities must engage in pre-action environmental impact analyses to gauge the impact of a particular action on protected environmental rights and public natural resources. “Protection of environmental values...is a quintessential local issue that must be tailored to local conditions.” Robinson Township, 83 A.d at 979
County Council Blocks an Open Space Bond
Air Quality Update: December 27
We’ve been asked by several supporters if we intend to endorse any candidates for the upcoming election. As a nonpartisan organization drawing supporters from both sides of the aisle, Save Marple Greenspace cannot endorse candidates. We would not enjoy the support of our friends in both parties if we took sides in an election. This is not to say, however, that we will not continue to criticize officials who have shirked their responsibility to protect our environment, a constitutionally-mandated duty and necessary precondition for saving the Don Guanella forest.
Since the fight to save the Don Guanella forest is first and foremost an environmental movement, we need elected officials who don’t regard the environment with contempt which is a position many of them seem to hold in light of the two most recent PA Environmental Scorecards. The compilation of environmental votes over the 2013-2014 and 2015-2016 sessions reveals a pitiful record for more than half the legislators in our county and particularly for those whose districts encompass the forest. For anyone who says that these environmental votes don’t affect the immediate well-being of Delaware County residents, keep in mind that four of the eleven votes in the 2015-2016 report related to reducing carbon pollution and privatizing our state parks. It’s no surprise that Delco came in 17th from the bottom nationally among 3,143 counties in a very dangerous air pollution category when 58 legislators scored a zero percent rating on the Scorecard and dozens more got only a 9%.
This is the oath that each PA legislator must take to assume office:
When our state representatives and senators repeatedly voted against
our environment, they also violated their oath of office
What you can do to help –>
The Environmental Rights Amendment’s purpose was to protect public natural resources and Pennsylvania’s environment. Even if Delaware County taxpayers had not paid higher rates for one hundred years to cover what was not being paid by the Archdiocese on the Don Guanella land, the Environmental Rights Amendment would still apply. But the amendment is all the more relevant in this case because the public assumed the primary ownership burden of a private landowner thus adding a public ownership aspect to the land. And yet our public officials continue to do nothing to preserve the sanctity of this forest. Importantly, the Constitution applies to all officials: elected, appointed, or hired. This includes township supervisors and commissioners and county officials. We intend to make that part of the basis of any legal action going forward. Given recent pro-environment decisions by the PA Supreme Court, we expect to prevail, too.
One important factor in the success of the groups which saved 100,000 acres in and around Point Reyes National Seashore and San Francisco was support from elected officials at all levels. They had legislative heroes like Clem Miller who championed their cause in Congress. They had state legislators and county government officials who stood up to much more powerful organizations than the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and said no: this land should belong to the people. Whose support do we have?
representative a ZERO, and two nearby representatives 9% for their votes against the environment. In contrast, several other nearby legislators did receive perfect 100% pro-environment scores, but unfortunately, the Don Guanella forest is not in their legislative district.
By Ken Hemphill
“The people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment. Pennsylvania's public natural resources are the common property of all the people, including generations yet to come. As trustee of these resources, the Commonwealth shall conserve and maintain them for the benefit of all the people.” (Article 1, Section 27)
Despite a few new names in 2016, more than half the Delco delegation continues to
Some legislators would say “this is a local matter” and that they can’t get involved. This is simply not true. State legislators get involved all the time in all sorts of issues at the local level...when it suits them. They need to get involved here and there are many things they could do to prevent the destruction of the Don Guanella forest. This ranges from holding up state permits and passing more restrictive riparian buffer protection (which they weakened in 2014) to using eminent domain and authorizing the creation of a state park (There would be 26 state parks smaller than Don Guanella State Park). Recall that Ridley Creek State Park was created by eminent domain and is now one of the best suburban state parks in Pennsylvania, at least for now. Who knows if it will survive another legislative attempt to turn it over to private corporations?
"I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity."
Any PA State House or Senate official who refuses to take the oath must forfeit their office, yet what’s the difference between refusing to take the oath and refusing to abide by it? When elected officials take the oath, they swear to defend the entirety of the Constitution of the Commonwealth. They don’t swear to defend the parts they agree with and ignore the parts their campaign donors don’t like. Regrettably, there is no mechanism other than the voting booth to remove officials who violate their oaths.
Judging by the results of the Environmental Scorecard, it’s clear that more than half our legislature has grievously violated Article 1, Section 27 of our Constitution which became enshrined in Pennsylvania law in 1971 after two consecutive sessions of the General Assembly and an affirmative vote by the electorate. The environmental rights amendment first passed the House 190-0 in June of 1969 and then the Senate passed it 39-0 in March of 1970. It passed the House again in February of 1971 with a vote of 199-0. The Senate then again approved it that same month with a vote of 45-0. When it was time for the public to approve it by referendum, it received more than one million yes votes to just 259,979 no votes. Our PA Supreme Court recently reflected on the overwhelming support the amendment enjoyed: "To say the Environmental Rights Amendment was broadly supported by the people and their representatives would be an understatement." And yet more than half of our current legislature flouts this amendment, i.e., the Constitution, on a regular basis.
PA legislators representing Delaware County
By Ken Hemphill
It's not a done deal: January 18th
When our legislators are sworn in, they are not given the option of upholding only the parts of the Constitution their campaign donors don't object to.
Click each image to see the user-friendly scorecard.
violate their oath to uphold the Constitution by voting to degrade our environment.
The American Lung Association’s report and our 6th place in PA cancer rates are proof enough that Delco’s environment is making us and our children sick. Saving the forest is absolutely necessary to protect the environment that sustains us and to prevent further degradation of our local ecosystem. We cannot protect Darby Creek, the air we breathe, an excellent habitat for wildlife, a superb outdoor recreation area, a heat sink for eastern Delaware County, and a buffer from Blue Route pollution and noise without protecting the very thing that provides those benefits. But there will simply be no way to save the Don Guanella forest without the support of elected officials who share these concerns. We need action, but to date, we’ve had nothing but lip service.
We need elected officials who see us as being part of nature, not apart from it. It’s distressing then that in the most recent report our senator for the district got a 20%, our
YYou may have missed our other updates
Essentially, when our state representatives and senators voted against our environment, they also violated the oath of office they took to uphold the Pennsylvania Constitution which includes one of the most important amendments to any state constitution in the county: our Environmental Rights Amendment:
*The percentages represent the number of times an official voted FOR the environment.
By Ken Hemphill
The Darlington Estate