Fall means getting back up to speed

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The heat and quiet of summer begin to fade; new stormwater regs have local officials angry

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times
There are few times that elicit such joy and enthusiasm. Sure, kids might get ramped up before the holidays, but we adults — well, you can see all of us with kids walking with a lighter step this week for one reason: school starts Monday!

While our kids are somewhere between excited about seeing their friends again and meeting their new teachers and dreading the return of homework, we adults know the long, dark painful days of summer are at an end. No more trying to figure out how to keep them occupied and out of trouble.

At least in our household, one could argue it came a week too late, as attested by the pile of pottery shards that started the summer as a Limoges vase and ended this week as rubble.

For me, though, it’s more. It’s the end of the quiet sleepy days of summer.

“Hah,” would of course be the immediate response of my business partner and colleague, Kathleen Brady Shea, when I’d point out that summer is the quiet season. And while we haven’t seen much in the way of news slow down this summer, or even our usual hit in site traffic as our readers head to the beach, I suspect that by Oct. 1, we’ll be pining for the relatively quiet days of July and August.

With elections from State Representative to President of the United States on the November ballot, we should see the usual ramp up of political news after Labor Day, not to mention the usual mix of schools news, the Unionville Fair, the Mushroom Festival and countless other events that turn fall into a blur around here.

And that doesn’t account for the behind the scenes stuff we do here, as we continue to grow our three (and counting) news sites into a full-fledged, county-wide news gathering operation.

Of course, being a small, locally-owned and operated business, we wear a number of hats from site programming to ad selling (and yes, we’re still looking for folks to sell ads on a commission basis — so if you know someone who likes to sell or someone with a business who’d like to get hundreds of thousands of local page views a month for an impressively low price, shoot me a note), so we’re constantly on the run.

So as school starts and summer ends, we feel that excitement of possibility, the thrill of new beginnings and a sticky note reminding us to take our vitamins, because this is going to be a non-stop final four months of the year.

* * *

You’ve seen the headlines here, very likely: storm water management rules from the state Department of Environmental Protection mean local municipalities are looking at being forced to spend in some cases more than $100,000 per year over the next five years to fund reductions in sediment in runoff into the Brandywine, Red Clay and White Clay creeks.

Not surprisingly, and with reason, local elected officials are pretty angry and frustrated.

While there’s no question that increased sediment in the streams is becoming a bigger issue with each passing year — causing flooding not just in Delaware County, but leading to more significant flooding right in here in the Unionville area, as streams and creeks have less depth and are less able to stay within their banks during heavy rains or snow melt.

What’s wrong, though, is the methodology for the repair.

The issue is regional — interstate even — and should be handled on a federal basis, with federal dollars. And until a few years back, that’s exactly what would have happened, with arguably a lower total cost and better coordinated outcome.

Instead, as responsibility has been shifted down from the federal government, to the state government and now onto local municipalities, we are faced with a patchwork quilt of solutions, less efficient, likely less effective and much more expensive. To me, this is a little bit like asking municipalities to build interstate highways.

And before you run off quickly to bash President Barack Obama’s EPA, understand that this process got started in 2007 when it was President George W. Bush’s EPA. It’s taken this long to surface because two Pennsylvania administrations (Rendell’s and Corbett’s) and two group’s of leadership at the DEP dragged their feet pushing it out to municipalities, knowing what a mess this would become — and how many angry elected officials and local taxpayers there would be.

As easy as it would be to say those “dirty so-and-so Democrats or Republicans” it’s not that simple. Both parties had a hand in this mess at the federal and state level and no one could figure out how to pay for it, so it got shoved down the line to the bottom of the food chain — as is the case with so much in government.

This mess and the growing infrastructure crisis (the Route 926 bridge over the Brandywine being just the best example — once again endangered from being built any time soon because of funding issues in Harrisburg) are just two examples of short term thinking hurting the long-term health of the country, the state and region.

Unfortunately, it looks like it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

* * *

Congratulations and best wishes to our own Nicole Brown. Nicole is leaving us to go off to college, where she will study journalism. She did amazing work for us, covering complex issues in Birmingham, earning praise not just from readers, but from those she covered, who routinely reported to me what a delight she was to work with.

We are justifiably proud of her and think she has a very bright future ahead of her.

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