Fred Harran, Bensalem Township Police Department Director and Republican Candidate for Bucks County Sheriff

Despite a heavy schedule, Bensalem resident and candidate for Sheriff of Bucks County took time to speak to the Club this morning.

Director Harran, originally from New York, moved to Pennsylvania in 1982, where he received his Bachelor of Science Degree in Political Science.  He earned his Master’s Degree in Criminal Justice Administration from St. Joseph’s University. He is also a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.

Director Harran has served in law enforcement with the Bensalem Township Police Department in Bucks County, Pennsylvania for 34 years. Currently he serves as the Director of Public Safety for Bensalem Township.  As Director, he is responsible for the management and operation of the police department and for the coordination of the township’s Fire and Rescue departments.

He currently serves on many boards and organizations, including; a member of the Board of Directors for the Bucks County Drug and Alcohol Commission and the FBI’s Rapid DNA Task Group. He represents Pennsylvania at the State Associations of Chiefs of Police and serves as Chairman of the North Atlantic Region of the United States. He serves as a Vice President of the Pennsylvania Chiefs of Police and is on the Board for the Bucks County Police Chiefs.

He enthusiastically explained that one reason he loves police work is that “no two days are the same” and even if he “makes plans” they must invariably be changed due to unforeseen circumstances.

He gave a plug for not only his candidacy but those of incumbent Matt Weibtraaub (who as addressed our club in the past) and four other row office candidates.

He talked briefly about the department’s “Copsicle” program of providing free popsicles to township youth as a way of building bridges to the community and especially its youth.  Further, through his fundraising efforts, the program has had a zero impact on the Township’s budget.

One of his, and the department’s main concerns is drugs and the Opioids epidemic, in which the five county region leads the country.

He talked about BPAIR, Bensalem’s police’s addiction intervention and help program.  Fred is a staunch believer in providing help for the mentally ill and helping those addicted to substances medical intervention and treatment rather than criminalizing their behaviors.  In another staggering statistic, he mentioned that one in two people will, at sometime, experience legal and/or illegal drug problems.

There was a great deal of discussion around the proliferation of guns, stalled gun control legislation at the state and national levels and the Second Amendment.  Surprising to some, Harran does not believe that the Second Amendment is a license to permit everyone to own any type of gun. Rather, while is supportive of private ownership of guns for responsible people who are not a threat to themselves or others, he sees no reason for assault weapons, ghost guns and bump stocks to be freely available.

Moreover, he support closing the gun show and private sale loopholes where it comes to the registration of firearms.

At the same time, in his official capacity as a police officer, he is obligated to uphold federal and state laws which are on the books even if they run counter to his personal beliefs.

He takes pride in the recent agreement among the County’s 39 police departments when it comes to the “use of force”.

Not surprisingly, he does not think “defunding the police” makes sense, while the use of funds within police departments may need to be reallocated to meet the challenges facing today’s police departments, including placing more emphasis on mental health issues.

Fred spoke about the fears some people have of the police.  He also mentioned that in Bucks County “no knock warrants” are extremely rare and only permitted by a judge under the most dangerous an dire circumstances.  When asked about police stops, based on both his years in law enforcement and having been confronted by a policeman holding a gun to his head in New York when he was a youth, the best situation is to comply with the requests of an officer and calmly explain why the stop or confrontation might have been unnecessary as it was in his case. He commented than “the streets are not the place to argue with the police”.

Where the question of “bad” police personnel are concerned, he believes that there may be 1%-2% of police who should not be on the job and in his career, he has ersonally fired 26 police officers.

He believes that the two most important areas of concern to most Bucks residents are quality educational systems and safety.

When the Parx Casino was mentioned, he felt they were very good for the community of Bensalem and Bucks County.  Some $11.8 million is paid by Parx annually in lieu of taxes.  The casino also makes major contributions to the Bensalem MES.

When asked about his race for sheriff, candidate Harran would not attack his opponent whom he has met and characterizes as “a nice guy”.  That said, he believes his past and current uninterrupted experience in police work, relationships with all 39 of the county’s police departments, fundraising capabilities, and commitment to community relations with law enforcement and safety eminently qualify him and hopes it will convince voters to support him in November’s election.

The Club gave Fred Harran a round of applause, thanked him for his generous time and candidness and wished him well in November.

Yardley-Langhorne Road Clean-up

Club members, all but one of whom is in their 80s, were joined by our assistant district governor for its semi-annual trash collection along Yardley-Langhorne Road this morning … its commitment to the Commonwealth’s Adopt-A-Highway program.

While far removed from the 1981 LA heavy metal rock band, they did take on something of an aura of a Motley Crew!

(l to r)  Club President Bob Morris, Dick Newbert, Alan Agree, Irv Perlstein, Chris Potter, Road Clean-up Chair Jerry Redington and Fred Edelman

Collecting everything from discarded cans and bottles to candy wrappers and cigarettes, their goal is to keep their community safe, clean and green.

And to prove that even “presidents” are not immune from work, here’s evidence that ours continues to give his all!

 

May 12, 2021 – In-Person Meetings At Last – Presidential Citations – Governor’s Awards – New Honorary Member Recognition

After fourteen long months of virtual ZOOM meetings, we were able to get together in-person once again

aand confrim that each of us can "attend" a Rotary meeting in other than out pajamas bottoms!

And, the happiest person to be back with live humans …

Club President Bob Morris recognized two Club stalwarts with Presidential Awards.

Lou Hatfield

For her years of unselfish dedication to the Rotary Club or Shady Brook, the many causes it has and continues to support and as a Board Member and Club’s Secretary for the past six years.  Lou has continued to provide detailed and timely Minutes for all Club meetings, oversee many other administrative Club functions and stepped in to chair the Club’s Student-of-the-Month program this year.     

Arthur Finkle

For his years of unselfish dedication to the Rotary Club or Shady Brook, the many causes it has and continues to support, as a Board Member and Club’s Treasurer since 2008. Arthur has ensured the Club’s finances are always in order, tax reports are filed in a timely manner, attained and maintains its 501(c)(3) status and continues to provide accurate monthly financial reports for two separate accounts

Bob next recognized Alan Agree, Bruce Klugman, Irv Perlstein and Dick Newbert for their 2020-2021 District Governor's Awards

(l to r)  Alan, Bruce, Irv, Dick and Bob

For his generous donations of shoes and clothing and other contributions assisting the Club in its ongoing programs to support the William Dick School, Gary Smelcer was recognized and presented with an Honorary Membership in the Club.

Gary did come prepared with a few, short thoughts to share with the membership

"When Irv and Alan first told me that I was going to be maade an Honorary Rotarian I was excieted.  Everyone knows there no such thing as a free linch, so I had to settle for a free breakfast.  Let me assure you that is the highlight of my day … so far.  I wanted to be reaady for this day and so I went ahead an had a new "rotary" t-shirt he has made for the occasion."

"But, then I went ahead and dod some research aabout Rotary and an truly honrooed to join the ranks of King Gustaf of Sweeded, King George VI of ENglnad, Sir Winston Churchill and Walt Disney.  So, I want to thank the members of the Roatary Club, Irv and Alan, aas well as my mom, my dad, my brother, my uncle, my wife and 4 kids, my dog and most importantly I want to thakn Bube Yum!"

Without exception, Gary's was the most "unique" and "humorous" expression ot thanks our Club has ever received.  We're even more pleased to ahve him joining us!

Alan wound up the morning with some Trivia questions.

For each of us, until this morning, we never apprecaited how special it was to physically gather together each week.

 

 

Our Club’s 12-Year Support of the William Dick School Presentation Made at the Rotary’s District 7450’s Annual Convention

The Club was honored to have been asked to present an overview of its 12-year commitment ot and support of Philadelphia's inner-city William Dick Elementary School at this year's annual District 7450 Convention … this year in combination with two other regional districts … which was held virtually over Zoom due social gathering precautions caused by the COVID-19 pnademic.

In a recent survey of both curreent and past members, this program has and continues to be deemed the Club's most important as there is no greater gift we can provide than improving the lives of and opportunities for children. 

The following are the 57 slides which were shown over four sessions (Firday evening April 30th, Saturday May 1st both in the morning and evening and again on Sunday morning May 2nd).

Karen Mazzarella – President of District 7450’s Gundaker Foundation

Karen Mazzarella, president of Rotary District 7450' Gundaker Foundationjoined our vitrual meeting this morning. 

While many of our members had heaard about the Foundation, few had any substantive knowledge about its misison and how relatively easy grants which fall withing their guidelines can be obtained in support of certain club programs.

 

 

At the conclusion of Karen's presentaiton and soem brief discussion, the members voted to appropraate the eequivalent of $10.00 per member and joing the Gundaker Foundation beginning with their new 2021-22 fiscal year on July 1st

 

At Long Last … A Resumption of our In-Person Club Meetings!

After more than a year and with every member of the Club having received their COVID-19 vaccination shot(s), we are planning the resumption of our weekly in-person meetings at the Garden of Eatin' Restaurant at 964 Woodbourne Road in Levittown on Wednesday, May 12th at the regular time of 8:00 AM

 

All appropriate CDC and Pennsylvania recommended COVID protocols will continued to be observed, as will any related requirements of the Garden of Eatin', as we hopefully begin to return to the interpersonal comdarerie which has been a hallmark of our club since its 2006 formation.

This past year has been a challenge for everyone, the pandemic's shutdowns and other restirctions limiting our ability to provide the levels of financial, in-kind and volunteer aid for many of the causes and programs our members have supported over the years.

Still, Zoom (which 14 months ago none of us had ever heard of) has enabled our members to continue to meet on a weekly basis … while our virtual walk generated significant donations for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and A Woman's Place … with other creative initiatives enabling us to provide ongoing support for veteran-related programs and food and other necessities for some of the families of the students who attend the William Dick School.

For anyone interested in helping worthy causes, organizations and individuals in need, while working along side some amazing and dedicated neighbors, our meetings are alawys open and welcoming!

"The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

 

 

Fair Districts PA Presentation by Bill Gross

Bill Gross, a representative from and advocate for Fair Districts PA joins us this morning.

Fair Districts PA is a nonpartisan, statewide coalition of organizations and individuals working to create a process for redistricting that is transparent, impartial, and fair.  The organization was founded in January 2016 by representatives from the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania, Common Cause Pennsylvania, Committee of Seventy, Pennsylvania Council of Churches, and others concerned about accountable government.

Today, Fair Districts PA is officially a project of the League of Women Voters or Pennsylvania, a nonpartisan political organization which encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.  It receives no funding from political action committees (PACs) or political parties, and is funded and endorsed by a wide range of local and statewide organizations and individuals across the Commonwealth.

 

 

Their dedicated membership is comprised or Pennsylvanians from all walks of life, united by the conviction that free and fair elections are the foundation of our democracy. They believe Pennsylvania needs to reform its redistricting rules to promote competitive elections and partisan fairness—so that our government truly is of, by, and for the people.

To accomplish these goals, Fair Districts PA holds informational events, drive outreach to lawmakers and the media, and help the public take action. Our current focus is to replace the current partisan redistricting process with a transparent and accountable process before the release of the 2020 U.S. Census.

Fair Districts PA is part of the League of Women Voters of the United State People Powered Fair Maps campaign, a national redistricting program of the League of Women Voters focused on creating fair political maps nationwide.

Fair Districts PA has grown quickly from a handful of volunteers to a network of local groups, regional support teams, active working groups and almost 100 trained speakers reaching audiences large and small in every corner of the state. FDPA volunteers come from across the state and bring a wealth of experience, expertise, and varying political perspectives.

Fair districts must:

  • Adhere to all Constitution and Voting Rights Act requirements.
  • Make all districts as equal in population as possible within an established minimal range of deviation.
  • Respect city and county subdivisions, natural geographic features, and communities of interest.
  • Encourage geographical compactness.
  • Not be drawn for the purpose of favoring or discriminating against a political party or candidate.

Redistricting reform should:

  • Assign the redistricting power to an independent commission, of which neither the commissioners, nor members of their immediate families, may be government or political party officials.
  • Ensure the transparency of the process and meaningful opportunities for public participation.
  • Establish strict timelines for redistricting after each U.S. Census.
  • Address other causes of redistricting unfairness.

A core part of his presentation revolved around his Power Point presentaiton.  This informative document can be viewed on Dropbox at: 

https://www.dropbox.com/scl/fi/0abdyxdre8t0yfyi2pr97/Fair-Districts-PA.pptx?dl=0&rlkey=o4mjrt63kvt7hytaorh3f4xz8

The ultimate goal of Fair Districts PA is to ensure districts allow the voters to choose their elected officials rather than letting politicians in Harrisburg “slice and dice” the census numbers allowing them to choose their voters.   This will require a more transparent process, public engagement, and clear, measurable map-drawing standards.

The Legislative and Congressional Redistricting Act (LACRA) has all three.

What will LACRA give us?

The Legislative Congressional Redistricting Act has been introduced as House Bill 22 and Senate Bill 222. If passed, LACRA will require the following fair rules for redistricting.

Greater Transparency and More Public Engagement

  • A user-friendly website for free public access to data, maps and all redistricting information
  • Multiple statewide public hearings before and after redistricting plans are approved
  • Meetings that are all subject to the Open Meetings Law and hearings that must

    • be live streamed
    • held at convenient times for the public
    • accommodate for multiple languages
  • The ability to submit a redistricting plan or part of a plan which the committee must review (this applies to every Pennsylvanian)
  • A written report of decisions, rationale and process

Clear and Measurable Redistricting Criteria

  • Mandates compact and contiguous federal and state districts
  • Adds enforceable limits on splitting counties beyond what is required by population and bans dividing voting precincts
  • Protects racial and language minorities against discrimination in the mapping process
  • Outlaws district plans designed to protect incumbents or discriminate against political parties
  • Promotes:

    • Keeping communities of interest intact
    • Responding to voter preferences as measured by widely accepted tests
    • Conforming districts to natural boundaries like rivers, mountains, etc.

Several members remarked that Bill's was one of the most interesting and informative speakers we hosted in a long while.

 

 

John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor Spoke to the Cllub

John Fetterman, the Commonwealth's current Lieutenant Governor, describes himself as "A different kind of Democrat"

He is frank to admit that he doesn’t look like a typical politician,

and more importantly, he doesn’t act like one.  He supported legalizing marijuana before it was popular, officiated a same-sex marriage before it was legal, champions sensible gun control and pushed for single payer healthcare long before it was mainstream.

While John has tosed his hat in the ring for the Democratic nomination for the U.S. Senate seat beving vacated by Pat Toomey, the emphasis of his presentation this morning focused on his hopes that Pennsylvania will join surrounding states and legalize Marijuana for recrational use. However, to understand his crusade a brief overviw of his background is insightful.

A Pennsylvania native, John was born to teenage parents just starting out on their own. At the time, his father worked nights to put himself through college. John grew up in York, PA, and followed in his father’s footsteps to Albright College, where he played offensive tackle for the Lions.

At 23, John joined up with Big Brothers/Big Sisters, and his life has never been the same.

John threw himself into the program, mentoring his ‘little’ – an 8-year-old boy who had recently lost his father to AIDS and whose mother was also battling the disease. Before she passed away, John promised that he would continue to look out for her son and make sure that he graduated college. Fifteen years later, John and his ‘little’ had both held up their ends of the bargain, with his little’s graduation from Washington and Jefferson College in Washington, PA.

But John wanted to do more. He joined AmeriCorps and served in Pittsburgh’s historic Hill District, where he helped set up the first computer labs in the neighborhood and taught GED classes to young mothers and fathers.

He went on to earn a Masters in Public Policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

John returned to Pennsylvania to start a GED program in the town of Braddock, one of the poorest and most challenged communities in the commonwealth.

In 2005, encouraged by his students, John ran for mayor. He managed to win the crowded primary by a single vote. In his 13 years as mayor, John worked to rebuild the once-booming steel town back from collapse, creating jobs, getting youth engaged, and bringing creative urban policy solutions to Braddock. The town now has a community center, urban gardens, and a free store run by John’s wife, Gisele.

Together, John and Gisele have fought for causes they believe in, from immigration reform to LGBTQ+ rights. When Pennsylvania lawmakers continued to push outdated discriminatory policies banning marriage equality, John stood up and officiated one of the first same-sex marriages in the commonwealth. And when they wanted to build a four-lane interstate highway through Braddock, a town that’s more than 80% Black and already suffered historically high asthma rates, John was the only elected official in Western Pennsylvania who opposed it on the grounds that it was environmental racism. 

In 2016, John decided to run for U.S. Senate to confront the inequality crisis at the highest level of government. Although he lost the Democratic primary, John confounded expectations, earning 20 percent of the vote as a relatively unknown candidate in a four-way race.

Two years later, in 2018, John ran to be Pennsylvania’s Lieutenant Governor, and this time dominated across the commonwealth, winning a five-way Democratic primary and a commanding victory in the general election.

As Lieutenant Governor, John has transformed the position into a bully pulpit for criminal justice reform.

Weeks after taking office, John embarked on a listening tour of all 67 counties, something no sitting Lt. Governor has ever done, to engage with Pennsylvanians about legalizing marijuana. In three months, the historic tour saw over 10,000 people turn out in person and tens of thousands more engage online. Following John’s final report and recommendations, the Governor announced his support for legalization for the first time. 

As the chair of Pennsylvania’s Board of Pardons, John has led the fight to give second chances to non-violent longtime inmates and free those who have been wrongfully convicted. 

He has taken numerous steps to overhaul the clemency process in Pennsylvania, including eliminating all fees associated with applying for a pardon, making the pardons application more user-friendly, and working to move the application process online.  Under John’s tenure, the Board has recommended more applicants for commutation than under any lieutenant governor in decades. 

While John does not use marijuana nor would he want his children to become users, he views the legalization of "weed" as a logical outcome of the Commonwealth's and nation's failed "war on drugs".  Harkening back to the days of prohibition, the 18th Amendment was disliked by a vast majority of Americans and its primary legacy was the rise of organized crime which cornered the illegal liquor market during the 1920s.

He also sees legalization as a potential financial boon for the state which could generate several billion dollars which presently are being earned by the drug cartels to help fund many underserved programs, infrastructure projects and other initiatives.  In addition, it would eliminate the policing costs of enforcing existing marijuana laws and the costs of judicial and incarcerating s many as 20,000 violators annually.

John also points out that several, very conservative states, including Arizona and Montana, as well as New Jersey and soon to join the list of states legalizing marijuana New York. e argues forcefully that not enacting legalization will only serve to let the cartels continue to profit along with neighboring states where Pennsylvanians will be able to shop for their weed.

Between 65% -70% for the people with whom John has met and discussed the topic across Pennsylvania agree with his position. 

When questioned about whether the Commonwealth should be relying on so-called sin taxes levied on gambling, liquor, and marijuana, John stated that while he personally doesn't use such substances, also including tobacco, he understands that other people make other choices.  So long as those choices are not a threat to the public, there is no reason to prohibit their sale and use.

Another question dealt with the possibility of people driving automobiles while under the influence.  While he recognizes it could become a problem, John asked that should we ban cell phones which cause many accidents because irresponsible drivers are texting or otherwise using them while driving.  Do we return to prohibition and ban alcohol sales because due to the highway tragedies created by impaired driving?  Should cigarettes be taken off the market because of the numbers of deaths directly or indirectly attributed to their use.  Personal behavior can not always be constrained by laws … as prohibition, the war on drugs or even prostitution have proven out.

Lt. Governor Fetterman also expressed his revulsion at the January 6th assault on the U.S. Capitol and labeled it an attack on the most fundamental tenant of democracy.

Other issues about which John has become an advocate are:

  • The minimum wage should be a living wage of at least $15 an hour. All work has dignity, and all paychecks must too.T
  • Health care is a fundamental human right – just like housing, food, and education. 
  • Climate change is an existential threat. We need to transition to clean energy as quickly as possible, and we can create millions of good union jobs in the process. 
  • Sensible gun control legislation – believing that there is not need or excuse for military grade weapons and ammunition to be available to the general public … while emphatically not advocating taking guns used for hunting, target shooting or home protection away from the general public, with exceptions for those with mental illness or violent crimes on their record.
  • Weed should be legal, nationwide, not just in Pennsylvania — for jobs, justice, veterans, farmers, and revenue. It’s time to end the failed war on drugs. 
  • Immigration is what makes America, America. We need a compassionate response to immigration reform that actually treats immigrants like human beings. 
  • Black Lives Matter. John served as mayor of a city that’s more than 80% Black, and has championed the idea that Black lives matter since long before it became a hashtag. 
  • The union way of life is sacred. It’s what built this nation, and it must be protected.  
  • A woman’s right to an abortion is non-negotiable. Women should have control over their own bodies and their own lives. Period.
  • LGBTQIA+ communities deserve equal protections under the law. John has always stood for equality, and was one of the first elected officials in PA to officiate a same-sex wedding – when it was still illegal. 
  • Get corporate money out of politics. John refuses contributions from corporate PACs, and he signed the “No Fossil Fuel Money” Pledge.

John and Gisele have chosen not to settle in the Lt. Governor’s Mansion, instead opening up the pool in the official residence to children who typically wouldn’t have access to one. They live with their three children Karl, 11, Gracie, 9, and August, 6, in a restored car dealership in Braddock with the family dog, Levi.

While  many politicians love to sound tough on the stump their actions are all too often driven by what wil lhelp them get re-elected.  Refreshingly, John Fetterman not only "talks the talk" he also "walks the walk".

March and April Maple Point Middle School Students of the Month

The Club recently honored two Maple Point Middle School 8th graderrs as its March and April Students-of-the-Month.  Along with a Certificate of Recognition, each student was presented with a $100 cash award.

As has been the case for the past year, these presentaiton were made privately at the students' homes instead of at one of our Club's monthly dinner meetings where our honored students and their families can be more publcly feted and recognized.

Julissa Pinilla – April Student-of-the-Month

Julissa with her proud mom, Jovanna Flores

Julissa shared the following about herself during the presentation

“My name is Julissa Pinilla and I am an eighth grader at Maple Point Middle School.  Throughout my time as a MP student, I have prided myself on maintaining honor roll each year and as a result have become part of the National Honor Society. 

I also take pride in being active in a wide range of school and out-of-school activities and enjoy reading very much.  I am on my school’s student council committee, have taken part in school plays and helped welcome new students through dances and interactive activities.  I have dedicated myself to a soccer team and had hoped to join my schools track team although Covid complications interfered.

I am also a social person.  Pre- Covid-19, I had volunteered and picked up some social skills at a local daycare.  I would like to spend some time volunteering at different places, such as the Bucks County Community Library.

One day, I hope to be admitted into an elite college like Yale, or ambitiously, Harvard, that will allow me to grow my voice on a debate team.”  

 

Caroline Rogers – March Student-of-the-Month

Caroline and her mom were thrilled at the presentation made by the Student Chair, Lou Hatfield.

Caroline and her family have enjoyed living in Langhorne for over twenty-four years.  When asked about her years at Maple Point, Caroline felt that what she found most valuable was the way the faculty and staff provided a welcoming environment and a supportive community. “The staff encourages us to focus on building strong relationships and teamwork, critical life skills.”

Caroline plans on a career in Recreational Therapy. She first became interested in this field by observing her mother, who is a nurse. To further explore her intended field of study, she will be taking a course in child development at Neshaminy High School next year. Caroline noted she “looks forward to helping people recover from challenges and live completely fulfilling lives. I have a deep passion for this field”.

A lifelong sports fan, Caroline has playing soccer since she was four. She played on Maple Point Middle School’s 7th grade basketball team. In addition, Caroline has already demonstrated her leadership skills by co-managing the young men's seventh grade team. As she put it, leading these teams “gave me an opportunity to push myself beyond just playing the sport. I really enjoy helping my peers improve their skills.” Caroline will also be volunteering her time to teach preschool children about the sport this Spring. 

Caroline has many diverse interests, ranging from her academic studies to managing sports teams to spending time with friends, loved ones, and her animals. She thrives on caring for others and helping them acquire the life skills they need.