Uwchlan Township Board of Supervisors is playing politics with non-partisan Development Authority
At the May 2019 Uwchlan Township Board of Supervisors Meeting, our Board of Supervisors shamelessly condoned plans to politicize the Uwchlan Township Industrial Development Authority (IDA). At the meeting, a resident asked the basis for Board Chairman, William (Bill) Miller’s, recent attempt to remove the IDA’s solicitor from serving the IDA. Mr. Miller unabashedly stated that the solicitor was a Republican leader and he and other members of the current Board of Supervisors were Democrats. Mr. Miller’s fellow Supervisors sat silent while he sullied the excellent work of the IDA over the years. A short history of the superb work performed by the IDA will assist the reader in understanding the repugnance and danger of this Board’s decision to play politics with the IDA.
The IDA is a non-partisan state-entity established by Uwchlan Township to assist local non-profit and manufacturing companies in obtaining tax-exempt loans. It was established in 2003 when 2 Uwchlan residents (Joe Toner and Val DiGiorgio) saw a need and an opportunity to facilitate support of our local economy. The focus of the IDA is the same as that for all Uwchlan residents, the BETTERMENT OF UWCHLAN TOWNSHIP. In the 15 years of its existence, the IDA has facilitated $83,000,000 in tax-exempt financing for local non-profits and manufacturing companies. The fees generated through the IDA’s endeavors are then donated back to Uwchlan Township and social support agencies to pay for needs they could not afford.
In 2018 alone, the IDA provided $20,000 to the community, which included $5,000 to Uwchlan Township for the Veterans Memorial, $5,000 to the Lionville Fire Company, $5,000 to the Lord’s Pantry and $5,000 to the Chester County Food Bank. The IDA’s operations are overseen by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (not the Township Board of Supervisors), which requires the filing of annual financial reports.
The IDA functioned seamlessly for 15 years, with one member being reappointed each year for the standard 5-year term. The IDA Board consists of 5 members, so one member is reappointed each year in January. Procedurally, the Township’s Board of Supervisors possesses reappointment power. In January 2019, it was time for Mr. Toner’s reappointment. As done in the past, Mr. Toner notified the Board of Supervisors of his willingness to continue serving on the IDA Board. However, for some undisclosed reason, the Board of Supervisors voted to appoint Mr. Miller to the IDA in place of Mr. Toner. Mr. Toner received a brief email stating he had not been reappointed.
Let us be crystal clear -- if Mr. Miller had a desire to be on the IDA, the Board of Supervisors could have voted him on to the IDA Board along with Mr. Toner. The IDA is not limited to 5 members. Mr. Miller could have joined the IDA and begun the process of learning how the IDA operates and gained valuable experience. (I think we all can agree that a double appointment would be the sensible thing to do.) Unfortunately, Mr. Miller and the Board of Supervisors chose a different path; they decided to dismiss a founding member of the IDA with a short email notifying Mr. Toner that his services were no longer needed.
While the Board of Supervisors’ January 2019 decision to replace Mr. Toner with Mr. Miller could be attributed to ignorance, maybe arrogance, it was not until the next IDA Board meeting (April 22nd) that the Board of Supervisors’ clear motive of turning the IDA into a political animal started to become apparent. At this meeting, Mr. Miller made a motion to replace Mr. DiGiorgio as the solicitor to the IDA and with more vigor suggested that an attorney from Bucks County, a partner of the Board of Supervisors’ current solicitor, be appointed as the new solicitor for the IDA. Thankfully, the four other members of the IDA had better sense and tabled the motion. Mr. Miller’s motion to replace solicitors was simply an example of pure hubris.
Mr. Miller and the Board of Supervisors thought that they could better run the IDA than the two originators of the IDA. We do not recall any of the current Board of Supervisors claiming to have a financial background, let alone over 20 years of experience in public finance.
Now, we all would hope and pray that Mr. Miller would come to his senses and realize he has no rational basis for upending this well-run entity. But when questioned at the May Board of Supervisors’ meeting, Mr. Miller proudly stated that the current Board of Supervisors were Democrats, Mr. DiGiorgio was a Republican, and that he would continue to raise the motion to replace solicitors at future meetings. Mr. Miller gave a weak excuse that he had read some article that Mr. DiGiorgio did not like working with Democrats.
Perhaps this Board of Supervisors should look at the excellent work that Mr. DiGiorgio has done with the re-invigoration of the city of Bethlehem where he worked hand-in-hand with local Democrats to better the lives of the citizens of that city. Does the Board of Supervisors even realize that Mr. DiGiorgio is a partner in the same law firm as our Democratic Attorney General, Joshua Shapiro?
Real leaders and responsible adults rise above petty politics for the betterment of their communities. I guess we now know that our Board of Supervisors are neither. The Board of Supervisors is more concerned with rewarding its friends and slaying perceived enemies like Mr. DiGiorgio and Mr. Toner rather than making sure the excellent work of the IDA continues.