Two topics I follow are the state of newspapers and the Chester Water Authority sweepstakes soap opera. I cover newspaper news because I believe I have a strategy to provide an alternative to the old timey industry with new and exciting hyper-local offerings. I cover the Chester Water Authority because it’s a complex topic that needs someone like me to break it down in simple terms so the everyday person can keep up with what’s going on.

Today’s coverage in the Daily Times on the Chester Water Authority soap opera proves how important real journalism is on so many levels. Here’s why.

A few days ago, someone slipped me the one-page judge’s injunction which put a hold on any activity moving forward by the city of Chester’s attempt to sell CWA. I waited patiently to see what the Daily Times was going to write because I knew they would have far more details than what was on that piece of paper. Finally, I couldn’t wait any longer and shared my interpretation of the injunction’s legal mumbo-jumbo with a short blog post entitled, ‘Judge Tells Chester to Slow Your Roll for a Month.’

Considering the 4th of July fell on Thursday, and most folks were packing it in until Monday, I figured the Daily Times would do the same. Not wanting to keep you waiting any more than you had to, I decided I’d shared the injunction news while we wait for the larger story that surely was going to come on Sunday or Monday. Those Daily Times folks did one better. They got the story done on Friday to print on Saturday so they could enjoy the rest of the weekend.

The Daily Times may be on their last leg of existence, but they aren’t going down without a fight to deliver great journalism ‘til the end. Without them, there is no CWA story; there’s only an injunction. Real journalists attend the hearings, ask the questions, dig up the data, and fill in the blanks in an effort to inform us how business and politics shape the community in which we live, work, and play. There is no other check or balance on good government than good reporting.

As you know, the Chester Water Authority is suing the city of Chester and Aqua for acting like they got something up their sleeves regarding the sale of CWA to Aqua. The judge dismissed Aqua from the case but came hard on Chester and was quoted saying…

…in general, a municipality does have authority to dissolve a municipal authority … it can’t be done with impunity” and that the public interest must be taken into account.

It’s the impunity thing and public interest neglect that concerns the judge. In his words…

The public has to have notice

The judge bases the lack of public notice on what he considered a vague city council agenda announcement.

…the agenda for the June 12 Chester City Council meeting makes no explicit reference to the authority, instead featuring “a cryptically worded pending resolution to ‘Authorize to approve Request for Proposals for Valuation of Assets.’

I imagine if the agenda said something like, ‘We’re going to be voting on sending out Request for Proposals for companies interested in buying the Chester Water Authority,’ they would have been okay. Maybe they just got too cute with the agenda language. Or maybe they meant to be cryptic. Who knows?

The city stated in their testimony at the hearing that discussion of the RFP resolution did take place at the city council’s publicly advertised June 10 deliberative meeting, council does not keep minutes or recordings of discussion at its deliberative meetings.

That couldn’t have gone over well with the judge. Who doesn’t keep meeting minutes, especially in government? We learned that in Cub Scouts.

And then the Daily Times reporters learned of some other related legislative things going on far away from here that lets us know there’s a lot of hands in this cookie jar. Our neighboring State Rep spilled the beans that…

…there was a rumor that language was going to be put in the administrative code bill that would put six additional seats on the (CWA) board for Chester…The additional six members from Chester would ostensibly tip a CWA board vote in favor of a potential sale of authority assets.

Who would do such and thing?

Then our State Senator said…

“We did hear rumors last week when the code bills were being discussed – there was language that Republican and Democratic legislators talked about with the governor’s office.”

What? There’s a lot of exits from here to Harrisburg and it looks like they’re making moves all the way up the turnpike to the governor’s office on this water company sweepstakes.

In the meantime, back at the ranch on 5th and Welsh, the CWA solicitor is twiddling his thumbs as he awaits another trove of paperwork requested from Right To Know filings expected to clear up who’s been talking to whom about what.

Good reporting makes for good reading and accountable government. Good reporting is under attack in this country by people in our nation’s highest office discrediting the work reporters do to keep us informed. Good reporting is under attack around the globe as reporters are constantly jailed, kidnapped, tortured and killed for simply reporting the facts.

Is it worth $2 to get the details no one else would bring you but the Daily Times? I surely can’t do what they do.

You be the judge.

And then there’s this… 

Judges have a sense of humor and reporters sometimes let us readers in on it. When the judge asked Chester about the financial impact of the 15 agenda items at the city council meeting compared to the financial impact of the one agenda item concerning the CWA RFPs, the Chester folks said they didn’t remember (another reason to keep minutes) but remembered all the agenda items as being about of the same value. Here is where the judge adds the punchline…

“I would suspect if you added the other … items … and multiplied it by 10 and then took it to the 8th power, you would (have) far less than the amount of money that we’re talking about here.”

cwa building