There’s an election on Tuesday May 18. When’s the last time you’ve seen political campaigning start earlier than 2-weeks before an election in Chester? You’re seeing it this year. 

Since I’m the guy reading the papers everyday in search of Chester news to share with my readers, the biggest story this week comes from the Delaware County Daily Times who wrote a long article covering 3-pages titled ‘Chester City Council sees primary battle.’

Me, Stefan Roots, is challenging the incumbent City Council members whose term runs out in January. 

I’ve been out a bit talking to people, getting petitions signed, making appearances and campaigning. Two things are mentioned by virtually everyone I encounter:

  • One, ‘Who is running?
  • And, two, ‘It’s time for a change!’
  • I guess it’s fair to throw in the third thing I hear if I get a chance to talk to people for a while…’What makes me believe you won’t be just like them?’

It’s tough going up against an incumbent. They usually have a built-in loyal legion of people beholden to them that they can count on for votes. They usually get the party endorsement which means being able to tap into resources for campaigning and support from other party people. And, they usually have name recognition. Obviously, a lot of people I’ve run into know very little about Chester city council members, what they do, and when their terms expire, so name recognition isn’t a factor in this election. 

My campaign passed a press release around to the local newspapers and the Daily Times called for an interview. Again, the incumbents are in a great position because they get to hear what I have to say first and then get their opportunity to respond. 

Sunday, April 4, the Delaware County Daily Times published talking points from interviews from the three candidates for city council. To be fair, I won’t add anything that wasn’t in the paper, but I’m going to take this opportunity to respond to their responses of me. 

Early on, the article accurately notes…

Roots’ campaign is named “Roots for Chester” and is not only a political endeavor but a movement about empowering people to make a difference in their hometown. Jacobs and West emphasize this race is critical to continue the work they’ve already done in serving the community.

I mentioned that they’re career politicians to which Al Jacobs responded…

“I’m a career lawyer. That’s my career. In this position as a councilperson, I’m a public servant. That’s what we do – we serve the public. What has he done?”

In my mind, if you work somewhere for 8-years or more, it’s a career. Many people serve several careers in their work life. I’ve had a career working 8-years each at IBM, PGW, and Delcora. Each one is in a different industry. I consider Jacob’s 8-years in public service a career in public service in addition to his career as a lawyer. 

The question, “What has he done?” is easy to answer if you only scroll through this blog. You’ll see that I’ve educated and informed readers since 2006 on the work that city government is doing. I announce events, I report on events, I give opinion on happenings in the city, I share press releases. There is no one in Chester who has covered Chester’s comings and goings more than me with articles, photos and videos. My hyper local information channel is not only consumed locally, it is the go to source for people seeking information on Chester from out of town. My blog ranks very high on the Google search engine so when anyone searches on any topic on Chester, PA that I’ve written on, it appears on the first page of Google search results. You don’t get that type of response without having a lot of good content over the years that has been viewed by thousands of people. 

Jacobs said he and his staff have been working to have COVID testing and vaccines in the city so that anyone in the city who wants a vaccine will get one.

It disappoints many in city government that I have written extensively on the questionable results of Chester efforts during the pandemic getting COVID testing. While smaller communities around Delco with far less Covid cases were conducting multiple day free Covid testing, Chester was going months between testings. When testing did finally come to Chester on a more regular basis in October, much of the early wave of need had passed. The attention I’ve brought to the lack of response Chester received helped spark a better outcome with the vaccine roll out. But, still, the lack of communication from the city on their website dedicated to Covid-19 and the public health department’s webpage demonstrates basic lack of commitment to provide the community with a place to get quick, easy answers on how to seek help during the pandemic. Go to the Covid link on the city site now and the latest information dates back to September 2020.

The councilman also said he’d like to move forward with apartments and housing development plans for Deshong Park, as well as clean-energy technology possibilities that could be distributed throughout the world from Chester. “We have started the rejuvenation of downtown Chester,” Jacobs said, calling it a renaissance. “We’re talking to businesses that want to come into the city. Chester’s on the brink of a comeback.”

Statements like these prompt me to ask, ‘What have you done?’ In the 8-years on council, you’re still years away from bringing any closure to Deshong Park and downtown Chester. Three years ago city officials told a group of us taking about Deshong Park at MJ Freed Theater that a walking path was soon to come to Deshong. That’s why my becoming a City Councilman is critical to find why things aren’t getting done and provide new insight on how to get things done.  What gives anyone any confidence you’ll get it done in the next 4-years what you couldn’t do in the first 8. Can anyone view the plans for these projects to get a sense when they’re going to get here?

There’s a lot of work that needs to be done and I don’t feel that this is the time for someone new to come in and try to do what we’re already doing.”

This is the perfect time for someone new to come in. Obviously, there needs to be a new way of getting results, of planning, of acquiring resources, of thinking, and of making progress. What you’re already doing isn’t moving the city forward fast enough. In fact, the city is going backwards. How can anyone trust you can turn it around now without new blood helping to drive change? It’s clear the old ways of thinking aren’t working. 

“People can look and see things that are maybe not what they should be and they say, ‘Oh, I can do it better’ but I don’t hear my opponent offering any ideas as to how he’s going to make a change,” West continued. “You have to come inside and get to know what we’re working with.”

I’d love the opportunity to come inside and present a bunch of real solutions to make several concrete changes in Chester. In fact, every platform item I list on RootsforChester.com is put there because I can affect change in all those areas with the resources I have available to me right now. Nothing I list requires city assets or time consuming council resolution agreements. 

She questioned her opponent’s lack of political background. “You don’t have any prior local governmental experience so what are you going to do?” West asked. “We’re not career politicians. We are community members who serve the community.”

I feel comfortable saying that I probably have a lot more knowledge of what’s going on in city government from the stories I’ve covered since 2006 than you had when you first ran for city council. And despite what you think, you really are a career politician. Stop denying it. You’re coming up on your 4th term. We both are community members who serve the community; you in government, me in journalism.

Jacobs says the lack of answering calls or emails is “a misinformation or a lie.””We make sure that the phones get answered,” he said, adding that some of the people let go are those that serve in those community interactive capacities. “So you have directors, council people, the mayor answering phones.”

There must be a lot of people lying to me who say they don’t get call backs when they try to reach city officials. I recently had my own experience. My campaign manager had his. Folks from another municipality reached out to me to get city council email addresses that I was told they haven’t been available for several administrations – but email addresses just so happened to pop up this week on the city’s website. I guess it was an oversight. 

He noted that the city went into receivership during the pandemic. “I call it what it is – it was a takeover but … we have been working with the receiver and we’re going to pull up out of it,

The city may have coincidently went into receivership during the pandemic but it didn’t go broke during the pandemic. It would be difficult to prove that the receiver and city government are working well together. That message isn’t being communicated from either side of the table. 

She noted that the city has three host inspectors, all trained by the state Department of Environmental Protection, who do yearly inspections and that the facility is regulated by DEP and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “With Covanta, when they came in, we partnered with them because it wasn’t a choice that Chester had,” she said. “We had to have somebody and if was somebody, I’m glad it was Covanta.”

One by one, Delaware County municipalities are requesting the county stop sending trash to Chester. They are feeling guilty seeing the health disparities that trash burning creates in this city. They are seeking alternatives. But Chester City government doesn’t even consider there’s an alternative to burning Philadelphia’s, New York’s, Delaware’s, and Delaware County’s trash in the largest trash incinerator this county has sitting on Front and Highland. Chester has a choice and they keep choosing to encourage trash to come to Chester to be burned. Take a deep breath. That’s Chester City government at work. 

Recalling his part in hammering out a contract with the city firefighters eight years ago after a five-year impasse, Jacobs said putting power in the hands of city residents is crucial for him. “When we hire, our priority is to hire people from Chester,” he said, noting the women who have been hired in the fire and code enforcement offices. “I’m about parity and equality.”

Maybe the administration who imposed the 5-year impasse did so because they determined the proposed contract would break the city’s finances several years down the road. Hello receivership in 2020. And, if we want to hire more people from Chester, we need more jobs than in the fire department. 

“This city is majority Black, African Americans,” he said. “You had figureheads that was running the city. They didn’t have the best interests of the people in the city of Chester at heart … African Americans should not just be figureheads in making the decisions. We should be in control of our own destiny.”

I’m not quite sure who he’s referring to as a figurehead, but if it’s who I think it is, anyone running the city without a strong back office is doomed to fail. Today, Chester City government needs to shore up its back office with the best and brightest people they can find who can move this city forward. 

That’s where I come in. 

#FactNotFiction

p.s. Did anyone else have a hard time finding the Sunday Daily Times this weekend in Chester?