Friday, February 29, 2008

More changes at Ross Park Mall...

Yet another change is in the works for Ross Park Mall. As part of their revitalization plans, mall officials presented development plans for an L.L. Bean store to be built onto the shopping facility.

From Ross Township Planning Commission's agenda:

Simon Properties amending Site Plan original approval of life styles expansion to construct an L.L. Bean store on property located at 1000 Ross Park Mall Drive in a C-1 Zoning District of the 2nd Ward.

This has come as a part of plans that brought several new retailers to the mall including Cheesecake Factory and Nordstrom's. Word has it that these plans are also attracting a P.F. Chang's Restaurant, Crate & Barrel and a new bookstore.

This is a developing story -- I'll let you know what I find out.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Value City to close...

The P-G reported today that Value City at the Shoppes at Northway along McKnight Road in Ross Township will close their doors in the near future.

From the Post Gazette:

The Value City Department Store at Northway Mall on McKnight Road and three Value City stores in the Erie area are being closed as new owners downsize the off-price chain.

A private equity group bought a majority interest from Columbus, Ohio-based Retail Ventures Inc., which also operates Filene's Basement and DSW stores. In an earlier deal, Burlington Coat Factory took over some locations.

A Value City store being closed in Uniontown is under consideration for conversion as part of that deal. Value City stores in Pleasant Hills, Altoona and Johnstown will remain open.

This closure doesn't really surprise me all that much because discount retail stores are becoming a thing of the past. Also, whenever I shop there - the store always seems a little empty. Where o where will I now get a cheap blazer and discounted valour jumpsuits at? ;)

Who knows what retailer may be attracted to this vacancy at the shopping center. Any ideas?

Working to keep you posted...

Friday, February 22, 2008

Bodack speaks... (Part 3)

Here is the final piece of information from Len Bodack, candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district. This legislative district is comprised of parts of the City of Pittsburgh, Ross Township, Shaler Township and other areas.

From Len Bodack:

I’m ready to take the skills I learned on Pittsburgh City Council to the state level as your representative in the General Assembly. After meeting with so many community leaders from the district in this campaign, it’s no surprise that we share so many of the same concerns:

- Public Safety costs are rising for all local governments in a Post 9-11 world

- The state must help with solutions

- Real property tax reform – Not lip service

- Better management of storm water runoff into our watersheds

- Effective flood controls for our downstream riverfront communities

- Expand the educational opportunities at all levels for our children

- Fix our transportation system

- Affordable healthcare for everyone

- Open and transparent government with no late night deals

- No tax dollars paid to employees for political work

- Accessible district office with a dedicated staff

I believe that listening to the people is the most important, but sometimes the most often overlooked quality that we demand from our elected representatives. I plan to staff local offices in the Babcock-McKnight corridor as well as the city for convenient access to all residents. As your legislator, I promise to always listen and represent your concerns in Harrisburg.

I'm glad many of you have learned a little more about Bodack (I know I did). Depending on what issues are important to you this may help you make a final decision when it comes to this election.

I think it is especially important to note that he plans to open a permanent office in the North Hills. While other politicians have used Ross Township Community Center on a limited basis, I think it would be a great step to have an office elsewhere in the area.

The one thing that is clear is Bodack really needs a Web site outlining his platform. If you would like to contact him, call 412-688-8778.

As you all know, I don't play favorites. So, if there are any other candidates out there for the position, I would be happy to interview you.

E-mail me at

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Changes at Ross Park Mall...

Weeks after posting about changes at Ross Park mall, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has published an interesting article in their business section.

From the Post-Gazette:

Say good-bye to Frederick's of Hollywood. The lingerie merchant is leaving Ross Park Mall this week. The Limited is already gone, as is The Children's Place, Ritz Camera and Radio Shack. Carlton Cards will sell its last sympathy card by the end of the month.

The mall is abuzz with talk about what may be coming in to replace exiting stores. Merchants have heard names such as Louis Vuitton, Vera Wang, Juicy Couture and Burberry, all high-end brands.

Mall officials won't confirm store names but they don't deny the North Hills shopping center is changing in preparation for the arrival of retail star, Nordstrom, scheduled to open Oct. 24. "This is the biggest year in the mall's history," said Lisa Earl, mall manager.

If it's odd to think one department store could re-shape a mall, remember Seattle has drawn many supplicants seeking the favor of the well-reputed merchant whose home base is there. Mall owners, real estate brokers and even government officials have all envisioned economic development hope kick-started by cute shoes from Nordstrom.

But change can bring pain along with the gain, and that trade-off has stirred up more than a few debates -- not to mention some tears -- among the merchants, customers and even bloggers who take an interest in Ross Park Mall.

Yes, this Tattler sent a news tip to a few local papers about this issue and at least the Post-Gazette has jumped on it. While Ross Park Mall officials are saying that the shopping facility is not becoming too upscale, I think they are not going to resemble what they offer today.

Granted, it won't be an upscale mall like The Galleria in the South Hills, but will have a lot of offerings to upscale crowds. Is this a good idea?

Only time will tell.

Working to keep you posted...

Bodack speaks... (Part 2)

Here is the second of three parts of what Len Bodack, candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district, has to say about his record as a former Pittsburgh City Council member.

From Len Bodack:

Legislatively, I have always given quality of life issues the highest priority. I have sponsored, co-sponsored and passed a number of bills that protect residents from nuisance properties, require the registration of rental units and hold landlords accountable for their tenants.

I sponsored and passed legislation to stop aggressive panhandling on city streets. I also sponsored and passed a bill to eliminate methadone clinics in residential zoned areas and further restrict this use from within 500 feet of a church, school or library, and also protect local business districts from this type of activity.

I have secured funding and grants to place video cameras in high crime areas throughout my district. You may be aware of the arson suspect that was caught in the Polish Hill neighborhood by video from cameras that I placed at the community’s request. I have also funded cameras for Lawrenceville, Bloomfield and Morningside as well which have been a major factor in reducing crime.

They have also helped identify and apprehend 3 suspects involved in a stabbing, catch an assault suspect, solve a vehicular crime and accident in my neighborhoods.

In partnership with local community based organizations I funded and started a local “Weed and Seed” program in Lawrenceville to address the problems of drugs and drug related crime. In 2005, my program won national acclaim and I traveled to Los Angeles to discuss and share our locally developed program with groups from across the country. Our success landed us a federal site designation in October of 2006 receiving a $2.2 million grant to continue operations for the next 5 years.

I’ve worked with federal and local law enforcement on securing additional police, busting drugs, padlocking nuisance bars and closing drug houses. I’ve worked on local community development, on the reconstruction of Penn Avenue and getting state and local funds to tear down hopelessly dilapidated housing and reduce neighborhood blight.

I also established a private-public partnership that fundraised and reopened the swimming pool in the Polish Hill neighborhood which had been closed due to the city’s financial constraints in 2004.

I assembled a first-rate staff and kept an active district office. I’m very proud of the work my staff did on a daily basis. They got traffic lights and stop signs repaired or installed, refuse collected, taxes straightened out, abandoned cars removed, crack houses identified and they arranged for senior citizens and others in need to get important services provided by other levels of government. We treated everyone in the district as a member of our own family.

This is yet another chance for registered Democrats and residents to learn about Bodack. Expect the last piece of this segment in the near future.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Bodack speaks...

I've been in talks with Len Bodack, a candidate for the state house seat in the 21st district, and he has responded to comments left on this blog and outlined his platform. I'll be posting this in three parts since there is a lot to cover.

I also plan on scheduling a sit down interview with Bodack to learn even more about his campaign.

From Bodack:

As a member of City Council my duty was to represent the residents, not the newspapers. I have always disagreed with the state’s granting tax exemptions to special business interests like insurance companies, financial institutions and newspapers.

It was a campaign issue when I ran for office, so I never expected them (local newspapers) to endorse me for anything. As a result, when I make positive news, I usually don’t receive any mention, unless it’s something that may be negative or controversial.

What you won’t find in the newspapers:

One reason that members of city council held out on the Act 47 vote (June-Nov 2004) was to protect our work force from being completely dismantled by the Republicans in the legislature. While demanding that the city privatize its workforce, there was no mechanism in place for displaced workers to bid to keep their jobs.

That standoff by Council resulted in language being added to the Act 47 legislation to allow “managed competition” enabling city workers to competitively bid on services they provided to residents as an alternative to privatization. This gives the work force a chance to cut costs by competitive bid, and also protects the taxpayers from being overcharged by the private sector for services.

A few examples:

The forced privatization of the city garage ended up costing taxpayers $1 million more in 2006 than budgeted and another estimated $2.5 million in cost overruns in 2007. Act 47 projected $1.8 million savings per year. The city has just renewed the contract with First Vehicle for $14.7 million over 27 months, $3 million more than the original 36 month contract. That’s a 67% increase.

Where are the savings?

When city refuse workers bid the trash contract through managed competition, the net result equaled $1.2 million savings for city taxpayers. The working people knew the job. They showed us how to do it better. Now we have a happier, more productive work force and the taxpayers benefit. I have always and will continue to stand up for working people.

You may have recently heard how city refuse workers began trash pickups for Wilkinsburg residents. (The eastern borough pays the city about $722,000 a year, saving an estimated $250,000 from what it might have paid a private hauler.) The city is discussing similar deals with other governments. That is inter-governmental cooperation. Working together to find cost effective solutions using shared resources.

In 2006 we didn’t ask to be removed from Act 47. We were asking the Secretary of DCED to evaluate our progress and establish benchmarks, to gauge how far we had come and understand where we needed to be, to remove the negative stigma of being a distressed municipality.

We passed a similar motion last fall and are waiting for the Secretary’s response. When I was elected in 2003 we had a staggering budget gap and were projected to end the year $35 million in debt. In the 2005, we took advantage of a favorable bond market and managed to refinance and reduce long term debt and put together a modest capital budget ($26 million) to pave streets, buy police cars and fire trucks without borrowing ($50 million new bonds were recommended by the Act 47 recovery plan).

We reduced our workforce by 23%. Council cut all departmental budgets by 15% and its own budget by 34%!

The legislative process is difficult to understand. The best analogy that comes to mind would compare it to attending a Steelers game. Your perspective of the game has a lot to do with where you are seated. You may not be able to see the replay if you are seated under the scoreboard, but may have a totally different opinion of the game from seats on the 50 yard line.

Even as we continue to move towards more open and transparent government, it is difficult for people to see everything that is happening at any given time. In today’s busy world we rely on the media too much for information. It is unfortunate that there is so much news for public consumption and someone else gets to decide what is important to people.

All that I can do is try to set the record straight. As I am not in the business of selling advertising or newspapers, I don’t need to manufacture the news or promote any agenda other than that of the people that I was elected to represent.

I think it's great that Bodack has addressed certain issues such as the Act 47 recovery plan. More information will be forthcoming and will help local Democrats make an educated decision on April 22.

Working to keep you posted...

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Brenda Frazier resigns...

Brenda Frazier has resigned from Allegheny County Council to pursue a seat in the 21st legislative district.

From today's Post-Gazette:

Brenda Frazier resigned from Allegheny County Council on Monday to pursue a seat in the state Legislature, but she may be able to regain her council seat if her legislative bid is unsuccessful.

Ms. Frazier, 66, of Stanton Heights, filed election papers this week to run for the 21st Legislative District seat, which covers Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods.

Ms. Frazier, who was first elected to County Council in 2001 to fill the two-year unexpired term of the late former County Commissioner Tom Foerster, ended her tenure on council effective Feb. 11.

The word is that the vacated position may be filled with a leader who plans to step down if Frazier should lose in the primary election on April 22. Council members would then vote to appoint Frazier to the vacancy.

Allegheny County Council members are denying that a deal has been made but it sounds like something that would happen in local politics here.

Frazier resigned the seat due to a rule on council that forces members to resign if pursuing a different political seat. That said, I don't think she has a chance of winning this election -- Frazier is a total underdog.

Additionally, she is one of the county council members that voted in favor of the drink tax last December. I have serious issues with the way the tax was presented and would have a hard time supporting any candidate who OK'd this levy.

I'll try to find more about Frazier and will let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

What i'm finding out about Bodack...

Here's some info I'm finding out about Len Bodack. I'll continue to update this as I come across more details.

- He is the son of a longtime state senator, now retired.

- Bodack served on Pittsburgh City Council. He was ousted by Patrick Dowd in a narrow defeat last year. Here is information about it:

In their endorsement for Bodack's challenger in his bid for re-election, the Post-Gazette wrote:

They can go with the incumbent, Len Bodack Jr., son of the longtime state senator, veteran of the Democratic Committee and foe of budget cuts that were needed to save the city.

Or they can opt for the fresh thinking and independence of Patrick Dowd, a school board member who has been a force for change in Pittsburgh education and who didn't shrink from closing schools to reduce costly overcapacity.

The Trib also did not endorse Bodack for re-election:

- While on city council, Bodack made some questionable stances. The Post-Gazette previously reported:

The Lawrenceville incumbent, 50, voted in March 2006 -- incredibly and unsuccessfully -- to end the state's oversight of city finances under Act 47. He was a member of council's "gang of five" who, in November 2004, rejected the stiff but necessary budget cuts to pull Pittsburgh from the brink of bankruptcy.

He knuckled under to pressure from city employee unions in June 2004 and voted with three council members against the city's fiscal recovery plan.

Here's more:

Working to keep you posted...

Dan DeMarco leaves the race...

Some of you will be glad to know that Dan DeMarco has decided not to continue running for the 21st legislative district seat. This comes after he did not recieve the endorsement from Allegheny County Democratic Committee.

DeMarco writes:

I have reluctantly decided to not continue my campaign for the 21st district PA House seat. The results of Sunday's Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsement were disappointing, not so much due to the fact that Len Bodack won, but more so because most of the Ross Democratic Committee member's votes are among those received by Bodack.

As one blogger pointed out, if the people don't want a "party boss" to be elected, they should hope another candidate can beat Bodack. The residents should know that most of the Democratic Committee members from Ross Township voted for Len Bodack. Ross commissioner Dan Kinross endorsed him.

The Democratic Machine is alive and well in Ross Township, unfortunately it is at the expense of the residents of Ross Township. Apparently Len Bodack has offered something to people that I did not.

Likely promises of government jobs for a handful Ross Committee members and their relatives. Promises which will go unfulfilled since the loyalty of those who are members of the 10th Ward Democratic Committee rests with the chairman of that committee, Len Bodack.

The Ross Township Democratic Committee assured for the residents of Ross Township that once again, a city resident will continue to represent us in the PA House.

I'm very concerned about the prospects of Bodack being at the helm. I'm not hearing many good things about this guy and for his supporters out there -- if he did such a good job in the city, why did he not win his bid for re-election?

I'm going to get more info about Bodack in the coming days. Hopefully, I actually hear something positive about him and his prospects as a leader of the 21st district.

Working to keep you posted...

I finally got it...

After more than a year of waiting, I finally got a Nintendo Wii system earlier on Monday. I casually went to the Target at North Hills Village Mall along McKnight Road and decided to check if there were any in stock. This is something I've been doing for quite some time and when I saw two available -- my heart skipped a beat.

Unfortunately, the other gaming console was quickly scooped up after I purchased mine. For those of you searching for one, I heard that Game Stop in the same shopping plaza may be your best bet.

I know many of you may not be "gamers," but this system is so fun.

It comes with a sports game and you're really missing something if you have not yet went bowling on the Nintendo Wii.

Working to keep you posted but addicted to my new game system at the moment...

Democratic committee endorsement...

Hey guys,

Earlier this week, Allegheny County Democratic Committee endorsed former Pittsburgh City Councilman Len Bodack for the race in the 21st legislative district.

From the Post-Gazette:

In the 21st Legislative District, in Pittsburgh's eastern neighborhoods, former city Councilman Len Bodack Jr. had twice as many votes as his closest competitor, former state Rep. Frank Pistella, who was seeking the committee's support to return to the seat he lost in the Democratic primary to Lisa Bennington two years ago.

Ms. Bennington has announced her plan to retire after only one term in Harrisburg.

Mr. Bodack had 60 votes, followed by Mr. Pistella, with 29; Dominic Costa, a former Pittsburgh police official, 11; Dan DeMarco, 8; county Councilwoman Brenda Frazier, 3; and Paul McKrell, 1.

Mr. Bodack is seeking a return to public life after being ousted from his City Council seat last year in a primary loss to Councilman Patrick Dowd.

I am the type who thinks endorsements usually don't matter that much. As a Ross Township resident, I don't know that much about Bodack but when I "Googled" him, the results were not flattering. I plan on getting more information about Bodack but, once again, I'm not sure how much weight the endorsement holds.

Those of you who know about Bodack, feel free to post your comments.

The only thing the endorsement may do is persuade certain candidates from dropping their bid for the seat. However, I still believe several candidates will continue their runs for the legislative position.

Working to keep you posted...

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Changes at Ross Park Mall...

I've been hearing quite a few rumors that a handful of stores at Ross Park Mall are being forced out to make way for Nordstroms and mall officials are courting more upscale establishments.

I've heard Nordstrom officials are demanding the oust of certain retailers that would be competition such as Gloria Jeans Coffee (Nordstroms will have a Starbucks) and a children's clothing store. Also, the word on the street is that a P.F. Chang's (Chinese restaurant) is planning to build at the mall.

I'm looking into this and will let you know what I find out. I for one do not want that mall to turn into something like The Galleria in Mt. Lebonan. Hopefully, it won't become too upscale for the North Hills community.

Right now most of this is rumor. I'll look into it and let you know.

Working to keep you posted...

More responses from Dan DeMarco...

Here are some more responses to comments left to Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner and candidate for a state legislative seat. His responses are below.

Dear looking for an honest answer :

Yes, honestly, I would have no problem if the Trek/HEARTH plan of homes was built next door or across the street from me. As a matter of fact, it would complement my neighborhood quite well since I own and live in a townhouse in Woodbridge.

Dear Anonymous :

We can agree to disagree on the issue of the pay raise. I do believe it is still an issue with the people. And again, I have had not one resident complain to me about my vote on Trek/HEARTH while knocking on doors.

Moreover, my literature addresses other issues as well, like property taxes, which in the case of North Hills, has been impacted over the years due to the investment in Martorelli Stadium. I would still like to know what we have to show for the tax money invested in this project.

Yes, I was a member of the Benedictine Center Board. That Board sets policy for programs carried out by the Center. If you have any idea of the Center’s programs you would know that it has nothing to do with HEARTH.

It is a completely separate non-profit corporation.

UPDATE: Below are additional responses from DeMarco to your comments:

Dear Anonymous :

I have done my best to try and explain that laws that I did not make impact the inability of Ross Township or any municipality from denying the location of affordable housing in a particular area. I have further explained the serious financial impact a federal discrimination lawsuit could have had on the Township's budget, and the person financial liability each individual commissioner would have faced.

Again, I did not make the laws. I will therefore no longer respond to any further criticisms of me or the decision regarding HEARTH. I am going around in circles to no avail. I would recommend you ask your federal lawmakers what they can do to protect you from the problems you fear from affordable housing.

Dear Woodbridge Resident:

I NEVER stated I was speaking for you or any other Woodbridge resident. I simply stated MY opinion. I do not appreciate your mischaracterization of what I said.

Furthermore, I never invited or sought the location of affordable housing in Woodbridge or anywhere else in Ross Township. Affordable housing seeks for itself where it desires to locate. Federal law dictates the inability to prohibit its location.

Would you be willing to risk your home and car and portions of your life earnings as a defendant in a federal lawsuit in the capacity of Ross commissioner? This situation is much more complex than I think you and many others understand. Ultimately, it comes down to serious financial liability for the Township and individuals.


Dear Speech Writer :

Thanks for offering to write my speech, but it is incorrect. I do not recall saying I would vote against a Wal-Mart Super Center on McKnight Road (I recall another blogger pointed this out as well).

I did say that one big hurdle for Wal-Mart was additional traffic on McKnight Road. But that issue is not for me or Ross Township to decide. PennDOT must determine if Wal-Mart can accomplish its goal of locating on McKnight Road based on traffic studies that then have to be applied to PennDOT traffic regulations.

If Wal-Mart satifies all zoning and land development ordinances of Ross Township to build a Super Center, I will have a duty to approve its plan to build on McKnight Road.

Working to keep you posted...

Sunday, February 3, 2008

DeMarco's campaign...

Here's a flyer from Dan DeMarco's campaign for the state legislative seat in the 21st district. I found this by my front door earlier today.

Maybe some of his competition will do the same.

Working to keep you posted...

Dan DeMarco responds... again...

Well, you Tattlers have been responding to Dan DeMarco's responses to your issues with him. Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner and candidate for a state legislative seat, wrote:

Dear Ticked off taxpayer :

OK. For the second or third time, let me explain it to you.

Your question was: Why do we have commissioners that vote and then change their vote when threatened with a law suit? The federal lawsuit named Ross Township as a defendant. It also named four individual commissioners as defendants. The result of a verdict against Ross Township and the four individual commissioners would be monetary damages, much like a lawsuit in which a person would be found responsible for rear ending a motorist who suffered permanent physical injuries and then be ordered to pay thousands of dollars to the injured motorist.

Ross Township is insured, BUT, our liability insurance would not pay for a verdict of money damages against the Township in a federal discrimination lawsuit. Accordingly, the money to pay the verdict would come right out of the Township’s budget. This is YOUR money and the money and ALL of the taxpayers of Ross Township.

Moreover, each individual commissioner would have to pay out of his or her OWN pocket any verdict of monetary damages awarded against them. Now, let me ask you this: If you were sitting as a commissioner faced with these circumstances how would you vote? Do you have thousands of dollars to pay a verdict rendered against you? Likely you would have to sell your cars and your house.

As for an individual’s First Amendment rights to speak out, I’m all for it. Unfortunately, the laws don’t give blanket protection to everything a person says. There are limits.
I recall that the same opposition from the neighborhood was displayed when HEARTH converted the St. Benedict’s school into apartments for single mothers. Has that turned your neighborhood turning into a “ghetto?”

You also stated as follows: “The $10 million spent on the Stadium is a drop in the bucket compared to what Hearth has cost the taxpayers. At least we have something to show for the money spent on the Stadium.” Exactly what do we have to show for the money spent on the Stadium? What has it done differently for the school district? Has it improved the education of the students in the school district? Were you in favor of the taxpayers’ money being spent to build PNC Park and Heinz Field? How have you personally benefited from PNC Park and Heinz Field?

Are you paying less in taxes now due to the construction of PNC Park and Heinz Field?

Dear Anonymous :

I’ve been knocking on doors for days and have not had one person ask me about the HEARTH matter. So, I should have learned last night who this “other” candidate is? I did not see any other candidate other than the ones that have been declared now for several weeks.

As the Tattler has asked before: Can you tell me this candidate’s name?

Finally, I have a very hard time believing you or your “candidate” would vote any differently if faced with the exact circumstances with which the Ross commissioners were facing. It is easy to say otherwise when one is looking from the outside in. Sometimes, Anonymous, laws do not seem fair, but we have to obey them. Otherwise, we’d be a society in chaos, much like many third world countries.

Friday, February 1, 2008

The North Hills Tattler celebrates...

After more than 16,000 page hits, the North Hills Tattler has reached its first birthday (ironically the same day as this Tattler's). I first started this blog as a venue to discuss local issues - most importantly the Wal-Mart project along McKnight Road.

Now a year later, we have grown by leaps and bounds -- it could not have been done without your input. That is what makes this blog such an asset to the community, I just hope many more readers discover it in the future.

Shaler teachers may have a hit out on me for my opinion of their contract denial :) but here's to another year of conversation and hopes that the North Hills region can continue to reach for the stars.

As always, working to keep you posted...

Dan DeMarco responds - UPDATE...

UPDATE: For those of you who would like to contact Dan DeMarco, Ross Township Commissioner, here is his e-mail address:

In regards to comments left on my previous posts, Ross Township commissioner and candidate for a state representative seat Dan DeMarco has responded. He wrote:

Dear “Ticked Off Taxpayer” :

I am not sure exactly how HEARTH has “drained” the North Hills School District of millions of dollars in the past 12 years as you state in your comment. Could you please elaborate on this and if you have any data regarding this I would be extremely interested in looking at it.

Since HEARTH does not pay any real estate tax to the North Hills School District, they also do not pay any real estate tax to Ross Township. I am going to inquire of the Ross Township Finance Director if there is any way to calculate how much money HEARTH has drained from the Township, and if he can determine this amount, I will certainly share it with you.

I think it is also fair to look at the other side of the ledger when discussing the school district’s budget. Were you in favor of the school district spending $10 million about 5 years ago to completely refurbish Martorelli Stadium? Was that a good use of taxpayer’s money? I do not believe it was.

Do you think school district real estate taxes should be eliminated by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and replaced by taxes that are progressive, based on the individual’s income and ability to pay? I do.

In reference to your comment, “This is our tax money being used against us and we don’t like it.” I needed to make sure you are directed to my response to “Not a fan of Demarco.” Your tax money would have been used to pay the legal fees of Trek and HEARTH, by ORDER OF COURT!

Once again, I did not make the laws on this matter, but I swore an oath to obey the laws. I am completely lost when it comes to your comment about Ross Township losing “paper” related to St. Benedict’s school. I was not a commissioner back then and I do not have a great deal of knowledge about that matter.

If you could be more specific perhaps I could provide a response.

Dear “Not a fan of Demarco” :

First, the proper spelling of my last name is “DeMarco,” not Demarco.

I am very confused with your statement, “…comment about the “group” not in favor of the Hearth/Trek project hiring a (sp?) engineer…” Please clarify this statement. Ross Township’s engineer does represent the Township and determined that the Trek plan satisfied all provisions of the Ross Township subdivision ordinance.

I believe your comment may refer to my comment that the residents perhaps should have hired their own engineer to study the plan to see if there were in his/her opinion any deficiencies in the plan that would call into question whether the plan satisfied all provision of the subdivision ordinance. I am trying so hard to make you and others understand that this is not about “politics,” this is about LAWS, specifically local laws which are exactly what ordinances are and must be interpreted by the Board of Commissioners and by the courts of Pennsylvania.

We are, BY LAW, supposed to “take of our political hats and put on our judicial robes” when considering subdivision, land use plans and conditional use requests by any property owner. Again, I must impress upon you that the Trek/HEARTH appeal would have been reversed by the Court of Common Pleas and the Court would have ordered that their plan be permitted to proceed.

Would that then have been my fault? And would you have been satisfied that the Court would have not only entered an order permitting the plan to proceed, but also would have ordered that your tax dollars would have to pay for Trek’s/HEARTH’s legal fees?

Dear “Another Ross Twp. Taxpayer” :

Every mother living in the apartments owned by HEARTH is required to work. Therefore, they must pay wage taxes to the North Hills School District and to Ross Township. Likewise, every occupant of the Trek Development must have a job with a minimum income (the specific amount I do not recall) and therefore also will pay wage taxes to the North Hills School District and to Ross Township.

Moreover, they pay income tax to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and to the federal government, just like you and me. Accordingly, the following comment you have made is erroneous: “Has it been fair for the past 12 years for the taxpayers to foot the bill for the Hearth children attending the North Hills School District without paying any taxes to the School District?”

Dear “Anonymous” :

I am quite appalled at the shooting of the clerk at the Indian Market last Saturday at Three Degree Road and Babcock Boulevard. The Chief of Police contacted me immediately on Saturday to debrief me on the incident. I likewise was appalled over a year ago when the clerk was shot and died at the beer distributor on Rochester Road.

These are random acts of violence. The County police are still investigating the beer distributor shooting. The Ross Police will continue to investigate last Saturday’s shooting. If your comment is meant to imply such problems with the HEARTH plan, then perhaps we need to rethink not only the HEARTH plan, but also permitting any retail businesses and banks to operate in Ross Township.

I believe the motive in both shootings mentioned above was the theft of money in a cash register. We also had at least one bank robbery in Ross Township last year, perhaps two. I can get back to you on that if you’d like to know for sure.

Dear "Anonymous" :

I've been reading for a few weeks now about this "candidate" who those opposed to Trek/HEARTH have been saying will enter the race for the 21st state legislative district seat. Time is quickly running out for this candidate to file nomination petitions and financial disclosure statements with the Pennsylvania Department of State in order to appear on the ballot.

I love good challenges, so I do hope the candidate has all his/her paperwork in order to be accepted for filing with the Department. Oh, by the way, my petition to appear on the ballot was circulated by the sisters at the Benedictine Sisters of Pittsburgh. Many votes up there for me. I guess Anonymous thinks I "caved under pressure" from them.

I did not cave under pressure. I honored my oath to follow the law. It is rather disappointing that what is being bashed is the good work and deeds of the Catholic Church and the concept of assisting those less fortunate to become self-sufficient, hard working contributors to our community. Moreover, the easy past is being a candidate who bashes a current elected official for doing his/her job by honoring their oath to follow the law.

The hard part is being an elected official who honors his/her oath and then gets bashed by the candidate and his/her supporters. I've endured it for 8 years and will continue to do it. And because I honor my oath as an elected official and my Roman Catholic upbringing, I will gladly assist Anonymous if ever he/she needs it from Ross Township or the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, with the understanding that whatever it is he or she needs, I must always follow the law.

The bottom line is this: You may disagree with me and you may not like me, but when/if you need me, I'll be there to help in any way I can.

So who says that your local leaders don't listen to you? DeMarco does and love him or hate him he is an open ear to residents.

Remember, he has agreed to an interview. E-mail questions to by Super Bowl Sunday.

Working to keep you posted...