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Public Corruption in Chester County, PA

I believe an unlikely mix of alleged drug trafficking related politicos and alleged white nationalist related politicos united to elect the infamous “Bloc of Four” in the abysmal voter turnout election of 2005. During their four year term the drug business was good again and white nationalists used Coatesville as an example on white supremacist websites like “Stormfront”. Strong community organization and support from law enforcement, in particular Chester County District Attorney Joseph W. Carroll has begun to turn our community around. The Chester County drug trafficking that I believe centers on Coatesville continues and I believe we still have public officials in place that profit from the drug sales. But the people here are amazing and continue to work against the odds to make Coatesville a good place to live.

Monday, February 25, 2013


A few years ago Joe Carroll had his door open to his house on 8th Avenue in Coatesville to anyone who wanted to talk to him. The hardest part of these meetings was listening to the anguish of the family members of murder victims. The violence of that moment was relived by those people. They were living victims of murder. 

Several people told stories of being mugged. For the most part they were veterans who were staying at one of the several homes on Chestnut Street. The muggings weren’t always violent attacks. Three or more young men demanding money from a disabled veteran usually caused the veteran to give up his small amount of cash they carry without a fuss. But they were regular maybe once a week muggings. 

The first article could have been written about the City of Coatesville:

"The Price of Public Violence 
EVERY year, the Chicago Police Department issues a report with the macabre title “Chicago Murder Analysis.” It’s a short but eye-opening document. Do the calculations and you realize that in the past 15 years, 8,083 people have been killed, most of them in a concentrated part of the city. There’s one particularly startling revelation that gets little notice: in 2011, more than four-fifths of all murders happened in a public place, a park, an alleyway, on the street, in a restaurant or at a gas station. 
When Hadiya Pendleton, the 15-year-old public school student and band majorette who just a week earlier had performed at President Obama’s inauguration, was killed on Jan. 29, she was standing under an awning in a park with a dozen friends. They all saw or heard it when she was shot in the back. One of them, in fact, was wounded by the gunfire. Which brings me to what’s not in the “Chicago Murder Analysis”: Over the past 15 years, according to the University of Chicago Crime Lab, an estimated 36,000 people were shot and wounded. It’s a staggering number. 
We report on the killers and the killed, but we ignore those who have been wounded or who have witnessed the shootings. What is the effect on individuals — especially kids — who have been privy to the violence in our cities’ streets?I ask this somewhat rhetorically because in many ways we know the answer. We’ve seen what exposure to the brutality of war does to combat veterans. It can lead to outbursts of rage, an inability to sleep, flashbacks, a profound sense of being alone, a growing distrust of everyone around you, a heightened state of vigilance, a debilitating sense of guilt. In an interview I heard recently on the radio, the novelist and Vietnam veteran Tim O’Brien talked about how the atrocities and nastiness of battle get in your bones. The same can be said for kids growing up in Hadiya’s neighborhood."
More at: 

The second article and in part the third article concerns veterans. 
The Devitt Paul J Hardware Co was at 26 S 1st Ave. The building is gone and the space it occupied is now part of Gateway Park in Coatesville. At Christmas time the top floor of the store had a huge toy department with a Lionel Train display. At least it seemed huge to a 5 year old. That would have been 1947 and the Coatesville Veterans Hospital was well occupied. To a five year old Devitt’s and the Vet’s (hospital) sounded the same. I figured it out by the time I started school. 

Everyone who lives in Coatesville is affected somehow by the Veterans Hospital. The real name is the Coatesville VA Medical Center.  Some of the people you see on our streets may appear to be homeless people. They are not. They are veterans who deserve our respect. Some Coatesville residents believe the veterans we see in our streets degrade the quality of life here. I don't feel that way. A vibrant cosmopolitan community has all sorts of people. We all can make a unique contribution to our town.  I believe that the Coatesville VA Medical Center and the Brandywine Hospital combined are the largest employers in the 19320 area code.  
The man who shot and killed Osama bin Laden sat in a wicker chair in my backyard, wondering how he was going to feed his wife and kids or pay for their medical care. 
It was a mild spring day, April 2012, and our small group, including a few of his friends and family, was shielded from the sun by the patchwork shadows of maple trees. But the Shooter was sweating as he talked about his uncertain future, his plans to leave the Navy and SEAL Team 6. 
He stood up several times with an apologetic gripe about the heat, leaving a perspiration stain on the seat-back cushion. He paced. I didn't know him well enough then to tell whether a glass of his favorite single malt, Lagavulin, was making him less or more edgy. 
We would end up intimately familiar with each other's lives. We'd have dinners, lots of Scotch. He's played with my kids and my dogs and been a hilarious, engaging gentleman around my wife. 
In my yard, the Shooter told his story about joining the Navy at nineteen, after a girl broke his heart. To escape, he almost by accident found himself in a Navy recruiter's office. "He asked me what I was going to do with my life. I told him I wanted to be a sniper. 
"He said, 'Hey, we have snipers.' 
"I said, 'Seriously, dude. You do not have snipers in the Navy.' But he brought me into his office and it was a pretty sweet deal. I signed up on a whim." 
"That's the reason Al Qaeda has been decimated," he joked, "because she broke my fucking heart." 
I would come to know about the Shooter's hundreds of combat missions, his twelve long-term SEAL-team deployments, his thirty-plus kills of enemy combatants, often eyeball to eyeball. And we would talk for hours about the mission to get bin Laden and about how, over the celebrated corpse in front of them on a tarp in a hangar in Jalalabad, he had given the magazine from his rifle with all but three lethally spent bullets left in it to the female CIA analyst whose dogged intel work and intuition led the fighters into that night. 
When I was first around him, as he talked I would always try to imagine the Shooter geared up and a foot away from bin Laden, whose life ended in the next moment with three shots to the center of his forehead. But my mind insisted on rendering the picture like a bad Photoshop job — Mao's head superimposed on the Yangtze, or tourists taking photos with cardboard presidents outside the White House. 
Bin Laden was, after all, the man CIA director Leon Panetta called "the most infamous terrorist in our time," who devoured inordinate amounts of our collective cultural imagery for more than a decade. The number-one celebrity of evil. And the man in my backyard blew his lights out.
More at: 
 For the first time, the Navy SEAL who killed Osama bin Laden tells his story — speaking not just about the raid and the three shots that changed history, but about the personal aftermath for himself and his family. And the startling failure of the United States government to help its most experienced and skilled warriors carry on with their lives.
The Man Who Killed Osama bin Laden... Is Screwed

The third article is sometimes seen as an inditement of the City of Coatesville. It’s not. Coatesville is used as a metaphor  for collapse of our industrial society in small towns across America and the illegal drug industry that in many cases replaced it.
From the blog:

Introducing "Cokeville," the New American Suburb

With a collapsed economy and shrinking middle class, Coatesville, Pa., represents small-town America. Now, the cocaine market is the only industry that's booming. Is this our nation's future? 
Kennedy says that the local drug demand has a long history because Coatesville is home to one of the largest Veterans Administration drug rehabs on the East Coast. Generations of highly addicted war veterans have come from far and wide to detox at Coatesville, and many end up staying after they’re discharged, renting rooms and living in halfway houses. The VA’s success rate is as low as any other rehab’s, and plenty of vets relapse, making their way to the east side to hit up at one of the city’s crack houses.” 

The only constant is change. I believe the City of Coatesville is a small town in transition. For many people, especially those of us who live here, that transition can’t take place soon enough. Consider that when Chief of Police Dominic Bellizzie first saw Coatesville he said that the “streets were an open air drug bazaar”. 

It might not seem so but we have come a long way from the Coatesville of 18 years ago:

Coatesville Drug Trade Just Shifts With The Young Guns Gone, Eighth Avenue Is Quiet. Dealers They Drove Out Are Back On Seventh, Though.

December 19, 1997| 
COATESVILLE — In the months since the street gang known as the Young Guns was broken up by police, things have grown quiet on Eighth Avenue, where the crack-dealing gang once ruled with a violent, intimidating grip. 
But a block away, other dealers have swept in to fill the void, and many residents along Seventh Avenue are complaining about wide-open drug dealing on their street. 
“You can't even get up the street because there's so many people in it,'' complained Randy Perry, 48, who lives in the area. “They harass you as you walk up the street.''
It's like a flea market with drugs,'' said Coatesville District Justice Brenda Bicking, who knows of the problem by way of the many youths who come through her courtroom. ``You can just drive your car down Seventh Avenue with a $20 bill and have someone put crack in your hand.'' 
More at:

The forth article is in the current issue of Chester County Life Magazine. Starting on page 30 is “Forward-Looking Public and Private Sectors Forge Ahead to Revitalize Coatesville” 

The article in Chester County Life Magazine begins: 

“Don Cochran is proud of his hometown, Born and raised just outside of Coatesville, he reminisces about the glory days. ‘Friday night was always fun. Everyone gathered to see friends and neighbors. There were little girls in white gloves-boys wearing jackets and ties. Even people from West Chester Came to shop at Sears, Woolworth’s and Newberry’s.”
The article goes on to say that Mr. Cochran bought the former Lipkins warehouse and plans to refurbish it into condominiums or apartments with retail space on the first floor... 
“Funds are currently in place for a new $20 million train station. ‘We have a solid working relationship with the Redevelopment Authority, PennDOT, Amtrak, and Chester County Economic Development Council,” lists Sciochetti (David N. Sciocchetti). A developer will be hired, a concept completed. When designs are approved, construction begins. Finish goal is sometime in 2015...” 
Dual train station development will drive revitalization of downtown and encourage commuters to stay and enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment in Coatesville. Rail commuters who live in town will have access to the top half of the East Coast simply by walking out of their door. “If you connect with Amtrak, you’ll be in New York City in less than two hours,” suggests Grabus. “Instead of fighting highway traffic, you can read, rest, or work.” 
It offers convenience and gritty character juxtaposed with highway access, transit access, even air access at nearby Chester County Airport.  “One of my neighbors owns a private equity firm with offices in London, Dubai-and Coatesville,” punctuates Cochran. The world-class airport is one of the reasons he chose to locate in the Coatesville area.” 
The article ends with “People will stop. People will stay. People will invest. “Live here. Work here. Live here. Work anywhere, “ points out Pulver.  (Don Pulver, developer of the Coatesville Marriott Courtyard) Both trans station projects and the  Velodrome bring an air of economic optimism to Coatesville. “ concurs Sciocchetti. Revitalization lets everyone pick up their heads and imagine a better future. Government, transit and private partnership sector is usually a good formula for success.  
Add jobs and location to hit a home run. Pulver anticipates opportunity for up to 3,000 employment opportunities when all projects are complete.” And -you can’t beat this location,” stresses Cochran. 
“If entrepreneurs don by property in Coatesville today when it is a fraction of the cost it will be in two years, they will miss out on real estate investment opportunities”  
As Chester County moves west through Coatesville, it heralds a hub of activity, much like its 18th Century past.”
It's on the newsstands now.

I believe the four articles put together capture the City of Coatesville’s point in time. After more than a decade of working at it we know that the City of Coatesville can be the best place to live in, work in, and go to in Chester County.  We need to make our streets safe for everyone. We need good safe housing for everyone. We need economic development. We need residential, business and transportation development. We need to work at all of those at the same time.  I think we will succeed. 

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