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Who Gets Your Vote in Ward 7: Liz Rogan or Beth Ladenheim?

Wynnewood residents will choose an incumbent president and her challenger.

The voters of Lower Merion's Ward 7 in Wynnewood (and Penn Wynne), will choose their Board of Commissioners representative on Tuesday: either Democratic incumbent Liz Rogan, president of the Board, Republican challenger Beth Ladenheim.

To learn more about the candidates ahead of Tuesday's election, Patch asked both the same questions, via email on Thursday. Both were gracious enough to respond by Sunday afternoon.

Their answers, edited only for Patch editorial style, are below. 

Rogan and Ladenheim  Oct. 17.

Tell us in the comments for whom you plan to cast your vote.

PERSONAL

  • Elizabeth (Liz) Rogan, 53, of Holly Lane in Wynnewood
  • Beth Ladenheim, 52, of Remington Road in Wynnewood

OCCUPATION

  • ROGAN: Certified professional (AICP) in planning and community design; president of the Lower Merion Board of Commissioners.
  • LADENHEIMHomemaker, Community Volunteer, Part-time Dance Fitness Instructor, former masters’ degree Dance/Movement Therapist.

What’s the most important issue that is specific to your ward?

ROGANThe feedback I receive varies widely and generally relates to what’s going on in each person’s life. Overall, I believe residents in Ward 7 want to know that the quality of their lives and the character of our neighborhood are protected and enhanced where possible.

Year round neighbors are concerned about speeding on local streets and in the winter there are concerns with having streets plowed and salted in a timely fashion. Most frequently I hear about the desire to retain the quality of our services, including police and fire protection and the programs provided in our libraries and parks systems. My neighbors clearly support investing in maintenance for our roads and the storm and sanitary sewer systems and, when asked specifically, people say they believe their Township taxes are reasonable for the quality of services they receive.

LADENHEIMAccording to the people I visited all over the Ward, they are concerned about potholes that need fixing, stop signs that should be obeyed and kept visible, and crosswalks that are safe. They also wish for sidewalks so their children can get to the playground, or so they can walk to work. They do not want more traffic congestion, and most of all, they are unhappy with the overspending and overtaxing in the Township, since my opponent took her seat and became a “strategic planning” advisor for the Lower Merion School District during their recent spree of tax hikes.

 

What’s your opinion of the township’s current financial situation?

ROGANLower Merion is one of less than a handful of Townships nationwide that enjoys a double AAA bond rating, which Moody’s and Standard and Poors’ state reflects “strong financial management” and the Township’s “sound financial position….[including]… very strong reserves.”

The Township uses a consistent, long term approach to managing public facilities and over the years has kept up with maintenance of infrastructure and major equipment while taking advantage of opportunities to invest in facilities that enhance our quality of life, now and for future generations.

With most of the costly capital improvements completed in the later 1990s and early 2000s (the Township’s administration building and Koegel complex, all the fire stations and improvements to our local parks and playgrounds) the Township is now, finally, addressing our libraries. With borrowing costs at historic lows, our total net debt is now decreasing—from $113.5M in 2010, to $105.4M in 2011 and $100.3M by January 2012. As a direct result of our strong financial planning and management practices, the Township will not go to the bond market again until the beginning of 2013, saving another $800,000 +/- next year.

By finding efficiencies and enhancing productivity, we have maintained a high level of municipal services with 12% fewer employees as compared to 2008. In the wake of the “Great Recession” and the associated loss of non-real estate tax based revenue, we reduced spending by more than $7M since 2009.

Now that we have stabalized Township finances, I am supporting and advocating that the Board adopt a 2012 budget with no real estate tax increase. I believe that with continued strong management and oversight by the Board of Commissioners the outlook for 2013 is just as promising.

LADENHEIMAlthough we enjoy a AAA bond rating, it is being imperiled by the high levels of debt and spending imposed by the current majority on the board, led by my opponent.  Our taxes, furthermore, have been increased sixty percent since 2003, yet our property values have fallen over the last few years.  This is not a coincidence—high property tax burdens create a negative drag on property values, threaten our outstanding services and our bond rating. 

 

What is the township funding too much or too little?

ROGANIn response to the very challenging economic conditions we all faced, the Board of Commissioners significantly reduced funding dedicated to purchasing large equipment, such as our vehicle fleet, public works trucks and emergency management communication equipment. This necessary and purposeful decision helped lessen the need for additional operating revenue but, if the Township’s well founded practice of long term financial planning is to continue, the implications of this temporary solution must be understood and a policy decision concerning how to fund these inevitable costs must be made.

In terms of services, I am concerned about public safety and our ability to keep up the maintenance and repair of heavily utilized roads and aging stormwater and sanitary sewer systems. Local government services are provided by people and we will therefore need to carefully track the impact of the many unfunded, vacant positions in recent Township budgets and, as economic conditions permit, look to fill some of these positions.

LADENHEIMThe township has been funding too much in super sizing projects that are then delivered off schedule and over budget and funding too little essential services like police and storm water management.  My opponent voted to approve $24 million in new debt in 2010 and we do not have one more police officer on our streets and storm water is literally washing away parts of our township.  Paying back debt is becoming an unsustainable part of our budget which threatens essential service delivery and we must reverse this trend.

 

How would you approach your job in the upcoming term, if elected?

ROGANI will continue to talk to and meet with people who live and work in Ward 7 and throughout the Township to discuss their needs and ideas for keeping Lower Merion the first class community that we all know and love. My goal is to be readily accessible and continue to provide timely and responsive assistance to residents and property owners who seek help with any Township related matter. I am also committed to actively working towards and advocating for solutions that will make Lower Merion a more sustainable community, so that the costs associated with providing the services and facilities we all want and need are not a burden to those who currently work and live here. 

LADENHEIMThe job of Commissioner is to be an advocate for and represent residents to local government, not, as my opponent believes to represent local government to the people. I’ll attend Civic Association meetings on a regular basis. I’ll listen to the the people. I’ll visit every house at least once a year, every year, even when it’s not an election year. I’ll communicate with everyone by e-mail and keep them informed of Township proceedings and issues before decisions are made, so we can prevent unintended consequences of our policies.  I will treat the taxpayers’ money as carefully as they do in their own homes, and I will be accessible and responsive.

 

What makes you a better choice than your opponent?

ROGANWard 7 residents have a real choice on Tuesday. My background, expertise and ideology are dramatically different than my opponent’s, who has not been involved in any substantive way with local government affairs or public policy matters. Our approach to and belief in the value and need for informed public debate and the purpose of “public service” could not be more different. My opponent has twisted “facts” and tried to frighten residents into believing spending and Township debt is out of control and out of line. Nothing could be further from the truth and I invite everyone to visit my website, www.FriendsOfLizRogan.org, for accurate information.

I volunteer to serve as the elected representative for my community and I am honored to have had the support and trust of my friends and neighbors for these past two terms. Personally and professionally I understand how local governments influence residents’ everyday lives and I believe that our engaged and educated community ensures that Township policies and decisions made by the Board of Commissioners protect the quality of life we enjoy and that it will preserve that quality and character for generations to come.

LADENHEIMI am a lifelong Pennsylvanian, born in Montgomery County.  (My only residence outside of the state was when I attended the University of Delaware, completing my Bachelors’ Degree in Psychology in three and a half years.)  I am the only candidate in this race to have worked entirely in the private sector.  I do not have lifelong interest in government; my only goal is to represent the citizens of Ward 7 in Lower Merion Township as a true “citizen-legislator,” without seeking personal or professional gain.

My opponent is also pushing a rezoning plan for Bala Cynwyd that will drastically increase traffic congestion, without a likelihood of any of the claimed benefits of such increased density.  Additionally, her openness to a wage tax that she expressed during our debate on October 17, 2011 (see the Patch article about this, , wherein she said she “couldn’t rule it out”), will be at cross-purposes to any goal of a business improvement in the Bala Cynwyd district.  She had also declared in that debate, “So yes, I am open to a wage tax.” This wage tax, furthermore, will put yet even more downward pressure on property values throughout the township, to the detriment of all of us and the excellent quality of life that we enjoy here. I, on the other hand, am strongly opposed to a wage tax.  


Contrast the job performances of the board’s Democratic and Republican blocs in the past couple years:

ROGANWhen I first decided to resign my paid position as Lower Merion’s Director of Planning and Community Development, prior to 2004, I campaigned and shared my belief with everyone that national political party affiliation didn’t matter when it came to deciding when and how to pick up the trash and recycling, what to invest in our parks and libraries or how to maintain our roads, street and traffic lights. Over the past few years I have, sadly, slowly seen the national political scene infiltrate into our local Board of Commissioner’s meetings and discussions, both among colleagues and between Commissioners and the public. Some may say that is to be expected, but in my opinion, it has hurt our community by discouraging people without a partisan agenda from participating in local governing and decision making.

LADENHEIM: Since the Democrats became the majority of the Board in 2003, our taxes have gone up sixty percent, and our public debt has doubled.  This is both unsustainable and unnecessary; our superlative essential services can be easily maintained at their high levels without these increases. 

 

What’s the most positive aspect of Lower Merion Township:

ROGAN: If the question requires only one “aspect,” I have to say it is the people in our community who participate in a positive manner and contribute to improving all aspects of Township life, the recent completion of the Cynwyd Heritage Trail, thanks to scores of dedicated volunteers, being a great example. If the question is more general, then nothing can compare to Lower Merion’s natural environment and the historic and cultural resources surrounding us, all while being a stones throw away from the cultural and historic resources in Philadelphia and a train ride from both Washington and New York.

LADENHEIM: The secret of Lower Merion Township is in its hard working, honest and generous people. It is a great place to live. The neighbors take great care and pride in their properties, and the trees are varied and beautiful. The services we receive are truly superior, and I would not countenance any decrease in them.  And our firemen  and police are the very best, and we all appreciate our streets being plowed early and often!

Carla Zambelli November 07, 2011 at 07:36 PM
http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/6175/city-avenue-should-be-topic-tomorrows-election http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/6174/vile-lms-13th-ward-listen-you-vote-why-lm-needs-new-faces http://www.saveardmorecoalition.org/node/6142/time-wake-and-rise-lower-merion-vote-wisely-november-8th
Bob Guzzardi November 07, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Lower Merion spends more, borrows more and taxes more than any surrounding municipality and can anyone say that Lower Merion's standard of living is higher, or the quality of services better or the quantity of services greater? $900,000 to straighten an Ardmore Lancaster intersection? How much better are we because of that expenditure? The Bryn Mawr Bank Gateway Fountain enhances Bryn Mawr bank. We are spending $24 million dollars on expanding brick and mortar libraries in the digital age; building that only one or two percent of the community will use. How much better off are the 98% who pay for the elite and entitled few? Does Comm. Rogan ever consider the impact on the community of removing 10s of millions of dollars from the community itself? What does Comm. Rogan have to say about he secretive mega rezoning of City Ave; who is the economic, for profit constituency supporting the idea fronted by Commissioners. Manos and McGuire, allied with Comm. Rogan in the mega spending plans. Ardmore’s Solyndra the Ardmore Transit Project --The millions to a millionaire, private, for profit developer politically connected to the Democratic Party, to develop a project that is planned to lose money.
Bob Guzzardi November 07, 2011 at 09:07 PM
Property values are more affected by the financing available than by anything happening in Lower Merion.
Dan Loeb November 08, 2011 at 03:12 AM
I was at the debate; Rogan said IF residents want an EIT to be considered, she'd do so (isn't that listening to residents?) and that if there ever was an EIT the real estate tax would drop to match the EIT revenue (and anyone, like me, who already pays an EIT someplace else doesn't ever pay it twice, the money just comes home instead of going to relieve someone else's property taxes).
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 03:22 AM
I think the discussion on which tax to impose is misplaced. The focus needs to be on spending and sunshine in the budget process.
Carla Zambelli November 08, 2011 at 03:33 PM
@Joe Magid - it is totally cool you defend Liz as she is your wife, but please don't say there aren't benefits to your wife being President of the Board of Commissioners. She chose to be commissioner, so you as a couple and family chose to alter her career path together. So somewhere there is a benefit. As for what we "enjoy" in this township other than opressive majority politics and spin, that is debatable. I love the Ardmore you drive through because when I drove through Ardmore and Wynnewood for 7 weeks straight in the summer for radiation at Lankenau when it should have been slow, traffic was a nightmare. I had to leave 45 minutes early for every appointment when I really should only be 15 minutes away, tops. Some days I almost missed appointments because of snarls at "improved" intersections. Same when I went through Bala to go into Philadelphia. And that Ardmore Ave intersection safer? Really? Is that why on Friday evening cars ran the lights in front of pedestrians legally crossing the road? As for the EIT thing, Liz always brings that up in exactly the same way. Like a threat. I think given the state of things as they proceed now, it will become a reality sooner than later. Liz disappoints me because she used to be more her own person. Now she is just a LM Stepford Democrat - all controlled still by those who left.
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 04:14 PM
I am not attacking Liz Rogan or you or any Commissioner, personally. If I have please be specific and I will withdraw the comment. I attacked the bankrupting policies of Comm. Rogan and others in the Majority. Do you disapprove?
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 04:50 PM
Where do the Democrats get their funding? Do you calculate in the 100s of 1000s of dollars that union get out the vote efforts contribute to the campaign? I think if you read the news articles you will see that ShapiroRichards have about 3x the money that BrownCastor do. The Inquirer is not reliable. http://www.phillyburbs.com/news/local/the_intelligencer_news/montco-commissioner-candidates-receiving-spending-large-s-in-campaign/article_6e630827-bd2f-529c-b7ad-d711d3b4cc6b.html
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 04:54 PM
fyi You have not answered the core questions. "Bankrupting Lower Merion" is not a fact; the numbers are the facts and lead to this conclusion despite what ratings agencies say. The money is misspend on projects that offer small benefit compared to cost, and are, in case of libraries, used by only a small percentage of the Lower Merion community. Lower Merion's government is pulling more and more money out of the Lower Merion community to maintain a bond rating. How does a good bond rating improve the standard of living in Lower Merion when residents have less and government has more and neither quantity nor quality of services have not increased?
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 05:02 PM
From the same Inquirer article you quoted. ShapiroRichards are union financed. The unions are major drivers of escalating costs in government. See the recent vote on the Workers Compensation agreement. [Shapiro] and running mate Leslie Richards, a Whitemarsh Township supervisor, have also pulled in several significant big-money contributions, including nearly $100,000 from various Philadelphia unions - the Carpenters Regional Council, the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers, and the Teamsters among them.
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 05:53 PM
Where do I claim to have different facts? What is sad about disagreement? Disagreement is like the irritating grain of sand in the oyster from which is created something valuable and beautiful. Of course, you can, simply, agree with me and all will be good :-)
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 06:01 PM
You are mistaken. Union dues are taken from workers' paychecks as a result of monopoly representation. Leadership decides who to support and who not to support and Unions, almost uniformly, support Democrats because unions, both public and private, benefit from Big Government Spending. Unions have an agenda and that agenda in Pennsylvania has driven up costs of government to the community of taxpayers. Take a look at PSERS and SERS billions in funding shortfall. The Workes Association contract was a generous contract and it was voted on in Lower Merion. Prevailing wage laws are union financed.
Carla Zambelli November 08, 2011 at 08:29 PM
@Joe Magid My you and Bob sure have been having the conversation today! No, I was not referring to the stand alone mid-block crosswalk - that has been a disaster and the scene of pedestrian hits since inception. I was referring to the crosswalks and pedestrian signals AT the intersection. Your misunderstanding points out that unless you are a walker, you don't experience how horrible some intersections are and straightening THAT intersection out has not helped the pedestrian. And the fountain is crooked. That intersection also still has problems in a car too. With politics, there is a quid pro quo and while it's your business, I am a realist and if it did not have future benefits to reap, why would "everything" have been given up? Whether it is for future political gain, or social status elevation, there is a reason. When people become elected officials, they open themselves up to both praise and criticism. And I would have a care lumping me into the attack column because point in fact is I have been attacked for daring to have opinions in a lot of cases more than the average Joe so to speak. This election can be spun in all the partisan circles people choose, but the truth is one party rule is once again destroying Lower Merion. I do not think most of the majority commissioners have their own voice including Liz, because when they do they are crucified by fellow Democrats- that would be Gordon and Gelber. Thanks
David Hojsack November 08, 2011 at 08:31 PM
I, for one, do believe that Liz has been a hardworking and good intentioned commissioner. However, good intentions and hard work do necessarily mean the township is moving the right direction. As a small business owner in the township, I have seen that while I've been forced to "tighten my belt" and make tough choices on spending within my company, It does seem the the Board of Commisioners have instituted the the same level of diligence on their decisions. Without question, there has been an incremental increase in taxes that has now made our township "expensive" in terms of taxes. If you don't think that has an effect, I suggest you check out Upper Darby Township or other areas of Delaware County that have taxed themselves into obsolescene.
David Hojsack November 08, 2011 at 08:32 PM
Furthermore, I'm really frustrated when I see the monstrosities that now represent Lower Merion High School and the Ludington Library. While I do believe libraries serve an important resource to our community, I doubt any comprehensive analysis was ever done regarding their usage. I just don't believe the demand justifies the sheer size of the facility being built. Also, why do our students need such a facility? Will they learn any better? I studied at a small school with no air conditioner and built in the late 1800s and I can assure you that the student being sent out into the world today are no better equiped to deal with adulthood than I was. This is a problem inherent with all government agencies. Well intentioned, but clouded and oblivious to the realities when using your own money rather than others. It's not their fault, it's only human nature. I think we should all thank Liz for her service, but it's time for her to move on to bigger an better things. With all her experience, it would be a great opportunity to head to the private sector and the fiscal realities that business owners and developers encounter.
Carla Zambelli November 08, 2011 at 10:31 PM
@Joe Magid Joe, I do know your wife well enough to know she is a nice woman, but has not been able to rise above and be an independent leader. I never said Liz was looking for higher office, I said there was a quid pro quo - not necesarilly one and the same. I believe some do it for public service - Cheryl Gelber is the best example in your party and the also takes among the most abuse. A piece of unsolicited advice? This is your wife and as these comments wind on, you are clearly losing your cool and not keeping your objectivity. I have gone out of my way to be polite to you because I know you guys are devoted to each other. But I am a little sad to see that all the Liz supporters have left you hanging out here alone. If Liz does retain her seat, I hope she breaks the ties that bind her. They don't do her any good. Have a good rest of your day.
Carla Zambelli November 08, 2011 at 11:20 PM
@Joe Magid, See? Your response proves my point. No one has "fed" me information. If it makes you feel better, name names - it won't win you any friends or your wife any more respect. You are getting nasty, and I have been polite to you. My perceptions are not inaccurate, and the more you tell me I am wrong, lends me to believe I am in fact, not. And if you think here constituents aren't interested in the thoughts of others, I have a bridge to show you. You are way too defensive, past the point of a husband defending his wife. But that's your choice.
David Hojsack November 08, 2011 at 11:35 PM
Mr. Magid, I understand that Liz is a hard working public servant, but she would just learn so much by spending some time in the private sector. She could then return to public service stronger than ever. She could even donate her earnings back to the township!! When she comes back, I'd happily vote for her. Until then, I'm just concerned that always being a position of spending other people's money affects the true clarity of decision making.
Bob Guzzardi November 08, 2011 at 11:39 PM
Cost Benefit analysis is nonpartisan and applies to government expenditures as well as private expenditures. There is a difficulty of predicting the consequences of complex interactions in any expenditures.
David Hojsack November 09, 2011 at 12:12 AM
True, however, when there are no personal financial consequences (i.e. losing one's life savings) to an investment, you will inevitibly value each additional dollar differently than if it were your own. Also, may aspects of cost/benefit analysis differ from public to private sectors. The public sector generally relies much on subjective benefits. For example, it's difficult to determine the return on investment into the community if it's mearly a function of the happiness of it's citizens. A private sector investment generally can be measured more easily based on its profitability or return to investors. How does one confidently assess the financial costs of a project if no objective analysis can be made of the benefits? I realize that there is no getting around this in the public sector other than insisting that our governing officials be adept being as objective as possible under all circumstances. One cannot learn this from a textbook or seminar, or, in Liz's case, decades of not having a financial stake in decisions she must make.

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