Monthly Archives: January 2012

One house at a time

Driving around the Borough and traveling many of the same streets to and from work, to and from Borough Hall and to and from the grocery store, certain things get noticed more than others: a new fence, a particular tree in the fall or in this case, 241 Susquehanna Avenue. The two story, Folk Victorian home was built in 1900 and has been meticulously restored by John Burkitt. What is refreshing to see is that the rehabilitation has been done in large part by Mr. Burkitt himself. For years he could be seen on scaffolding stripping paint or repairing the porch. Incredible attention has been paid to maintaining the the original slate siding and the decorative, architectural molding and cornices (anyone who owns a home knows that it would have been much easier and less expensive to cover up the slate with vinyl siding and cap the exterior moulding with aluminum). Even the paint used is historically accurate. Looking at this house, one can’t help but think of some of the homes in Cape May (without the ocean, of course). Cape May was once written off and the old Victorians could be had for a song. Slowly, those homes were bought and rehabbed and each restoration slowly improved the morale of the town. Seeing Mr. Burkitt’s home and its transformation, I’d like to think that his pride of ownership is infectious and that in a few years people will say, “If I had only bought that house in Lansdale when I had the chance…”

Advertisements

Weddings

One of the interesting benefits of being a small, town mayor is that mayors are able to perform weddings. I was never much for weddings either as a guest, a groomsman or a groom, so when I was told that I could now perform them I became a little nervous. I also never pictured myself as “someone of the cloth”, so I couldn’t imagine saying “Dearly beloved…” and the rest of ceremony without laughing or– as I was to slowly learn– without crying more than the bride. I have performed sixty-six weddings so far and as with people, some have been more memorable than others. The first wedding I performed was for my nephew before he went to Iraq for a year. That wedding was, needless to say, an emotional one. There were the weddings that I performed for friends and family, which were for the most part enjoyable. A good friend’s sister, some of my neighbors’ children, my eye doctor, etc. Then there were the interesting weddings I performed for people I did not know from Adam. One of the first weddings I performed, the groom wanted to incorporate his pet snake (a six foot boa constrictor)  into the ceremony. His bride-to-be and I urged him as diplomatically as we could that it might not be a good addition to the ceremony. Eventually, he agreed with us. As I read through the vows (a sand mixing ceremony), I tried my best to concentrate on the vows, but my mind kept going back to the snake: the serpent in the Garden of Eden. There was one wedding in which the bride was a little tipsy and the groom and I had to help her back up a flight of steps. While this was happening, there was a barking, ankle-biter dog peeing all over the kitchen and everyone in the house had left (I felt like I was in the twilight zone and that they might off me). But don’t worry, the ceremony was performed and videorecorded twice, once with the lens cap on and once without. In the end, she was ok, and as far as I know they are still married. Many requests for weddings begin when the bride or groom-to-be will call and ask for my availability to which my response is, “When would you like to get married?” There is usually a pause and then a sheepish, “Tomorrow at noon?” And of course, I oblige (I never quite understand the hurry). Then there are a few couples for whom I have tied the knot which has already come unraveled. All in all, it has been deeply satisfying to have been a part of what many people consider the most special day of their lives. I have attached a photo of a sweet couple that was my first wedding of this year: Carlos and Lindsay and their baby girl.

The Lansdale Farmers’ Market and 311 West Main Street

I will preface this post with the statement that this is the sole opinion of Andy Szekely and not the Farmers’ Market Board or Lansdale Borough– yet. Part of my role of mayor is to foster discussion and this blog is one way of doing just that, especially since I can’t attend the 311 West Main Street meetings on Tuesday nights. 311 West Main Street is certainly a hot potato and most likely will be for some time as we have seen from the discussion at last Tuesday’s meeting. Having been involved with the arts as the President of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Symphony Orchestra for two years and on the Board for seven years, and having spoken to John Toner who manages the Ambler, Bryn Mawr and Doylestown theaters, and having spoken to Bill Quigley of the Sellersville Theater, and having spoken to Tom Quinn of the Montgomery Theater and numerous others there is a common consensus: the idea of “if you build it they will come” is Hollywood fantasy. What usually happens with a performance venue is that the organization is in existence first and then as the organization grows and is successful, a suitable building is found and that then becomes its home.

The other problem with the arts is that they are subjective. What one person considers art another may consider noise or ugly and therefore, not worthy of tax payer dollars. This inherently presents a problem each election cycle especially when the Borough is footing almost the entire bill. Don’t misunderstand me, I am a patron of the arts, however, the issue here is that the Borough has subsidized the lion’s share of the investment in this project and the percentage of ownership is only to get larger. In other words, there is almost no private equity in 311 West Main Street. In the theaters named above, the public sector investment is less than 25%.

After having participated in this week’s branding session, there is general agreement and enthusiasm about the Farmers’ Market. The Farmers’ Market is one of the best things to happen to Lansdale. It brings out residents, it is green, it is local and it is healthy and after three years, it is an established organization. They are also looking for a home. And food is not nearly as controversial as the arts.

Here is a possible solution to our 311 West Main Street woes: keep the black box in the back, bring it up to code and have the performances there. With 210 seats it’s a start for cabaret, garage bands, small theater and the like. Think baby steps and if there is success with the black box in the back, then possibly expand to accommodate the increased demand. As for the original, Masonic Lodge part of 311 West Main Street, bring that up to code, leave it a little rough with the hardwood floors, exposed ceilings– similar to Reading Terminal Market– and allow a few food vendors to come in: cheese, meat, bread, etc. It serves a need for a year round Farmers’ Market, and the arts can still be enjoyed in the back. And it saves the taxpayers another expensive experiment. Just food (local and green) for thought.

New Year’s in Lansdale

The New Year started off with a Ball Drop a la Times Square on West Mount Vernon Street. In the middle of the block strung up over one of the branches of the canopied, street trees was an exercise ball– no, actually two exercise balls– covered with Christmas lights (thanks to the tremendous ingenuity of a talented architect on the block) and attached to an extension cord just waiting for midnight. The street was closed off at each end of the block, and there were heaters, chimineas and tents in place to ward off the chill. Neighbors brought out dishes of appetizers and hors d’oeuvres and of course, there was alcohol and music to ease the sadness of the departing year and welcome the promise of the new. With bellies full, heads light and pockets devoid of car keys, there weren’t  many worries amongst the revelers, and conversation was easy and uninhibited– perhaps, a little too uninhibited at times, but well, this was New Years’ Eve. Midnight quickly approached and yours truly began to ease the extension cord attached to the exercise balls covered in Christmas lights safely to the ground. With a crowd of fifty or so people present there was no consensus as to the exact time of the countdown until the cacophony of noise makers and a dozen different versions of “ten, nine, eight… ” became a unified “five, four, three, two…”. Finally, with the balls safely on the ground, 2012 had officially begun… in Lansdale.

Hello Lansdale!

This is the beginning of a blog for me– something I never really thought I would do. This blog came about as a suggestion from a friend who had recently read about a project that I am currently working on called “365 Days in Lansdale”. “365 Days in Lansdale” is a photo essay that I began on January 1, 2012 to document a year as mayor in Lansdale. Each day I take a dozen or so photos and then I write about what I did that day relating to the Borough. The reason for this is partially for me, partially for my children and partially for the residents of Lansdale (should anyone care to read it!). The past three and a half years have been tremendously interesting. Three weeks prior to becoming mayor, I never in my wildest dreams would have thought that I would be a public servant. Anyway, stay posted. I hope to write at least every day, and if nothing else I hope that my readers will take an interest in the governmental process.