Sunday, May 10, 2009

Delco OFC Event

Last Friday, May 8th, I attended the Delaware County Organizing for Change gathering in Media. These are my impressions and rough notes. Apologies in advance for any errors or misconceptions.

This is one of the better organized events I‘ve been to. There were even parking attendants. While the group was expecting around 30 people my estimate is around 150, possibly more. Even so, the event flowed smoothly. There was an abundance of food, all good.

For the first part of the evening, as people arrived, there was a very social atmosphere, eating and greeting. Then the formal program began. In the final portion of the evening local officials and candidates talked with prospective constituents. The benches in the meetinghouse were labeled by area within the county so that people could sit by township or borough to facilitate this.

One of the event organizers Michael Ceci (pr. ChayChee) served as emcee. The event was intended to maintain the connections among Obama volunteers and to keep them involved in the local political process.

Congressman Joe Sestak (,, Mr. Velvet Voice himself, was the first speaker. He did not address his rumored potential Senate campaign or mention newly Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter who would be his primary opponent if he ran. Sestak said his office is open seven days a week. In the past two years his staff has answered 10,000 constituent questions; the average is 3,200. He asked “How much do we want to make government accessible.” Sestak is a little craggier than he was when he first ran for office in 2006 but his voice is still as lyrical and compelling and he has some new stories to tell.

Second, Ceci introduced candidates for county council and asked one, as one example of the office, to speak. The three Democratics running for two possible slots on the County Council are Nancy Baulis, Liz Williams (website, if extant, unknown), and Keith Collins. Collins was the candidate who spoke. He mentioned that Delaware County is the only county without representation from the minority party on the county’s governing board. One of his (and Baulis’s) issues is that the county is also the only one without a health department. Ethics was also mentioned.

Nancy Rhoads Koons, candidate for the county Court of Common Pleas, spoke next. She said she wants to help people save their homes from sheriff’s sales. The President Judge rejected one idea she brought forward, which mirrored tactics in some other counties. Between January and March, Rep. Sestak and his staff have helped 145 people keep their homes. [Personal note: Looking at Koon’s campaign card I am impressed to see that she is involved with Big Brothers / Big Sisters. This isn’t administrative support; she actually has a Little Sister.]

Matt Silva, one of the event organizers, who is working with Koons’ campaign and also running for judge of elections, spoke briefly.

State Rep. Bryan Lentz (, took the floor. He is noticeably thinner than he was when I saw him last, in the fall. Like Sestak, he is a more comfortable and skilled speaker than he used to be. His theme was that if you aren’t good at politics you can’t make good policy. You only get ideas when you have a debate. In many parts of Delaware County, all local officials are Republican which means this less debate than if there was at least one Democrat in office. Lentz did not say this in his remarks but he is considered the most likely candidate for the 7th congressional seat if Sestak runs for Senate.

State Rep. Greg Vitali (, one of my all time favorite elected officials, encouraged those attending to stay active and take the energy they devoted to the Obama to local elections. He also mentioned that Michael Ceci is running for office in Aldan Borough. He also said that school board candidates are very important for education.

At this point the formal presentations ended and people sought out candidates for their local elections and vice versa. Asking people to sit in designated areas for their township or borough cut down on the milling and confusion.

Personal observations: The event organizer’s have clearly watched “Babette’s Feast.” People are much more willing to work together when they are fed and happy. The program stayed on schedule. There was a ton of food. The people out in parking area saved everyone a lot of problems. The crowd was orderly and energetic. There was a great feel in the room. Michael Ceci and the rest of the crew at should be proud of the job they did. One personal note – I realized at one point I was standing next to a “help stamp out anonymity” sign, encouraging those attending Quaker meeting to wear a nametag. It seemed incongruous so I shifted to a spot closer to the brownie tray.

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