GSSDone?

Looks like it’s Ken Weinstein for the block on GSSD’s reauthorization. What now? 

6/7/19 UPDATE: A press release from the Committee to Oppose GSSD Re-Authorization announced it has secured the necessary votes to stop the reauthorization. Scroll down to read the full press release at the end of this article. 

If you haven’t been following the GSSD debacle you’ve been missing an opportunity to observe organizational dysfunction in action. Basically, the GSSD collects tax from local business for street cleaning in their coverage area, which focuses mainly on/around Chelten and Germantown Aves – the “business corridor,” if you will.

Except GSSD really botched things badly, failing to collect funds and squandering what they had without providing the litter and safety services that were their mission. Last fall when the neighborhood got wind that they’d lost their authorization, a whole lotta Hell broke out.  You can follow their unraveling in our video meeting recaps over the last year, and in an excellent WHYY article titled, ”Germantown businesses revolt against taxing district that didn’t deliver on clean streets promise”  (kinda says it all, doesn’t it?).

Undeterred by public shame and outrage, the GSSD pushed on thru the hoops required for re-authorization. The Board invited neighbors to recommend candidates for new Board members, and then pretty much went with whoever they wanted anyway. We are currently in the required wait period before legislation heads to City Hall. Until June 8th, the community can actually shut down reauthorization with the vote of 1/3rd  of all their taxpayers -or- the owners of 1/3rd of all the taxed properties by value.

When GSSD announced their reauthorization resolution April 14th, only one business owner, Connie Winters (Historic Germantown Properties) stepped forward to submit her formal objection. But there were more coming, she had warned. She wasn’t kidding.

Connie recently showed us piles of objection letters, filed neatly in color-coordinated folders in the perimeter of what I can best describe as a “war room,” complete with a tactical map of Germantown’s business area dominating what used to be her dining room table.

She declined when I asked if I could take a picture of her here, even though in her own words, the cat’s out of the bag. There’s still a degree of mystery, especially now that Ken Weinstein’s scheduled press conference for Thursday, June 6th was cancelled. Ken, you may recall, is a prominent local developer, the founder of Jumpstart Germantown and a restaurateur as well (Mt. Airy’s Trolley Car Diner and the Trolley Car Cafe in East Falls). When we met with Connie last week, they were all ready to go pubic but now their group is concerned about appearing “political.”

Text from a May 15th mailing to corridor business & commercial property owners

Here’s what else we know so far: Connie and Ken have been working with community watchdogs Yvonne Haskins and Allison Weiss to inform business owners about what’s going on and urge them to send in their letters of objection to stop this reauthorization in its tracks. A mailing recently went out, and Connie tells us they’ve got all the objections required. This Monday, she delivered 94 letters of objection to the Chief Clerk of City Council downtown. Tuesday, she delivered them personally to GSSD’s office — although president Trapeta Mayson declined to meet with her.

Should she be taking copies to Cindy Bass, too? Cause even if Germantown business owners opt for a different model — say, a Business Improvement District like in nearby Mt. Airy – they’ll still need her OK in City Council, won’t they? Maybe just knowing there are enough objections to overturn reauthorization will motivate Cindy to negotiate a new Board and more transparent bylaws for GSSD?

Don’t get us wrong, we love when the little guy pushes back against the Machine. We applaud Germantown business owners for taking such initiative to send a strong message, to refuse to follow leaders who have proven so incompetent and untrustworthy. No taxation without representation! Fantastic, but there’s still more trash in the streets every day that needs to be dealt with. Is there a plan?

Ummm… Connie admitted their group of four had different ideas about what should happen, should GSSD’s reauthorization be denied. “Ken and Yvonne probably want to start working on a BID right away but I think there should be a vote first to go over options and decide what to do,” she told us. Sounds like a process either way – how do the streets get cleaned in the meantime?

Maybe GUCDC will step in? They’ve already provided GSSD $26,800 in grant money for cleaning & operational costs. Why not help manage street cleaning, too, while we sort all this out? What a great opportunity to merge Germantown’s two most powerful community organizations together into one corporate entity controlling everything. What could go wrong?

Kidding! Kind of. As news of the blocked reauthorization spreads, feedback has ranged from elation to suspicion. Our main take-away at this point is that there appears to be some sort of rebellion/power play going on in Germantown’s business district.

View the full letter here, text below:

Business Owners Defeat Re-Authorization of Germantown Special Services District

PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 7th, 2019) — Today, the Committee to Oppose Germantown Special Services District (GSSD) Re-Authorization announced it successfully collected more than enough opposition letters to defeat GSSD re-authorization.  This is the first time an existing business improvement district (BID) or special services district (SSD) was not re-authorized by a vote of commercial property owners in the City of Philadelphia.

GSSD re-authorization failed when more than 33% of all commercial property owners in the District opposed re-authorization in writing prior to the June 8th deadline.  In total, 100 letters (41.8%), representing more than $60 million in property value, were submitted to the Philadelphia City Council’s Chief Clerk and GSSD, out of 239 total commercial properties.

GSSD was rocked by allegations of mismanagement over the past five years.  Five executive directors were hired during that period of time with no audits performed, as required by law.  GSSD lost its authorization on October 1, 2018 when it failed to provide property owners with 30 days notice to announce a vote on re-authorization.  More recently, the remaining five members of the GSSD Board voted, without debate or input from Germantown stakeholders, to ask for re-authorization for an additional five years despite continued trash problems and only $145.00 in the bank.

“We are pleased with the overwhelming response we received from Germantown commercial property owners,” explained Connie Winters, owner of Historic Germantown Properties, LLC.  “My fellow property owners were tired of paying into the GSSD without getting sufficient cleaning services in return.”

GSSD was first enacted in 1995 by City Council based on Pennsylvania’s 1945 Municipalities Authorities Act.  The GSSD Board was selected by City Council instead of property owners, as is the case with most business improvement districts (BIDs) in Philadelphia.  BIDs are enacted by local municipalities based on Pennsylvania’s more updated 2000 Neighborhood improvement District (NID) legislation.

“The overwhelming vote against re-authorization is a sign that commercial property owners want a say in how their mandatory assessments are spent,” said Ken Weinstein, President of Philly Office Retail.  “We look forward to establishing a democratic process going forward.”

The vote against GSSD re-authorization and the end to ‘taxation without representation,’ is reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party nearly 250 years ago when colonists rose up against the British Government that taxed the American colonies without allowing them a vote or say in their affairs.  Next steps include setting up a series of meetings this summer and fall with property and business owners so they hear from the leaders of other SSDs and BIDs to help decide on a path forward to once again cleaning the curbs and sidewalks and beautifying the commercial corridor.

According to Germantown activists Yvonne Haskins and Allison Weiss, both members of the Committee to Oppose GSSD Re-Authorization, “Our ultimate goal is to clean and beautify the Germantown commercial district.  Other business districts get clean, green and safe streets and sidewalks. We deserve the same!”

As always, hit us up with any questions below or email editor@nwlocalpaper.com.

FYI: The date/time/location for GSSD’s public Board meeting for June has not yet been posted to their calendar. Check back here for updates.

Contact GSSD:
info@germantownssd.com
215-821-8145
germantownssd.com

FULL DISCLOSURE: Both Connie Winters and Ken Weinstein had been on the community’s list of Board member recommendations, and then both had been scratched off by the sitting GSSD Board members without explanation.

Press Release from the Committee to Oppose GSSD Re-Authorization (June 7, 2019)

Business Owners Defeat Re-Authorization of Germantown Special Services District 

PHILADELPHIA, PA (June 7th, 2019) — Today, the Committee to Oppose Germantown Special Services District (GSSD) Re-Authorization announced it successfully collected more than enough opposition letters to defeat GSSD re-authorization.  This is the first time an existing business improvement district (BID) or special services district (SSD) was not re-authorized by a vote of commercial property owners in the City of Philadelphia.

GSSD re-authorization failed when more than 33% of all commercial property owners in the District opposed re-authorization in writing prior to the June 8th deadline.  In total, 100 letters (41.8%), representing more than $60 million in property value, were submitted to the Philadelphia City Council’s Chief Clerk and GSSD, out of 239 total commercial properties.

GSSD was rocked by allegations of mismanagement over the past five years.  Five executive directors were hired during that period of time with no audits performed, as required by law.  GSSD lost its authorization on October 1, 2018 when it failed to provide property owners with 30 days notice to announce a vote on re-authorization.  More recently, the remaining five members of the GSSD Board voted, without debate or input from Germantown stakeholders, to ask for re-authorization for an additional five years despite continued trash problems and only $145.00 in the bank.

We are pleased with the overwhelming response we received from Germantown commercial property owners,” explained Connie Winters, owner of Historic Germantown Properties, LLC.  “My fellow property owners were tired of paying into the GSSD without getting sufficient cleaning services in return.”

GSSD was first enacted in 1995 by City Council based on Pennsylvania’s 1945 Municipalities Authorities Act.  The GSSD Board was selected by City Council instead of property owners, as is the case with most business improvement districts (BIDs) in Philadelphia.  BIDs are enacted by local municipalities based on Pennsylvania’s more updated 2000 Neighborhood improvement District (NID) legislation.

The overwhelming vote against re-authorization is a sign that commercial property owners want a say in how their mandatory assessments are spent,” said Ken Weinstein, President of Philly Office Retail.  “We look forward to establishing a democratic process going forward.”

The vote against GSSD re-authorization and the end to ‘taxation without representation,’ is reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party nearly 250 years ago when colonists rose up against the British Government that taxed the American colonies without allowing them a vote or say in their affairs.  Next steps include setting up a series of meetings this summer and fall with property and business owners so they hear from the leaders of other SSDs and BIDs to help decide on a path forward to once again cleaning the curbs and sidewalks and beautifying the commercial corridor.

According to Germantown activists Yvonne Haskins and Allison Weiss, both members of the Committee to Oppose GSSD Re-Authorization, “Our ultimate goal is to clean and beautify the Germantown commercial district.  Other business districts get clean, green and safe streets and sidewalks. We deserve the same!

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