SWARTHMORE — Council’s first legislative session agenda of 2020 was light, but not without importance. Mayor Marty Spiegel presented the State of the Borough Address.
The state of the borough is very strong, he said.
First, President Mary Walk and council handled outstanding appointments, reports, and announcements of upcoming committee meetings. Newly elected council member Jill Gaieski will chair the Public Safety Committee. Michael Carey, finance chair, reported a positive budget status. Both Carey and Manager Jane Billings made the point that the administration strives to have finances very transparent and open to the public.
The meeting quickly moved to Spiegel, who was appointed the fill the mayoral vacancy when Tim Kearney was elected to the Pennsylvania Senate. Spiegel was elected unopposed in the 2019 election for a term ending in 2022.
Spiegel said in preparing for this address he asked himself what has made the town a strong and desirable place to live. The list of conditions he cited was considerable and made Swarthmore “the perfect profile” of a community.
Topping the list was being “incredibly healthy financially,” for which he recognized Billings and council’s management.
“Taxes are always an issue, and ours are relatively high. However, the borough’s share (of the overall tax bill) is less than 20 percent. That amount is running everything that goes on, especially public sewer service. It’s hard to fault the borough for those costs,” said Spiegel.
Referring to the other taxes, Spiegel spoke of the school district. “We have one of the best school districts in the state, and that helps to create an incredibly strong real estate market.”
If there is a fault with real estate, it is that stability, particularly residents “aging in place,” results in “not enough to sell,” Spiegel said.
The positive features of the borough were exhaustive, as Spiegel cited the “green” environment, walk-ability, transportation, senior services, cultural opportunities and robust volunteerism. The presence of Swarthmore College was beneficial in a variety of ways, he added.
With a nod to Police Chief Ray Stufflet and Fire Department President Rick Lee, who both attend council meetings, Spiegel commended the borough’s safety. It could be enhanced, he suggested, if residents would remember to lock car doors as well as home entries, and “take responsibilities for ourselves.”
“The biggest challenge is our downtown,” said Spiegel, who served as Town Center coordinator for many years. “I can’t stress enough the value of the downtown, as well as the need for residents to patronize our stores.”
“Everybody at this table and in this room doing their job makes Swarthmore an incredible place to live, and we are all so fortunate,” said Spiegel, who ended by saying how extremely pleased he is to be serving as mayor.
Walk acknowledged Spiegel as a “great booster of this town. It’s apparent how much you love it.”