Tina Sokolowski is the Democratic Party candidate to represent Ward 3 on Conshohocken’s Borough Council. The same questions were asked of all candidates, however, they were slighting altered for the lone incumbent (Karen Tutino in Ward 1). All answers are as provided and unedited by MoreThanTheCurve.com.
Describe your background and why you chose to run.
My professional and community skills will serve me well in the position of Council Person for Conshohocken Ward 3. I strongly believe I will be able to effectively adapt, align and enhance community initiatives that will protect our neighborhoods and enhance the health and wellness of our community.
I have been in the healthcare industry for 28 years, the last 14 years I have spent in Leadership roles as the Director of Radiology and Director of Clinical Integration at Abington Hospital- Jefferson Health.
In these roles I have the responsibility to develop and implement business strategy, manage multimillion dollar operating and capital budgets, develop policies/procedures and write business plans to secure venture capital to fund the various projects and development of new Ambulatory Service locations.
I am a high energy results oriented leader with strength in effective verbal and written communications. In my leadership roles I continue to demonstrate the capacity to create strategic alliances with key stakeholders (senior leadership, physicians, patients and frontline staff).
In September 2015 Borough Council sent its solicitor to endorse a development project before the Zoning Hearing Board. Do you think that action hindered the Zoning Hearing Board’s independence? If not, under what conditions would you support taking similar action in the future?
For educational purposes to the borough residents first let me start by defining the purpose of the zoning hearing board:
Zoning Hearing Board is to help assure fair and equitable application and administration of the zoning ordinance by hearing appeals on the zoning officer’s determinations and by granting relief from the literal enforcement of the ordinance in certain hardship situations.
Conshohocken has a board of 5 community members that hold no other office in the borough.
I was not in attendance at the September 2015 hearing; I do not have a personal frame of reference to determine if the action hindered the Zoning Board’s independence. That being said, I have done some research. Pennsylvania Municipalities Planning Code (PMPC) Section 908 Zoning Hearings- (3) The parties to the hearing shall be the municipality, any person affected by the application who has made timely appearance of record before the board, and any other person including civic or community organizations permitted to appear by the board. The board shall have power to require that all persons who wish to be considered parties enter appearances in writing on forms provided by the board for that purpose.
Section 908 Hearings (5) The parties shall have the right to be represented by counsel and shall be afforded the opportunity to respond and present evidence and argument and cross-examine adverse witnesses on all relevant issues. (https://www.dep.state.pa.us/hosting/growingsmarter/MPCode%5B1%5D.pdf)
After speaking to council members on this specific topic, it is my understanding that Council chose to send legal representation because the granting of this specific variance could produce an enormous positive change for the borough. I was informed that Council makes decisions by balancing risk against reward.
Best practice in decision making requires individuals to make judgments taking into account all relevant information. It is imperative that community leaders demonstrate emotional intelligence, exercise discretion in decision making and provide reasons for the decisions. These are the basic principles I would expect to deploy in key decision making.
What is the biggest misconception about Conshohocken?
“Conshohocken is a town that is not family friendly”
Recent changes in the economy, low taxes, affordable housing, safe neighborhoods and a greater emphasis on parks and recreation programs by borough officials debunk this statement.
Conshohocken offers many family activities; movies in the park, fireworks, holiday parades, Funfest,/Winterfest , Soapbox derby, The Rowing Center and Conshohocken Community Center at the Fellowship House. There are also many strong children’s activities; Conshohocken Little League baseball, Conshy Bears football, Conshy Bears cheerleading and Boy Scouting.
The Colonial School District ranks among the best public school districts in the Southeastern Pennsylvania. These are just some of the highlights that attract young people and provide an atmosphere and culture where they want to stay and raise their families.
Since 2010, three members of Borough Council have resigned before finishing a single term. How committed are you to remain a resident of Conshohocken and your ward specifically?
Conshohocken has been my home for 25 years; I can honestly say that I have never thought of living anywhere else. It is a perfect location as it affords the ease of transportation to surrounding communities via major roadways, rails and public bus transportation. It is also a community that promotes family activities with access to the Schuylkill River Trail, Conshohocken Rowing Center, Dog Park and 4 children’s parks. The sense of community in our one square mile town is second to none.
The redevelopment of the publicly owned property at West Elm and Fayette hasn’t moved forward since a developer was selected in 2013. What are your thoughts on the process that led to the selection of the developer?
Several land parcels were owned by the Borough and County redevelopment Authority. In 2013 both entities joined together to create a development opportunity in our community. As with other major development projects in the Borough, Council wanted to identify a developer who offered the flexibility and willingness to incorporate community needs in the project. Keystone proposed a hotel at West Elm and Fayette Street, as well as renovating the Verizon building to bring together the various municipal Departments like Borough Administration, Police Department and Parks and Recreation. Community benefits offered in the proposal:
Employment Opportunities for individuals of various skill sets
Variable Traffic patterns (as opposed to apartments or office building)
State- of-Art Police Department
State- of -Art Borough Hall and Council Chambers
If the approval process is not completed by the agreement expiration date the “new” Borough Council will need to evaluate future plans for this parcel of land. This being said, there have been several large development projects approved in the last several years; this will need to be weighed into all future land development decision in the Borough.
The outgoing president of Borough Council referred to Conshohocken as “semi-urban” in a 2014 interview with a tech blog. Do you think that is an accurate description or at least where Conshohocken is heading? If you do not feel it is an accurate description, what term would you use to describe Conshohocken?
I do feel that Paul McConnell’s quote is an accurate description of Conshohocken. “We are semi-urban. We have space for companies to grow. We have ready transportation access including two SEPTA regional rail stations and easy access to 76/476 and the turnpike. We offer a favorable tax level. We have a river and a trail. We are a walkable community and enjoy local restaurants and bars, proximity to major universities, and amenities such as parks, recreation, a rowing center and a community garden. We are building a tech community and have amazing tech companies already here. Not many other communities can say all this. Conshohocken is the place to come to, the place to stay and the place to grow.”
Council members usually have one area of local government they are especially passionate about. What do you see as the one issue you will be most passionate?
An area that I hold a great passion is Promoting the Health and Wellness in our community. America continues to feel the strain of a serious health crisis; we are plagued by sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition and unhealthy habits. By enhancing our Parks and Recreation programs we will continue to build a healthier community. I will explore additional opportunities and collaboratives that would enhance quality of life in our community; programs may include access to healthy food, increase opportunities for physical activity and offering for education programs in nutrition, screening and prevention. I recognize the importance of being approachable and responsive to community members if I have not addressed a topic that is important to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to me directly. Tinasma3@gmail.com.