Running for Hainesport Township Committee Again!

I’m delighted to announce that I’m running for Hainesport Township Committee again. This November, my running mate will be Edie Darnold, a 16-year Hainesport resident and youthful grandmother who has experience working in industry and municipal government. It’s going to be a great campaign, and you can read our bios here.

Thoughts on Running for Hainesport Again

When I reread my announcement from last April, I am actually thrilled at how much Natalie and I managed to accomplish, even though we didn’t win the seats. We kept the Health Benefits issue ($30,000 packages taken by our part time elected officials) in the spotlight to the extent that the Committee had to give up this taxpayer-funded perk to be competitive in this year’s election. We exposed their agenda, which was to force the resignation of Bill Boettcher, and to replace Township Administrator Leo Selb. Furthermore, Natalie came within 50 votes of beating Frank Masciocchi.

I also hope that I have demonstrated my commitment to the people of Hainesport. I never gave up. Not when I was the victim of a smear campaign conducted through a Burlington County Super PAC. Nor when Mayor Tony Porto filed baseless criminal charges against me in an attempt to stop me from running for Hainesport Committee again. I kept going to the meetings and reporting on them for YOU, so you could understand what was going on in our town.

Unlike the Republican candidates, Edie and I aren’t beholden to some highly political Burlington County machine. Our campaign won’t be paid for by corporate donors who think they can control committee votes. In contrast, we are only about Hainesport, and are accountable solely to the people of Hainesport.

I’m looking forward to getting out and meeting even more people than I did last year during the campaign season. Please let me try to earn your vote.

 

How What West Chester Did to Kim Bridgford Got Me into Politics

what west chester did to kim bridgford
The Poetry Center, West Chester University

Over the course of my campaign and its aftermath, particularly in the light of what my Republican opponents did (and continue to do) to me, many people have asked me why I decided to run for office. I typically answer that I am a crusader for truth, transparency, and justice, which begs the question of what turned me into that crusader. The answer to this question is, I became a crusader because of what West Chester did to Kim Bridgford.

After Kim became director of the West Chester Poetry Center and Conference in 2010, she asked me to take over the daily running of the Mezzo Cammin Women Poets Timeline Project. This put us into frequent correspondence, and we became friends. Hence I was among the first to learn when, on September 15th 2014, she was removed from her position, asked to collect her things and leave the Poetry Center (which she was thereafter barred from entering) and reassigned to full time teaching.

I became one of Kim’s most vocal defenders as the West Chester administration and its advocates conspired to give the impression that her reassignment was her fault for being a poor fundraiser (she wasn’t), or perhaps for moving the Poetry Conference too far from its original mission (She was employed to increase diversity and broaden the conference’s appeal.)

During my defense of Kim, my arguments were dismissed as lies, and I was not only regularly told to be quiet, but also frequently belittled and insulted online, mostly by men. It was great practice for facing down the three male incumbent Republican members of Hainesport Township Committee!

The real reason for Kim’s reassignment was that she had discovered financial irregularities under her predecessor as Director, Mike Peich, and when she brought those to the attention of the administrators, they chose to remove her and stage a cover up instead of investigating. Every time I suggested this, however, I was castigated for sullying the reputation of Mike Peich without being able to verify my claims. Unfortunately, Kim was at that time unable to speak publicly about the issues.

Kim and I went on (along with original Executive Board Members Natalie Gerber, Cherise Pollard, and Kat Gilbert) to create and run Poetry by the Sea: A Global Conference, now in its third successful year. The West Chester Poetry Conference came back under the Directorship of Sam Gwynn after taking a year’s hiatus in 2015, and an uneasy truce has prevailed at West Chester.

But recently West Chester added insult to injury by engaging Baker Tilly, a firm of accountants, to conduct a financial assessment of the Poetry Center (which Kim’s supporters had demanded), but only covering the years of Kim’s tenure as Director. This financial review, while finding no fault, contains damaging and untrue allegations which Kim has now been forced to refute legally and publicly. The letter from Kim’s lawyer states this:

For 16 years, Prof. Peich directed the center with no accountability, no reporting, and no institutional oversight whatsoever. During that time he drained the six-figure Ahmanson Fund, without notifying any authority, and without being called upon to report his activities.

It concludes:

Prof. Peich’s 16-year wasting spree had been enabled by a passive university and foundation. Dr. Bridgford stepped into a situation not of her own making and did her best to rectify it….The report is unfair to her and protective of those who should be held accountable.

This letter has today been circulated among the faculty of the English department at West Chester University, and finally I am in a position to support what I have been saying all along about the events of September 2014. Truth, transparency and justice are served.

Meanwhile my fight against West Chester exposed many truths I had been ignoring for too long: that many men still attempt to dominate and belittle women, that power corrupts, that those in power will do anything to conceal inconvenient truths, and that it is always the little guy who is exploited. With my social conscience newly awoken, I looked around and I saw examples of this happening very close to home.

And that is why I ran for Hainesport Township Committee.

Hainesport Township Election Altercation Video

Hainesport Township Election Altercation
Tony Porto’s Version
Scott Cooper’s Version

After the Hainesport Township election altercation, I gave my version, Scott Cooper gave his (see bottom left), and Deputy Mayor Tony Porto gave his (see top left), calling me a complete liar.

I like being called a liar even less than I enjoy being smeared with vulgar, sexist Kermit the Frog memes.

But what our esteemed township committee had forgotten is that the township building lobby has security cameras. And that the footage is subject to the Open Public Records Act. So we were able to submit an OPRA request and get hold of the footage.

Which speaks for itself. So again, I won’t editorialize much. I don’t need to. Except perhaps to say that Tony Porto doesn’t appear on the footage at all, does he?

This is the view from Camera 1.

And this is the view from Camera 2.

I rest my case.

Not This Pig

A media guru I admire told me not that long ago, “Make sure all your great content is on your blog, rather than on Facebook or on some random networking site, because that way you own it and it’s always there for you.” How right he was!

That’s why, when I was contacted recently by a Philadelphia Inquirer journalist writing a story about the resurrection of the West Chester Poetry Conference, even though I was at the fields watching my younger daughter’s JV field hockey game, I was able to make some salient points and then say, “Go search my blog on West Chester. That should give you everything you need.”

I invite readers of this blog to do that exact same thing. You will find some positive posts, from Kim’s era, and then the outraged, horrified reaction to her reassignment, and then the more measured stuff I’ve been posting since Kim and I created Poetry by the Sea.

Obviously I did not conceal my alignment with Poetry by the Sea from the journalist, but she did choose not to mention it in her article, which got some tongues wagging. Hey guys, not my call!

I’ve also been getting some grief over on Eratosphere with people who are naturally big fans of Sam Gwynn and want the West Chester Conference back. I’m fine with that, too. I actually wish they would engage more. I want to discuss the issues involved whereas they just want me to shut up and stop making them feel bad about wanting to attend the WCU conference, notwithstanding how badly the administration treated Kim.

Not this girl.

Animals Are Passing From Our Lives by Philip Levine

It’s wonderful how I jog
on four honed-down ivory toes
my massive buttocks slipping
like oiled parts with each light step.

I’m to market. I can smell
the sour, grooved block, I can smell
the blade that opens the hole
and the pudgy white fingers

that shake out the intestines
like a hankie. In my dreams
the snouts drool on the marble,
suffering children, suffering flies,

suffering the consumers
who won’t meet their steady eyes
for fear they could see. The boy
who drives me along believes

that any moment I’ll fall
on my side and drum my toes
like a typewriter or squeal
and shit like a new housewife

discovering television,
or that I’ll turn like a beast
cleverly to hook his teeth
with my teeth. No. Not this pig.

 

The Bad Drug Yasmin Nine Years On

In September 2006 I suffered a Transient Ischemic Attack. I was 38, a non-smoker, otherwise in good health and of normal weight, so my only risk factor was the use of the oral contraceptive pill, Yasmin, which I had been on for four years at that point. Because that didn’t seem like ENOUGH of a risk factor to my doctors at the time, they conducted some tests and determined that in addition, I had a large Patent Foramen Ovale (hole in my heart) and a cystic ovary. This led to a year of medical procedures (including heart surgery) and general health discomfort which you can read about here and here and here.

The Bad Drug Yasminbad drug Yasmin

Re-reading my blog entries from that period it’s clear that at some point before May 2007 I had become convinced that the main villain of the piece was the bad drug Yasmin.  I was at the forefront of women attempting to publicize their experiences and insist that the side effects of Yasmin included higher risk of a stroke-type event. Not surprisingly I was eventually contacted by lawyers who wanted to include me in a class action lawsuit against Bayer, the pharmaceutical giant responsible for Yasmin and its sister drug, Yaz.

VTEs vs ATEs

Bayer has now settled (without admitting any liability) many of the cases involving VTE (Venous Thromboembolism) after the FDA concluded that for the bad drug Yasmin the “risk [of VTE] is reported to be up to 2 to 3 times greater than the risk of VTE associated with using levonorgestrel-containing pills.”

They are now supposedly willing to settle some money (again without admitting liability) on some women who suffered ATEs (Arterial Thromboembolism). (Hint: a TIA is usually the result of ATE, not VTE.) So it’s perhaps not surprising that after 9 years last week my lawyers got in touch wanting me to sign some papers and such.

Effect of My PFO

Here’s the thing though, (and I apologize if this is too much medical science) the presence of a PFO permits a VTE to become an ATE. In other words the hole in my heart may well have permitted a blood clot which would naturally have been in the venous system to pass across to the chamber of the heart that pumped it up in an artery to my brain, causing the TIA. Yes, the lawyers know this. I have given them all the paperwork.

I don’t really care about the money. I just want justice and publicity, so that women don’t continue to take the bad drug Yasmin, which, incredibly, is still on the market.

Five Things That Prove Aetna Really Doesn’t Care

On Saturday night I was tidying the kitchen and happened to open a non-urgent looking letter from my insurance company, Aetna, that had been lying on my island table for a couple of weeks. The letter contained a notice of termination of the small business insurance health plan that my family has through the company I help my husband to run, Global Bridge LLC. Our coverage ends on March 1st. Aetna expressed their regret and blamed the Affordable Care Act for forcing their hand. While there is some truth in this, it is equally obvious that Aetna really doesn’t care about the people who buy its health insurance. Here’s why:

1. They Could Have Told Us Sooner

The letter was dated December 11th, so that’s when the decision was made. However, the envelope was postmarked January 2nd. By law, insurance companies are supposed to give 60 days notice of termination. We could quibble, and say that even if I had opened the letter when I got it, on say January 4th, that’s only 57 days. Be that as it may, why wouldn’t they tell us as soon as they knew? In order to defer postage costs until 2015, because they don’t care.

2. They Could Have Made It Clearer What They Were Telling Us

The letter came in an envelope marked “Important Renewal Documents Enclosed.” I know the renewal is March 1st, which is why I didn’t open it on receipt. If the letter had come in an envelope marked “Notice of Termination,” do you think I would have opened it sooner? You bet! Why wouldn’t they print up such envelopes for this important bulk mailing? Because it costs money, and they don’t care.

3. They Could Have Explained Why In More Detail

The letter says “because you are a sole proprietor husband and wife group and do not meet the federal definition of a group.” Say what? It was left to me to do the research: small businesses run by husband and wife teams no longer qualify for business group rate insurance plans under the ACA. (This is the part that is Obama’s fault. Husband & wife run businesses are not part of the 1%, but ordinary people trying to make a go of something in a difficult economy. The ACA makes health insurance less affordable for people like us.) Why wouldn’t Aetna explain this more fully? Because it would make the letter longer, and they don’t care.

4. They Could Have Given Us Options in the Letter

The letter says “we welcome you to explore our Individual product options at aetna.com” and “you have the option to buy coverage through your state’s Health Insurance Exchange.” Wouldn’t it have been great if, instead, it had said “We recommend you replace your Small Group Coverage with our plan XXX, which will cost you $Y per month and have a $Z deductible. Please see attached document for full details.” Why wouldn’t they do this? Because they would have to do some work, and they don’t care.

5. They Could Have Been Nice on the Phone

When we called to see if we could extend our coverage by one month in order to give us more time to explore our options, they basically said that they had fulfilled their legal obligations and we were on our own. Becky is going on her Senior Class Trip the first week of March and I have already provided the organizers with the insurance details, which are clearly wrong. I’m now under pressure to wade through the Health Insurance Exchange and find a plan that won’t cost the earth and allows us to keep our current providers by Feb 28. Why wouldn’t they extend us at least this courtesy? Because they really don’t care.

The West Chester Poetry Conference Cancellation – 1 Month On

It’s over a month since the unexpected and blatantly unfair dismissal of Kim Bridgford as the Director of the West Chester Poetry Center, and the consequent West Chester Poetry Conference cancellation for 2015 so it seems appropriate to take stock. What have we learned since then? What has changed? How have WCU handled the fallout?

The first thing that strikes me is how little we have genuinely learned about the reasons for Kim’s dismissal and subsequent actions by WCU, despite many individuals connected with the conference demanding answers from the administration.

We were initially told the reason Kim was given had to do with her not working with the Foundation on Fundraising, which seems ludicrous to anyone who has seen Kim in full fundraising mode. Since then we have heard tell that Dean Lori informed the Poetry Center Advisory Board that the conference had lost sight of its original mission and been taken over by “fringe elements.” As this means at best free verse poets, and at worst women and minorities, it is potentially both sexist and racist, plus would involve firing Kim for the very thing she was instructed to do and did brilliantly, namely to broaden the Conference’s appeal.

Similarly, we know little more about any financial irregularities within the Poetry Center, although I think those of us who care to have learned more than we intended about the financial structures of WCU. Basically, both WCU and the WCU Foundation can demonstrate a clean audit, but the Poetry Center, which exists as a ‘black box’ within WCU, and is funded by donations via the Foundation, has never been audited. Dean Lori said in an email to me that “Mark Mixner is working with an external consultant to conduct a financial review of the Center’s work,” and we all got the heavily spun letter that said “the University will be commissioning an independent review of the Poetry Center’s finances.” A review is NOT an audit, and please do note the future tense of “will be.”

Because here’s the thing, folks: one obvious change is that the Poetry Center doesn’t really exist any more. Poetry House at 823 High St has been closed and locked since September 15th, which is why Dean Lori struggled so badly with the cancellation of the Women’s Leadership Retreat. Earlier today I learned that the various functions of the Poetry Center are already being parceled up and handed out to various Creative Writing Faculty members at WCU.

How can you conduct an independent review of a body that no longer exists? Is that, in fact, the fundamental point and purpose of all this?

I don’t want to get into finger pointing and naming/shaming, but it does seem to me that the most obvious chain of events here is the call for the Poetry Center audit, made on August 26th, Kim’s dismissal on September 15th, and the disembowelment of the Poetry Center than has happened since. It has even been suggested that there might be something dubious in the matching of the original NEH grant, and that this is what WCU administration are so desperate to hide, although now we are straying into theorizing.

Whatever it is, there is no doubt in my mind that WCU administration in general, and Dean Lori Vermeulen in particular, have handled everything about this situation appallingly badly, from the egregious dismissal of Kim to the idea that a world-renowned conference can be put on hiatus for a year with no ill effect. (What seems likely to happen there, by the way, is that there will be several splinter conferences in 2015–one at the “Writing the Rockies” conference in Colorado, and one or more in the North East. The task of fusing these splinters will then be even harder in 2016 should WCU admin be telling the truth about their desire to bring the conference home again.)

But what can be done? Well, if you haven’t done so, please sign the petition linked to above this post. The board meeting at which it will be presented is at the beginning of next week, and the more signatures, the better for Kim. Please note: the petition says nothing controversial and does not theorize–it merely praises Kim’s achievements and expresses bafflement at her dismissal.

Finally, I believe we should begin to question Dean Lori Vermeulen’s fitness for her current role, and depending on the outcome of the board meeting we should consider calling for her resignation. I, for one, have zero confidence in her ability to lead the WCU Poetry Conference out of the minefield into which she is responsible for having placed it.

Why THIS West Chester Cancellation Should Matter to You

WLS

The 2015 West Chester Poetry Conference has been cancelled. So, most probably, has the Women’s Leadership Summit (WLS) planned for November 21-23, 2014. [Update: as of Tuesday 9/30 a.m. the WLS has definitely been cancelled.] Both are fallout from the summary and absurd dismissal of Kim Bridgford as Director of the West Chester Poetry Center. However, much virtual ink has been expended on the former, and you probably didn’t even know about the latter, so why should you care? I suggest that if you care about Kim’s dismissal at least as much as you mind the Conference “hiatus,” then THIS is the West Chester cancellation that should have you asking questions.

I haven’t received official notification of this cancellation, [Update: I queried Dean Lori on Monday 9/29 and received the official notification the next morning] but as you can see from the invite, it’s definitely sponsored by West Chester Poetry Center, and if you visit the Center’s website, you will be notified that “due to a reorganization of the Poetry Center, all Fall 2014 events have been postponed.”

It’s relatively easy to cancel a conference that is almost 8 months distant, and for which the dates haven’t yet been set. Sure, you’ll have to break a few verbal contracts, and make an embarrassing phone call to former Poet Laureate Ted Kooser, and you’ll have to deal with an irate community of poets (who may turn out to be a little more irate and community-spirited than you perhaps anticipated), but no money has changed hands, so no harm done, right?Screenshot 2014-09-26 16.34.41

The WLS is a different game entirely. The invitations went out around mid-August, and featured a pocket bio of keynote speaker Sarah Lewis, an offer of either a single or double room at the Pendle Hill Retreat Center in Wallingford, PA, and promised a full program “begin[ning] with orientation on Friday at 4:30 p.m. and…conclud[ing] after breakfast on Sunday.” I mailed my check on September 2nd, and it was deposited by WCU on September 16th. (Kim, in case you need reminding, was dismissed on September 15th.) I have heard from a number of other attendees whose checks have also been deposited. I assume that there is a contract with Pendle Hill, and another with Sarah Lewis. This Summit wasn’t just planned–it was organized!

So why cancel it?

If a male business executive is caught out in wrong doing (child porn, insider trading etc. etc.) they have to fire him and march him out the building. One assumes that were he the main driver behind a Men’s Leadership Summit, they would also have to cancel said Summit. (Apologies for the sexist nature of this analogy.)

But that’s not what we’re being told is going on here.

Kim has been “reassigned to full time teaching.” The poetry conference is on hiatus “due to a reorganization of the WCU Poetry Center.” The only thing that has been let slip about the reasons given by the administration for Kim’s dismissal is that she may have failed to work closely with the WCU Foundation in fundraising (Pat Valdata, Kim’s Temporary Assistant for the 2014 Conference, on the Eratosphere thread.) That is not an offense that requires you to be marched out the building.

As Wendy Sloan commented on Facebook, “Late Thursday afternoon, 9/11, a young woman from the Poetry Center returned my call to confirm that there would be van pickup from the train station to Pendle Hill. I think she said she was a graduate student. She said goodbye, saying she was looking forward to the Summit, and would see me there!”

There is simply no good reason why the WLS should not have proceeded with Kim at the helm, whether or not she were being “reassigned to full time teaching.” Canceling it will [has] cause[d] serious bureaucratic headaches and potential financial losses, should both Pendle Hill and Sarah Lewis insist WCU make good on their contracts, while WCU has to return us our money.

And that’s why you should care. The cancellation [(or “postponement” if you prefer)] of the WLS indicates that WCU is not being straight with us about the reasons for Kim’s dismissal. WCU wanted that Poetry Center shut down at any cost!

The question you all need to ask, and keep asking, is why?

AT&T Steals Candy From Babies, It’s Official!

Well, maybe not candy from babies, but they do steal Dataplan charges from 12 year olds. Here’s the story:

Earlier this year Lorna’s cell phone died–teenagers are hard on cell phones–and as she wasn’t due an upgrade, we switched her SIM card into Keba’s old iPhone 3. We made her SWEAR not to incur any data charges, as there was no plan on the phone, and Lorna being Lorna, she did exactly what she was told.

Today, I was nosing around on the AT&T website to check on everyone’s upgrade status. Ever since Lorna got her Dad’s iPhone, Becky has been mounting an unsubtle campaign for her own iPhone (for which, given my own love for my iPhone, I have some sympathy.) Becky’s phone also died pre-upgrade availability and so she has MY old regular cellphone, which is basically held together with duct tape. Keba’s concern was that she might not be as responsible about non-data usage as Lorna, and so he asked me to find if there was a way to limit or block data usage altogether.

The first thing I found out was that Lorna had used no data. The second was, that AT&T had nonetheless added a $30 p.m. Dataplan to the line, and charged us $52 to date for it. WTF, AT&T? The third thing I found was this:

“If AT&T determines that you are using an iPhone on your account without an eligible data plan, AT&T reserves the right to add an eligible data plan to your account and bill you the appropriate monthly fee.” WTF again, AT&T?

Soooo, I got hold of a nice young online chat representative named Shaun. Now, let me express at the outset my entire satisfaction with Shaun and his handling of the chat/my concerns. My problem is not with AT&T’s customer service, it’s with their (lack of) principles.

Once I had explained the situation to Shaun, we came to this exchange:

Shaun Poirier: Okay I have reviewed the account, and thee was a notice sent to the phone on 03/15/2012, when putting a sim card into a Iphone will generate a response in the system to add a data package.

Anna Evans: you sent a notice to my 13 year old daughter’s phone and expected it to reach the bill payer?

Anna Evans: I imagine she just ignored it as mystifying and irrelevant

Shaun Poirier: I am sorry but is sent to the phone that the sim card is inserted.

Anna Evans: okay but can you see my point of view here?

Shaun DID see my point, and after confirming that no data had actually been used on the phone, he generously agreed to credit back the $52. The data plan would have to stay from now on, though, if she kept the iPhone. Given that Becky may also soon have an iPhone, this was starting to look expensive, so I asked about limiting data:

Shaun Poirier: Give me one moment to give you a new balance, and I am sorry there is no way to limit the data, you can go to *3282# from the phone. and there is no family data plan.

Anna Evans: so it’s $30 p.m. minimum if my other daughter (14 and the only one now iPhone less) gets an iPhone with her upgrade?

Shaun Poirier: No the minimum is 20.00 for 300MB.

Shaun Poirier: Okay the credit has been issued.

Anna Evans: if that’s the minimum why don’t AT&T put that on when they do it without consent? why do they pick the higher one?

Shaun didn’t have an answer for that. Anyway, I went to have a look at the family’s existing data plans, to get a feel for whether 300 MB would be sufficient for a data-empowered teen, which led me to THIS revelation:

Shaun Poirier: Okay all is done was there anything else?

Anna Evans: hey, how come I get 2 GB for $25 and my choice for her is $30 for 3GB or $20 for 300 MB?

Anna Evans: oh and my husband is grandfathered in to unlimited for $30 LOL! You can see where this one is going!

Shaun Poirier: The 2GB is no longer available, your feature is grandfatherd

Sooooo, we’re talking about a situation where AT&T charge more and more, on a monthly basis, for less and less data. We’re talking about a situation where AT&T make it impossible for you to use an iPhone (with all its teen-magnet features) without a $20 p.m. charge minimum per phone, DESPITE the fact that Apple make it possible for you to switch off data connectivity on the phone. We’re talking about a situation where AT&T can impose new monthly charges without the billpayer’s knowledge or consent. Which means we’re talking about corporate theft, basically.

Stealing. Candy. Babies. Just saying.

Project Update

I just finished the Norton Anthology of African American Literature. It’s been a journey (4 weeks!) and I feel both saddened and enriched. I am saddened because there are still no easy answers to the impossible question of what white people should do, and how should we behave, in the presence of the enormity of our past. I still believe that reading across a broad cultural basis can only help, all the time dreading, nevertheless, that people of both ethnicities view me as unnatural, smug and self-righteous for following this path. (Stand up: the two white women who, upon seeing the NAofAAL on my kitchen table asked me WHY I was reading it.)

I have always personally sought understanding through literature in a way that may not necessarily work for everyone. There are other ways to engage, but engage we (white people) must. Nothing has been solved. Loudly proclaiming you “don’t see color” is only an option if you are white, and anyway, it probably isn’t true–you would just like it to be. It’s easier than dealing with the swirling tides of contradictory feelings that actually arise when, for example, a young black man dressed in the youth fashion–long white tee shirt, baggy jeans at the hips, baseball cap–approaches you on a dark street in Philadelphia late at night.

Enough of this. Onward and upward. Next stop: Southern Road by Sterling Brown.

Also some good news: Salamander have taken my poem “Worker” for a future issue.