Bustleton: Civic League Votes Out Leaders

Newly Elected President Jack O'Hara discussing his plans for the Greater Bustleton Civic League
Recently elected corresponding secretary Maureen Greene discusses her 23 years as a member of the Greater Bustleton Civic League

Members of the Greater Bustleton Civic League voted to replace many governing board positions amid accusations of poor leadership had created tensions within the association.

The contentious vote last month included the positions of president, vice president, corresponding secretary, recording secretary and treasurer.

Some members of the Bustleton community described the league as disorganized, accusing past leaders with misleading the membership about zoning, miscounting votes and maintaining insufficient communications with the membership as well as board member to board member.

“What’s great about the League is we do have a lot of very passionate people,” said former vice president and current 15-year member Myles Gordon. “The problem is some discussions can get a bit contentious.”

Gordon agreed that there were flaws in the league’s administration but said he believes in former President John McKeever while questioning the motives of former Vice President and President-Elect Jack O’Hara.

“McKeever made great leaps and bounds and had incredible integrity,” Gordon said. “He ran a tight ship. The new president has his vision, but he just hasn’t explained it to us yet. He says he wants change but doesn’t clarify how to accomplish it. He has big shoes to fill.”

However, for O’Hara, the league’s new direction is very clear.

“Social media, getting out there and being more active in the community are all really important goals,” O’Hara said. “We need to rework our website and get younger people involved. That’s key.”

The importance of social media was also stressed by longtime member and recently re-elected Corresponding Secretary Maureen Greene.

“Using social media will really help us get more members and that’s a big concern,” Greene said. “We want to get email addresses and more households responding to community interests.”

This civic league has been active since the early 1940s and is one of the longest running community organizations in Philadelphia, Greene said. She said the group does have many members, about 300 to 400 households, but said she believes that recruiting more of the younger Bustleton generation is the key to success.

“We get a lot of the ‘I didn’t even knows’ and that’s what we’re trying to put a stop to,” Greene said.

Former League Vice President Gordon agreed that membership should be a concern but stressed the need for better meetings, asserting that out of a two-and-a-half hour meeting 90 minutes is filled by zoning.

“These meetings tend to become bogged down in zoning,” Gordon said. “But we have issues that the league should be weighing in on instead.”

One example was the new PECO smart electric meters that debuted in March. PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez explained that the meters give PECO the ability to read the meters remotely to provide two-way communication for customers.

“These smart meters have been said to cause radiation poisoning,” Gordon said. “This is something the Bustleton community needs to know about.”

As for zoning, newly elected Corresponding Secretary Greene readily disagreed with the claim that the board has misled members about Bustleton zoning.

“I wouldn’t say the league has misled members,” Greene said. “But I do think there is room for better knowledge regarding zoning.”

Newly elected League President O’Hara agreed by explaining how difficult it is to understand city zoning laws because they change so frequently. Zoning issues have been at the forefront of the assembly’s meetings, and according to Greene there have been some great successes.

“Last year there was a move to build a methadone clinic,” Greene said. “And opposing the business’s construction gained us publicity and the highest membership we’ve ever had.”

However, the league has had its share of community controversy. The Northeast Times newspaper described board members showing strong support for the expansion of the First Ukrainian Evangelical Baptist Church while many neighbors of the church disagreed with the subsequent variance approval.

Ukrainian Church
This Ukrainian Church has raised tensions between local Bustleton residents and the Civic League's board members.

Both O’Hara and Greene agreed that the league must sometimes make difficult even highly opposed decisions that can lead to tension within the board and within the league entirely.

“It can be difficult to even find people to want to volunteer for the board because you have to disappoint someone,” Greene said.

Gordon’s main concern is that the new headship will be just as misguided as the past leaders if they allow their disagreements to come between them or the other members. He and other members of the Bustleton community are looking forward to the next meeting to be held at the American Heritage Federal Credit Union, 2060 Red Lion Road, at 7:30 p.m. on June 13.

On a final and progressive note Gordon said, “I think we need to work together and leave past elections in the past for the betterment of Bustleton and the City of Philadelphia.”

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