Rep. Kampf Calls for Civility on Hot Issue: Op-Ed

State Representatives weighs in on Meadowbrook Golf Course debate.

Photo Courtesy: State Rep. Warren Kampf
Photo Courtesy: State Rep. Warren Kampf
The following Op-ed was sent to Patch by Representative Warren Kampf (R-PA157)

It's Time to End Uncivil Discourse


As State Representative, I am accustomed to hearing from constituents as they present their views and positions on issues being addressed in Harrisburg and here at home.  Some agree with me.  Some do not.  But, mostly, all make their points in a manner that is respectful and fair.   I work hard to do the same in answering their concerns.  It's called civil discourse, and it is one of the foundations of our representative democracy.


Unfortunately over the past few months – as we have seen arguments over government shutdowns in Washington, D.C., differences surrounding the recently enacted Transportation Funding package in Harrisburg, and now the passionate feelings over eminent domain issues in Phoenixville – it has become clear that too many have abandoned civil discourse in favor of uncivil speech and actions. 


This speech and these actions do us no good.  It forces people, who are otherwise normally reasonable, to abandon the idea of achieving pragmatic progress.  It forces gridlock.  It stops us from addressing truly important issues.


During the debate over the Transportation Funding package, I was accused in a Letter to the Editor of choosing my position based on a political pledge to a Washington, DC special interest group.  The problem?  I had never taken any such pledge (something that was easily verifiable with a simple internet search) and I had made it known publicly that my position came from surveying the people I represent.  My attacker, however, had no problem simply submitting a lie to the newspaper.  That's uncivil discourse.


I give my attacker respect for her position on the issue and her passion over it.  I believe, however, her point could have been made in a way that was more respectful to both the public and me.  Had she made her point this way, I believe it may also have been more effective for those she wished to persuade.


In Phoenixville, some individuals have responded with vitriol against a recent decision to utilize eminent domain – and their actions have once again brought uncivil discourse to the forefront.


These individuals basically shut down a public School Board meeting because they refused to follow some simple rules put in place to ensure every resident a chance to be heard.  Rather than follow the rules for public comment in that meeting and make their opinions known, they hi-jacked the entire meeting and forced it to be temporarily halted. 


How many other citizens – citizens whose opinions matter just as much – lost their chance to speak or gave up trying because of the actions of this unruly few?  How many citizens who may have no ties to these people (but who share their views) are now seen as "rude" or "reckless" because of the actions of this uncivil group?


Some of those who oppose the eminent domain actions have even gone so far as to picket the homes of local school board members.  Reports state that a very few even made threatening chants a part of their picketing effort. 


The people who took this action seem to forget that these School Board members are still their neighbors, still parents and spouses, still people with regular jobs and the same everyday concerns as those who are picketing.  The picketers forgot that these School Board members are volunteers trying to make their community better. 


Who, I ask you, would be willing to volunteer for such a job in the future knowing this is the type of treatment you face when making an unpopular decision?  This is the true cost of uncivil discourse: the loss of the time and talent of citizens willing to step forth and serve.


Let me be clear: I am in no way suggesting that citizens abandon making their voice heard, be it in favor or opposition to an issue.  As the saying goes, "I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." 


I am just suggesting that all of us – every citizen and every elected official – would be better served saying what we must in a way that achieves civil discourse again.   In this way, we can find our way to truly addressing issues rather than just fighting about them.  That is a simple goal we should all strive to achieve if we truly care about making our community stronger.

Interested Observer December 10, 2013 at 10:31 AM
phoenixvillean, not sure what you expect Rep Kampf to do. you say you understand the legalities of the situation but you must not. this is a local issue with a lot of federal law governing how it works. Rep Kampf is a STATE Rep and has no standing in the issue. if what u say is true about the school board not being open with the public perhaps they will take the Representative's call for civil discourse to heart and be more open.
Steve Piotrowski December 10, 2013 at 02:39 PM
I find this rather late for Mr. Kampf to chime in, even though I do appreciate his concern. I wish he would have decided to stand up for private property rights and have used his voice to amplify this unjust and immoral law known as Eminent Domain. The Representative was quoted as saying: " It's called civil discourse, and it is one of the foundations of our representative democracy." With all due respect, sir, we do not live in a Democracy, we live in a Constitutional Republic, as I pointed out to you at a TEA Party meeting in 2012 . A democracy is nothing more than two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Tax payers, as well as private property owners are fed up with the bureaucrats thinking that they know what is best for others lives. The utmost of class and respect was given to the school board members. However, when this fell upon deaf ears, a pro active and peaceful action was deemed a necessity. Let us be honest, because begging politicians to change their course of action was a total lost cause with these board members. They already made their decision to steal this family owned business. The Campbell's are heartbroken to lose their Liberty and Happiness during this Holy season. I was one of the many Patriots involved in protesting this thievery, as this is what it is, theft! It being a law, does not make it moral and correct. In our society it takes a good person to take a stance against unjust laws, i.e. Rosa Parks. I also attended the school board meeting. A sign up list was available for one's whom wanted to speak. No mention was made as to be a resident. I was born in Phoenixville, and my family has roots here, although I reside minutes from the borough. Being a tax payer of this Commonwealth, since when is freedom of speech not allowed to be heard at a public venue? Apparently, the First Amendment is prohibited at this school board meeting. Mr. Kampf is nonfactual, as every resident was given an opportunity to be heard. The Representative commented that "a very few even made threatening chants a part of their picketing effort." Mr. Kampf, this is a lie. I do not appreciate your misrepresentation. If you truly want to help this family, before they lose everything, please take a stance immediately. Time is of the essence. In Liberty, Steve Piotrowski, Co-Founder of Citizens for Liberty
Phoenixvillian December 10, 2013 at 03:08 PM
Interested Observer: you just proved my point on why I should never comment on the patch. It's pointless. Like yourself.... First of all, that seems to be all you are. An observer. How can you chime in on something you very obviously know nothing about. How hard is it to sit on your couch and at least watch the meetings? If you at least did that you would understand that there has been numerous long time residents who calmly asked questions at these meetings, even before these people rallied, and we're given no answers. In fact, they were told tough shit. Lastly, the whole beginning of your comment shows your ignorance. You ask what is Kampf supposed to do? It's small town politics versus federal law. WHO DO YOU THINK IS THE MIDDLE MAN!? His job is to represent the people of his district, and speak on their behalf! If you knew anything about eminent domain or this story, or American history, besides what you read on patch, you would understand that PENNSYLVANIA is currently trying to change this law within the commonwealth, and people like Mr. Kampf are put in place to fight for the people. He has an office in Harrisburg for a reason. Besides going into a political history/theory lesson..... I don't know what else to tell you. I don't want to go on here and attack you, but if your going to make comments please at least be well versed in what your are talking about.
Jane December 10, 2013 at 03:15 PM
In all due respect, Mr. Kampf, Eminent Domain is pure and simple theft. Although this is law, it is immoral and unjust. One should disobey this unjust law. Where would the civil rights movement be if Rosa Parks did not step forward to this political propaganda? I was one of many in attendance during this protest. It was totally peaceful. Just ask the nice police officers that drove by in support of us! Neighbors were surprised to learn of this, and they supported our cause, as well, in helping to get the school board members whom voted for this to have a change of mind. The Campbell's are heartbroken to lose their family business. They are not willing sellers. It is a lie to say that "a very few even made threatening chants." Are you in the pockets of these bureaucrats? I pray not. Also, I was in attendance at the school board meeting. The residents were given ample opportunity to make their statements. Non residents were deprived their Freedom of speech, although living in the Commonwealth. As quoted in the previous comment, pro action was taken, via signs stating Thou Shat Not Steal, and Save Meadow Brook Golf Club, were held at this meeting. Although Mr. Pattinson, a board member who voted for thievery, stated that God has no place here. In our Republic, not Democracy, sir, we need to speak for this family, as they are being railroaded by the train of tyranny with this board as it's conductor and crew. Please take a pro active stand immediately in supporting the Campbell's and their legacy. If not now...when? Jane Taylor Toal. Secretary, Citizens for Liberty
Jackie December 10, 2013 at 03:54 PM
Mr. Kampf, Shame on you!!!! I personally contacted you asking you to intervene in the eminent domain claim against my family home and business. I made it clear that we are not interested in selling. In a few short days I will never again be able to return to my home. The very fact that you simplify the loss of my family home and business as an ‘an unpopular decision’ made by those ‘citizens willing to step forth and serve’; is absolutely ridiculous! The historical importance of the protection of private property in American society is an inalienable right afforded all Americans. The American dream is to own your own home, and business. Eminent domain contradicts that right, in fact, it negates every Americans right to keep the private property or business they have worked hard for. If this can happen to my family, it can happen to any American family. No one is safe from having their home and business ripped away.
Steve Piotrowski December 10, 2013 at 04:13 PM
I completely agree Jackie. You have a wonderful family, and I wish you all the best.
Marilyn December 10, 2013 at 05:22 PM
Mr Kampf said nothing about Eminent Domain. He skirted the issue. Typical politician. There was nothing wrong with making noise at the S.B meeting. Sometimes people have to express disapproval at abuse or the abuse continues. If no voices were raised against this unpublicized action then it will just happen over and over again. Next it will be your home. If you don't defend the rights of your neighbor then you will lose your own rights. We are losing unselfish giving and The group that went out to protest this hard callous action did right. It brought attention to the injustice which otherwise would have gone unnoticed as was the intention of the S.B. I guess they are a bit disturbed that they didn't get away with it unnoticed. It is hard to imagine that a family will be out of their home a week before Christmas. Maybe the S.B. doesn't observe Christmas. It sure doesn't sound like they do if they can be sneaky about their voting. The fact that it was not made perfectly clear to the public that this is what they wanted to do then that tells me that they knew they were doing wrong and did it anyway. BUT they got caught. They said they offered $5M for the property, but they E.D. it for $3.72M so what happened? Well it appears to me that they are sending out a message to the community that if you don't go along with what they offer then you will get taught a lesson. Do you want people like this in charge of your children? What will your children be asked to do that will trample their rights and when they rightly refuse will be severely and immorally punished. Don't give up your rights !
Steve Piotrowski December 10, 2013 at 05:46 PM
Right on Marilyn!
Dan Reese December 10, 2013 at 08:39 PM
Liars! and Thieves! and Sneaks! …Oh My! These are just a few of the adjectives I have seen describing our school board members. Thank you Mr. Kampf for your thoughts related to the recent uncivil discourse we have either seen or read related to this important matter. Although the power of eminent domain is a Constitution right, I am very much against it. It should only be used as a last resort! I strongly believe that every one of our elected school board members is also against it use, but as elected officials, they also need to weight that feeling against their fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers, and more importantly their responsibility to provide a suitable learning environment to the children in our district. Time Is Up! Additional classroom space is needed now and a location for it is needed now! The board and administration staff did a comprehensive due diligence review on all other possible options and sites. Time is up! I am sure it was a tough decision for each member to vote in favor of eminent domain, but all things considered, I support their decision. I hope the Brown and Campbell families get a just compensation entitled to them through our Constitution. Thanks for considering my input on this necessary, but unfortunate matter.
Jane December 10, 2013 at 09:23 PM
In response to Jackie, I am deeply sorry that you, and your family, have to be put through this political takeover. It is truly wrong. The school board wanted this land, your family refused to sell it for the price offered, so, they steal it! Do not give up on letting everyone know this is theft! It is absolutely absurd that your neighbors would resort to this. God forbid if their property was wanted for this purpose...or any other. It does not matter what the reason be, it is thievery. It is not a mutual sale. I find this absolutely repalling. And, yes, Mr. Kampf, shame, shame on you. Where are your principles, sir? Where are your morals? Where is your courage? It does not take a village, it only takes you and I. In Liberty, Jane Taylor Toal. Secretary, Citizens for Liberty.
Jane December 10, 2013 at 09:37 PM
In response to Dan, "Eminent Domain should only be used as a last resort?" Dan, Eminent Domain is the stealing, seizing, taking of one's private, personal property without permission. Without a mutual agreement of sale. This is stealing, for whatever reason! It does matter the use of what the property would be used for. No agreement...no sale. Period. I disagree with it being a "tough decision for each member." What is so tough about doing the correct thing? What is so tough about standing by a family who is losing this legacy? What is so tough for standing on principle? I find absolutely nothing tough about this! I am sure these board members lost no sleep oiver this. I AM sure this family is STILL losing sleep over this. You hope the families get a "just compensation?" How can they possibly get this? They are NOT willing sellers! This is an oxymoron, sir. Like I previously commented, remember Rosa Parks? She took a stand and stood up against evil! I encourage you to look deep into your heart and soul and realize this is immoral and unjust. A neighbor that lives next to this property was approached asking if she was interested in selling. The school district wants to build a brand new bus depot! Why am I not surprised? Each and everyone of us can be next! Because these are cold, heartless people. They do not care about families, feelings, and standing on principle. The Grinch has reared it's ugly face. Sad. In Liberty, Jane Taylor Toal. Secretary, Citizens for Liberty.
Steve Piotrowski December 10, 2013 at 10:49 PM
I completely agree with you Jane. Oh, guess what? 7 of me and my friends just voted to take away all of the school board members homes to build day care centers, because it is for the public good. They have 30 days to vacate, and we are only giving them each $38,000 for their homes. They have no choice. Take the money or else! (Sarcastic)
dwayne roberson December 11, 2013 at 02:45 AM
As a Phoenixville School District tax payer I want to apologize to the Cambell family. If there is any thing that can be done to stop this count me in. Even before the time of Abraham land has been a sacred thing. Sorry also that children see adult hypocrisy when it comes to theft... be it partial or otherwise.
Steve Piotrowski December 11, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Well said Dwayne.
Marilyn December 11, 2013 at 09:24 AM
Right next door is a 63 acre property that the School Board has mismanaged and is now abandoning. If there is mold in the building then tear it down and build the new schools there. NO.....this is about the Superintendent wanting to sit on his throne and survey all he has built. Let's put it all out there and look at all of it. The school Board is now tearing down another perfectly good school. East Pikeland. The parents are in an uproar. The socialist School Administrators want all their buildings in one centralized area so they can have better control. Take the schools out of the communities and centralize them so when the time comes and the 2 extra soccer fields can be turned into dormitories then it will be easy to fence in the children and turn them against their parents. Do you think this is crazy and that will never happen. WELL....Do you think the people of Poland were uncivilized? They had the opera and restaurants just like we do. They were a peaceful people until they were taken over by the Nazis. Don't allow your rights to be eroded away. Defend the rights of your neighbor or your rights will be gone too ! Dan Reese is uninformed.
Fafa December 11, 2013 at 01:37 PM
I like how he used this hot topic forum to clear his name in a previous political issue and yet said nothing on the issue of eminent domain and how it pertains to Phoenixville. Well done sir.
MPorchik December 11, 2013 at 02:40 PM
CG3, He used an example to prove his point about uncivil discourse. He didn't mention the name of the newspaper, or the name of the individual who made the comment. The article wasn't to take a side on this issue, but a call for factual and intelligent conversation pertaining to the issue instead of the name calling that is occurring.
Fafa December 11, 2013 at 03:02 PM
It was a pretty specific example mporkchop. As I read it he was using this forum to clear up a previous issue.
PVilleRes December 11, 2013 at 07:07 PM
I entirely agree with everything Mr. Kampf has said. Now let me chime in on the Eminent Domain debate. I have to wonder if these people crying foul are the same people who cried foul when the District wanted to build the site on East Pikeland. Man... Who would have thought that the public would freak out when they proposed putting East Pikeland.... where East Pikeland already is, a perfect site. As a high school student, and as a citizen of the township, I would have loved for the new district early learning center to be there. But no, a few citizens freaked out and nothing got done. Now the school-board, with no options left, has decided to finally just pick a location, everybody freaks out again! I just don't get it. I wish the building would be somewhere else I'll say; Meadowbrook is a fine establishment that I appreciate having next to the school. But I don't think the school absorbing the land via eminent domain is bad either. I think it is rather clear that those in opposition to the acquisition are part of a small minority; most people are in favor. The problem is that the minority is the one who has the fervor to argue the issue (in a very disrespectful way, might I add). Also might I add that those of you criticizing the district for being absolutely terrible, you might want to do your homework, as we high schoolers so often do. PAHS is the best it has ever been, and the school is graduating more and more kids every year, who are taking more AP class, and going to better colleges. It's really a wonderful environment to be in, and they have don our community a great service by putting us on track to be where we are today. Anyway, I'm not saying that Meadowbrook IS the solution, but I think it might be. Where would YOU put the new building? I'd like to see one of YOU do the job... On a side note, the district having the Meadowbrook property would be good for the district in the future, as I think it could use it to better serve our students with more sports fields, and inter-school interaction between kids of all ages. I guess we'll see what happens!
Fafa December 11, 2013 at 07:47 PM
PvilleRes: are you serious? You think the people complaining are in the minority? You have a lot of growing up to do. And when you're responsible enough to own your own property / business / land that has been in your family for generations then you'll understand the impact eminent domain has on 1 single family (which could be yours). Graduating more students and having a fine high school (which are all good points) is still no reason to use eminent domain. The school board is being lazy and has not done their full due diligence. This issue has risen above Phoenixivllle and is now being discussed on radio shows and other more main stream blogs and websites because it has sruck a cord with people.
dwayne roberson December 11, 2013 at 07:52 PM
pvilleres- You seem to be a fine young man and I commend you on your academic achievement. I will suggest that you completely avoided the fundamental issue. Maybe if you were to see and meet the Campbell family your perception would evolve. Maybe if you saw their tears, heard their voices and realized how brutal this act is for a family. You will find that virtue in adult leadership does not rationalize to justify wrong behavior. This country is unique because it is founded on the rights of personal property. The rights of the individual is not secondary to the lust of the collective. Property lust, government confiscation, coveting your neighbor's land, and stealing cannot be sidestepped by a glowing future vision of academia. Be consistent in what you believe, embrace your mind. Witness the Campbell family, engage your empathy, be consistent in what you do, embrace your heart. This is not our property. This is stealing.
P-Ville Mom December 12, 2013 at 12:41 AM
Just curious.... If the judge comes back and rules that they school board must pay $8 million for Meadowbrook, are they still bullies & thieves? I'm aware that some of the owners said the land was never for sale, there are documents that indicate otherwise. So again my question is; if a judge rules fair market value at 3.5 million that's not enough, but what if fair market IS closer to $8? Just curious how that changes everyone's outlook.
dwayne roberson December 12, 2013 at 06:24 AM
My outlook will not change. This is not our property. The Campbells may receive a figure closer to previous appraisals. In a free country the volition of both buyer and seller will enact the sale.
MPorchik December 12, 2013 at 09:33 AM
CG, so because I read his comment different than yours you resort to petty name calling ? "It was a pretty specific example mporkchop. As I read it he was using this forum to clear up a previous issue." I can be petty as well. "because it has sruck a cord with people." It should be chord not cord, and I assume you meant struck instead of sruck.
Fafa December 12, 2013 at 01:32 PM
commoncence December 14, 2013 at 02:59 PM
Most disingenuous op ed I ever read. If I ask you to review a restaurant, don't tell me what the weather is. I knew the 'fix' was in the minute Mr Kampf's chief of staff answered my phone call with an exasperated, "what do you want the representative to DO?" Funny, that's why I was calling. If I knew the answer to that question, I wouldn't have asked it. I was at the now-famous board meeting. The board recessed rather than take comments from folks who don't live in, or do business with, the distrtict. They weren't even in the room for the most heated part of the discussion. And please cry me a river of your crocodile tears, you members who felt compelled to tell us how much you hate the idea of eminent domain, because it didn't stop you did it? I still want to know, where is the environmental assessment? Off the record the superintendent reportedly told the family's rep that they "did a few core samples" and that similar situations on other golf courses were caused by neighboring businesses, but the summary of the report being cited clearly states that the highest concentrations of contaminants were found in the tees, greens and fairways. How do you explain that? Does the board have Schuylkill Township's promise that the appropriate zoning changes will be made? Why do we need three new soccer fields? Clearly, if this was all so much in the taxpayer's interests, it wouldn't have had to be done under the guise of "land acquisition" through eminent domain. This is shameful and wrong and this board should be ashamed of itself, including Mr. Gould who vote against it, but appears by his actions to be full steam for it.
157Resident December 14, 2013 at 04:14 PM
Kampf's chief of staff is an over-fed politico wannabe. The day we take civility lessons from Kampf and his cronies is the day we all need to find another place to live.
PVilleRes December 15, 2013 at 11:39 AM
Yes CG3, I think that the people complaining are a minority. There are about 35,000 people in this school district, and I am willing to bet that 80% of them agree with the school boards decision. Have you read this article in the Mercury? http://www.pottsmerc.com/general-news/20131213/documents-reveal-ongoing-talks-to-buy-phoenixville-golf-course I'm sure the Campbells are nice people, however they clearly are willing to let the property go. I do believe that the article I've linked points to the fact that they have certainly not been entirely truthful in this whole affair. Do you think anyone will really give them $8 million for that land? Maybe in 30 years when inflation has made that the fair value. I think there are a lot of self-righteous people following the Campbell party that just want to yell "Persecution!" and try to "Stick it to the man," if you will. That's just what I, and almost every other friend and adult whom I have spoken to about this, think. And finally CG3, I don't know who you think you are telling me to "grow up" because I have a different opinion. I, like you, am a tax-paying, voting citizen of this town, and just because I am still 18 and in high school doesn't mean I have no idea what I'm talking about at all. I think you'd be surprised at what we high schoolers are able to comprehend. We don't have kids going to West Point, Penn, Carnegie Mellon, etc.... for being stupid. Anyway, did you even read the article? That's exactly the type of uncivil discourse Rep. Kampf was talking about. A polite, well thought out rebuttal would have sufficed. I guess to end off this comment, I'll say that I don't think the school board is totally right... But I don't think they are wrong, either. I think the Campbell family is more wrong. And you know, the very same Constitution you refer to when defending the Campbells... allows for eminent domain. Funny, don't you think?
Jackie December 15, 2013 at 01:46 PM
@ PVilleRes - In Real Estate negotiations, both parties at any time can withdraw from said negotiations by saying they no longer wish to sell or buy a property. Regardless of previous negotiations, Meadow Brook is saying they do not wish to sell. The last I checked 'No' still means 'No'. It doesn't mean 'Yes', or 'Maybe'. Nor does it imply that Meadow Brook wishes to be forced into the sale of their business or home. Take a few minutes to imagine the state of our economy if every American who contemplated buying or selling a home or business was forced to follow through after deciding they no longer wanted to buy or sell. The historical importance of the protection of private property in American society is an inalienable right afforded all Americans. The American dream is to own your own home, and business. Eminent domain contradicts that right, in fact, it negates every Americans right to keep the private property or business they have worked hard for. There is nothing FUNNY about this issue or the fact that Eminent Domain is allowed through our Constitution. It is my wish that no other family ever has to be placed in this position. The fact that I may never be able to go home again is the furthest thing from FUNNY, and all because the school board is choosing to use eminent domain after being told 'NO' we do not wish to sell.
Jane December 16, 2013 at 04:50 PM
No means no. Period. The asking price was not met, there is no agreement of sale. Regardless of whether or not the club is a good spot, is totally irrelevant! The asking price was not met, so, it was stolen! PLAIN AND SIMPLE, IN A NUT SHELL, so-to-speak. NO MEANS NO!!


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