Is a Change Coming to Chester?

I wrote in the first post here that the primary inspiration for this blog was the Chester Matters blog that covers local issues in Chester City in a way that the press doesn’t. Now that blog’s author, Stefan Roots is running for City Council in Chester with an aim to topple Mayor Kirkland’s Chester machine in two years. The last competitive primary in Chester City was in 2015, when Mayor Kirkland was first elected.

Chester faces many challenges, and it doesn’t seem to be making much progress with its current leadership. Last summer Chester City was put into receivership by the court due to financial problems, and the Chester-Upland School District is facing takeover by private charter schools. The CWA sale is still tangled up in courts and in the last few years the city has provoked fights with Widener over parking and with other businesses over stormwater fees. Violence remains too common. The city is currently facing a fight within Chester over the Covanta trash incinerator.

Highland Ave., from Google Street View.

Last night several Chester City residents, including Mr. Roots, addressed Nether Providence’s EAC in support of CRCQL’s efforts to halt Delaware County’s trash contract with the incinerator. They made a compelling case. In the picture here is Highland Ave. This is the road that trucks bringing New York trash from Delaware rumble down from I-95 to the incinerator. The trash is shipped by rail through Chester to Delaware and then trucked back up to Chester. The trucks run from 4 am on, and coat the area with ash and debris, which is worse when rain causes runoff. This is a residential neighborhood, there’s even a school on Highland Ave. near I-95 according to Google Maps. Residents spoke about how their eyes often hurt from the pollution and how prevalent asthma is in Chester. Many residents are older and can’t afford to relocate.

One part that stuck out to me in that conversation is that Chester isn’t going to solve its problems alone. Although it may be mismanaged, many of its problems are not of its creating – the state’s educational funding formula, environmental racism, post-industrial population decline and so on. Chester’s neighbors in Delaware County need to find another way to handle waste and take responsibility for helping Chester out of receivership. And Stefan Roots seems like an excellent partner to work with to do that.

Categories: Government