Candidates for the State College Borough Council met with students last night in the HUB-Robeson Center to let them know more about themselves and what they plan to do if elected on May 16. Candidates are listed in alphabetical order, by last name.
Penn State freshman Rylie Cooper is the youngest candidate running for the seat and said safety is the biggest issue for her. “We should expand the [Auxiliary Police] and blue light system into downtown.” Cooper said the distance they can travel into the Borough should be widened and that police should focus more on violent crimes. She said they focus too much on underage drinking — something that scares students away from trusting the police to keep them safe.
Cooper thinks housing should be more affordable for students and cited the new Metropolitan apartment complex as an example. “They cost $900-$1,000 per bed. The more leeway we give developers the more expensive they can make it.”
Cooper admitted she doesn’t have much experience but she appreciates the community. “By electing me, you’ll have a seat at the table,” Cooper told the students in the audience. She said growing up and visiting State College taught her how connected the school and community are. “When we say ‘We Are,’ it means everyone. The lives of students and locals are intertwined.”
“I’m itching to become an advocate for students,” Cotarelo said. She is a graduate of Penn State and is in her final year at Penn State as a graduate student in higher education while serving as the GPSA vice president. “Penn State is the heartbeat of State College,” Cotarelo said. “I think I bring vast perspectives. I have many identities.” Those identities include being a first generation American and the first in her family to attend college. She said her experience in education has taught her to meet people wherever they are and find common ground.
A large issue for her is the identity of State College. “It does us a great disservice to separate students and long term residents. We’re all residents,” Cotarelo said.
She said she came here as a student six years ago and decided to stick around. While she spoke about her love for the area, she did admit there are places that need fixing. “Tensions are high between students and long term residents. I think we can all agree to increase safety and affordability,” Cotarelo said. She also stated that State College is an area she’s planning on staying around for a long time.
Serving as the Student Orientation and Transition Programs Director has forced Dan Murphy to learn about the Borough and Penn State’s history. “Local politics is less about party and more about problem solving. I’m a problem solver,” Murphy said. After watching Americans speak to each other during the election cycle last year, Murphy said he was inspired to run. He’s hoping to change how people with opposing views treat each other. “This isn’t a trend we’ve done too well of avoiding.”
One area of safety he wants to improve is access to mental health resources. He said there aren’t enough places for people suffering to seek help.
Murphy wants to build a stronger relationship between the University and the Borough. “It’s the role of the Council to meet you and hear you,” Murphy said. The candidate also stated his best asset is that he hears two divergent points of views and hears both equally.
Even Myers has lived in State College the longest time of any candidate present and he is an incumbent of the Borough Council. He is the Chief Financial Officer of AccuWeather and a Penn State graduate. Myers said he wants to make State College an inclusive community. He voted multiple times to support inclusion and diversity proclamations in the Council. Another area Myers wants to address is the accessibility and affordability of housing. “Penn State does not provide enough student housing,” Myers said. He suggested a revision of zoning codes could help alleviate the stress State College faces in absorbing student residents.
“The relationship between the Borough and the University is fairly broken,” Myers stated. “Not with the students, but with the administration.” Myers also added that Penn State holds double-standards when it comes to institutions like fraternities, saying they push responsibility onto the Borough when there’s a problem, but use them as incentives for prospective students at the same time.
Myers said the participation of students in politics is important. He added he would not bypass student input. After coming to State College as a student, Myers said he didn’t leave because he found a good job within walking distance from home in the area. After that, he stayed because he wanted his kids to grow up in the area.