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Takeaways From Tuesday’s State College Mayoral Debate

The three candidates for State College mayor debated Tuesday night at The State Theatre, as sponsored by The Daily Collegian and Centre Daily Times.

Michael Black, who will technically appear on the Republican ticket, ran in the Democratic primary but was the highest vote-getter for Republicans because of write-in votes. Don Hahn won the Democratic nomination for mayor on this spring’s primary election. Ron Madrid announced in July he would run as an independent in the municipal election.

We covered the first mayoral debate of the election season, hosted by UPUA, with a live blog. The internet connection in the State Theatre leaves something to be desired, so this wasn’t possible for Tuesday’s debate. Instead, here are our takeaways:

The candidates know the student vote matters this year…but they know their audience.

Most answers from all three candidates involved some sort of student angle, but they were also geared toward long-term residents. Unlike the UPUA-hosted debate, which was probably attended by about 90 percent students and 10 percent long-term residents, this debate featured a much different makeup. From my vantage point, it was probably about 50/50 between students and long-term residents, which I personally was impressed by. Some residents entering the State Theatre also seemed impressed by the student turnout, but they didn’t believe students would attend of their own accord, asking several of the students present if they were incentivized to attend for class.

These candidates are confident.

I can’t count on two hands the number of times I heard the phrase “when I become mayor” during this debate. Confidence is important, but where do we draw the line? Obviously all three men cannot become mayor. I’ll admit I haven’t followed many other local elections, but this still strikes me as odd.

The candidates can generally agree on the issues that matter in this election — the biggest difference in their platforms is how best to solve them.

Through two debates, questions have generally focused on the relationship between Penn State and the State College Borough, how to keep young professionals in the Borough and attract non-Penn State professionals to State College, how to ensure diversity and inclusion in the Borough and the town as a whole, and how to plan for the long-term growth of downtown State College in terms of new construction, sustainability, walkability, and the college town atmosphere we all know and love.

This election is incredibly important because of zoning.

For the first time in decades, the State College Borough is reviewing rewriting its zoning ordinances. Folks, THIS IS IMPORTANT! Zoning regulates where students can and can’t live and a smorgasbord of other housing-related matters. Madrid says there’s not much we can do about the zoning. Black says we need community input to make sure the growth of State College is sustainable and realistic to the legacy we want to leave on the town. Hahn says this isn’t time to reinvent the wheel, but to appreciate what we already have in the neighborhoods of the Borough.

All candidates seem to be on board with making the 100-block of Allen Street a pedestrian mall.

Hahn says he proposed the idea four years ago when he served on Borough Council. Madrid says when this initiative has come before Council in the past, it has been opposed by business owners on the block saying they would lose business. Black says he’s already spoken to the business owners on Allen Street and garnered support for the project.

The next debate for Borough Council and Mayoral candidates is 7 p.m. Wednesday at the Borough Building on Allen Street, sponsored by the League of Women Voters. This year’s general municipal election is November 7.


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About the Author

Elissa Hill

Elissa was the managing editor of Onward State from 2017-2019. She is from Punxsutawney, PA [insert corny Bill Murray joke here] and considers herself an expert on all things ice cream. Follow her on Twitter (@ElissaKHill) for more corny jokes.

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