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Live Blog: State College Municipal Election Debates

The League of Women Voters is hosting its second candidates night of the election cycle Wednesday in the Borough Building. Follow along with us for more information through the debates for State College Borough Council and State College Mayor.

State College Borough Council:

Richard Fitzgerald (R), Lynn Herman (R), Theresa Lafer (D), Dan Murphy (D&R), Evan Myers (D)

Closing statements:

Murphy: Says he’s ready to put his energy and passion towards safety, development, affordable housing, and growth. Is committed to creating spaces to build community and celebrate the spirit of State College.

Lafer: Emphasizes her love of and passion for State College. Says she’s ready to get to work on the issues discussed tonight.

Herman: Cites his years of experience in local and state government. Wants to put that to the test to improve the quality of life for State College residents.

Fitzgerald: Passionate about people and getting to now people and what motivates them. Says government can be run more efficiently. Is for smaller government and better use of resources. Wants to work with surrounding municipalities.

Myers: Has seen all sides of student life and State College life and has served on various town commissions. Wants to provide a safe environment and treat all members of community with equity and respect.

Do you think local government is doing enough to reduce dangerous drinking? If not, what initiative would you like to see implemented?

Murphy: Don’t demonize alcohol, but act as role models for responsible use.

Lafer: Says drinking isn’t only a problem for undergraduates, but also within the State College School District.

Herman: This is a national problem, not just here. “Just because you’re 21 doesn’t mean it’s legal and right for you to participate in binge drinking and hardcore liquor.”

Fitzgerald: Penn State, in cooperation with State College, should implement programs to help students “acclimatize to this area and cope with the pressures.”

Myers: I understand the social aspects of drinking; I think Penn State needs to be more involved off of campus. Advocates for better communication between Penn State and downtown.

How can you promote sustainability in State College?

Lafer: Says not all of the buildings being built are high rises. Emphasizes land trust is building green buildings and trying to figure out how we can use sustainable energy.

Herman: Says we need to look at the burden of high rises.

Fitzgerald: Sustainability is more than just environmentalism.

Myers: In favor of green building and recycling incentives.

Murphy: In favor of sustainability in the Borough and creating policy to back that up.

Are you supportive of implementing a Historical and Architectural Review Board?

Herman: In favor of historical and architectural preservation.

Fitzgerald: Wants to know more about the HARB before throwing endorsement behind it. Says we need to work hard to cooperate with regional partners. “First impressions are lasting impressions.”

Myers: Strongly in support of neighborhood preservation and of downtown preservation. Says there could be an issue in funding both zoning review and the HARB.

Murphy: Understands the desire and need to protect historical resources. Says there are a lot of questions about how this will affect those hoping to purchase homes in the Borough.

Lafer: Wants to examine it, but hasn’t made any decisions yet. Says her friends and neighbors are split and it’s important to develop a balance.

What do you believe is the single most important issue facing the Borough and what more can be done to address it?

FItzgerald: Says he’s interested most in small government. Wants to create a welcoming environment, but says those over 50 are concerned about coming downtown.

Myers: Shrining tax base, pressure on homeowners, and a thorough review of zoning codes. Achieve more community input into planning and development.

Murphy: How we talk about and treat our neighbors. Says we need to listen to understand each other and collaborate to move State College forward, especially between the community and the campus.

Lafer: The social need for stability, maintaining neighborhoods, and increasing the number of residents who are earning income to go toward income taxes. Says Council needs to provide economic stability, especially in affordable housing.

Herman: Neighborhood preservation. Says State College has lost the homes adjacent to downtown to student housing. Says students are disruptive and disrespectful to the community, including litter, profanity, and heavy drinking.

What should be the role of the Borough Council?

Myers: Protect citizens, provide a safe and welcoming community, and provide services. Foster common vision, treat community members with respect, and be an advocate.

Murphy: Make thoughtful decisions about policies passed and commitments made. Be responsive to community members.

Lafer: Represent the community. Listen and interact and represent what the community is looking for.

Herman: Enhancing quality of life for residents.

Fitzgerald: Safety for residents.

State College Borough Mayor:

Don Hahn (D), Michael Black (R), Ron Madrid (I)

Closing statements:

Hahn: Centre County native. Penn State alumnus. Borough homeowner. Attorney. “I know this is a great place…as mayor, I would like to keep it that way.” Says it’s important to focus on the basics but continue to look for opportunities. Believes we need to look for ways to manage crises, and says he’s worked on this in the past during his time on Borough Council.

Black: Reminds the audience he received the second-highest number of Democratic votes and the highest number of Republican votes, demonstrating the bipartisan support for his campaign. “Plan the work and work the plan.” Says his goals are to encourage, elevate, and facilitate a collective community. Wants to lead by example with kindness.

Madrid: Please remember the mayor is not a legislator, but a spokesperson. Says we need a mayor who can start on day one, run efficient council meetings, and understand the intricacies of government. “Getting things done is, in fact, the bottom line.” Says he has all the traits to become the best mayor.

What would you change about downtown in the next decade?

Hahn: Says State College has the best downtown in Pennsylvania, but the problem is it is geared toward students and tourists only. Wants to encourage other groups like retirees to locate into the Borough.

Black: Number one priority is safety, but wants to do a study on what buildings can be built, what events can be held, what can be turned into office space, and what else can increase traffic and thus the revenue and vibrancy of downtown.

Madrid: Take away parking on the north side of College Ave. to widen sidewalks. Change the 100 block of South Allen Street into a pedestrian mall.

What more can State College due to support diversity and inclusiveness?

Black: Says one part of diversity is the problem that State College is missing the 25-45 year age gap. On inclusion, says we need to be genuine, honest, warm, and empathetic. Engage with others instead of bringing them to you.

Madrid: We are a very tolerant community, but we’re not perfect. Says he’ll condemn “vociferously” anyone taking away from State College’s diversity and inclusiveness.

Hahn: State College is very tolerant and supportive of diversity and inclusiveness, but it can do more. Encourage people who feel like outsiders to come forward.

What experience prepares you to serve as an advocate for the State College Borough?

Madrid: Understanding the relevant issues in the Borough. Organized a Town Hall in August about new revenue initiatives.

Hahn: Believes his greatest asset is experience. Has served on a number of State College and Centre County boards and commissions.

Black: 27 years living in State College. Understanding what it takes to start a business and run a business every day. Collaborative relationships with non-profits. Employs empathy and inclusivity.

State College is rewriting zoning ordinances. What is your top priority for this?

Hahn: Says his top priority is neighborhood sustainability, including making sure student housing zoning ordinances are preserved.

Black: Says it’s important to create a community identity and use that to follow a smart growth plan for the future. Encourages a high-level investigation on what we all want as a community.

Madrid: Says mayor has no personal opinion impact on this rewrite. Emphasizes it should be a resident-centric effort to make sure the desired ordinances are passed.

How can we improve Town & Gown relations?

Black: Says the source of the tension is student unwanted behavior and students taking over neighborhoods. Wants to nurture students to encourage them to stay in or come back to State College.

Madrid: Town & Gown relations change every year with new students. Says everyone who comes before Council will be treated with respect, including students. Will continue to hold mayoral office hours in the HUB.

Hahn: Town & Gown need to communicate better. Suggests meeting with student leaders four times/year. Would like to add student representation to State College’s various commissions.

The Borough is in need of additional revenues. Do you have ideas and plans for new revenue streams?

Madrid: Wants to get a share of sales tax, drink tax, and hotel tax.

Hahn: Taxes in State College are relatively low. Wants to benchmark with other cities on what they do to generate revenue, including a possible drink tax.

Black: Says we first need to understand what our budget is and what the trends have been in the past ten or twenty years. Suggests a “Student Resident Fee” of $100 per year.

Coverage of previous debates:

UPUA PSU Votes Week Mayoral Debate
TDC/CDT Mayoral Debate

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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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