Mayor Don Hahn Plans To Veto Overnight Parking Restrictions In Highlands Neighborhood
In an unexpected turn of events, State College Mayor Don Hahn expressed his intent to veto an ordinance that would create a pilot residential parking permit system only in the Highlands neighborhood. Council approved a preliminary plan for the program in April before narrowly passing the ordinance on a 4-3 vote.
Although it is codified that many streets and areas of the borough ban parking between 2 and 6 a.m., these restrictions have traditionally been relaxed for special events like home football weekends and Arts Fest. Residents of the Highlands neighborhood asked Borough Council to end this, preventing non-residents from parking on the streets overnight.
After much deliberation in the spring among council members and a decent turnout from students to speak against restricting overnight parking, here we are.
The ordinance passed Monday night (which Hahn said he plans to veto) would establish the 18-month permit system pilot for only the Highlands neighborhood. Residents could park on the streets overnight, obtain guest passes, and even obtain passes for events like football and Arts Fest — for an extra fee. Amendments will also finally codify the longstanding practice of relaxing overnight parking restrictions in other neighborhoods for special events.
Council Members Cathy Dauler, Theresa Lafer, Dave Brown, and Janet Engeman voted in favor. Dan Murphy, Jesse Barlow, and Evan Myers voted against the ordinance.
Hahn cited the letter he sent to Borough Council as reasoning for his decision. He later added that it was not the contents of the ordinance that caused his want to veto, but rather the lack of a public hearing being scheduled before the vote on the ordinance and lack of further review from the Transportation Commission.
Hahn was immediately met with an uproar from council members and things got heated pretty quickly. The role of the mayor in policy decisions was debated and Brown added that Hahn was blurring the lines between the mayor and council members. Lafer confronted Hahn, accusing him of making his decision out spite.
“We didn’t listen to you, we didn’t discuss your letter, and so you’re getting even,” Lafer said, according to StateCollege.com. “I think that is the first time in your mayorship you have not only made a misstep but a really big one because you slapped an entire neighborhood in the face publicly within seconds of them getting a positive vote. I think it’s wrong.”
Both Barlow and Myers contested the arguments, saying Hahn was well within his authority to veto the ordinance. The home-rule charter (the governance set-up State College uses) explains that a mayor has the right to veto.
“The fact is the mayor has the right to veto a bill by the home-rule charter,” Myers said, according to StateCollege.com. “If we don’t like that provision of the home-rule charter then we ought to change it. But to accuse any of us, whether it be the mayor or any fellow council member of some of the things that people accused the mayor of, I find to be untoward, quite frankly.”
Hahn will be presented with the ordinance in the next few days and has 14 days to veto it. Borough Council scheduled a meeting for next Monday, August 27 at 4:30 p.m. to discuss the issue even further. Those in favor of the ordinance plan to consider overturning the veto, which would require five votes.
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“As we work together to make the impact as least disruptive as possible to our students and employees, we strongly urge Congress and the president to end this impasse.”
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