Borough Council Should Heed Don Hahn’s Overnight Parking Veto

Months ago, the State College Borough Council decided to review overnight parking regulations at the request of the Highlands neighborhood (read: permanent residents of fratland). The ask was relatively simple: they just don’t want their streets to be crowded with visitor cars during event weekends like football and Arts Fest.

Say what you will about the lack of community spirit surrounding the ask and the potential for drunk driving if people decide to move their cars to avoid the 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. parking ban. This isn’t about that right now, though these may be valid points to consider in the bigger picture.

It’s about an ordinance moved hurriedly to a vote without comment from the public or from State College’s Transportation Commission.

Despite a series of options developed by the Transportation Commission after the group studied the overnight parking issue, Borough Council somehow went rogue and created a completely different concept and ordinance to run with.

After scrapping the Transportation Commission’s viable options, council decided it would be best to create a logistically challenging permit system, and to only pilot it in the Highlands neighborhood for 18 months. Even Highlands residents are saying this isn’t what they asked for and are requesting further study of the issue. They just wanted the ordinance enforced as it was already written.

But council passed the new and supposedly improved ordinance anyway, moving forward with a mass residential permit system, complete with guest permit procedures and increased fees for event weekends — all without comment from the public or from the Transportation Commission.

To be quite frank, it’s a mess, and Hahn is left to pick up the pieces.

I’ll be the first to admit I was unsure about Hahn. Onward State didn’t endorse him in the mayoral election in part because we were afraid he would continue the systematic bullshit that’s plagued Borough Council for decades. Now, I can see that we were wrong. Hahn’s taking a stand for the people of State College and I’m behind him.

Borough Council will hold a special meeting at 4:30 p.m. Monday, where they might try to override Hahn’s veto. An override would require five votes, while the ordinance passed last week with a narrow 4-3 margin.

“We didn’t listen to you, we didn’t discuss your letter, and so you’re getting even,” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer said when Hahn announced his plans to veto the ordinance, according to “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.”

But the veto’s not senseless and it’s not out of spite. It’s about respect for the public, which Borough Council is supposed to represent, and for the expertise of the Transportation Commission it has appointed for this work. Council would be wise to heed Hahn’s veto and give further consideration to the consequences of the ordinance they passed hastily.

If the Borough Council is successful in overriding Hahn’s veto, there will be no Transportation Commission Review. There will be no public hearing. Monday may be your only chance to speak out against a decision both students and the Highlands Civic Association disagree with — and trust me, that never happens.

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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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