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Letter: Next Mayor Needs Knowledge and Experience

on November 03, 2017 4:30 AM

Recently the local daily paper endorsed Michael Black for mayor, despite Mr. Black’s lack of demonstrated interest in serving on State College boards and commissions, or even occasionally showing up at borough council meetings to express his opinions. Unfortunately, the United States just elected a president whose inexperience has resulted in poor decision-making. The other two candidates for State College Mayor, Don Hahn and Ron Madrid, have been involved in local government and know its inner workings.

Mr. Black’s lack of experience is a huge deficit, but he also doesn’t do his homework, as he does not understand the role of mayor. The mayor does not have the ability to vote. Although the mayor can veto an ordinance when it has been passed by council, the mayoral veto can easily be overruled by council at its next meeting. This veto power has been exercised only once in the past eight years. The mayor does not have administrative power. That is under the purview of the borough manager.  When he became interested in running for mayor, it appears he did not check the borough bylaws on the rights and responsibilities of the mayor, even though the Home Rule Charter is on the borough website.

Mr. Black claims as mayor he will create affordable housing, build diverse neighborhoods and enact smart building. He may lobby for these important issues, but he cannot create, build, or enact.

During his online C-NET interview, Mr. Black claims to have a unique approach to problem solving but fails to outline what his method is or show where it has been applied successfully to other communities. At a mayoral debate held at the State Theatre a few weeks ago, he announced he was a member of a triple-secret committee with business people developing a plan for Allen Street and the downtown – which would be revealed after the election. We do not need or want a mayor who meets with select people in secret without consulting his constituents; that is the opposite of inclusiveness.

Mr. Black is running on the Republican ticket, at the same time insisting he is a Democrat, and attempting to finesse the issue by claiming he is inclusive. After losing the Democratic primary to Don Hahn, he should have turned down the opportunity to run as a Republican. His decision to run on the Republican ticket, given his strong disclaimer of not being a member of the Republican Party, is ethically suspect.

Mr. Black chains together great sounding proposals for the borough that are simply not supported by concrete examples or financial understanding. We need a mayor who understands the responsibilities of being mayor from day one. Michael Black is not that person. We need a mayor in the tradition of Bill Welch and Elizabeth Goreham who served the borough with distinction while knowing the limitations of their office. We cannot afford to vote into office a man who makes great sounding promises without substance.

Following an interview of Black by a Daily Collegian reporter, the writer stated, “I believe State College needs a photographer.” That is his profession, and should remain so, not as mayor. If in the future, he becomes involved in borough politics by volunteering for boards and commissions and learns the nuts and bolts of borough government and distinguishes himself, he may be qualified to run for mayor again. Let’s hope he will do just that.

Mike Casper
State College

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