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State College Council Keeps 'Paterno Way' Proposal in Play, Splits over Initial Hearing

on March 06, 2012 12:03 AM

With a 6-0 vote, State College Borough Council agreed Monday to have municipal leaders explore the "Paterno Way" idea in talks with Penn State and neighboring College Township.

Officials will discuss residents' other Paterno-honoring suggestions in those conversations, too, then bring a comprehensive public report back for Borough Council consideration at a later date, council members decided. They set no specific timeline.

Only council member Jim Rosenberger was absent Monday.

The "Paterno Way" concept, advanced in a petition signed by more than 7,000 people, would rename most of Park Avenue for late Penn State football Coach Joe Paterno, who died Jan. 22.

Those who have signed the petition, promoted by radio station WBUS, include more than 100 borough residents, station program director Tony Ricciardi said. The proposal seeks a renaming of the roadway from Atherton Street, in the borough, to the Interstate 99 interchange, in College Township.

Borough administrators suggested that the council set an initial public hearing on the matter for April 2. But that suggestion stalled Monday in a 3-3 vote. Dissenting were council members Tom Daubert, Cathy Dauler and Ron Filippelli.

None of the three expressed opposition to the Park Avenue-renaming idea -- they expressed concern for the process and its timing.

"In my opinion, we ought to be having some conservations with College Township, perhaps with other parties," Filippelli said. " ... It just seems to me that we ought step back and give this a lot of consideration."

Also, he said: "There are going to be issues that come up" and make the conversation "maybe not as black and white as it might seem."

In particular, he pointed to expenses that Park Avenue residents and businesses may incur as a result of a street-name change.

Filippelli noted that other resident suggestions to honor Paterno have been floated, as well -- including a concept to rename Easterly and Westerly parkways. Another would rename Curtin Road on the University Park campus.

"I think most of us want to" honor Paterno somehow, Filippelli said. He suggested the borough "get information about what people are thinking" is possible.

Penn State has indicated it won't decide about any permanent on-campus tributes until the completion of the Louis S. Freeh investigation, borough officials said. Freeh, a former FBI director, is leading an investigation into circumstances surrounding the child sexual abuse allegedly committed by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.

That effort may not be complete until the latter half of 2012.

"I understand the impulse to have the ('Paterno Way') hearing sooner rather than later," Dauler said Monday. But she said she sees no reason to hurry.

" ... We have the chance here to wait a little bit longer," she said. "And I am interested to find out what the university is going to do. ... I think because there are the legal issues which have not been settled yet -- I think that's another reason to give this a little bit of time."

Other council members, though, advocated for an initial "Paterno Way" hearing on April 2. Member Sarah Klinetob said she wondered whether delaying a hearing could stir frustration among residents.

"I think this is a matter of recognizing the life of Coach Paterno and his accomplishments over a long and very illustrious career," said council member Peter Morris. "Unfortunately, it has to get a little bit mixed up with the whole Sandusky scandal. But as I see it, this (proposed 'Paterno Way' hearing) is not an attempt to say that Joe Paterno should not have been fired; it's not an attempt to say he did nothing wrong in trying to stop the abuse of children.

"It is ... about his life and accomplishments," Morris went on. "And because of the level of interest and the level of passion about this, I think that, actually, as soon as is convenient, we ought to give people a chance to talk about it. ... I think it's just a bad idea to put this off in any sort of indefinite way."

Also Monday, council members voted 6-0 to set an April 2 hearing on the proposed renaming of Fraser Plaza, on the 100 block of South Fraser Street. Under a proposal advanced by Morris, the plaza would be renamed for the late Rev. Martin Luther King.

Borough leaders have talked for more than a year, on and off, about attaching the King name to a public space in State College.

Dauler has said she would like a plaza renaming to put a focus on the women of the civil-rights movement, as well. She would prefer a "Freedom Plaza" name, with overarching recognition given to key leaders of the movement, she said Monday.

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