State College Council Says No to Salaries for its Members and Warning Signs About Guns in Parks
State College Borough Council will not pursue measures that would have paid its members an annual salary and would have placed signs in public parks, warning that some people there might be carrying firearms.
Neither proposal gained support beyond the council member who suggested it – Silvi Lawrence for the salary and Peter Morris on the park signs – at Monday's work session.
Former councilman Jeff Kern spoke in a measured but forceful tone in opposition to paying council members during the public-comment portion of Monday's regular council meeting immediately preceding the work session.
"Since 1896, this borough has been served by a volunteer Borough Council, and served well by a volunteer Borough Council," Kern said.
Volunteers have served through depressions, through hard times and good times, Kern said. Now, when times are hard and public employees are being laid off, is not the time to be thinking about paying council members for their service.
Lawrence, who noted that every other municipality in the Centre Region pays its council members a salary, said the costs associated with being a council member – attending out-of-town conferences and seminars, for example, even though some of those expenses are reimbursed – discourage some potential candidates from running for election.
Morris, who agreed that, in his words, "it would be very good to broaden the base, to have a more diverse group running for council," nevertheless said he was "a little dubious that (paying a salary) would do that."
Councilman Tom Daubert, who said he has opposed the salary proposal every time it has been brought up in the past, added: "I think it sends the wrong signal. We need to get people to serve on council who want to serve the community and not who want to line their pockets."
The discussion about warning signs – which was prompted by a recent successful push by a gun-owners group to have the borough drop its prohibition of firearms in municipal parks and buildings to conform with state law – was more passionate, but just as one-sided. Only Morris favored paying for and posting the signs "to give people the knowledge" that it is legal to carry guns in parks and some there might be doing so.
Following that logic, the borough should "put a sign on every street corner," councilman James Rosenberger said. "(But) that would only heighten people's fear of the unknown. I hope this council says no to this suggestion not only because of the cost, but because of raising false fears in this community."
Council President Ron Filippelli said warning signs would "discourage people from using our parks (and) this is the last thing we want to do."
During its regular meeting, council voted to hold a public hearing on Aug. 15 to discuss the proposed inclusionary or affordable housing ordinance.
That ordinance, which would require developers of larger housing projects to include less-than-market-price units on-site or elsewhere or compensate the borough in other ways, apparently has council and the State College Planning Commission at odds.
While agreeing with council's goals of preserving neighborhoods and providing affordable housing, some commission members have expressed reservations about whether mandating inclusionary housing in all new developments would have the desired effect. Would it, rather, as some developers have suggested, stop such projects altogether?
Rosenberger was the only council member to vote against scheduling the Aug. 15 public hearing, saying he thought the proposal required more time for discussion and debate.