Michael Black, Don Hahn and Ron Madrid all hope to become the next mayor of State College. On Tuesday night, they faced each other and their constituents in a debate hosted by Penn State’s The Daily Collegian.
Candidates were asked about a variety of issues — ranging from race relations to arts and culture to sustainability.
The most important issue the borough faces
There’s a perception by some that this is a community of “we vs. they,” said Madrid, the independent candidate.
Some members of the community feel they’re not adequately represented or feel that council doesn’t hear there voices or they’re treated badly, he said.
He said that will change when he’s mayor because everyone will be treated equitably and with respect.
For Black, the Republican candidate, the largest issue in the borough is growth.
Growth puts pressure on infrastructure, housing structure, social services and communication, he said.
Moving forward, if the borough continues on its growth trajectory, there needs to be thoughtful preparation, Black said.
Hahn, the Democratic candidate, said it’s neighborhood sustainability. Fifty years ago, the town was 50-50 student and non-student, and now there’s more of an imbalance with the majority being students.
But, Hahn said, students make great contributions to the community and them leaving the borough “is the worst problem I can ever envision” because it would deprive State College a lot of its vibrancy.
Fortunately, that’s not happening, he said. But it’s important to maintain a balance, such as in income and age diversity.
Balancing development and existing character
The high-rises that are being built are allowed under the current regulation, Madrid said. They’re taking pressure off the neighborhoods by drawing students.
High-rises increase the property tax base, he said, but the borough has to decide if the revenue those buildings bring in is sufficient for the increased services the borough provides or is it a drain on infrastructure.
The mayor encourages the dialogue on those issues and should make comments if the council doesn’t ask the right questions, Madrid said.
“We are growing,” Black said. “We are maturing.”
He said he’d like to facilitate a conversation about what legacy — architecturally, socially and culturally — the borough wants to leave.
The borough should start a smart growth plan — focusing on walkability, affordable housing, reducing carbon footprint, desirable communities and the return on investment, Black said.
State College is already following many smart growth principles, Hahn said.
Hahn said in his time on Borough Council, he tended to favor shorter heights and incentives for things like green building, providing more parking and affordable housing.
The debate, which was sponsored by the Centre Daily Times, is available to view in its entirety at www.facebook.com/centredaily.