Centre County judge candidates engage with voters, discuss opioid epidemic

Candidates for Centre County judge of the Court of Common Pleas and Bellefonte Borough Council discussed various topics, including the opioid epidemic and parking availability, during Candidates’ Night on Thursday.

The event was hosted by the League of Women Voters at the State College Municipal Building to give the public the opportunity to hear from candidates before the Nov. 7 election.

During the first portion, the two candidates for judge, Democrat Brian Marshall and Republican Ronald McGlaughlin, gave one-minute answers to each of the eight audience-created questions. Jennifer Nicholas, a steering committee member for the League of Women Voters, moderated.

The candidates started by explaining what they viewed as the biggest problem facing the Centre County court.

“Opioid addiction,” McGlaughlin said. “Fitting in with that issue is the idea of restorative justice; we’ve got to explore that alternative in terms of how best to create the ability to correct problems.”

Marshall said that while the court faces typical civil and criminal problems, restoring the reputation of the system was key.

“We need to get back to work... and make sure that the only reason our court system is in the news is for things like good initiatives, like the drug court,” Marshall said.

Both Marshall and McGlaughlin said they supported the creation of a drug court. Regarding his qualifications, Marshall said his understanding of financial matters is a unique skill set considering his accounting background.

Marshall also said he’s a trained mediator, and has practiced in collaborative law. McGlaughlin emphasized his 31 years of experience as a trial attorney, which he described as double that of his challenger.

“There aren’t many days that go by that I’m not in a courtroom,” McGlaughlin said. “That experience is invaluable.”

The following discussion focused on Bellefonte Borough Council candidates.

Candidates Jon Eaton (D), Melissa Hombosky (D), Randall Brachbill (R) , Evan Duffey (R) and Michael Prendergast (D) discussed their views on topics such as parking availability, how to protect historic buildings from fire, and sustainability initiatives.

While there was some consensus on most questions, the candidates diverged when asked if Bellefonte needs more parking space. Prendergast said solutions are hard to come by and other than constructing parking garages, he didn’t know what could be done with limited funding.

Eaton suggested modeling parking garages after those in European cities, where he said old buildings are repurposed into parking garages.

Both Duffey and Hombosky noted that parking rates in Bellefonte are some of the cheapest in Centre County. Hombosky said she didn’t see any immediate need for expansion.

“It’s definitely a challenge that’s not going to be solved anytime soon,” she said.

Brachbill said he doesn’t think the parking problem is fully within Bellefonte’s jurisdiction.

“I lean more toward that being a county or court issue because that’s where we have most of our constraints on parking.”

The next Candidates’ Night will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 at the State College Municipal Building.

Maddie Biertempfel is a Penn State journalism student.