Opinion

Among strong candidates, Black stands out

The landscape of State College is constantly changing. New buildings are being developed, businesses are coming and going, and a new class of student residents arrives each year. In order to keep up with the ever-changing needs of the borough, State College needs a mayor who will keep a finger on the pulse of the community, facilitating conversation, identifying needs and finding solution. That’s why the Centre Daily Times recommends State College residents vote Michael Black for mayor on Nov. 7.

Long-time State College resident, local businessman and member of the arts community, Black identified the need for more opportunity to elevate art and artists in State College. To address that need, Black initiated a collaborative effort between various community members to come together and share ideas about how to improve the situation. As a result, Black’s group has initiated a series that brings visiting artists to the area, has exposed hundreds of pieces of local art, developed new connections within the arts community and held events to promote local visual and performance art and artists. As mayor, we hope that Black will use that same results-driven collaborative approach to address the challenges facing our community.

What Black lacks, when compared to his worthy opponents, Donald Hahn and Ron Madrid, is municipal government experience. As a Borough Council member for 10 years, and council president for two additional years, Hahn is very familiar with the intricacies of local government, and has developed meaningful relationships with many of the borough’s stakeholders. Madrid, a retired lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, has served his community on various borough commissions — planning, historic resources and real estate advisory — and as the president of the Holmes-Foster Neighborhood Association for more than 10 years. Either of those two candidates would make an effective mayor. But what sets Black apart from his competition is his unique approach to problem-solving and his desire to open up the conversation to a wider array of residents, who often go unheard.

When answering questions we posed to all three candidates, Black stated his belief that a more diverse collection of voices contributing to the conversation when it comes to decisions affecting the borough should be facilitated. He believes that the borough would be best served by the inclusion of a wide variety of people and opinions. Black, who has worked with many local businesses and organizations on marketing and branding through his freelance photography company, said he would utilize his connections in the marketing and communications world to figure out how to bring issues to a wider audience, facilitate conversation and gather important feedback. We believe the willingness to reach out to those not yet actively involved in the conversation, and to generate excitement about what’s going on in the borough, are important qualities for mayor.

While Michael Black cannot point to a political track record or years and years of local government experience, he has demonstrated a thorough understanding of the issues the borough is facing (and likely to face in the years to come). In addition, he has all of the attributes and values we believe State College needs in a mayor for the 21st century, especially because of his approach to community-building and his passion for open, inclusive and data-informed communication. As the State College community continues to experience growth and change, the borough needs a strong, energetic ambassador who can help facilitate conversation and who is dedicated to making sure no resident gets left behind. We believe that Michael Black is the candidate best suited to lead the borough now.

What do you think about the State College mayoral race? Send your thoughts to editorialboard@centredaily.com or cdtletters@centredaily.com. The deadline for letters endorsing political candidates in the Nov. 7 election is 5 p.m. Tuesday.

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