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A fifth candidate, a Penn State assistant professor, has announced his intention to run for a seat on the State College Borough Council.
Gopal Balachandran, assistant professor of clinical law, became the latest borough council candidate Monday. He is running for one of three open seats; the other candidates at this point include mayor Ron Filippelli, former councilwoman Cathy Dauler, councilwoman Katherine Yeaple and longtime resident Richard Biever.
Balachandran moved to State College in 2017 and said he decided to run last month, shortly after the death of his father, a political junkie “horrified” by the path the country’s taken after 2016.
“With his death, I couldn’t stay on the sidelines anymore,” Balachandran said in a written statement.
The former public defender emphasized the importance of building a new relationship between the police and community, along with treating all borough members with equality and respect. He supported both the implementation of a Civilian Response Team and Community Oversight board, two recent initiatives currently taken up by the borough council.
“The issues of policing throughout the country require a reimagining of how our resources are allocated to ensure community safety and well-being,” Balachandran added. “We cannot expect police officers to be social workers, therapists and mediators while at the same time dealing with law enforcement.”
Balachandran is also running on a platform focused on the “sustainability, vitality and diversity of the borough’s neighborhoods and their access to downtown,” explaining that roads also belong to pedestrians.
The assistant professor is the father of two elementary school-age children and lives with his partner in College Heights. He earned a bachelor’s from North Carolina, a master’s from the University of Chicago and a law degree from George Washington — before working as a public defender in Massachusetts, New York and Maryland.
He now works exclusively on appellate and post-conviction matters for Penn State, as the director of the school’s externships program and co-director of the Indigent Criminal Justice Practicum.
The primary election is May 18.
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