Primary election 2021 voters guide: State College, Bellefonte council and mayor races – Centre Daily Times

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Primary election voters guide

The 2021 primary election in Pennsylvania is May 18. Voters must register to vote by May 3 and apply for an absentee or mail-in ballot by 5 p.m. May 11. This voters guide was compiled by the League of Women Voters of Centre County with assistance from the League of Women Voters of Pennsylvania.


Bellefonte Borough Council Ward 1

Candidates (choose 2):

Melissa Hombosky

Party: Dem

Date of Birth: Oct. 19, 1978

Education: 2002, Penn College of Technology, BS

Qualifications: Bellefonte Borough Council, five years; board member and event chair, Downtown Bellefonte Inc.; Board member, Springboard

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: First, I wish to continue to support our local merchants. We are lucky to have a strong business community that has continued to grow despite a global pandemic. As a small business owner myself, I understand the unique challenges that face businesses daily. Second, continue to keep our community safe while we enter the recovery phase of COVID-19. I’m so appreciative of the sacrifices that our friends and neighbors have made to stop the spread. Third, I am chair of our parks committee. Over the past year, our parks system has seen an uptick in resident use and I hope that we can continue that trend. There are so many outdoor recreation activities in our region and some of them start right in our parks. How can we continue to grow these amenities?

Jon Eaton

Party: Dem

Education: High School: Bald Eagle Nittany – 1977, College: Penn State Mechanical Engineering – BS (1981), MS (1991)

Qualifications: 1) Borough resident since 1985, 2) Council member since 2017, 3) Project Manager for several R&D programs (external funding) at ARL-Penn State, 4) Department Head – ARL Penn State

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: As a member of Council’s Finance and Human Resources committees; I consider 1) budget & taxes, 2) Regional Integration, and 3) the American Rescue Plan funds to be immediate challenges to Bellefonte. Bellefonte’s Real Estate tax rates are 4 to 9-times higher than those of the surrounding townships. The 2021 Budget document initiates an effort to concisely explain the flow of tax revenue and expenditures. This educational focus must be expanded in the future Like the collaborative agreements between our water and sewage authorities, Integration of the safety and emergency services within Nittany Valley will minimize duplication and provide regional coverage of services. This is a direct solution to the regional imbalance in Real Estate taxes. Bellefonte will distribute $617,000 in COVID relief funds in 2021. This will require maximum transparency and compliance with federal guidelines. It’s a tremendous opportunity to fund deferred projects and provide relief to the community.

Rita Purnell

Party: Rep

Date of Birth: Aug. 24, 1965

Education: B.S. and M.S. in Agricultural Engineering at Penn State

Qualifications: Ways and Means Chairperson of the Junior Woman’s Club of State College (1999-2000), Treasurer of the Junior Woman’s Club of State College (2000-2002), Office Assistant at AJ Fine & Co (2004-2006), Treasurer of the Bellefonte YMCA swim team parents group (2009–2011), President of Class of 2014 Parent’s Group (2010-2014)

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: I believe that as an elected government official, it would be my duty and honor to listen to my constituents’ concerns and make decisions on their behalf based on the best interests of the people and the borough. I will make myself available to hear their concerns. I believe that in order for the people to have faith in their government, information about issues to be discussed and decisions to be made needs to be freely available. I will make sure that this information is made available to the people in a timely manner and in as many areas as possible. I believe that as a Borough Council member, it would be my duty to be as careful with the budget of the borough as I would be with my own budget. I will be diligent in the quest to save the Borough money while still providing the best services possible.

Kent D. Bernier

Party: Rep

Date of Birth: July 21, 1968

Education: Bachelor Degree from PSU – 1993 Administration of Justice

Qualifications: I have lived and worked in this community for almost 30 years. I have I feel I am qualified for Borough Council because I care about Bellefonte, have children and a family here and want to get involved in my community.

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. To bring the priorities of our residents to borough council. I want to represent the residents and be a voice for my neighbors. 2. To keep things simple and to apply common sense to our decisions. I have spent my career trying to apply common sense to some of the most difficult situations. I want to help do that on Borough Council. 3. I would like to better understand what goes into the decisions that are being made within council. To try and better understand, I’m running for office. My goal is to get elected and have a voice in the process.

Bellefonte Borough Council Ward 2

Candidates (choose 1):

Randall Brachbill

Party: Rep

Education: Graduate of Bellefonte Area School District and Central Pennsylvania Institute of Science and Technology

Qualifications: Currently serving a second term on Bellefonte Borough Council as Council Vice President. Works well with other council members and members of our neighboring communities. Sits on the Centre Region COG Public Safety Committee, Nittany Valley Joint Planning Commission, chairs Bellefonte Council Safety Committee, sits on Streets and Building/Property Committees. Serves on the Board of Directors of the Pennsylvania State Association of Boroughs. Over 30 years of experience in Facility Management both health care and business-related and extensive volunteer experiences. Has lived in Bellefonte for 42-plus years with wife Cathy, together they have one daughter, Lindsay.

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. Pedestrian safety: I encouraged the hiring of an engineering firm to complete a study of downtown crosswalks and street lighting with the goal of applying for a PennDOT permit for crosswalk improvements. I support our Planning Commission working with the engineering firm for long-term street improvement. 2. Revenues and expenses: I support: The 2021 budget of cutting expenses with no tax increase; Council avoiding the funding of non-budgeted requests; The sale of 2 acres of Armory property to provide additional tax revenue; Approval of a strategic management plan for more effective local government. 3. Bringing Bellefonte back to normal: I support: Restaurants having assigned parking stalls for curbside pickup; Park activities where people gather while maintaining social distancing; Masking; People receiving COVID vaccines; Continuing current borough employee COVID 19 protocols; State COVID-19 guidelines that protect the health and safety of residents and businesses.

Barbara Dann

Party: Rep

Campaign Website: www.votebarbaradann.com

Education: Graduate – Bellefonte Area High School Graduate – CCVTS – Practical Nursing

Qualifications: Extensive experience in all facets of small business operations with 21 years as owner/operator; Superb written and verbal communication skills acquired through years of public speaking and teaching; Wide-ranging background in operational budgets, product development, business contracts and customer relations; Ability to share ideas and thoughts in a concise and clear manner; Able to foster productive relationships by eliciting feedback and being responsive to other’s needs

Facebook: Barbara Dann for Bellefonte Borough Council

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. The Bellefonte community deserves fair representation from Borough Council. This starts with communication and accessibility between council and the community. I will facilitate in-person meetings. I will provide regular updates of the meetings and proposed ordinances in a timely and expected manner. I will provide different ways to contact me so I’m accessible to the community. 2. Our police department is an important and valued part of our community. I will establish a good working relationship with the department to ensure that our community is kept safe. I will support the police department with their funding needs including training, equipment and other related budget needs. 3. Bellefonte Borough Council needs diverse membership to represent the community. When everyone in a group agrees there is no room for growth, creativity or fair representation. I will speak up and serve the wonderful people of Bellefonte!

Bellefonte Borough Council Ward 3

Candidates (choose 2):

Anne Walker

Party: Dem

Date of Birth: May 8, 1962

Education: Varied

Qualifications: Four years on Bellefonte Borough Council

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: I hope to pursue options to deal with the issue of abandoned buildings by researching how the state handles such properties. I intend to continue to explore ways to make Bellefonte’s streets safer for pedestrians and drivers. Residents should feel encouraged to participate in their local government, and I’d enjoy learning more about options available to give community residents a more prominent voice.

R. Michael Prendergast

Party: Dem

Did not respond

Jeffrey J. Puhala

Party: Rep

Date of Birth: Sept. 20, 1975

Education: Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) in Curriculum Leadership – Northeastern University Master of Education in the Administrative Program for K-12 Principals – California University of Pennsylvania Master of Music in Saxophone Performance – Penn State University Bachelor of Science in Education, Music Education – Clarion University of Pennsylvania

Qualifications: Resident of Bellefonte Borough since 2005; 21 years of experience in public education; Children in the local school system

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: I have lived in Bellefonte Borough, Ward 3, since 2005. My career in public education has spanned 21 years giving me the necessary skills to serve the general public. I am the father of two young daughters and want to assure they continue to grow up in a safe and vibrant community. If elected to Bellefonte Borough Council I will focus on three priorities: 1. Support Police Funding – I will support an annual budget that fully funds law enforcement to ensure a safe community. 2. Support Local Businesses – I will support business zoning to encourage small business growth and reasonable parking fees for residents and visitors of Bellefonte. 3. Fair Citizen Representation – I will support the development of new communication methods to ensure every resident is aware of proposed ordinances and other action items to encourage public comment before a final vote.

Bellefonte Borough Mayor

Candidates (choose 1):

Gene D. Johnson, Jr.

Party: Rep

Date of Birth: Jan. 20, 1972

Education: BS Lock Haven University MS California University of PA

Qualifications: Educator within the Bellefonte Area School District for the past 21 years; Bellefonte Borough resident 21 years

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: My name is Gene Johnson Jr. but you may know me as Buddy Johnson. I am proud to be running for the office of Mayor of Bellefonte. I have dedicated the past 21 years to educating our youth within the Bellefonte Area and it is my wish to continue to be an integral part of our community by looking out for the well-being and best interests of all. If elected, my top priorities would be bridging the gap between our community and the borough council, as well as the police department. I will do my part to help ensure that we continue to live in a safe, comfortable community. I will work tirelessly to help ensure that all community members are heard and are as proud as I am to reside in the Borough of Bellefonte.

State College Borough Council

Candidates (choose 3):

B. Divine Lipscomb

Party: Dem

Campaign Website: paunited.org/cantwait

Date of Birth: Dec. 11, 982

Education: Rehabilitation and Human Services Penn State University May ‘22

Facebook: www.facebook.com/Divine-Lipscomb-for-State-College-Borough-Council-108367151293467

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: Restorative Justice: I will address harms caused in government, and in our neighborhoods, in order (to) reestablish trust and community dialogue through reallocation of funding to support mental health issues, the community oversight board, and efforts like the Centre County Community Conferencing Program. Finally, listening to the voices of the community and governing with them. Housing Justice: implement common sense development practices and the impact to life-long residents, while remembering to include our local young professional and our unhoused population in those plans. Economic Justice: There should never be an exception to poverty. Advocating for local ability to push for livable wages not only for students but for locals that are inundated with rising bills and hospitality earnings.

Ronald Filippelli

Party: Dem

Date of Birth: Nov. 1, 1938

Education: Ph.D. in history from Penn State

Qualifications: Eight years on Borough Council, two years as council president, chairperson of COG, currently serving as interim mayor, membership on numerous boards, authorities, and committees in the community, including the Land Trust, Schlow Library, and the Downtown Improvement District. Past President of Arts Fest.

Facebook: facebook.com/daulerfilippelli

Twitter: @daulerfilippelli

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: The first order of business will be to guide State College through the recovery from the pandemic. This means using the borough’s share of American Rescue Plan funding to cover losses suffered during the past year; to put in place a loan/grant program to assist our small, local businesses; and to offer mortgage and rental assistance. We must begin to develop a long-term plan to return the borough to financial stability. The last two budgets were balanced by the use of reserve funds. This is not tenable. In addition to belt tightening, we should use as much of our federal and state funding as possible to provide affordable housing for new tax-paying citizens. The majority of our current residents do not pay income or local service taxes, but consume 100% of services. We need to continue to give strong support to our community human-services agencies to protect our most vulnerable citizens.

Catherine Dauler

Party: Dem

Education: Marietta College, B.A., Lesley University, M.Ed.

Qualifications: Served four terms on State College Borough Council, including two as council president; Served as a volunteer supporter of Global Connections and Discovery Space; Board member College Heights Neighborhood Association, Coalition of Neighborhoods, Downtown Improvement District, Downtown Strategic Plan and Community Land Trust; Teacher of English as a Second Language to international students for over 30 years.

Facebook: facebook.com/daulerfilippelli

Twitter: @daulerfilippelli

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: There are signs of hope that State College Borough will survive the unexpected financial burden of the pandemic. But it will take time and effort to repair the damage. Fortunately, funding from the American Rescue Plan for cities and states will provide some relief. Borough reserve funds used for pandemic expenses must be replaced. Aiding our small local businesses and existing affordable housing programs should be possible. State law mandates that municipalities balance their budgets annually. We cannot depend on using reserve funds to balance our budget. Elected officials must recognize the fiscal challenges created by residents’ expectations for continued high quality services when funds are limited and new programs are demanded. Finally, we must continue to engage all citizens in efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive community where all people feel safe and welcome.

Gopal Balachandran

Party: Dem

Campaign Website: paunited.org/cantwait

Facebook: www.facebook.com/CentralPAUnited, www.facebook.com/BalachandranCouncil

Date of Birth: March 2, 1975

Education: B.S. University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill M.A. University of Chicago J.D. The George Washington University Law School

Qualifications: I worked in the criminal justice system as a public defender for over 10 years. I continue to work for criminal justice reform as a clinical professor of law at Penn State. I run a criminal appellate/ post-conviction clinic at the law school. I have a diverse background. My undergraduate degree is in chemistry and I have a master’s degree in history, along with my J.D. I am a child of immigrants and proud to call State College home.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/BalachandranCouncil

Twitter: @gopalbala75

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: First, I want a better balance between policing and the community. I intend on accomplishing this goal with proper, guaranteed (not reserve) funding for the Community Oversight Board and the Civilian Response Team. Both of these units should have real oversight powers and not be simply rubber stamps. Second, I want sustainable communities with better access to downtown through walking or biking. I am strongly in support of the pilot pedestrian plaza on Allen Street in downtown through the summer months and will fight for better pedestrian cross walks across busy intersections like Park Road and Atherton Street. I want there to be a reimagining of downtown State College as an outdoor, pedestrian friendly, gathering place for residents, families, students and visitors. Third, I want there to be affordable housing for all. We should allow affordable housing residents to live on the same floor in the high rises and look for more options in places with access to downtown.

Katherine Yeaple

Party: Dem

Campaign Website: yeapleforboroughco.wixsite.com/yeaple2021

Date of Birth: March 2, 1966

Education: Bachelor of Arts in English Literature-Swarthmore College Master of Science in Urban Planning-Columbia University Bachelor of Science in Nursing-Pennsylvania State University

Qualifications: I am an active member of our community and a nurse. Right now, mental health is at an crossroads with public safety. We cannot rest easy until we all feel safe. (I am) a former transportation planner with state and local government experience and a former capital planning manager for Amtrak Northeast corridor. Awarded the Carpenter Community Nurse Fellowship for leadership in Nursing in 2017. Chair of Philadelphia Women in Transportation (WTS) Scholarship Fund 2002. Board member of Palmer Advisory Board for Equity, Inclusion and Diversity. A firm believer in unions and a member of the SEIU local P4 Bargaining Unit.

Facebook: facebook.com/Yeaple-for-Borough-Council-100306802117240/?ref=page_internal

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. Health and Wellness Establish an Act 315 Health Office with the authority to coordinate a strategic response to public health needs. 2. Building Bridges. Create police oversight board. A properly conceived and functioning police oversight system is necessary to promote accountability of the police officers and protect the rights of civilians. Push for mental health first-responder units that respond to persons in crisis in non-violent ways. Create an equity office to make the borough welcoming to immigrants, refugees and persons of color. 3. Sustainability and Equity. Invest in pedestrians and bike infrastructure. Develop walking and biking connectors to parks, schools, shopping, trails and neighborhoods. For the borough to be sustainable, we must operate in an environment that requires fiscal restraint. We must target our services to be high-return and cost-effective. Increase economic inclusivity by adding affordable housing units and providing food assistance.

Richard Biever

Party: Dem

Campaign Website: www.facebook.com/Richard-Biever-A-progressive-voice-for-State-Colleges-Borough-Council-106285324838554

Date of Birth: April 18, 1963

Education: American Academy of Dramatic Arts, NYC Bachelor of Music Education, Indiana University MFA in Directing for the Musical Theatre, Penn State

Qualifications: Borough resident for over 20 years; Small business owner severely affected by Covid; Political advocate

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. Reallocations of police funds to social services, such as mental health and homeless shelters. Ideas on this have already been proposed and I would support these based on input from community social service leaders. 2. Affordable housing. One idea is to allow multi-family housing in neighborhoods which would reduce housing costs and make neighborhoods more diverse. Along with this issue is a vision for zoning in the downtown area that takes the long-term health of the borough in terms of climate change and congestion. 3. Universal Basic Income for low-wage earners. Taking federal pandemic money that comes to the borough and giving it directly to residents who are in most need.

Jacob R. Werner

Party: Rep

Date of Birth: July 11, 1975

Education: BS — Penn State; VMD — University of Pennsylvania

Qualifications: I am a proud member of the State College community and believe in a safe and welcome community that ensures transparency. I believe that the human experience transcends any political party and that all people must have a voice in government. I serve on several national and international boards working with people from various cultural and educational backgrounds to help establish policy and ensure compliance.

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: Controlling taxes: Call a financial and service audit of the borough’s authorities, boards, and commissions to consider removal or consolidation and determine appropriate use of taxpayer funds — providing transparency on how funds are spent and assessed including but not limited to fee for services like trash/recycling. Ensuring openness and transparency: Ensuring decisions made are done with the voice of the community from policy to policing. All should feel safe and welcome. There can be no animosity or divisiveness within the community starting with council. Everyone has a voice; it is my mission to be the voice for all people in the community; provide feedback; gather input to ensure decisions are made with the voice of the community, for the community, by the community. Promote and expand businesses: Engage business leaders to maintain vitality and foster new/developing industry partnerships and keeping the character of the borough that entices patronage of businesses.

State College Borough Mayor

Candidates (choose 1):

Ezra Nanes

Party: Dem

Campaign Website: bit.ly/ezra-for-mayor

Date of Birth: June 4, 1972

Education: – University of Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Arts with Distinction ‘94 – Penn State Smeal College of Business, Masters of Business Administration, Marketing and Finance ‘12, Valedictorian

Qualifications: Three decades of professional and leadership experience in the performing arts, hospitality and event planning, Product Development and Business Development — career mentor, Penn State Smeal College of Business MBA Program 2012-Present -Mentored dozens of students and served as panelist at numerous career development events – community organizer, College Heights 2016-2017 – candidate for PA State Senate, 2018 – won Centre County, contributed to PA Dems picking up 5 State Senate seats – Executive Committee Member, Centre County Democratic Committee, 2019-Present, member of HR Subcommittee, host of major fundraising and volunteer appreciation events. – Campaign Chair, Teamwork Centre County – provided strategic, fundraising and publicity guidance to winning Democratic county slate of candidates, leading to historic wins – Re-Election of both Democratic county commissioners, election of first ever female treasurer in Centre County. – Fundraising Chair, Peter Buck for PA House 171st, 2019 – Member, Nittany Mountain Biking Association 2011-Present – Organizer and participant in trail work projects in Rothrock State Forest – Member of the Board, University of Pennsylvania, Class of 1994

Facebook: www.facebook.com/EzraForPA

Twitter: twitter.com/EzraNanes

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: As State College mayor, I will provide responsible and equitable oversight of the budget and COVID relief funds, improve accessibility to borough leadership and our community resources, and defend the rights of every resident here. With my extensive business and civic experience, I can ensure funding reaches our neighbors and local businesses that need it the most, and supports services so many rely on — for instance, child care for working families, and food programs for those in need. We’ll take action on zoning for affordable housing, allocation of hard budget funds to mental health services, and expanding sustainable bike path infrastructure. I encourage an open dialogue to find out what matters to you. My State Senate run and public advocacy for immigrants and transgender rights informs my service, and I would leverage our town/gown partnership, council meetings, media engagements, and other opportunities to champion our community’s future.

Jim Leous

Party: Dem

Campaign Website: jleo.us

Date of Birth: Nov. 24, 1962

Education: B.S., Physics, Notre Dame; M.S., Astronomy and Astrophysics, Penn State

Qualifications: Three term school board member, SCASD; Community volunteer (State High Hockey, WPSU-FM, Boy Scouts, Inspector of Elections); Member of the Executive Committee of the Centre County Democrats; Vice Chair, State College Borough Democrats; Advisor, Penn State College Democrats.

Twitter: @jleous

Q: If elected, what will be your top three priorities, and how will you address them?

A: 1. Post-COVID Economic Recovery — work with council to strategically allocate federal and state relief funds to best jumpstart the borough’s economic recovery. Encourage new and diverse businesses to move into State College to replace those lost during the pandemic. Direct homeowner and renter relief toward those with the greatest need. Our message will be, “Work (remotely) anywhere in the world, but live in State College.” 2. A More Welcoming Community for All — Engage students where they are with efforts such as our Holmes-Foster Neighborhood “Welcome Walk.” Hold at least one “Lunch with the Mayor” session per week. Engage non-traditional students and our international community by encouraging their participation on our many authorities, boards, and commissions. 3. A Sustainable State College — Finish the Solar Power Purchase Agreement. Move to an all-electric fleet. Create a “Renew, Reuse, Recycle” program in conjunction with the State High Career and Technology Center.

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