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Ross board of commissioners race enters final stretch

Tony LaRussa
| Monday, Oct. 30, 2017, 9:00 p.m.
Stephen Korbel
Stephen Korbel
James Knox
James Knox
Joe Laslavic
Joe Laslavic
Casey O'Donnell
Casey O'Donnell
Jason Pirring
Jason Pirring
Matthew 'Butch' Edlinger
Matthew 'Butch' Edlinger

Ross Township Democrats who voted in the May primary guaranteed that at least two of the four seats up for election this year will be filled by newcomers.

Incumbent Ward 6 Commissioner David Mikec's bid for a fifth term on the board ended in the spring with a loss to Democratic challenger Jason Pirring, who will face off against uncontested Republican nominee Matthew “Butch” Edlinger in the Nov. 7 general election.

There are 1,496 registered Democrats in Ward 6 compared to 809 Republicans, a difference of 59.6 percent, according to Allegheny County election records.

There also are 382 voters in Ward 6 who belong to other political parties or are unaffiliated.

In Ward 4, incumbent Democrat Lana Mazur's campaign for a fourth term ended in the primary with a loss to Joseph M. Laslavic, who will face unchallenged Republican nominee Casey O'Donnell.

Democrats have an edge in voter registration in Ward 4, with 1,359 compared to 1,214 Republicans, a difference of 11.27 percent. There are 389 voters registered under a different party or are unaffiliated.

Neither candidate for the Ward 2 seat — incumbent first-term Commissioner Stephen Korbel, a Democrat; and GOP challenger James Knox — faced challengers in the primary for their party's nomination.

There are 1,325 reregistered Democrats in Ward 4 compared to 1,210 Republicans, a difference of 9.07 percent. Another 386 people belong to other political parties or have no party affiliation.

Efforts by Democrats to unseat incumbent Ward 8 Commissioner Jeremy Shaffer failed in the primary. The commission president ran unopposed for the GOP nomination and received enough write-in votes from Democrats to best a pair of candidates seeking that party's nod, which means Shaffer has no ballot challenge in November.

Following are the responses from candidates to the question: What is the most significant issue facing the municipality in the next four years and what will you do to address it if elected?

Ward 2

Stephen Korbel

Party: Democrat

Home: Sangree Road

Occupation: Lawyer

Previous elected office: One term as commissioner

One of the issues the township faces is the growing use of online retail shopping websites such as Amazon.com. I believe this trend will reduce the number and size of brick-and-mortar retail establishments in the township.

Currently, brick and mortar retail generates significant tax revenue and keeps our property taxes among the lowest in Allegheny County. As chair of the township's Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Committee, I led the way for the implementation of a Mixed-Use Overlay Zoning District that requires any retail development or re-development over five acres to include a housing or office component.

This change will encourage diversification along McKnight Road which will keep our property taxes low. I will continue to fight for diverse development in the township.

James Knox

Party: Republican

Home: Woodhaven Lane

Occupation: Photographer

Previous elected office: None

One significant challenge that could be facing Ross Township over the next four years is infrastructure, more specifically access. The Ross Township business corridor has seen impressive improvement and growth over the past few years, bringing amenities and revenue to the community. Projects such as The Block Northway, Chick-fil-A and even McCandless Crossing draw people to the McKnight corridor as they head north.

However, at what point does the draw become a deterrent? The approaching holiday season will soon expose potential deficits in our ability to manage increased traffic flow. We need to stay on top of infrastructure issues while maintaining the lifestyles of residents who drive as well as seeking ways to make our township user-friendly and safe for pedestrians and cyclists.

Ward 4

Joe Laslavic

Party: Democrat

Home: Lily Avenue

Occupation: Teacher

Previous elected office: None

Since I have started this campaign, creating safer and more efficient traffic patterns has been one of my major focal points. As we continue to develop our community, we have accumulated a great amount of traffic congestion along our major roadways, not limited to Sewickley, Oakmont and Gass roads, thus affecting all of our residents.

Going forward, it is imperative that the Ross Board of Commissioners work together with our state and county officials, bordering municipalities and especially our residents to come up with a master traffic plan that reduces congestion and improves safety for those that live in our community.

Casey O'Donnell

Party: Republican

Home: Old English Road

Occupation: Teacher

Previous elected office: None

I believe government should serve the people and to do so it must listen to the people. I have personally visited over 2,000 residents and the concern I always hear is how dangerous the roads have become in our neighborhoods. Unfortunately, we have lost two of our residents this year due to this hazard. This is unacceptable. We need to improve the infrastructure of intersections to prevent drivers from using our neighborhoods as shortcuts. We need to use traffic calming measures on roads that cut through residential areas like Gass Road. Lastly, one of the best resources our township has is our great police force. We need to expand this resource by hiring more officers, enabling greater protection in our neighborhoods.

Ward 6

Jason Pirring

Party: Democrat

Home: Upper Drive

Occupation: Teacher

Previous elected office: None

I am serious in my commitment to the bettering of Ross Township. I would like to give my time, skills and talents to assist in planning the future of our township.

It's a critical time for Ross to move forward, making 21st century decisions.

I look forward to helping with our growth, improving our infrastructure, furthering the development of our business center and revamping our township parks.

I will not accept the status quo, and I am not tied to the idea of “this is how we always did things around here.”

I am not happy with the 6th Ward always being called the “forgotten ward.” I want to make sure our parks are revamped, our roads are paved and our house values go up.

Matthew ‘Butch' Edlinger

Party: Republican

Home: Bascom Avenue

Occupation: Executive recruiter

Previous elected office: None

The most significant issue facing the municipality is the need for new infrastructure, specifically road paving, and the challenge of balancing budgets. It's important to keep our tax dollars working for us while keeping costs down. I will be very diligent in my efforts to find and eliminate wasted dollars within our current system to pay for any necessary improvements. I believe in doing the right thing for everyone — equally — and will work tirelessly with everyone in mind.

Tony LaRussa is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-772-6368 or tlarussa@tribweb.com.

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