Election: Q&A with North Huntingdon candidates
Two incumbent commissioners in North Huntingdon are seeking re-election in the township's Fourth and Sixth wards in the Nov. 7 general election.
Fourth Ward Commissioner Richard Gray, a Republican, is running a write-in campaign against Republican Brian Blasko, who won the primary on the Republican ticket as well as the Democratic side on a write-in campaign.
The battle in the Sixth Ward features a replay of the 2015 election, where Democrat Mike Faccenda Jr. narrowly beat Republican Fran Bevan, who had been appointed in 2014 to fill part of the unexpired term of Thomas Krause.
Faccenda, now the incumbent, again faces Bevan in a bid for a full four-year term. Neither candidate was opposed in the primary.
QUESTION: Why are you running?
Blasko: “As a younger candidate, I am connected to a large population of the township with which our current commissioner has no connection.
“Residents are ready for a positive change in leadership in the township. They want someone who is accountable representing them. People are ready for new ideas and someone who does not settle for the status quo.”
Gray: “To utilize my wealth of real-world local government experience to benefit the residents of North Huntingdon. I have been involved in and served the community for many years as a volunteer firefighter at Hartford Heights, a business operator at the former Colonial Manor Restaurant & Swim Club, and boards of directors at the Jacktown Ride & Hunt Club and the former Jeannette Hospital Community Foundation.”
Bevan: “I'm running because there is presently what I term a ‘toxic environment' at the North Huntingdon Townhouse. The present commissioners, by four votes, fired a chief of police without cause. This was irresponsible on their part. Now there is an expensive lawsuit pending. Our township manager, who was in the upper echelons of his field, resigned due the harassing micromanagement of some of the commissioners. I'm running to restore respect for the employees, residents, businesses and institutions of the township.”
Faccenda: ”I want to continue representing Ward 6 residents and putting their tax dollars to work for them. My record of accomplishments thus far have proven I can get the job done. Managing the budget in a fiscally responsible way, improving our roads, continuing to improve recreation areas and opportunities and being accessible.”
QUESTION: What are the biggest issues/challenges facing the township?
Blasko: “North Huntingdon's governing body itself has been detrimental to the growth of the township. Some commissioners are not concerned with the development of the township, but rather have their sights set on personal vendettas within the board. There is a lot of finger-pointing and blame going on. The township needs leadership in its elected and appointed officials, and this is something we have not seen from our current fourth ward commissioner.”
Gray: “The biggest issue facing North Huntingdon is the sudden resurgence of old school political cronyism. Little good can be achieved until officials shift their focus from their personal agendas to the general public's business agenda.”
Bevan: ”As an appointed commissioner in 2014 ... one of the challenges that repeatedly came to the fore was storm water management. Several neighborhoods were experiencing problems after the torrential rains in Southwest Pennsylvania. There is the challenge to maintain and improve recreational facilities in the township. We do a very good job maintaining; the challenge comes with ways to improve these facilities.
Faccenda: ”Teamwork, accountability and responsibility within the township departments (is important). We need to support and implement new technology initiatives to improve processes, communication and in the end save North Huntingdon Township money.”
QUESTION: Is there a particular initiative or program you want to work on if elected?
Blasko: “I would love to develop partnerships with community schools, business, and other organization to truly make the township, as its motto states, ‘connected.' I would love to see our parks and recreations programs do more to reach out to our community's children and seniors.”
Gray: “Restoring credibility and some semblance of unity to the board is imperative. I would then like to work toward policy development in analyzing, prioritizing, and addressing storm-water management and infrastructure issues in an apolitical and consistent manner. Additionally, we need to maintain our efforts in branding and business development while concurrently monitoring community character and public safety.”
Bevan: Many years ago I was involved in the Route 30 corridor project. I would like to see an improvement on the corridor, but also maintain the character of the North Huntingdon Township community so that homes, businesses and institutions are not adversely affected by the ongoing Route 30 project. Maintaining township programs and costs while the state considers improvement to the main highway that runs through North Huntingdon will be an ongoing initiative.
My immediate initiative, however, is to restore respect for the employees, residents, businesses and institutions of North Huntingdon Township and instill responsible government.
Faccenda: “I would like to continue my efforts toward Initiating a partnership between North Huntingdon Township and local businesses to enhance new recreational opportunities that will benefit all citizens, without raising taxes. I will continue to manage tax dollars in a fiscally responsible manner while improving our roads, looking for new recreation possibilities and serving our citizens by being accessible to all.”