Jeannette mayoral race to be decided next month
On Nov. 5, Jeannette residents will choose the mayor who will lead the city for the next four years.
In May, Democrats Richard Jacobelli, 66, and the incumbent Mayor Robert Carter, 54, squared off, with Jacobelli earning the victory. Carter announced soon after his primary loss that he would continue on with a write-in campaign and so the two men find themselves battling for votes once again.
“I thought it was important to run the write-in campaign because I care about the progress being made in the city and I think there is more to be done,” Carter said. “All of the citizens get to vote in the November election (as opposed to only Democrats casting votes in the primary). By me staying in the race, it gives an opportunity for everyone in the city to voice their opinions.”
Jacobelli has taken Carter's write-in efforts seriously and said, “I took it as serious as a bull coming at me because he's been here a long time and he's well known in the community.
“I would have thought that after the primary he would have conceded and politely stepped aside. He's given a good 13 years on council and as mayor and I would have thought he would just sit back and say ‘let the other guy see what he can do.' I would have felt good about that.”
The write-in effort has meant that both men have continued campaigning through the summer and early fall months.
“I've been walking the streets,” said Jacobelli. “Last night I was on First and Second streets until dark. My message has been the same thing. This word ‘change' has been overrated. My premise for running for mayor is pretty straight forward. I want to provide this city with a full-time mayor. I'll be there (at city hall) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. every day. I'm so pumped up about getting in there and seeing what I can do for Jeannette.”
This is Carter's second write-in effort. In 2007, he lost his re-election bid for a council seat in the primary and ran a close, but ultimately unsuccessful, write-in campaign for the November election.
“A lot of it's footwork. You have to do advertising and be more of a people person and have more contact with the people,” said Carter. “I've had positive responses from people and the response I've heard mainly is that you can't fix everything that was wrong in the four years I've had.”
Jacobelli is a retired airline mechanic and Carter is a self-employed personal assistant whose job takes him out of town. Carter maintains that he is in constant contact with city officials and has said when he is not in Jeannette he is able to handle city business by phone and email.
Jacobelli said the biggest issue facing the city right now is the contracts signed by all three unions in 2013 because he said the revenues coming in will not sustain the financial obligations set forth in those contracts.
“We have to simply see if we can revisit the contracts signed in 2013 — fire, police and public works — and sit down and see if we can hammer out a reasonable settlement where we can sustain what we currently have while looking at the future,” Jacobelli said. “I need council to finally say we have to put the brakes on things.
“What I am hoping to do is just simply bring to light what each department costs us and take that to council with what their projections are and that will work if council is willing to do that. We have to run the city like a business.”
Carter believes the single biggest issue in Jeannette right now is finding ways to create new revenue. He said working to promote the city to bring in new jobs is the key.
“We have to create the space for new development and talk with outside agencies to help with economic growth,” Carter said. “Cutting services and cutting down the dollars, we are not giving a true opportunity for people to come in with businesses. Cutting down police, garbage and public works, all you're doing is not creating a welcoming atmosphere to bring in new businesses. You're eliminating the services people want to come here to take advantage of and we're at the minimum level of staffing we can be at in order to run the city in a positive manner.”
Carter said working toward clearing the former Jeannette Glass, Monsour and Jeannette Hospital sites for redevelopment will create that new growth in the city.
“We need to create new revenue, not be spending the same dollar over and over again. New revenue will give us the opportunity to have a more balanced budget, to work on infrastructure with our streets and provide services to our current and future businesses and taxpayers.”
Jacobelli said he wants to look at the money coming in to Jeannette to see how it's being spent. He said the city can't continue to spend the money it's spending and again feels the key to making changes in the financial situation lies within Jeannette's union contracts.
“I don't have any political connections, no special interests within the city. I'm approaching it from a common sense point of view just like anyone would do in their own households,” Jacobelli said. “It's a very simple, common sense point of view on how to address these problems. We need to approach all of this from an outside point of view, an out-of-the-box view.”
Carter said he has been a good ambassador for the city and he cares about the residents' needs. He said he knows what the problems are and that he's accepted the challenge over the years to try to better the city.
“I've been here for 40 years of different managements, from the 1970s clear through. I've seen what works and what doesn't work. I bring a lot of positives to this city,” said Carter.
Jacobelli said the status quo won't work and that now is the time for city council “to stop and say ‘no.' Enough is enough.”
Kristie Linden is an editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-838-5154.