Candidates file for Penn Hills council race
Penn Hills government really is starting to annoy Vincent DeLuca Jr.
But DeLuca, 57, one of five candidates running for two seats on Penn Hills Council in the May 21 primary, said few people attend council meetings to see how the municipality is run.
DeLuca, a Democrat who has lived in Penn Hills for 13 years and is not related to Mayor Anthony DeLuca, said code enforcement is a major issue for the municipality.
“I see old cars and junk sitting around, houses that are dilapidated that no one is saying anything about,” he said.
DeLuca said he would like to see changes.
“The leadership, in my opinion, is lacking,” he said.
In stark contrast, incumbent Democrats Sara Kuhn and J-Lavon Kincaid, who both were appointed to council in 2004 and won additional terms, say they want to continue the current administration's work.
“There's a lot that Mayor DeLuca's administration has completed but we have some things we're in the midst of, and I'd like to see through the projects we've started,” said Kuhn, 70.
Kincaid, 69, pastor at Laketon United Methodist Church, has been on council for nine years and has lived in Penn Hills since 1991.
“We're working together very well,” he said. “We have a great team, and I want to be a part of that as we continue to move the community forward.”
Republican candidate Brent Rambo, 58, criticized how council operates.
“I've been going to the meetings, and they're not following the home rule charter,” he said.
“We're supposed to have discussions and then votes, and none of that is taking place. … I feel that it's time to have a dissenting opinion instead of all Democrats, where it's just whatever they want to do, it happens.”
Fellow Republican candidate Linda Rupert, who has lived in Penn Hills since 1993, said her biggest issue is economic development.
“I'm an ordinary citizen who's concerned about her community,” said Rupert, 64.
“I see a lot of empty buildings in the shopping centers and I'm concerned about taxes. Penn Hills always had a reputation for being a great place, and I'd like to make it the vital community it once was.”
Kincaid said economic development is one of his priorities as well. “We want to find a way to get our taxpayers some relief,” he said.
Rambo said the town needs to consider lowering taxes in order to entice more businesses.
The current rate of 5.444 mills is down 0.16 mills from last year, due to an assessments-related adjustment, but taxes rose 0.25 mills in both 2011 and 2012.
“I think we need to raise property values, and right now all that's going up is our property taxes,” he said.
“People have worked all their lives to make that big investment (in a home), and it's sickening to see your property values go down.”
Kuhn said the biggest issue she sees facing Penn Hills is sewer difficulties. After the Environmental Protection Agency imposed a consent decree in the 1990s, Penn Hills was forced to undergo $50 million in sewer improvements.
Recently, Allegheny County Sanitary Authority officials announced a $2 billion plan to sharply reduce sewage overflows into waterways during heavy rains, a project whose cost will be borne in part by towns that connect into the Alcosan system.
“Alcosan and the surrounding communities are (now) doing what Penn Hills had to do,” Kuhn said, and she wants to ensure Penn Hills doesn't have to bear additional costs for work elsewhere that those towns or Alcosan should cover.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.