Election 2013: Council candidates vie for two open seats in Penn Hills
While Republican candidates for Penn Hills Council would like to focus on attracting business to the municipality, Democratic incumbents would like to continue down the current path and build on past successes.
Republicans Linda Rupert and Brent Rambo are challenging incumbent Democrats Sara Kuhn and J-Lavon Kincaid for two open seats on the Penn Hills Municipal Council in the Nov. 5 election.
Rambo, 59, is a retired businessman, a former general manager for CompUSA and a district manager for Radio Shack who would like to put his three decades of experience as a business leader to work bolstering Penn Hills' economy.
“I've been talking with people and we have a serious situation with a lot of businesses moving out of Penn Hills,” Rambo said. “We need to be aggressive, and what I would do is go to the corporate headquarters of retail stores, restaurants and manufacturers, put a package together about Penn Hills and provide some incentives for them to come here.”
Rupert, 65, retired after working as an associate director of enrollment at Carnegie Mellon University, agreed.
“We don't think that we're actively enticing businesses as a community,” she said. “I think we should be more proactive. I'm very concerned about the empty stores I see. I would like to foster a culture in which the business environment is stable.”
For Kuhn, 70, who has served on council since 2004 including her current stint as deputy mayor, the focus is on continuing to improve the municipality's infrastructure.
“Our sewer complaints are down 36 percent from two years ago, and down about 50 percent this year,” she said, referring to municipal sewer rates and work that has gone into the system. “Now we are doing preventive maintenance, which is a huge jump forward for Penn Hills. We're doing things to prevent problems instead of constantly having to do repairs.”
Kuhn, who also served 10 years on the planning commission, said her top priorities are being the taxpayers' eyes on government spending, and code enforcement. The town's code enforcement department has been working with a limited staff since the January 2012 termination of two employees who are currently suing the municipality. Kuhn said she is working to make sure the level of service in the department is adequate.
“No homeowner should have to live in surroundings that are not acceptable. That is a really big thing to me,” she said.
Kincaid, 71, who has also served on council since 2004, is seeking reelection to build on the accomplishments of the current council.
“What we'd like to work on in the future is improving the infrastructure and safety in Penn Hills, and serving the taxpayers in terms of having a livable community,” Kincaid said.
For Rambo and Rupert, attracting more business to Penn Hills is the key to its success.
“Businesses leaving is driving down our home values,” Rambo said. “If businesses are moving out, the value of property starts to drop. If we can get them moving in, the value will start going back up.”
Kincaid said the current council always has an eye on bringing new business to the municipality.
“We continue to work for community development and encourage entrepreneurship in Penn Hills,” he said. “But it is also dependent on whether people want to bring their business here. Through the planning department, we want to try and work to find new businesses — lately it has been smaller businesses, barbershops, smaller restaurants — but we want to try and bring as many anchor businesses into Penn Hills as possible.”
Rupert said offering tax incentives to incoming businesses is a possibility she'd like to consider.
“We shouldn't encumber them with excessive rules regarding setting up businesses,” she said. “I think we should be listening carefully to someone who wants to come into the community.”
The election will take place Nov. 5. For more information, visit the county's Division of Elections website at Alleghenycounty.us./elect.
Patrick Varine is an editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7845 or firstname.lastname@example.org.