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Plum school board candidate responds to recent criticism

| Wednesday, Oct. 30, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Dear Editor:

I'm Michelle M. Stepnick and I am running for school board because I'm a mom and because I believe I have unique background in government as well as management skills as a small business owner in Plum Borough.

I'm very disheartened by Mr. Schlauch's letter that my running mates and myself are running a campaign of “emotional appeals and an unfair, ugly smear campaign.”

Every issue I have brought up in the campaign is true and can be verified by any resident doing their own right-to-know request just as I have done.

It is true that under our current school board jobs have been eliminated and programs for our children have been cut.

It's also true that private contracts have been given without accountability and responsibility to all residents of Plum Borough.

The voters in Plum are very savvy. I, along with my running mates, Dawn Lynn Check and Michele Opina Gallagher are running with our own agenda, our children and the future of our community.

• Maintain a first class education, which includes electives, for our children as they compete in a global world.

• Stop outsourcing our Plum jobs and bring the contracts back in the district's control.

• Fiscal accountability and responsibility to all Plum residents.

• Develop compromise and communication within the district as well as the community.

Yes, I am a mother. That's not an emotional tactic, it's a fact that I am very proud of and the most difficult job I will ever have.

I ask the parents and grandparents of Plum Borough for their support on Nov. 5 because education matters, fiscal responsibility matters and Our Plum Matters.

Michelle M. Stepnick


Council hopeful looks to set record straight

Dear Editor:

I am writing regarding Jim Simmermon's letter from last week.

• The fact that Plum ranks as the sixth-safest city in cities with population over 25,000, is due to the professional police chief hired by Paul Dern and me.

• Spending $1,000,000 in 2013 is not difficult when existing council had no large paving projects during their four years in office. To maintain a good road system, you need a dedicated paving projects cycle not random patch work; unless it is an election year.

• Talk of tax abatement, the program is called LERTA legislation; I brought this program to Plum 10 years ago. I will credit present council for getting the program approved, not for having the vision. One way to keep our real estate taxes from increasing is to bring in businesses that will employ our residents and bring earned income taxes and real estate taxes to Plum.

• This Council approved the new facilities for Public Works, EMS and Renton Volunteer Fire Department after Paul Dern, Skip Taylor and me, during my last term on council, negotiated the deal for the property and Borough Manager Mike Thomas and I had the vision for the land development.

• This Council had to lower millage rates because the county assessments went up. Don't be fooled by the fuzzy math. By law, local government can't get a windfall tax increase. That is why your millage rate was reduced.

Please support Paul Dern, Ron Gancas, Mike Guida and myself, Dave Vento.

Dave Vento


Editor's note: Vento is a candidate for Plum Council and chairman of the Plum Democratic Club.

School board candidate disturbed by letter

Dear Editor:

When I was asked to run for school board last spring, I did so because I felt my 10 years of experience as the district's communications director would lend itself to the decision-making process.

I was disturbed by Mr. Schulauch's letter stating because my husband was an employee of the district, my election would be a “conflict of interest.”

This is obviously not true because: a.) I wouldn't be allowed to run by law if it were true; and b.) Sal Colella's wife is an employee of the district, thus confirming my right to run.

I have run a clean campaign. I have shared information available to everyone in the community obtained via a Right to Know request or by attending public meetings.

I have asked the public questions such as, “What issues are important to you?”

The information I have offered was not mean or ugly. It was validated facts.

The Plum community is very savvy about the issues important to them, and I have too much respect for this borough to “smear.”

While I might disagree with my fellow candidates on issues, I refuse to participate in personal attacks.

Unfortunately, I was not afforded the same respect.

I have served the Plum community, and my work speaks for itself.

I believe Plum Borough residents will be able to see the truth without political propaganda and rhetoric to deter them.

Thank you for your consideration on Nov. 5.

Dawn Lynn Check


School board candidate answers comments

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to the article last week by Mr. Stephen Schlauch, Chairman of the Republican Committee.

My personal agenda is this: I am an advocate for Plum Borough School District and the preservation of a well-rounded learning experience for each and every student.

To insinuate that I have ideas on “big spending policies” that would raise our taxes and put our children's education at risk is absurd.

To suggest that Michelle Stepnick, Dawn Check or I are running an ugly smear campaign is far from the truth.

In fact, I appreciate the time and effort that all school board members make in serving the community, regardless of their viewpoints.

As for Michelle, Dawn and I, we are mothers involved, committed and caring about our children's future and our community as a whole.

Should not the school board have a diverse makeup that includes people like us?

Please take a moment to get to know me before you make false accusations.

I am a full-time, stay-at-home- mom of three boys in the school district.

Their education is of the utmost importance to me. I have volunteered for this school district for more than nine years.

My vested interest is in the educational well being of my children and ALL children of Plum Borough.

I am part of a multi-generational family that came to Plum Borough in the 1930s.

Both of my grandfathers worked in the coal mines of Renton and Logans Ferry. I have more uncles, aunts and cousins that can even be named, most of which still live here.

My senior citizen parents were both born and raised in this community and continue to live here.

To suggest that I would “expose our community and its residents to financial peril,” is absolutely ridiculous.

I have chosen to run for school board to offer a fresh perspective from a parent who will have children at the high school, junior high and elementary level next year.

My vested interest is to preserve our children's chance of a well-rounded education, while enriching our community with productive citizens.

At the same time, I embrace everyone in our community and respect those that are new to the borough or have lived here for many generations.

My intentions are genuine and hardly part of a “big spending” scheme or ugly smear campaign.

Thank you for taking the time to know me.

Michele Opina Gallagher


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