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Local businesswoman seeks Connellsville City Council seat

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:06 p.m.
Connellsville resident and businesswomen Johanna Harden is seeking a seat on Connellsville City Council.

Connellsville resident and businesswoman Johanna Harden is seeking the Democratic nomination for a seat on City Council.

There are two open seats. One is being vacated by Marilyn Weaver, who decided not to seek re-election. Tom Karpiak's seat is also up for election; he is seeking re-election.

Harden, a longtime Connellsville resident, is in her second term on the Connellsville Board of Health.

“I know that Connellsville still has the potential to be a great city for many years to come, but new ideas need to be adopted about how to keep our city viable, attractive, and safe,” Harden said. “As a member of the health board, I see a challenge in requiring private owners to maintain their building. One of my aims is to see that the Vacant and Abandoned Property Ordinance that I helped author would be adopted into law in this town to require private owners stricter guidelines on their responsibilities of building ownership, and to save the city money.”

Harden attended Penn State University at University Park and majored in biology. She is owner of The Bug Trap, a local pest-control company.

She plans to encourage residents to work toward a shared vision for the future.

“I wanted to contribute in an active way to local government. That desire has expanded into wanting to see our local government embrace new ideas; welcome and encourage all people to participate in community projects and government; and transform our local government into a group of people sharing a united vision and mission for Connellsville,” Harden said.

Harden is a member of the Yough Rail Town Council and the Fayette Cultural Trust. She is a member and former president of the Connellsville Area Garden Club and helped to promote the Christmas decorating light-up campaign, sponsored by Believe in Connellsville.

Harden is a founding member of the Believe in Connellsville group, which devotes time to the enhance and promote the city.

If elected, Harden said, she would encourage others in the city to come forward with ideas and to volunteer their time. She said she will help anyone who wants to get involved.

“One of the great assets of this town is the willingness of many people to volunteer time to improve Connellsville. Look at what the all-volunteer advisory board at the community center accomplished in a short time to stave off closing the community center,” she said. “ Nowhere else can individuals make a bigger difference than small government, and I will work to make government as accessible and transparent to all people. Unfortunately, many people are feeling shut out of local government. They are resigning from boards and being shouted down for expressing a differing opinion from current city policy.”

She said that as a councilwoman, she would tackle the city's struggling finances and the grim tax situation.

“One of the chief concerns is the bleak financial situation the current council has inflicted upon the city,” Harden said. “As a successful local businesswoman, I understand how important it is to have realistic and an achievable revenue stream to properly budget expenses. Revenue projections for the city have not been realistic over the last several years, and the city needs leaders that can plan budgets, increase revenues and funding, and come up with a long-range plan for the city. If the City of Connellsville were a person, she would need to be working three jobs to make up for the significant shortfalls between income and expenses in her household budget.”

Harden said she feels strongly about addressing the uncollected taxes and fees that are owed to the city.

“All delinquent taxes and fees need to be collected. The city needs to attract a stronger tax base of middle-class families, attract tourism business, and look at sharing city services with the townships.

“I will advocate open and transparent government meetings, advocate enforcement of current codes and laws, and bring tolerant and welcoming attitude to local government,” Harden said.

Marilyn Forbes is a freelance writer.

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