The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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May 19, 2013

9 Dems vie for 4 council spots

JOHNSTOWN — Democratic Party voters will have a crowded field of Johnstown City Council candidates to choose from on Tuesday.

With four seats open, nine individuals entered the race. The top four vote-getters will advance to this fall’s general election. Also, two Democrats originally joined the race for mayor, but the death of Anthony Gergely has left Frank Janakovic as the only remaining candidate.

There are no Republicans running for either city council or mayor.

Here is an overview of the Democratic field with the candidates listed in the order their names will appear on the ballot.

• Ian Miller wants the city to build, own and operate a waste-to-energy plant in order to create local jobs and generate revenue. He supports developing other alternative energy resources, such as solar and wind. Miller would like to see Conemaugh Health System donate free medical care, specifically dental, instead of increasing its payment in lieu of tax contributions beyond their current level.

“I believe this is almost a referendum on change,” said Miller, president of the Moxham Renaissance. “If voters really want change and growth, they’ll vote for candidates with new ideas.”

• Pete Vizza, a first-term councilman, spearheaded development of the city’s Drug and Crime Commission, which is in the process of examining the causes of crime in Johnstown with hopes of finding solutions to the problem. The commission is scheduled to issue its report to City Council sometime within the next few weeks.

“We’re going to have dividends from that, just be patient,” Vizza said. “As soon as they give it to council, God-willing, whoever gets in here, we’re going to act on it.

• Jack Williams has served three nonconsecutive terms on council with the most recent ending in 2011. He has expressed concerns about whether the current council is properly following the city’s home rule charter and guidelines set forth in Pennsylvania’s Financial Recovery Act 47 program for distressed municipalities, which Johnstown joined in 1992.

“When I see what transpires, it makes me want to get involved, to be a voice for the city,” Williams said.

• Nunzio Johncola spent three decades working for the city. He then served on City Council for 12 years before deciding to not run again in 2010. During his time in office, Johncola was a strong proponent for creating recreational activities within the city and promoting Point Stadium.

The veteran public official has described himself as an independent voice throughout the campaign. “You can sit on council and you can have people say “yes, yes, yes,” and be told what to say and what to do,” Johncola said. “That’s not me. I will do what I think is best for the city. It’s just common sense.”

• Marie Mock, who was first elected to council in 2009, has worked with several community organizations, including West End Improvement Group, Friends of the Steeples Project, Lift Johnstown and the Johnstown Symphony Auxiliary. She helped organize Celebration Johnstown!, a New Year’s Eve party for the community.

“I’m involved in a number of community groups and activities and have long been involved before even seeking public office,” Mock said.

• Dave Vitovich was inspired to run because of concerns he had about crime within the city.

Vitovich serves as the Knights of Columbus Council 467’s grand knight.

He was employed in the city’s public works department for more than 30 years. “I know every part of the city. I know every nook and cranny. … I know a lot about the finances of the city,” said Vitovich.

• Rose Howarth has been closely associated with Mock for years, as leaders of the West End Improvement Group and first-term council members. Neither one has accepted any pay for serving on council. They have helped organize community cleanups and beautify the West End by installing flower boxes and decorative signs. They have held fundraisers for the Johnstown Police Department’s K9 Corps.

“We will continue to support Johnstown and make it a good place to live (if re-elected),” said Howarth.

• Charles DiFalco has aligned himself with Vizza and Vitovich in the race. Like Vitovich, this is his first time running for City Council. DiFalco has focused much of his campaign on discussing crime and job creation. “I think what we need to do is we need to make Johnstown more attractive to get some businesses and some people in here, so we can get some employment. I think that’s the key thing,” said DiFalco, a longtime attendance officer in the Greater Johnstown School District.

• Anthony “Red” Pinizzotto is a veteran city leader, having previously served four terms on council. He chaired council’s personnel committee. He helped form the West End Improvement Group. Pinizzotto, now retired, was a former meat cutter at Conzatti’s Italian Market and member of the local meat cutters’ union.

“I spent 16 years on council and I think I did a fairly good job. I want to go back on and help the community,” Pinizzotto said.

On the mayor’s ballot:

• Frank Janakovic has focused on supporting his ticket’s teammates – Johncola, Pinizzotto, Howarth and Mock – ever since he became the only remaining mayoral candidate, following Gergely’s death in late April. “I need the group that I’m running with to change things in the city,” Janakovic said. “They’re very good guys, very good people.”

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