The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Politics

May 11, 2009

Empty seats: Many communities struggle to fill elected offices

Councilman James Hollis knows what’s at stake if more residents don’t get involved in running Lorain Borough.

“If we don’t get some good people to come forward, we will be incorporated with the city,’’ he said at the borough ballfield.

“Our taxes most definitely would go up.’’

Lorain is facing a problem shared by many – if not most – communities in Cambria and Somerset counties: Elected offices that have no candidates.

Voters in the Lorain primary May 19 will have no one to pick as nominees for mayor or for two council seats.

Mary Jane Kuffner Hirt thinks she knows what the problem is.

Pennsylvania just has too many divisions, the IUP political science professor believes, with 2,600 municipalities and 501 school districts.

“How many of these are viable communities where people step up and run for office?’’ Hirt asks.

“Until we have a different structure, we won’t fill that ballot. Pennsylvania has too much local government.’’

Even where all the spots are covered, they may be rotated like musical chairs or people might stay in the same position for decades.

“Is that good for one person to dominate local politics for decades?’’ Hirt said.

She wants the Legislature to step in and more aggressively push for school and municipal mergers.

People don’t run for office in Lorain because the borough is so small it’s like family, said Hollis, a strapping, laid-off metal worker.

“It’s like you have sibling rivalry,’’ he said. “People’s feelings get hurt. It’s like pulling teeth. But council meetings are only a couple of hours a month.’’

Many of the elected positions going begging are for auditor, assessor or constable. Their duties can range from almost nothing, Hirt said, to being responsible for keeping the town’s books straight.

A whole spectrum of issues decided by local boards affect one’s life. They range from tax rates to zoning issues to student/teacher ratios.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Politics
  • corbett Corbett's climate stance draws fire, pulls money to governor’s race

    When new clean air rules came out in June targeting emissions at coal power plants, the Corbett campaign tried to link Democrat Tom Wolf to the Obama Administration policies.
    That kind of politicizing of energy policy might come back to haunt the governor in the fall.

    July 12, 2014 1 Photo

  • Why North Korean cheerleaders may soon descend on the South

    When you think of North Korea, "cheerleaders" may not be the first thing that springs to mind. The Hermit Kingdom is perhaps better known for less savory things like gulag-like labor camps and leadership purges.

    July 10, 2014

  • Court strikes down abortion clinic buffer zones

    Last week, the Supreme Court unanimously struck down protest-free buffer zones around abortion clinics in Massachusetts as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech.
    But Chief Justice John Roberts' ruling was a narrow one, pointing out that other states and cities had found less intrusive ways to both protect women entering clinics and accommodate the First Amendment rights of those opposed to abortion.

    July 6, 2014

  • What states can do on their own about immigration

    It's official: Congress won't take up immigration reform this year. This week, President Barack Obama said he'll use executive actions to change policies unilaterally.

    July 5, 2014

  • Corbett defends linking pensions, liquor to taxes

    Gov. Tom Corbett said Thursday that legislative approval of changes to public-sector pension systems would make him more open to the possibility of raising taxes to balance the state budget.

    June 26, 2014

  • Suggestions pouring in for Corbett campaign

    Gov. Tom Corbett, trailing badly in the polls and running out of time to reconcile anemic tax collections with election-year appetites for new spending, has undoubtedly gotten plenty of advice from fellow Republicans on how to assure his political future.
    State GOP leaders interviewed by The Associated Press offered up a number of ideas.

    June 14, 2014

  • Dem boss.JPG Cambria Dems pick chairman

    A longtime prominent figure in the local labor community has been selected as the Cambria County Democratic Party’s new chairman.

    June 11, 2014 1 Photo

  • Groups keep fingers crossed over scramble to balance budget

    Advocates and government agencies are chewing their fingernails as legislative leaders and the governor’s office scramble to close a $1.3 billion budget gap.

    June 10, 2014

  • Water resources policy updated

    What certainly can be considered one of the signature legislative initiatives of U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster’s political career became law on Tuesday.

    June 10, 2014

  • Alison_Lundergan_Grimes_2011.jpg Kentucky Senate race hangs on coal counties that rejected Obama

    President Barack Obama's decision to propose tougher limits on power-plant emissions poses a threat to Democrats in the coal-rich mountainsides of Kentucky and to their efforts to keep control of the Senate.

    June 4, 2014 1 Photo

Poll

What is the biggest key to reducing gun violence in Johnstown?

Tackling the area's drug problem.
Controlling folks moving into city housing.
Monitoring folks in treatment centers and halfway houses.
Tougher sentencing by the court system.
More police on the streets.

     View Results
Order Photos


Photo Slideshow

House Ads