4 set sights on city coun­cil

The Hazleton Standard-Speaker - - FRONT PAGE - BY SAM GALSKI STAFF WRITER

An in­cum­bent, a for­mer coun­cil­man, an in­de­pen­dent and a po­lit­i­cal new­comer in­tend to run for two coun­cil seats in Ha­zle­ton.

At least four people so far have ex­pressed in­ter­est in run­ning for seats that are held by Pres­i­dent Robert Gavio and two-term Coun­cil­woman Jean Mope.

Gavio, a Demo­crat who’s ap­proach­ing the con­clu­sion of his first term on coun­cil, said Thurs­day he is not seek­ing re-elec­tion.

In­cum­bent Demo­crat Mope said she in­tends to seek a third term. The field of can­di­dates also in­cludes Demo­crat and for­mer coun­cil pres­i­dent Jack Mundie; Scott Ca­ha­lane, who ran in 2015 for mayor and plans to run for coun­cil as a non­af­fil­i­ated/in­de­pen­dent can­di­date; and po­lit­i­cal new­comer and Repub­li­can Lau­ren Sacco.

The can­di­dates said they plan to run just a few days be­fore the Luzerne County elec­tion bureau will make nom­i­nat­ing pe­ti­tion pack­ets avail­able. Can­di­dates can be­gin cir­cu­lat­ing the pe­ti­tions on Feb. 19 and con­tinue work­ing through March 12 to col­lect the 100 sig­na­tures they need to en­sure them­selves a spot on the bal­lot.

As a non­af­fil­i­ated can­di­date, Ca­ha­lane will not ap­pear on the bal­lot for the pri­mary. He can se­cure a spot on the bal­lot for the gen­eral elec­tion.

Jean Mope

The two-term in­cum­bent said that if she’s re-elected, she’ll con­tinue work­ing in the best in­ter­est of the city and its tax­pay­ers.

“The safety and wel­fare of Ha­zle­ton res­i­dents are my ut­most con­cern,” she said. “I al­ways tried to be fair with the work­ers and em­ploy­ees of the city.”

Mope said the city must “stick to the laws … and fol­low them more closely than what has been done in the past.”

As a mem­ber of coun­cil, Mope said she supported ap­pli­ca­tions for gam­ing grants that paid for im­prove­ments at the high­way garage, worked to keep tax rates as low as pos­si­ble and pro­moted Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment pro­grams that paid for home and boiler re­pairs for el­i­gi­ble res­i­dents.

She op­poses the sale of the wa­ter sys­tem, which is over­seen by Ha­zle­ton City Au­thor­ity. Its sale has been floated in the past by some ad­min­is­tra­tors as a way to gen­er­ate rev­enue.

“My main con­cern has al­ways been for keep­ing our au­thor­i­ties in the city’s hands,” she said. “I don’t want to see the rates in­crease.”

Mope said she also op­poses a fee that ad­min­is­tra­tors are con­sid­er­ing for main­tain­ing the storm wa­ter sys­tem.

Mundie, who served as a coun­cil­man for 16 years be­fore he fell short in a re­elec­tion bid in 2017, said he dis­agrees with tax in­creases that a new slate of coun­cil mem­bers im­ple­mented as soon as it took of­fice.

“When the new coun­cil got in, the first thing they did, they raised taxes 30 per­cent,” he said. “I don’t think the answer to ev­ery­thing is to keep rais­ing taxes on every­body. You’ll chase ev­ery­one out of Ha­zle­ton when you have taxes that just keep go­ing up and up. There’s other so­lu­tions.”

The dou­ble-digit tax hike fol­lowed a four-year pe­riod where taxes did not in­crease — and dif­fer­ences that a for­mer coun­cil ma­jor­ity had with the ad­min­is­tra­tion over money from land sales and other short-term fixes that did not ma­te­ri­al­ize.

Mundie con­tends that the city could’ve avoided the Act 47 pro­gram had the ad­min­is­tra­tion fol­lowed bud­gets that were pre­sented dur­ing his ten­ure on coun­cil.

He be­lieves tax in­creases hit prop­erty own­ers in Ha­zle­ton harder, since homes have been sell­ing be­low as­sessed value. Wage taxes have also in­creased un­der the re­cov­ery plan, he said.

As a mem­ber of coun­cil, Mundie said he worked to elim­i­nate a main­te­nance fee for the stormwa­ter sys­tem a few years ago — and re­mains op­posed to the fee. He said state leg­is­la­tors should be work­ing to change man­dates that are re­quired of Penn­syl­va­nia mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties.

“It was ridicu­lous when it was first im­ple­mented,” he said. “I’m to­tally against that and would fight that with ev­ery­thing I have.”

Mundie also served nine years on the board of directors for Ha­zle­ton City Au­thor­ity. Dur­ing his ten­ure, the au­thor­ity built its fil­tra­tion plant, worked to save the Markle build­ing from the wreck­ing ball and built a pipe­line to the Le­high River.

Sacco said her ex­pe­ri­ence with var­i­ous vol­un­teer or­ga­ni­za­tions and her sup­port for re­vi­tal­iza­tion projects helped shape her vi­sion and hone lead­er­ship skills for serv­ing in city govern­ment.

“For years I have been at the fore­front help­ing im­prove and re­turn our city to its for­mer glory,” Sacco said in a state­ment re­leased Satur­day. “As a life­long res­i­dent I have al­ways tried to be hands on in the re­vi­tal­iza­tion of Ha­zle­ton. My fam­ily roots are planted in this town for gen­er­a­tions. With the op­por­tu­nity to be­come your coun­cil­woman, I will put my hard work ethics and de­vo­tion back into our com­mu­nity.”

Sacco be­lieves the city is head­ing in the right di­rec­tion but needs “the right pieces” in place to al­low for fur­ther growth and de­vel­op­ment.

The Har­ri­son Street res­i­dent is in­volved in nu­mer­ous lo­cal busi­ness ven­tures, in­clud­ing Vito’s Lawn Care & Land­scap­ing, Frankie’s Pizze­ria & Res­tau­rant and Sacco Chi­ro­prac­tic.

Ca­ha­lane said he plans to run on views and a plat­form sim­i­lar to when he ran as an in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for mayor in 2015 — and in­tro­duce new ideas that will help the city tran­si­tion out of Act 47.

“If elected, I’m go­ing to bring to city coun­cil a fresh face, pos­i­tive at­ti­tude, new ideas and most im­por­tantly a real de­sire to help the cit­i­zens and the city move for­ward into 2020 and be­yond,” Ca­ha­lane said. “No mat­ter who wins or what hap­pens we all must work as one.”

Gavio, who fin­ished as top vote-getter when he ran for a coun­cil seat in 2015, said he’ll serve the re­main­ing few months of his term and step away to de­vote more time to his fam­ily.

“I’m go­ing on four years (on coun­cil),” he said. “I want to spend more time with my grand­chil­dren.”

Gavio called his time as a coun­cil­man “in­ter­est­ing,” say­ing the gov­ern­ing body was con­tin­u­ously faced with dif­fi­cult choices in the years lead­ing to — and af­ter — Ha­zle­ton was de­clared a dis­tressed com­mu­nity un­der state Act 47.

“There were times tough de­ci­sions had to be made,” he said. “The hard­est thing is I don’t want to take money out of people’s pock­ets when they are strug­gling to pay for things them­selves.”

Gavio be­lieves those dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions have put the city on a path to fi­nan­cial re­cov­ery.

“We’re on the up­swing,” he said. “Hope­fully we’ll get out (of Act 47) as soon as pos­si­ble.”

Gavio said that while he did not al­ways agree with the views of his fel­low coun­cil mem­bers, he worked well with all of them.

“I get along with them all,” he said. “The pre­vi­ous coun­cil — we dis­agreed on a lot of things but some­times you’ve got to agree to dis­agree. You get to vote and then you move on. You never make it per­sonal.”

MUNDIE

CA­HA­LANE

SACCO

MOPE

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