West Chester University hosted the candidates for West Chester Mayor and Borough Council last Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Philips Autograph Library. Student Trustee Charles J. Liedike, a WCU Senior, opened the night by introducing the moderator, Professor Michael Rodriguez, a Temple graduate and WCU professor of political government, specializing in American Government, Civil Rights and Constitutional Law.The forum began with each candidate for borough council introducing themselves to the mixed audience of students and borough residents. The race for borough council includes wards 1, 3, 5 and 7. All candidates but those vying for ward 7 attended.
Ward 1 encompasses northwest West Chester, but not campus residences. Democrat Holly Brown noted her past experiences in budget management for a meat packing industry. “During my tenure, I was able to keep the company profitable each year,” she said and pledged to do the same on the borough council.
Republican Bob Rodgers also noted his previous experience as a Philadelphia police officer who worked closely with then-Mayor Frank Rizzo. “Being a police officer taught me the importance about the quality of life issues, which I will focus on if elected to borough council,” he said.
Ward 3 includes Ramsey, Tyson and Goshen resident halls. Democrat Chuck Christy directly addressed the WCU students “You’re part of our community and we’re all in this together,” he noted, indicating the importance of partnership.
Republican Tim Daniels, a former school principal, discussed his dedication to the cause of saving the local YMCA chapter in West Chester from moving. “If I am on borough council, I will adopt this position and continue efforts to save the Y.”
In ward 5, Killinger, Wayne, Schmidt and Sanderson Halls are represented. Democrat Carolyn Comitta owns a town planning company, and echoed the importance of mutual partnership. “We can help you and you can help the borough,” she said. Republican Bill Mason Jr., who was elected at age 22 to Downingtown Borough Council, suggested that the borough budget can be balanced without raising taxes. “With the current budget enacted, taxes go up 25 percent over three years,” he noted, indicating that this affects student rental prices.
After a brief intermission, candidates for mayor of West Chester spoke.Write-In candidate Mike Dempsey is a high school wrestling coach and the owner of the popular bar 15 North. A life-long Democrat who lives on Church Street, Dempsey champions the idea of a shuttle bus on High Street to reduce student traffic late at night.
Democrat Jim Jones is a professor of History at WCU, serves on the West Chester Zoning Hearing Board and has worked on the borough’s Bicentennial Commission.
He lives on Walnut Street and had written several books and articles on local West Chester history.
Republican Dick Yoder, the current mayor, is running for reelection. A former student at WCU, he played football and coached WCU legend Glenn Killinger. He was also member of the Friars’ Society. He taught at WCU as a Kinesiology Professor for 38 years and served as the Athletic Director of WCU.
Among issues and questions raised was alcohol consumption.
Write-In candidate Mike Dempsey addressed the need for bar owners to take more responsibility in caring for their patrons. “Unfortunately, there are those who don’t practice proper business. This needs to be changed,” Dempsey said.
Mayor Yoder noted that underage drinking is a bigger problem, beyond WCU. “The state laws are very clear, and we are bound to uphold them,” he said.
Another topic was borough relations with WCU students. “There are many wonderful programs out there including Town Gown, which brings students and residents together,” said Democrat Jim Jones. “Students should interact with nonstudents as often as possible.”
Mayor Yoder highlighted the professionalism of the borough police. “We have a fine police department, and they are there for your assistance. If you need a ride back to campus late at night, they will help you.”
Write-In candidate Mike Dempsey, who is credited with planning the recent borough festival, “RESPECT,” said that they key to good relations is respect between students and the community. He encouraged students to “get out there and meet your neighbors,” before they plan a party.
Finally, debate arose over the proposed Student Ambassador Program. Mayor Yoder indicated that this is an opportunity for Criminal Justice students to help set an example for others while also aiding the police. Write-In candidate Mike Dempsey expressed a firm opposition to the program and called for the hiring of more fulltime police instead.
In their respective closing statements, Mayor Yoder praised the community crime and tip hotline. “The anonymous tip line has resulted in key arrests and drug confiscation.”
Democrat Jim Jones emphasized dialogue and partnership. “My vision is one of people getting to know each other and working together,” he said.
Write-In candidate Mike Dempsey repeated his call for more police officers to be hired, a landlord-student registration system, and “keg registration.”
Be sure to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 8.