Five of the mayoral candidates, along with the city council hopefuls and the school board contenders, attended the forum hosted by the McKeesport Chapter of the NAACP April 16.
“There should be as much interest in local races as there was the year before in the election of President Barack Obama,” said Rev. Yolanda Wright of St. Paul AME Church, who served as moderator.
|ARIA PAYNE STINSON
“These are the people who will affect us here, if we do not come out and support them, then who will,” said Ocie Paige, the McKeesport NAACP president and a former school director.
Although, there was not a huge turnout, partly due to the torrential down pour of rain, the forum was indeed a success, whereas most of the candidates for all races were present.
In the mayoral race, Michael Cherepko, council president; Interim Mayor Regis McLaughlin; Councilmen Darryl Segina; Alfred J. Tedesco Jr.; and former McKeesport Area School Board President Lori Spando, answered tough questions on youth violence, economic development, demolition and the Great Allegheny Passage. During the Q&A session, Spando added a spark to the powder keg, with mention of the Delta Development Group’s report on city finances.
“City council and the last mayor chose to ignore that plan,” she said. “It was done as early intervention to help steer the city clear of state Act 47’s distressed status.”
Council president Cherepko, reinforced what former Mayor James R. Brewster said, “Delta found that it verified things the city was doing. Delta cautioned against doing business as usual,” Cherepko said. “If we had done that seven years ago we would be Act 47 today.”
Councilman Alfred J.Tedesco Jr. said the Delta report showed the city did not put enough resources in training and equipment for police, fire and paramedics. Which are issues that directly impact each other. McLaughlin, who has been the interim mayor since Brewster was elected to the Senate, had a lengthy career working in the steel mills, ownership of a small business and chairman of the Municipal Authority of the City of McKeesport, addressed the issues of business. He pledged to work so that “business will thrive and young people will stay.” He also mentioned the upcoming revitalization of Camp Hill Corp., plant to U.S. Steel. Darryl Segina, councilman, spoke of his 20 years as public works director and 10 years on the council.
“I will eliminate at a glance over $200,000 from the budget,” Segina said. “Also I will put absentee landlords on notice, create jobs through businesses and eliminate elected and appointed officials from boards and commissions.
Alfred Tedesco, pledged not to serve on any boards or other such commissions if elected as mayor. Tedesco, the least experienced in office, said to the sparse crowd, “If you are happy with the way things are, I may not be your candidate.”
The day did not draw many, due in part to the rough winds and heavy rains. Most mayoral candidates and supporters left after their segments. This did not sit well with Paige.
“They showed no interest in listening to the school board candidates.” said the former school board president of McKeesport Area Schools. “These people running for school board, are very important, we need to work together.”
In another segment of the forum for McKeesport Area school board. Ten of the 12 candidates addressed issues, four of them cross-filed as Democrats and Republicans and six of eight filed Democrats spoke at the forum. Palisades incumbent Christopher Halaszynski and challenger Richard J.Tomko did not attend. Present were: James Brown, currently serving on the board, Joseph Chiaverini, incumbent; David Donato, past board member; Mary Jane Keller, retired teacher; Robin Marshall Kelly, served on the board 1983-94; Terri Kisan, real estate agent and city planning commissioner; Steve Kondrosky, Joe Lopretto, cross-filed, Kenneth Peoples Jr., also cross-filed, Scott Smith, cross-filed. Also taking place at the forum were the candidates for City Council. Dan Carr, Richard J. Dellapenna, Dale McCall, Aria Payne Stinson, and Keith Soles, Loretta Diggs was not present due to illness at time of forum.0