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Councilman reflects on position

City residents in recent years have come to trust City Council and other Altoona officials better than before, according to City Councilman Matt Cacciotti at his last council meeting.

Trust in government is helpful, because governments that exercise authority based on trust are in “better position” than those that rely on “strength,” said Cacciotti, who didn’t run for a third term this year.

He based his observation about trust on his “overall perception of the community,” he said.

Residents seem more willing nowadays to serve in government, Cacciotti said, expressing a change that may be related to the growing trust.

When he first ran for council eight years ago, half the people he approached for nominating petition signatures asked why he wanted to do “this burdensome thing,” he said.

There was less of that questioning when he ran four years ago, and he suspects there was very little of that kind of cynicism for candidates who ran this year.

“There’s the perception that getting involved in the community is a cool thing,” Cacciotti said, citing two young colleagues on council.

Cacciotti encouraged others to participate too.

The city is currently looking for applicants for its talent bank, which provides a pool from which council can fill open seats on the city’s auxiliary organizations.

“Whatever your skill set, there’s something for you,” he said.

Those interested can apply via the top item under “News/Announcements” on the city website — “Seeking Volunteers for Authorities, Boards and Commissions.”

Besides changing the public “perception” of government for the better, council’s biggest success during his tenure was its contribution toward revitalization of downtown, Cacciotti said.

Not that long ago, “you couldn’t give downtown away,” he said.

Now there are several major investments that have been completed or that are in the works.

Going concerns include the Wingate by Wyndham hotel, Kerr Kreations Floral, Gift Shoppe & Boutique; JJ Hadley and Co. Brewers & Joos, Railroad City Brewing Co. and Levity Brewing Co.

Proposed developments include Curry Reality’s nearly complete multi-tenant project in the former Vipond Building and Christopher Cook’s newly proposed renovation of the Penn Central building.

“It’s opening up,” Cacciotti said of the central business district, which entered a long period of decline in the 1960s, with the onset of suburban development in Pleasant Valley.

City government needs to be supportive of continuing investment, he said.

“Businesses are waiting to see if we help them, hurt them or get the heck out of the way.”

After the first of the year, he’ll be watching “as a constituent,” Cacciotti said. One of the organizations he’ll be monitoring closely is the city’s new land bank, which “could be a catalyst” for rehabilitation of dilapidated buildings.

“The city is in good hands, moving forward,” he said.

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