Challenges await new electees
Now that Tuesday’s general election votes have been counted and congratulations have been extended, successful governmental candidates — especially those elected to offices for the first time — need to begin gearing up quickly for the formidable tasks they will be facing when they take office in January.
That is especially true for county commissioner newcomers Amy Webster and Laura Burke, who along with incumbent Bruce Erb must figure out a way to resolve successfully the serious financial challenges that the county government faces, going forward.
While incumbent Democrat Ted Beam Jr. lost his bid for re-election probably because he voted to initiate a controversial — but needed — countywide property reassessment several years ago, he no doubt also was hampered by news on the eve of the election that county departments were having serious difficulty finding deep cuts to help balance the county’s 2020 budget.
That news could signal a tax increase — possibly not a small one — in the not-too-distant future, even if one is avoided for the coming year.
No local-level unit of government can continue to have its financial back to the wall indefinitely. In fact, such a scenario led to the property reassessment.
For Webster, Erb and Burke, then, the immediate challenge will be to use all of their financial savvy to reverse the troubling fiscal facts affecting the various county departments, while also dealing with other issues.
Granted, a balanced 2020 budget presumably will be in place when the new board is seated about two months from now, but the underlying issues leading to the current troubling budget-preparation realities will remain imbedded as the county’s changed leadership faces the future.
As for the city of Altoona, Tuesday’s balloting results were not surprising as Mayor Matt Pacifico, who has performed well under the new home rule charter and who was a positive factor in the city exiting state Act 47 distressed-municipalities status, was handed a strong victory margin, while two city council candidates were unopposed.
For the Altoona Area School District — a district still dealing with controversy and taxpayer anger over its massive construction and renovation project — it is to be hoped that Tuesday’s school board election results signal more calm, cooperation and general unity in bringing the project to a successful conclusion.
Despite the opposing opinions over the decision-making leading to what currently is being implemented, it appears certain that what finally will be in place will be of significant benefit to current and future students — and their educational well-being remains foremost.
Meanwhile, after its reorganization next month, the Hollidaysburg Area School Board will have four new members — new members not including sometimes-controversial incumbent Lois Kaneshiki, who formerly chaired the Blair County Republican Committee and who led the Republican school board ticket in the primary election.
On Tuesday’s other election fronts, many voters will be interested in final tallies regarding write-in candidacies. There were numerous instances where there were no candidates on the ballots for municipal offices, including borough council seats and, in Duncansville, for the office of mayor.
Absentee ballots will determine how some offices finally play out.
Tuesday’s balloting exercise showed once again that some voters continue to believe that municipal elections lack interest. Once again, those naysayers were proven wrong.