Borough Council Candidates Answer Your Questions

SOSO Neighbors association asked the candidates six questions. Here are the questions and responses. I think we are lucky in having six very good candidates who have given thoughtful responses. I believe the four that are chosen will serve Carlisle well and bring some fresh views and ideas to our borough council. Don’t forget to vote next Tuesday, November 8.

Borough candidate responses

These are the questions:

1. What would you propose to boost downtown Carlisle’s retail environment?

2. Do you support a mandatory rental registration and inspection system?
3. Do you support the road diet? Do you think it should be altered at all?

4. If you could propose anything for Carlisle and it would be adopted, what would it be?

5. What’s Carlisle’s biggest problem?
6. What would you do if you were on council and Occupy Carlisle took over part of the Downtown Square?

These are the responses (candidates listed in alphabetical order):

1. What would you propose to boost downtown Carlisle’s retail environment?

Dawn Flower: In order to boost downtown Carlisle’s retail environment, we need remove the real and perceived barriers to business entry, and negative perceptions that exist about doing business in downtown Carlisle.

Some suggestions:

1.    Ensure that cost for square footage rental space is competitive, and appropriately for downtown Carlisle.

2.    Continue to provide support for new businesses through rental assistance grants and business development education programs.

3.    Harness all of Carlisle’s economic development resources to create a strategic economic plan that includes the downtown area.  (This is explained below in my answer to the question relating to Carlisle’s biggest problem.)

4.    Enhance lighting and encourage additional lighting in storefronts and increase police presence after dark to improve security.

5.    Incorporate the practical and feasible recommendations made during the Vision Carlisle meetings.  These include green initiatives that aid in storm water management, water features, lighting, encouraging roof top gardens.

6.    Encourage shop owners to consider hours of operation that make them more competitive.

7.    Recognize that our downtown places of worship are an integral part of the downtown that both physically enhance and contribute to the vitality of downtown through their generous support of events, and those in need.

8.    Continue to work with Dickinson College, the War College, and Penn State Dickinson School of Law to discover opportunities that encourage students and staff of these institutions to visit our businesses.

Don Grell: Carlisle has worked for decades trying to help our downtown retail environment.  We have the oldest recognized Main Street program in the Commonwealth (the Downtown Carlisle Assn, started in 1978) and at this point we sometimes take for granted successful projects like the Comfort Suites, which was still the ‘hole in the ground’ when I first went onto Borough Council.  Regular meetings are held w/ business owners, Dickinson College, developers, the county redevelopment authority and others to try to work cooperatively and keep lines of communications open.  We have also shifted our strategy a bit, working on the expansion of current businesses (referred to as economic gardening), in addition to attracting new businesses.  The Road Diet was also part of the downtown strategy of creating a better climate for business owners and shoppers.  The longstanding facade program, the LERTA district (phase-in of tax increases caused by improvements to buildings) and shopsteading loans are also helpful in improving the functionality and appearance of our downtown buildings and storefronts.

Robin Guido: I would support new and current relationships with organizations that will promote our area and downtown such as the DCA and the Cumberland Valley Visitors Bureau.  I would love the Borough to investigate a program run and funded by IBM called Smart Cities.   I would encourage maintaining a diverse group of businesses and merchants to keep attracting a larger variety of shoppers.   If funding would be available, I would create new and revitalize existing walking paths from our parking areas to the downtown.  I feel these pedestrian pathways could be more prominent, more attractive and encourage people to park and walk passing more stores and restaurants along the way.

Matt Madden: The downtown retail environment is a very tricky thing, in that the borough itself should not be in the retail business and as such, should not tell business owners how to run their businesses.  What they can do, is help create the most consumer friendly environment possible.  Doing so includes continually improving downtown parking and street lighting, increasing police presence and supporting events which bring people to town.  Supporting organizations like the DCA which are actively recruiting quality retailers to the downtown, as well as working with property owners to improve the streetscape are also important.  Ideally, once people become comfortable with the downtown, they will spend more time and money there, thus creating an environment where business owners want to locate.

Elizabeth Pagano: To boost the downtown retail environment, shops ought to work together to bring people to their businesses. We could open a flea market, while continuing to support Farmers On the Square.  We also should bring more local musicians and entertainers to the town. Entertainment always brings people together, both young and old. Dickinson students have told me that there is very little which truly attracts young people between the ages of 19-25 to our area. I would like to see an outdoor ice skating rink in town during the winter months: it would encourage people to get out and enjoy the cold season.

Deb Winston:

  • Continued support for the Retail Recruiter position housed in the Downtown Carlisle Association.
  • Encourage mixed use development in the Downtown with retail on the first floor and residences on the upper stories. A mixed base of low-income, moderate-income and high-income residents will encourage a mixed retail environment as the different residents have different retail needs and wants.

2. Do you support a mandatory rental registration and inspection system?

Dawn Flower: Mandatory Rental Registration is a good idea because:

1.              The renter registration database will aid emergency services to enhance safety.

2.              The rental registration database will provide a tool for borough management to ensure that withheld occupational taxes paid by renters who live within the borough are paid to the borough.

I support the recommendations of the Rental Ordinance Review Task Force which includes a voluntary inspection system.

The issues that were the driving force for the SoSo’s request to pass a Carlisle Rental Ordinance include blight, decreased home ownership, unkempt and unsafe properties, and frustration with difficult neighbors. From 1985 until 1995, I lived in the second block of East High Street in Carlisle.  During this time, I was a part of the East End Association for Historical Preservation (EEAHP), an organization comprised of neighbors in the East Side of town which struggled with many of the same issues.  The creation of Carlisle’s Historic District was a vision of Dr. Milton Flower who wanted to enhance and preserve Carlisle’s historic architecture, increase home ownership, increase property values, and instill pride in our older neighborhoods.  Dr. Flower worked with the members of EEAHP to create Carlisle’s Historic District.

Carlisle’s Historic District and its governing board, the HARB, have met many challenges to improve our neighborhoods.  This includes allowing the guidelines to evolve to make them more practical.  I envision that the incorporation of the proposed new Rental Ordinances will face many similar challenges.  A well-planned strategy is required to communicate and educate property owners, realtors, and citizens about the new requirements.

SoSo is to be congratulated for its two years of research and effort to responsibly bring about change to improve all of Carlisle.   Lynn Helding did an admirable job preparing and presenting this information to Borough Council in December of 2010.  The Rental Ordinance Task Force members are also to be commended for their dedication to create a direction for Carlisle rental properties to be better managed.  Like the Historic District, the anticipated new rental ordinances will be met with some resistance and require effective communication and to all residents in the borough.   As with all borough ordinances, they are subject to ongoing evaluation for their effectiveness.

Don Grell: I attended many meetings of the Rental Housing Task Force and I do not support an annual inspection program at this time.  I do believe the Task Force and neighborhood groups have done a great job of focusing attention on this issue and I support the Task Force’s other recommendations (registry, lease addendum, education, voluntary inspections).  These recommendations, along with filling the vacant position in the Borough Codes Dept. should all help improve the quality of our housing stock and condition of our neighborhoods.  Then we should all monitor this for a while and revisit the subject.  The neighborhood groups should have a key role in implementing the Task Force recommendations and monitoring and evaluating their success.  The Borough has also worked for many years to support homeownership, which should reduce the number of renters and attract people more invested in their community.  The regular attendance of police officers and codes employees at neighborhood group meetings helps residents easily communicate with these employees and helps the Borough get ahead of some problems.

Robin Guido: I do support a rental registration and inspection system.  I am concerned about making the program mandatory and whether that would open up the Borough to litigation.  Borough funds could be better spent on services than fighting lawsuits.  I would support a mandatory system if the Borough solicitor concurs that is legal and defendable.  If Council decides that a mandatory system is not the reasonable or legal way to proceed I would suggest and support other ways to promote compliance such as incentives for responsible landlords. Regardless of the outcome, mandatory or optional, I feel the system should be regularly reviewed to ensure it is working and that we are learning from the process

Matt Madden: I do support a registration system as I believe that it will greatly aid in the communication between the borough, police, neighbors and landlords.  At this time, I have not been shown an inspection system which is not overburdening on the masses for the sake of the minority.  I have specifically spoken with members of the SoSo group who have advocated the inspection program, yet admitted that they would not be any happier if the buildings were brought up to code and the same tenants continued to occupy the properties.  This tells me that the solution does not match the problem and that the issues relevant are more societal in nature.  That said, I am in favor of educating neighbors and tenants alike of their rights and challenging the borough and police to use every available means to improve the quality of life for all residents.

Elizabeth Pagano: I am in favor of a rental registration. Some landlords live too far from their properties and are difficult to reach in case of emergency. The Rental Responsibility Ordinance would make sure outside inspections are done. Inside inspections are necessary as well, but we need to convince the Borough about this. Landlords are very powerful and well-organized, as we have seen it at the recent meetings. Some years ago there was a terrible fire from a rental unit a few houses away from where we live and the house had to be gutted. It ended up being the fault of a kerosene heater. In cases such as this, a house inspection could have saved this unit.

Deb Winston: Yes, I do support mandatory rental registration and inspection.

3. Do you support the road diet? Do you think it should be altered at all?

Dawn Flower: The road diet is a completed project.

The positives:  I appreciate the traffic calming aspect of the new system which improves safety, the cleaner appearance it gives our downtown, and the improved efficiency of travel through town in most areas, especially when making a left hand turn on the square.  Recently, an EMT ambulance driver mentioned to me that since the completion of the road diet, he is able to get through downtown Carlisle much faster than before, and that from his perspective the improved efficiency has the potential to save lives.

Alterations: Next to citizen safety, my greatest concern relating to the road diet is the negative impact it has had on revenues for some businesses in Carlisle. These are the problems I have observed, or had shared with me relating to this project during construction, a review of some of the current traffic flow issues, and a note about the bike lanes:

1.    Communication with business owners during construction projects needs to be improved.  Several business owners were inconvenienced, and lost significant business during construction.  As with any construction project, this was anticipated.  However, the contractor failed to effectively communicate delayed phases of the project, which made it impossible for business owners to prepare.  The issues included: unexpected closed access to business properties during their busiest season of the year;   excessive noise during middle of the night road work affecting our bed and breakfast, and hotel guests; and the challenge of getting out of a parking space during peak times. For future projects, Carlisle Borough management should evaluate the way communications were handled during this project, and work with contractors to better communicate with business owners.

2.     Inbound traffic to Carlisle from the York Road is stacking up, (particularly during morning rush hour) after the merge with High and before the traffic light at Spring Garden.  A suggestion has been made that we return to the traffic pattern prior to the road diet.  This provided for two lanes of traffic before the light at Spring Garden.

3.    Access from the alleys near the square is a challenge because the traffic flow is steady.

4.    Many continue to be frustrated with side street access to High and Hanover Streets.

5.    Borough management needs to be responsive to business owners who perceive and when possible can document that the new traffic patterns have had a negative impact on their business.

6.    The bike lanes in the metered areas of town are confusing.  In the metered areas, there is a solid line for the bike path near the street, and a “T” mark for the interior bike path guide near the parked cars.  In the non-metered areas, the bike path is marked with two solid lines on both sides. The double solid lines communicate the bike train boundaries more effectively that the “T” markings and should be used throughout the system to clearly designate the bike path boundaries.

Don Grell: Many of us believe the Road Diet was not just a traffic project, but also an economic development initiative.  The noise and dirt from the traffic did not create an attractive environment for business owners or shoppers.  Other elements, like keeping the trucks on the interstate as much as possible and the bike and trail elements could reduce some of the motor vehicle traffic in our downtown.  The health aspects of fewer trucks in our downtown should not be ignored.  Like everything else, the Road Diet needs to be monitored and reviewed after a reasonable period of operation.

Robin Guido:  I do support the road diet.  I feel the single lanes and slower traffic has increased safety for both drivers and pedestrians.   I do believe that the timing of a few lights at certain intersections needs to be re-evaluated. 

Matt Madden: I do support the road diet.  Like many I was skeptical (officially, “cautiously optimistic”) at first, but I like the fact there is no more drag racing down high street and I feel much safer getting out of my car once parked.  Like all major projects, I would be naive to say that it was done perfectly on the first try.  Further evaluation will need to be done for quite some time, especially as seasons change, snow falls and major events occur.  Some specific things I would like to evaluate include whether this is the most pedestrian friendly design possible and if there are some turn lanes that should be lengthened or eliminated.

Elizabeth Pagano: I support the road diet. It has made our main streets safer and drivers have slowed down. I heard that some traffic lights need to be timed better to help the flow of traffic. Slow drivers are more likely to pay attention to our downtown stores and our beautiful architecture. My husband was hit by a car several years ago while using a crosswalk on High street: this accident would not have happened if the road diet had been in place at that time.

Deb Winston: I think we need to give the Road Diet a chance to work. Already, walking Downtown is much more pleasant because it is much quieter. Restaurants can have viable outside seating, which is a great option for diners to have. The folks at Vinny’s Pizzeria feel that the Road Diet has killed their lunch business because of the traffic back-ups at the light on Willow Street, so it could be that some adjustments need to be made on the timing of the lights.

4. If you could propose anything for Carlisle and it would be adopted, what would it be?

In addition to my answer to the following question, here are some of the items I would propose:

Dawn Flower 

1.    HARB’s “hot seat” needs to go.  Historic District property owners who wish to make changes to their building visible from the street are required to apply and make a presentation to the Historic and Architectural Review Board (HARB) for approval of their proposed project. For many this is an intimidating process. Currently, applicants are required to make their presentation to HARB from a folding chair centered and placed before the raised platform in borough hall. Please remove the chair and allow HARB applicants to use the podium for their presentations.

2.    Fire Department-Be Proactive–The question posed by Rev. Reed at the East End’s Candidate Forum highlighted a concern he has relating to the reduced number of volunteer fire fighters.  He suggested that in the future the fire department might need to hire an all paid staff.  As stated at the forum, current budget constraints would make this very difficult.  Since the forum, I had the opportunity to read the oral histories about our fire companies that are posted on Dickinson College’s website, and those concerns were voiced in 2007 byvolunteer firefighter John Sheaffer of the Union Fire Company, Carlisle, and Fire Chief Dave Weaver of the Union Fire Company. Since these recordings were made, the Borough has hired a chief, and full and part-time operators to manage the two Fire Houses, and to work with our 120 volunteer firefighters.  Borough Council needs to be proactive with respect to our fire companies, and strategize to support volunteer recruitment, continue to actively and visibly support fund raising efforts, and to be aware and prepare for future staffing challenges in the event that the volunteer base declines.

3.    Review the Junior and Citizen Police Academy programs (an 8 week course for citizens) to understand why recent programs were not supported and find ways to better advertise the programs and make them more accessible.

4.    Borough meetings—Request that a camera be connected to the monitors in Borough Hall to enable the audience to see the visuals presented to whatever governing body is seated on the platform.

5.    Information – It is important for borough government to be as transparent as possible.  Obviously there are exceptions with situations if made public that might disadvantage the borough or need to be kept confidential because of legal requirements.  During Carlisle Council meetings, and several of its board and committee meetings, I have often been frustrated that the information provided to the group responsible making the decision is not readily available to everyone in the room.   Without the facts, figures, and information it is difficult to fully understand the rationale for decisions made.  Meeting agendas and appropriate information relating to committee and council decisions and  should be posted online prior to the scheduled meeting.

6.    Recruitment of committee and board members – Borough Council should expand the avenues used to advertise committee and board position openings to reach a wider audience.

Don Grell: More cooperative ventures.  I believe we already are involved in a significant number of cooperative projects, but are and should always be looking for more.  This should not be limited to cooperation w/ other municipalities, but also public-private partnerships which usually mean access to more money to complete a project.

Robin Guido: If I could propose anything for Carlisle it would be a better system of overall communication.  I know this suggestion is not an ordinance or a code, but it is the one area that I truly feel needs improvement.   I have talked to a lot of residents who feel forgotten and that they are not being heard.  I have attended Borough Council meetings where it seems decisions have been made with little to no discussion at all amongst Council members. I have encouraged the Borough Manager to publish his policy briefings on the Borough website before each council meeting so visitors have access to the same information as Council members.  I would love to see more residents attending Borough Council meetings.  This is our town and the only way to ensure it remains that way is to stay involved and continue to voice our opinions.

I feel we should continue to communicate with our neighboring municipalities for the good of the region and the possibility of increasing services while eliminating duplication and waste.

Elizabeth Pagano: A proposal that I would make for Carlisle would be the use of renewable energy ideas, such as solar panels. Solar power redirected to a grid could light our neighborhoods and alleys. Living sustainably is important and rainwater is the most natural way to water our gardens. Water conservation is becoming more prevalent in our times, and collecting rainwater is a way to prevent run off into our creeks. I received a free rain barrel this spring from Dickinson college students. With the use of this barrel I was able to water my garden most of this summer. A lot of creative ideas have been made of collecting rainwater, some very decorative barrels can be seen downtown. Rainwater can be collected on a small scale such as barrels or bigger such as cisterns. As for community gardens, they are a great way to save on park maintenance, and the idea of edible landscaping is another sustainable way to feed our community. We can empower our neighborhoods to take charge of their surroundings and their food choices by giving them the opportunity to become involved in edible landscaping and community gardens.

Matt Madden: With a question like this, I am going to answer big.  Ideally, I would want to see a direct connection between the Turnpike and I-81 as well as a bypass of I-81 around Carlisle.  These two initiatives would greatly relive the pressures of planning our road network around the worst case scenarios of accidents on those major highways.

Deb Winston:  A mandatory rental inspection and licensing program for all rental units in the Borough.

5. What’s Carlisle’s biggest problem?

Dawn Flower: Carlisle’s biggest problem is the lack of a comprehensive strategic plan for economic development in the Carlisle Region that includes tackling the challenges relating to small and large business retention and recruitment, transportation and traffic flow issues, support of safety and security systems, downtown Carlisle improvements, and the interface with bordering municipalities.

With the loss of many of our large employers, such as Tyco, and Carlisle Tire and Wheel, the reduction of state and federal monies, and a tough economic environment, Carlisle Borough is facing difficult budget decisions.  Borough management and council could not have anticipated all of these challenges.  However, we need to better plan and prepare for our future.

In recent years, economic development projects in Carlisle have been run independently by agencies charged with this responsibility.   These projects have met with mixed success.    I would advocate for a joint task force that would include representatives from the Greater Carlisle Chamber of Commerce, the Downtown Carlisle Association, the Cumberland County Housing and Redevelopment Authority, the Cumberland County Economic Development Corporation, the Cumberland Valley Visitor’s Bureau, and as well as borough council and borough administration, and other local township supervisors to work together to use their knowledge and resources to create a comprehensive strategic plan for Carlisle’s future growth.

Don Grell: Jobs.  Carlisle’s economy has not been hurt as bad as other part of the country.  However, we currently have two large industrial sites in need of development.  We need to work with the Commonwealth, the county, private developers and anyone else that would be appropriate so that we can create jobs and prevent the sites from deteriorating.  We also have empty storefronts in our downtown that need to be occupied.  We need to continue to work w/ aspiring entrepreneurs to start their small business or expand their home-based business. The Borough has been working hard on the downtown for many years as described in an earlier answer.

Robin Guido: I believe Carlisle’s biggest problem is the economy.  As we have all seen with our own households, the daily operating expenses continue to rise.  As the cost of fuel, materials, equipment and health insurance increase we are seeing a decrease in state and federal funding, and most avenues of existing revenues stagnating.  The next Borough Council will face a number of difficult financial decisions and will need to look at all of options to be sure that the best interest of Carlisle is the final result. 

Matt Madden: I feel blessed to say that I don’t know that Carlisle has a biggest problem.  This tells me that for the most part, Carlisle is not broke. I have knocked on hundreds of doors as part of this campaign, and while each section of town has issues they want to discuss, there does not appear to be one big glaring issue.  So that I will answer your question, I will say that apathy is something that I am unfortunately observing in a lot of neighborhoods.  This can be apathy on the part of problem landlords or tenants, but can also be apathy on the part of the neighbors they upset who want the problem to go away but don’t want to get involved.  I appreciate the neighborhood groups and the work they do, and hope that through increased communications between those groups, the borough, the police and the rest of the residents, issues can be resolved with the tools at hand, without adding layers of costly bureaucracy.

Elizabeth Pagano: Carlisle’s soon to be biggest problem will be jobs. Green industries to Carlisle would help bring jobs back in our area, and at the same time put Carlisle in the forefront as a sustainable community. Secondly, a big push needs to be made to improve the public transportation in our area. When working at project share a man told me how frustrated he was by the lack of transportation between Carlisle and Harrisburg on the weekends.

Deb Winston: I am not sure what Carlisle’s “biggest” problem is, but I think that we need to find a way to engage more residents in our neighborhoods and in the Borough. If you go to a Borough Council meeting, or worse a meeting of any of the Boards or Commissions, there are rarely more than a handful of citizens who are there just to listen and learn. As a result, decisions are being made with little or no input from citizens.

6. What would you do if you were on council and Occupy Carlisle took over part of the Downtown Square?

Dawn Flower: The first responsibility would be to ensure the safety of Carlisle’s citizens and security of the nearby property.  The safety must also be secured for those who were taking advantage of their First Amendment Rights to protest.  It would also be important to provide for the protection and uninterrupted access to downtown businesses, our county government buildings, and transportation through the borough.

Don Grell: If they follow State laws and borough ordinances I would not have a problem.  If they have some grievance against the borough government I would be curious as to whether they have tried to raise their concern in discussions w/ borough staff or the elected officials or if they have attended a council meeting to discuss their issue.

Robin Guido: I would attempt to find and then speak to the organizer of the group and determine the source of their grievances.  If the issues were related to Carlisle Borough, I would work with Council and Borough staff to find reasonable and workable solutions.  If the complaints were not Borough related, I would encourage the Mayor and Police to ensure safety and tolerance were their top priorities. Additionally, I would make an effort to educate the group about their rights and responsibilities.  We are fortunate that the First Amendment of the Constitution allows us to have freedom of speech and the right to peacefully and lawfully assemble.

Matt Madden: My first concern would be for the safety of all parties, including the residents, business owners, passersby and demonstrators.  Once the demonstrations were confirmed peaceful, I would then listen to the message and determine if the demonstration pertains to anything under the control of the borough.  If so, I would largely treat the message as I would any complaint by a resident and see that it is communicated properly and encourage the participants to bring the issues to Council meetings to truly get their message on the record. 

Elizabeth Pagano: If “Occupy Carlisle” were to demonstrate in the downtown area I would talk to the organizers and I would invite them to come to the Borough meetings. The main drive behind this movement is the lack of job opportunities and the great social inequality present in our society.  These are issues that public officials need to address.  At the same time, I would emphasize that traffic through our town should not be blocked and that acts of violence would not be tolerated.

Deb Winston: I would go down and talk with them to learn what they believe local government could do to address their issues.

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One thought on “Borough Council Candidates Answer Your Questions

  1. Interesting comments. Thanks for your understanding of the occupy movement. We will not be setting up a encampment in Carlisle but have plans to Occupy the square. All is welcome to come and talk with us.

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