Seven candidates are in the running to fill three open seats on Dormont Council, six of whom who are on the ballot. The seventh candidate is running as a write-in.
The six candidates on the ballot are: Yvonne Costanzo, John Maggio, Valerie Martino, Kimberly Lusardi, James Hodson and Robert Hutchinson.
Drew Lehman is running as a write-in.
The positions they are vying for are all four-year terms.
We had the chance to speak to some of the candidates to garner the key points of their political platforms. Here’s what they had to say:
Democrat newcomer wants to improve the borough’s management of municipal employees and promote public safety.
Finding new management for the borough is one of Costanzo’s top priorities.
She said that the current Borough Manager has habitually avoided requests from municipal employees and residents, and that council has overlooked complaints regarding these shortfalls.
“The Manager needs to remember that he is an employee of the borough and that he has to answer to council and to the residents,” said Costanzo. “We need to find someone who will keep these things in mind.”
A strong police presence in Dormont is another pillar of Costanzo’s platform. She wants to make sure that police are always on duty within Dormont.
Shifts should not be understaffed, she said, and there should be no instances where all available officers are on calls outside of the borough.
As for some of the other hot topics in Dormont, Costanzo said that she would vote to reinstate Phil Ross as Chief of Dormont Police, thereby honoring the decision of the Civil Service Commission; that she would vote to reinvest in the Mayor his power to rule on parking tickets, rather than adding this “burden” to the Police Secretary’s job description; and that she would push for further investigation to determine the feasibility of the proposed skateboard park.
A mother of two and grandmother of four, Costanzo, 59, has lived in Dormont since 1975. She has worked as an accountant for approximately 30 years.
“My main thing is to stress the positive,” said democrat incumbent .
Recognizing Dormont as the first neighborhood outside Pittsburgh, and as one of the most-densely populated areas in Allegheny County, Maggio pointed out that Dormont has a lot going for it.
He declined to answer specifics about ongoing borough issues.
Like former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Maggio said, “There are no small issues.” And he's willing to listen to them all because, “They are all important.
“That's the mistake that's happened here in the last two years,” he said in reference to current council leadership.
Maggio is president of Friends of Dormont Pool, and he worked to save the Hollywood Theater. He has served one term on council.
Democrat newcomer 's main goals are to change the public face of council and to promote better relations, both internally and with the community, to counteract the negative publicity current council has received this term.
Speaking as a voter who helped put the current council in place, Martino said she is very displeased with how council interacts with each other and with the public.
“All of this bickering back and forth between council, and the way council responds to residents, has given Dormont a bad name,” she said. “It’s led to a lot of bad publicity which has taken away our sense of community.
“I want to get back Dormont’s dignity, to turn things around and sell it again—because, right now, nobody’s buying it.”
To this end, Martino wants to assess existing rules of decorum and come up with new guidelines about how council acts in the public forum; push for more active involvement from the business and residential communities; and enforce existing zoning and coding ordinances to increase curb appeal in the borough and bring in new business.
Martino said she would vote to give the Mayor back his power to overturn parking tickets, because she believes such authority rests not in the administrative but in the mayoral office.
Regarding the proposed skateboard park, Martino said the issue would have to be further investigated before she could give her opinion on the matter. She would vote to require a master site plan to assess and revisit all applicable areas of concern.
Martino is 50 years old and has lived in Dormont her entire life.
She is the sister-in-law of Phil Ross, the former police chief , along with the borough manager and five council members. Martino said she would abstain from voting on any matters directly relating to Ross, as a matter of ethics.
Martino said she will, however, vote on other police matters that arise.
Democrat has served on council since 2008. He did not win nomination in this year’s primary and is running as a write-in.
Lehman’s campaign draws attention to many of the unique attributes of Dormont and highlights the achievements and improvements made to the community during his term of service.
Dormont has a thriving business district that is getting more vibrant each day and has expanded to include businesses that attract customers from areas all across and outside of the state, Lehman said.
He commended members of the business and residential communities for their involvement with the community-at-large via actions like lawn cleaning and litter pickup.
The Dormont mural and Passive Park were cited by Lehman as examples of community enrichment he helped bring about without any added taxpayer expense, as these assets were funded by grants and donations.
According to Lehman, council made $1.2 million in infrastructure improvements without borrowing a penny, did not raise taxes and had a budget surplus for four years in a row during his service.
Also during his term, Lehman reported that property values have increased from $99K to $118K, and that Dormont was designated as one of nine Allegheny Together communities recognized by the Allegheny County Department of Economic Development.
If reelected, Lehman said he plans to continue doing what he has been doing—to keep building up the business district, improving community resources and pursuing grants and funding, all while keeping hard-earned money in the taxpayers’ pockets.
Lehman declined to address any of the controversial borough topics.
“All of those subjects have been hashed and rehashed," he said. Too much talk about the negative only halts progress … Let’s look at the good things we’ve done instead, and keep the momentum going.”
Kimberly Lusardi, James Hodson and Robert Hutchison
Neither Lusardi, Hodson nor Hutchison were able to be reached for comments at this time.
Gary Young, a representative of the Dormont Republican Committee, faxed us a copy of the flyer the republican candidates have been circulating regarding their campaign.
According to the flyer, their priority issues are as follows:
Republican newcomer Robert Hutchison wants strong and fully-staffed Police and Fire departments; maintenance of borough streets and alleys; transparency in borough government; and strict financial management to avoid tax increases.
Hutchison’s priority issues also include keeping the tennis courts and parks as they are (he opposes the skate park); strict code enforcement against negligent property owners and landlords; and support of the Dormont Business District, whereby the borough should not compete against Dormont businesses.
Hutchison is a retired teamster residing in Dormont. He is the father of five children raised in the borough and is an Elder at Dormont Presbyterian Church.
Republican incumbent council president Kiberly Lusardi’s priority issues of fivefold.
She wants a well-managed and dedicated Dormont Police and Fire Department; strict budgetary controls that have proven beneficial and have not raised taxes or cut services to the borough; reconstruction and/or resurfacing of over 16 streets and alleys in the borough; keeping the park recreational and noncommercial; and improving and updating borough codes and zoning laws, designed to ease renovations for homeowners and encourage businesses to move to Dormont.
Lusardi is a mother of three children raised in Bormon. She is the former president of Dormont Elementary PFO and is currently employed in the Mt. Lebanon School District.
Republican newcomer James Hodson is for strong and fully-staffed Police and Fire departments; maintenance of borough streets and alleys; transparency in borough government; and strict financial management to avoid tax increases.
Additionally, his priority issues include replacement of the current borough manager and solicitor; keeping the park and pool well-maintained; developing unused properties to add to tax rolls (i.e. the “passive park” at Hillsdale and West Liberty avenues); strict code enforcement against negligent property owners and landlords; and support of the Dormont Business District and Main Street Program.
Hodson is a father of three children raised in Dormont, and he serves on the Dormont Main Street Program.