Slatington council candidates, both incumbent and new, had the opportunity to introduce themselves, present their platform and answer questions as the community held its first "Meet the Candidates Night" in Friedens.
Five of the eight candidates vying for the four open seats attended the panel. Gwyneth A. Neff (R) declined and current Council President Galen Freed (R) allegedly did not respond to the invitation.
This is an important election for Slatington. If four new candidates are elected, it could change the core and dynamics of the council.
Candidates taking part in the session, including incumbent Kris Burek (D), David Schnaars (R), Daniel L. Sell (D) and Mel and Carol Gildner (D), were asked questions by moderator Barbara Williams. Questions were written on index cards by attendees prior to the meeting.
Many of the questions focused on change. All of the candidates agreed that Slatington needs to change both in how the council makes decisions and in finding new ways to deal with the many cultural and physical changes taking place in Slatington today.
Daniel Sell, a first-time candidate for council, stated, "We have good people (on council) who have been doing things the same way for years. We need a fresh look."
Sell said he has made many contributions as a private citizen and would find things for the "kids" to do, as well as bring a different perspective to current issues.
When asked about sewer and water rates, an ongoing controversy for years, Kris Burek said that rates need to be reevaluated and redistributed in order to create fairness among taxpayers.
In her opening statement she said, "You need someone who is experienced and who has done the job."
If re-elected, Burek promised to listen to her "boss," the citizens of Slatington. Burek also cited the many ordinances she has passed during her 4-year term.
David Schnaars, a new candidate, agreed that, "We need to do something about the water and sewer issue because it's sucking up a lot of energy and we need to get that settled, (but) we need to work out a way to blend the old with the new."
His reference was to the influx of new residents to Slatington and the necessity to blend the old ways with new ideas.
"There are a lot of people who have not lived in the borough for 30 years, and that's going to cause some friction," he said.
Schnaars said his ministry background gives him experience to deal with cultural differences. Although Schnaars has not attended any council meetings, he's familiar with the issues facing the borough.
New candidates Mel and Carol Gildner, meanwhile, said they have consistently attended council meetings over the past four years.
"I've sat through 98 percent of the meetings and discovered that something is wrong here," said Mel Gildner.
Carol Gildner, a native of Slatington, agreed that after spending four years attending meetings, she agrees that change is necessary.
Both Gildners advocate reducing water and sewer rates and think that parking is a problem that plagues the revitalization of Slatington. When asked what could be done about the sagging downtown area, Carol said, although she's aware there are a number of empty stores on Main Street, she really doesn't know what to do about it.
Mel, on the other hand, said that he thinks the high cost of rent is keeping new businesses from opening.
Daniel Sell acknowledged that the Slatington business district has been "hurting" for years, stating "We need to find something the borough could do to work with the landlords. The borough needs to get involved when a store is empty too long."
Burek, a four-year council member, added that, "Unfortunately, we have properties that are owned by property owners who do not even live in the county or state."
After the meeting, the candidates circulated and talked with constituents.