Republican candidates talk about stances on area issues

Republican Party office seekers for Lycoming County Commissioner, Williamsport mayor and other local positions spoke to issues during a luncheon at the Genetti Hotel Monday.

The Willamsport-Lycoming County Council of Republican Women forum featured two of the commissioner candidates, Todd Lauer and Steve Brady, and the pair of city mayoral hopefuls, Don Noviello and Eric Beiter, seeking GOP nominations in the spring primary..

Also addressing the forum were city council candidates Bonnie Katz and Adam Yoder as well as Vince Pulizzi, who was not present, but provided a recorded video of himself speaking to issues.

The other Republican candidates were two incumbents: city treasurer Nicholas Grimes and city controller Margaret “Peg” Woodring.

Lauer said he is running in part to address some of the budget issues of the county.

He said spending has to be prioritized. He questioned if the court system has become overburdened with unnecessary cases.

Brady said people should have a say in how the county spends its money.

The two commissioner candidates were asked about the county’s role in helping local fire departments, many of which are struggling with finances and shortages of volunteers..

Lauer said more young people need to get involved in firefighting.

Brady called for mutual assistance among departments.

The county should serve in a guiding capacity, he said.

“I think there are ways to talk to young people to be part of the community,” he said.

Both candidates spoke to the corrections system.

Lauer said he is against building more prisons.

“That’s just more taxes,” Lauer said. “We need to stop arresting people for stupid stuff.”

Brady, who runs the Covation Center in Williamsport, said among its roles to help criminal offenders join and contribute to society.

Too often, those are the people not given second chances by employers.

Noviello touted his experience as an asset for serving as mayor.

He pointed to his years on city council, the parking authority and the mayor’s advisory council.

Beiter said he’s running for mayor to find ways of attracting more people to the city, which in recent years has sufferered tax revenue losses as a result of population decreases.

Both were asked how the city can avoid future tax increases.

Noviello said the city needs to market itself as a place to live and work.

“We have a large brain drain,” he said.

Williamsport, he noted, is the home to two colleges which enroll some 6,000 students. “We need to find ways to keep them here,” he said.

Beiter called for regionalization of services between the city and other municipalities.

Everyone must work together, he said.

Both candidates were asked to speak to the city’s strengths and weaknesses.

Noviello said the city has a strong working class base and is just a few hours from major metropolitan areas.

“We are highly regarded. We need to be mindful of spending habits. We need to recognize opportunities,” he said.

Beiter pointed to the city’s under-utilization of its assets.

Bowman Field, for example, can be used for events other than baseball. He noted that Elm Park, no longer in use for softball leagues, presents yet another opportunity.

“We have great people here. This is a fantastic place to live. I have been privileged to live here all my life,” he said.

Noviello said voters have a choice for mayor: his 20 years experience in government or no experience.

Beiter countered the city has already been through 20 years of short-term solutions.

“We need a champion. We need a fresh start,” he said.

Katz told the audience it has been a “great honor” to have served on council.

She said the city has faced challenges of finding funding for projects and stopping the brain drain.

Yoder said a fresh perspective is needed on council.

He called for a culture of accountability in City Hall, a more detailed budget process and working with the state.

“We need leadership, vision and action,” he said.

Katz said union employee retirement costs hit the budget hard, but efforts are being made to decrease that burden.

She said the police department does a good job and is stepping up efforts to engage with the community.

Katz and Yoder were asked how to ensure taxes don’t continue to increase.

“It boils down to keeping and bringing in new business,” Katz said.

She noted that the city has its share of restaurants and retailers, but not enough big businesses that pay the higher wages.

Yoder said economic growth is needed.

He lamented the lack of skilled workers for jobs at many companies.

Katz said while she is not originally from Williamsport, she chose to live in the city.

“I fell in love with this beautiful city,” she said.

She pointed to her experience in city government and her involvement in different aspects of the community.

Yoder touted his experience in business development, building stakeholders and problem solving.

“Together, we will drive Williamsport forward,” he said.

Pulizzi called for community involvement to fight the drug dealers, crime and violence in the city.

He pointed to his experience as an inspector and law enforcement officer as assets he would bring to council.

“I know how to be firm and be successful,” he said. “You need to surround yourself with good people.”