Interestingly enough Don Hahn used his “veto” power for the first time ever in office over a trivial parking issue. For the record, I never endorsed Don Hahn. Though I have respect for him as an attorney, I thought from the very beginning he would be a poor candidate for mayor due to his affinity with the “old school” State College elite. I predicted he would pander to the wealthy College Heights elite and scrap the locals outside of his district, as well as the business owners within that district. The last thing we need in State College is more bureaucracy and resistance to growth.
This week Don Hahn used his veto power for the first time as mayor, and he did it in a way that specifically pandored to the old elite and ignored dynamics such as downtown growth, economical stimulation and the outer worlds which transit into our community (for work) from rural communities like Bellefonte, Milesburg and Philipsburg.
I find it profoundly interesting that people like Dauler and Hahn think that this downtown world of State College is some closed off bubble. In reality, many people from the outskirts of Centre County (who can’t afford downtown housing for their families) travel in 30 to 40 minutes every day to wait tables at one of the Zangrelli restaurants or other local establishments.
Furthermore, if you speak with some of these business owners on College or Beaver avenues, you will also find that their revenues are despondently tight. Additionally, these small business owners rely on Penn State “festivities” (such as football games or art fest) for major revenue, in which they pay their rural employees a good fair wage.
More interestingly, (and I swore I would never bitch about trivial issues like parking), there have been some massive tax dollars by local business owners and local residents sunk in to alleviating the parking issues downtown. Local business owners suffered under the recession, and they suffered under the Sandusky era when football sales for tickets went down.
Years ago during the multi million dollar construction of the downtown parking garage on Garner Street, Don Hahn (before he was mayor and just on city council was an advocate for this). Appropriately, and with City Council endorsement and support, Mr. Hahn agreed to raise local business taxes to cover the costs, all under the guise that this would someday increase revenue for the downtown crowd that fed into local business owners during arts fest and football games. This was a tremendous investment and astronomical expense for downtown state college. But the businesses were suffering.
A study completed in 2015 projected a 700 car parking space weekday shortage by 2024, and Shontz said another study will be initiated in the coming year to determine supply and demand.
The borough’s 2019-2023 Capital Improvement Plan proposes three potential parking facilities, all of which would be partnerships with other entities. As developable land becomes more scarce and expensive, the projects, if they come to fruition, would “take advantage of opportunities that may arise to acquire property and construct parking to meet the anticipated demand,” according to the CIP.
Mr. Hahn was on City Council during the 2015 study where they determined that the parking problem was reaching a state of crisis and effecting business owners. Mr. Hahn voted in favor of new tax payer funded parking facilities to alleviate the parking issues in down town State College. Local business owners were relieved hoping their downtown businesses would not suffer when these new measures took into act. Low and behold, the burrough spent millions of dollars on these new parking structures. Just last year I was in one of these parking structures, I spent far more on parking than I had intended to just to “check out” the new facilities which were supposed to be “helping out” the downtown business community, and alleviating the parking situation. What I found was that I could park for far cheaper on the street or in an old garage, and that this new structure was not only an unattractive eyesore to downtown state college, it was also priced way above market price.
Fast forward to 2016 and the parking crisis continues except in a different way. Now all of a sudden the local parking authority has discovered parking meter maids embezzling coins and stealing thousands in their wake. For this reason they again approach city council arguing that an electronic parking meter (which excepts credit cards) will avoid such theft and end up making the county more money by decreasing the number of county employees it takes to monitor street parking meters. Again, Mr. Hahn voted for this.
Still, in 2018 the problem persisted because nobody wanted to park at the overpriced garage and the credit card operated machines on beaver and college avenues only worked half the time. Business owners were not experiencing any relief. Their peak hours were still on off hour meter time, and their employees were still going to work and having to pay an hour or wage more just to park and get to work.
In 2017, the Centre County Gazette published this:
The overall amount of available places to park a vehicle downtown has, in fact, increased in recent years. Each of the new and planned high-rises is required by zoning to have a substantial amount of parking, and that is mostly in underground parking garages. The development at the Garner Street lot, for example, will construct 313 parking spaces, for a net gain of 205 spots.
“Most of the large apartment management companies lease spaces to tenants beyond those living in the apartment buildings, which indicates a surplus of private spaces compared to the number of residents living in the building,” Shontz added.
Don Hahn voted in the affirmative. After all he was supportive of the Garner Street Garage which was supposedly trying to provide “relief” to the downtown parking epidemic. City Council gave affirmations to downtown business owners and their employees that this downtown parking “situation” was now under control. Downtown business owners experienced a rise in taxes to pay for the garage, yet they saw no relief.
Last week City Council was propositioned with a measure that would alleviate some of the parking issues. The proposition was a lift on the overnight parking ban during holiday seasons such as football or arts fest, so that cars could remain in city parking spots overnight without fear of astronomical ticketing.
Don Hahn, who had promised an alleviation of the parking problem, chose last week to veto the relief. Eliminating the overnight parking ban would cause:
- Less dangerous intoxicated drivers, who move their cars because they “don’t want tickets,”;
- Increased revenue for business owners who were lied to by Don Hahn when he promised the same;
I find it extremely interesting and extremely disturbing that Don Hahn was able to make all these promises while on City Council in order to get the funding for the Garner Street Garage, and then suddenly rescind those promise via solitary veto as mayor when push came to shove.
There lacks a sincere consideration for the livelihood of downtown business owners and their employees. There is no specific rationale, rather an agenda that has been catored and tailored to an elite few of high powered donors (to Don Hahn) sitting in college heights.
The veto was not only reactionary, it was poorly delivered and poorly thought out. It failed to consider the economic development of downtown and catered to homeowners. It did not consider Penn State, it catered to an elite few, and was the direct opposite of what he voted for when he was a “minion” on city council prior to being elected mayor.
Overall the conversation lacked public input, and when public input by concerned local business owners got involved, it unraveled into simply being uncivil. As a result (with many false promises of alleviation in the past) now the conversation between city council and downtown city council has degenerated into something uncivil, and is employing unseemly tactics of class warfare.
This was a hypocritical move by Don Hahn who voted in favor for Garner Parking Street garage and spent millions in tax dollars. This is what I would label specifically as adding contention where contention need not exist. Tax payers and business owners paid for the Garner Street garage under false promises that the parking “situation” would be fixed. Now the Garner Street garage prices exceed those of football tickets on football game weekends and that place is impossible to park without spending a fortune.
What exactly did borrough constituents purchase, and what type of fool hardy excuses did we buy into before authorizing this major charge if the promises were not going to be delivered on.
When I see Don Hahn delivering a veto on a simple overnight ban of parking tickets during game day weekend or arts fest? I see a man who is catering to college height elite who don’t like cars being parked in front of their house.
What I implore you to remember is that there is a living, breathing, thriving economic community behind all of this. They are beyond the state college legacy elite in the neighborhoods of President Barron. They are trying, HARD, to make a living, and the parking situation is getting in the way of it. Progress is coming. Why put State College behind the curb ball to please a few of the economically well off?
Why not? Why not thrive?
Frankly I see Don Hahn as the nemesis to downtown development who is catering to a very small, dying, elitist class and shamelessly stifling growth.
That’s what made me nervous to vote for him in the first place (even though I am a democrat). As Penn State grows, this community also deserves growth as we are not Penn State directly, but we are Penn State as we are the community around Penn State. If our community thrives, so will this institution. Just like in the past, when this institution thrives, our community thrives.
This contentious nonsense about the parking signals to me a stagnant and repugnant growth like structure that benefits only the wealthy in College Heights who don’t like cars parallel parked out of their mansions one week out of the month during football game weekends. The fact that Hahn used his veto power for this nonsense speaks volumes to me, it tells me what he is about, what he means and who he is trying to please.
This is not the type of person we need in office. Eliminate the parking ban, benefit local businesses, reduce drunk driving fatalities, and cater to a county – not just an elite community. I’m tired of the excuses. There is an entire population of underpaid millennials, hungry entrepreneurs and people who are striving and hungry. This is why I voted for Michael Black, I wanted someone with some sense to eliminate this type of shameless political pandering and added downtown contention. If city council can not concede to economic growth that is collaborative and conducive to Penn State growth, then let’s get some new people in. This is not a monarchy, there is enough voting hands to get all these people out. Downtown State College should benefit the entire community, and it’s students & workforce, not just an elite and snotty few.
Or we can let people drunk driving, and let the downtown businesses suffer, because Don Hahn’s rich friends don’t like cars on their curb several times a year during football games. Give me a break!
It’s contentious, because it’s rude, and inconsiderate of the local business owners that put their trust in Hahn to spend their money and make State College prosperous..
Watch……. This is how politicians LIE:
At Monday’s meeting, Hahn made it clear he intended to veto the ordinance. He made that official on Wednesday.
Several council members sounded off about Hahn’s letter, which they said he wrote as a citizen but signed as the mayor, and his veto.
Brown acknowledged Hahn’s right to veto, but called it a “terrible precedent.” Councilwoman Theresa Lafer called the mayor’s behavior “petty,” adding that he “slapped” an entire neighborhood in the face.
Myers defended the mayor’s right to veto, saying that authority is granted in the borough’s home-rule charter.
He said if council doesn’t like that, then “we damn well ought to change it.”
But to “accuse” the mayor of some of the things people have accused him of, Myers said he finds “untoward.”
The old Penn State is no longer in existence. We thrive in an open, capitalistic and free market place. We need people with visions in office who do not cater to the old world. If you are a tax payor or business owner in the bureau, you need to recognize that this is a person to be voted out at first opportunity.