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November 2, 2013

City Council Candidates: New Castle race has different wrinkle

NEW CASTLE — New Castle voters will elect three people to city council on Tuesday.

However, unlike most elections for council, this one has a different wrinkle.

Two people will be chosen for four-year terms and one will be elected to a two-year term.

Candidates for the four-year terms are Rosemary Henderson, a Republican, and Tim Fulkerson and Anthony Adamo, both Democrats.

Adamo also is running for the two-year term and is opposed by Republican William Schafer.

Fulkerson and Adamo beat out three other candidates for the party’s nomination for the four-year term, including council president MaryAnne Gavrile and Councilman Thomas Smith. Gavrile and Smith also were candidates for the two-year term.

Henderson and Schafer were the lone Republican candidates.

If Adamo is elected to both terms, he must select one of them. After Jan. 1, the four council members would then appoint someone to fill the vacancy.

The person filling the vacancy would serve for two years.

Attempts to reach Adamo for an interview were unsuccessful.

Henderson, 66, a regular visitor to council meetings, said she has sat “in the peanut gallery” for the last 13 to 14 years. “So, I thought I’d be part of the solution rather than part of the problem.”

A member of the city’s Historical Architectural Review Board, Henderson said, “Since I’m a preservationist, I think I can do a better job of helping the historic district.”

Her attendance at council meetings over the years, she believes, gives her an advantage over those who don’t attend and will help her as a council member.

“I think I know pretty much the workings of the city.”

Henderson said she would like to work with the city’s code enforcement department and police chief and the county’s district attorney to clear the city of blight. A former housekeeper, Henderson said she is semi-retired and will have the time to do that.

She said she wants to work “along with the administration.” Although she has a good relationship with Mayor Anthony Mastrangelo, she said, she would not be a rubber stamp.

Henderson objects to council’s public comment policy, saying she believes taxpayers should have the opportunity to speak at the beginning and the end of meetings. Now, visitors have six minutes at the beginning.

“You’re there to serve the people and you should give the people their voice.”

She would like to see the zoning ordinance “have more teeth” for the North Hill historic district to stop “out-of-town landlords from coming in” and “flipping” houses.

“Our (historical) board has to have more say-so.”

Henderson said she has no agenda, adding, “I’m not there to give relatives jobs.”

Schafer, who served as Republican county chairman, said he is running as an independent — “on my own merits and my own values for the city.”

At 66, Schafer, is now a consultant for his construction firm and a minister.

A Navy veteran of the Vietnam War, Schafer served 10 years as chairman of the city’s personnel board. He said he is comfortable working with Republicans, Democrats and independents.

Two of his pet peeves are the poor condition of city streets and its sidewalks. Noting the condition of some streets, he said, “I feel like I’m in a war zone. It takes away a sense of pride (for residents) in their neighborhoods.”

He said he believes the street conditions would deter people from buying a home in those areas.

Schafer said he would like to see a sidewalk program initiated. Some cities, he said, have a matching program where the city and residents share in the cost. He said there may be grant money available for such a program.

Asked how he would be able to get such a program through as a councilman, he said the administration has the authority to write grants and obtain the necessary revenues while council has the power to initiate a program. He said he would work with the administration.

“I think we can bring some community pride; people will be apt to live here.”

“Our most valuable asset is our citizens,” he said, but the city has been losing people. That means there are fewer people to invest in the city and improve it.

“Somehow we’ve got to stop the bleeding.”

 Schafer said he would go into the neighborhoods when an issue arises before council would vote on it.

“How can you vote on an issue when you haven’t inspected it?”

Fulkerson, 62, who served two terms as mayor, dismissed the notion that he would be looking over Mastrangelo’s shoulder.

“My job is not to be an obstacle to Tony,” he said, “but to work with Tony to move this city forward.”

A sales consultant for a supplier of paper products, Fulkerson said his main priority “is how can we create new housing in the city?”

He calls his proposal “one house at a time” in which whole blocks of dilapidated housing would be removed and new housing would be constructed on bigger lots, comparable to those in neighboring townships.

“There’s money from the state to do this,” he said.

Housing rehabilitation also needs to be a part of revitalizing neighborhoods, he said.

Noting the decline in the city’s population, Fulkerson envisions teachers and public employees moving into these areas, but they must be given an incentive such as tax abatements to do so. If these middle-income people who work in New Castle lived in the city, the city would realize more property and wage tax revenue.

He said he believes teachers and public employees who work in the city should be required to live in the city.

“Because that’s the only way we’re going to change this city. We have to start somewhere to build the future.”

Fulkerson, who worked for the state after his time as mayor, added, “These are ideas that have worked in communities in Pennsylvania and the United States.”

“Hopefully, I can get council and the mayor to put a plan together.”

Fulkerson also would like to see owners of commercial properties be given “more leeway” with zoning requirements in remodeling of buildings.

“We get these buildings filled and they pay taxes.”

As for his personal goals, Fulkerson said being on council “is not a launching point” to run for mayor.

However, he added, he could consider running if he sees someone isn’t “leading the city to where it needs to be led.”

(Email: jmanna@ncnewsonline.com)

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