After 13 years, residents of Allegheny County Council's District 8 could use a change.
Democrat Charles Martoni, 77, is one of the original members of the council, which replaced the former commissioner system of government in January 2000. Mr. Martoni, who is president of Community College of Allegheny's Boyce campus, also is president of council and has a long record of public service, including terms as mayor, council president and school board member in Swissvale, where he resides.
His challenger, Republican Dave Majernik, 67, of Plum, has been politically active in his community. A retired software engineer who worked in industry, government and academia, he was chairman of the Plum Republican Committee for nearly 15 years until January, when he resigned. Mr. Majernik also is running for mayor of Plum, but he has said he would opt for the county council seat in the event that he wins both elections.
Although the 15-member, elected council was created as the vanguard of a new era in county government, Mr. Martoni himself has not been a strong advocate for change during his tenure. He was among members who long resisted the inevitable and necessary property reassessment and fought further row office reform that would have eliminated the elective offices of sheriff and treasurer.
He seems more inclined to favor the status quo over innovation. For example, he opposes any hydraulic fracturing on county land because he is not yet assured that the deep drilling process is safe and won't hurt ground water. His opponent offers a more tempered view that, as long as the work can proceed in a responsible way, it would be foolish for the county to miss out on the new revenue source.
Mr. Majernik is also interested in exploring privatization and city-county service consolidations to reduce costs to the taxpayer. Mr. Martoni is reluctant to go there, saying, "you can't force it" and "these things have to evolve."
That's the trouble with too many entrenched officeholders. They want things to evolve rather than to make positive change. In that way, Mr. Majernik is likely to offer a sound counterbalance to council's Democratic dominance.
Mr. Martoni deserves thanks for his extensive service to the county, but voters this time around have a better option. The Post-Gazette endorses Dave Majernik for council's District 8 seat.
First Published October 20, 2013 8:00 PM