Monday, January 23, 2017
Ray O'Connell Formally Enters Crowded Mayor's Race
Before a group of over 200 supporters crowded into Jack's Slice Restaurant at the Allentown Municipal Golf Course on Sunday afternoon, City Council President Ray O'Connell announced his candidacy for Mayor. His supporters included State Rep. Danny McNeill, all members of City Council and Controller Jeff Glazier. It included city watchdogs like Lou Hershman and Glenn Hunsicker. It included businessman like Joe Clark, Michael O'Brien, Don Ringer and Jeff Vaughan (father of basketball standouts Jay and Sam Vaughan). It included the Chamber's Miriam Huertas, along with community activist Ce-Ce Gerlach. In a city paralyzed by a federal political corruption investigation aimed at incumbent Mayor Edwin "Fed Ed" Pawlowski, it was a remarkably refreshing event attended by people of very diverse backgrounds. O'Connell said he was "humbled" by the crowd, and thanked Frank's Slice for letting him use the restaurant to kick off his campaign while Danny McNeill joked that Fed Ed would send the fire marshal to close them down.
The two-term Council member, elected unanimously as Council President three times, is running to restore integrity to Allentown. He said he would "answer all questions from city residents," not just a special few. He also wants to bring community pride back to a city that people are "almost embarrassed" to call their home. He wants to improve the morale of city employees, which he said is at an "all-time low."
His priorities include public safety and a crackdown on those who violate quality of life issues like double parking, noise violations and littering.
He wants the city to "grow our own." This is no reference to urban gardening, but an attempt to garden future police officers, firefighters and EMTs from the ranks of seniors at William Allen, Dieruff and Central Catholic High Schools. He said that could be done through a co-op program where a student spends half a day in school and half a day in training.
He would take on out-of-town landlords who have blighted the city and who couldn't care less about the tenants.
He is well aware that, as goes the school district, so goes the City. "The city is only as strong as the school district, the school district is only as strong as the city."
Hw would strengthen the City's ethics ordinances, crediting Jeannette Eichenwald and Julio Guridy for their work on city contracts.
He would form a task force to review the City's park system, saying there should be neighborhood playgrounds. "A child at 5th and Liberty shouldn't have to go to Ott and Hamilton to go to a playground," he said. "The kids are our future. Old-timers like me will eventually go away. The kids are our future and we'll have to build upon the kids."
Though he's running as a Democrat, O'Connell said Republicans can write him in as well.
The race is a crowded field that includes Democrats Sam Bennett, David Jones, Charlie Thiel, Joshua Siegel and Nathan Woodring. The race also includes incumbent Fed Ed, who is in the race despite a looming federal indictment and a political corruption investigation that has already ensnared three former city officials, his campaign manager, and two businessmen who have admitted paying bribes in exchange for favorable action. They have all pleaded guilty and are currently scheduled for sentencing in late January and early February.
Prominent developer Nat Hyman has switched parties because he is so embarrassed by Pawlowski and is running as a Republican.