Pine Board of Supervisors primary highly contested race - PineCreek Journal

Pine Board of Supervisors primary highly contested race

Thursday, May 9, 2019 | 1:30 AM


Ryan Colombo

• How long have you lived in Pine?

Eleven years.

• What’s your experience in public office/relevant leadership roles?

Serve as a volunteer (pro-bono) legal advocate for Veterans and their Families, as well as victims of domestic violence by assisting them in obtaining Protection From Abuse Orders; Head Coach Pine-Richland Youth Lacrosse 8U Boys Team; Vice-Chair, Pine Township Republican Committee; Majority Inspector of Elections in Pine, District 1 (2012-2016); American Bar Association Section of Labor and Employment Outreach Coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Youth T-Ball Coach (i9 Sports).

• Why are you running for the Pine Board of Supervisors?

Pine Township has been and continues to be a fantastic place to live and to raise a family; I want to do my part to ensure the continued success of Pine Township, so that all families can grow up in a vibrant community with low taxes, first class public facilities, and premier schools.

• What skills, qualities and/or experience would you bring to the supervisor position?

(1) Listening and Respect: when residents bring concerns to the Board of Supervisors, they all deserve to be heard and respected; (2) Analytical skills: my career as an attorney requires spotting issues, analyzing them, finding appropriate solution(s), and charting a path to that solution(s) — skills that are well-suited for a Township Supervisor; (3) Concern for the Township: as someone who has lived here for 11 years and is raising a family here, I am strongly invested in the future of Pine Township.

• What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Pine over the next several years?

Continued strategic, sustainable growth. Growth in our Township can be a fantastic thing. When done correctly, it leads to lower taxes for citizens — or a Homestead Tax Rebate, and enhances the community. When done poorly, it is net-neutral or worse for taxes, and ruins neighborhood home values and the community ambiance. I will ensure that all growth in the township is done in a manner that helps keeps our taxes low, which involves looking at the current and future costs of township projects, and enhances the ambiance of the township.

• If elected, do you have any specific goals or areas on which you’d focus?

I want to ensure that Pine Township remains the preeminent township in Allegheny County. Specifically, I would like to expand the Homestead Tax Rebate, which was championed by my fellow candidate, Pat Avolio, whom I support in this election. Unfortunately, the proposal was not supported by the two other incumbents running in this election. I also want to continue connecting the neighborhoods and public facilities (parks, schools, etc.) of Pine Township via sidewalks and trails.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

If you want a Supervisor who will value your opinion, keep taxes low, support strategic and sustainable growth, and is invested in the future of this township, then I’m your candidate.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your candidacy?

Pine Township is a suburban family community, and I am a true representative of the constituency. I am a full time lawyer, a father of 3 children ages 6, 4, and 8 months, the husband of a lawyer, a Pine-Richland coach, a member of Saints John and Paul Parish, an avid runner, and a committed Penguins fan. I am running as one of you to represent our interests and our families’ future.

Jeffrey Hyams

• How long have you lived in Pine?

Ten years

•Why are you running for the Pine Board of Supervisors?

I have always tried to give back to my community, whether it be donating my time, money, or helping coach my children’s hockey teams. I have always done my civic duty and voted, but over the last few years I have come to realize I can contribute more. I want to bring new ideas and a fresh perspective to Pine and the community that my family and I have adopted as our own.

• What skills, qualities and/or experience would you bring to the supervisor position?

Over the last 20 years as a robotics engineer, I have led the development of several multimillion-dollar government programs. I have experience managing large budgets and diverse teams from multiple organizations. These systems were created for the Department of Defense and have been used in both Iraq and Afghanistan. I will take this experience coordinating between the public sector and the government to my tenure as Pine Supervisor. As an engineer and software developer, I will bring my technical knowledge and capability to Pine’s future development.

• What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Pine over the next several years?

There is a pressing need to balance new development with concerns of existing residents and areas. It is necessary to consider how development affects traffic, snow removal, police and fire protection as well as environmental concerns. With new, large developments, a priority is to ensure we have enough resources to support the school district and continue to provide the excellence our schools have afforded our children for 60 years.

• If elected, do you have any specific goals or areas on which you’d focus?

As Pine Supervisor, I want to make sure that every citizen of Pine has a voice and is listened to. I have set up a page on my website (jeffhyams.com) where Pine residents can share their ideas and concerns with me. I will keep this same openness and transparency when I am elected Supervisor in November.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

In my career I have had the opportunity to live and work all over the world. My family has made Pittsburgh and Pine Township our home and it is where we have decided to raise our two children. I will leverage my experiences to bring a new perspective and new energy to the township to meet the challenges facing Pine as we head into the future.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your candidacy?

I am excited and energized about using my experience and expertise to help lead Pine Township moving forward into the next decade. We can all work together to make Pine the wonderful and welcoming place to live and raise our children.

• Do you have a campaign website and/or social media accounts where voters can learn more about you?

Facebook: Hyams for Pine. Website: jeffhyams.com

Pat Avolio

• How long have you lived in Pine?

23 Years

• How long have you served as a township supervisor?

I have been a supervisor since 2014. I also served as a volunteer on the Planning Commission from 2004 to 2014 and was a member of the Traffic Impact Fee Advisory Committee.

• What are some of the things the board has accomplished during your tenure of which you’re most proud?

From a fiscal accountability and responsibility perspective I am proud to be a member of the Financial Committee that performed the analysis resulting in the enactment of the Township Homestead Exemption which will save Pine residents owning their homes approximately $480,000 in real estate taxes in 2019. I am committed to reauthorizing the program for 2020. This program reduces residents’ real estate tax burden from which has for a long time been the lowest millage rate in Allegheny County without impacting Pine’s long term financial position. I’m also proud to be a member of the Board of Supervisors responsible for paying off Pine’s debt obligations early resulting in the Township receiving the Governor’s Award for Local Government Excellence for Fiscal Accountability and Best Management Practices in recognition thereof. From a community quality of life perspective I am proud to have been a member of the Pine Implementable Comprehensive Plan Steering Committee whose efforts resulted in the long range planning strategy and implementation framework for Pine to plan in the categories of Community Character and Appearance, Connectivity and Trails, Public Infrastructure, and Parks and Recreation.

• What do you see as the most pressing issue or issues facing Pine over the next several years?

Maintaining the fiscal discipline as the township’s revenue growth slows to ensure the real estate tax rate is maintained while improving amenities and infrastructure for residents and mitigating the challenges of costly state and federal unfunded mandates. My efforts as a member of the Financial Committee with focusing on long-term financial forecasting and planning has put Pine in a strong position to face these challenges. (Another issue is) ensuring that the positive business growth environment and policies that have kept real estate taxes low and made Pine a great community to live in are continued so that private property rights are protected and kept in balance to ensure the minimization of adverse impacts to existing residents from development. I have a demonstrated record in this regard by placing reasonable conditions of approval that have withstood court appeals.

Why are you seeking re-election?

I believe that my leadership and efforts as a longtime volunteer and Township Supervisor has resulted in Pine being a great community to live and raise a family, and that if re-elected will continue to improve Pine moving forward into the future.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

Residents should vote for me if they believe Pine Township is a great community to live in and believe in improving its future, as I believe I am set apart from the other candidates due to my demonstrated record of fiscal conservatism, service, leadership, long term vision and understanding of municipal governance constraints over those with no experience or record of community service.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your candidacy?

Please vote on May 21 as the election of the three Pine Township Supervisors will likely be decided in the primary not general election by a handful of voters if you do not vote.

• Do you have a campaign website or social media accounts where voters can learn more about you?

I can be reached on Facebook at “Pat Avolio for Pine Township Supervisor” (@PatAvolio 2019) or can be contacted via email at [email protected] with any questions as a candidate or about the election.

Frank Spagnolo

• How long have you lived in Pine?

24 years

• How long have you served as a township supervisor?

16 years

• Why are you seeking reelection?

To continue the work the board is doing and to see to completion some of the projects and plans in the township. I’d like to see the hospital completed and we’d also like to see the expansion of the community center, building a splash pad and those types of things.

• What are some of the things the board has accomplished during your tenure of which you’re most proud?

Our beautiful community center, our fire department, our police department and most of all how we’re able to do all this without raising any taxes and still be the lowest taxed in Allegheny County. I feel we’re the No. 1 municipality. Residents want to come here. They’re building a major hospital here. We’re like a miniature Pittsburgh. We have techs that are renting from us, we have medical and we provide a lot of services. Our achievements speak for themselves. You can’t build a multimillion-dollar facility and be able to not raise taxes at the same time but that’s what we’ve done. I’m proud of our accomplishments. One thing I’m not happy about is the windmill. I voted for the windmill, but that project did not provide the results we had expected.

• What do you see as the most pressing issue or issues facing Pine over the next several years?

We have some areas in our township that need to have sewer. That would be something coming up that I think is going to be pressing. We have some older neighborhoods that absolutely need sewage.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

We as supervisors have built a beautiful area and we’ve been doing this without raising any taxes. We’re a very fiscally responsible board. We worry about the municipality. We’re concerned about the residents who have been here 50 years as well as the residents who’ve been here 10 years. I really believe this board has done a phenomenal job. It’s 2019 and you’ve got a tax reduction on the township tax.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your candidacy?

I’ve been in this municipality a long time. Our family business started here in the late 1970s. We have built and developed in Pine Township and we’ve provided water lines, sewer lines for residents as well as paid for recreation fees, which started in 1988, and traffic impact fees. We have an impeccable reputation and I want to continue our positive progress within this great municipality.

• Do you have a campaign website or social media accounts where voters can learn more about you?

I have a Facebook page: Frank J Spagnolo for Township Supervisor.

Phil Henry

• How long have you lived in Pine?

25 years

• How long have you served as a township supervisor?

20 years

• Why are you seeking re-election?

I’m very pleased with the way the township has gone and want to have it continue. I’m retired, so I have the time to devote to the township. I enjoy my work on the board and we get along well. I’ve watched the township grow in my 20 years on the board from 7,600 people to 13,000. It’s been a delightful experience because I think what we do we do very well in zoning, housing, sidewalks and trees. It’s why the township looks so pretty.

•What are some of the things the board has accomplished during your tenure that you’re most proud of?

I got Bill Baierl from Baierl Chevrolet to donate $100,000 to the Pine Community Center and that was done solely by myself. I also got Allegheny Health Network to sponsor the electronic billboard we have on Route 19. That’s open to non-profits to use like churches, fire, police, schools and I’d like to see more of that. But the big thing, and the thing I’m thrilled with, is that in 20 years we’ve never raised the property taxes. Just recently we passed the Homestead Exclusion Act for another 10 percent reduction in property tax. Even prior to that we had the lowest millage of any township in Allegheny County at 0.9 percent.

• What do you see as the most pressing issue or issues facing Pine over the next several years?

There’s only so much more room to grow, although we do have some left. We have a comprehensive plan that’s only five years old to cover all that stuff and I’d just really like to continue the way we’ve done in the past.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

I’ll stand on my record in the past and the accomplishments that we’ve made. I have experience, I’m the oldest supervisor in the township and I’m open to any suggestions. All people have to do is get in touch with me. I’m very open to ideas.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about you or your candidacy?

I’m endorsed by the Republican Party. I’ve been the vice-president for 15 of the 20 years I’ve been a supervisor. I graduated from Duquesne University and had owned a business with employees so I’m used to budgeting, payroll and taxes. I sold my business to a national company and retired about 10 years ago. I have a wife of 60 years, four children and 10 grandchildren. I would appreciate your vote on May 21st and I’m glad for this opportunity.

Jeff Romano

• How long have you lived in Pine?

12 Years

• Why are you running for the Pine Board of Supervisors?

I became interested in running for the Supervisors Board based on my recent experience with the township and developers that involved my neighborhood. I have also had a multitude of concerned residents reach out to me in regards to these issues because they have expressed very similar negative experiences of their own with the township. We share these major concerns about the direction that Pine Township may be heading, and that is what prompted me to want to run for the board and be a new voice that will lead to a positive change in Pine Township.

• What skills, qualities and/or experience would you bring to the supervisor position?

I will bring to the table honesty, integrity, and hard work, all qualities I utilize in my personal life and career that have been essential to my success. Throughout my career in medical sales, I have built a strong reputation of being extremely hard working and reputable, and have built long lasting relationships with my customers. I have earned integrity within my field based on my experience working with professionals at every level while also playing a key role in important decision making. Based on my personal and professional experience, I have developed essential communication and listening skills that have allowed me to hear and respond to people’s needs and concerns in order to develop a plan of action. My goal is to treat individuals with respect and to always make the right decisions.

• What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Pine over the next several years?

Looking at the direction the township has been heading, I feel development will continue to be an issue. Loss of green space will unfortunately be an issue over the next several years if changes are not made with the current board. With the growth of the township do we have the infrastructure to support the growth? Do we have enough police, firemen, and resources to handle the increase in population? Do we have the maintenance in place to keep our roadways safe and clear? As the school population continues to grow, will there be a need to expand again in the near future? All of these are pressing issues that need to be taken into account.

• If elected, do you have any specific goals or areas on which you’d focus?

My primary goal is to establish an open line of communication between the Supervisors Board and the residents of Pine. I will work to establish fiscal responsibility and inform the tax paying residents of Pine how and why their tax dollars are being spent. I have no conflicts of interest when potential projects or developments are brought to the board, and I would have unbiased judgment concerning the finances of Pine Township. I am pro development, but in a responsible way. Pine has a lot of room to grow and I will support that growth. However, developers should be held to the rules that are established in language/rules of the Township and do so in a professional and unbiased way. I will work to preserve green space within Pine Township, which is what attracted many residents to make their homes here. I am concerned about the amount of development that clear cuts all green space. At some point, enough is enough. I feel a check and balance system needs to be established in Pine Township.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

New ideas and a diverse representation will lead to real change in Pine Township and benefit its much deserving residents.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your candidacy?

I am a voter, just like everyone else in this township. But based on my experience and interactions with the Supervisors and township, I feel real change needs to be made with the Supervisors Board and the township in order to make this community a place where we can all feel good about our children growing up here.

Jack Donahue

• How long have you lived in Pine?

Nearly 20 years

• Why are you running for the Pine Board of Supervisors?

I believe Pine Township could benefit by an infusion of new, positive and fresh ideas that ensure all citizens of Pine Township have a voice.

• What skills, qualities and/or experience would you bring to the supervisor position?

With more than 35 years experience working with many types of businesses, large and small, real estate developers and landlords, I understand the long-term impact of development, both positive and negative, to a community. I built a home and raised a family in Pine Township with two step-daughters who attended Pine-Richland schools with excellent results. I have attended and participated in numerous meetings with the planning commission and board of supervisors, the experience of which has been both educational and eye-opening.

• What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Pine over the next several years?

There are several issues. Rules and regulations have been summarily ignored and violated, and they need to be followed at the planning and supervisors levels. Irresponsible development has taken place that has disrupted and damaged adjacent neighborhoods and wetlands. Snarled traffic has resulted as a result of irresponsible development, and student safety has been compromised, as well. Non-township road maintenance within Pine Township has been largely ignored.

• If elected, do you have any specific goals or areas on which you’d focus?

Open communication and community input for what our residents view as important changes and improvements for Pine Township. Fair and open opportunities for vendors. Support of police and first responders.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

My family and I love living in Pine Township and believe the quality of life here is second to none. I’d like to keep it that way. I am running because of several years of negative experiences dealing with current Pine Township Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. Neighbors and other Pine residents have urged me to step up.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about you or your candidacy?

I am honest and ethical. I want to protect our parks, green space and wetlands. I am a candidate for all the people of Pine Township, not just a select clique. My guiding principles are: Open Communications — People have a right to know what is going on in their community at all times, both good and bad. Citizen Input — Community feedback is vital for informed decision-making. Fiscal Transparency — Residents have a right to know the cost of services and how hard-earned tax dollars are spent. Flexibility — Collaborative efforts need to investigate new opportunities to save money while continuing to provide needed services. Leadership — Order and leadership needs to be established to maintain a professional decorum in meetings. Balanced Budgets — We must ensure budgets are balanced. Managed and Responsible Growth — Develop a balance between residential communities and commercial projects to diversify tax base, while following established laws and codes. Focus — Develop a team of strong diversified leaders for Pine Township.

Jeff Fisher

• How long have you lived in Pine?

Since 2008

• Why are you running for the Pine Board of Supervisors?

I have never run for political office nor did I ever expect to, until I started to attend the Pine Township Board of Supervisors meetings approximately two years ago. It has truly been an eye-opening experience for me to see how our local government operates. My platform first and foremost is to serve the people of Pine Township without bias and to promote a greener, healthier community for all. I am pro development candidate and believe that any landowning citizen in Pine Township has the right to develop their property. However, with development there are rules in place to ensure that all residents’ rights are protected and those who develop property should be held accountable to following the rules. My experiences dealing with the current board of supervisors and planning commission have caused me to want change for Pine Township and its residents.

• What skills, qualities and/or experience would you bring to the supervisor position?

I have 34 years of business experience. Upon graduation from Duquesne University, I began my career as a pharmacy industry employee, and I was fortunate enough to work my way up to a business owner and entrepreneur. My experiences in work, family and life provides me with a solid ethical grounding and business experience for the position of supervisor.

• What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Pine over the next several years?

The rules of Pine Township are there to protect the rights of all citizens, not just the landed few.

• If elected, do you have any specific goals or areas on which you’d focus?

Certainly we have to examine thoroughly the unfettered, unchecked development that has been causing undue traffic, safety and environmental hazards. We have to ensure that regulations are not circumvented and that there are no potential conflicts of interest that compromise the planning process.

• Why should Pine residents vote for you?

The good ol’ boy ways are not always the best for Pine Township. Bringing in fresh new ideas along with the input from our community will ensure Pine Township is current with planning, zoning and environmental regulations, so that we have responsibly managed growth.

• Is there anything else you’d like voters to know about your candidacy?

My guiding principles are: I will bring honesty and Integrity, because the residents, employees, business owner and developers should always be treated truthfully and respectfully. I’ll be a listener, taking input from others when making decisions on behalf of the tax paying citizens of Pine Township. Challenges and concerns should not be driven by profits but by positive outcomes for all who live and work here. I’ll be fiscally responsible. Managing Pine Township is no different than running a successful business. Sound discipline must be in place when it comes to spending the hard-earned dollars of the tax paying citizens of Pine Township.