Good morning, Aspinwall! I hope your weekend is starting out great. I will be at the Aspinwall Democratic Committee’s Table at the Flea Market/Farmer’s Market tomorrow from about 9:30 AM to 12:00 PM before the Steelers game. I hope to meet you there! Please visit if you have questions or would like to chat!
While campaigning this summer may have been limited to attendance at our neighborhood’s Flea Market and Farmer’s Market, Labor day and September 11 have respectfully passed and it is time to get back to work.
Over the next few months heading into November 2, 2021, I plan to get back to door knocking. I will continue to have information about myself as a candidate available here on the website and I will be available by email and even at Flea Markets. I welcome questions, and I welcome requests.
While knocking on doors over the course of the last six months, I’ve had the opportunity to meet great people who I did not know lived so close as well as learn the problems that our community is facing. It certainly takes an entire council and mayor to run a successful community, and I want to be a part of that positive and good group moving into the future. I hope that I can win your vote and I hope to have the opportunity to meet you!
5-5-2021 Regular Meeting Recap
Blog/Post By: Mary Hancock
Last Wednesday Aspinwall Borough Council met for a Regular Meeting. As you may know, Council meetings have been taking place via Zoom due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The biggest news this week sprang from the closing of the Aspinwall Comprehensive Plan Survey and the potential for in-person meetings later this year.
Over the course of April, Borough Council requested that Aspinwall residents go online to complete a Comprehensive Plan Survey which would be used to create a roadmap for Aspinwall’s future. Within the survey, residents were asked to voice their opinion, their ideas, and even their complaints about the community. After about a month of efforts encouraging residents to make their voices heard, the survey is closed.
David Borland, Councilmember and Chair of the Planning Committee, has taken the lead on this effort between working with the community, encouraging the community to voice their opinions, and working diligently alongside the Borough’s facilitator and consultant, Pashek+MTR.
According to Borland, 627 residents completed the survey and the consultant was ecstatic about the results. This response rate related to Aspinwall’s population is about 23%. Aspinwall’s response rate surpassed other municipalities like Bell Acres, who had a 14% response rate, and Hampton Township, who had a 5% response rate.
Throughout the meeting, Councilmembers continuously thanked the somewhat humble Borland for his “tremendous effort.” According to Council President, Tim McLaughlin, a study like this was “talked about but never done.”
According to Borland, currently, Pashek+MTR is compiling the results and tabulating the data. Borland and the consultant hope to have a report by June for the residents. There will be a public session (outdoors) for the community regarding the plan tentatively set for July 2021.
The survey was created and implemented through the help of Pashek+MTR. According their website, Pashek+MTR is a “landscape architecture and community planning studio” that has pioneered a model for Implementable Comprehensive Plans. With regard to Aspinwall, the Project is divided into two phases. During the first phase the consultant will focus on community and leadership input and ideas, and in the second phase the consultant will work with community leadership to develop a realistic action plan for Aspinwall. Overall Borland is enthusiastic about the future of Aspinwall. For more info check out AspinwallPlan.com.
In Other News:
Councilmembers have begun a discussion with their Solicitor regarding the feasibility to return to in-person “face to face” meetings. After some discussion, Council hopes to meet in person as early as August 2021. When meetings return to the in-person forum, community members will still be required to wear face masks. Before any change, Council will advertise the move from Zoom back to in-person. It is unclear at this time whether or not the Zoom feature will still be provided to persons who cannot attend or are still uncomfortable meeting in person. Council will monitor the feasibility of in-person meetings moving forward.
Tim McLaughlin announced potential plans to digitize older borough documents. According to Borough Council, Aspinwall is ahead of the game on this front as they have already had their ordinances and resolutions from 1900 to today available online.
Borough Manager Melissa Lang O’Malley reminded community members that the new garbage hauler will start service on May 19th, 2021, which will change the new pick-up day to Wednesdays.
Mayor Noro is continuing to monitor speeding in the Borough alongside the police department.
Councilmember Marcia Cooper is working to create a tax credit for volunteer firemen and women as well as the emergency medical department. She hopes to get a general outline to Council so that she may move to have it passed in June.
Councilmember Heth Turnquist provided Council with the Treasurer’s Report for April 2021 and requested members review the bill payment list.
Councilmember Lara Voytko, Chair of the Infrastructure Committee, announced that paving had been completed in Aspinwall last week. She hopes to schedule additional rebricking projects for August with funds available.
Councilmember David Brown is working with the Shade Tree Commission and the Solicitor to create a Declaration in Aspinwall Borough regarding the value of trees to the Aspinwall community.
Councilmember Jeff Harris announced that the Story Walk from Cooper Siegal Library was open.
Of note, Towne Drug in Aspinwall, PA will also be having a Moderna Vaccine Event on May 15, 2021. This event is open to both residents and non-residents and no appointment will be required. After speaking with a representative of Towne Drug, they are requesting that all persons bring their insurance card with them. Anyone interested can call for further details or changes.
This past Saturday, I took some time to pick up trash on Freeport Road. It was a great event and Aspinwall had a ton of amazing volunteers. The event was organized and sponsored by Aspinwall Neighbors. Thank you to Aspinwall Neighbors group and to all the actual Aspinwall neighbors who make events like this possible.
While I had two trash bags, the majority of trash that I picked up along the roadway ended up being cigarette filters and cigarette butts. At the same time, there were no waste receptacles available for cigarette butts on this side of the roadway. Placing receptacles that can accommodate cigarette butts may be the right move for Aspinwall. While not every person will use them, a lot would. Changes that empower people to help their community, to make the right call, and to put those “butts” in a proper container, are the types of simple changes that could make our community ten times better.
There’s no disagreement, America is particularly politically polarized right now. Whether you are talking about race, gender, taxes, how taxes are spent, the police, mental health, guns, school shootings, healthcare, healthcare reform, abortion, adoption, women in combat, hate speech, student loans . . . the list is never ending. But, what is political polarization?
“Political Polarization” is a difference of opinion involving politics that are held by a person or party to the extreme. One example is women in combat: people who align ideologically with the Republican Party tend to believe strongly that women should not be in combat, while people who align ideologically with the Democratic Party tend to believe strongly that women should be able to take on combat roles in the military.
The problem with “polarization” is that once a person or party begins to feel strongly on a particular subject, it is extremely difficult for that person to listen to information that objectively would contradict and unseat their belief. The problem with “political polarization” is that instead of looking for a common good for the country, the members of a particular party (most commonly in the United States the Democratic Party or the Republican Party) issue opinions on particular issues and their constituency sides with the party with which they hold membership instead of evaluating the merit of a particular issue or stance on their own or from the perspective of producing the best result.
To compound an already existing problem, the term “toxic polarization” is coming up more and more. Toxic Polarization exists where “hate speech” or “hate” is directed against the opposing party or opinion holder because of their political beliefs. The most prime and recent example was seen in our country on January 6, 2021, when U.S. citizens stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the government, the results of an election, and some even seemingly planned to engage in murderous acts. News outlets like USA Today, tend to also couple social media disagreements and bad jokes that allude to the death of a person who holds a particular opinion as qualify as Toxic Polarization. See Kleinfeld, Rachel, and Sobel, Aaron: “7 ideas to reduce political polarization. And save America from itself.” Available at: https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/07/23/political-polarization-dangerous-america-heres-how-fight-column/5477711002/ (July 23, 2020).
I’ve read a couple (well more than a couple) articles about political polarization but I really liked the USA Today article (opinion) above. In that same article, the writers put forth seven methods to help to reduce political polarization and especially toxic polarization, from simply holding back on politically fueled dehumanizing jokes to helping others imagine empathy. I recommend giving the USA Today article a read but I’m listing a couple others that I enjoyed below if you really get interested in this issue.
De-Wit, Lee; Van Der Linden, Sander; and Brick, Cameron. “What Are the Solutions to Political Polarization?” Online available at: https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/what_are_the_solutions_to_political_polarization (July 2, 2019).
Continetti, Matthew. “Politics is Not the Answer.” Online Available at: https://www.politico.com/interactives/2019/how-to-fix-politics-in-america/polarization/politics-is-not-the-answer/
Murphy, Kelly. “The Psychology of Polarization And How We Can Overcome Our Prejudices.” Online Available at: https://www.bridgealliance.us/the_psychology_of_polarization_and_how_we_can_overcome_our_prejudices (May 14, 2019).
Blog By: Mary Hancock
4-14-2021 – Aspinwall Borough Meeting Recap
Council Approves Shared Dumpster Agreement with O’Hara Township and Blawnox Borough
With regard to recycling glass in Aspinwall, Aspinwall Council did move forward with plans to recycle glass utilizing O’Hara’s proposed dumpster and concrete pad. The initial investment for Aspinwall will be $3,500 and the site will include cameras. Borough Manager Melissa Lang O’Malley indicated that the new hauler, Shank Waste Service, does not recycle glass but instead crushes it and uses it as a cover for the landfill. While there had been previous dispute as to the method of sharing costs between the municipalities, Aspinwall Council seemed more amendable to the agreement after being informed of additional information. Councilmember Jeff Harris indicated that the O’Hara Dumpster will only be 1.1 miles away from Aspinwall and Councilmember Heth Turnquist noted that Aspinwall did not have a spot to place such a dumpster.
Borough Manager Lang O’Malley stated, in regards to the contract, that Aspinwall was permitted to back out of the deal after 6 months. She further informed the Council that other boroughs wanted to be involved in this joint effort but could not participate and she believed the dumpster would only be dumped about 6 times a year. On this information, a motion was made to accept the agreement with O’Hara Township although members of Council continued to find the division of costs somewhat objectionable.
Conditional Use Hearing as to Property at 101 Brilliant Avenue
The Borough Council reviewed and listened to testimony pertaining to the Conditional Use Application of 101 Brilliant Avenue LLC which pertained to property at 101 Brilliant Avenue. This property is located in Aspinwall Borough’s AC-1 Community Business District and the application sought to conditionally use the property as a “Business and Professional Office.”
James Mitnick testified on the company’s behalf. According to Mr. Mitnick, he owns property at the corner of First Street and Brilliant Avenue in Aspinwall, PA. He previously renovated this property after purchasing it from PNC Bank. To date, the first floor has acted as a retail space and the second floor has acted as office space for his business. It has come to his attention that he should have requested a conditional use hearing and made an application with regard to the second floor “a long time ago.” The second floor is currently 7500 square feet.
According to Mr. Mitnick, he has sought and obtained structural analysis as well as architectural drawings which would add an addition to this building and create a third floor. The addition of the third floor would add 3,000 square feet to the property. According to Borough Solicitor Steve Korbel, Mr. Mitnick would need to purchase 1 parking space for every additional 300 square feet. In this case, that would be ten additional spaces according to Solicitor Korbel. Mr. Mitnick agreed to purchase the parking spots from the Borough and the Borough indicated that it had those same spots available. The Motion for Conditional Use was approved.
In Other News:
Councilmember Marcia Cooper intends to move forward in the process of creating an ordinance to apply local income tax credits to “public service volunteers,” such as firemen and women, ems, and paramedics.
Councilmember David Brown made a motion which was approved to ban Coal Tar in Aspinwall from driveways and horizontal surfaces. Councilmember Brown additionally moved forward to set in motion the process of creating a declaration in Aspinwall regarding borough trees and the canopy existing in the borough.
Councilmember David Borland continued to request Borough residents complete the Comprehensive Plan Survey. To date, Councilmember Borland had received 292 responses. He hopes to receive upwards of 750 to 1000 responses by April 30, 2021, the date the survey will close.
It is likely the yard sale will return to Aspinwall this spring announced Borough Manager Lang O’Malley. Other events such as “Movies in the Park” and “Dinner with a Cop” will also likely take place in the upcoming summer months according to Mayor Joe Noro.
Ken Aquiline of State Representative Sara Innamorato’s Office announced that she would be tabling at the Aspinwall Borough Flea Market which is sponsored by the Aspinwall Volunteer Fire Department on Sundays from 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM next month.
Please note a correction to the Article dated 4/14/2021 and titled “Federal Covid-19 Relief Money Comes to Aspinwall in the Amount of $266,251 and Brick Laying Ahead: 4-7-2021 – Agenda Meeting.” A sentence in that article should read: Borough Manager Lang had some additional good news, the Borough had been awarded and would receive “half the” $266,251.00 in American Relief Dollars within the next 60 days.
Federal Covid-19 Relief Money Comes to Aspinwall in the Amount of $266,251 and Brick Laying Ahead
While the pandemic has left some boroughs and townships struggling, Aspinwall Borough Council kept moving forward and is looking to the Borough’s future after the Covid-19 Pandemic.
According to Borough Manager Melissa Lang O’Malley, community events could return to Aspinwall as soon as the fourth quarter of this year. She hopes to bring back community favorites such as “Light Up the Wall” and even “Fall in the Wall” if circumstances allow it.
Borough Manager Lang had some additional good news, the Borough had been awarded and would receive $266,251.00 in American Relief Dollars within the next 60 days. While the money has not yet been earmarked for any particular use, it must be used in particular ways, and must be used within the next four years. Specifically, it may be used for water/sewer, as hazard pay to essential workers, as grants to local businesses, and as a method to boost the economy. However, it cannot be used for pension plans. The Borough intends to place the money on the books and account for it before deciding its use.
With regard to the new issue of glass recycling, the Borough has been approached by O’Hara Township to enter into an agreement to create a concrete pad with a dumpster for the purpose of recycling this glass. The pad and dumpster would be located in O’Hara and O’Hara would allow Aspinwall residents to utilize this dumpster if Aspinwall is willing to pay 1/3 of the construction, maintenance, and operation of the dumpster. O’Hara has similarly reached out to Blawnox Borough with the same agreement and Blawnox has accepted. Under the new contract with Shank Waste Service (Aspinwall’s new garbage hauler), glass is acceptable but it is not recycled.
In considering the benefits and detriments of the contract, Councilmember David Brown suggested, instead of paying 1/3 of all costs, it makes some sense for the Borough to pay it’s per capita (or proportionate share as to population size) of the costs since Aspinwall has a much smaller population than O’Hara. Councilmember Tim McLaughlin indicated there are other areas to recycle glass such as Construction Junction available. Councilmember Marcia Cooper remarked that Aspinwall “did not need to subsidize O’Hara’s recycling.” Borough Manager Lang intends to find out more details regarding the O’Hara plan, the availability of recycling alternatives, and the terms of the Shank Waste Service contract with regards to glass, before any final decisions are made.
From the Infrastructure Committee, residents should expect some brick laying to take place in Aspinwall in the near future after Council moved forward with a low-bid brick contract. Councilmember Lara Voytko announced last Wednesday that she had received a bid from Youngblood Paving, Inc. that was half the costs of the next closest bid. Councilmember Brown requested the reason for the low bid, and Councilmember Voytko tended to indicate the company was looking to bring in work. According to Councilmember Voytko, the Borough has used this company in the past and their work was fine. While the bid is competitive, at $77,639.00, it was determined that they were the lowest responsible bidder and on Motion by Councilmember Voytko, Youngblood Paving, Inc. was awarded the contract.
Council intends to have a number of streets and parking lots rebricked under this contract including Guyasuta Lane and 12th Street. Councilmember Voytko is eyeing improvements on Fifth Street, Tenth Street, Alley C, and Lexington in the future.
Councilmember Brown reminded residents that the Borough would be taking part in the “Green Streets” litter pick-up event in Aspinwall. Resident Andy Collins has spear-headed the event and it will start the week of April 19 and end on April 25. Interested persons need only sign up online through this link: https://aspinwallneighbors.org/2021/03/28/earth-day-green-streets-clean-up/
Councilmember Brown additionally requested, on behalf of the Aspinwall Shade Tree Commission (“ASTC”), for a Conciliar Declaration in support of tree-planting and trees in Aspinwall. Aspinwall has been previously declared a Tree City USA.
In Other News:
Residents should fill out a planning survey that will be available to residents, according to Councilmember David Borland. With the results of the survey, the Planning Committee hopes to plan the future of Aspinwall. The survey will be available online but if residents would like a printed copy of the survey, they can request such a copy at the Borough Office Building. This survey will set the direction of Aspinwall planning for the next 10 to 15 years.
Councilperson Jeff Harris announced the “Story Book Walk” in Firemen’s Park (in Upper Aspinwall) will be officially opened during an April 30, 2021 “Ribbon Cutting Ceremony.” The Parks Committee has been working to build the storybook walk over the last year.
As previously announced, the Borough has entered into a contract with Shank Waste Service. A letter will be distributed to community members indicating the change of service from County Hauling to Shank Waste Service in the next few weeks. The last day for service with County Hauling will be May 10. Under the Shank Waste Service agreement, the new pick-up day for garbage in the Borough will be Wednesdays.
A treasurer’s report was sent out to councilmembers by Councilmember Heth Turnquist. He requested feedback on the report and input from Council so that the reports may be improved.
Junior Councilperson Lydia Turnquist plans to create a professional clothing drive to benefit women and men who may need professional clothing for job interviews and the workplace. The details of the Professional Clothing Drive will later be released.
Last week, I received the endorsement of the Women for The Future Pittsburgh. I can’t say that I am the type to reach out for a bunch endorsements, and this rings true as this is the only one that I applied for, but this endorsement really mattered to me and my small race for Aspinwall Borough Council.
If you do not know, Women for The Future Pittsburgh is a group that recognizes the barriers and obstacles that women must overcome to get a seat at the table and have their voice heard in government, the workplace, at home, and beyond. When I applied for this endorsement, I wrote about trying to help women businesses get off the ground especially when money was tight. I also wrote about how I have acted as an advocate cheering on other women running for office or taking big steps in the workplace and in life. The last thing I wrote was that with this endorsement I will do everything I can to act as an advocate, friend, counselor, role model, and voice for women.
I want to thank everyone at Women for the Future Pittsburgh, this is such an honor. Thank you. And thank you to all the other women out there and especially those women who also received this endorsement who do the same thing.
There I was, standing outside a home in 20 degree weather and from about 8 feet back. I was talking as loud as was normal about my plans if I were elected to Aspinwall Council. It came to that pivotal time when I would ask if the individual would sign my petition to appear on the ballot. But then, he asked a great question, “Where can I e-sign online?”
I had spoken to him for about five minutes and it was clear that he was willing to sign my petition, but to him, it was a pandemic and there were attendant risks in signing my petition with an ink pen. I had to respond that “Unfortunately, Pennsylvania doesn’t allow for electronic petition signatures,” and move on.
He was right to ask. It’s 2021 and we are dealing with a dire pandemic. Why on earth am I asking people to sign with my pen? (To be clear, I am sanitizing my pen after every signature). The simple answer is that Pennsylvania requires “wet signatures” on election petitions. This is not the case everywhere however, in 2012, Arizona implemented E-Qual. This is a system that allows voters to sign petitions online through a website. Both Denver, Colorado and Washington, DC also have E-sign capabilities. Even New Jersey’s Governor issued an executive order to allow for e-signatures during this pandemic.
The primary ways to change the law are by statute or executive order. However, neither method was pushed forward in Pennsylvania despite increasing Covid-19 numbers. Working towards common sense changes in our community and throughout Pennsylvania is just one reason why I want to work on Aspinwall Council. I may not be able to gather e-signatures this year, but you can anticipate that I work towards lifting the “wet signature” requirement during times of a pandemic or outbreak like we are currently experiencing.
BallotPedia, “Methods For Signing Candidates Nomination Petitions,” online available at: https://ballotpedia.org/Methods_for_signing_candidate_nominating_petitions (Accessed 2/18/2021).
Happy to be named a Banner Community by the Allegheny League of Municipalities, Council met for a regular meeting on March 10, 2021, to consider a new waste hauler, review an out-of-compliance curb cut, adopt the LEAD pilot program for Aspinwall, and move forward with a ban on the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (typically found in asphalt driveway sealants). Council further reviewed the Freeport Road Project.
As many Aspinwall residents know, and have voiced on Facebook, it was probably time for a new waste and garbage hauler in Aspinwall. During the regular meeting, Council reviewed bids from Shank Waste Service Inc and Waste Management, neither of which included hauling of glass. It was determined, through conversation with Council’s Solicitor, that Shank Waste Service presented the lowest responsible bid, as its rate per unit was 82 cents less than Waste Management. With regard to glass, Council is considering retaining a dumpster for glass recycling just as the North Hills community has considered. Council voted to enter into a one-year contract with Shank Waste Service Inc to begin in the next few months.
Most Aspinwall residents only notice a particular “curb cut” when they are trying to find a good place to park and are avoiding blocking a driveway, but Council on Wednesday night considered what to do with an out-of-compliance curb cut. For background, a “curb cut,” according to Meriam Webster, is a “ramp cut into a street curb to provide access (as for wheelchairs or strollers) between a sidewalk and the street.” Essentially in this case, it seemed to be a driveway that a Virginia Avenue homeowner had recently installed.
The homeowner had submitted an application for a building permit in October of 2018 and was granted a 12-foot curb cut, however, when construction ended and the ‘dust settled’ as they say, the driveway had a 25-foot curb cut. Council spent a considerable amount of time reviewing their previous decisions to limit curb cuts, noting that this curb cut doubled what they had previously permitted, analyzing the effect of remedial efforts on the property and a wall on the property, noting the aesthetics of the curb cut, and considering how this curb cut would affect Aspinwall’s potential plans for the future. The homeowner, Graham Rihn, indicated that while the original permit included a 12 foot curb cut, his construction plans had utilized a 25 foot curb cut and these same plans were submitted to the Borough. The Borough Manager indicated that Borough did not expect the homeowner to exceed the scope of their permit when they submitted the plans. Ultimately determining a fine or penalty would not act to resolve the issue, Council voted in a 5-2 decision to remediate the curb cut to the original 12 feet.
The Chief of Police, David Nemec, was present during the meeting to report on a Speed Summary that had been conducted over the past few weeks. According to Chief Nemec, a return to monitoring Center Avenue is required since it has become a problem again. He noted that the police force had pulled over a number of cars on Center this previous week.
Marcia Cooper made a motion to pass the LEAD Pilot Program that would allow Aspinwall access to a social worker in situations where a police officer may not be the best responder to an incident. Councilmember Cooper noted that the program will not start immediately but will take some time to implement.
David Brown made a motion to ban polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in our community. Council voted to move forward with the ban, and it was noted that the proposed ban will be advertised. Council began to consider the best way to notify driveway owners who would most likely be affected by the ban.
Briefly, it was stated that at this time, the baseball field in Aspinwall will remain a baseball field (as opposed to a dog park) in the summer months despite some Facebook.com resident comments that a larger dog park in the summertime would be nice for their dogs. Councilperson Jeff Harris indicated that Aspinwall has one of three fields that particular types of teams can play on in the area. The issue of a larger dog park can be dealt with in Aspinwall’s Comprehensive Plan.
Tim McLaughlin shared an update from Sarah Shaffer on behalf of Aspinwall Neighbors, reminding residents of the Porch Toast Anniversary on March 20th at 5pm. (Amended for Clarification that Aspinwall Neighbors is having the Porch Toast).
During the meeting Council did return to the Freeport Road issue. Council (through a President’s Comment) took time to further discuss the Freeport Road Project. Councilmembers made clear that the presentation on March 3, 2021, went over a more expansive study that was rooted in the previous August 2019 study. Council also noted that significant funding for these studies had come out of a grant that Aspinwall resident, Mark Ellermeyer, had worked for and received for the community. Council made clear that while changes to bicycle traffic were suggested as a remedial effort in our borough, these were far from the only changes recommended. It was noted that bicycles “weren’t going away” and rerouting the bicycle travelers through the Borough could provide a safer alternative. This alternative would likely be better than allowing them to travel on Freeport Road and failing to control the routes bicyclists may otherwise take through Aspinwall. It was generally agreed by Council that they should identify specific portions of the study to incorporate in the Aspinwall.