2 write-ins among 4 candidates challenging Franklin Park incumbents in Nov. 5 election
Tuesday, October 15, 2019 | 12:01 AM
Democrats in two Franklin Park wards cast enough write-in votes in the May 21 primary to nominate candidates to challenge incumbent Republican members of council this fall.
In most municipal and school board races, only 10 write-in votes are needed in the primary to get on the general election ballot, according to county election officials.
Incumbent Republican Laura Coombs, the council’s second vice president, ran uncontested for the Ward 1 primary nomination.
No Democrats in Ward 1 sought party nominations. but Dr. Jiang Li received 67 write-in votes from Democrats to secure the party’s nomination to run against Coombs.
There are 1,362 registered Democrats in Ward 1 and 1,833 Republicans, according to the Allegheny County Election Department.
In Ward 2, incumbent Councilman John Parks, who serves as vice president, ran uncontested for a four-year term on council.
He will face Democrat Matt Ferriolo, who also was uncontested for his party’s nomination to run against Parks for a four-year term.
Incumbent Lucas Myslinski also ran unopposed on the GOP ticket for the two-year Ward 2 council seat.
He will run against Susan Striz, who was unchallenged for the Democratic nomination for the two-year term.
Franklin Park’s Ward 2 has 1,371 registered Democrats compared to 1,748 Republicans.
In Ward 3, Incumbent Republican Councilman James Lawrence faced no challenges for his party’s nomination in the primary.
No Democrats ran in the spring for a chance to challenge Lawrence for the Ward 3 seat.
But Brian Samuel Malkin received 57 write-in votes from Ward 3 Democrats.
Ward 3 has 1,186 registered Democrats and 1,603 Republicans.
Following is information submitted by the candidates as well as their response to questions posed by the Trib:
Question 1: What are the two biggest challenges facing Franklin Park and what ideas or policies will you offer, support or promote to address them?
Question 2: How has your background and experience equipped you to make decisions affecting the operation of the municipality?
Dr. Jiang Li — Democrat
Home: Norman Drive
Occupation: Medical physician scientist
Previous elected office: None
Question 1: My wife and I moved from Downtown to Franklin Park nearly 10 years ago because we believe it’s the best place to raise our children. We love it here. Yet our community faces major challenges; chiefly, fracking and government responsiveness.
As a doctor and medical researcher, I’m worried about the potential health impacts of fracking. There is more than enough evidence to justify a cautious approach.
I will do everything possible at the local level to protect residents. For starters, I will not allow such a huge tract of land — more than 500 acres — to be set aside as an area for drilling.
I will work for change at the state level. Pennsylvania law requires every borough to zone for fracking. That’s ridiculous, and I will combine forces with local and state representatives to restore local control.
On fracking and every other issue, we deserve a much more responsive government. Council didn’t volunteer to hold public hearings; citizens demanded them. Even then, two council members —including my opponent — voted for fracking.
Question 2: As a medical scientist and physician, I care about people. As a physician, I have developed skills to communicate with people and work to address their problems and concerns. I was trained to really pay attention to what patients say and work with them on targeted, effective treatment plans.
Those skills will help me serve the citizens of Franklin Park. Because I’ve knocked on hundreds of doors, I already know that people are worried about a lot of things — fracking, of course, but also over-development and the accompanying problems of increased traffic and flooding. Our reputation for livability will be lost if we don’t get ahead of these issues.
I’ve always considered it my responsibility to step up and help people solve problems. That starts with hearing what they have to say.
Laura A. Coombs — Republican
Home: Shellburne Drive
Occupation: Chief financial officer, St. John’s Lutheran Church of Highland; financial secretary, St. John’s Preschool; customer service rep, Inflammation Solutions.
Previous elected office: Franklin Park Borough Council, 2005 to 2007, 2012 to present; Allegheny County Judge of Elections, 2007 to 2012
Question 1: One of the biggest challenges for Franklin Park residents is the congestion at the I-79/Route 910/Brandt School Road interchange. This intersection continues to be a challenge for Franklin Park and neighboring municipalities. I am currently working with council, representatives from Marshall Township, and PennDOT, to plan a redesign of the I-79 interchange. I will continue to make this redesign a priority and will continue to work to ensure that this PennDOT project receives the attention and funding required. Additionally, Project “Green Light Go” will sync the light signals at the interchange’s intersections and will improve traffic flow when completed in December 2019.
Balancing growth while maintaining the quality of life in the Borough is another challenge. Franklin Park has been voted best place to live in PA for two years in a row by USA Today. This distinction reflects the skill that I, and fellow council members, have demonstrated in carefully considering proposed residential and commercial development, neighborhood streets, recreation facilities, and green space while also ensuring public safety needs have been met.
Question 2: In addition to my financial management experience, I have been involved in Franklin Park Borough government since 2005. During my 10 years as a Council Member and seven years as a planning commissioner, I have been involved in the management and oversight of all municipal operations including: budgeting; drafting and interpreting ordinances; handling personnel matters; planning and strategizing for improvements to public infrastructure; and interacting with constituents to address their concerns. I have contributed to large-scale projects such as rewriting the borough’s subdivision and land use ordinances.
I have worked with experts on issues related to land use and zoning, and new development to understand the long-term impact and alternatives of proposed projects before voting on them.
With an eye for making prudent fiscal decisions, I continue to look for opportunities to coordinate with neighboring communities to share costs and find solutions for common projects when possible. National events have also increased focus on Public Safety and Emergency Management, and I will continue to work on proactive planning initiatives to better protect borough residents.
Ward 2 (2-year term)
Susan Striz — Democrat
Home: White Oak Court
Previously elected office: None
Question 1: The two biggest challenges facing Franklin Park are two sides of the same coin: 1) community planning, and 2) governmental transparency. Our community has grown significantly in the past ten years with large neighborhood developments. However, Franklin Park, at the government level, has not worked with its residents to develop a comprehensive plan that outlines how our community should grow. Continuing to increase the number of neighbors we have is fantastic, but only if we have a plan as to how to preserve our green spaces, ensure our storm water management practices are effective, and ensure our infrastructure can support the additional people and transportation needs. With governmental transparency, there has been a real lack of communication to include residents in this planning process and to ensure they know what’s happening in their backyards and with their tax dollars. I would work to develop this plan and ensure our residents’ voices are heard and included in the process.
Question 2: As an attorney, I have the ability to understand the ins and outs of the Municipal Planning Code and the policies behind it, thoroughly grasping the legal framework I would be working within, while at the same time understanding what ordinances need to be updated to meet today’s environment and challenges. However, and most importantly, I’m an advocate for those that I represent. Within Franklin Park, I would serve as the greatest advocate for all residents to ensure that I’m representing their values, opinions, and wants within their community.
I’ve worked as a financial professional for a non-profit and served on the Board of Directors of a non-profit educational institution. Although the budgets are different than Franklin Park’s, the ideas and processes behind running them are the same, and with this experience and significant knowledge of tax policy, I would be well-equipped to ensure our tax dollars are being spent appropriately and efficiently.
Lucas R. Myslinski — Republican
Home: King James Drive
Occupation: Director of operations, Justus ADR Services
Previous elected office: Franklin Park Borough Council, appointed in 2018
Question 1: Recently, USA Today named Franklin Park the Best Place to Live in Pennsylvania for the second year in a row. I firmly believe that my job as a public servant is to continue to build on our excellent foundation and to support the well-maintained balance between further development and preserving Franklin Park’s character. This includes ensuring that our tax rates, and debts and expenditures per capita remain one of the lowest in Allegheny County, and continuing to support and preserve our amazing parks and green space — well over 600 acres.
I will also continue to support and prioritize our Police and Fire Departments and the McCandless-Franklin Park Ambulance Authority. These three organizations are key to the safety of our community and must be treated as such. The Department of Public Works and Parks and Recreation do a fantastic job maintaining our roads and parks. My other top priority is the redesign of the I-79 and 910 interchange; we are working with PennDOT on this project to alleviate congestion and delays at this crucial interchange.
Question 2: My years spent working with former Congresswoman Melissa Hart were an extremely valuable and educational experience.
I learned firsthand that any public servant must focus all their efforts on serving their neighbors and community and weigh the interests of that community against every decision and project they undertake.
In 2007, I joined an alternate dispute resolution company with a mission to help people settle costly civil litigation as amicably and fairly as possible. I still work there today, directing all the company’s operations and working hand-in-hand with the mediators that resolve disputes daily.
I have put my experience managing and implementing an extensive budget to use for the Borough in my role as Chair of the Finance Committee.
My background and experience have prepared me for addressing the issues Borough Council face in a balanced, proactive and responsible manner, and I do so with the careful consideration of all relevant factors, giving significant weight to the viewpoints of our residents.
Ward 2 (4-year term)
Matt Ferriolo — Democrat
Home: Shaker Court
Occupation: Small business owner
Previous elected office: None
Question 1: Franklin Park is an amazing place and is attracting new families and economic interest. With these positives, comes two large challenges I see.
First is interest from unwanted developments such as fracking in Franklin Park. Our borough council recently enacted an ordinance to zone for oil and gas drilling near peoples homes. I will do more, as councilman, to protect our homes, our health, and our home values. This includes partnering with neighboring municipalities to create a Multi-Municipal Plan which will create a zone for Oil and Gas in an industrial area outside of our borough, as opposed to a residential one inside Franklin Park.
Second is increased building permits and development. There have been hundreds of new building permits, and this runaway development has led to all kinds of problems: more traffic, more congestion, more flooding.
These problems will only worsen and I believe we need leaders who will develop, with community input, a sensible, strategic growth plan.
Question 2: I am equipped to make operating decisions affecting Franklin Park because I have experience organizing and listening to residents and I have a proven track record of success within my own small business.
I am a community organizer here in Franklin Park who worked to activate residents and seek a resolution that addressed concerns around fracking in our borough. As a result of our organizing efforts, hundreds of residents attended meetings and the borough council heard our concerns. We now have a stronger municipal ordinance to keep fracking out of Franklin Park. I believe the future of Franklin Park will need organizing just like this to seek community input and make the best decision for the borough.
I am also a small business owner who has created jobs and driven revenue at my business for more than 15 years. I made a vision for growth, embarked upon that path, and now we experience success. I’ve been called to make tough operating decisions just as I would be called to do as councilman.
John P. Parks — Republican
Home: King James Drive
Occupation: Retired as a full-time actuary, but continues expert witness consulting
Previous elected office: Franklin Park Borough Council, appointed December 2013, re-elected 2015
Question 1: The most important challenge for Franklin Park is the overall protection of our citizens. This is a two-dimensional challenge encompassing the protection of our environment and the security of our residents. My position is to continue vigorous research of all environmental issues and apply well-conceived, restrictive but viable ordinances. We need to maintain our outstanding police force and the dedicated support of our first responders.
The second issue of concern relates to structured growth within our beautiful Borough. There is a delicate balance between the rights of residents to sell their land and provide for the protection of the Borough from unwanted developments. The solution I believe is to continue rigorously but fairly applying our existing laws and make modifications to those laws that meet the needs and wants of our residents.
It is interesting to note that because of land purchases made during my tenure as a member of Council that the “green space” in our borough now exceeds the National Park and Recreation Association’s recommended minimum standards by over 200%.
Question 2: Serving in leadership positions has been a significant part of my career. In addition to creating and building a thriving actuarial consulting business I have served as president of the American Academy of Actuaries, (the professional Association for actuaries located in Washington DC), the American Society of Pension Actuaries and Vice President of the Conference of Consulting Actuaries. Further, I have served on many boards including YMCA — Pittsburgh, and Habitat for Humanity — Pittsburgh/Braddock. Most recently I was appointed as fire police captain of the Franklin Park Volunteer Fire Company.
The endless hours of research and review during the five plus years on council have given me a deep understanding of the vast array of issues and the requirements it takes to serve a community of over 14,000 residents. And — a community that has been rated for two years by USA Today and 24/7 Wall Street as the “Best place to live in Pennsylvania”.
Brian Samuel Malkin — Democrat
Home: Nevin Drive
Previous elected office: None
Question 1: The two biggest problems I see go hand in hand and are simple and solvable. The first is over development and the second is stormwater management.
I’m a current member of Franklin Park’s Zoning Hearing Board which means I help decide when an exception to any of Franklin Park’s zoning ordinances may be granted. Because of this role, I am acutely aware of the size and scope of more developments coming in, and I know how Franklin Park may modify its current ordinances to ensure future developments preserve the reason why I moved here in the first place.
I also know that our borough is sorely in need of stormwater mitigation that meets the strength of the storms that are now commonplace in Franklin Park. The speed of development has created an urgency for stormwater management. There is grant money being left on the table that our Borough Council can and should be applying for to help improve our current stormwater infrastructure without placing undue burden on our residential tax base.
Question 2: Borough council impacts all of us, and I believe it should be transparent, fair, consistent and efficient. With 25 years of legal experience and a 10-year record of service on the zoning board and environmental council, I’m qualified and ready to go to work on your behalf.
James W. Lawrence — Republican
Home: Fountain Hills Drive
Age: Not provided
Occupation: Journalist for FastMarkets
Previous elected office: Completing third term on council. Previously elected to two terms as a judge of elections.
Question 1: I think our biggest challenge that is coming very soon is the re-development of the I-79 interchange. With the growth of Franklin Park and the ranking the current administration has achieved as the number one community in the state of Pennsylvania, this intersection is the gateway to Franklin Park, Pine, Marshall and others, this interchange must be updated to accommodate the growth in traffic. It has been our biggest complaint and we have to improve this interchange.
Our second biggest challenge is to update our Comprehensive Plan. This becomes our road map for the future. It takes a great deal of time to develop, interview, and set things in place that guide and protect our community. Our last one was done in 2007 and is already in the plans to begin work on very shortly.
Question 2: I have spent the last 40 years in the Stainless Steel metals recycling industry with four of the largest plants in the United States and the world as a plant manager and vice president serving Stainless Steel Mills in the United States and throughout Asia. I have worked in operations the majority of my career, with all being a part of a union. I am the chair of the public works department and we just signed a five year contract with public works and there is a strong working relationship with council. That relationship is critical as they are a major communicator with the residents, which allows council to understand and react to the needs of our residents. I spend a great deal of time with the employees to let them know, we are a team. They do a great job for our community.