Friday, May 04, 2007

Young Professional running for Allentown City Council

Voters will elect at least two new members to Allentown City Council this year, with three seats open and two incumbents not running.

Council writes laws that govern everything from how high your grass can grow to how your tax money is spent. And plenty of issues must be dealt with as Allentown seeks to position itself as an attractive city for businesses and families.

The Republican Party has an uncontested primary May 15 because only two candidates, incumbent Councilman David K. Bausch and Robert E. Smith Jr., a school director and former interim councilman, are seeking their party's nod for three seats. They will move on to the fall election.

Democratic incumbents Martin Velazquez III and Louis Hershman are not seeking re-election. Hershman is running for controller. Five Democrats are vying for 3 spots on May 15. One of them, Peter G. Scheweyer, is 28 years old and an Allentown native. This writer says he shares the title of "Mr. Allentown" with West End Blog's Damien Brown. Both are young and passionate about Allentown.

Schweyer's primary goals are to dismantle violent street gangs, protect taxpayer money, make government records more accessible, improve customer service and create programs to attract businesses and jobs.

''We have to start acting like a city and stop acting like a sleepy little borough,'' he said.

That means acknowledging there always will be crime in a city and attacking the problem with the best-available technology and tools. He said an initiative could be something as simple as hiring a clerk to gather data for the fight against gangs. More officers also should be hired.

Schweyer supports continuing to sweep streets year-round, and does not support training police to enforce federal immigration laws.

He supports Pawlowski's initiatives, but said he hasn't agreed with all of the mayor's decisions and wouldn't hesitate to go against him as a councilman if he disagreed with him on an issue.

He said the city should set up a center to direct residents' calls for assistance, and follow up with callers to confirm they were helped.

Schweyer, who worked briefly as a middle school teacher in Philadelphia, said government could improve neighborhoods by working more closely with the strong organizations already in place, such as block watches and recreation groups. He said the city could advise on fundraising, recruitment, insurance and other issues.

Schweyer said the city needs to take better advantage of its housing to attract families and homeowners. It could encourage businesses to offer programs such as one offered by Lehigh Valley Hospital, which provides forgivable loans for down payments and closing costs, and money for facade improvements to employees who buy homes nearby.

Schweyer has never held public office but his career is in politics.

He ran unsuccessfully for state representative in 2002, losing to incumbent Pat Browne, now a Republican state senator for the 16th District. He works for state Rep. Jennifer Mann, D-Lehigh, as chief of staff, after working previously for state Rep. Steve Samuelson, D-Lehigh and Northampton, and Sen. Lisa Boscola, D-18th District. He also was a member of Pawlowski's transition team.

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