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Indiana University of Pennsylvania student Taralyn Federoff (senior, political science/anthropology) is running for a seat on the Indiana Borough Council in the wake of anti-partying fervor due to homecoming. She hopes to put a face to the students and focus on the positives they bring to the community.
Federoff has just two weeks to mount a write-in campaign to capture one of the two open seats in the 3rd Ward. Third Ward is defined as south of Philadelphia Street and west of South Seventh Street, all the way to the western edge of the borough boundary, encompassing the IUP campus.
“Our campaign is a little bit of insanity,” Federoff said at a campaign organizational meeting Tuesday.
Eric Barker, a local political organizer and IUP employee, got the ball rolling on the campaign and was on hand Tuesday to get students involved and make it a student-run campaign.
The idea is to “dorm storm” the campus and receive support from Greek organizations. Federoff is a member of the Alpha Xi Delta sorority. She said she is hopeful that the entire Greek system will support her. There is a strong Greek presence in the 3rd Ward, according to chapter members’ comments at Tuesday night’s meeting.
The western side of Seventh Street in the 3rd Ward includes the Greek chapters Phi Psi, Sigma Chi and Kappa Sigma.
Though a two-week write-in campaign may seem like a long shot, this may be the best chance students have to elect a representative to the council. Last year, local political organizations registered more than 4,000 IUP students to vote.
The number of registered voters increased by over 1,000 in the 3/1 and 3/2 precincts (first voting precinct and second voting precinct in 3rd Ward) when students returned to school during the 2012 fall semester, according to an Oct. 21, 2012, article in the Indiana Gazette.
Federoff’s campaign needs an estimated 250 total votes to secure a 3rd Ward seat, based on past election results.
There are three people already on the ballot for 3rd Ward for the two available seats. Current Council President Nancy Jones (D) and Councilman Richard Thorell (R) are both seeking re-election. Matthew Gaudet (R) is also on the ballot. Third Ward Councilman Tom Thompson will keep his seat until the next election.
IUP alumna Jennifer Gonda-English is also organizing her 3rd Ward write-in campaign in conjunction with Federoff’s. Gonda-English also hopes to be a voice for the students. English will run as a Republican and Federoff as a Democrat.
Federoff’s family moved to the Indiana area when she was in second grade. Her mother is a psychology professor at IUP, and her father, who was a local firefighter, passed away during her freshman year.
“My main objective is to breathe life into the council,” Federoff said. “I want to give a new perspective the council hasn’t had before. I think they have great foundations for the town, but I think it’s time for a little bit of change. I want to be the one to usher in that change.”
Federoff said she hopes to stay in Indiana if she is elected but is unsure of what she will do after graduation.
“I am definitely staying around for as much of term as I possibly can.”
Jones took heat from Federoff Tuesday for her comments in an Oct. 10 Indiana Gazette article. Jones said homeowners were feeling afraid and frustrated because residents are outnumbered by students.
Ken and Nancy Robinson felt that fear when their house caught fire the night of Oct. 5 in the middle of homecoming celebrations. Fire trucks trying to get down Seventh Street were blocked by crowds of students who were drawn to the flashing lights and chaos.
Jones was on a police ride-along that night and had been driving up and down Seventh Street.
“We had been responding to calls at Giant Eagle Express, Sheetz and other places in the vicinity before the fire started,” Jones said in an Oct. 23 phone interview.
Jones said when they got the call about the fire, “the officer knew we couldn’t get down Seventh Street so we tried to go around.”
“We were crawling along with our lights on and still people weren’t moving out of the street,” Jones said.
Jones and fellow Councilman Kevin Kravetsky, who was also on a police ride-along, beat the fire trucks to the burning house on Maple Street.
Two ladders were produced and neighbors, IUP students and police all helped to get Ken and Nancy off of the roof. Fire crews had been on standby at the Eighth Street firehouse and were not too delayed from arriving on the scene.
But Federoff said Jones’ comments focus too much on the negative side.
“I felt a little bit insulted,” Federoff said in an Oct. 23 interview at Stapleton Library. “I don’t think that’s an accurate representation of all the students. Just looking at the bad is not a productive way to look at the university. Regardless of whether anyone wants to admit it, this is a university town. It’s not going away any time soon.”
Both Jones and Federoff do have at least one thing in common: They both think resident and student neighbors should get to know each other.
“Once you know someone, you are much less likely to cause trouble for them,” Federoff said.
Each year the Borough Council is supportive of the Hawk Walk, which takes residents and students on door-knocking tours in the borough. Several members of council participated this year.
Jones was also sympathetic toward students affected by rowdy partiers.
There was a large party homecoming weekend on Fisher Avenue where Jones lives. She claims there were 500 people inside the house of an IUP student, who had lost control over his home.
“As we came around the corner and surprised them, they pushed the screens out of the side and back [of the house] and started jumping out of the windows,” Jones said at the Oct. 8 Borough Council meeting. “It was just mind-boggling to see all of these kids.”
That night Jones spoke to the only renter at the house at the time.
“He was rather sober and extremely distressed. He said, ‘I don’t know where all these kids came from.’ He said, ‘They just kept coming and coming and coming.’”
“He said to me, ‘You know what? I’m screwed. I’m an IUP crim major, and I’m being cited for disorderly conduct at a gathering and underage drinking.’ He’s going to have fines that are out the wazoo.”
But there are larger problems with town-gown relations than just partying backlash.
Some, such as Indiana Borough Police Chief William Sutton, have said that Indiana does not get enough money from IUP, and students are a drain on taxpayer services such as police enforcement, according to statements made at an Aug. 8 open forum.
A zoning ordinance rewrite may be in the cards over the next few years, and Federoff could be the student voice for that project. The Borough Council already budgeted for a planner that could help with such a rewrite if the council votes for it, according to Jones.
For now, the council is not formally planning any change to zoning. However, some on council, such as John Hartman of the 4th Ward, urged a rewrite of the “draconian” ordinance in May of this year.
Previous efforts at shaking up zoning were centered on shifting the student population closer to the IUP campus.
However, the traditional neighborhood development overlay zone was repealed on July 2 of this year after residents caught in the “spot-zoning” were unhappy with the overlay and said it was ruining their property values.