West Chester election heats up with write-in candidacy

Daily Local News, 8/20/09, p. A4
West Chester election heats up with write-in candidacy
Anti-garage activist David LaLeike announces plans to run as independent for Fifth Ward Borough Council seat


Staff Writer

WEST CHESTER – It appeared on the day after the primary that the borough was in for a rather boring general election season.

Bill Scott, who lost the Democratic mayoral primary, said he would not run in the general election.

That left six Democrats running uncontested in each of the six major municipal races. The Republicans have fielded no candidates for borough seats this year.

At the start of August, however, something happened that promises to make West Chester’s upcoming political season a little more interesting.

David LaLeike, a Democrat turned independent who has been a major fighter in the battle against the borough’s plan to build a parking garage at South New and West Nields streets, announced that he would run in the Fifth Ward as a write-in candidate.

The Fifth Ward seat will be vacated at year’s end by Councilwoman Carolyn Comitta, who is running uncontested for mayor. Tom Paxon, a salesman for a pipe company, was endorsed by the Democrats to run in her place.

LaLeike said that he would like to go from being an opponent of Borough Council to one of its members.

“At this juncture, I think I can accomplish more by being a council member – an insider, so to speak,” he said. “It’s more worthwhile being a constructive member of local government than having a long-term adversarial role, or to be perceived as having that.”

He added that he is not against future real estate development. Rather, he said, he wants to take a comprehensive and informed look at how various projects will affect the whole borough.

LaLeike is a plaintiff in a lawsuit against the borough. Borough Council approved a proposal in May 2008 that would allow the borough to build a parking garage at South New and West Nields streets, at the edge of the West Chester University campus. The lot would serve borough residents and the university, borough officials said.

LaLeike and other neighbors in the area have argued that the borough is actually building a garage for the university, and that, as such, it is not really a public garage. Therefore, the neighbors argue, the borough does not have the right to build the garage.

LaLeike and Brendan Dolan, neighbors who are members of West Chester Residents for Responsible Planning, appealed the board’s May decision to the Court of Common Pleas in September 2008.

Common Pleas Judge David Bortner denied their appeal in January 2009, and they have taken their appeal to the Commonwealth Court.

Nathaniel Smith, the chairman of the West Chester Democratic Committee, said that he welcomes LaLeike to the race.

Smith, who has been dedicating much energy to the West Chester Area School Board race, in which both the Republican and the Democratic parties have fielded full slates of candidates, said he is pleased that the Fifth Ward race may prompt more borough residents to show up to the polls, where they would presumably also vote in the school board election.

“Anything that will bring voters to the polls in West Chester in November is a good thing,” Smith said.

He added that LaLeike’s candidacy will help educate residents about the Nields and New streets parking garage issue. But, he said, it will be hard in a heavily Democratic ward to beat an endorsed Democrat.

Paxon, the endorsed Democrat, did not immediately return a voicemail message requesting comment.

To contact staff writer Dan Kristie, send an e-mail to dkristie@dailylocal.com.


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