Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spotlight on John Sponcer - Ross Township Commissioner Candidate in Ward 5

1.  Please provide our readers with a brief paragraph introducing yourself that provides them with a snapshot of your background.
I have been a resident of Ross Township with 11 years in Laurel Gardens.  I was born and raised on the North Side, a graduate of North Catholic High School, attended CCAC (Business) and a US Army veteran.  I am retired from Comcast as a construction technician.  My wife Denise and I have 2 daughters, Krista (20) and Kelsey (10).  As a township resident, I have over 37 years as a volunteer firefighter with Perrysville VFD and Evergreen VFD. 
2.  What qualifications and skills will you bring to this position?  For incumbents, please do not reference the number of years you have served in office as a qualification.
In my years of service with the fire department, I have held leadership positions within the Perrysville VFD, including 10 years as Fire Chief.  I am the Director of Communications for the Emergency Management for Ross Township as well as a member of the Fire Appeals Board.  I currently serve as the President of the Ross Township Fireman’s Association and Secretary of the Fireman’s Relief Association. 
In the majority of these roles, I have provided leadership to many, incorporating the safety of the firefighters while protecting the residents of the township.  With my roles in Emergency Management, I have worked with leaders of the Township and Allegheny County to provide services during severe weather or other emergencies.  With my role as Fire Association President and the Relief Association, I have the responsibility to represent the township’s eight fire companies on a local and state level, seeking additional funding in the form of grants.
3.  Why do you seek this elected office?
I see this as an opportunity to lend a voice to the residents of the Third Ward, which lately have been silent.  I feel that some of the residents do not have an equal voice throughout the ward.  There are many opportunities that have been missed and others ignored, at the cost of the residents of the Township.
4.  What do you think is the most important issue facing Ross Township in the coming years?  How do you plan to address it?
The most important issue facing the Township is revitalization of business within the Township, not just McKnight Road.  Babcock Boulevard and Perry Highway need to have the same focus of business revitalization.
If I am elected, I would eliminate Ross Economic Development (RED), and seek out the expertise in marketing and development to bring business into Ross Township as well as curtailing the startup of controversial businesses.

5.  If elected, what single change will you try to make to Ross Township?  Why this change?
I will strive to protect the infrastructure of the Township assuring public safety with well staffed and equipped police, fire, and EMS.  The township needs to focus on road paving, not only from a safety perspective, but to keep future costs down when no other options are available.  The residents of Ross Township need to feel comfortable and safe in their neighborhoods and have a place to play and grow as in our parks and recreation programs.
6.  Where do you think Ross Township will be 4 years from now?  How will you be instrumental in moving it in that direction?
If the Township continues in the same direction, the Township will have empty storefronts and decreased tax revenues with further loss of infrastructure.    Provision for public safety could be jeopardized related to decrease funding and loss of state funding.
If I am elected, I would place the importance of business development and longevity of prudent spending, while preserving services of the Township to steer it in the right direction. 
Focusing on public safety with adequate staffing and equipment for the police department and working to encourage membership with the volunteer fire service and EMS.  Working with the Parks and Recreation department to seek additional funding opportunities to secure programs for the residents. 
Leadership and cooperation of the Board of Commissioners as representatives of the Township is instrumental in the future of the Township, so the residents will have faith not mistrust in those elected.
7.  How are you different from your opponent(s)?
I feel that the incumbent has lost touch with all the residents of his district, focusing on a few versus the many.  His leadership on the Board of Commissioners has been lacking and is evident if you have ever attended a meeting, especially on concerns in his own district.
I feel that there needs to be a partnership with the North Hills School District, and other outside agencies, DUI task force, Northland library to enhance opportunities for Township residents and promote residency in the Township to preserve its reputation as a great area to raise a family.
8.  What do you think can be done to revitalize the McKnight Road business corridor?
As stated in question # 4.
9.  Why do you live in Ross Township?
The neighborhood, Laurel Gardens reminds me of the way neighborhoods used to be, a friendly, safe place to raise our children.  It also affords a short commute to work, prior to retiring, I drove to Pittsburgh daily and my wife works at UPMC Passavant Hospital.  North Hills School District has and continues to provide a valuable education to our children, including many opportunities for them to be able become productive citizens.  Ross Township has the opportunities for businesses and shopping without having to travel.
10.  What is the best part about Ross Township?
 The residents.
11.  Are you in favor of following the salary structure for Commissioners established by the First Class Township Code and reducing the pay from $5000 to $4375 since Ross Township has a population of 31,105?
Yes, as a commissioner I represent the residents of my ward.  The job should be about the residents, not the pay.

12.  Do you intend to accept the taxpayer funded health insurance?  Why or why not?
No, I receive coverage from my wife’s employer. 
The commissioners are part time employees, how many of the resident’s with part time employment are eligible for benefits at no cost.  The money is better spent elsewhere, considering most of the commissioners have additional employment.
For incumbents, what is one decision that you have made in your role as Commissioner that you regret?  What would you have done differently and why?
13.  For new candidates, what is one decision that you feel the Commissioners have made that had a negative impact?What would you have done differently and why?  What is one decision the Commissioners have made that had a positive impact and why?
In looking back over past years when decisions were made to forgo tax increases and decrease spending on road paving and other services, it has culminated into a larger deficit in a time of decreased funding availability from other sources (state/federal) that has placed the Township in a precarious position.  As unpopular as a decision as it may be, by not cutting taxes and “saving for a rainy day” coupled with proper cost controls could preserve the ability of the Township to provide services required as a First Class Township and the residents it represents.
To find a positive impact to past decisions, you would need to ask the majority of residents – what would there reply be, I currently can’t think of one.

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