Officials consider their legacy
Editor's note: This is the last of three articles examining politics in Coplay. The first article covered the tactics used in the 2013 primary election campaign. The second installment looked at debates over recent issues. This final part focuses on the goals of Coplay's political factions.
Both sides agree the Coplay Public Library is among the borough's biggest issues.
In May, voters approved a dedicated tax of 0.38 mills to support the library, but financial issues remain. Library officials revealed last month the dedicated tax won't bring in as much revenue as anticipated because of uncollectibles. In addition, neither the borough nor school district are planning to provide additional funding. The amount sought by the dedicated tax was intended only to replace funding provided by the school district, not the borough.
"Things are going to have to change," said Coplay council President Lou Bodish.
"If people are going to see things happen ... they don't mind paying taxes," he said. However, residents want to see they are getting something for their money.
Councilman Charles Sodl added council will have to work as a group with the library much more closely than it has in the past.
"It's our responsibility to protect the taxpayer money and to make sure we're accountable," he said.
Although he was not specific, Councilman Bill Leiner Jr. said among his goals is to "work to assist our library [to] function effectively." He was not available for an in-person interview for this series and commented only through emails.
He said he will "continue to work for open, honest government ... and work to eliminate the negative politics from the council chamber during meetings."
Leiner's goals also include addressing the issues regarding expenditures for the borough pool and improving emergency services. He did not say how either of these should be addressed.
Bodish also touched on the issue of responsible money management, saying he believes the borough is in better financial shape than it was four years ago. Still, it has a way to go.
"I'd like to see a surplus in our budget," he said. "You need something for a rainy day."
More than anything, however, Councilman Steve Burker, Bodish and Sodl said they want to see Coplay move forward and realize its potential.
"What good has come for our taxpayers from still fighting past issues?" Burker said. "Only that the excess baggage gets heavier."
Bodish lamented the negativity that has been present in Coplay, especially over the past 18 months. Everyone needs to understand Coplay does not have a single spokesman, he said.
"To me the spokesman is the taxpayer," said Burker, who considers himself the "freshman" on council. "They're the voice of Coplay and council is the ears."
Burker said the results of the primary election – in which he, Sodl, Bodish and Carl Luckenbach won the Democratic nominations for the four open council seats – represent a vote of confidence.
"This past election, the people spoke loudly," he said. "It's time for business over politics in Coplay."
Everyone needs to work together, he said.
"You got to get rid of the baggage," Burker said. "There's no way you can move forward with that baggage."
Council has to work to get a positive message out to the people, Bodish said.
Sodl and Burker agreed.
Burker said elected officials should consider not only how their actions appear now but also what their legacy will be.
"I hope mine is that people can come and say, 'You know what, you did the right thing,'" he said. "That made a positive difference.'"
Miller said she plans to stay active in politics. She may even run again for council some time in the future.
"It's a great community, why not?" she said.
It's important, she said, for residents to be active and become informed about what is going on. It's also good when people get involved enough that they want to run for office.
"You need people to run for public office. But it's got to be somebody that has stamina," she quipped. "I admire anyone that sits up there ... It's not easy."