LEWISBURG — The four current candidates for Union County commissioner appeared at Candidate’s Night on Wednesday organized by the League of Women Voters of the Lewisburg Area.
They included incumbent Preston Boop, a Republican from Buffalo Township, Jeff Reber, a Republican from West Buffalo Township, Stacy Richards and Trey Casimir, Democrats from Lewisburg.
Each candidate took the same questions, with time permitted for rebuttal, before a nearly-full Community Room at the East Buffalo Township Municipal Building.
The candidates were asked for their thoughts about a county-wide nondiscrimination ordinance (NDO). Though there has been no talk of an NDO at the county level, a draft of one for Lewisburg Borough was recently sent to a law firm for review.
Casimir was concerned about enforcement provisions. Whether he would support an NDO or not would depend on whether it would truly be able to bring landlords or employers to court if they discriminated against people for sexual orientation or gender identification.
“While I am completely sympathetic to the ends, it seemed like a big expenditure of political capital for something that is largely symbolic,” Casimir said. “I understand symbols are important but I have to choose which symbol I can put my butt behind.”
Reber maintained that people had a right to feel safe, but there were many laws already on the books which promote safety and equality.
“I would like to see us start there first,” Reber said. “This is almost to me more of a national issue, not necessarily something outlined in the county code.”
Boop said he sought to avoid complications which could follow changes in policy.
“We do have nondiscrimination laws (and) equal opportunity employment laws,” Boop said. “Union County in the 16 years I have been here has fallen within those laws and operated with in then. I don’t think we need to complicate this by crating something ini addition.”
Richards said civil community-wide dialogue would help determine what is safe, but would require more information.
Casimir acknowledged during a time of rebuttal that gay people are discriminated against and that the law sometimes fails to protect them. He was hopeful that larger forces would prevail as the Supreme Court did when it dropped a prohibition of same-sex marriage.
Transportation within the county was also among the questions. Richards said access to transportation was hindering a large part of the population. It was an area worthy of renewed commissioner attention, perhaps what she called a stationary circuit system.
Casimir said the public Rabbit Transit system offered an effective service, but he conceded the high cost of both a standard bus route or more specialized system.
Reber said a transportation proposition was costly, but there could be private solutions. In the meantime, churches and nonprofits may be able to provide service. It was a matter of connecting the people in need with people who can offer help.
Boop also acknowledged the cost and limited ridership of a public transit system in a rural community. Boop, instrumental in founding the Union County Treatment Court, said court members often use bicycles if they have lost their licenses. He noted the frequency of horse and buggy or bicycle traffic on county roads. A fixed-route bus system in the rural county was not something he could support.
Whether more farmland should be surrendered for use as a solar panel field was discussed.
Reber said it was understandable that farmers would want to maximize their income by leasing to solar power companies or owning solar panels. But it would have to be an individual decision.
Boop said he supported alternative energies, having spent 10 years making his own biodiesel fuel, but did not care to see big fields turned over to solar panels.
“Let’s not take prime agricultural soils and utilize it for solar energy,” Boop said.
Richards said clean energy was viable, but large solar farms were often owned by outside investors. Setting up a system by which local control and ownership was maintained could reap local wealth.
Casimir said the real conflict was between fossil fuel industry and alternative energy rather than between solar energy and farm people. He said home-grown energy was a place worthy of spending political capital.
Voters will be asked to choose two candidates on Tuesday. The four year term as commissioner pays $69,458.