Dems to pick 2 in Bellevue's 1st Ward

The only primary contest for Bellevue Council will occur in the borough’s first ward, where former council member Jane Braunlich is seeking the party’s nomination along with newcomers Val Pennington and Jodi Hause. Voters will choose two.

A series of questions was e-mailed to all candidates. There responses are printed here.

Education and work background
Braunlich: I am a high school graduate who has worked a variety of jobs in the service industry since I was 15 years old. My most rewarding job has been raising four children with my husband, Mike. Our family moved to Bellevue 24 years ago, and all of my children graduated from Northgate High School and went on to college.

Hause: I graduated, cum laude, from Clarion University of Pennsylvania in 1999 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology. I am a 2002 graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law with a Certificate in Health Law. I was admitted to the bar of Pennsylvania in 2003. For the last 14 years, I have worked as an insolvency and restructuring attorney, representing debtors and creditors in consumer and commercial bankruptcy cases. I am currently an attorney at Reed Smith LLP. Prior to joining Reed Smith, I was an associate in the bankruptcy and restructuring practice group of a boutique firm. Prior to that, I managed the consumer bankruptcy department of another Pittsburgh law firm where I primarily represented national mortgage companies and servicers, as well as local lenders in consumer bankruptcy cases across Pennsylvania.

Pennington: I attended the University of Pittsburgh, and hope to attain my MBA. My professional life spans 30 years and is an eclectic mix of Sales, Management, Administration, Public Speaking, Coaching, and Service. In healthcare, finance, and public safety industries, I have negotiated six figure contracts with small town governments, supervised staffs of dozens of people, served on boards, and as an employee/management liaison.

Prior/current political involvement
Braunlich: I served on Bellevue Council from 2007 to 2014. During that time I served as vice president and chair of the public works and public safety committees, and represented the borough with the Tri-Boros Steering Committee that developed the joint comprehensive plan and zoning code, with the Quaker Valley Council of Governments, and with CONNECT. I currently serve on the zoning hearing board. I have been a member of the Democratic Committee for 17 years, and currently serve as chair of the Bellevue Democratic Committee. During that time I have worked with elected officials from all levels of government, from local to the federal level, forming relationships that can help Bellevue get the funds and services it needs from the county, state and federal governments. Four years ago, I ran for mayor rather than seek another term on Bellevue Council.

Hause: This year I was appointed to serve on the Joint Planning Commission for Bellevue, Avalon, and Ben Avon. I believe that effective zoning and planning are instrumental to Bellevue realizing its potential.
Prior to this appointment, I was involved in politics in a more understated way. I have always been a registered Democrat, and I have supported various Democratic candidates by participating in fundraisers and distributing campaign literature.

Pennington: This is my first time running for local office. I've spent my life as an outspoken fighter for equality and social justice. I am an active and open Democrat who is open about my values and where I stand on every issue. I have voted in all elections, local and national, for as long as I've been eligible.

Braunlich: Prior/current community involvementMy community service has spanned the decades that I have lived in Bellevue, and includes everything from volunteering with Lutheran Services to provide help to senior citizens, to various groups involving my children, including the Bellevue Avalon Girls Athletic Association, Northgate PTO, band boosters and cross country. I continue to volunteer with Northgate. I served as vice president of the Bellevue Dog Woods Association, helping to raise funds for and build an off-leash dog park in Bellevue. Through my work with the Democratic Committee, I have led efforts to provide winter gloves, hats and scarves to those in our community who need them, and to collect personal care items for women who are the victims of domestic violence and young pregnant girls who turn to Genesis for help. I currently am working with Bellevue’s 150th Committee to plan the celebration of Bellevue’s sesquicentennial this summer.

Hause: I recently participated in an Expungement Legal Clinic at the City Mission in Washington, PA, as criminal charges and convictions (even minor offenses) can be a real barrier for obtaining employment and housing. I’ve volunteered at Neighborhood Legal Services Debt Clinic in downtown Pittsburgh, which assists low income individuals with representation and advice concerning evictions and other landlord tenant matters. In April, I participated in an Improve the Vue community clean-up day, hosted by the Bellevue Initiative for Growth and Revitalization (BIGr). I am, also, an advocate for cancer awareness. As a cancer survivor and having family and friends who have been touched by cancer, I have been involved support various organizations.

You may have seen me out and about supporting our local sports teams, organizations, businesses, attending community events, council and school board meetings, volunteering in our schools, as well as contributing my talents as a public speaker/announcer as a tour guide in Enjoy Bellevue's Summer Solstice Spectacular. I'm an active and engaged member of a community I love since moving to Bellevue 10 years ago.

Why are you running for office?
Braunlich: While it is always good for new people to bring their ideas and energy to Bellevue government, that needs to be balanced with council members who have experience and knowledge. We are about to have a lot of new people on council, and I can provide them with information on council’s procedures and community issues.

Hause: I am running for council in Ward 1 because I want to make Bellevue better for everyone. I’ve become more and more concerned at the lack of business development on Lincoln Avenue, the condition of our streets and sidewalks, and our outrageous property taxes. I want Bellevue to have a renaissance, and I believe in its potential. I chose to get involved when I learned of the need for strong, nonpartisan individuals to lead this community. Getting into this race, I had no prior affiliations or biases. I just knew that my professional and personal experience would be an asset to this community and I could make a difference in Bellevue.

Pennington: Council makes the fiduciary decisions for the Borough, and having attended several meetings over the years, and reviewing the minutes going back four years, I feel that it is my civic duty to contribute my prudence in making business decisions to the process.

What experience, personal qualities, etc will you bring to the office, if elected?
Braunlich: More than two decades of community service, and extensive knowledge of Bellevue’s government.

Hause: My legal experience will allow me to understand and evaluate leases, agreements, and borough ordinances. Also, I have experience evaluating budgets and financial statements. In addition to this, I prefer to collaborate and make decisions based on thorough research. Working in the insolvency field has given me a unique perspective.

Pennington: I bring to the table an analytical, decisive mind that knows how to prioritize, and make fair, logical conclusions. My real world business experience, levied with an ethical hand, makes me someone who will make the decisions for Bellevue, in a proactive, rather than reactive fashion. I aim to represent the best choice for all constituents of the borough.

Why should people vote for you?
Braunlich: Repairing and maintaining our infrastructure is a major challenge for Bellevue at this time. I think I'm really good with public works. When I was chair of public works, we paved eight roads, and got six done at no cost to the taxpayers by working with utility companies, etc.. I'm the kind of person that likes to start a project, see it through, and see the end results

Hause: I work in an adversarial field. I am not interested in arguing for the sake of arguing, it is exhausting and nothing is accomplished. I will work with everyone to get results for Bellevue.
I want to change the narrative of this community. Bellevue has so many great things to offer. Its proximity to the North Shore and Downtown, alone, is an undeniable asset. For some reason, Bellevue has yet to experience the surge in business and residential development that other communities around Pittsburgh have over the last 10 years. That is unfortunate but it’s not too late. We need to start marketing the great things about our community and work together to transform our business district. We need to explore ways to make the store fronts on Lincoln are vibrant and maintained. I would talk to leaders in other communities to see how they have tackled similar problems. Engaging the community is important too so I would absolutely encourage the input of organizations that are already working in our community, as well as the insight and assistance of individual residents. We are all in this together and Bellevue as a community should be engaged in this process.

Pennington: Our votes are our way of placing trust in a candidate to make the correct choices on our behalf. We want them to share our values and view the world with the same lens. I intend to serve this community and protect Bellevue's interests, not my own, or those of a few. No decision I would make would be to profit anyone other than the community at large. I pledge to reward the borough for bestowing their good faith upon me by being their most tireless champion.

Any other statement you would like to make?
Braunlich: None

Hause: I have always dreamed of buying a home of my own. I grew up in a small town in an economically depressed area in a “working poor” family. The house I grew up in was very small. I fundamentally believe that education is the key to betterment and empowerment. Throughout my academic and professional life, I’ve worked to overcome the economic disadvantages that I have experienced. I worked my way through college and took out a lot of student loans to get through school. For many years, I rented an apartment in Squirrel Hill and another in Mt. Washington before I was able to purchase a home four years ago. When I was searching for a house, I was looking for a neighborhood that was walkable, an easy commute to the city, and affordable. I fell in love with the character, history, and diversity of Bellevue. Bellevue definitely feels like a community. Bellevue to me is a dream realized. When I say that I want to raise the standards of this community, I sincerely mean that I want the best for Bellevue and all of its residents. We should always strive to improve ourselves and our community. This is fundamental value to me and is one I will bring to Bellevue Council.

Pennington: I plan to use my business connections in the hospitality community to spotlight the potential in Bellevue as a burgeoning spot for Commercial and Economic Development. An exploding business district will help every one of us, as well as make our town a more attractive spot for new home buyers. Buyers who will discover our affordable grand old houses to renovate, our easy accessibility to and from all directions of Pittsburgh, as well as it’s friendly neighbors. I want Bellevue to be known as the convenient, and beautiful, town that it is: Pittsburgh's "Gateway to the North, South, East, and West"