‘Berg hosts Allentown mayoral debate

The College held its first mayoral debate, which was student-moderated, in 20 years.

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Photo by Ben Eber '23/The Muhlenberg Office of Communications. Matt Tuerk (D), Cydney Wilson '23, Emma Mueller '22, Tim Ramos (R).

Students and faculty gathered in the Seegers Union event space on Oct. 4 to watch Allentown’s two major party candidates for mayor engage in a spirited—yet civil—debate. The candidates consisted of Democrat Matt Tuerk and Republican Tim Ramos. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer each posed question with a minute-long rebuttal.

 The event was moderated by Cydney Wilson ‘23 and Emma Mueller ‘22, presidents of College Democrats and College Republicans, respectively. Wilson outlined the process of organizing the event saying, “Emma and I worked together beginning in August to make this event happen. It required meetings with both campaigns, various stakeholders at the College and each other over the course of many weeks. Seeing this event come together was incredibly meaningful, as local politics are so important.”

Mueller felt the same way, saying, “The process was a little stressful. I have never planned something this large before and working with campaigns, at any level, isn’t easy. However, it was something both Cydney and I were passionate about. All the hard work was well worth it in the end.”

During the debate, Tuerk and Ramos agreed on many topics. However, they deviated in their backgrounds and fields of experience. As a self-described political outsider, Tuerk spent his career working in economics and job creation. But Ramos, a native to the city and product of the Allentown school system, holds his expertise in aiding at-risk youth and developing small businesses through various organizations. This is Ramos’ second time running for the position and Tuerk’s first.

A primary talking point during the event was the role that policing should play in combating crime in Allentown. Tuerk expressed that the high crime rates can be lessened through neighborhood development and community health. “My belief is that when you have those strong neighborhoods—when you have opportunities for our youth—it really gives them an alternative to the things that can get them into trouble.” 

Ramos cited community policing as a crucial aspect in his agenda to reduce crime. He noted that, “When you have those relationships [with police officers], it changes the dynamic when you’re talking about issues of crime in our community.” 

The housing crisis in Allentown and the greater Lehigh Valley was also a point of interest for the candidates. Ramos conveyed his desire to convert old industrial sites into affordable housing. While Ramos did not dismiss the prospect of new developments, he critiqued their practicality. “I don’t think that our community is ready to pay $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and that’s not a reality for what is in demand by the people who live in the city of Allentown,” he stated. 

On this issue of housing, Tuerk cited his connections in the economic sphere as a basis for his housing plan. He plans to build new housing in partnership with regional organizations that he already has relationships with. “[This is] why I ran in the Democratic primary, against our incumbent,” Tuerk noted. “I felt like we needed better leadership in the city of Allentown to, not just create jobs, but to create these housing opportunities.” 

Both contenders expressed dissatisfaction with the city’s current administration’s level of communication surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuerk proposed investing more heavily in Allentown’s public health infrastructure. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of receiving the vaccine in order to set an example for the community. Ramos, who shared that he is unvaccinated but currently consulting with his doctor about receiving it, also shared his COVID-19 policy. He suggested increased testing availability for low-income areas with little access to them. 

On the topic of education, Ramos proposed the idea of a mayor’s council on education and stressed that parents of students in the district need to be more engaged and involved. He voiced the need to find “where there’s deficits [in the school district] and meet the needs of our young people.” 

Tuerk believes that there is currently a lack of engagement between the mayor and superintendent of the Allentown school district. He desires to foster a meaningful relationship with the superintendent through a regular, weekly dialogue. He asserted that “The city of Allentown’s total administration needs to be an active ally to the Allentown school district in its efforts to deliver on its mission of educating our kids.” 

Wilson and Mueller both spoke about the importance of Muhlenberg students being involved in local politics. Mueller said, “The ‘Muhlen-bubble’ is real. I think many students think that they just live here nine months out of the year and the decisions made in town hall are irrelevant to us. Many students are registered to vote on campus… Even for the students that don’t vote here, it is important to be in touch with the city around you. A lot of feedback I got from the debate was that students learned something new, or even learned ‘so much’ and it was interesting. Hearing that, makes me think the event was a success. The goal was to educate and inform.”

Wilson echoed this sentiment, saying, “It is crucial that Muhlenberg students are aware of our location in Allentown, and that we work to foster involvement, politically and otherwise, in the community.”

The debate proved to be a beneficial resource for many students. Hannah Verdun ‘24 voiced that “The debate was a great look into the future plans for Allentown and it was refreshing to hear that there’s a focus on positive change in multiple aspects across [the city].”

Cameron Eaton ‘23, team leader for voter engagement with the Office of Community Engagement and organizer of the initial Meet the Candidates event, stated that “Events like this are an opportunity to learn more about the city around us and to strengthen our engagement with the community. It was nice to see so many students interested in local politics. It’s a trend that I hope continues, as this is where so much of the legislation that affects our everyday lives happens.” 

President Kathleen Harring, who attended the debate, said, “I really want to lift up Cydney and Emma’s leadership in working together to organize and schedule the debate on Muhlenberg’s campus. To me, it really provided a model of how we need to work together in order to develop informed and engaged citizens.”

The candidates and moderators concluded by encouraging the student body to get out and vote in the election, regardless of party affiliation. The final day to register to vote is Oct. 18 and Election Day is on Nov. 3. In-person voting will be held at Muhlenberg’s on-campus polling place in Seegers Union and mail-in ballots can be requested until Oct. 26.

Students and faculty gathered in the Seegers Union event space on Oct. 4 to watch Allentown’s two major party candidates for mayor engage in a spirited yet civil debate. The candidates consisted of Democrat Matt Tuerk and Republican Tim Ramos. Each candidate was given two minutes to answer  each posed question with a minute-long rebuttal.

 The event was moderated by Cydney Wilson ‘23 and Emma Mueller ‘22, presidents of College Democrats and College Republicans, respectively. Wilson outlined the process of organizing the event saying that “Emma and I worked together beginning in August to make this event happen. It required meetings with both campaigns, various stakeholders at the college and each other over the course of many weeks. Seeing this event come together was incredibly meaningful, as local politics are so important.”

Tuerk and Ramos agreed on many topics. However, they deviated in their backgrounds and fields of experience. As a self-described political outsider, Tuerk spent his career working in economics and job creation. But Ramos, a native to the city and product of the Allentown school system, holds his expertise in aiding at-risk youth and developing small businesses through various organizations. This is Ramos’ second time running for the position and Tuerk’s first.

A primary talking point during the event was the role that policing should play in combating crime in Allentown. Tuerk expressed his belief that the high crime rates can be lessened through neighborhood development and community health. “My belief is that when you have those strong neighborhoods—when you have opportunities for our youth—it really gives them an alternative to the things that can get them into trouble.” 

Ramos cited community policing as a crucial aspect in his agenda to reduce crime. He noted that “When you have those relationships [with police officers], it changes the dynamic when you’re talking about issues of crime in our community.” Typically, proponents of this practice do not identify as Republican. However, local elections generally attract more moderate politicians. During the discussion, Tuerk even joked that Ramos often sounded more like the Democratic candidate than him. 

“My belief is that when you have those strong neighborhoods—when you have opportunities for our youth—it really gives them an alternative to the things that can get them into trouble.”

The housing crisis in Allentown and the greater Lehigh Valley was also a point of interest for both Tuerk and Ramos. Ramos conveyed his desire to convert old industrial sites into affordable housing. While Ramos did not dismiss the prospect of new developments, he critiqued their practicality. “I don’t think that our community is ready to pay $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and that’s not a reality for what is in demand by the people who live in the city of Allentown,” he stated emphatically. 

On this issue of housing, Tuerk cited his connections in the economic-sphere as a basis for his housing plan. He plans to build new housing in partnership with regional organizations that he already has relationships with. “[This is] why I ran in the Democratic primary, against our incumbent,” Tuerk noted, “I felt like we needed better leadership in the city of Allentown to, not just create jobs, but to create these housing opportunities.” 

Both contenders expressed dissatisfaction with the city’s current administration’s level of communication surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Tuerk proposed investing more heavily in Allentown’s public health infrastructure. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of receiving the vaccine in order to set an example for the community. The unvaccinated Ramos also shared his COVID-19 policy. He suggested increased testing availability for low-income areas with little access to them. 

The topic of the Allentown public school district allowed for much discourse among Ramos and Tuerk. Ramos proposed the idea of a mayor’s council on education and stressed that parents of students in the district need to be more engaged and involved. Ramos voiced the need to find “where there’s deficits [in the school district] and meet the needs of our young people.” 

In Tuerk’s eyes, there is currently a lack of engagement between the mayor and superintendent. He desires to foster a meaningful relationship with the superintendent through a regular, weekly dialogue. He asserted that “The city of Allentown’s total administration needs to be an active ally to the Allentown school district in its efforts to deliver on its mission of educating our kids.” 

“events like this are an opportunity to learn more about the city around us and to strengthen our engagement with the community. It was nice to see so many students interested in local politics. It’s a trend that I hope continues, as this is where so much of the legislation that affects our everyday lives happens.”

The debate proved to be a beneficial resource for many students. Hannah Verdun ‘24 voiced that “The debate was a great look into the future plans for Allentown and it was refreshing to hear that there’s a focus on positive change in multiples aspects across [the city]”

Team leader for voter engagement with the office of community engagement and organizer of the initial Meet the Candidates event Cameron Eaton stated that “events like this are an opportunity to learn more about the city around us and to strengthen our engagement with the community. It was nice to see so many students interested in local politics. It’s a trend that I hope continues, as this is where so much of the legislation that affects our everyday lives happens.” 

The candidates concluded by encouraging the student body to get out and vote in the election, regardless of party affiliation. The final day to register to vote is Oct. 18, with Election Day on Nov. 3. In-person voting will be held at Muhlenberg’s on-campus polling place in Seegers Union and mail-in ballots can be requested until Oct. 26.

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