“Meet the Ticket” events bring local politics to Muhlenberg

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Photo courtesy of @ocevoterpromoters on Instagram.

Candidates for City Council and Mayor of Allentown participated in two “Meet the Ticket” events at Muhlenberg College on March 31 and April 7, respectively. The events, which took place via Zoom, consisted of several breakout rooms in which students could engage in a discussion, moderated by students from ‘Berg Votes, College Democrats and College Republicans, with the candidates.  

Cameron Eaton ’23, the leader for Voter Engagement at the OCE, organized the events. “Candidates engaged in respectful debate at both sessions, while students gained a better understanding of the contenders and the policies they support,” Eaton said. 

The March 31 session welcomed five city council candidates, including Democrats Santo Napoli, Patrick Palmer, Justan Parker Fields, and Erik Rodriguez as well as Republican candidate, Tom Houck. Students questioned the candidates on a number of issues, including COVID-19 relief funding, police reform, gun control and education. The impassioned contenders shared their positions on these subjects. Many called for increased housing inspections, a return to community policing and the refurbishment of the city’s outskirts.

Eaton noted that the discussion was so provocative that they “stayed on the Zoom for an extra 20 minutes because the conversation was still going!” 

“I really liked that we had the opportunity to hear from each candidate individually in a small breakout room. It was great to be able to directly ask them our questions and get answers on the spot.”

Naomi Fogel ‘23 said, “I really liked that we had the opportunity to hear from each candidate individually in a small breakout room. It was great to be able to directly ask them our questions and get answers on the spot.”

The April 7 mayoral “Meet the Ticket” event included Democratic candidate Matthew Tuerk, and Republican candidate Tim Ramos. Siara Gutierrez, an assistant to Democratic city council member Ce-Ce Gerlach, also attended on the candidate’s behalf.  Representation was one of the themes of the night. If elected, either Tuerk and Ramos would be the first Spanish-speaking mayor of Allentown, and Gerlach would be the first female. 

Tuerk, a self-described political “rookie,” has a background in economics from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corps. When asked how he would allocate the $57 million given to Allentown as part of the American Rescue Act, he stated, “One of the most significant investments would be the creation of a fund to help entrepreneurs get started.”

Tuerk  believes that “neighborhood-based entrepreneurs are the lifeblood of healthy neighborhoods.”

Ramos focused mainly on job creation and small businesses. He said, “We need to create an environment where our community is welcoming to business. Right now it’s not.” His main focus is bringing distribution centers that exist in the greater Lehigh Valley directly to the city of Allentown. 

Gutierrez, who noted that she herself is a product of the Allentown school district, stressed the importance of adding a priority-based budget for the city. She voiced her thoughts on the matter saying, “Obviously the system isn’t working…I saw the inequities in the school district and how this whole system works.” Gutierrez also stated that prioritizing the neglected areas surrounding the renovated downtown is crucial to Gerlach. 

“excellent demonstration of the power of youth to organize and ask important questions.”

These events allowed Muhlenberg students to engage in local politics. By being able to ask the candidates questions directly, students were able to survey who they thought best represented their interests.

Eaton believes that the events were an “excellent demonstration of the power of youth to organize and ask important questions.” The conversations also proved that politics do not always have to be heated and divisive, despite the stakes of the issues at hand being high. During the talk-back, when disagreements arose among candidates, the discussion maintained its civil tone. 

There are some important dates to keep in mind if you plan to vote. If you are not already a registered Allentown voter, May 3 is the last day to register. In addition, May 11 is the last day to register for a mail-in ballot. It must be received by May 18. The in-person primary will also be held on May 18 and Muhlenberg is a polling place. Get out and vote, Mules!

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Katie is a Media & Communication and Political Science double major in the class of 2024. When she's not working on the paper you can find her blasting Taylor Swift, reading Jane Austen, or crying over Little Women (2019).

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