What is the BugPAC?

The support from students, young professionals, and long-term residents in State College has been encouraging since we embarked on this BugPAC campaign. The hundreds of positive conversations our team has had with all stakeholders in this community over the last few months has made it all worth it.

As Election Day draws nearer, we wanted to take some time to explain what we are and what we are not so you can make an informed vote on May 16.

BugPAC’s mission is simple: We believe Penn State students are residents and deserve to be heard and respected in our local government as much as anybody else. We believe that this principle has not been fully realized in recent history.

We believe that State College is a wonderful place to live, work, and learn thanks to the eclectic mix of students and townspeople who call this place home. As a college town, students are essential to the spirit of the place, and their needs should be given proper consideration when decisions are made in the Borough — just like anyone else who lives here. Without students, State College probably wouldn’t exist at all, at least not in its current form.

That’s what the BugPAC is about. We don’t think these are controversial concepts. We think a majority of the people who live in the Borough of State College believe in these principles. Most of the people behind the hundreds of doors we’ve knocked on have reaffirmed this for us.

We are not waging a student takeover. We are not saying that students matter more than anybody else. We do not condone any of the vandalism or nuisances that students (and non-students) cause in some neighborhoods for families in the Borough, and we wish that those among us who behave badly are held accountable. All we want is a better balance of interests on Borough Council and in the Mayor’s office.

Our steering committee of more than a dozen student leaders from a diverse group of organizations — student government, Penn State Athletics, College Democrats, the Interfraternity Council, the Panhellenic Council, and others — along with our hundreds of supporters and volunteers — both students and long-term residents alike — are working hard to elect candidates who believe in these principles.

Michael Black has boundless energy and vision and is one of the strongest advocates for State College that we’ve ever seen. He will be the cheerleader and bridge-builder that this town needs.

Marina Cotarelo is one of the most service-oriented, selfless people we know, having biked across the country last summer helping communities in dozens of states build affordable housing. She brings the perspectives of a graduate student and young-professional to the Borough Council, both of which are currently unrepresented.

Dan Murphy is as community-oriented as they come and has a vision for State College that reflects his experiences living in three college towns. As the Director of New Student Orientation, he welcomes more than 8,000 new members of this community every year.

Evan Myers has been involved in this community for more than 40 years and has helped guide one of the region’s most important businesses in AccuWeather. He has the experience and voting record on Borough Council to move State College forward.

We believe these four candidates are best suited to achieve the mission we all believe in — a more inclusive, vibrant State College for everyone who calls this place home, whether it’s for 4 years or 40 years, and we earnestly support their candidacies. Every vote for these four great candidates is a vote for a State College that is inclusive to everyone.

Each of our endorsed candidates brings a unique perspective. They do not always agree with each other, or even with us. We are not an organization that forces its candidates to adopt specific political positions, nor do we have the power or desire to do so. We do not support these candidates for the sake of homogeny. But the foundation of their beliefs is rooted in a respect for every resident of this town, regardless of occupation, age, student status, political party, or anything else. That is why they have our support.

This is not a campaign against anybody or any group of people. We have not had the opportunity to meet Council candidates Riley Cooper or Steve Mower yet, but we have heard and seen only positive things about their work. Several members of our steering committee had the opportunity to have lunch with mayoral candidate Don Hahn, who was nothing but professional and cordial.

If any of these candidates win, we hope they will work with us to achieve the principles we’ve outlined above. We all care a lot about State College, and we can only achieve equality if we respect one another.

We know that not everyone agrees with us. We’ve been called an assortment of nasty names and had patently false information spread by another candidate’s campaign manager almost every day. We’ve been told by some that the town only “belongs” to long-term residents and that students are mere transients and unimportant to the business of the town. One person told us that it should be illegal for students to vote in their college towns. Some of our elected officials have referred to students as bugs, rats, miscreants, lowlifes, wolf packs, and drunks in recent years.

Which is more divisive: Referring to more than 70 percent of your constituency by those names, or supporting candidates who will respect everyone who is fortunate enough to live in this community?

State College “belongs” to those who live here and love it. Most people — students and non-students — live here and love it. Some of us, like our Chair and Co-Chair, love it so much that they will remain in State College after graduation this week to begin their careers. Others will love it from afar after they graduate. Even most of those who disagree with our campaign love it. We all love it, have a stake in it, and we all want nothing more than for it to succeed.

On May 16, we urge you to vote for Michael Black for Mayor, and Marina Cotarelo, Dan Murphy, and Evan Myers for Borough Council. We believe these four candidates will achieve a more inclusive, vibrant State College for all residents.

— The BugPAC Steering Committee