South Pittsburgh Reporter - Serving South Pittsburgh Since 1939

Things have changed


Nearly 35 years ago I went to my first Mount Oliver Borough Council meeting. I can still remember sitting in the gallery of the Council Chambers, what is now the borough administrative office.

Then, the borough secretary was Freda Froelich, council president was Matt Mutchler and council members included Marty Palma, "Doc" Nieder and Don Froehlich among others. It was Mayor Carl Patrick, Chief of Police Jack Heinmarch and solicitor was Jack Mohan then.

There was an order to things, Mr. Mutchler, and later Mr. Palma as council president, would keep things moving. There were no raised voices, the streets were paved, there was a balanced budget and no one was ever escorted from the council meetings by the police.

It's hard to figure out what's going on now: council meetings are a three-part series with residents asked to come to "workshop" meetings if they want to know what is being voted on; the current council president, Betty "Billie" Michener, says the borough has no money, they didn't even have money to advertise for a position as an assistant to the code enforcement officer for an as yet to be determined program to aggressively go after people who haven't paid their fines.

Unfortunately, at least for the residents of the borough, Ms. Michener hired a crony of hers from when she was on The Hilltop Alliance and who assisted in her campaign to return to borough council. At the time of the hiring, borough residents complained there wasn't even a job description. It's unfortunate Ms. Michener chose to hire a friend without first determining what he will do and how he will do it.

It looks like the first job for this new assistant code enforcement officer will be to collect enough money from outstanding fines to pay his salary.

Ms. Michener has also decided to not have the borough engineer attend monthly council meeting, deeming it unnecessary. At the council meetings, the engineer's report will consist of motions in need of a vote. Residents wanting to learn more will have to attend the agenda or workshop meetings. Although those meetings are open to the public, they are generally not covered by any news media.

Instead of having a more transparent government, Mount Oliver residents can look forward to more actions of a cloudy nature.

Since becoming president of the borough council Ms. Michener has taken a "do as I say, not as I do" in creating a monarchy. After sitting in the gallery and speaking at will for the months after being removed from office, she took a zero tolerance stance with those who chose to speak out when she returned to council. In her first meeting as council president she had the police escort former councilman Dennis Obeldobel out of the building. Later in April, she asked the police to take sitting councilman George Farneth out of council chambers.

This past month, Mount Oliver officials met with a website company to explore the cost of paying the company to create a new website for the borough. As chair of the Economic Development and Planning Committee, Mr. Farneth recommended they pass on hiring the company to create the site saying they din't have the $3,510.99 to pay for it. Ms. Michener overruled him and called for a vote. Voting with Ms. Michener were her running mates, Corey McGough and Darnell Sains, and John Smith to move forward with the site.

Borough residents should be concerned with the way in which their local government is being operated, if jobs are being handed out as political patronage and if decisions are being made on wants rather than needs or ability to pay.

— Tom Smith


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