We have now entered the primary election season here in Indiana County. Candidates for various county-level positions are canvassing throughout the area in search of petition signatures and constituency interaction.
As a Blairsville Borough resident, I ask the same rather docile questions each time a county-wide candidate knocks at my door.
“With the exception of campaigning while running for office, when was the last time you walked the streets of Blairsville Proper? And who, on my modest-sized street, which holds 77 private residential homes, do you know personally? And who, on the other 68 streets of Blairsville Proper do you know personally?
“Oh”, they’ll often reply, “I frequent the Chestnut Ridge Inn and Golf Course” (not Blairsville Proper) or, “I often travel through Blairsville on my way to Latrobe.” Their responses are ambiguous at best.
Our town is a shadow of its former self. Our streets and sidewalks are empty and many are in need of repair. Our old, unused school buildings are dark and vacant. Our rusted and crumbling North Walnut Street railroad trestle invites an East Palestine, Ohio, scenario. Our football stadium, the last remaining vestige of the former stand-alone Blairsville School system, is soon to disappear. Many volunteer citizens labor exhaustively to maintain our community pride, but with little county notice or input.
The crestfallen eyes of Blairsville tend to gaze north and witness a county centralization going on that favors, feeds and nourishes Indiana Proper and White Township almost exclusively. Ironically, the Conemaugh River, that rather distant demarcation 20 miles removed from the county center, the tributary which serves as the southern border of both Indiana County and Blairsville, functions more as Blairsville’s link to Westmoreland County than it does a welcome mat to Indiana County.
No one truly expects county-wide candidates to be acquainted with every citizen or street in the county; such a notion is unrealistic. But they should, at the very least, try to better understand the struggles and particulars of each municipality and speak to those issues, while soliciting signatures and votes in said locales.
Patrick W. McElhoes