In 2019, I ran for State College Borough Council as an unaffiliated, independent candidate. I did not win a seat, but did earn about 770 votes, and plan to run again in 2021.
More information about my campaign is below.
POST-ELECTION UPDATE NOV. 6, 2019: An enormous jolt of encouragement from voters.
An ENORMOUS thank you to the 768 (unofficial tally) voters in State College who voted for me to have a seat on Borough Council. I didn’t win that seat, but I estimated I would get about 200 votes. So getting almost four times that amount was a huge jolt of encouragement.
Thank you also to the people in and around State College who urged friends and neighbors to vote for me. I know that my perspectives and viewpoints are far outside the mainstream, and that it’s hard to have conversations about the things I write about and advocate. So I appreciate every single one of those conversations.
With the election over, I plan to return to focusing on publishing Bailiwick News.
I’ll try to tighten the focus on civics coverage, using State College Borough Council and a few other governing boards as case studies.
I’ll do some reporting and compare and contrast analysis, to unpack the differences between how we-the-people tend to think our self-government system works, with how it actually works in practice.
I.e., Local outcomes are pre-determined long before public meetings occur, because the range of options presented to elected officials has been narrowed to a tiny fraction of policy perspectives, controlled behind-the-scenes by unelected managers, corporate lobbyists and the state legislature and courts.
I also spent a good bit of time the last few months carving linoleum block type in 96-point font, for the purpose of printing custom posters on my self-built printing press (Owl & Turtle Press). I was inspired by a visit to Nashville’s Hatch Show Print last summer.
I built my printing press several years ago, and I have enough 10-point lead type to print a small newspaper in the event that computers and the Internet and photocopiers become unavailable.
For the last few years, I’ve mostly carved larger blocks of pictures, and created note cards and calendars.
But the moveable type for the posters is mostly inspired by my deep concern about the increasing marginalization of citizen voices during public meetings. Back in 2016, in State College, then-chair of Borough Council Tom Daubert pushed through what I dubbed the “Daubert Diktat.” It was “adopted” by council without any public comment and without even a vote on August 15, 2016. It was designed to further suppress any meaningful exchange of viewpoints between elected officials and the citizen-taxpayers they purportedly represent. (8.15.16 BC Daubert Diktat)
The Centre Region Council of Governments made a similar attempt to police the tone and content of public comment this past March, covered in the March 22, 2019 edition of Bailiwick News. A couple months later, at their June meeting, COG members backed off their effort to further kill public deliberation and the free exchange of ideas, settling for a short statement setting a five-minute time limit on public comment and noting that the COG General Forum chair can shorten that time at his or her discretion.
So my idea, for the moveable type, is to produce small posters that citizens can bring to public meetings, with short, legible feedback printed on them to facilitate silent, two-way, real-time communication between electeds and citizens.
Posters could say:
- “Good idea!”
- “Use the precautionary principle.”
- “We can’t afford that luxury.”
- “Unfunded mandate.”
- “This is an example of corporate Penn State burden-shifting.”
- “This is an example of state preemption of local self-governance.”
- “This is an example of a municipal solicitor narrowing your range of motion. Ignore him.”
- “Fuck you.”
So in the public meeting room, when a citizen wants to provide instantaneous yet silent feedback on what’s happening at the front, he or she can hold up a legible sign that corresponds, in full view of the electeds and in some case, the C-NET cameras.
Furthermore, electeds themselves can use printed posters to publicly, yet silently, indicate their views on topics under discussion, to whatever extent the electeds themselves believe that policy options are being unduly narrowed by unelected managers, and that deliberative opportunities – opportunities for one legislator to present information and analysis and persuasive language to other legislators, to change their minds – are being actively suppressed by the board chair and meeting “etiquette” protocols.
I have enough type carved to get started on this, and the posters are free.
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org to order.
Again, huge thanks to the voters who voted for me, and the supporters who supported me.
I will run again in 2021.
ARCHIVED CAMPAIGN MATERIAL FROM 2019 CAMPAIGN
Elect Katherine Watt to State College Borough Council:
- Pro-populist, anti-corporatist, degrowth agenda
- Confrontational style
I’m interested in working to:
- Increase local sovereignty and reduce the preemptive power of the state and federal governments to block local efforts to improve local quality of life.
- Replace Borough Solicitor Terry Williams with a municipal solicitor with expertise and interest in advancing local sovereignty over state and federal preemption.
- Use the authority granted to Borough Council, by voters, through the Community Bill of Rights, to override state preemption of local land use planning exercised through the Pa. Municipalities Planning Code.
- Protect and expand the property rights of individuals and families who own or are paying off the homes, businesses and land in State College in which they actually live and work.
- Protect and support privately-owned and operated urban farms, orchards and in-home food processing businesses in the Borough, by lifting restrictions on home-based food production and direct-to-consumer sales among the population.
- Protect and expand the property rights of owners to demolish and/or renovate of existing building stock for new agricultural/ecological restoration, residential, commercial or light industrial purposes (redevelopment) so long as the projects are population/bed neutral, not increasing the net number of residential beds in the Borough above 2019 levels.
- Stop land use planning and zoning policies in the Centre Region that allow corporate developers to engage in vertical or horizontal sprawl; increase the net number of beds in the Centre Region; and convert small-town scale structures and undeveloped land (farm fields and forests) to urbanized residential, commercial or light industrial structures and road networks.
- Withdraw State College from the Centre Region Council of Governments, which I view as a highly-manipulated tool used by corporate Penn State, through managerial elites, to control and disempower the voters within each constituent municipality.
- Dissolve State College and COG authorities, boards, commissions and committees restricted to “advisory” power, which sideline and waste the time of citizens who would otherwise petition actual decision-makers, or seek actual decision-making power themselves, and which also strip accountability from elected representatives who cite advisory committees as the basis for their refusal to conduct and participate in contentious open deliberations on issues of public importance.
- Help State College lead a comprehensive overhaul of the regional Act 537 Plan (governing sewage management) to cap the total population served by UAJA’s sewage treatment plant at current levels based on per capita nitrogen load; bar all new groundbreaking land development projects within the Sewer Service Area to curtail vertical and horizontal sprawl; require redevelopment projects to be population-neutral; and establish a framework to use human and animal solid waste streams for energy generation in addition to the fertilizer/compost production UAJA already does. More info on manure-to-energy
- Revoke government-granted property privileges from large, non-family, investor-owned corporations that own buildings and land on which they collect rent, plan to develop into rent-generating properties, or leave overpriced and vacant for tax-break purposes.
- Revoke permanent corporate charters, and replace them with time-limited corporate charters intended to allow corporate privileges for certain time frames, to accomplish specific public goals, followed by expiration and dissolution of corporations and dispersal of their assets. More on the history of corporate charters.
- Draft and adopt a local Right to Know Law, modeled on the Pennsylvania Right to Know Law of 2008, but fully applicable to Penn State and any other “state-related university” located within the State College municipal boundaries, requiring transparency and disclosure of all records that must be disclosed by municipal and state government entities under the state law, from which Penn State and the other state-related universities are almost entirely exempt.
- Draft and adopt a local Ethics Act, modeled on the Pennsylvania State Public Official and Employees Ethics Act of 1978, but fully applicable to Penn State trustees and administrators, requiring full public disclosure of financial interests, from which Penn State administrators and trustees are currently exempt.
- Renegotiate the 2004 PILOT (Payment in Lieu of Taxes) agreement between Penn State and the Borough of State College, which expires in 2024, using the authority of the Community Bill of Rights in the Home Rule Charter to assess property taxes on corporate Penn State for the full value of its property holdings within the Borough, generating an additional $3.2 million in annual tax revenue per year to support public services such as community policing, a paid fire department, community-based alcohol addiction treatment programs, road maintenance and water and sewer pipeline maintenance. 
- Merge the privately-operated Penn State police force (49 officers as of 2018) with the public State College police department (61 officers), to create a single public police department of 110 officers under the control of the State College Police Chief, that protects public safety and enforces criminal laws uniformly across the entire State College jurisdiction, on-campus and off-campus.
- Increase the power of Penn State faculty, staff and students to convert PSU from a closely-held private corporation governed by unelected trustees, to a worker-owned corporation governed by a board of directors comprised of elected representatives of faculty, staff and students. More information on democratic syndicalism (political economies based on worker-owned enterprises).
- Reduce the power or eliminate the positions of Penn State’s unaccountable Board of Trustees and bloated ranks of overpaid/profiteering upper-level administrators (Assistant Deans, Deans, Vice-Presidents, Provost, President) and trustees.
Under the 2004 PILOT agreement, Penn State annually contributes about $642,000 to the Capital fund. Penn State’s property within Borough boundaries was assessed at about $262.9 million in 2015. According to a Frequently Asked Question page at the Borough’s website, if that property were taxable, the resulting 2015 real estate tax payment would have been about $3.8 million. Thus, corporate Penn State enjoys a tax savings of $3.2 million per year by classifying itself – for property tax purposes at least – as a public institution.
Campaign Updates (PDFs)
- 2.15.19 Campaign Announcement
- 3.6.19 K Watt Borough Council Press Release
- 2019 Katherine Watt for Borough Council – Campaign Info (2 pp, includes bio)
- 2019 Katherine Watt for Borough Council – Campaign Info (6 pp., includes references for position statements)
- 3.26.19 Campaign Update – Linoleum Block
- 4.8.19 Campaign Update – Palm Cards
- 4.26.19 Campaign Update – Campaign Posters
- 5.20.19 Campaign Update – Reminder to Vote
- 5.22.19 to 5.28.19 Campaign Updates – Primary Results
- 6.3.19 Campaign Update – Ballot Access for Non-Major Party Candidates
- 7.18.19 Campaign Update – Ballot Access Update
- 7.29.19 Bailiwick News – Degrowth for the Centre Region: What could it look like?
- 8.9.19 K Watt Borough Council Press Release – On the ballot.
- 8.19.19 Bailiwick News – Candidate responses to Sierra Club questions
- 9.3.19 Bailiwick News – Compilation: the doctrine of preemption
- 10.2.19 – Link to Oct. 2, 2019 League of Women Voters Candidate Forum – C-NET Video. (State College Borough Council section starts at about 1:34, and is bookmarked by C-NET.)
- 10.3.19 Bailiwick News – More information about candidate positions
- 10.10.19 – Link to Oct. 10, 2019 C-NET Interview by Geoff Rushton
- League of Women Voters vote411.org link – comparative info.
- 10.29.19 – StateCollege.com election coverage – comparative info.
- 11.5.19 Campaign Update – Election Day
- 11.6.19 Campaign Update – Post-election
Frederick Douglass, Speech at Canandaigua NY, 1857:
“…If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.
This struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, and it may be both moral and physical, but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them, and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress…”