Whitehall senior students learn township roles
Seniors in Whitehall High School’s American government class took over the reins of Whitehall Township May 7 — including all offices from the board of commissioners to public works and other bureaus and filled positions of mayor, police chief and fire chief — during Student Government Day.
The young men and women shadowed their township counterparts as they assumed the roles and learned how the township operates on a daily basis in serving the public. In the afternoon, the student board of commissioners held a mock meeting and voted on legislation presented to them.
Lehigh County Executive Phillips Armstrong, who initiated the program as a commissioner, was one of several persons addressing the student commissioners in role playing, which brought a sense of realism to the proceedings.
In a strong and animated protest, Armstrong, also known as Elmer Davis for the program, said, “As a senior living on Social Security, I am against the dog park. It’s a waste of taxpayers’ money.”
When students raised the idea of having a fee to enter the dog park, rather than using taxes to pay for the park, “Davis” softened but still maintained his opposition.
Student commissioners President Markes Cruz cast the only no vote in the decision.
Also adopted was legislation amending the township codified ordinance requiring every business to have separate receptacles for trash and cigarette tobacco products at both entrances and exits of their facility. The agenda had the students consider a resolution directing the police chief to create and manage a police explorer program on behalf of the township police. The agreement would be with the Minsi Trails Council.
Student police chief Frederid Tirado expressed strong support for police initiatives, a dog park and a police unit sponsored the Scout Explorer Post.
Melissa Wehr, township zoning officer acting in the role of a college student with a cat, spoke on behalf of felines. This sparked opposition from Commissioner Shawn Clary, who played a resident for the event, saying, “I can’t sleep; my kids can’t sleep,” regarding cats wailing at night.
When the student commissioners were given the opportunity to raise any issue they wanted to address, student treasurer Joella Agyemang expressed her opposition to a McDonald’s that will be built next to the school grounds, saying, “We don’t need fatty food.”
Mayor Michael Harakal, replying to a question, said McDonald’s will have sidewalks, noting he is a staunch supporter of sidewalks all along MacArthur Road, which began years ago.
Armstrong praised the students for their insight and knowledge on the agenda items, commenting it was the best class since the program started several years ago.
Also participating in Student Government Day were Commissioner Joseph Marx Jr., Fire Chief David Nelson, public works Director John Rackus, planning, zoning and development Director Lee Rackus and recreation department Director Greg Mooney.