December 21, 2014

Elyria
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ELYRIA — COUNCIL AT LARGE

Elyria voters will be asked to elect four at-large representatives from a pool of nine candidates, including three incumbents.

What are the biggest issues facing the city?

Callahan: Declining revenue during the current economic slowdown. The loss of revenue is having a negative effect on our safety needs and quality-of-life issues in our city.
Lotko: The biggest issue currently facing the city is the loss of revenue suffered in the last year. We are dealing with a recession that has hit this area hard. We have been forced to lay off and make drastic cuts in the city to try to maintain a balanced budget. We are also striving to maintain our safety forces and services to citizens.
Siwierka: The most serious, and therefore the largest looming, are financial in nature. The steady decline of jobs and related income tax revenue has severely hampered the city’s financial outlook.
This problem is not unique to Elyria. All across Ohio, cities of all sizes are looking to their leadership to find cost-cutting measures as well as new sources of revenue. Until the national, state and local economy change, our only option is to seek cost-cutting measures.
Elyria has experienced financial strife in the past and in order to move through this difficult time we need to review all expenditures and see economies of scale across the board. The cycle of financial issues harms additional fronts. Everything from job loss to education is being drained by this current economic recession. Elyria leadership will need to monitor state and federal programs closely to seek stimulus funding and any other grant-type money. We have been fortunate to get some dollars this way and this seems to be more of a funding mecha-nism of the future.
Stewart: The biggest issue facing the city of Elyria is the decline in income tax revenue. Due to the economic downturn last fall, Elyria’s income tax revenue has declined 10 percent. City employees are losing jobs and have taken a reduction in pay. It is a difficult time for Elyria with no immediate end in sight. Department administrators have cut services throughout the year and now the only thing left to cut is our city employees.
Safety forces, city services, park and recreation and the importance of Issue 10. I’ve been on record saying, “You can’t tax yourself into prosperity.” However, Issue 10 is about keeping basic city services. If Issue 10 doesn’t pass, the cuts will be deep and severe. This is not a scare tactic. This is reality.
Best: The most important issue facing Elyria today is the same that almost every community across America must also deal with. The economic stability of the Midwest and communities like ours has been hit severely. This is combined with an administration and Council that no longer considers nor cares for the citizens of Elyria. Consider Issue 10, an additional 0.5 percent income tax that is being billed as a tax to maintain current levels for our safety services. The truth is that only a portion of this increase is going to maintain current levels of safety services. The city takes our tax dollar and the Council throws it away on projects connected to the 2015 plan, such as the state Route 57 project. There are those in Elyria who are struggling, trying to juggle between house payments, rent, utilities, car payments, and even food. Can this administration honestly say that they are considering them while spending their money for such frivolous things like shrubbery?
Brady: The biggest issues in Elyria are mismanagement of funds, safety forces being laid off, the Parks and Recreation Department being shut down and businesses leaving the city or not even considering Elyria as a location to build their business because of the design review process.
Lesesky: Maintaining the health and safety of this community during these hard economic times.
Noble: Economic development. We have an economic development director, Don Brackenhoff, but he is not doing his job. We are a blue-collar town. Elyria is not a Westlake. We need industry. We cannot survive off Mom and Pop shops and flower baskets.
Quinn: Tax revenue. If we don’t find some resources for the city revenue stream, we will be in deeper trouble than we are in right now. We need some kind of influx of light industrial or manufacturing jobs — whatever we can get our hands on.

How do you plan to address them?

Callahan: As a city we must live within our means and stretch each and every dollar. It is critical that we continue to explore and position ourselves to apply for state and federal grant funding. We need to challenge our vendors and suppliers to be creative and to document the value they bring to our city. And continue to communicate with residents.
Lotko: Over the past months, I have focused on keeping the lines of communication open between the administration and labor unions to look for ways to cut costs and provide as many services as possible. I recently initiated the process needed to begin looking at the Fire Department audit to implement cost-savings measures. I’m confident as the economy recovers, so will our great city.
Siwierka: I plan to use the experience and expertise that I have attained to review and support the budgetary actions of the city. I have spoken to the auditor on a couple of occasions, asking key questions and questioning budget notations. I understand how the budget works and can be a new set of eyes in the process. I have extensive experience in forecasting both expenses and revenue and hope to support the Elyria administration in that way.
Elyria City Council needs to have real discussion about the budget and figures and ask hard questions. Only by questioning everything will we find some savings. There are some “sacred cows” that still exist in the budget and this is not the time for them. We must look at savings at every level from light bulbs to longevity.
Stewart: We need to have an open line of communication with existing businesses and develop a plan to attract new businesses. The city’s Web site needs to improve, technology is constantly changing and we need to change with it. We need to do a better job of selling Elyria.
It is apparent that there is a lack of trust between the administration and the citizens of Elyria. We must improve our communication and educate the residents on city issues. In return, citizens will regain the trust and understanding that once made Elyria a strong and productive community.
Best: As a fiscal conservative, my first priority is to have a balanced budget. To do this I will require the mayor to balance his. There has to be accountability for improperly budgeted funds. That responsibility falls squarely on the shoulders of City Council members. Most of our current members do not have the ability or the will to stand for what is right and would rather go with what is popular. If, in the future, another tax is requested by the administration, I will require that tax to be used only to fund the balancing of the budget. We need to create a tax climate in Elyria that will promote job growth. This will grow the tax base to fund special projects.
The Design Review Committee needs to be reworked, if not eliminated. If one job is lost, if one business chooses not to open in Elyria because of design review, that is one too many. I will approve any reasonable plans rejected by the Design Review Committee. Elyria can’t afford to drive away any more businesses.
Brady: We have to stop wasteful spending in this city — supplying employees with transportation to and from work, buying houses, remodeling them and not being able to sell them, oversize administration and longevity pay and bonuses — that need to be addressed in the future. In this period of hard economic times, we should be more closely budgeted for necessary projects instead of elaborate spending on lavish unnecessary beautification around the city. Our Street Department funds could have gone further to pave several roads if we had not spent as much on the state Route 57 project.
We need to apply for grants and stimulus money available to our city to help in the areas needed to be improved for our citizens. I believe we need a Planning/Building Department equipped to go after companies and businesses, and sell our city to them and tell them why it is a great place to locate. We need to bring business back to the city. Businesses bring jobs and prosperity to a city and help to offset the taxation proposed to the citizens at the voting booths. We need to adequately staff our safety forces for the protection of each household and business. Pet projects have to wait and necessity needs to take the forefront. I will work for that if elected.
Lesesky: It has to be done as a community; one person cannot change the current conditions. We need the whole community to be involved. I would be willing to represent the community. It takes great citizens to make a great community. We need a strong business base, a good school system and a safe place to raise our families.
Noble: We have to get rid of design review. The way it is now is stopping a lot of businesses from coming here. We have to have something because it is needed, but it’s time to go back to the drawing board when it comes to design review. From there, I would solicit businesses. We need industry. We have too many restaurants here.
Quinn: As a councilman, I would first start by asking the administration what they have been doing to bring jobs to the city. All I hear when I ask is nothing can be said right now because the contact has asked for confidentiality. Well, that tells me nothing about what is going on. If that is the case, we don’t need an economic development director. It is the mayor’s job to bring jobs to the city — not some talking head. There are plenty of areas in which we should start going after and that’s what we have to do.

What makes you best suited for the job?

Callahan: As a member of Council, I will continue to take a proactive approach on issues facing our city. I will continue to communicate with city departments so I can have a better understanding of the challenges they face. To be an effective member of Council, I will study the issues, ask questions, listen, learn and respect differing opinions. That approach will allow me to make decisions based on facts not emotions. I will remain accountable and accessible to the citizens of Elyria.
Lotko: As your councilman, I will continue to emphasize fiscal responsibility. I believe that my educational background in business and finance and my valuable city government experience will enable me to continue to make valuable contributions and sound decisions. I have a good understanding of the issues facing our city and I work diligently with citizens, city workers, and our safety forces to move our city forward. I am a lifelong Elyrian, local business owner and father of two. I care about this city, and I am devoted to helping us move through these difficult times to ensure a vibrant Elyria for my children’s future as well as yours.
Siwierka: First and foremost, I feel it would be a privilege to serve. I don’t consider it a job — it is honored public service. Secondly, I have 25 years’ experience of ground-level municipal operations. I started working at Elyria City Hall when I was 18 years old. I have worked in many different departments and have been a part of organized labor as well as management. I don’t need a tutorial on how the finances are set, how the many operations work or what to expect. I was honored to work for Mayor Michael B. Keys from 1985 to 1999. During that time, I interacted with all departments, elected officials and the public. The general public is looking for leaders who can listen — even if they can’t solve all the problems of the day. I am a good listener.
I care about Elyria, and it may sound cliché, but I really want my college-age son to return to this town and raise his family here. My family has been in Elyria since the 1920s. They found the beauty and resources to raise a family here and enjoy life. My small contribution of time to this community via a Council seat is just a reinvestment in my town.
Stewart: Being a resident of Elyria my entire life, I have seen the city of through many changes. Elyria has survived difficult economic recessions in the past because of strong leadership. I feel that I possess the skills and positive attitude to lead Elyria through these times of hardship. Communicating honestly with the residents of Elyria about the state our city is in will lead to a more trusting community. I am dedicated to the citizens of Elyria and will continue to work hard for our city.
Best: I am and will always be a concerned citizen. I chose to run for political office because I could not sit idly by as the city I have lived in for over 10 years festered from within. I have no political agenda or career goals. My intentions are and have always been for the betterment of Elyria and its people. I am willing to work for the people of Elyria and finally restore accountability to this and any other administration.
Brady: I believe I am best suited for the job because of my experience with people and as a business owner. I will work for the citizens of Elyria and think of their best interest while doing my job. I have absolutely no family ties and/or connections to any city worker, therefore I can cast an unbiased vote that I believe will always have the citizens’ best interest at heart. I support working with the citizens to ensure their concerns are addressed in a timely manner. I support the concept that politicians are elected to work for the citizens and not their own selfish interest, and I believe that Elyria can once again thrive as a city and I will work hard for the people to accomplish that goal.
I am not a lifetime politician, but a new politician ready to roll up my sleeves and take back our city of Elyria.
Lesesky: I have attended Council meetings since the development of Chestnut Commons. I am on the board of Chestnut Lakes Community Association Inc. Being a board member, we have reduced our annual fees in half, and maintained a great neighborhood in which to live.
Noble: I would represent change. That means a lot to people. I would go out and eliminate health benefits for Council members. They are part-time workers and should not be entitled to health care benefits. The citizens need Council members who want to help the city and save the city money.
Quinn: I have 45 years of business experience. I ran a $30 million company for more than 20 years. I feel I have the tools to do the job. I love Elyria. I think it is a beautiful place to live, and if we don’t do something, we will be over.

Christopher Best
Age:
39
Party: Republican
Education: Attended Lorain County Community College from 1988 to 1991, Columbus State from 1991 to 1993 with a focus in aviation maintenance
Family: Wife, Gina, two children, Brandt and Katelyn
Job history: Employed with Continental Airlines since 1994

Rae Lynn Brady
Age:
58
Party: Republican
Education: Graduate of Midview High School
Family: Husband, Don, daughters, Nicole and Heather
Job history: Worked for Sears and Lorain Journal for 10 years, secretary for Savoy & Bilancini Law Firm and owner of Twist-N-Shake for 20 years.
Web Site: www.raelynnbrady.com

Tom Callahan
Age:
50
Party: Democrat
Education: Graduate of Elyria Catholic High School and attended Lorain County Community College
Family: Divorced, daughter, Jennie
Job history: Currently employed as a sales representative for Titan Supply and an at-large member of Elyria Council, previously worked for Applied Industrial Technology as an account manager for 28 years

Diane Lesesky
Age:
54
Party: Republican
Education: Graduate of Elyria High School
Family: Husband, Dale, daughters, Cara, Jamie and Kelsey
Job history: Worked at the Elyria Public Library during high school and at The Chronicle-Telegram from 1973 to 1984 in advertising sales.

Mike Lotko
Age:
46
Party: Democrat
Education: Graduate of Elyria High School, bachelor’s degree in business from Bowling Green State University
Family: Wife, Sherry, and sons, Josh and MJ
Job history: A partner at Parsons Insurance Agency, Elyria, for more than 20 years and at-large councilman

Ray Noble
Age:
71
Party: Republican
Education: Associate’s degree in business administration from City College in New York
Family: Wife, Helen Ellen; four daughters, one son
Job history: Facilitator/child care worker at Turning Point, a non-violent juvenile offender facility in Lorain County, retired from Ford Motor Co. in 1998

Tim Quinn
Age:
67
Party: Independent
Education: Graduate of West Tech High School in Cleveland and completed some construction-related courses at Cuyahoga Community College
Family: Wife, Bonnie and seven children
Job history: 35 years as a general contractor

Mary Siwierka
Age:
53
Party: Democrat
Education: Bachelor’s of science (cum laude) from Tiffin University; coursework in business administration/organizational management at Case Western Reserve University’s Weatherhead School of Management; Managing in a Health Care Environment Certificate, 2008; master’s degree in work, heath and human services from Youngstown State University
Family: Husband, Gary, son, Evan
Job history: Regional administrator for the Cleveland Clinic in the office of patient experience, previous work experience includes assistant to the Elyria mayor from 1985 to 1999

Vic Stewart
Age:
43
Party: Democrat
Education: Graduate of Elyria Catholic High School, attended Lorain County Community College
Family: Wife, Lynette, sons Victor, Dylan, and Brodie
Job history: Survey crew chief with Bramhall Engineering and Surveying Co. and
at-large member of Elyria Council