April 24, 2014

Elyria
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CHIP candidates night focuses on Lorain City Council races

LORAIN — With Amherst and Elyria candidates absent and just one North Ridgeville candidate attending, Wednesday’s semiannual Coalition for Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress candidates forum primarily focused on Lorain.

Drwal

Flores

CHIP has been holding the forums since 2001. Wednesday’s forum will be rebroadcast frequently on the Lorain County Community College cable channel beginning April 30, 10 days before the May 7 primary.

The forum included candidates from the most hotly contested race in Lorain: the City Council’s 2nd Ward. Incumbent two-term Councilman Dennis Flores faces former one-term Councilman Andy Drwal, whom Flores defeated in the 2011 Democratic primary. Drwal defeated Flores in the 2009 primary.

Flores said regionalizing firefighting services might save money. Drwal, a retired 31-year Lorain firefighter, said regionalized firefighting won’t work and privatization will increase residents’ costs.

Drwal said his 20 years as head of the firefighters’ union have given him more experience with city budgets and union contracts than Flores. Drwal praised Mayor Chase Ritenauer’s administration, with which Flores has sometimes clashed.

“We have an opportunity to get the city back to where it’s been,” Drwal said.

Flores, who has said he spends one or two hours walking the ward daily, said he better understands the needs of constituents.

“The best part about being a councilman is helping people,” he said. “I’m more about public service than politics and I think that’s what the people really care about.”

With incumbent Democratic Councilman Myroslaw “Mickey” Silecky not running, the 7th Ward race between Democrats Mike Beatty and Joe Faga — absent Wednesday — also is expected to be close. Beatty said his experience, such as serving on the Lorain Port Authority board and the committee for Valor Home, a homeless veterans’ shelter, make him the best candidate. “This is time to turn and go forward,” Beatty said.

The fieriest remarks came from Democratic at-large Council candidate Chris Olejko, who accused Democratic incumbents Dan Given and Anne Molnar of divisiveness.

“My opponents have said over and over that the status quo is not working. Well, I’ve got news for them. They are the status quo,” said Olejko, son of the late Lorain Mayor Alex Olejko. “They would rather sit back and try to pit group against group and tell those people that the other group is the reason for your problems.”

Molnar was absent. Given, who spoke before Olejko, said cracking down on crime, bad landlords and property owners will attract jobs. “I don’t want to think about what it was, I want to think about what it can be,” Given said of Lorain.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.