LORAIN — City Council candidates at a Wednesday night forum clashed over economic and housing development, a new housing inspection ordinance and proposed county government restructuring.
The forum at El Centro, 2800 Pearl Ave., was hosted by the Coalition on Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress. The group has run the semiannual forums since 2001.
The most critical comments came from 8th Ward independent candidate Joshua Thornsberry, who accused incumbent Democrat Frank DeTillio of being unresponsive to constituents regarding a proposed 100-unit assisted living facility and 30 rental units on Oak Point Road. DeTillio previously criticized the proposal, which was withdrawn by the developer in September.
However, Thornsberry said DeTillio was part of a “good-old boys club” that has run Lorain for 30 years.
“Lorain cannot only do better, but it deserves better,” said Thornsberry, a 32-year-old Lakewood Schools social studies teacher. “I’m committed to listening to the voters. Not just listening to the party bosses.”
DeTillio was appointed in January by the Lorain Democratic Party to replace Craig Snodgrass, who became Lorain County auditor. DeTillio is retiring as Lorain County Chamber of Commerce president, a job he’s held since 1988. He said his business experience was an asset for the ward, which has land for development.
“My skill set allows me to resolve problems, to use resources and to build collaborations to try to solve problems,” said DeTillio, 66. “The future will require level-headed Council people with experience in helping to solve problems.”
Candidates also disagreed about the point-of-sale-ordinance approved in July and taking effect Jan. 1. It requires pre-sale inspections of all single- and two-family homes to discourage blight and property flipping by homeowners.
Councilman Brian Gates, D-1st Ward, said the ordinance would end a “citation shell game” in which absentee property owners transfer titles when cited by Lorain for code violations.
“It’s games like this and problem housing that has been lowering all of our property values throughout the city,” Gates said.
Libertarian 1st Ward candidate Kendra Sheppard said she initially thought the inspections would punish honest homeowners, but has fewer concerns after researching the ordinance. Sheppard, a 50-year-old senior merchandising coordinator in wholesale marketing, said she was better qualified to represent the ward than Gates, a 35-year-old Lorain County Juvenile Facilities youth worker who took office in 2010.
While Gates said he’d helped get Lorain’s budget balanced and infrastructure improved, Sheppard said the 1st Ward was “deteriorating at an alarming rate.”
“I don’t like what I see,” she said.
Candidates for the 4th Ward, where Councilman Bret Schuster isn’t running again, disagreed about proposed county government restructuring. Independent Gregory Argenti said the restructuring had proven to be “efficient and effective” in many communities, but Democrat Dave Burgess said more appointed positions would reduce accountability and quality.
Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
A tape of the semiannual Coalition on Hispanic/Latino Issues and Progress candidates forum will be repeated a week before the Nov. 5 election on the Lorain County Community College cable television channel as well as on Lorain Schools cable channel 20. The forum also will be available on YouTube beginning next week.