December 18, 2014

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Challenger announces bid to unseat Lorain mayor

PHOTO PROVIDED

PHOTO PROVIDED

LORAIN — A candidate backed by local labor unions said Sunday he plans to challenge Mayor Chase Ritenauer in 2015.

Tim Carrion, Coaliton on Hispanic Issues and Progress president and an insurance agent, announced his candidacy at the 20th annual Lorain County Organized Labor Day Family Celebration. Carrion said he hasn’t decided if he’ll run as a Democrat or independent. He promised, if elected, to be more inclusive to businesses, laborers and constituents than the Democratic Ritenauer.

“Government works best when we work with people, rather than lord over them,” Carrion said. “Everyone matters and everyone deserves a voice.”

Ritenauer angered some local union leaders last year when he supported a City Council ordinance stipulating 25 percent of workers on city projects of $2 million or more be Lorain or Lorain County residents and 9 percent be minorities. The ordinance diluted a 2011 Project Labor Agreement that required 75 percent of workers be locals with 9 percent minorities and stipulated workers unionize during projects, a stipulation removed from the 2013 ordinance.

In July, Ritenauer backed Council increasing local hiring from 25 percent to 50 percent, from 9 percent to 20 percent for minorities and 7 percent to 15 percent for women. The project cost threshold dropped from $2 million to $250,000.

Nonetheless, some labor leaders remain angry with Ritenauer and Lorain’s Democratic Party, a traditional ally. The Lorain County AFL-CIO successfully backed independent councilmen Greg Argenti, I-4th Ward, and Josh Thornsberry, I-8th Ward, in November over Democratic candidates.

While introducing Carrion, Harry Williamson, president of the Lorain County AFL-CIO and Communication Workers of America Local 4370, denounced elected leaders who are part of the “good old boys club” who have “betrayed” labor and the working class. Williamson said Carrion has the commitment, drive and qualifications to lead.

“Our interests are his interests,” Williamson said.

Carrion, whose wife and children attended the announcement, denounced unnamed local power brokers.

“They’ve turned a blind eye to the needs of working-class people for their own personal gain,” Carrion said. “It’s not acceptable, and help is on the way.”

Ritenauer said by phone after the event that unions have prospered under his administration and he has the support of some local union leaders and rank-and-file members. He said many unionized workers have been hired for road projects since he took office in 2012.

With Lorain being removed from fiscal watch by the state last year, Ritenauer said the city’s budget has been stabilized increasing jobs in the 450-member unionized city workforce. Ritenauer said he was the only county mayor in to get a local hiring ordinance approved and said Williamson was holding him to an unfair standard.

“If there are going to be certain standards, let’s make sure every elected official is held to them,” Ritenauer said. “Not just the mayor of Lorain.”

Anthony Giardini, Lorain County Democratic Party president, said Carrion should run as a Democrat. Giardini said he personally backs Ritenauer but would support Carrion if Carrion defeated Ritenauer in the May Democratic primary. Giardini said primaries can be divisive but are part of the system.

“I certainly would hope and personally expect that if members of organized labor are going to support a candidate that it would be in the primary,” he said. “Not as an independent or a Republican.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter at @egoodenowct.