Heroin, jobs, taxes, transportation — these are the issues raised by political leaders and candidates who will ask our readers for votes Nov. 8.
Lorain County commissioner Ted Kalo asked an audience of about 75 Monday at the First Church in Oberlin to vote for Issue 32, which would raise the county’s 6.5 percent sales tax — tied for the lowest in Ohio — to 6.75 percent.
The increase would raise an additional $9 million annually with $4.5 million for the general fund and the remainder to expand Lorain County Transit bus routes. The proposed expansion is primarily to help people who don’t have cars get to and from work.
The county, which has a nearly $60 million budget and is projecting an approximately $2.5 million deficit, hasn’t fully recovered from the Great Recession. Shrinking local tax revenue and decreasing federal and state taxpayer money led to full-time county workers being cut from 2,140 at the end of 2008 to 1,727 at the end of last year, a 19 percent drop.
Kalo said the county needs more money to provide residents with proper services. “Lorain County cannot move forward without the support of its residents,” he said.
Public transportation advocates had wanted all of the $9 million to be spent on increasing buses and routes, but Kalo and commissioners Lori Kokoski and Matt Lundy said the county couldn’t afford it. Lorain County Transit has just four routes, all in Elyria and Lorain.
The expansion would be partially paid with $4.8 million in Federal Transit Administration grant money, which commissioners said the county would become eligible for by increasing local spending. LCT would add 14 routes and its annual budget would increase from about $1.2 million to $9.3 million with the potential for an additional $4 million in the future. While the plan doesn’t add routes to our coverage areas in Amherst, Oberlin, or Wellington, Kalo said that’s the long-term goal.
Besides paying more sales tax, voters were also asked to support Issue 35, a five-year, 1.2 mill increase in property taxes. If passed, the tax would cost the owner of a $100,000 home an additional $42 annually.
The tax would raise $7.8 million annually. The money would pay for more drug treatment for heroin addicts, including an inpatient detox center for men, which the county lacks.
Last year, there were 65 fatal overdoses in the county and more than 80 people have died so far this year, according to Elaine Georgas, Lorain County Alcohol and Drug Abuse Board executive director.
“This epidemic is not like any other,” Georgas said. “The time is now for us to step up and find ways to provide treatment on demand for people who need help.”
Other topics included the death penalty and gun control. State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), running in the Ohio House of Representatives 56th District, noted Ohio lacks a law mandating that guns in homes with children be safely secured. He said the lack of a law has meant children are accidentally killing themselves and others.
Ramos, whose district includes Amherst and Oberlin, said he voted against a bill that would expand where concealed guns could be carried including airports, colleges, daycare centers, and many government buildings. Jessie Tower, his Republican opponent, said she supports the Second Amendment but opposes the bill.
Ramos said he has co-sponsored a bill outlawing the death penalty in Ohio because it is state-sanctioned killing. Tower said she supports the death penalty for particularly heinous homicides.
Candidates including Kokoski, Ramos, and Tower also attended a separate candidates night at Wellington village hall on Oct. 6.
They were joined by Roy Rich (D-Eaton Township), who is running for Ohio’s 7th House District against Dan Phillip (I-Ashland) and incumbent Bob Gibbs (R-Ashland). Gibbs was unable to attend and was spoken for by a staff member.
Rich spoke of his 35 years in law enforcement, including time spent in Cleveland holding executive board positions in both the patrol officer’s and supervisor’s unions.
“I think congress is owned by big business and the one percent,” he said. “When General Electric and Verizon pay no taxes, someone else has to step up and pay those taxes. You and I are paying those taxes. Small business is paying those taxes. When I hear my opponents talk about cutting Social Security, I cannot disagree more. Social Security is not an entitlement or gift. It’s an insurance program we’ve all paid into.”
Kokoski’s challenger for county commissioner, Connie Carr (R-Lorain), talked about the need to tackle the heroin and create an environment for a higher amount of good paying jobs.
“For me to be successful in what I want to do, I have to be pragmatic, build relationships with people, find common ground on critical issues, and have the courage to fight for what is right,” she said. “I want to use my training, skills, and experience that I’ve acquired over the years in business and economic development to help Lorain County start moving in the right direction.”
Chris Cook (D-Lorain) and Will Spiegelberg (R-Oberlin) are running for Lorain County Court of Common Pleas judge and paid compliments to each other, saying either would be a good choice. Spiegelberg narrowly defeated incumbent Michele Arredondo in March’s Republican primary.
“Some elections get to the point where you don’t want to vote for either candidate,” said Spiegelberg. “I want to say that in this particular election, Lorain County voters will be well-served if they vote for either of us. Both of us would be a very good judge.”
“My opponent and I have had an extremely professional race,” said Cook. “There’s a lot of mutual respect for each other. I echo his sentiments that whichever one of us is fortunate enough to gain your support, the county will be in good hands.”
Tom Dunlap (D-New London) and Dick Stein (R-Norwalk) are competing for Ohio’s 57th House District seat. Republican incumbent Terry Boose did not seek reelection because of term limits.
Dunlap, a Huron County commissioner, laid out a platform that highlights education reform, law enforcement, and agriculture.
“I was elected to a two-Republican, one-Democrat board and I’ve had nothing but cooperation with them,” he said. “We’ve only had a handful of votes that have been in opposition with each other. I’ve also conducted hundreds of safety seminars of archery and gun safety for men, women, and young people.”
Stein said he wants to bring more energy plants to Ohio and that closing coal plants has caused Ohio to have to bring in more energy from out of state. He also said there is a correlation between lack of well-paying jobs and the heroin epidemic.
“The more better-paying jobs that we have, the more uplifted the community is,” he said. “There is more opportunity and ladders to success. The more people feel a true work ethic and that they’re a part of society, the better off they’ll be. We can do that by bringing more jobs to Ohio and specifically to Lorain County. Government spending doesn’t create sustainable growth. New business creates that.”
Evan Goodenow can be reached at 440-775-1611, firstname.lastname@example.org, or @GoodenowNews on Twitter. Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171, email@example.com, or @DelozierNews on Twitter.