Westlake Votersí Guide: City Council Candidates
Non-partisan information provided by the League of Women Voters - Cuyahoga Area, Westlake/North Olmsted chapter
Absentee Voting Begins: Oct. 1
Voter Registration Deadline: Oct. 7
Election Day: Nov. 5
LWV Candidates Night: Oct. 1, 6:45 p.m., Westlake Porter Public Library
Westlake City Council
Term: 4 years
Questions for Westlake City Council candidates:
1. What do you see as the two most important issues facing the city of Westlake in the coming four years?
2. What is your viewpoint regarding regionalization and collaboration arrangements with adjoining cities?
3. What is your vision of what Westlake will be like in ten years?
4. What issues are most important to citizens in your ward?
5. What city services do you believe could be contracted out in order to reduce expenses?
6. How will declining revenues affect Westlake’s recreational facilities?
Lynda M. Appel
A 21-year resident, Lynda is a dynamic community member who has devoted much of her public life to community service. She eagerly stepped up to help with Relay for Life the first year it came here. She is co-founder of the Westlake Parent Connection and the Parent to Parent Network, non-profit organizations focused on educating parents about risky teen behaviors.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: Currently we purchase our water from the Cleveland Division of Water, but we have an opportunity to make a change. I’m confident that the current City Council is evaluating this from all perspectives including possible job opportunities as well as shared expenses. Westlake is nearly built out so the constant increase in fees that has fed the general fund will be slowing down. We need to plan for this as well as keeping the industry here in Westlake, we do not want companies to leave the city for tax abatements in other cities.
2. Regionalization: I support regionalization and collaboration if it optimizes our resources. Many municipalities are exploring ways to share resources that affect our bottom line. For instance, employment and law related services and computer related services can be shared between cities as well as engineering and building inspection services. Fire inspection duties is another area that should be explored as fire inspectors require a certain training and experience that is not city specific.
3. Ten-year vision: I’d like to see Westlake continue as a desirable community to raise and educate families. My vision includes maintaining a balance to abatements with the fact that schools need the revenue. We also need to continue to create and maintain a friendly environment for industry while at the same time keeping the small town feel for Westlake. Many generations stay in Westlake now, I hope that continues.
4. Ward issues: I have been walking Ward 1 for the past few months and the concerns that I hear most often are: Safety; Low taxes; Good schools. My residents want to continue to feel safe, our police and fire do an excellent job of responding to our needs. They want their taxes to remain low and they want to see that their tax dollars are spent wisely. Finally, they recognize the need for a strong public school system. They know that without strong schools, their property values will decrease and they do not want to see that happen.
5. Service contracting: We are fortunate to live in a city that is well managed. Currently some services are contracted out and we have benefitted from that. We need to remain open to other opportunities to reduce cost and insure that we deliver a quality product with the service standard that we are accustomed to without losing control.
6. Recreational facilities: Every city faces its challenges in a soft economy, and Westlake is no different. With declining revenues, all departments and city services will need to be assessed. Will the recreational facilities be impacted, that decision cannot be made until everything is on the table. If we do determine that we need to make a change relative to our recreational facilities, then we will evaluate all facilities for usage, cost and revenue and make thoughtful decisions. Our community is accustomed to a level of recreational opportunities, we need to keep that in mind, too.
Graduate Class of 1981 Geneva High School; Den Leader Cub Scout Pack 76; Asst. Scoutmaster Troop 77; Member West Side Irish American Club; Member Westlake Kiwanis; 31 yr member of a large Construction Association and Affiliated Councils; I have been privileged to serve as a Delegate, Trustee, Examining Board, Recording Secretary, Executive Board, Business Representative and currently Serve as President.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: The transition of the water provider from Cleveland to Avon to give Westlake more control over development/maintenance of our infrastructure. Secondly and just as important, that during a time when budget cuts from the Federal and State levels do effect us, is to continue with the great job that the Mayor, Council and with the help of so many who take responsibility to serve and guide this city to maintain and even expand the quality of life for the residents and entities that do business in Westlake.
2. Regionalization: My first loyalties lay of course with Westlake. Be that as it is, we do benefit from regionalization and collaboration with the county as a whole and the other Westshore Communities. I believe that the Mayor and Council historically and currently do a good job in marrying with outside entities to get great value and benefit for the city and her residents. I also feel that the relationships that I have built over the years all over Northern Ohio if elected can also be of great benefit in this arena.
3. Ten-year vision: I trust that Westlake will continue to be the envy and looked up to by all the surrounding communities. I have lived in 5 Northern Ohio Communities, urban and rural, in my 50 years. I feel blessed that through hard work and making good financial moves to have settled here in Westlake and hope to finish my days with this as my home.
4. Ward issues: I trust that the issues that are most important to the citizens in Ward 1 and all of the Wards in fact are common to my own. A safe and secure place to live, raise a family if you so choose and are so blessed. A place where you have the amenities close by to live your life comfortably, good schools, service and safety forces. A place where you can feel content when you lay your head on your pillow at night. I did find there is a portion of my Ward that has problems with flooding during heavy rains [...]
5. Service contracting: I believe you have to be very careful on contracting out services in order to reduce expenses. Though it may look attractive at first, however you lose control over the quality of those services, and/or employees, and the training and skills you can demand as an employer. I would look as much to upgrades in equipment to assist in lowering manpower costs and provide better services to the city. A perfect example would be more automated refuse/recycle collection systems that we would own, versus paying a profit to some corporation on top of the services provided.
6. Recreational facilities: The Mayor and Council I believe does a phenomenal job on the recreational facilities. A resolution just passed in Council to study a golf course renovation to add a driving range and change the course to suit today’s needs and make it more profitable. Due to the fact that Westlake is so financially responsible, though we may have to tighten our belts and adjust to the cuts, it is imperative that as a community we foster places and events that set us above and make us more attractive for residents and future business investment.
Personal: married, two children, long-time Westlake resident; Professional: Executive Director, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, Career spent managing several local and national charitable organizations; Education: Bachelor’s & Masters Public Administration degrees: Cleveland State University; Civic: Westlake School Board (elected in 2009), Westlake Planning Commission (2007-2009), Founder/Chairman: St. Bernadette Community Carnival & Night at the Races, Crocker Park Civic Development Committee, Westlake World Partners.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: Water suppliers: Switching from Cleveland’s Division of Water to Avon Lake Municipal Utilities is an effort I support in the interest of saving taxpayer dollars and giving Westlake more local control over this vital utility -- provided savings can be realized with services delivered at equal to or at a greater value than our current service;
Taxes/Funding: Westlake has one of the lowest property tax rates in the West Shore area. I fully understand the balance necessary to maintain the value we currently enjoy, and will continue to provide leadership so the interests of all residents can be served.
2. Regionalization: As Westlake continues to thrive and mature, it is more important than ever that we collaborate in a thoughtful manner, so that we can stretch our tax dollars and other valuable resources. This is something I have supported during my term on the Westlake School Board, as we continually work to collaborate with other school districts to achieve cost efficiencies. This same approach occurs and should continue at City Hall, as I firmly believe that only through collaboration will our greatest achievements and the best value be realized.
3. Ten-year vision: In the next decade, I envision Westlake to remain a vibrant, affordable city: a city that treasures diversity; is flexible and creative in anticipating the needs of its residents; and provides affordable housing and the opportunity for economic prosperity for its citizens. As a councilman, I will use my background and experience to not only be responsive to the needs of Ward 2 residents -- but also to focus on citywide initiatives to create, develop and implement community events, such as a “Home Days Celebration” that celebrates our citizens and businesses, and brings people together.
4. Ward issues: During the primary campaign, I knocked on every door in my ward and heard from our residents. Our residents want a councilman who is responsive to their needs. As the candidate with the strongest qualifications, a career dedicated to service to others, a track record of responsiveness and willingness to take courageous stands against special interests -- I am best suited for this role. Moreover, I plan to continue the relationship I already have with members of City Council and Mayor — to deliver great city services, keep taxes low and manage our tax dollars responsibly.
5. Service contracting: The collection of trash is one of several examples of why competition is good, and illustrates how this can work, so that services are delivered at a lower cost. However, we need to be cautious when looking at contracting out, as this should be done on a case-by-case basis so that we don’t create a scenario whereby the cost and/or effort to privatize is far greater than the actual anticipated expenses we had hoped to achieve. In other words, if it’s going to be done -- it needs to be done right -- so anticipated savings can be realized.
6. Recreational facilities: Declining revenues will affect all city services and programs; not just recreation. For this reason, it is imperative we continue Westlake’s status as an attractive community with low taxes and outstanding services and programs, like our recreation center. As a member of City Council, I plan to use my experience, having worked at every level of government, to make sure we continue to manage our tax dollars responsibly. This approach will allow us to be proactive so that all city services and programs are not adversely affected by financial threats.
Nick C. Nunnari
A Westlake Ward 2 resident for 40+ years, I’m well prepared to serve as your voice on council. I attend city council meetings regularly and build solid working relationships. I’m versed on residents’ concerns and passionate about community service: PTA member, PSR teacher, youth sports coach, community event organizer. University of Toledo graduate. Currently, assistant service manager at AutoNation Ford.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: Key issues for Westlake in the coming four years both include a fiscal component: continued cost savings for our citizens; and strategic economic development. The proposal to switch water suppliers from the city of Cleveland to Avon Lake should result in financial savings to citizens as well as delivery of better service, and should contribute more jobs for collaborating communities. Additional regionalization opportunities should be entertained as they materialize. Strong economic development plans focused on maintaining, growing and attracting new business and subsequent jobs will remain important.
2. Regionalization: It would be prudent to be open-minded to explore regionalization and collaboration with adjoining communities. Similar to Greater Cleveland’s economic development lead of marketing the 18 county region, bedroom communities can align forces to realize cost savings and achieve enhanced combined impact. Especially as expenses rise, a collective cluster of communities could exponentially increase opportunity.
3. Ten-year vision: Westlake will remain a great place to live along the north coast. Westlake’s current mission is to enhance quality of life for all residents by providing the highest level of services in an efficient and cost effective manner. The future Westlake will have financial stability, interdependence with regional partners, supportive and involved citizens, an open and responsive government that believes in low taxes and responsible management of our tax dollars, a high safety level, good housing choices, quality affordable city services, excellent schools, a diverse business mix with a positive environment for growth, and sound planning for the future.
4. Ward issues: Most often my neighbors express their opinion about quality of life, safety and affordability. Residents enjoy Westlake’s small town feel, financially stable city government, enviable business mix, shopping district and restaurants, recreational facilities and excellent schools. Residents want continued security which our strong safety forces provide, quality utilities while keeping costs down, fewer interruptions of electrical service, better street lighting, and enforcement of speeding laws. And, of course, keeping our taxes low.
5. Service contracting: I believe that contracting out city services to reduce expenses should continue to be considered to maintain a well-run city. Fiscal management is paramount. As your council representative my approach will be to familiarize myself with the current budget and become more versed in order to identify plausible options.
6. Recreational facilities: Westlake is fortunate to have first-class recreational facilities. Any decline in revenues should be evaluated to determine options to continue providing residents quality services in a cost effective manner.
WARD 3, Uncontested
Dennis J. Sullivan
The candidate did not prepare a response.
WARD 4, Uncontested
Michael F. O’Donnell
I have been serving as a Westlake councilman for 14 years and I am seeking my 5th term in office. I currently serve as Chairman of the Westlake City Council Information Technology and Safety committees and have served on the Westlake Charter Review and Sidewalk Apportionment Boards. I am also a Director of Information Technology at American Greetings Corp.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: a) The ability to build the infrastructure to provide the Westlake residents with the opportunity to purchase drinking water from an alternative source like Avon Lake. Ultimately we would like to keep both Cleveland Water and Avon Lake as options.
b) The relocation of American Greetings World Headquarters to Westlake.
Our challenge will be to accommodate the growing traffic flow at the I-90 Crocker, Bassett and Detroit Roads, without impacting other businesses and the shopping experience at Crocker Park.
2. Regionalization: I am in favor of regionalization where communities can work together to collectively lower operating expenses for cities in the region. It helps cities and townships qualify for Federal, State and County programs as a larger district. If done in a collaborative manner, it eliminates redundant administrative offices, purchases and programs for each municipality and allows them to leverage the cost savings and successes across all cities.
3. Ten-year vision: In ten years Westlake will be a key destination city in Western Cuyahoga County. It will be known for its safe neighborhoods, its ecological leadership and affordable cost of living. Our neighborhoods will have more parks and recreation with a Financial and Shopping District, at Crocker and Bassett Roads together with a new Dover Village District
4. Ward issues: Replacing the trailer park in the Center Ridge corridor. We will continue to develop ecosystems to purify storm runoff and invest in the infrastructure to avoid flooding.
Providing lower utility costs especially for sewer and water for businesses and residents and competitive options for drinking water. Lastly, working with cellular companies to provide a service level that will prevent black out areas and dropped calls for cellular customers in Westlake.
5. Service contracting: Areas that may be investigated could be for financial services, third party health care and medical insurance services, and information systems hardware support.
6. Recreational facilities: Westlake has an opportunity to encourage participation in proactive health care programs at our Recreation Center. We can provide incentives for employees, and structure hours of operation to enlist employers working in the city who are looking for health care credits on their insurance. Westlake Recreation can partner with Highland Software and American Greetings to develop new programs, flexible hours and special classes that will help make our community healthier.
WARD 5, Uncontested
Kenneth R. Brady
The candidate did not prepare a response.
Career: City of Westlake, Ohio, Council Member – Ward 6 (2009 – present); Sea-Land Chemical Co. (a specialty chemical distribution company), Westlake, Chief Financial Officer (2005-present); Hillow, Getsay & Connors, Ltd (a CPA firm), Westlake, Principal (2000-05); Moore Stephens & Apple, CPAs, (Formerly: Hillow, Gornik & Co.), Westlake, Senior Accountant (1987-00). Education: Defiance College, Defiance, BA degree in Accounting & Marketing.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: Westlake has a long history of solid financial management and has one of the lowest cumulative tax rates in Ohio. In order to continue, Council and the Administration need to continue to plan for the future and the challenges down the road. Long-term planning and vision will be the key to Westlake’s continued success. In the near future, we will need to make a final decision on who will provide water service to the citizens of Westlake. We have a chance to improve the water service, and at the same time, provide water at a reasonable and controllable rate.
2. Regionalization: Westlake has always collaborated with the adjoining cities when it is appropriate. For example, the Westshore Dispatch Center and the various mutual aid agreements for police and fire. While some city services could be more economical and efficient, many cannot. We have been studying a fire district for years, and it may make some sense to combine those services. The local Mayors meet on a regular basis to discuss these types of agreements and options. I encourage them to continue to discuss any services that would be good for the citizens of Westlake.
3. Ten-year vision: Westlake is one of the premier cities in Ohio both financially and with the services provided to our citizens. Through careful planning, the city has prospered. However, we must continue the hard work to ensure our Citizens continue to have all the top quality services they enjoy. We must plan for our future recreational needs and those services needed by our senior citizens while at the same time managing our finances. We must also revitalize selected parts of our city so that we may continue to have a desirable city to live.
4. Ward issues: As with the entire City, fiscal responsibility is important. Based on our history, our fiscal responsibility has permitted us to act quickly when needed. As a Ward, we need to continue to deal with the traffic issues along the Crocker corridor. We are making improvements to theI-90 interchange and the Bradley / Detroit intersection which should provide some traffic relief when completed. We continue to review all other options to improve traffic on this side of town. I would like to thank our citizens for their patience as we work to complete these projects.
5. Service contracting: Being on Council since 2008, I have learned that many services can be effectively contracted out. For example, rubbish service was contracted out at a savings and permitted our service personnel to focus on providing other services to our Citizens. Each service must be carefully reviewed for the adverse side effects of a change. Westlake has a strong history of managing various services in an efficient and effective manner, and we must continue this process. Not only should we review contracting out services, but equally we should review services that may be more effective and efficient by bringing them inside.
6. Recreational facilities: Westlake has been fortunate that we have not experienced a significant decline in revenues in any area. Westlake continues to be very strong financially. The largest contributors to this are the planning and financial management processes that the City has implemented. It does not matter if you are talking about the recreation facilities or any other area. Westlake has always continued and will continue to provide the best recreation facilities and other services in a fiscally responsible manner. The City must continue to provide all the services our citizens have become to expect.
Robert J. Koenig
Age: No response
Graduate of Westlake High School; Graduate of the Ohio Army National Guard Military Academy; Graduate of 3B’s Captain’s School. Occupation: Rocky River Service Department; R.J.K. Aeration Owner and Operator; U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary Vessel Examiner. Community Involvement: As A I am a voter 12 years ago with a group of people helped get videotaping of City Council Meetings on TV.
RESPONSES TO QUESTIONS
1. Most important issues: American Greetings and the water switch from Cleveland Water to Avon Lake water.
2. Regionalization: We really need to take a look at regionalization as a way to deliver the services that residents expect while also realizing the cost savings that tax-payers demand. Not every regional initiative will provide immediate and substantial savings. But they almost always improve the quality and efficiency of services, and generally result in savings over long term. I believe the state should provide incentives and assistance for regionalization efforts. With collaboration arrangements you need to train and work well with others and communicate well so everyone understands. It’s important.
3. Ten-year vision: The way I see it in ten years I believe all the land in Westlake will be sold. We need to take a hard look at the land we have left. Does the City need to buy up more land. Do we need to rezone the land. Do we need more housing or retail or industry. Westlake still does not have bowling lanes. Once the land is sold it’s to late to say we should have done this.
4. Ward issues: Over 1,800 older adults are registered at the senior center and most days there are 8-10 programs. Unfortunately, as the popularity of the center has grown the ability to accommodate everyone who desires to attend is limited. It is important to consider a facility that can offer these wonderful activities to all or most who find these programs so appealing. Currently in committee is a request for a feasibility study to determine what is needed and the cost for such a building.
5. Service contracting: Our city workers do a excellent job and take pride in their work and go the extra mile to make Westlake look outstanding. I believe if we run all the departments efficient and cut waste and do preventive maintenance on all our equipment and work smarter and not harder. Working smarter will cut down on work related accidents if we stick to this plan we will not have to contract out a city service to reduce expenses.
6. Recreational facilities: It would mean doing more with less. And with declining revenues it would be hard to add on a iceskating rink or a putt putt course. The way I see it you need to save for a rainy day found would not only cushion services during downturns, but assuming it would replace the current practice of rolling prior years surpluses into the next. It would also make the city adopt a budget that more accurately reflects our current fanancial status.
This Voters’ Guide was assembled by members of the League of Women Voters - Cuyahoga Area, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter, who selected the questions and placed word limits on the responses. Candidates’ responses are printed verbatim, up to the word limit. Truncated responses are denoted by the [...] symbol. Candidates are presented in alphabetical order for each position. The League of Women Voters does not endorse any candidate for any office. We neither endorse nor reject any views quoted in this Voters’ Guide. Published as a service to the voters of Westlake by the League of Women Voters - Cuyahoga Area, Westlake/North Olmsted Chapter in partnership with the Westlake | Bay Village Observer. The League of Women Voters is a nonpartisan political membership organization. We encourage informed and active participation in government, work to increase understanding of major public policy issues and influence public policy through education and advocacy. www.LWVCuyahogaArea.org
Read Westlake Mayor, Director of Law and President of Council Candidates’ Responses