Beacon Journal staff writer
Summit County Council candidates are worried about money.
With county revenue falling from $113 million just two years ago to a projected $103 million this year, it's no wonder. The decline has sparked layoffs, unpaid furloughs and a hiring freeze.
The six candidates running for three at-large council seats this year rank revenue and expenses as the top issue facing the county along with job creation, of course.
Incumbent Democrats Pete Crossland, Jon Poda and Ilene Shapiro are facing Republican challengers Gloria Rodgers, Bill Roemer and Amy Schwan.
The top three vote-getters will earn four-year terms on the 11-member, part-time council and receive a $23,100 annual salary. (The eight district seats are not up for election this year.)
Rodgers already is on the council representing District 3. She would remain on the legislative body even if she loses the at-large race. If she wins, the Republican Party would appoint someone to her current seat.
There could be another new face on the council.
Democratic Councilman Frank Comunale is running for the Ohio Senate against Republican Frank LaRose. If Comunale wins, the Democratic Party would appoint someone to fill his seat; if he loses, he would remain on the council.
If the three Republicans and Comunale win, there could be four new people on the council.
Here, in alphabetical order, is a look at the candidates:
Crossland, 73, of Akron, a former state representative and Kent State University professor, has been on the council since 1989.
While the biggest issue facing the county is money, people have a misunderstanding of the problem, he said.
''People think we're spending too much, but we're spending less,'' he said.
The county administration and council have worked cooperatively to reduce spending, Crossland said.
They also have pursued opportunities to create and retain jobs, participating in financial deals such as the new headquarters for Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., technical center for Bridgestone Americas and Austen BioInnovation Institute in Akron, he said.
Those efforts along with the construction of a new animal shelter and veterans center warrant another term for the incumbents, Crossland said.
''If it ain't broke, don't fix it,'' he said.
Poda, 53, of Green, is completing his first term. He manages accounts for the Ohio Lottery.
He pointed to his record as a reason to be re-elected. He sponsored legislation to outlaw texting while driving and to create a local database of properties damaged by methamphetamine chemicals.
Poda, who serves as council president, said he wants to continue to be a proactive, instead of reactive, legislator.
He also cited the Bridgestone Americas, Involta LLC and Austen BioInnovation Institute deals as examples of positive projects the county has done.
''I do believe there are a lot of counties that are envious of our position considering the storm we're in,'' Poda said. ''I think we've done a good job guarding the taxpayers' money and using it the best way we can.''
A major goal, he said, should be pursuing more regionalism and consolidation efforts that can save money.
For details, go to: http://votepoda.blogspot.com.
Rodgers, 65, of Stow, is still in her first term on the council. She is a nurse at Portage Path Emergency Services in Akron.
Her decision to run for an at-large seat is motivated by her desire to serve the county as a whole, she said. But it's also a strategic one, considering Republicans would be able to appoint a successor to her district seat. She now is the only Republican on the council and would like another political ally.
''I really, really think we need a better balance on council,'' she said.
Some Democratic council members are afraid to ask tough questions of the Democratic administration, Rodgers said.
''As an everyday person, no different than voters, I have the ability to look at what's going on and come up with the questions that need to be asked,'' she said. ''I ask questions that others are afraid to ask.''
She also said it's important the council continue working on issues involving unemployment and foreclosures.
Her Web site http://www.gloriarodgers.com will be available next week, she said.
Roemer, 54, of Richfield, is a retired Ameritech sales director.
He ran unsuccessfully for a council district seat in 2008.
The county is spending too much money without enough scrutiny by the council, he said.
He cited the new animal shelter in Akron as an example. The county spent more on the facility than it does each year to maintain roads, bridges, culverts and ditches, Roemer said.
His other goal is to increase county revenue.
''You grow revenue through creating jobs, retaining jobs and improving the ability of Summit County to attract appropriate business,'' he said. ''You do that through making it as seamless as possible to open a business, offering appropriate incentives and recruiting businesses to Summit County.''
He also wants to stop the county's deficit spending. The county has balanced its general fund budget the past several years by using reserve funds.
For details, go to: http://www.roemerforcouncil.com.
Schwan, 56, of Akron, is a retired small-business owner. She also has led the local Tea Party movement.
The council needs another conservative voice and must challenge the county executive more on issues, Schwan said.
''I want to make sure that the county basically concentrates on their core responsibilities, which are infrastructure, safety and environment,'' she said. ''Don't get into special-interest group stuff.''
For example, the county must develop a long-range plan concerning its sewers, she said.
She also said she would like to see fewer regulations, fees and permits on small-business owners.
Schwan wants to trim county spending. She said she is still doing research and declined to identify specific areas in advance of the election.
''I'm going to wait until after I'm elected because some of them are very unpopular and are going to hurt,'' she said.
For details, go to: http://www.schwanforcountycouncil.com.
Shapiro, 63, of Akron, is completing her first term. A former downtown business owner and bank executive, she now is the director of business development with the Summa Foundation, a subsidiary of Summa Health System.
As part of the council, she has chaired the Summit County Green Task Force and helped create the newly formed county Financial Sustainability Task Force, which will study ways county government can operate more efficiently.
''We absolutely have to manage to today's problems . . . [and] we have to figure out how we are going to be financially sustainable,'' Shapiro said.
That involves examining practices in other communities, studying ways to consolidate services and pushing for economic development to create jobs, she said. Even though the county is stretched financially, it can still do economic development deals, she said.
For more details, go online to: http://www.electshapiro.com.